Sam watched her as she left the clinic. In her green scrubs with a stethoscope draped casually around her neck and a black medical bag swinging in her right hand, she began the short trek through the dusty streets to their tiny apartment. Even after a twelve hour shift, she still had a spring in her step.
“Sara,” Sam said softly, his heart full of God’s blessings on this special day. “Even after twenty five years, she still amazes me.”
Sara smiled and waved to the shop owners loitering outside their respective front doors, also preparing to call it a day. She bent down laughing to hug a group of street urchins who, like Sam, had been watching for her. Withdrawing a package of cookies from their last stateside care package, she ceremonially presented one to each child. The children hurried home, chattering excitedly and bowing their thanks, relishing every bite of the much coveted treat.
Turning away from the window, Sam glanced around the one room apartment, satisfied with his preparations. A jar of wild flowers adorned the minuscule dining table, set with a grass cloth and wooden utensils. Clay bowls filled with rice, noodles, spicy papiea and peanut sauce were flanked by two ivory candles. The smell of simmering chicken on the compact electric stove in the kitchen alcove filled the room with a delectable fragrance.
This might be their silver wedding anniversary, but it was their first one in Cambodia. Sam wanted it to be special.
The Lord had been wooing them to the mission field in Cambodia for years, but it was not until this very year that the doors had opened wide for them to go. They had used the interim time wisely. Sam had faithfully pastored a small church. Sara had completed nursing school. Together, they had raised a family. They had learned everything that they could about the history and customs of Cambodia. They had studied diligently with a language tutor. Most importantly, Sam and Sara had prayed. And now, here they were, embarking on the new life ordained for them by God, himself.
Hearing her steps in the hall, Sam opened the door and pulled Sara into his arms before she could insert her key in the lock.
“Sus-sa-dtey,” he greeted her warmly. “Sok-sub-baay, dtee?”
“Sam, you’re home early,” Sara laughed with delight. “Sua-sa-dtey, yourself. I am just great, thank you.”
Sara’s eyes shone as she took in the splendid dinner preparations. One look at her face assured Sam that his half day off had been well spent in preparing this feast for his wife.
“After we finish this year of training in the city, who knows what our future anniversaries will be like in the villages,” he said. “We may find ourselves celebrating in a bamboo hut on stilts. We will certainly not have electricity. All we’ll be able to count on is the rice and the candle light!”
“The stuff of romance,” Sara smiled cheerfully.
“That’s my girl!” Sam replied, kissing her tenderly.
“Oh, Sam, I can’t wait another minute to give you your gift!” Sara exclaimed, retrieving her present from its hiding place.
Sara had searched long and hard in the markets to find the perfect gift for her musically talented husband. She knew how much Sam missed the instruments he had left behind with their other treasures in the states. She also greatly missed listening to him play.
An aging vendor had sold her the sralai thomm, explaining that the flute was crafted from the wild bamboo plant and was used to play traditional songs of love and inspiration to the rice farmers as they worked in their fields.
“It’s beautiful,” Sam said with heartfelt appreciation, caressing the smooth wood finish.
Sam looked up from the gift, sheepishly. “Sara, I have a confession to make. It’s hard to keep a secret in an apartment as small as ours. I stumbled across the flute accidentally weeks ago. Since then, I have been practicing so that I could give you a gift of song.”
“The Cambodians call it the Song of Contentment. I want it to be our song, to mark our twenty-fifth anniversary together and our new life here in the country where God has led us.”
Sara’s eyes glistened as she listened to the gentle whisper of musical notes fill the room.
“Krom s’ra-lun loak, Sam.”
“I love you, too, Sara.”
“Sawb-baay-jet riab gaa tngai,” they smiled at each other. “Happy Anniversary!”
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