Every afternoon rain splattered downwards onto our faces in little bits of drips and the grass was wet, but the air was still uncomfortably warm. Seventeen young Cambodian girls stood scattered around the small backyard space waiting for me to start speaking. They were a part of a local soccer team which weekly met with a few of us from our School of Dance Studies 2010 outreach team for extra conditioning classes.
Some days we taught them upbeat dance classes, sometimes we worked through aerobic exercises together, but on this day it was my turn to challenge their cardiovascular systems. Running with high knees, fast grapevine steps, and backwards jogging were all a part of the planned workout for the day. I pressed play on my iPod. Music beats blared. We began.
Well, I began, they stared at me as I ran—most Cambodians hide inside when rain begins falling. Consequently, this request to run in the rain was not looked upon very favorably. I quickened my own legs’ pace, trying to push thirty-four other legs to do the same. Smiles and cheers burst from my lips. I ran circles around them.
The girls reluctantly began moving. I came alongside their movements, looked encouragingly into their eyes, and challenged them to step further forward into more of the great potential they possessed. In my goofiness I let them know they could try without fear. I purposefully ran ridiculously so they might feel free to try without embarrassment.
And finally these girls moved and ran and laughed wholeheartedly. We shared smiles, laughter, breath, and sweat. In that small and sodden yard, they and I together found freedom and so much fun. Treating them with kindness was a joy. I loved loving them the best that I could. I loved encouraging them to run forward physically while believing the action to be a symbolic statement for their lives.
As a team, we believed in them, shared God’s love with them, and invested time into their lives. In a country where female children are often taken into the sex trade and treated horrendously, we let these girls know that they are worthwhile and worth so very much more. God gave us the privilege of standing against what was often seen as normal, not only on principle, but out of love for each individual child we met. A love that not only beat in our hearts, but flows from God’s heart directly into the atmosphere of that Cambodian land. His love for them flows more faithfully than their country’s afternoon rains. And it is only this love that can fully rescue and fully restore all of us beyond the bounds of both our logic and imagination.