Srei Pech

Three years ago, we visited the Dawn Orphanage in Phnom Penh. I visited the same orphanage two years ago and two groups of Calvin students visited earlier today. Its a small, underfunded, out-of-the-way place hidden in a poor area behind a small Christian church. Lim Vuthy serves both as the pastor of the church and runs the orphanage. They have something like 60 kids ranging in age from 4-5 to 12-14 now, I think. Mostly they are older kids, because he cannot take new ones. They are at their maximum capacity.

Watching the Calvin students play with the kids three years ago, one little girl caught my eye. Cute as a button, always near the front, extremely attentive with bright, brown eyes. I wondered … what she was thinking? What she was looking or hoping for? I watched her intently. But why did I notice her? There were lots of kids around.

A strange thing began to happen a few months later. When sorting pictures, images of Srei Pech (in inquired her name of Pastor Vuthy) caused deep emotions to well. Over the years, I’ve guarded and measured my emotions and responses carefully. Enough, but not too much, not wanting to stand out. Why did these images evoke such emotions? Where do they come from?

I know practically nothing of Srei Pech. During the interim trip the next year, I wanted to see her badly to see how she was doing. To my absolute delight, she stood in front of the kids singing songs at a makeshift Sunday School classes we spontaneously organized that morning. Still attentive, dark eyes still bright and flashing. I was so glad to see her. I worry about her like a father and yet sad because I really don’t know her nor do I want to show her undue attention and create some false hope. Pastor Vuthy explained her parents were still alive he thought but could not afford to keep her, to feed her. He explained that he could give her just enough food to sustain her and ensure she completed her schooling. She has some hope for a future.

I did not go to the orphanage this year. It was a practical decision. A hard one that hurts badly. I still obsess about Srei Pech even though I don’t know her. There was another organization I needed to visit, but my heart aches because it wanted to be in another place. My students tell me she was not at the orphanage today, but was in school – I hope so! I can see her in my mind, sitting at a desk in the front of the class, dark eyes flashing. Attentive. Cute as a button.

Why do I care so about Srei Pech? I don’t know her at all. I’ve seen her twice for maybe 2 hours each visit. It seems completely irrational. Why did she steal my heart and not so many others? Is she a symbol of my hope for so many in her situation? There is hope, you know. Jesus tells me and tells her, “let my little children come to me.” Oh, I so hope that Srei Pech comes to Christ if she has not done so already and thank God for the heart and sacrifice of pastors like Lim Vuthy. And I thank Srei Pech for teaching me of God’s love and of hope.

Who is your Srei Pech with dark, attentive, flashing eyes?

David Dornbos


1 comment so far

  1. Laura Hoekstra on

    Hi Dave,
    Your story is good to read. I will pray for her and her orphan friends. Perhaps we can support them in some other way too.
    Laura from Peoria and not Grand Rapids. Say hello to Brian Maan. He is a friend of ours and prior house mate to Jay.

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