‘Take up your cross daily’ - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Bunsac carrying a log with other differently abled youth at Home of Hope.

“Ready? One, two, three. Up.” “Wait, not too fast.” “There, good.” “Thank you!”

A solid heavy log, found by the dumpster, can still be useful. A few youth were being mobilized to carry this log into the garden. Bunsac has excellent physical strength but limited vision, so he was sandwiched between two other kids who could see a bit clearer to carry out this task.

Bunsac and his differently abled friends have lots of laughs and good physical exercise from doing these tasks.

“I have no foot to wash” statue at the Jesuit Reflection Center in Siem Reap

Witnessing our young people in action reminded me of a sculpture I had seen at the Jesuit Reflection Center in Siem Reap Province. This center supports people affected by war and land mines. A one-footed person is in a seating position. In front of him is a would-be helper with a water basin and towel ready to wash his remaining foot.

Accompanying them is a sign in Khmer and English languages: “I have no foot to wash.”

Why? Does the one-footed person prefer something else over foot washing? The would-be helper may have to let go of a preconceived notion of service to find out what is actually needed. That would require caring and understanding, which may be cultivated over time.

Pu Tat (Uncle Tat) is a survivor of the Cambodian civil war. He has lost both hands. What he needed after the war was work that would allow him to earn a living, raise a family and lead as normal a life as possible. His ingenuity, volition and local employers enabled him to achieve all that and more.

Pun Tat is a beloved brother, husband, father, grandfather of his family, a respected member of his village’s security team and a trusted guard at the Home of Hope.

Pu Tat (left) at meal with other staff

Each day here brings its own challenges. A cross may be a metaphor — burdensome, sometimes unwelcome — and it has to be taken up by all, whether they are differently abled or not.

A cross may make evident a person’s capacity to solve a particular type of puzzle. Both Bunsac and Pu Tat have handled their lives’ challenges well and continue to develop new coping skills and abilities.

And they inspire me to respond to Jesus’ invitation:

Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.” Luke 9:23. 


Hang Tran
A Maryknoll lay missioner since 2013, Hang Tran works with young people living with disabilities at the Home of Hope in Chom Chao, Cambodia.