Many years ago, someone said to me that you haven’t truly settled in a country until you can talk about what is wrong about it. Now, this person has probably forgotten they said this by now. But I remember it because I remember my strong reaction to it. My exact immediate thoughts would be too strong to write here. Fortunately, I managed to hide my feelings somewhat. (I’ve actually written about this incident on the blog already, so 10 stars if you can find out where it’s mentioned before!)
Also, I sometimes find it hard to be around expats. This is because expats like to moan and complain and I hate it. I have actually had to walk away from a group of people because of what they said about Cambodia. Also, I was quite blunt with someone when they said that they didn’t get the sense of recipes being passed down through the centuries when eating Khmer food. I did point out that a genocide may have been a contributing factor. (It’s also really not true; if you actually go to eat nice Khmer food, you’ll realise it’s really nice.)
This frustration around criticising Cambodia is because of a simple reason. God called me to love Cambodia. “Well, you can still love Cambodia and find it hard!” you might cry. This is true. I often find it hard and I will be honest about it. But that, most of the time, it isn’t Cambodia’s fault. It’s just life. And it isn’t an excuse for a critical attitude. It is easy to become cynical and weary, especially when you’re sweaty, hot and tired. But, as I like to say, cynicism is just a Poundland version of wisdom. It’s cheap, easy, and worth very little.
There’s also a very clear Biblical passage on what love is meant to look like. It’s often now used for weddings, but its use was not isolated to just that.
Love is patient with Cambodia and Cambodians; love is kind (in thought, word and deed) to this country. Love does not become jealous with Cambodians' ease in this country. Love does not boast about its own customs or country. Love does not think itself better than Cambodia. Love is not rude to Cambodians. It does not demand that it's own needs, culture and customs be respected above that of the Cambodians. Love does not keep a record of the wrongs of Cambodia and discuss them endlessly. Love does not delight in the injustice of global wealth and poverty and rejoice in our own unfair opportunities and privileges. Love delights when the truth of God's love and justice wins out in this nation. Love does not give up on Cambodia; love never loses faith in the gospel in Cambodia, is hopeful for transformation, and endures through every circumstance Cambodia throws at it. Prophecy and speaking Khmer and Mnong and Kraol and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever.