January 28, 2016
We had a very busy but wonderful weekend. It seems that there is never a dull moment here in Cambodia. Thank you for keeping our family, our co-laborers, and the ministry as a whole in your thoughts and prayers. It is always nice to have the opportunity to communicate with you via email and Instagram. If you are on Instagram and would like to follow the ministry you can find us at DAVE.BOARD – the account is private but you can send a request and we will add you to our friends list.
My home church pastor, Dr. Joe Esposito, used to say that it was one of his dreams to see young people be reached through the church, grow up in the church, faithfully serve the Lord through the ministries of the church, and one day get married in the church. Over the past 28 years since he started Pacific Baptist Church of Long Beach there have been scores of young people do just that!
One of the couples that were reached as young people in Long Beach is Sara and Neaty Vong. Debbie and I go way back with them to their pre-teen years as God allowed us to have a part in reaching their families for the Lord. It was a blessing to be a part of their wedding almost 12 years ago in Long Beach and now, five children later (and one on the way), they are serving the Lord here in Cambodia. It is a great joy to serve alongside the Vong family. Bro. and Mrs. Vong bring so many strengths to our team. Pray for Bro. Vong over the next few weeks as he will be carrying extra responsibilities in the work here in Phnom Penh as well as in some of our outlying works in the Provinces.
Like Pastor Esposito we have a dream of seeing young people reached with the gospel here in Cambodia and serving the Lord with their lives. Kosal was the first Cham person that we ever met here in Cambodia. After he came to Christ he was greatly used by God to help us gain contact with the Cham people as a whole. What a blessing it is to still be serving alongside of him all these years later. You will notice in the next picture that over the next 10 years Joshua kept growing – Kosal…not so much. 🙂
It was a wonderful blessing to officiate at Kosal’s wedding this past Saturday here at Pacific Baptist Church of Phnom Penh. He married a beautiful and godly young lady, Phalley, who was reached for the Lord through the ministry as well. They just returned from their Honeymoon last night and it was a blessing to see them in our mid-week service, right back in their spot, and with huge smiles. PRAY FOR KOSAL AND PHALLEY TO CONTINUE TO BE A FAITHFUL TESTIMONY TO LOST FAMILY MEMBERS.
Phalley’s parents were both saved through the ministry here as well. Their testimony of searching for the true God is truly a remarkable one! For more than a decade Hem was possessed with demons and would often become violent and a danger to his family and society as a whole. While under the control of Satan, he committed crimes that caused not just his village to fear him, but all the surrounding villages as well. Som sold their land and possessions in an attempt to find witch doctors and other occultic practitioners who could provide them with relief from the destructive power of darkness that pervaded their daily lives. All of her efforts were to no avail and simply left them broke and hopeless. Two years ago she heard that some of her own people had become Christians and were experiencing joy in their lives. This intrigued her but, at the same time, she was confused – she had never heard of a Cham (Muslim) person abandoning Islam and turning to Jesus Christ. She made it her point to travel from the Province where she was living to the village where the Christians were located. She had to find out for herself what Jesus Christ was all about.
I wrote extensively about her testimony of coming to Christ and the persecution that followed in a post a couple of years ago. (If you would like to read about her story you can email me. The post is password protected and not available to the general public.)
After Som came to Christ she endured a lot of persecution from her husband and fellow villagers. However, she refused to turn her back on Christ. I recall one time, in particular, that a group of us met her in a secret location not far from her village in order to encourage her to go forward for Christ. In turn, she encouraged us with her boldness and unwavering resolve to, by God’s grace, live for Him. She said, “Pastor, I can not turn my back on Jesus now. If I do, my family will never be saved. I must endure the persecution so that my family can see that Jesus is real.” Her testimony DID result in her husband coming to Christ as well as her two adult children. During the wedding ceremony Phalley shared a personal testimony of her salvation and credited her desire to be saved by the fact that she saw so much change take place in her parents lives after they were saved. It was such a blessing for us all to witness the joy that Som and Hem had during the wedding of their daughter! PLEASE PRAY FOR HEM AND SOM TO CONTINUE TO BE USED BY GOD AS A TESTIMONY OF HIS POWER TO FORGIVE SIN, CHANGE LIVES, AND GIVE HOPE.
There were a number of unsaved family members who attended, not just the reception at the restaurant, but the actual wedding at the church. It is somewhat rare in this country to have Muslims attend a Christian event that is held in a church. Two of the unsaved family members are pictured here with Kosal and Phalley. After the wedding was over I asked these two ladies what they thought about what they had experienced. With big smiles they told me that they really enjoyed the wedding and that Christians are not “like everyone said they are.” We then discussed some of the differences that they noted between the weddings they had attended in the past and Kosal’s wedding. They noted that a Christian wedding seems to be very joyful and that the challenge given during the wedding was much different from what they had experienced in the past. They were amazed that we didn’t instruct the young couple to work hard and make a lot of money. Instead, Bro. Esposito and myself reminded each of them of their responsibility before God to love the Lord and love each other. Both Kosal and Phalley shared their salvation testimony during the ceremony. We also had a special time when they both publicly showed honor to their parents. There were not many dry eyes left after that portion of the service. PRAY THAT THIS WEDDING WAS USED TO PLANT THE SEED OF THE GOSPEL AND THAT PEOPLE WILL BE SAVED AS A DIRECT RESULT.
One of the highlights of the wedding was having Kosal’s father attend. Those of you who have been privy to the events that transpired in the ministry a couple of years of ago know what a miracle it was to have him agree to attend. We believe that God is softening his heart to the gospel. He resigned his position as Village Chief a couple of months ago. This is something that his adult children have been praying for and we believe that he is one step closer to accepting Christ. PLEASE PRAY FOR PHEAP TO BE SAVED VERY SOON!
Those of you who speak Khmer might get a kick out of watching this short clip from the reception at the restaurant. Kosal wrote a special song to Phalley and sang it in front of everyone. In the video you can only see a few of the 160 or so folks who attended the wedding reception. It was good for the unsaved in the audience to see that Christians can have a good time without drinking and dancing. I know that their reception was a great testimony to the lost.
Help us pray about a new ministry that we hope to start within the next several weeks. For nearly two years our workers have been going to StungMeanChey, an industrial district of Phnom Penh. We have a number of children who attend the Phnom Penh Children’s Ministry each week who live in this district. There are also a few adults who have been saved and who attend Sunday morning services. Soi Ny lives in StungMeanChey and professes to be saved, although we are not certain that she really understands the gospel but she definitely has a soft heart and is open to learning. There are other adults who have made professions of faith but who, for various reasons, do not attend church. The only spiritual accountability they receive is when the workers make their weekly follow-up visits at their home. StungMeanChey is a heavily populated part of town that is literally overrun with NGO groups (non-governmental aid groups) and churches of various stripes. Yet, we have not been able to find an established group in that part of town whose faith and practice is reflective of the New Testament church. Thus, in order to have a long-term impact in the lives of those who are being reached in that part of town, as well as to reach countless new folks, it would seem incumbent upon us to start a new church in StungMeanChey. Lord willing, the nationals from the Phnom Penh church will lead this new outreach and the missionaries will only operate in an advisory capacity. Soi Ny is just one of several folks who would stop attending church in Phnom Penh and who would become a part of this new work. The thing that is holding us up at this point is finding a suitable location where we can gather a group of people. PLEASE HELP US PRAY THAT WE WILL BE ABLE TO FIND A LOCATION THAT WILL FACILITATE PERHAPS 100 PEOPLE OR SO. We plan to keep you updated on the progress of this new work in the weeks to come.
Our Sunday evening small groups are going very well. It has been a blessing to see several new folks attending church on Sunday evenings because of these groups. This past weekend we had a Russian young lady named Anya attend the English-speaking group. Anya has been working in Phnom Penh for awhile and is saved but it is my understanding that she is not a part of a good church. Likewise, there are several Khmer young adults, several deaf folks, and a young married couple who have been attending the groups as well. PRAY THAT GOD WILL CONTINUE TO USE THESE GROUPS TO STRENGTHEN THE BELIEVERS IN OUR CHURCH AS WELL AS TO REACH THOSE WHO ARE PRESENTLY LOST WITH THE GOSPEL.
In our married couples class this past week we were reminded that we need to seek after Godly wisdom as intently as we would seek after money. To illustrate this truth we had a scavenger hunt. We were missing three couples (two had sick children and one was out of town on their Honeymoon) but the couples who were present had a great time! They were required to hold hands during the entire hunt and had three minutes to find as many hidden stickers as they could. The top three couples won prizes. I have included a short excerpt of the game below – I know that they will want to see themselves!
We have known Sambath for a little over a year now but just met his wife, SreyMohm, a couple of weeks ago. They both have a work schedule that gives them very little free time. On the weekends Sambath is attending school in hopes that he can obtain his TESOL certificate and be certified to teach English. If he is able to get a job teaching in an English school he will hopefully have a much better schedule that will enable us to get closer to his family. We continue to maintain contact with them both as much as possible. PLEASE PRAY THAT THEIR HEARTS WILL REMAIN OPEN TO THE LORD AND TO US AND THAT THE DOOR WILL OPEN FOR US TO REACH THEM WITH THE GOSPEL.
I am very encouraged by the spiritual momentum that Oudom seems to have at this time. It seems that God is working in his heart and giving him a true desire to be more than a nominal believer. In a few days he will be taking a two-day test with the hopes that he will be admitted into medical school. Our weekly discipleship time will have to change as his schedule will likely be quite hectic for the foreseeable future. In addition to going to medical school he will continue to fulfill his responsibilities in the military. He holds the rank of Lieutenant. Oudom very excitedly shared some good news with me two weeks ago. He told me that his father had recently gathered the family together and told them that they will not be sacrificing to the ancestors or to the spirits this coming Chinese New Year. (Chinese New Year is coming up in a couple of weeks. It is a time when Chinese all around the world will offer sacrifices to demons and to the spirits of deceased relatives.) He went on to tell his adult children that very soon there would be no demon sacrifices made on his property whatsoever because he was going to become a “child of Jesus Christ.” If he was serious, and it appears that he was, this is huge! Oudom and his mother, Somally, have been trying to live out their faith in the home and it seems that their testimony is having an effect upon the whole family, especially upon his father. Oudom shared with me obvious changes that are taking place in his dad’s life that indicate his heart is being softened. Oudom’s father is a two-star General with 3,000 troops under his direct command. He is not known as a man who would say one thing and then do another. So we are very hopeful that God is indeed working in his heart. Three weeks ago I had occasion to speak with him for awhile at his home. While our time together was informal, I did have the opportunity to plant the seed of the gospel once again. I told him that God loves him and desires for him to turn to Him and be saved. Furthermore, if he died without being saved he would face the wrath of God. He responded by saying, “As a young man I fought the Khmer Rouge. I lived through war and wrath. I’m a soldier and I’m accustomed to violence. I already know about the wrath of God and I’m not worried.” I immediately responded by saying, “Yes, you lived through the wrath and violence of the Khmer Rouge. It lasted under 4 years and God allowed you to survive. However, the wrath of God will be eternal and it will be too late to repent once you have died and gone to Hell.” After exchanging a few more words with him I left his house and returned to Phnom Penh, wondering if I had overstepped the bounds of propriety. Apparently it was a few days later that he gathered the family together to make known his intentions to become a Christian. PLEASE PRAY THAT MR. PHEAP WILL BE CONVICTED OF HIS NEED OF SALVATION AND THAT HE WILL NOT DELAY IN BEING SAVED.
One of the greatest blessings of starting a work on the foreign field is seeing the national believers take their responsibility of serving the Lord seriously. As a team we stress the importance of making disciples, not converts. One of the paramount responsibilities of the missionary, and pastors in general, is to equip those who accept Christ to walk with Him, and to do the work of the ministry. We do not view “success” by the numbers of people sitting in the pew – We view success in the ministry by the number of disciples who are living obedient lives and who are equipped and serving. The Apostle Paul set forth the objective rather clearly in 2 Timothy 2:2 where he writes, “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” I am constantly amazed at how effective the national believers are at loving and winning their own people to the Lord. PLEASE PRAY THAT WE WILL GROW IN OUR OBEDIENCE AND ABILITY TO MAKE DISCIPLES HERE IN CAMBODIA WHO ARE EQUIPPED TO CARRY OUT THE GREAT COMMISSION BOTH HERE AS WELL AS IN OTHER PLACES AS THE LORD LEADS.
SreyNech just celebrated her 20th Birthday yesterday. She was reached with the gospel as a 14 year old girl here at PBCPP. I’m so thankful for the ladies like Kahna, Joy, and Susanna as well as others, who have invested countless hours in her life. Here we see her teaching a group of children in a village located two hours from Phnom Penh. PRAY THAT, IN GOD’S TIME, HE WILL PROVIDE HER WITH A GODLY HUSBAND SHE CAN SERVE ALONGSIDE.
We are also blessed to see Kam’s desire to serve the Lord. Some of you may recall that Kam was saved out of Islam about four years ago. One day he was forced to flee the village and seek refuge in Phnom Penh. I clearly remember him showing up at the church with all of his earthly possessions placed in two small plastic bags. Though he continues to face much opposition from his lost family, he continues to go on for the Lord. Kam has a rather reserved personality and is not naturally inclined to seek the limelight. Yet, he is willing to stand before this group of young children every week and teach them the Word of God. PLEASE PRAY FOR KAM TO GROW IN HIS WALK WITH THE LORD AND TO CONTINUE TO BE USED BY THE LORD TO BLESS OTHERS.
One of the workers posted these two pictures on Instagram this past week. I was so blessed to see Sinath faithfully discipling a new convert, Mr. Tha. You may recall that Tha was Sinath’s High School Ethics teacher about 30 years ago. Sinath was able to lead him to Christ a few weeks ago.
We are happy to tell you that Vorn accepted Christ this past week. We had asked you to pray for him to be saved in our last post. (Vorn is the man in the black shirt.) Vorn’s wife, Sal, was saved several weeks ago. PLEASE PRAY FOR SINATH AND THE WORKERS IN THIS PARTICULAR VILLAGE MINISTRY AS THEY SEEK TO DISCIPLE THIS YOUNG COUPLE IN THE LORD!
Many of you perhaps heard me tell the story of Yey Long last year when I was in the States and reported in your church on the work here in Cambodia. Yey Long was the former Buddhist nun who accepted Christ. You may recall that when she got saved her family put pressure on her to try and get financial help and food from us in exchange for her “changing religions.” When it became evident to them that we were not that type of a ministry she was given an ultimatum by her adult children: Choose the family and have a place to live, or choose Jesus and be thrown out of the house. You will remember that she told them she would not turn her back on Jesus. She was thrown out of the house. Her story touched many of your hearts and I recall seeing many tears shed in churches around America as I spoke of her love for Jesus Christ. Some of our Vietnamese brothers and sisters in the Lord in the Kansas City area even gave me donations to help provide for some of her physical needs once she was rejected by her children. Those gifts were a great blessing to her and we were able to spread them out over several months.
Yey Long became quite ill this past October and was no longer able to get out of the house. She had two desires – One of them was to have me travel to her village and talk with her. The other was to be able to attend attend church one last time. Thankfully I was able to visit her on October 22nd with Brother Sinath. She was not able to able to make it to church due to her physical condition. She went home to Heaven this past week. Her family prevented our workers from having any contact with her for the days preceding her death. They kept her closed up in the house with lay Buddhists Priests and Monks chanting around the clock. It is a blessing to know that she accepted Christ as her personal Saviour and that there was evident fruit in her life that she had become a child of God.
I have included a short video clip from my visit with her on October 22nd, just three months before she passed away. In this clip Brother Sinath is encouraging her in the Lord and reminding her of the goodness of God in her life and the hope of Heaven. I loosely translated Sinath’s conversation with her for those of you who do not speak Khmer.
Ta Saren lives in StungMeanChey and is in his 80’s. Brother Adrian and his workers have been instrumental in helping to encourage Ta Saren in the Lord. Though he and his wife came to Christ through another ministry, Saren normally attended church with us. On a weekly basis the workers go to his home and read the Word of God to him and encourage him in his walk with Christ.
Tuesday evening I received a text message from Adrian saying that Saren’s wife suddenly died, and seeking counsel about what we should do. (You will see her covered body lying on a mat at the house just two feet from where she died a few hours previously.) Adrian went to be with the family and sought to bring Saren comfort that evening. Saren and one adult granddaughter who is also a Christian desired to have a Christian funeral but the rest of the family insisted on having a traditional Buddhist funeral. Saren and his wife were married for 60 years, and though she was a professing Christian, the rest of the family forced their way and called the monks. A Christian leader from another church in the area was able to hold a short informal Christian service for the benefit of Saren and his granddaughter. Wednesday morning at about 6:30 a few of us went to spend some time with Saren and encourage him in the Lord. Though he was grieving, it was an encouragement to see his unwavering faith in the Lord and his desire to be faithful until the end. PLEASE PRAY FOR SAREN OVER THE NEXT DAYS AS THEY WILL BE VERY DIFFICULT FOR HIM.
Because of God’s grace,
Dave, Debbie, Joshua, Jeremy, and Jason