As I watched little Chinam, a three year old Cambodian bundle of endless energy, jump from the railing of a classroom building into a small pile of construction sand below I realized something. I wasn’t quite sure what it was, but, I knew there was something about him that was unusual. Last week, we spent time in the city of Siem Reap in Cambodia, and I can honestly say that it was one of the most unspeakbaly amazing places I have ever been able to go. There was something so welcoming and friendly about the community there. Not just friendly because they wanted us to feel welcome, but a genuine, raw warm and welcoming spirit that just flowed from them in everything. However, this was not the thing that caught my attention the most. I kept noticing something about the people here as they worshipped, worked, ate, slept, and generally just lived in community with each other. Something just seemed to be present at all times. It was only on the bus as we were travelling from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh (the capital city) that I realized what that something was, it was JOY. Joy was what had stood out to me so vividly as I watched how they went about their everyday lives. They seemed to be so happy all the time, but looking back I no it was more than just mere happiness. The people that we were working with did not have much, and they knew that, but that didn’t matter. It didn’t matter that the church yard was so flooded that they could not work on the wall that we were supposed to be helping with. They had found the joy of the Lord in every situation. This joy is deeper than happiness that solely depends on circumstance. This joy was the undercurrent of their lives, the constant stronghold in their lives. This made me think about how so often I find myself in a bad mood or upset with my life because my circumstance is not what I wanted. My faith would be tested and I would lose heart and tell God that he had gotten it wrong again, I wasn’t supposed to face hardships or trials. But that isn’t a particularly biblical view of the Christian walk is it? James 1:2-3 says that we should “Count it all joy, my brothers” when our faith is tested because that will produce steadfastness. That’s pretty different from the whole “pursuit of happiness” idea, isn’t it? Our joy, as followers of Christ, is not dependent on the circumstances that surround us, whether that be a flooded church yard, or bad job, or no job. The joy of the Lord is th undercurrent that constantly flows beneath the trials and tribulations of this life. The people that we had the privilege of spending time with exemplified this kind of joy so beautifully and that is something that I will take with me as I mve on in my journey. God’s joy is constant, regardless of circumstance. Always has been, always is, and always will be available to us. That’s beautiful!
UPDATE: We are in Phnom Penh until Tuesday and then we are off to Thailand for a bit. I have really appreciated your prayer and support! If you feel so inclined to support me financially while on GlobeTREK you can do so through the Donations page in the dropdown menu or visit Prairie College Donations. Also, our friends Darren and Minako from Work of Your Hand will be in Canada speaking at a few churches and what not so you should go check them out! It’s and amazing ministry.