I was reminded today of the five year anniversary of the death of a great man.
In January 2009, I travelled to Cambodia. I intended to do “mission work”, which basically meant visiting a third world country without feeling guilty.
There are a lot of things to be said about volunteer tourism, and few of them are positive. However, I was fortunate to work with Mickey Sampson and it opened my eyes…made me rethink my faith, missions, and charity work in general.
Among the many things he did, he had perfected a clay pot water filter and was making them for a fraction of the cost of other NGOs in Cambodia. He had discovered that other NGOs had drilled wells across the country without testing the groundwater. The water in many of these wells was high in arsenic and was poisoning the population. He started testing and marking unsafe wells, educating the people to not use them. The stories he had to tell about his interactions with the NGOs was bone chilling as they refused to take action or responsibility for what they had done…wasted millions of dollars on unusable wells that killed people.
He had built a research lab and a puppet studio. He had mobile karaoke vans that would teach songs about hand washing and hygiene.
Bottom line was that he managed to do much more for the Cambodian people with much less than all of the big name NGOs. He was a risk taker, an innovator, and he had a love for Cambodia that made miracles possible without forcing God down everyone’s throat.
At the time, I was not sure that I liked him. Being around him was challenging and humbling in a very uncomfortable way.
Three months later, he was dead. He was forty-three.
I think regularly about my time there even still and I wonder if and when I will have the courage to take up his challenge.