September 1, 2013,
We had exciting services here in Phnom Penh today as well as in two of the village churches. This morning I preached on the topic The Patience of God from 2 Peter 3:8-9. Some of the teen girls sang the song “In Christ Alone.” They did such a good job that we asked them to sing it again for this evenings service. This evening Bro. Bounna Has preached a great message entitled “I Am A Christian.” Each of his 15 points reminded us of what it means to be a true follower of Jesus Christ and not just a “Christian” in name only.
We continue to have an 11:00 outreach to the children who live around the church here in Phnom Penh. A few months ago, for several reasons, we had to down-scale the number of children that we bring to the premises at any given time. We divided our Phnom Penh Children’s Ministry into three different teams and we are only able to have one team come at a time. This morning Team Emmanuel had about 20 first time visitors. It was fun to see the excitement on the children’s faces as everything was so new to them. The workers are doing a fantastic job of showing the love of Christ to these children. We believe that the seeds that are being planted in the lives of hundreds of children each week here in Phnom Penh and in the various village ministries will one day reap great dividends.
Please continue to pray for the following adult prospects who we are intentionally trying to win to Christ. Several of these folks are very close I believe: 1) Grandpa Chhang, mid 70’s (Prak Pnou village), 2) Somally, 49 years old (the Army General’s Wife), 3) Oudom, 27 years old (the Army General’s Son), 4) Peseth and his wife, mid 30’s (LawGombou village), 5) Rith, 27 years old (works as a night time security guard)
Many of you in the United States have heard me tell SreyMar’s story. As a 19 year old university student in 2007 she used to attend our church. Debbie invested many hours into her life teaching her how to be saved. We had very high hopes for her and her brother, Tola. One day she came to our house crying. She returned her Bible to us and told us that her mother forbade her from being a Christian. We encouraged her to at least accept Jesus as her personal Saviour even if she was not allowed to attend church and be around our family. She said that her respect for her mother and father was too strong and she could not disobey them. That was May of 2007. In June we moved. Around July or so she began having second thoughts and went to go find us intending to accept Christ regardless of what her parents said. However, much to her dismay, we had moved and she was unable to make contact with us. According to her own testimony she has been searching for us online for the past 6 years but because she did not know our last name she was unable to find any reference to our family online. She is now a college graduate and works full-time at the Phnom Penh airport. She regularly meets Americans who fly in and out of the airport. She shared how that she has asked scores of Americans (in the airport) if they know “teacher Dave and Debbie” from America… of course no one did. She began praying that IF God is real to please bring “teacher Dave and Debbie” back into her life somehow. Fast forward to August 2013, just three weeks ago… We had no contact with her since 2007 and as far as we knew she still wanted nothing to do with Christ. I had told her story many times in various conferences in the States. I had even shared her story in our various churches here in Cambodia. I often use her as an example of someone who is willing to die and go to Hell because they fear man more than they fear God. Three weeks ago, while returning back to Phnom Penh from Prak Pnou village, for some reason I had the impression that I ought to go try and track her and her brother down. I now believe it was the Holy Spirit Who impressed me to seek to renew contact with this family. I assumed that her parents still disliked us and what we represented. After doing some asking around I was able to find her house and went to go meet her family. SreyMar and Tola were both at work but her parents were home. Her mother immediately invited me into the house and told me over and over that her children missed me and have been trying to find us. I actually thought that she was making this up so as to not cause me to “lose face.” So I thanked her for speaking with me and proceeded to leave the house. She quickly followed after me and asked for my phone number insisting that her children would want to speak with me. A couple of days later I did receive a text message from SreyMar telling us how happy she was that we went looking for her. I did not pay the message much attention. Then last week our family had occasion to be at the Phnom Penh airport so I texted her and asked if she was on the premises because we would like to say hi to her. Unfortunately she was off that day but she promised me that she would see us when we returned from our short trip. So we told her that would be fine and we departed for a family trip to Bangkok, Thailand. Thursday afternoon as we disembarked the airplane in Phnom Penh, sure enough SreyMar was waiting there standing in the VIP section with a sign saying “Welcome Dave and Debbie.” It kind of caught us by surprise because we did not expect to see her. She immediately began sharing her story of how she has been looking for us for all these years and she even began praying that God would show Himself real to her and bring us into her life once again. With tears in her eyes she said, “I always heard you say that God is real and that He has power but I never thought He would show His power in MY life. I thought He would only show Himself strong in the lives of others. God is real! He answered my prayer! He answered my prayer!” WOW! To make a long story short – We are so blessed and excited to be able to report to you that SreyMar accepted Jesus as Her personal Saviour this afternoon in our home with Debbie. She was in the service this evening and was the first one to raise her hand during the time in our service when we share blessings. She said, “Today is a very special day for me because I became the child of God!” Many folks in our church already knew of her because they had heard me tell her story on more than one occasion. I’m reminded of some lessons because of what has happened with SreyMar: 1) Plant as many seeds in the lives of others as you can. You never know the effect that those seeds will have in their life. 2) Be sensitive to the impressions that God places upon your heart. So many times, I believe, God impresses upon us that we ought to call someone, write a letter to someone, or somehow make contact with them – but many times we do not obey those promptings. What if I had not obeyed the prompting of the Holy Spirit that afternoon? 3) It is God Who is good and not us. I have to admit that, if I remember right, I didn’t have the best attitude as I was driving back from Prak Pnou village that day. I don’t remember all the details but I do remember that things were not going the way I wanted them to go with our outreach that day. Aren’t you thankful that God has not chosen to use only the perfect people – who have perfect attitudes… Please pray for SreyMar and her spiritual growth.
Vannak and Samantha will, Lord willing, be joined together in marriage at the end of this month. I had the privilege to lead Vannak to Christ back in 2006. God has truly done the miraculous in his life. He has a strong and fervent testimony in the community and is a committed soul-winner. I believe that his testimony is partially responsible for many of the Cham folks coming to Christ. I don’t think I know a better lay-preacher than Vannak. Samantha was reached through our home church in Long Beach. California. After Bible college she surrendered to follow the Lord wherever He would lead her. He led her to come serve along side us as a single lady missionary. Samantha’s love for the Lord and her compassion for her people is truly remarkable. Though Samantha is of Cambodian decent, because she is from the United States she is considered to be a foreigner and the process to get married to a Cambodian national is somewhat more complected. We praise the Lord for their patience and Godly testimony to the church and in the community as they have diligently sought to jump through all the hoops that the government requires in order to be officially recognized as a married couple in this culture. Their paperwork is due to be completed early this week which means that we are now free to begin planning the wedding. This afternoon I had the opportunity to accompany Vannak and Samantha along with Vannak’s mother and aunt to the mall and help them pick out wedding rings. We will begin premarital counseling this Friday morning. Friday afternoon we will have the official engagement. It is Vannak and Samantha’s dream to serve the Lord right here in Cambodia for the rest of their lives. After he is married Vannak will begin a one year process of preparing to be ordained to the ministry. God’s hand of blessing is evident on this young couple. Please pray for Vannak and Samantha to continue to maintain a strong testimony in the days leading up to their wedding day.
I will not say much about the current political situation here in Cambodia. Suffice it to say that rumors abound as to various scenarios that could possibly play-out within the next week. Elections were held several weeks ago but the results are being contested. The leading opposition party has publicly announced they are calling for mass demonstrations (protests) here in Phnom Penh this coming Saturday. Apparently the government does not have confidence in the loyalty of the army here in the city and are perhaps fearful that some would like to “jump sides.” Last week it was reported that many soldiers from the city had their weapons confiscated by the government. It has been reported that many troops are being brought in to the city from outlying areas under the belief that they are more loyal to the ruling party. Saturday, as I returned from the village, I saw, first hand, military vehicles at the edge of the city. At our Saturday evening men’s discipleship group one of the national men reported that he had seen many large Armored Personnel Carriers at the other edge of town as he was returning from doing ministry in a different village. We don’t know exactly what will happen but we know that everything is in God’s hands. Please help pray that peace and sanity will prevail and that all of our people will remain safe. It is possible that we will not be able to leave the city to head out to the village works, or even leave the general vicinity of our property this next Saturday due to the fact that much of the city could be under curfew.
This past week we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. I am so blessed to have a wife like Debbie. If I had the opportunity I would marry her all over again! We were able to get away and take a short family trip to Bangkok, Thailand. Although three of us got seriously sick (two of us went to the hospital) we still had a great time.
The city of Bangkok has anywhere from 10-12 million residents depending upon where you draw the city lines. It is huge! We were able to stay at a Christian guesthouse located just about a minute walk from public transportation. We had fun riding the electric train and the underground shuttle. The boys also enjoyed eating at McDonalds. The shopping malls in Bangkok make the malls in America look like a cheap strip mall. We walked around many of the malls although we did not buy anything. Many of the malls are 5-8 stories tall and are packed with thousands of people. One of the malls we entered sold Rolls Royce and Maserati cars right there in the mall. It is very evident that the god of materialism is alive and well in Bangkok!
One of the interesting (and sad) things that we witnessed was how committed the Thai people seem to be to Buddhism and ancestral worship. It is a very common site to see huge idols on the corners of streets right in downtown Bangkok. Many people will stop and pay their respects to every idol they pass. This is something we have never witnessed here in Cambodia.
What would be the ramifications if we as Christians were as bold in public as these Buddhists were as they publicly offered their prayers to the spirits? Of the hundreds of folks we saw worshiping idols during our time there, we did not see a one of them trying to hide their faith. None of them were ashamed to be identified with their religion. Something for those who call themselves Christians to think about…
It was a blessing to be able to visit the first church that was ever established in Thailand. The Chinese Baptist Church is 176 years old and was started by American missionaries. It started out as a very small group of economically disadvantaged Chinese immigrants and has grown over the years to a congregation of over 700 members strong!
We thought this was an interesting picture taken here in Phnom Penh… These chickens are on the final ride of their life – Headed to the market.
Thank you for your prayers and interest in the ministry here in Cambodia.
Because of God’s grace,
Dave, Debbie, Joshua, Jeremy, and Jason