Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Scrooge finds Christmas Spirit in Cambodia

Call me Scrooge. I've become the miserly old cynic this holiday
season. The glitter of this season is lost among my cold pessimism of
the mall's warm holiday cheer.

Still looking for the perfect gift? Bahumbug. How about gifts we can
really use and need? Where can I go to find peace on earth on sale? What store is exchanging dirty water for fresh water? Can I obtain an online coupon for a job? What about a gift certificate for a new and improved health?

What caused my skeptical transformation, you ask? I took a trip to Cambodia in 2000. My purpose was to set up a humanitarian service project for WSU & UI students. While in Cambodia, I saw how ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency) was teaching the people how to become self sufficient, by giving support, skills and opportunities needed to address the challenges faced by the developing nation.

But at the stroke of midnight, I hear chains. The hunger caused by drought spooks me. The poverty I witnessed plagues me. The high unemployment rate troubles me. The rampant disease disturbs me. But why do the scenes from Cambodia haunt me during Christmas? Why should they haunt you? Perhaps it's my undigested supper.

The Cambodian countryside fades in my mind and I am transported to the local shopping mall. I witness the constant bombardment of the masses with the following holiday messages. "You need more toys!" "Sale!" "Buy me and you'll be happy!" But the idea that things can bring happiness is empty. I then see the post-Christmas blues. Lines of people with their returns and repairs are reminders that material possessions do not really satisfy.

Then in my mind I am escorted by the Spirit of God and shown that behind the bows and wrapping paper of the commercialized holiday season I see something hideous. Selfishness. "Give me, give me, give me. I want this. I want that. What will I get? Me first!" This is the attitude of our society. With this warning I awake from my materialistic slumber.

Does the Bible have any holiday gift suggestions for Scrooges like me? The first Christmas gift list included God's only Son, Jesus Christ. While we were still messy with sin, Christ died for us, to give us eternal life. (Romans 5:8) Wise Guys from the East gave extravagant gifts fit for the infant King of Kings; gold, myrrh and frankincense. (Matthew 2:11) From these extravagant gift suggestions, I am shown that
the purpose of this season is to share our abundance to give hope to others.

Here are a few Scrooge-approved holiday gift suggestions from ADRA you can give for those hard to please people on your list.
(See ADRA Cambodia's Website www.adracambodia.org/ for more ideas)
  • A village well. The gift of fresh clean water will be enjoyed by all villagers, for years to come.
  • A rice processor. This gift will allow Cambodian villagers to mill
    their rice harvest, and also provide local jobs.
  • A concrete latrine. A cement outhouse is the perfect gift to keep
    sewage from contaminating the water table and spreading disease.
  • A community health center. Provides health care for 10,000 people.
  • A fish pond. Give a village a stocked Talipia fish pond.
  • A mango orchard. Helps the environment and provides an additional
    source of income with its fruit.
  • The ability to read. A literacy project teaches people to read.
  • A hospital bed. Hospital beds and other equipment to provide the
    needed health care.

Take the advice from this Scrooge who had to travel to Cambodia to find the holiday spirit. Share to give others hope. "God bless us everyone!"

Origally published on December 9, 2000 in the Moscow - Pullman Daily News paper


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