January 15, 2012
Phearum, 20 years old, lives in our neighborhood and dropped in to see us two weeks ago during our children’s ministry service on Sunday afternoon. He works for the Korean-run “church” that is located just a block from us. He told me that he has some questions for me and asked when we could meet. I asked him why he was coming to see me. Why not go ask your pastor. He told me that several people in the neighborhood said that if he had questions about the Bible he should come and see me. We set an appointment for Tuesday afternoon. He came to the church and met with myself and three of our young adult men. He began the conversation like this – “I feel like I am a hypocrite. I feel like I am deceiving my students at the church where I work.” I asked him why he felt like that. He responded by saying, “I heard you mention someone named Jesus and it seems like He must be important but I have no idea who you are talking about. Who is Jesus anyway ?” We each took turns explaining the Gospel to him. Two hours later he bowed his head and trusted Jesus as his personal Saviour. He has been at our church services for the past two weeks and he told me that he feels so much joy. The sad thing is that he said no one at his “church” ever told him about salvation. It is ironic that this particular church has been quite vocal in our neighborhood in speaking out against our church. They have visited some of our new converts and told them that we are a fake church and that they are the only real church in this neighborhood. The sad part is that many in the neighborhood believe them since they have a three story building and provide free housing to many university students from various villages all around Cambodia. Please pray for Phearum to grow as a Christian. He is in a tough position. If he continues to attend our church it is only a matter of time before the leaders at the Korean church find out and he gets into trouble. Yet, if he continues to work for the Korean church he is obviously not being faithful to the Lord. He will have to learn to trust God to provide for his needs. Phearum is actually Thai and just moved here to Cambodia within the last year. He is fluent in Thai, Vietnamese, and Khmer. I have no doubt that God desires for him to use his skills for God’s glory!
If you read many books on the topic of missions you will often read astounding statistics about the number of “missionaries” who are being sent around the world from Korea, China, the Philippines, and other Asian nations. Some of the books written seem to cast a negative light on the United States for “falling behind” Asian nations in the area of sending missionaries. Some of the books written will even go as far as to recommend that western missionaries do not need to come to Asia because of the number of “missionaries” who are already here from various southeast Asian countries. There is no doubt that many of the churches in the United States do need to be more obedient to the Lord’s command to take the Gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth. There is no doubt that many of our churches in the United States are filled with Christians who ought to be more involved in the Great Commission. However, I do want to say this: Don’t believe everything you read in missions books. There are many churches in the United States who are faithfully reaching their Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth! If you are reading this article you are likely a member of one of those churches. Thank you for being faithful ! I have no desire to stereotype different “missionaries” who are sent out from countries other than the United States. Certainly there are missionaries from the United States who are false teachers as well. No doubt there are many faithful missionaries who have been sent from the Philippines. I personally know some of them right here in Cambodia. This past week I was in a neighboring communist country with a faithful missionary who is from the Philippines. The Lord is using their church in a mighty way to train national leaders in that country. If time and space were to permit I could share story after story about the “churches” here in Cambodia who are led by “missionaries” sent out from various Asian countries. I have met a number of Khmer people who attend these churches and IT IS A VERY RARE THING TO FIND EVEN ONE OF THEM WHO HAVE EVER EVEN HEARD ABOUT SALVATION. They attend these “churches” in order to get free rice, money, free housing, learn English, free education for their children, or in order to secure employment. In many cases their church services are basically a rock concert and serve as a convenient place for young men to meet young women. I personally know of churches who keep a stock-pile of various signs in the back room. They regularly host visiting pastors from the United States. If the pastor happens to be Baptist, they put up a Baptist sign. If the pastor is Methodist, up goes the Methodist sign. If the pastor is charismatic, out comes the drum set. If the visiting group from America tends to be more conservative, the drums are put away and the hymn book is brought out. We had workers from one of the larger Korean groups recently confront me face-to-face in front of our church and accuse me of being a false prophet because I do not believe in “mother god.” Wow! That was a new one for me. When I asked them for a Scripture to backup their belief in “mother god” they took me to Revelation 22:17. “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” (bride=mother god according to this group) It is unbelievable how they have distorted this one passage and built a damnable heresy upon it. Furthermore, it is sad to say that there are many Cambodians going to their false “church.” You are hard pressed to find a “church” here that does not teach baptismal regeneration. It is true that this country is full of church buildings. It is also true that it would be very difficult for anyone to get to Heaven from 95% of them. Keep praying for our missionaries here in Cambodia. We could easily use ten more families right now!
Please continue to pray for Vuthy and Phanny as they grow in their new faith. You may recall that they were recently saved as a result of our OPERATION GO! soul-winning in Prak Pnouv village. Four of them commute to church each Sunday on their moped. They have to hire a taxi-moped for their other three sons. I go to their village each Tuesday morning to disciple them at their home. We really need to start a church right there in their village. Please pray for Vuthy to be a faithful believer. He is well known in this country as a singer. Until recently he was a professional musician who supported his family through singing on television and at big parties sponsored by the rich and famous. In the 1990’s he won the national singing competition four years in a row. He now understands that God would not be pleased if he were to still engage in this line of work. Our heart truly goes out to him. How will he support his family? Pray that God will provide for this family as they are faithful to Him.
This is a picture of a young child in Prak Pnouv village bowing to the Buddhist monk. Unlike the 250 children who regularly attend our various ministries, this child has no idea that there is a God in Heaven Who loves him and desires for him to be saved. Please pray that we will be able to start a church in Prak Pnouv in the very near future.
The church in the Cham village continues to experience God’s blessing. This past week there were 7 more folks who placed their faith in Christ. It is a blessing to see the burden that our national workers have for their own people. Currently we have services held in this village every Monday and Thursday. Beginning this coming Sunday we will start hold services on Sunday afternoon rather than Monday. This means that our Phnom Penh Children’s Ministry will be moved to Saturday afternoon. This will likely affect the attendance of the Children’s Ministry but we feel it is necessary to make these changes for the benefit of the overall ministry. This new schedule will be very taxing on our workers. They will attend Sunday School and the morning service in Phnom Penh then make the hour and a half trip to the village and hold services. Then they will drive back to Phnom Penh for the Sunday evening service at 5:00 p.m. We are going to try this new schedule for two months. Along with these changes we will, Lord willing, begin holding Bible Institute classes every Monday in Phnom Penh from 8:00-12:00. We are starting out at this time with just one day a week. We anticipate having around 6-8 adults study in the institute, all of whom have been saved here in this ministry. Tuesdays will now be used to go into seven new villages that we are targeting for this year. Please pray that these anticipated changes will work out smoothly.
Last week five of us took a two day survey trip to Battambang province which is about 5 hours from our location in Phnom Penh. We intend to plant a church, Lord willing, in Battambang within the next 5 years. It is very possible that we will be able to plant one sooner than that. Battambang province is located on the Thai / Cambodia border and has a population of around 900,000 people with 741 different villages.We were not able to find one Baptist church in the city.
While surveying Battambang City we ran across this Mormon church building. The Mormons are notorious for building huge buildings here in Cambodia. They bring a lot of confusion to the Cambodian people but seem to draw huge crowds due to the tactics that they use such as free education for many of the children whose parents are a part of their group. The majority of Cambodians do not know that there is a difference between Biblical truth and the message being propagated at the Mormon church.
We also found this Methodist church. I have a book in my library written by the Cambodian man who leads the Methodist denomination here in Cambodia. In the book he emphatically states that water baptism is necessary in order to wash away ones sins.
The AOG denomination is very active here in Cambodia. We used to live right next door to one of their churches. Every Sunday morning at around 7:00 their “worship” band would begin playing. The music was so loud that it would literally shake our walls. Their actions were such a poor testimony to the neighborhood as a whole that many Buddhists grew to despise Christianity because of their example. I have seen video of the charismatics in Battambang during one of their church services and the women who are singing on the platform appear to be nothing more than bar-room dancers complete with immodest clothing and seductive dancing while singing, “Jesus, He’s the only way…”
Obviously Battambang is filled with Buddhist temples as well. They are scattered all over the city. Some of them were actually built in the 11th century. One temple that I found was built in 1036 A.D. and is still being used today.
One of the saddest moments of our trip was when we visited this village church. The building was built several years ago by a group from Singapore. However, this church has never had a legitimate pastor. Currently there are about 30-40 ladies and children who faithfully attend every Sunday. I am sad to say that this church is USED by many different groups from all around the world. When I say used, I mean literally USED! Many groups come to this village once a year and take pictures of the people and the building. Most of them will make some type of a financial donation then they return to their country of origin and claim that they have helped to plant a church.
We met the “pastor” of this church. I believe that she is truly saved but she has no idea what God’s Word says in regard to many doctrinal issues. She works in the rice fields for 10-14 hours a day and at the same time tries to lead the church. It goes without saying that we do not believe it is Biblical for her to serve in the role of pastor. In fact, she knows that God would have a man lead the church. (there are currently no men who attend this church) So, out of necessity, she gathers the ladies and children together and “preaches” to them each week. The lady who took us to meet her is a friend of ours from the States. She told the “pastor” that God wants a man to be the pastor. We were all so touched to hear this lady respond by saying, “I don’t know what to do. There are no men who will step up and lead and we have so many people who need to know Jesus. I just have to do something to help keep my people out of Hell.” She is very frustrated by the various groups who come and make merchandise out of this church but she finds it very difficult to turn them away. Where are the men who are supposed to be leading this group of believers ? I wonder – Are they sitting in a church pew somewhere in America soaking in the preaching from week to week waiting for a special sign from God that they are to take the Gospel to those who have never heard ?
I am reminded of a missionary from England named Gladys Aylward. Gladys served in the country of China in the early 1900’s. Consider the following statements written by Elizabeth Eliot as she interviewed Gladys near the end of her life after serving alone as a single-lady missionary in China for many years:
I sat on the sofa and talked of missions, missionaries and particularly of single missionaries. I had been widowed four years earlier, and she, of course, had never married. Not that she had never thought of marrying, however. She told me how she had worked happily for six or seven years in China alone, when a missionary couple came to work nearby. She then began to ponder the privilege that was theirs and to wonder if it might not be a lovely thing to be married.She talked to the Lord about it. She was a no-nonsense woman and very direct and straightforward and she asked God to call a man from England, send him straight out to China, straight to where she was, and have him propose. I can’t forget the next line. With a look of even deeper intensity, she shook her little bony finger in my face and said, “Elisabeth, I believe God answers prayer. He called him,” and here there was a very brief pause and an intense whisper, which carried more power than her loudest voice. “He called him, but he never came” … “I wasn’t God’s first choice for what I’ve done for China. There was somebody else…I don’t know who it was—God’s first choice. It must have been a man—a wonderful man. A well-educated man. I don’t know what happened. Perhaps he died. Perhaps he wasn’t willing…And God looked down…and saw Gladys Aylward…”
John 4:35 Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. We saw many rice fields in Battambang that were being harvested while we were there. This month marks the end of this harvest season here in Cambodia. None of us know how much longer the spiritual harvest will last.
Help us pray that God will have His clear leading in regard to the timing and logistics of the church plant in Battambang. It is always a challenge to try and keep the Phnom Penh church balanced while at the same time allow God to keep building the church in the Cham village while at the same time reach-out to new villages.
The Lord has brought across our path some Christian Cambodian friends from our past. We served together for many years in California but have been separated from each other for the past 8 years or so. I believe that this couple has a sincere desire to please God with their lives. Over the past 15 years they have acquired 8-10 different plots of land in Battambang. Currently these pieces of land are not being used for anything worthwhile. This Godly couple took us around to some of their properties and shared their vision that the land be used for God’s glory. They did tell me that if we were there right now they wanted us to use one of their houses to start a church. Obviously we are not there right now but the prospect of what can be done there is very exciting. There is the potential to have enough land to facilitate any ministries that God would have us to start. Pray that God will give us clear direction in regard to this whole situation.
Here is a link to a short video we made this weekend. It gives a small sample of preaching by 5 of our young adult men. All 5 of these men are growing Christians and have a desire to serve the Lord. http://vimeo.com/35134611
Because of God’s grace,
Dave, Debbie, Joshua, Jeremy, and Jason