Beauty from Ashes: Seeing Jesus

Curious children gathered beyond the edge of the ADP Birthday Party. Cambodia, February courtesy of Penny Wood

Curious children gathered beyond the edge of the ADP Birthday Party. Cambodia, February 2004.
photo courtesy of Penny Wood

Early on the third day following the crucifixion, the women found the empty tomb. “He is not here, He is risen,” said the angels. “Mary,” said Jesus and she turned toward Him, recognizing Him. (John 20:16)

When asked how she could touch and help those sick and dying on the streets of Calcutta, Mother Teresa said she saw Jesus in each of them.

We see Jesus anew as we celebrate His resurrection. He opens our eyes to see the ways in which His passion, death and resurrection are happening among us every day. I may be afraid to really look at my own world, but seeing Jesus as the resurrected Christ, I am called to enter more deeply into the painful, but also hope filled lives of my fellow human beings.

In February of 2004, Women of Vision visited the children of Cambodia. On the hostile streets of Phnom Penh, in the dark cold of night, we talked with children who were abandoned there or who had run away from fearful homes. We witnessed the rescue of a boy who choose to go with the World Vision street educator (a former street child himself) to the Bamboo Shoot Children’s Center where we sat and “sang” with those lovingly rescued children. In a home tucked into a family neighborhood, we played children’s games with very young girls liberated from the specialized streets of prostitution and kept safe there while they were restored to health of body and mind. We were seeing the hands of Jesus ministering to His little children.

Driving a day out of Phnom Penh, we were to participate in the first Birthday Party that World Vision was giving for the children in the ADP of our sponsored children. We found several hundred children neatly dressed in their school uniforms, waiting for us so the “party” could begin. The Cambodian formality set the tone as each of the areas’ political leaders spoke to these very quiet students and the many other curious children who gathered at the edges. Because Buddhism is the practiced religion in Cambodia, there is no celebration of birthdays so the World Vision staff needed to explain this Birthday Party with its special food and favors and guests. As a guest, I had been asked moments earlier to tell a Bible Story about Jesus. Following the many speakers, and with a Khmer translator, this curly blond haired woman animatedly speaking a strange language brought many giggles from the previously silent children. As the translation took effect, they again became quiet. I introduced the children to my best friend Jesus through the story of Zacchaeus, a friendless little man who wanted so badly to see Jesus among the crowds that he climbed into a tree. I shared that Jesus knew all about Zacchaeus, knew his name and where he was perched. Jesus became Zacchaeus’ best friend. Jesus also knows the name of each child in our ADPs and wants to be his or her best friend. All of the World Vision staff and believers there stood up and the children were invited to ask those friends more about Jesus. What a privilege!

Christ is risen indeed; the epitome of God bestowing on us “a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” Isaiah 61:1-3

by Penny Wood, former Women of Vision National Director (1993-2006)

*Read all of the WOV Lenten devotionals in our “Beauty from Ashes” series.

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