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HIU Student’s Heart Breaks for Victims of Human Trafficking

Photo - Jessica Ruf Jessica Ruf, an undergraduate student at Hope International University’s Pacific Christian College shares how God opened her eyes while in Southeast Asia:

I recently had the honor of traveling to Cambodia with Professor Gillette and Professor Sonnenberg, along with fellow Hope students Nicole Eggers and Perris Rowan. While there we did much and learned much. We played with street kids and grasped a new concept of poverty. We toured a brothel turned into a community outreach center and observed the power of restoration. We taught English to rescued victims of human trafficking and developed a new appreciation for our education. The greatest lesson for me, however, was the lesson of forgiveness, reconciliation, and koinonia.

The first day after our arrival in Cambodia, Professor Sonnenberg guided us to the S21 Museum, a result of the 1975 genocide that claimed the lives of 2.5 million men, women, and children as orchestrated by political and military leader Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge army. Originally a school, the S21 Museum was turned into a torture center during the reign of Pol Pot, and then converted into a museum after his loss of power.

As I wandered through the museum, I (saw) windows filled with torture paraphernalia; thousands of black and white mug shots of men, women, and children who had once been prisoners; I walked up stairways with blood splattered stains on the floor, a haunting reminder of the atrocities that had once occurred. What was striking to me, however, is not simply the museum itself, but that fact that it seems impossible to me for such a horror to have occurred. It seems impossible because the museum presented a glaring contrast to the Cambodian Christian communities which I met soon after.

As Professor Gillette pointed out one night while our group was eating dinner, “Cambodia is a place where you can be thousands of miles away from home, and yet feel at home.” Part of this is very much a result of the redemption and reconciliation only found through Christ. For instance, when Nicole, Perris, and I taught English at a Bible college in Cambodia, two of our students were two endearing elderly women. You could count on these two to greet everyone, including each other, with a toothy grin and warm embrace. One would never know that one of those warm-hearted women had once been a prisoner of the Khmer Rouge…and that the other had once been a member of the Khmer Rouge army.

The Cambodian congregation was filled with both victims and perpetrators of the genocide that had once occurred, yet when I observed the Cambodian Christian communities, I witnessed the closest example to true koinonia that I had ever seen. In contrast to other congregations, there were no “cliques,” no outsiders, no rejected. Of all people, the Christians in Cambodia had a reason to not get along. Despite having the most compelling excuse for a fractured church, the Cambodians possessed a koinonia that some American churches never come close to achieving. That is a lesson which can’t be overlooked. For me, it was a lesson of humility. It was a lesson to let go of my petty reasons for not reaching out to those around me with open arms and with an open heart. If the two elderly Cambodian women in my English class could embrace each other with a hug, I should be able to love anyone.

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