February 10, 2013
This past week Cambodia mourned the death of the former king, King Sihanouk. The funeral festivities went on for several days. During that time the government ordered there to be no weddings, no parties, no happy music, and no public display of joy whatsoever. It is said that perhaps a million or so Cambodians traveled from the provinces to take part in the funeral as he was revered by many to be a “deity.” His proper title was actually “God-King.” Unfortunately this funeral led to the compromise of at least one of the people who is a part of our church as she yielded to pressure from family and business associates to attend a part of the ceremony that no Christian should attend. We took a short portion of the service last Sunday morning to pray for those who are grieving the loss of their beloved king. We prayed that it would provide more of an opportunity to present the Gospel to those who are still lost. We also thanked God that King Jesus conquered death and the grave and we will never have to attend His funeral ! 1 Timothy 6:15 Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords.
Just after the funeral was over Chinese New Year celebrations began. The entire capital shuts down for three days. Even universities close their doors. It is good, in one way, for our church people because it provides a reprieve from the daily routine. However, the vast majority of festivities that take place during the Chinese New Year weekend are not events in which Christians ought to participate.
The New Year is built around superstition, sacrifice to the ancestors and demons, drinking, and other forms of debauchery. It begins with a frantic fight to be the one to light incense at just the right moment in the Temple. The burning incense is then taken home and burnt on the family alter. The superstition is so strong that they believe the “good luck” will determine their entire year’s events. If something goes wrong during the ceremonies they believe that they will be destined to an unprofitable year in their family and business.
Ancestral worship is a spiritual strong-hold in the Cambodian community but it is particularly strong for those who are of Chinese heritage. Several of the adults in our church have been saved over the past two years out of this spiritual bondage. They felt the pressure from unsaved relatives to take part in the rituals. We praise the Lord that the vast majority of them have totally turned their back on ancestral sacrifices and they are taking a strong stand for the Lord. The pictures above are just a small sample of the items that are burned or “sacrificed” on behalf of the ancestors. You will notice that they sacrifice items that they hope can be used by their loved ones who are “trapped” in Hell. Items such as fake gold bars, clothing, fake cardboard Lexus cars and fake money are sacrificed. You will notice that the money is very clearly marked as a “Hell Bank Note.” The individual depicted on the front of the money is considered to be the King of Hell. This year I even saw a bag of potato chips sacrificed to the ancestors. You will notice the passport that is purchased by the living relatives, hoping that their effort will help their loved ones be able to leave Hell and enter Paradise. No doubt everything that is done on behalf of the ancestors is done out of love and desperation. How sad it is to see their hope placed in something that is useless. Continue to pray that the Truth will go forth in this land and we will continue to see eyes and hearts opened to the Gospel. It is a spiritual battle that is waging. 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
It would be good to ask ourselves this question: Am I trying to keep my loved ones out of Hell as hard as the Chinese are trying to get their loved ones out of Hell ? I recently heard a pastor ask his church this question: Has the Gospel stopped with you or is it being passed on by you ?
One area that we are striving to grow in is the area of Christian hospitality. I will admit that our family is a bit weak in this area. We are making it a point to use our home this year to, on a regular basis, show hospitality to the members of the church. This past week we were privileged to have four families into our home for a meal and some games. We all had a wonderful time. The adult men enjoyed learning how to play dominoes while their children tried to conquer the game Perfection. Lord willing we will have four more families over in a couple of weeks. It is our desire to, not just provide Christian fellowship for these new believers, but to model for them how Christian families are to enjoy wholesome and godly entertainment.
This past week we took the two hour trip to Prey Bang village located in Kandal Province. This is the home village of Brother Sinath. The Lord allowed me to lead Sinath to salvation just over two years ago. Our workers have been going to this village for several months now and there are three families, in addition to Sinath’s family, who have accepted Christ. Additionally there is a good group of children attending the children’s ministry there in the village. The specific purpose of the trip was to scope out some land where we can build a simple church building. We are hoping to break ground in March. All the men from the Phnom Penh church as well as the church in Kompong Chhnang will join together to put up the building.
This evening Brother Sinath shared with the church an update on the progress in this particular village. He shared the names of several more adults who, we believe, are close to accepting Christ. No doubt the enemy wants to fight this new village church and we need your prayers to ensure that the work continues to go forward and is not frustrated by local officials or neighbors who are not friendly to our intentions.
Our return trip from Prey Bang was quite eventful as our Tuk Tuk died about 5 minutes outside of the village. (2 hours from home) We are thankful that God provided a truck that could transport the Tuk Tuk back to the city where we could get it repaired. You’ve never really experienced travel until you ride in a Tuk Tuk that is sitting atop a truck as it bounces down the bumpy roads of rural Cambodia. I guarantee you that my Chiropractor who just helped me avoid surgery this past August would not have approved of the ride whatsoever ! I spent the next two days being in constant remembrance as to the lack of wisdom on my part in riding in the Tuk Tuk while it was on the truck. Praise the Lord for ice packs and Ibuprofen !
Brother Vanna is from Prey Bang Village and was recently led to the Lord by Brother Keo and Brother Sinath. This evening we invited him to share a public testimony during the service about change that God has done in his life since salvation. He shared how that prior to being saved he was a proud and arrogant drunk who was living a hopeless existence. Since being saved his life has been radically changed by God’s power. I know, for a fact, that he is fasting and praying for unsaved family members. Praise the Lord for the power of the Gospel ! Please pray that Vanna and his wife will continue to grow in the Lord and be a shining light in this very dark village.
Several of the Cham believers sang a special number in this morning’s service. They sang the hymn “Am I a Soldier of the Cross ?” We were all challenged and touched listening to them sing every verse of this hymn. I believe that perhaps more than any other people group in this country, the Cham believers have endured the most persecution because of their total abandonment of Islam and their acceptance of Jesus Christ. Two of the verses of this song ought to especially speak to our hearts as American believers: (verse 2) Must I be carried to the skies, On flowery beds of ease, While others fought to win the prize, And sailed through bloody seas? (verse 4) Sure I must fight if I would reign; Increase my courage, Lord. I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain, Supported by Thy Word. Sitting in the congregation listening to them sing was Sister Soam who recently accepted Christ. Since being saved she has done her very best to be faithful to the Lord and has paid , and is paying, the price for her dedication. Soam spent her entire life in the darkness of Islam while knowing the whole time that she was following a lie. She gives testimony that for the past ten years she has been praying to the true God – Not knowing who He was but believing that He could hear her prayers. When Cham soul-winners shared the Gospel with her two months ago she readily accepted Christ. Please pray for Soam to remain strong in the Lord and in the power of His might !
Grandma is the matriarch of the Cham village. It was a blessing to have her in the services today. She traveled all the way from the village to be able to join with the believers in the Phnom Penh church. I remember witnessing to her on multiple ocassions eight years ago and telling her that she would one day accept Jesus. I clearly recall her openly mocking me as I taught in the village. It is a blessing to all of us to see that her heart is now fully given over to the Lord.
This morning during the 11:00 Children’s Ministry service I had the privilege of hearing Brother Kosal preach to the young people ages 12-18. Kosal has grown so much spiritually over the past year. He has submitted himself to spiritual accountability and we have seen him make great strides in several areas. Kosal is an English teacher in a local University but spends every free moment that he has serving the Lord. He has a true passion to see his Cham people come to know the Lord. This morning he preached a message about the importance of the young people having a strong testimony at home in front of their parents. It was a powerful truth that he presented that was backed up by his life. Kosal has had spiritual ups and downs, as we all have, but I believe that he has turned a “spiritual corner” and that God is able to use him.
Not long ago Kosal was out soul-winning and led Retsmey to the Lord. Retsmey is a 19 years old Khmer young man who has chosen to put Christ first place in his life. His new found faith has so disturbed his Buddhist parents that they sent him to go live in a city three hours from here in an attempt to get him away from “the crazy Baptist church people.” What they did not know is that, though they sent Retsmey away, they could not ban the influence of the Holy Spirit in his life. Retsmey remained resolved to walk with the Lord. We were all very surprised and blessed to see him walk into the service this Sunday. His parents changed their mind and decided that they might as well allow him to return to Phnom Penh and do whatever he wants to do since they can’t “control” him anyway. Pray that Retsmey will remain close to the Lord. Yesterday he joined one of our neighborhood “Bus Routes” that is led by Brother Has. This will allow him regular accountability as well as provide him one-on-one mentoring.
This picture has no real purpose other than the fact that I thought it was cute ! These young girls are led in this music group by Miss Samantha Thaing (on the far left). They sang the song, “Trust and Obey” as a special during the service this morning. The young lady in the middle is Tina. (Many of you heard me tell of how she prayed ten times one night for her parent’s plane not to crash as they returned from Malaysia because they were not yet saved and she didn’t want them to go to Hell… she is the young lady who refused to purchase alcohol for her father’s party. As you know, God blessed her faithfulness and answered her prayers. Both of her parents are now faithful believers and play very vital roles in the outreach ministries of our church.)
Please pray for the following items: 1) Salvation of Mr. Perun, 2) Wisdom as we are putting together a business plan that we trust will generate a regular monthly income for two of our families in the church who desire to be free from their careers so that they might serve the Lord more. 3) Wisdom and direction concerning the purchase of land that will be used by believers in our ministries as a Christian cemetery. This is a big need here in Cambodia.
Here is the link to a short video that we shot just after the evening service tonight. https://vimeo.com/59368318
Because of God’s grace,
Dave, Debbie, Joshua, Jeremy, and Jason