“Please come get your haircut once a week, my child. A month is such a long wait for you to bring the next Bible study.”
Srey was the mother of my barber, Dena. I called her Mom, too. She lost her husband to cirrhosis of the liver and told me she would never consider a proposal from any man that wouldn’t swear never to drink again.
“As a Christian, can I still offer food to monks?” she asked me one day. She wanted to know everything. “Should I cook with the other ladies for temple celebrations or not?” “How is God’s protection better than a blessing from a monk?”
Then a sad call came. “Come to the hospital and be with me,” said Mom. “I think Dokla is going to die.” Her second son had been working in the field and caught a valuable king cobra almost as long as his canoe. As he dropped it into a burlap sack, the angry reptile twisted its head and sank its fangs deep into his arm.
His whole body was now swollen to a degree that is hard to describe. We wrestled with him to keep him from pulling out his tubes, to keep him on the bed, and to keep a sheet over his writhing body. We cried and we prayed. He had no control of any body function, and waste flowed onto the floor. He kept pleading for water, holding a clenched fist to his parched lips as if it was a bottle. I will never forget his eyes. Trapped. Petrified. Stark raving mad.
The family did the only thing thousands of years of ingrained beliefs had taught them to do. They arranged a taxi to take him to the traditional snake doctor. Mom knew that this is not what Christians do, but the family was demanding—this was the only hope. I pleaded with her as we drove. She had chosen God, but she would do anything to give her baby life again. She was lost until he was found. “Please just try prayer and charcoal for one night,” I said. “If you still want to go to the snake doctor in the morning, I will say no more.” Her eyes flooded with tears, and she gave a small nod.
By morning, Dokla’s swelling had gone down by half, and he was starting to talk a little. The next Sabbath, the whole family was in church. Dokla was perfectly whole in every way. His eyes, that days before had been two open pits of terror, were now shining with intelligence and dignity. Not long after I came back to the States, I was overjoyed to see pictures of Mom and Dokla being baptized together.
But the devil wasn’t finished. He twisted his head at the last second and delivered one final bite. I got the news even before I could call Mom and congratulate her on her baptism. It was the hardest phone call of my life. “Hi Mom, it’s me,” I said when she picked up.
“Why, my son?” Her voice came back quiet and slow. “Why my sweet boy Dena? I walked into his room, and there he was, colorless and cold, hanging from a rafter. My sweet boy! Oh how it hurts!” After a long pause she continued, “I don’t know how I could have ever made it through without my Jesus.”
Are you willing to do whatever it takes to give hope to those for whom Jesus gave His life?