Sorn may not seem like much. If you were in his community looking for a leader, or a game changer, a guy like Sorn might not turn your head. 

My guess is that ninety percent of us, if we passed Sorn on some dusty road in the province where he lives, wouldn't look twice - unless it was to dodge his slow moving cart filled with vegetables. It goes to show how much we miss.

A Cambodian man (not Sorn) transporting produce to market

A Cambodian man (not Sorn) transporting produce to market

Every morning at 3:30 or 4:30am Sorn wakes up, hitches his cart to his motorcycle, and goes around to local farmers buying vegtetables. He takes them to one of the nearby village markets and sells them until 2 or 3 in the afternoon. Every day except Sunday.

I say it's hard work. He shrugs and says it's normal. People in rural Cambodia do what it takes to get by. 

Unlike many of his peers, Sorn didn't move to one of the country's big cities after high school. He stuck around.

He doesn't give the details, but when he was young his father either left or died. Sorn's mother raised him with support from his grandfather, who is the pastor of their local church. His grandfather wanted Sorn to stick around, and he even helped Sorn find a wife who felt the same way. Two years ago they were married, and their first child was born fourteen days ago.

Sorn has been an Alongsider for eight years, since 2007, and he has had two little brothers. Both grew up and became Alongsiders themselves, and both are active in the church now. Sorn says he prayed carefully before choosing each one. He wanted to choose boys who would grow and mature into responsible, faithful adults. Both have done well. One had a brief problem with gambling but stopped after Sorn talked with him about it.

Now Sorn is praying and looking for a third little brother.

The country church in Kampong Thom that Sorn attends

The country church in Kampong Thom that Sorn attends

Sorn has been a leader for the youth in the church for years, and now he is the leader of the Alongsiders group there. It's a challenge, as the majority of the young people grow up and leave for the cities. 

It would be easy to tell Sorn's story in a way that depicts him as larger than life, to describe him in poetic terms. Rather, let's just respect him as a human being with a full range of emotions and choices to make in the circumstances of his life. It's because Sorn is an ordinary-extraordinary man in his community that he can bring hope and change starting from within it.

Sorn and others like him and their relationships - not a program or NGO - are making a difference. Our movement and the tools we develop are NOT intended to work through them, or despite them, but to support them, to engage them, and to set them loose.

The secret of Sorn's humanity (and ours) is this: God works through him in love. The key to our movement is this: to respect him, support and equip him, and then get out of the way.