But, one things that I have grown to love so much is the weekly welcomes. I say I have grown to love this because the first time I experienced it, I was slightly embarrassed and uncomfortable. Every week after the week's announcements, someone takes the opportunity to welcome those who have come for the first time--first the foreign guests, and then the Khmer. They play music and everyone claps as, much to their chagrin, the foreigners rise to their feet and are met by the ushers to receive information about the church's programs. Then, the music changes and the clapping changes rhythm as the Khmer guests are invited to stand. I have never been to a church where people are so welcomed and honored as guests...every single week.
And, today I was so incredibly blessed by this because there were cheers.
There were cheers when the Khmer guests stood up to be welcomed. There were several Khmer people who came for the first time today, which always makes for a great day. But, 5 of these guests were extra special. They came with crimped hair and make-up. They had ponytails and painted fingernails. But, they weren't women. And, everyone in the room knew it.
In Southeast Asia, "ladyboys" are very common. In Thailand, they walk the streets freely, but in Cambodia, they often only come out at night. They are marginalized. They are abused and beaten. They are known to be violent. They are a rare sight during the day. They are not accepted. They are hurting. They are broken. And, they are loved by God.
And, they are loved by the body of Christ who cheered for them this morning. Today was the day of salvation for some of those boys, and freedom is here...and so is an amazing network of support in the body of Christ.