Siem Reap, Cambodia en route to Houston, Texas
It’s only been a few days since our team said good-bye to the kids who call the Imparting Smiles children’s center their home. Located in the city of Poipet along the border between Cambodia and Thailand, Imparting Smiles is a safe place for kids. Most but not all of the kids who call Imparting Smiles home are orphans. A few are there for other reasons. One little girl in particular captured my heart during our visit last week. She was placed at the orphanage because her own father raped her when she was just seven years old. Her father is currently serving time in prison — only three years for his horrible crime against his daughter. Not enough time if you ask me. As a father, it’s hard for me to imagine how any father could do something so terrible to any helpless little child much less his own daughter.
When Steve Hyde, founder of Imparting Smiles, told me this little girl’s story, my heart sank. Knowing her story helped me to understand the faraway look in her eyes, her quiet disposition, and why I never saw her smile. It also motivated me to look for opportunities to affirm her throughout the week and to tell her that I love her. Although I took some photos of this precious little girl, I do not want to include them or her name in this post. Somehow I feel that if I did then I would be robbing her of another slice of her already fragile dignity. Instead I have committed to pray for her and to inquire about her welfare until I see her again when I return to Cambodia in a few months.
When our team said our good-byes to the kids at Imparting Smiles, I noticed this little girl in the crowd. When we made eye contact I was not sure if she would accept a hug from any man but I opened my arms anyway. She hurried over and I held her in my arms and told her that I loved her. She was the last kid I hugged before we drove away to start our journey home. And, I was encouraged by what I saw as we slowly drove down the driveway to leave the center. I noticed a faint smile as she stood off by herself, raised her hand, and waved good-bye. Her little smile warmed my heart. I whispered a prayer of thanksgiving that she now has a safe place to call home — a place where she is protected from her earthly father who hurt her but also a place where she is learning about a heavenly Father who loves and values her. I am confident that, in time, His love will heal her wounds and restore her smile.