September 28, 2014
Our Sunday morning started out with a thunder storm that would rival any thunder storm that we have had thus far this entire rainy season! We always hate to have rain on Sunday as it makes it difficult for folks to get to church. No doubt the rain provides an excuse for some to stay home from church as well. Our morning service starts at 8:00 and we are normally very punctual as we have a pretty tight schedule on Sundays. By 7:30am my wife and I were the only ones in the church auditorium and we both thought that today was going to be one of those days you’d rather just skip. At about 7:50 am two ladies arrived and made their way upstairs with big smiles on their faces. We were so happy that we would have at least two people at church! One of the ladies, Nigah, is blind but managed to fight her way through the flooded streets to get to church. We were so blessed by her determination to be in God’s house no matter what!
The second lady, Ally, boldly proclaimed to us, “I knew for sure that no one would go to church today so I told myself I just have to go so that the auditorium won’t be totally empty!” Ally is not yet saved but in recent weeks seems to really be opening up her heart to know the truth about God and about herself. This picture was taken a few months ago here at the church. Ally’s husband, John, is presently working in Canada but plans to return to Cambodia soon. Brother Torres was instrumental in seeing John accept Christ as his personal Saviour a couple months before he left for Canada. Please pray that Ally will be saved.
Contrary to what we thought would happen, by 8:15 am the auditorium was totally full with the chairs pushed as closely together as is possible and we had to open up the over-flow room! My message was actually quite timely. It was about preparing for the storms of life before the storms happen. I used a helmet, raincoat, and an umbrella as illustrations of items we must have prepared ahead of time because once we actually need them it’s too late to go looking for them. The illustration was fresh in my mind since this past week Debbie and I were caught in a thunderstorm and, although she reminded me before we left the house to make sure I brought my raincoat, I failed to do so. I assured her that we would be back home before the storm came. The result? I got to drive our tuk tuk in pounding rain for 20 minutes without a raincoat! The point of the message was to challenge us all to make certain decisions in our life before we are faced with the temptation to do wrong. My text verse was Daniel 1:8, “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank…” We are encouraged to see the many young people and adults who are making the choice to be faithful to God and to what they know to be truth no matter what consequences they face.
You can click on the video above to see how much rain we received this morning. The worst part is the fact that the water in the streets is actually mixed with sewer water…very healthy for sure! Be that as it may, you will see many smiling faces as some of the folks are gathered downstairs outside of the church.
We took time during the service for folks to share testimonies of how the Lord enabled them by His grace to stand for Him this past week during the Pjum Ben festival that took place here in Cambodia. (You can read more about this festival on our post here – https://goodnewsfromafar.com/2014/09/21/september-21-2014) It was a blessing to hear how that person after person had taken the tracts and Do You Know God booklets with them and handed them out this past week.
One young adult man, Sophal, shared how he had the opportunity to witness to several folks who were riding in the taxi van with him as they drove a couple of hours to his home village. He shared about the joy he felt as he took a stand for the Lord. He also shared about how scary it was to have all the grandmas in the taxi van stare him down and scowl as he was witnessing to the folks. He told us it was his first time to experience that!
One young man, Isaiah, shared that during the festival his mother and father took the family to the Aeon Mall that just opened up in recent months, and while they were there they began handing out tracts to all the people. He told the church that it was scary for him to hand out tracts in that environment but he was thankful for the good example of his parents. Their family also had the opportunity to pass out tracts in their home village to many family members who had never one time heard a clear presentation of the gospel.
One lady, Kanha, shared how that she was so happy that she had the opportunity to be with her family this past week back in the village. Her parents and extended family have refused to have any contact with her whatsoever for the past year and a half since she took a stand for the Lord during her wedding by refusing to allow pagan practices to take place during her wedding. In fact, her mother totally disowned her when she refused to allow alcohol at her wedding. For the past year and a half Kanha and Man have been faithfully and joyfully serving the Lord here in Phnom Penh. Kanha is very influential with our teen girls and Man invests many hours each week helping to train some of the teen boys. Last week Kanha placed a phone call to her mother back in the village. She called from a number that her mother would not recognize because if she knew it was Kanha calling she would refuse to answer the phone. Once Kanha had her mother on the phone she begged her not to hang up but to rather hear her out. She asked if it would be possible for her to visit the family just for a short time during the festival time. After cursing her over the phone and telling her that she was a useless person and telling her that there was no reason for her to visit the family, her mother finally agreed to entertain the thought of having Kanha and Man make a short visit. She told Kanha to call back in a couple of days and she would give her an answer. Kanha and Man no doubt prayed that God would work in her mother’s heart and after a couple of days she finally agreed to allow them a short visit. Kanha shared that the visit went very well and that since her visit to the village she has had the opportunity to talk to her mother a couple of more times on the phone! This is a virtual miracle. Please help pray that Kanha and Man will be given more opportunities to be with their family and that we will see Kanha’s parents and siblings come to know the Lord.
I invited Buth to share a testimony from the pulpit this morning. Although he is still a teenager, he has an unusual maturity and spiritual hunger about him. He shared about the joy he experienced this year while taking a stand for the Lord. He shared that prior to being saved he had no hope of ever reaching Heaven when he died. His religion taught him that he must try really hard to do good works so that he could get to Heaven. When he asked his grandmother who could possibly do enough good works in order to get to Heaven she told him that only “angels” could make it to Heaven. He knew for sure that he was no angel and therefore had no hope to ever escape Hell. With tears in his eyes he shared how that just prior to his grandmother dying she requested that the family place money in her pocket and that she be cremated with the money. Buth wondered why she wanted the money to be placed in her pocket. She responded by saying, “I am going to die and go to Hell. I will need spending money while I am there. Please make sure that I have money in my pocket.” Buth knew that his grandmother was very faithful to her Chinese form of Buddhism and that she lived every day trying her very best to do good works. He wondered how it could be possible that she would not make it to Heaven. Sadly, she died before Buth ever had the chance to hear the gospel. He shared with the church family that he is so thankful that salvation is not something that we have to hope for or try to earn. He thanked God that a soul-winner from our church shared the gospel with him and that he had the opportunity to be saved before it was too late. I have the opportunity to help disciple Buth every Tuesday afternoon as well as Saturday evenings in our men’s accountability group. Please pray for Buth to be a strong testimony to his lost family and that God would open their hearts to the Truth.
It was a blessing to have three first time deaf ladies visit this morning. The three ladies on the left side of this picture are friends with the other four ladies. Today was the first time that they had ever been in a church or heard the gospel. They shared with us that they work in a factory not far from here for a very small salary. According to them they are not allowed to leave the premises and are required to work, eat, and sleep in the factory. They are afraid to question this policy out of fear that they will lose their jobs. Such is often the plight of the poor in this society. The only time they are allowed to leave during the entire year is for the Pjum Ben festival. Monday morning they must return to the factory. They all shared other details about their lives that are very sad and hopeless. Miss Grace, Sina, and the deaf ladies who have accepted Christ were able to spend some time together on Saturday evening. These ladies have very little in their life that brings happiness and comfort but we hope that they were able to see that the church loves them. That is the first step in them understanding that God loves them. Please pray for the outreach among the deaf. This past week the leaders of a cult here in Cambodia began targeting the deaf folks who have been coming to our church. This cult claims to be christian yet they deny that Jesus is the Saviour. They claim that Jesus is a created being of Jehovah God. They deny that salvation is a gift from God that is received by grace through faith. Please pray that Miss Grace and the workers will have wisdom from the Lord to be able to effectively communicate the Word of God to our deaf friends.
This evening we were blessed to have some of the teens sing a special song. We are thankful for their faithful example in living for the Lord. Only six of these young people have parents who have accepted Christ. Please pray for these teens to live a consistent example before their parents and siblings.
These eight children have been working very hard to learn the words to the Patch the Pirate song, “Here Am I, Lord, Send Me.” This song was translated by our friend and fellow missionary Rodney Ruppel and the folks from New Hope Baptist Church. Miss Samantha and Debbie have been working with them every Wednesday evening before our mid-week service for the past several weeks helping them to memorize the words as well as memorize Isaiah 6:8 that says, “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.”
You can click on the video above to hear these children sing. I know their parents are blessed to listen to them!
During the Pjum Ben festival we had the opportunity to spend several hours with some of the children from the church. We took them to the mall and enjoyed a meal together. After that we took them to a small amusement park to ride rides. They had a great time. Perhaps the high-light of the day was what they got to experience while eating at the mall. When we got to the restaurant and got all the children settled I noticed that Prince Norodom Ranariddh and his family (and body guards) were sitting over in the corner of the restaurant eating. I went over to greet him and exchange a bit of small talk. I had the chance to meet him perhaps 25 years ago when he made a visit to Long Beach, California. Then our family ran into him once again several months ago whereupon he met our sons. After asking me if I brought my wife with me, he inquired why I was at the restaurant. I told him that we brought a group of children from the church to have fun with them for the holiday. I returned to our table across the room and began eating with the children. About twenty minutes later he came to our table to meet the children and find out if they are having a good time. He then handed me a stack of brand new money and said to pass it out to the children. You should have seen the looks on their faces! He returned to his table as I passed out the money. About 10 minutes later one of his associates returned to our table with another stack of new money and said that Mr. Rannariddh wanted the children to have it. The oldest child at our table, outside of my own children, was only 15 years old and had no idea who he was. When I told them that he is the son of the King and in the past he served as co-Prime Minister of Cambodia they could not believe that he was so kind and gracious to them. Several of the children told me that their parents will think they are making it up when they tell them they met the Prince. The children all insisted that they wanted to express their gratitude to him and so a small group of the children went with me to his table to say thank you. He was so gracious and kind to them. Perhaps the thing that impressed me the most was the fact that he sought to deflect all their gratitude back to me and my wife. It was a great lesson for the children to see someone of his stature who, though they are poor, treated them with respect and decency.
In closing this week’s update I want to remind you to please continue to be in prayer for my Pastor and his family. I doubt that there has been another church in the United States that has made more of an impact for the cause of Christ upon Cambodia than Pacific Baptist Church. This has all been because of the grace of God and the vision and leadership of Pastor Esposito. At the present time there are 9 family units sent out from Pacific Baptist Church who are now serving in Cambodia as missionaries or who are working on completing their deputation to serve in the near future. This does not include those who are at this time being trained in the Bible college in Long Beach and who are planning to one day serve here in Cambodia. Just four days ago Debbie and I received an email from an individual in our home church who received confirmation from the Lord that He wants them to serve here in Cambodia. We are just waiting for His timing. Nor does it include families from Pacific Baptist Church who are presently serving in a “creative access” country here in southeast Asia.
Last October Pastor Esposito flew me to Long Beach for a few days to help with the annual Missions Conference as well as to teach a few days in the Bible College. I arrived in Long Beach from Cambodia on Tuesday evening with just enough time to check into the hotel, shower, and get up to church for church-wide soul-winning. Wednesday evening I preached for the mid-week service at the church plant in Los Angeles. Thursday morning I had a chance to see Pastor briefly and speak with him regarding progress here in Cambodia. We arranged to meet for lunch on Friday to discuss future plans in regard to training more missionaries for the purpose of church-planting here in southeast Asia. However, we never got a chance to meet. Thursday evening about an hour and a half after the church service was over Pastor Esposito was rushed to the emergency room having suffered an Aneurysm. This was such a shock to all of us. Pastor’s wife and children, his older brother, Missionary Johnny Esposito, myself, the church staff, and most of the deacons spent the entire night in the emergency waiting room not knowing if Pastor would even make it through the night. October 3rd it will be a year that Pastor has been hospitalized. I don’t believe that he is still considered to be in a coma but he is definitely in need of a miracle from the Lord. I placed my visitor’s pass from the hospital that evening in the back of my Bible and it serves as a reminder for me to pray for Pastor and his family. This Wednesday evening I hope to preach a message to our church here in Phnom Penh entitled “Lessons I have learned since Pastor’s Illness.” I will also pass out a copy of Pastor’s family picture to our entire church family as a reminder for them to pray for the Lord to work a miracle on their behalf. Will you please join us in praying that God’s will might be done in regard to healing Pastor? Also, pray for God’s sustaining grace to be real in the lives of Mrs. Esposito and his children.
Because of God’s grace,
Dave, Debbie, Joshua, Jeremy, and Jason