As a Christian living in a predominantly Buddhist culture, Darath was marginalized by many in his family and community.
When he refused to offer sacrifices to his ancestors, his relatives treated him as a traitor to his culture, saying that to be Cambodian is to be Buddhist. Darath began to feel that he was not a true Cambodian. “It was a difficult, painful, broken time,” he reflects.
In the midst of suffering, Darath learned the power of forgiveness and patience through two relationships. His pastor talked about Jesus' forgiveness on the cross when he said “Father, forgive them.” And his friend Phearom encouraged him to have patience. From Phearom’s example, and the experience of daily persecution, Darath learned to be patient and show love to his family.
Darath forgave his family, saying “they did not know what they were doing when they were angry with me." Darath found peace when he forgave them.
Darath didn't realize at the time, but his experience with persecution had welcomed him into what Helen Keller called, "the largest company in all the world." He learned to see the people around him with eyes of compassionate understanding. This empathy prepared him to choose a little brother through Alongsiders International several years later.
While serving with a mission team in his home village, Darath met a little boy named Suey Kong, who lived with his father and sister in a rickety house. Suey Kong’s father only had one leg, which prevented him from working. His mother, tired of having to be the bread winner, had left the family. Unable to afford books for school, Suey Kong wrote out his lesson on scraps of paper he found in the rubbish. Suey Kong longed to make friends and be part of his school and community, but he was isolated and lonely.
Since Darath understood the pain of loneliness from his experience as a poor Christian in a Buddhist village, he knew in his heart that Suey Kong should be his little brother. After he asked the father for permission, he invited Suey Kong to be his little brother. Suey Kong was thrilled.
So Darath welcomed Suey Kong into his life, also inviting him into a family with a loving Heavenly Father who longs to gather us under His wings.
Suey Kong is thriving in the company of this new family. He's been surrounded by new friends and mentors at Darath's church. His health has improved and he's excelling in school, one of the top four in his class.
Today Darath’s dream is that someday his little brother will become an Alongsider too.
As Christians, we are called to share in Christ's sufferings. Our model is this High Priest who teaches us to empathize with weakness. Jesus was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. How can we hide behind strength and power when our Lord walked alongside the heavy-hearted?