Valor Packed in Meekness

Some might say valor and meekness are contradictory. I challenge that. They are perfect together.

Someth Lem was a Buddhist monk when I met him. If anything, they are known for meekness. They walk the streets in the morning with a bowl in one arm, asking for the food they will eat that day. The practice is designed to teach them meekness. I know I would hate to depend on others that way.

Someth is not the pushover some might see in his manner. I don’t know how he would be in self-protection, or in quelling a fight. I don’t believe he would be interested in serving in the military. But while these characteristics may sometime show up in a battle situation, there is much more to valor than this.

In 1974, Someth became a Christian. His character didn’t seem to change a bit. Right away he was a leader among his new peers. God had already built that in him. In 1975, his family was caught in the drama of the Pol Pot killing fields. They had lived in Phnom Penh and fled to what they believed was a safe location near the Viet Nam border. It wasn’t safe at all. Plan B was absolutely required.

But Plan B meant retracing their steps the whole distance they had fled, and then doubling that, traversing all of Cambodia to the Thai border. There were two formidable armies throughout the country. The Khmer Rouge of Pol Pot and the Viet Cong. To be seen by either meant at least traumatic enslavement, and likely death.

Someth gathered his small family and about sixteen others for the trek. Some were small children, making it more dangerous because they couldn’t understand the need to be quiet at a moment’s notice. He would scout out a route and a “safe” place for the rest to wait until he could find the next shelter. When the family was safe, he left again to find the next safe harbor. This was repeated over and over again. 

It took two years to make the trip. His plans had to be methodical and perfect. Being sighted once along the way could have been deadly. On top of this was the need to supply food for the trip.

When they got to the border of Thailand, they had to wade across the river into their new sanctuary. But both enemy armies monitored the river. Many pilgrims just like Someth’s group lost their lives in this last link of the trip.

They made it. Not one person lost.

Someth learned that I was in the country working to assist the refugees. He sent me a message asking for help. I rejoiced over the reunion. Then I asked him a question you might not understand. We had built a bamboo and thatch church in a village about fifteen kilometers away. We had no one to lead out in it. And there were no members to attend. But the church was there, and the people were there. I asked him if he would be willing to take his family back into Cambodia between the enemy armies, turn upstream, and come back out at the other village.

The United Nations wouldn’t allow me to take them by car on the Thai highway to get there in safety. Going back through hell was the only way. He said yes.

When he arrived, Someth began immediately to give Bible studies and to encourage the other refugees in their new situation. It was far from easy but compared to Cambodia it was a piece of cake. He and his wife lost a beautiful baby daughter in that village because of UN regulations that prevented us from getting life-saving surgery in Bangkok for her. 

Many of the people he studied with accepted Jesus and became Christians. Some of those chose to travel on their own back into the villages they had left. Those people needed Jesus too.

Meekness is more the rule to be companioned with valor rather than the exception. So many just don’t feel like they are hero material. Being macho has nothing to do with valor. Being who God made you and acting on it, especially when the going gets rough, that’s valor. 

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