Light in Darkness

Walking Into Darkness

Ron PostBy Ron Post8 Minutes

Excerpt taken from Unchained: A Man’s Journey from Abuse to Healing to Save Lives by Ron Post.

Walking into Darkness

You were once darkness, but you are now light in the Lord (Ephesians 5:8).

Barbed wire surrounded the crowded seven-acre compound, and armed guards were ready to shoot any of the forty thousand refugees who dared try to escape. I was familiar with the compound’s size because I’d grown up on a seven-acre tract. The glaring difference was my childhood in the tract was enjoyed in the security and plenty of the U.S. and the comforts of San Bernardino, California. I was stunned that the refugee camp was an entire city of people crammed into a tiny rural space.

The unfortunate forty thousand were trying to survive on a daily ration of two spoonfuls of rice. Lack of nutrition made the people more susceptible to illnesses and diseases. They had absolutely nothing-no homeland, homes, possessions … and no hope. They had escaped the vicious dictator of their country, Cambodia, only to face starvation, sickness, and early death across the border in Thailand. It was November 1979.

Between 1975 and 1979, thousands of Cambodians fled their homes in terror of their cruel prime minister, Pol Pot. Those were the days of the “killing fields,” a term popularized by the movie of the same name.

The death toll was about three million. The desperate people were hungry, sick, and grieving the many loved ones who had perished, those who were near death, and the loss of their now-forsaken homes and homeland. Weak with suffering, they had stumbled across the border for safety as if seeking a quiet place to die in hopelessness.

My team and I had learned of the conditions before arriving, but noth­ing could have prepared us for the reality. The camp gate swung open, and our first volunteer medical team entered the sea of needy and dying people wearing black clothing that hung loosely on their thin, frail frames. The sight was heartbreaking, and the stench of human waste from open trenches was so overpowering I had to restrain the impulse to cover my nose to keep from vomiting. I struggled with both while keenly aware that the refugees’ suffering was staggering, so much greater than any pain I had ever experienced. We grieved the terrible cost the refugees bore.

I searched the faces as we moved toward the hospital ward. The migrants’ eyes were as empty and dark as their clothing. They appeared to be staring at nothingness. The expansive needs presented a mission I had not before encountered, nor had my volunteer team of physi­cians, nurses, and medics.

Oliestions raced through my mind. Is this where we’re supposed to be? Will the team be up to the complex tasks of treating diseases they’ve never seen? What are the volunteers thinking and feeling? We were Americans, and mass tragedies of this proportion didn’t happen in our homeland.

World Vision International had assigned our medical team to the vast hospital. The thatched roof served as a canopy over gravel floors. Rows of cots stretched more than three hundred feet. The space could accommodate caring for hundreds of outpatients and 125 inpatients.

As we strode through the maze of cots toward our assigned stations, each face we encountered reflected more pain and anguish than I had seen up to that time in my life. The air was rife with distressful moaning. A young woman cried out in pain. Her infant lay near death beside her, the baby’s delicate skin threatened by protruding bones. The unmistakable signs of starvation confronted my comfortable life in America.

Pleading eyes of the desperately ill followed our every move, hoping for relief. A fifteen-year-old boy groaned from a gunshot wound to his abdomen. The bullet had exited just above his rectum, causing a continual seepage of feces.

Questions That Pummeled Me

Who am I that I should live in America rather than experience this devastation, grief, hardship, and suffering? Why am I so blessed?

I considered how God creates every human with the same basic needs and desires – to care for our families, enjoy life, and stay healthy. I wrestled with the fact that thousands of people have been stripped of those abilities. They struggle to survive physically while their hearts tear with each sight and sound of family members and friends suffering and dying around them.

The disparity between a nearby sick man and me was only our birthplaces. Had I been born in Cambodia, I might have been one lying in the makeshift hospital, suffering and praying for help or the relief of death.

How often had I taken America and my daily blessings for granted?

I had somehow supposed that American citizenship was an earned right and that we ere superior people, blessed because of our right choices. How have I ignored oppressed and hurting people for so long?

I had much to learn and many changes I needed to make in my life.

The suffering around me so too terrible for words – human wailing, groaning, emaciated bodies fighting disease, the air saturated with stench.

How can I possibly make a difference here? I’m just an ordinary man, a businessperson without preparation for this role among such atrocities.

I retraced the events that had brought me halfway around the globe, carrying a resounding question. Why was I given this monumental assignment? The answer hadn’t come from days of fasting on a mountaintop or kneeling at a church altar. My calling to Cambodia had come while sitting in my easy chair in the comfort of my U.S. home.

Like others called to serve, I felt unequal to the calling. I felt overcome, inadequate, and out of place. I realized I felt how God intended so I would look to Him, not myself for answers and solutions. I was not in that horrid scenario by accident but as part of God’s masterful plan to further shape me by compassion for those in dire suffering, to teach me to hear and follow His voice, and to better equip me to love and serve those in need.

Order your copy of Excerpt taken from Unchained: A Man’s Journey from Abuse to Healing to Save Lives by Ron Post.