It’s probably safe to say that most of us had similar childhood fears. I remember going through the “being afraid of the dark and there might be monsters under my bed” stages of fear. More than once I turned off the lights in my room and jumped into my bed in a single bound in order to avoid a hairy and clawed monster hand grabbing me by the ankle and dragging me under my bed. Disney’s award-winning animated film Monsters, Inc., one of my favorite movies, explored this particular fear in humorous fashion. I also remember being a little frightened by thunderstorms. However, Julie Andrews was never around to calm me by singing “My Favorite Things” like she did for those well-dressed Von Trapp kids. I had to muddle through on my own. And then there was the fear of ghosts fueled by more than a few stories told around summer campfires. These were and are typical childhood fears that tend to become less and less ominous the older we become.
This morning, we shared a special lesson with the kids at the Imparting Smiles orphanage — a lesson about how to guard against those who traffic in human beings. This is not a lesson we have ever taught at any of our Vacation Bible Schools in America. However, because Poipet is such a high-risk area for kids, Imparting Smiles founder Steve Hyde asked us to teach the kids here about this particular kind of stranger danger. As my friend Janet introduced this lesson, she asked the kids to tell her the kinds of things they feared. The initial responses were typical as kids talked about being afraid of snakes and ghosts and storms and the floods that are so common in this area. But then, kids began to share about another kind of fear — the fear that someone would take them away from their homes and do bad things to them. This particular fear is very real to these kids because they have heard stories of what has happened to other kids who disappeared and never returned home. They know that bad people in this area try to lure kids away from their homes.