July 22, 2015 - Thailand
My teammate, Beth, and I share a room with one of our hosts, Sohm. She is 17 years old and loves rugby and singing. During the first few days on our site, I felt awkward with my limited Thai and slow adapting of a new culture. I wanted to connect with her beyond formal greetings, but wasn’t sure how or even where to begin. It felt like we were worlds apart. An unexpected opportunity arose one evening just before we were about to go to bed. I saw she was studying Chinese (in which I am hardly proficient, but have basic understanding) and I spent the next hour helping her review for her test. In that short hour, the miles of distance between us seemed to disappear as we laughed and learned from one another. Over the next few weeks, we shared stories and laughed more over the numerous miscommunications that occurred, which only seemed to bring us closer. As trust was built, she shared more of herself and her story.
Sohm was born in Cambodia and her father committed suicide soon after her birth—her mother never told her why. At the age of 5, her mother left her in the care of her grandmother and went to find work in Thailand. She did not see her mother again until she was 9. This was when she came with her mother to Thailand. She lost her mother to liver failure when she was 14. Sohm has lived 3 years with P’Pla, the woman leading the ministry in our community, and several other children who come from various broken backgrounds, many of which include abandonment and absent parents. She is three years older than all her classmates because she is not Thai. Although she is behind in school compared to her peers, she still works hard. She dreams of traveling the world and eventually opening a coffee shop in America.
Sohm loves God despite what has happened to her and her loved ones, but still hurts deeply and grapples with hard questions. I can honestly say I have met Jesus in Sohm. Through her life, I see real rescue and salvation in the midst of deep despair. I better understand what it means when God says he is a father to the fatherless. I have tangible proof that God can redeem even the most hopeless of situations. I deeply value our friendship and look forward to remaining friends for a long time. It is bittersweet to think on the remaining time we have together, but I know I want to be someone who supports her beyond this short summer trip. More than she needs me, I need her in my life. I need Sohm to remind me of how real Jesus is. I’m already looking forward to the next time we see each other.
Names may have been changed to protect identity
Written by Denise