April 14, 2014
This weekend began the Cambodian New Year celebration. It is a national holiday that lasts three days and marks the end of the rice harvest season, and is based upon the lunar calendar. As Christians we do not celebrate the holiday in the same way that the world does as it is steeped in superstition and Hinduism. It is believed that an “angel” comes down to bless those who sacrifice to her. It is believed that this year the angel, Koraka Tevy (គោរាគៈទេវី), arrived at 8:07 this morning (Monday morning) riding a white horse, accompanied by a Tiger, and holding a sword in one hand and a cane in the other. In addition to several other items, it is believed that each year the angel who comes desires a certain type of offering that is to be sacrificed at the prescribed time. This year it just happens that in addition to the regular items such as incense, candles, banana tree branches, and jasmine flowers, she also wants cooking oil. So, of course, everyone who wants her blessing will be certain to run out and purchase a lot of cooking oil to place upon their altar. Perhaps you are wondering just how we can all know what sacrifice the angel desires…? Well – we have to wait for the astrologer to let us know… I’m suspecting that the astrologer this year might just have some stock in a local cooking oil company…
Saturday evening I had the joy of leading Sat to the Lord. Myself and others have witnessed to her on several occasions but she has always resisted accepting Christ because of her fear of persecution by the Muslims in her village. She is the mother of SreyLeak who accepted Christ a couple of weeks ago. SreyLeak was able to sit right next to her mother as she prayed to thank God for saving her. Please pray that Sat will grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and that her life will become a powerful testimony in her village.
We had a wonderful service Sunday morning. It was great to have some of the folks from the village churches travel to Phnom Penh to participate in the morning service. We had several special songs and a powerful testimony during the service. Here some of our young men are singing the hymn “Dare to be a Daniel.” The song encourages us as believers to be willing to stand alone for truth just as Daniel and his three friends did many years ago.
Philippians 2:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Certainly many Christians in Cambodia are going to be called upon to stand for what they believe this week as they are in their villages enjoying time with their families and friends. Please help pray that our new believers, some of whom are not yet grounded in their faith, will experience God’s grace operating in their lives as they willingly and joyfully choose to honor God with their lives during the New Year holiday.
We were all greatly encouraged by listening to these men sing “Hold the Fort.” All five of these men are Cham and former Muslims. They sang with energy and conviction out of gratitude for what the Lord has done for them and their families. I wish you could know each of these men and their individual testimonies.
Chhay (far right hand side in the stripped shirt) is the son of a witchdoctor who, prior to his death a couple of years ago, was very well known and sought after by the Cham people throughout the country of Cambodia. I remember going to Chhay’s village nearly 10 years ago to teach him and some other young men about the Gospel. In those days he was bound by the power of Satan and lived in constant fear of the demons who controlled his village. He is now a growing Christian who is doing his best to lead his wife and daughter in the way of the Lord.
San (brown and white stripped sthirt) is the son of the village chief. When he made the decision to not only accept Christ but to also follow Him through obedient living, his father disowned him. San and his wife, Yom, are both faithful believers who still live in the Cham village.
Ra (standing in the middle) is perhaps the most hated man in the village because of his faith in Jesus Christ and because of the fact that prior to his salvation he was preparing to become an Imam. The Muslims in the village are forbidden by the leaders in the Mosque to step foot on his property or to have any interaction with him whatsoever. Ra and his family have been instrumental in seeing some folks come to faith over the past several months.
Yim (black and gray stripped shirt) is the son of a woman in the the Cham village who has the ability to “communicate” with evil spirits. It is my understanding that she is one of only two people in the entire area who are able to understand the language of the demons when they speak through the voices of those whom they have indwelt there in the village. (Yes, demon possession still takes place in the year 2014!) As you can imagine she hates our church and the message of the Gospel. She has tried to make Yim’s life as difficult as she can possibly make it. Yim works from home as a self-employed mechanic in order to support his wife and three children. Most people in the village refuse to do business with him because of his stand for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Sane (blue shirt) is Ra’s son and is in his early 20’s.
Soam gave a very powerful testimony of her faith in Jesus Christ and what it was that caused her to accept Christ as her personal Saviour. She shared that she had tried her very best to follow the rules placed upon her by her religion of Islam. She had sought for help from the “angels” (demons) with all her might but yet her life was filled with turmoil. She was so discouraged because she even sold her land and possessions in order to use the money to sacrifice to the devil but she received absolutely nothing in return. It finally dawned on her after many years of following her culture and the religion that had been passed down to her by her ancestors that she had believed a lie. Yet, she did not know where to find the truth. She was convinced that there was a true God but she had no idea where to find Him. She shared that in time she moved from one part of Cambodia back to the Cham village. She began hearing about the group of Cham folks in the village who had “betrayed” their religion and ancestors by following Jesus Christ. Though she had been instructed to stay away from them she sought them out and asked them to tell her about Jesus. After about three years of praying to the “unknown God” that He would reveal Himself to her she finally heard the message that forgiveness of sins and salvation is only found in Jesus Christ. It is not something that can be earned through following the dead laws and regulations of religion. Upon learning this truth she immediately called upon the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved. He did save her and He changed her life! She now has the assurance of a home in Heaven and she is a bold witness in her village. Please continue to pray for her husband, Hem, to be saved. He attended our services this Sunday and several of our men were able to spend a few hours with him. We believe that he is very close to accepting the Lord.
Sovannara attended our church this weekend for first time. He is already saved but is looking for a church home for he and his mother, Soka. He is a university student who is majoring in Banking and Finance and was reached with the Gospel through a group that does a lot of university campus evangelism. He has been attending another church across town but has recently lost confidence in the leadership. He is very friendly and seems to be eager to return with his mother next Sunday. Please pray that we will have wisdom to know how best to connect with him and Soka. It is sometimes difficult for people who come from other churches to adjust to our church. Most churches here in Cambodia have one service a week and as long as you are in that service you are considered a good Christian. That is not the norm here at our church and it might take a bit for him to adjust. It seems that he connected well with some of our other single adult men and so I am sure that will help.
After the morning service most of the church met over at the National Stadium for a church-wide picnic and fellowship. We had a great time getting to know each other better and enjoying each others cooking. Some of the young people had fun playing some traditional New Year games. This particular game is similar to Duck Duck Goose except that the one who is chasing gets to hit the other person with a rolled up towel.
We will have, Lord willing, several folks visiting us this June on a missions trip. One of the things they will immediately notice is the physical poverty here in this country. It is shocking – especially for first time visitors from the West. I snapped this picture alongside an open sewer that flows just in front of the home of some of our faithful members. The picture demonstrates the filthy living conditions but in no way can capture the smell that permeates the area.
Worse than the physical poverty is the spiritual poverty of this land. I took this picture this past week while driving to Prak Pnou village. Seeing them carry their idols reminds me of Jeremiah 10:5 which says, “They [idols] are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.” As God’s children we do not have to carry our God – He sustains and carries us! Isaiah 46:4 “And even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.” Thank you for praying and giving so that folks here in Cambodia can escape the spiritual poverty that has bound this culture for generations.
We would like to introduce you to Grace. She has been serving here in Cambodia as a single missionary under the authority of and alongside another Baptist missionary for the past 7 years or so. She is sent out by an independent Baptist church of like faith and practice in California. Some of her family are actually members of our sending church. Several months ago she contacted us regarding the possibility of joining with us here in Phnom Penh and I began communicating with her parents and sending pastor. It seems that the Lord is leading her to join with us and we welcome her to the team. She has a heart for the Lord and for the lost. She has a very good grasp of the Khmer language and I am certain that she will be used by God to help win and train many ladies and young people. Her friend, Sina, a Cambodian national, is also a very personable young Christian lady. Grace and Sina have been working together in ministry for the past several years and, Lord willing, will continue to do so. This week they moved from another province here to Phnom Penh to join our team. Jeremy, Jason, and Justin were the ones who were privileged to carry their boxes up the stairs to their apartment! Please pray that we will have wisdom to know how to best lead these two ladies and that their transition will be a smooth one.
Please continue to pray for the potential outreach to Prey TaKap village in Takeo province. We plan to make another survey trip there on April 22nd. This time we will bring more of our national men with us as we seek to further explore this potential open door to plant a church and train leaders in this village. Please specifically pray that this man, In On, will understand and embrace the Biblical concept of church-planting and that we will be able to clearly discern his motives.
Because of God’s grace,
Dave, Debbie, Joshua, Jeremy, and Jason