Thursday, August 8, 2013

Aleeyah's Sacrificial Gift to the Bong Paoun Project: The Pain and Joy of Giving

Aleeyah gives all her savings to the Bong Paoun Project on July 26, 2013
The scene at the Fernandez's residence was not typical one Thursday evening. The long day was over, it's time for bed. The scene was moving. Aleeyah was hugging her mom crying confused what to do, saying, "I really want to buy Geronimo Stilton book but I also want to help the Bong Paoun Project." 

For weeks and perhaps months, Aleeyah has been saving money to buy another book in the Geronimo Stilton Scholastic series.  She earns money by doing dishes at home. Sometimes, she washes once or twice a day. At other times, she missed her chores. She earns $0.25 cents every time she washes dishes.

This particular evening, the old and worn out phrase about giving 'give until it hurts' could have been much clearer as her heart was torn apart between buying her favorite book for herself or giving her entire saving to help the Bong Paoun Project. The emotional scene continues. Her mom hugged her with arms around her back and prayed with her. Her dad tries to give a sermon saying, "That's what it means by giving sacrificially. Giving something that you value and giving up something very important to you." As the emotional scene died down, Aleeyah still couldn't decide what to do. She went to bed with her mom's advice to pray some more and sleep over it before making her final decision the next morning.

The Bong Paoun Project, by the way, was started by Timothee Paton, a ministry that reaches out to street children and kids from the slum of Cambodia's capital. The Khmer word bong is the word used for older/big brother or sister while paoun is the word for younger/little brother or sister. The Bongs in this project help pauns leave the street, provide financial assistance so the pauns can go to school, and help them connect to local churches.

Kingdom Rock VBS at ICA July 22-26, 2013
On her first day at Kingdom Rock  VBS, a bong from the Project came to talk briefly about her ministry as a bong. She also brought with her two paun sisters. At the Kingdom Rock VBS, the missions project the campers will be helping is the Bong Paoun Project and they are collecting cash and other stuff to help the project.  Aleeyah's tender heart was deeply touched and wanted to help. But how? Her dad jokingly told her to give all her savings.

Coming home from the 4th day of the VBS, Aleeyah started packing some used books, clothing and others stuff to give to the project the following day. It was easy to give her old clothes and used books and other things that are not really important to her. It was not difficult to let go of the extra things she possessed. Giving her surplus was pretty easy and no emotional struggle was seen. The hardest part of this experience was giving up her savings after working so hard to earn money just enough to buy a book. One Geronimo Stilton book costs $8.50 and the newer version costs $11.50 in Phnom Penh. It's painful to give up because she knew she can only buy the book out of her savings; mommy will not. As she weighs whether or not to give, the emotional struggle gets deeper and the tug of war between letting go and holding tight of her saving continues. 

Aleeyah's last day at Kingdom Rock VBS, ICA
The next morning, her last day at Kingdom Rock, she made up her mind. No longer torn apart, no longer confused and the crying was over. Aleeyah sacrificially and joyfully gave all her savings worth $8.75 to the Bong Paun Project. While the amount is not much, it is sacrificial in the sense that she had to give up what she had worked for to help others. At a young age, she has a tender-heart toward others, something that needs to be nurtured. With the Bong Paoun Project through Kingdom Rock VBS, Aleeyah just learned the meaning of sacrificial giving.