“She’s a thief. She’s so stingy,” one of our long-time, Christ-following friends, Ming K whispered to me. “One time my little grandson accidentally destroyed her immature banana plant and she made me pay her for the full price of a ripe stalk of bananas being sold in the market! If our chickens walked near her house, she would open her pen and let them in and then close it. There’s no one who likes Chiruh except for her family. People — not me, other people — are saying, Let her die. She deserves it.’ I listened but didn’t entertain the gossip.
When she finished, I said, “She’s never done anything to me, and I would be sinning against her if I didn’t help her get better or give her more time to learn about Jesus. I don’t know anything about all the things she’s done, so I have no grudges against her.” Though Ming K agreed with me, she continued to gossip to me every time I saw her. One day I gently said, “Thank you, aunty, for looking out for me and warning me to be careful around Chiruh. But I don’t need to hear any more stories about her. I will not stop helping her.”
Apparently, I’m caring for a patient who is hated by many in our neighborhood. Will this taint my reputation? Will others refuse to associate with me because I’ve been helping Chiruh? So far, everyone is still cordial, but that’s to be expected in Cambodian culture. Here, you can’t tell who hates you, or who is talking about you behind your back. When I visit Chiruh every morning to change her dressings and clean her wound, we have nothing but positive encounters. “Oh, she speaks so sweetly, but behind your back she’s a crooked woman,” Ming K has warned me.
I told Ming K that if anyone ever speaks in her presence about me caring for Chiruh, she should tell them the same words I’ve told her; that I will help anyone, no matter what they’ve done. I’m not sure what people are saying about me among themselves, but I’ve decided I don’t really care. All I can do is strive to follow the example that Jesus set for me: to care for those in need, no matter who they are.