It is 2:00 a.m. in Cambodia, and my friend’s voice phoning from South Africa is trembling with anxiety. “Please help. My cousin needs help. We had not had meaningful contact with him for a long time, and now he has reached out to us for help. His message: ‘Please come and help me, I am sick, and I am dying.’”
I asked my friend for more details. All she knew was that her cousin worked in the capital city and lost his work due to the economic fallout surrounding COVID-19. After that, and coinciding with his history of substance abuse, he entered into a deep depression. She had his telephone number. That was it.
Prayerfully, I started phoning her cousin, hereafter referred to as “D.” He answered my call. All I could hear was moaning sounds, no words. I had no idea whether he was high or just too weak or sick to answer. I told him that help was on the way and to please hold on.
Eleven months ago, I had arrived in this country to serve as a missionary. At that time, I connected with a young local girl living in the capital city, an eight-hour car ride away from where I now reside. She became my language helper. When daylight broke, I phoned and asked her for help locating D to get him medical care and safely return him to his family in South Africa. My language helper recognized the urgency. Within one hour, she and a friend were ready to start searching. Many phone calls to D followed as we tried to find an address. But even with an address, the task to find D was insurmountable. We pleaded with him to get up and use all his remaining energy to get to a window so that my language helper and her friend could walk the streets searching every window for him.
My skin was alive with excitement when my language helper sent a photo and text message which said, “I think we have found your friend. Is this him?” I forwarded the image to his family, who could not immediately identify him since the picture was taken from the street and the man in the photo was hanging onto the railing of his third-floor balcony. My language helper and her friend rushed to his side, at which time we were able to positively identify him. They nourished him with food, water and prayer. Then they identified a palm-sized wound at the back of his head, which was badly infected and needed urgent attention. For the rest of the day, they walked the streets to find medical help for D but could not find one doctor willing to help a foreigner who got himself into a mess. D had to wait longer for help.
In the meantime, I was so profoundly impressed to go and help this man that I took an eight-hour taxi ride to the capital city. If it were my little brother crying out for help from a foreign country, I would have wanted someone to save him. Prayerfully I acknowledged to God that I did not have any experience with this kind of situation, but I claimed Isaiah 6:8, “Here am I! Send me,” and Job 13:15, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”
As I rode in the taxi and prepared to meet the situation, God encouraged me by reminding me of the words to the song “The Reckless Love of God” by Cory Asbury. While I don’t feel God’s love is reckless, He is certainly persistent and willing to climb the tallest mountains and light up the darkest shadows as He leaves the ninety-and-nine to reach the one lost soul.
Arriving in the capital city, I picked D up, and we went from one hospital to the next and one clinic to the next. Throughout the entire day, no one was willing to even examine him. He was a foreigner, and we had no money for private hospital care. Tired to the bone, we were subjected to ridicule, judgment and cross-cultural callousness until arriving at the last hospital that day. We were almost sent away again, but a very strict Khmer nurse noticed us and purposefully came walking to us. She sternly looked at me and D, asking only two questions. What is he using, and do you have money?” Then she looked at the AFM shirt I was wearing, displaying the Cross, and her face immediately softened.
“Wait,” she told us. We waited, and much later, she called us into an examination room. She cleaned D’s wound and referred me to a government hospital that would help us. “This wound needs urgent attention,” she counseled. D’s entire body had been poisoned for a long time, and he could go into shock. We were so tired and hungry that both D and I started crying when she showed the slightest compassion towards us. Totally out of character to the Khmer traditional culture, this stranger held us close and apologized for her culture’s manner in treating foreigners. She said she would pray that God would make a way for D to be helped.
Early the next morning, we arrived at the hospital to which we were referred. For two days, we were shuffled from one office to the next, enduring the shouts of people frustrated with us because we did not understand their instructions.
God was faithful. In six days, God created our world, and in six days, God changed forever the lives of D, his family and me. On the third day, D received an urgent medical procedure. During those six days, funds were raised to cover his medical expenses, purchase a plane ticket and pay $6,000 in penalty fees for D overstaying his visit to the country. Although government officials were angry at us, we prayerfully persisted in following God as He prepared a way for us. By His grace, the government issued an emergency exit visa in 12 hours, a document that generally takes three days to process. I wish I could share all the miracles God worked for us during the six days we fought this battle to get D home to his family. What I can tell you is that many people witnessed the hand of God in a mighty way. God created many opportunities for me to hand out tracts and pray for patients while we waited in the hospital hallways. We shared our food and water. We even left tracts about the love of Jesus on the tuk-tuks we hired for local transport.
Finally, we arrived home safely. A week later, D told me that he did not even remember reaching out for help. He only remembered that he had given up on life and stopped eating and drinking anything, ready to let go of life. He also remembered a warm light surrounding him when he met me. D continues witnessing about the saving grace of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to everyone who will listen.
I have never been so immensely blessed by being obedient to the voice of God and wonder if I had “come to the kingdom for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). Please join me in praying for D as his journey to recovery has only just begun. We praise God for His saving grace. He who “will even deliver one who is not innocent” (Job 22:30).