"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted...to comfort all who mourn...to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning." - Isaiah 63:1-3
What happens when your house burns to the ground? How would you feel, losing everything? What would it be like looking at the ashes of what used to be while pondering who could possibly help sweep them up?
These are the very questions that were smoldering in the hearts of our brothers and sisters from a church in Cambodia this past June, 2015. Fire broke out unexpectedly and completely or nearly destroyed 13 separate homes. Total devastation.
The church's pastor immediately reached out to the victims, (some of whom were employees of our partner mission there), by providing rice, blankets and mosquito nets as an expression of God's love for them during this crisis. But that was not the end of the story. These families' homes were still piles of ash and rubble. They desperately needed new places to live.
God, in His sovereign ability to work all things together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28), blessed IDES with the chance to assist our partner mission in Cambodia in clearing the rubble and rebuilding these families' homes. With just a little bit of generosity from you (our donors), a little bit of coordination from IDES, and a little bit of outreach from our partner mission and their pastor, God turned ashes into new hope.
Here is one Cambodian family member's response to the assistance, pardon the broken English:
"I am so thankful for your donate that help me while my house was burn. That gave me a lot of money for rebuild my house I am rejoice and thank God to all of you that always support church in [my town]. I wish all of you please Lord of the Lord take care you give you good health and your family everything that you wish from God please God bless you all and everywhere that you go please God take care of you. I saw your love from God through all of you that take care of me. I do not know how to say more but can say many many thousand thank to all of you."
What can God do with ashes? He can sweep them up and build new homes with them. He can provide shelter and protection from the rain and wind. He can welcome suffering families into community with His people. He can give hope.