It was a day I’ll never forget. Last summer I flew to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to participate in the work of Extreme Love Ministries. My name is Anna, and I do administrative work for ELM in our home office in Arizona, but always look forward to visiting Cambodia to see things firsthand. It reminds me what it’s all about, and why my behind-the-scenes work is so important.
I came with a few others, and on that soon-to-be unforgettable day we had planned a trip to one of the many slums ELM ministers to in order to deliver food hygiene items. We would be going door to door to love on the people who need it most. We were ready to serve and to pray and to share with them about Jesus and his love for them!
After breakfast, a small caravan pulled up to the curb in front of our hotel. Andrea, the director of ELM, popped out of one of the vehicles, her always-sunny self. Our day’s supplies were already loaded, so our team crammed into the remaining spaces and off we went, full of excitement. If you have ever experienced the street traffic in Phnom Penh (picture thousands of ants scrambling after you uncover their nest by moving a rock) then you know there was little chance of our caravan staying together.
We arrived later than expected, but the rest of our group was nowhere to be found. They’ll be here any minute, we assured one another. While we waited, Andrea patiently fielded many questions from our team about life in Cambodia, and how ELM helps fight human trafficking. She also told us about the slum we were there to visit—which the ELM team affectionately called Noah’s Ark because of its location along a large river that joins the mighty Mekong River nearby. Months prior the government began gradually relocating the community many miles inland so the riverfront land can be redeveloped, forcing residents to dismantle and move their ramshackle homes. Not much was left when we visited.
After some time waiting, we got a call from Jonathan, an ELM Shiloh pastor who was with the others, wondering where we were! We were at the usual spot, it seemed, but Jonathan said his group had parked on the opposite side of the community due to some government restrictions he’d heard about that day. He hung up and decided to hike to our location across a large area of debris so he could lead us back.
No problem, we could wait a few more minutes. Jonathan, a Cambodian who ministers in the community every week, arrived a few minutes later—clearly shaken. Without explanation, he directed us to follow him back. During our walk he tried to describe what had happened moments earlier…
While waiting for us to arrive, he’d spotted a lady walking towards him from the direction of the river’s edge. He could see she was carrying a baby—a two-week-old boy, she told him, and it was not hers. She explained how she had found the baby abandoned under a tree that morning, covered with bug bites and wrapped in a filthy blanket, and how she wasn’t able to take care of it. She went on to tell Jonathan that the mother, a woman whose name the ELM team recognized (she lives there too), had previously suffocated her first child by rolling onto it while on drugs/alcohol. It turns out this was not the first time she had abandoned her baby, either, and was known to have a mental illness. These facts, and because traffickers daily hunt for vulnerable babies and mothers in that place, prompted Jonathan to act quickly to protect the baby by contacting a fellow staff member who works on ELM’s Elijah team.
In the meantime, it was clear that the baby was overheated and risked dehydration. The ELM team quickly purchased baby milk nearby and started caring for him. At the same time the Elijah team and one of our social workers rushed the case to a government office. Miraculously, that precious baby was placed in a safe, loving home that same day!
Jonathan later testified, “As I go to slum communities every week, besides sharing the gospel and prayers I always watch for babies at risk. Every time I rescue babies or kids that is a great encounter and I feel like I’m cutting off another string of poverty and darkness and bring the light, hope and future for them. For this baby case, I believe it was God’s encounter….”
The moment I first saw the baby, I knew in my heart that God had rearranged our plans to save one baby. I then thought about how God had even let our vehicle go to the “wrong” place so that an ELM outreach group would be there in time to help that baby. I also reflected on how impressed I was by our ELM team!
Our day had to be rearranged, but we gladly pivoted to follow His leading. I would joyfully repeat that “mistake” a thousand times to see again the wonder of God showing up for the one. God also blessed our time later that day as we resumed serving those in the community. We even got to see some people healed!
That day I witnessed God “leave the 99 for the one,” and I will never forget that. It was a moment to witness God working in mysterious and creative ways. That is who My God is.