In the days following her mother’s death, I remember longing to know how Dai, my 8 year old neighbor in this Phnom Penh slum, was doing. 

You can only imagine how I felt, when after the death, I heard a familiar voice cry my name, “Han-NA”! 

Turning around quickly, I received the emphatic hug of a small friend, whose presence perhaps provided as much comfort to me as it might have provided to her. 

When I think about Dai’s future, I cannot help but wish that someone would guide her in the coming years—someone who shares the language and background, someone committed to her in the difficult time ahead without a mother, someone who will point her to an ever-present hope in God. 

Dai is one of a significant number of children, in my community alone, that could use such a person in their life...  someone to walk alongside.

As children face the brunt of neglect and injustice in most of the world, the Church is called to respond.  Perhaps then, rather than fighting the wrong battles, the Church can be the kind of people who live like Jesus, in coming alongside the forgotten— communicating to the world, thus, that the ones the world has rejected… are loved, valuable, and absolutely worthwhile. 

I am still not quite sure how I got connected with Alongsiders exactly, but the connection was a God-send, undoubtedly.  My deep-seated desire to see local churches actively engaging in the reconciliation and redemption of lives in their community, particularly through discipleship and education, is exactly what I found happening in Cambodia, through Alongsiders

As a fourth year student at Wheaton College, Illinois, getting to be a part of what is happening in Cambodia through a six-month internship, is an absolute privilege.  These crucial six months are an opportunity to glimpse of what God is doing in the world, in the heart of marginalized communities, and a time to experience the difficult tension between the “Developed” and “Developing” Worlds. 

The experience provides a platform to question, what it means to live, responsibly, as a Christian in a divided world, and further, to think through principles that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.           
Every so often, one gets the opportunity to witness something in life that makes the heart come alive, that is so obviously steeped in God’s presence that it brings us to our knees, that is so extraordinary that it can only be the Kingdom of God. 

Within the last two months in Cambodia, I have experienced a few of these moments, in places, perhaps, least expected.  Some of these have been with my Cambodian family in our urban slum—moments of deep grace when I had nothing to offer, but a throbbing head, a lingering fever, and a few Khmer words. 

I have also had the privilege to bear witness to an extraordinary group of local young people  committed to the life of one vulnerable child each, at the epicenter of the system’s injustices. 

I have been able to see a Church alive and active, in the discipleship of their community’s at-risk children.  

Quite frankly, the Life—in every sense of the word— that is being shared, is nothing short of remarkable. 

It is that Life that I wish for my friend, Dai


[Written by Hanna Tzou, currently interning with Alongsiders in Cambodia. Contact us for more information about internship opportunities in 2014.]