“Aiyah! Did you wreck your moto? What happened to your foot?” asked the thousandth concerned Cambodian watching me hobble along in my orthopedic walking boot.
“No,” I said patiently.
Motorbike injuries are common in Cambodia, but I had hurt myself in a much less glamorous way. Five weeks ago, walking along the edge of the road one day, I turned to wave at a group of villagers, and my foot slipped off the uneven road edge twisting my ankle badly. This left me with a hairline stress fracture. Whenever I explained this to someone who asked, they always laughed at the improbability of hurting one’s self while walking.
I’ve added “broken ankle” to the list of things I experienced for the first time in Cambodia. The difficulty of having a foot out of commission in a country with no disability access has added to the challenge. I learned to walk on crutches in Phnom Penh up little flights of uneven stairs. I traveled to Thailand for the AFM summit and then promised myself never to travel on a broken anything again.
When people ask how you are, the urge is always to say, “I’m fine. No problem, really.” However, fracturing a bone right after being sick and nauseous with an amoeba infection left me feeling a little sorry for myself. I struggled with a powerful urge to pout and ask God, “Why me? Don’t You love me?” I knew it wasn’t His fault, but my heart was so tired of dealing with being sick and injured in a foreign country. Living in another culture is difficult. But living in another culture while dealing with your own frailty is a different level of difficulty. My heart yearned for first-world medical care and for my own culture, family and friends back home. I had a couple of good old-fashioned sulks by myself during the first couple of days after hurting my ankle. I praise God for the patience of my fellow missionaries while I limped around insisting that it wasn’t broken and I just needed to hop a couple of days and it would get better. I praise God for the prompting to go and get it checked out.
This was one of the best learning experiences I’ve had in my life. I have always known and accepted that, as Christians, we are not exempt from the trials and tribulations of the world. But somehow, as I spent a month hopping on one foot (before we finally found a walking boot), I have more fully realized that “Whatever your anxieties and trials, spread out your case before the Lord. Your spirit will be braced for endurance…. The weaker and more helpless you know yourself to be, the stronger will you become in His strength. The heavier your burdens, the more blessed the rest in casting them upon your Burden Bearer” (The Ministry of Healing, p. 71-72).
I also remember, “Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward, for you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise” (Heb. 10:35, 36). In a way, it’s humbling that God thinks I can handle all of this. However, comparison with what He went through is the death of my little pity party.
I have felt so blessed and cared for through all of this. My dear partners have helped me, prayed with me and physically carried me up and down some of the aforementioned stairs. So many people have gone out of their way to make me feel better and to help me along the way. In this difficult experience with my ankle fracture, I have seen the kindness of humanity shine through. If it helped the Great River people to see God a little clearer, it was beyond worth it. I have faith that God used this situation and my clumsiness to speak to people. Maybe I’ll ask about the particulars in heaven someday.