Mali, an OMF worker from Thailand, has been in Cambodia for eight years. She is a naturally warm and friendly person and gets into conversation with anyone, anywhere.
Mali and I found Pu Song (with the help of his wife) in one of the poorest government hospitals in Phnom Penh. His emaciated body lay on a rusting bed with no mattress — just his mat on wooden slats. The walls of the ward were filthy, the floor was stained, and tiles were cracked and missing.
A mosquito coil lay half burned under the bed — impotent to quell its intended victims which began biting as soon as we sat down. There was no glass in the windows — just broken wooden shutters that flapped back and forth in the breeze.
The bedside table bore only a crude wooden medicine box and a plastic bottle of water. The room was dim and joyless and my heart sank to see Pu Song struggle to sit up, trying to muster some energy to acknowledge us — but without the strength even to sompeah (put his hands together in greeting).
Even breathing was an effort for this dying man.
Mali spoke softly; we wondered if Pu Song could actually understand us. She asked gently about his present state of health and how he became ill. He said that he used to cut hair and thought he had contracted AIDS through that. But when Mali asked him he admitted having had many lovers.
Until then he had never told his wife and now he was sorry. Having professed faith as a Christian before they married, he knew he had done wrong. Mali told the story of the prodigal son and emphasised the love and compassion of the Father as he welcomed back his younger son.
As I watched and listened to Mali, I was overwhelmed by the lovesheshowed this sick, frail man — not long for this world, with nothing to give her in return.
What was it that motivated Mali to make this visit on a hot Friday afternoon? Nothing less than the love of Christ. It was the love of Christ that compelled her to go, to speak with this man of God’s love and compassion — and her desire to see Pu Song forgiven and reconciled, both to his Creator and to his young wife, just 20 years old.
Paul writes to the Corinthians: ‘For Christ’s love compels us because we are convinced that one died for all … that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised’ (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).
Before we left, Mali and I sang a Khmer song that spoke of how good Jesus is and how he is our Lord.
I will never forget that moment, the sound of our voices filling that lonely, desolate hospital room, bringing words of comfort to a dying man — nor seeing Mali sharing the good news with him, compelled by the love of Christ.