Two years ago, I spoke to a crowd of law students and professors at the Legacy Art Gallery. I was presenting a law paper on customary adoption, which had just been published. My sister, brother-in-law, roommate and many friends were there. It was an exciting moment for me.
Just before I got up to speak, one of the other law students read a portion of her paper. As she spoke, I caught my sister's expression from across the room. We were both pushing back tears. My sister's face was a kaleidoscope of emotions: empathy and pain, horror and sadness, fear and compassion.
The bright, young law student who was nervously reading had been raped at gunpoint; it had happened one night when she was traveling alone in Cambodia. It was extremely terrifying, horrifying, nullifying, etc. And her shaky words were bringing new light to the injustice she'd suffered.
Listening to her reading through a legal analysis of the worst moments of her life, I remember thinking:
"I am never (ever) going to travel alone in Cambodia".
So what have I done? A few days ago, I booked a ticket to Cambodia. I will be traveling there for four days (March 17-20): alone.
Obviously, I have wrestled with whether or not I should be going. It is by far the scariest thing I've done. It might also be the most reckless thing I've done. If there is anything that I want to overcome, it is fear. But... there are limits, right?
And yet, there must be a reason why I am going.
The student who read her law paper that night is a friend of mine. As the reality of her experience hit me, I began shaking on the inside: my spirit was crying out for her justice and healing. I believe that cry is there for a reason.
The truth is: she's just one of several of my friends who have been raped. I know the scars and wounds from many nights of sitting in half-lit kitchens and watching the tears of shame and pain roll over their beautiful faces. I've seen the anger and frustration, the depression and self-annihilation that can happen. It's something very real to me.
So, I have decided to go - to push past the fear of traveling alone - as an act of extreme intercession. It feels a little bit crazy. But I believe that it is the right thing to do. I am stirred by a deep peace. My hope is that my simple obedience to go will somehow cause the spiritual darkness to be shattered in some way. Being willing to walk the hard, lonely, dark road for someone is more than half the spiritual battle.
I have researched how to remain safe. Others have provided me with helpful advice and travel wisdom. I am sure that I'll be alright. Angels watching over me really wouldn't hurt.
Aside from my friend's traumatic experience, the history of Cambodia is one of intense suffering and unfathomable pain. Last week, I read some of the original transcripts of the genocide tribunals. Cambodia has suffered and survived an incredibly dark history, and still lives with very deep scars.
Something within me wants to touch the heart of heaven and say: she is worth the risk. And so, I will go ... despite my fears and shed some tears to create a new legacy for her: full of healing, beauty and life, again.