November 18, 2016
There has been so much that has taken place since we last posted on this blog that I can’t possibly update you on everything. I will try to give you a brief summary of what God is doing here in Cambodia, in part, because of your partnership. THANK YOU FOR PRAYING FOR THE ITEMS REPORTED ON IN THIS BLOG POST.
It was a blessing to see God work in our Youth Conference which ran from Sunday morning through Tuesday evening this week. We began the conference on Sunday morning because we wanted to give the parents an opportunity to enjoy some of the events of the conference. It was great to have a few of the parents who were able to take part in the conference on Monday and Tuesday as well. THIS YEAR WAS WITHOUT A DOUBT OUR BEST CONFERENCE YET.
The Bible clearly teaches that it is the parents’ responsibility and privilege to rear their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. On a regular basis I remind our parents, who are all first generation Christians, that it is not my responsibility, our teams responsibility, nor the responsibility of our church to train their children to know God. We are all here to simply reinforce what they are teaching in the home. Those who have done the research tell us that upwards of 80% or more of American young people abandon their Christian “faith” when they enter their college years. One of the factors that has likely contributed, in part, to this tragedy is that many parents have delegated their God-given responsibilities to the church and assumed that all is well. Though culturally speaking it is an uphill battle, here in Cambodia we want to stay as far away from that philosophy as possible. In an ideal world there would be no need for the church to have a specific ministry dedicated to reaching out to the youth. The truths that are relevant to adults are relevant to young people as well. However, for the time being in order to effectively reach the next generation we must have ministries like our Children’s Ministry, Teen small group, and Youth Conferences.
In order to help reinforce and remind our church family that we as parents must train our children, we dedicated one of the newborn babies to the Lord during the morning service. I reminded Nathan’s parents that, in reality, we are dedicating them to the Lord and asking God to give them wisdom to rear him for the Lord. During the dedication Nathan’s father, Chhay, promised the Lord and the church family that as parents they would do their best to be a Godly example in the home, grow in their walk with the Lord, and never stand in the way of God’s will for their son’s life. CHHAY AND KIMLONG ARE ALREADY GREAT PARENTS TO THEIR TWO DAUGHTERS AND I KNOW THAT THEY WILL BE GREAT PARENTS TO NATHAN AS WELL. PLEASE PRAY FOR CHHAY AND KIMLONG.
We are thankful for the next generation of young people here at Pacific Baptist who are being reared in Christian homes by godly parents. Young men like Eden, Phillip, and Jeremy are the hope of Cambodia!
The majority of the young people here at Pacific Baptist do not come from Christian homes. Some even live in environments that are openly hostile to their faith in Jesus Christ. It is a blessing to see many of these young people growing in their walk with the Lord and their love for the lost all around them. These young people and others like them are the hope of Cambodia!
It was a blessing to have 7 folks follow the Lord in Believer’s Baptism during our morning service of Youth Conference. Two of those who were baptized are the teen siblings of faithful members of our youth group.
So many folks invested countless hours behind the scenes in order to help ensure a smooth running and effective conference this year. Bro. Has and his team worked tirelessly to prepare skits that were not just funny but that also spoke to our hearts and communicated the theme of the conference. Bro. Vong used his skills to produce the conference booklet, banner, videos, and t-shirts. There are so many other folks who worked hard on the music, food, the grounds, and transportation. THANK GOD FOR THE GREAT TEAM OF WORKERS HERE WHO DON’T CARE WHO GETS THE RECOGNITION JUST AS LONG AS THE JOB GETS DONE AND GETS DONE TO THE BEST OF OUR ABILITY. They are a rare breed!
We enjoyed hearing four testimonies by young people during the conference. Perhaps the most dynamic testimony was given by Srey Nak. She shared of the decision that she made in Youth Conference two years ago to stand for the Lord regardless of what those around her do. Though she does not have Christian parents who encourage her to do right, by God’s grace she is one of our most faithful teen girls. She not only serves in the Children’s Ministry and music ministry but she also teaches our 2-3 year old Sunday School class.
The skits this year were second to none. Bro. Has and his team wrote great parts and practiced hard to get them just right. I am really thankful for time that Bro. Kosal (pictured in the middle of this picture in the ridiculous blond wig) invested in translating the skit lines for the members to learn. He is perhaps the best Khmer translator that I know and is definitely a gift to our church family! Thank you, Kosal, for using your talents for the Lord. Kosal teaches English at one of the premiere English schools here in Phnom Penh but in his off time he invests a lot of time in the ministry, especially the outreach in Stung MeanChey.
On Sunday afternoon many of our teens went down to the riverside and handed out gospel tracts. For some of them it was their first time to experience public ridicule and rejection because of their faith. It was a blessing while walking along the river to see many people like the man in this picture sitting and reading our tracts. AT A MINIMUM THE SEED OF THE GOSPEL WAS PLANTED IN THE HEARTS OF MANY WHO MAY HAVE NEVER HAD ACCESS TO THE TRUTH. We handed out 3,500 tracts Sunday afternoon.
Makara recently relocated to Phnom Penh from another Province in order to attend College. She was saved in another church and when she moved here her pastor recommended that she become a part of our church. Many of the things she has heard and experienced in the short time that she has been here have been new to her. She is a bubbly and vibrant young lady who really enjoyed the Youth Conference. She really enjoyed the time we spent handing out tracts down at the riverside. I believe that it was her first time to ever hand out gospel tracts. We look forward to seeing her get involved in a greater way in the ministry here at Pacific Baptist!
We were encouraged to have a first time adult visitor on Sunday. She enjoyed the morning service so much that she returned for the afternoon service as well as our services all day Monday. She is in her 70’s and is not saved. She listened intently to the testimonies and the preaching and was very evidently interested in what was being said. When she left the church on Monday we all felt as though she was very close to being saved based upon the things that she was saying to some of our members. However, when I saw her yesterday on the street her countenance had totally changed and she pretended like she didn’t know us. I’m not sure what happened. She is a very wealthy lady in our neighborhood and owns a large apartment complex not far from our church. It is my guess that when her friends and family found out that she was hanging out with all of us at the church they gave her a very hard time. In the gospels we read of the hard heart, the stony heart, the thorny heart, and the good heart. (Matthew 13) Only God knows the condition of Nary’s heart and whether she will ultimately accept or reject the gospel. PLEASE PRAY FOR NARY TO SUBMIT TO THE WORKING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN HER HEART.
I took this picture over 25 years ago. It is of three Cambodian pastors who were very well known prior to the Khmer Rouge regime. There was only a small handful of pastors who survived the reign of terror that resulted in the near-extermination of the church in Cambodia, which at that time numbered around ten thousand. I knew all three of these men as they had escaped Southeast Asia and fled to the United States as refugees in the early 80’s. They were godly men who took their responsibility to reach their generation seriously. They are all three in Heaven now and their work is over. I often remind our national leaders here at Pacific Baptist that it is their responsibility to reach their own generation with the gospel. Though it is very difficult here in this part of the world, we take the mandate of winning, baptizing, and discipling national men very seriously here at Pacific Baptist! There are many things that have to be done in ministry but nothing is more important than reaching men; it is the missionary’s primary mandate.
We thank God for the many men He has allowed to be reached and trained here at Pacific Baptist. It’s such a blessing to be surrounded by national men who are willing and eager to follow leadership. While speaking with one of our national men last night, I told him how easy it would be for us to grow complacent and content with the people we already have, but that we have to, on purpose, keep winning and dicipling men and families. One of the challenges that we will face here within the next few years is how we are going to effectively equip the young adults, who are now teens, for full-time Christian ministry. At the present time there is no Bible college here in Cambodia of like faith that would be adequate to help us to accomplish that task. Within the next four years I believe that we will have a good group of young people graduating from high school who feel the call of God to the mission field here in the 1040 window. PLEASE PRAY FOR US AS WE ARE MAKING PLANS NOW FOR HOW TO BEST EQUIP THESE FUTURE SERVANTS OF GOD TO REAP A GREAT HARVEST HERE IN THIS PART OF THE WORLD. The logistic and financial requirements are overwhelming and beyond our capacity, but where God leads – He provides.
We are planning to begin an intensive training program this January for several of our young adult folks who believe that God may be leading them into some type of full-time Christian service. It will be three days a week and will be much more intense than our Bible Institute. Lord willing it will be the beginning stages of a future Bible college.
Tom (28 years old) and Sane (21 years old) were both saved here at Pacific Baptist out of Islam and are faithful men of God. Their parents have also been saved and are all faithfully involved in one of our village churches. A couple months ago I approached them both and asked them to pray and seek counsel from their parents about studying in the new program that we planned to begin in January to train full-time Christian workers. Two weeks ago I met with them again and they both expressed their desire to be a part of this new ministry. While they don’t know for sure if God is leading them into full-time ministry, they both said that they want to do whatever God calls them to do. Their parents are behind them all the way. Their decision to come to Phnom Penh three days a week for training will impact their ability to support themselves as they will basically only have one day a week (Fridays) to work. Their decision to step out in faith is humbling (and scary…). I asked Tom to preach one of the messages during our Youth Conference. He did a fantastic job. We were all amazed to see the gift that God has given him to passionately and effectively communicate the Word of God. Sane shared a testimony during the conference and was a blessing as well. PLEASE PRAY FOR TOM AND SANE AS THEY “STEP OUT OF THE BOAT” AND TAKE THIS GREAT STEP OF FAITH.
Veasna (19 years old) will also be studying in the intensive program beginning in January. In recent months he has felt that God wants him to reach his own people and possibly serve one day in full-time ministry. He is a solid young man who is already very involved in ministry in Phnom Penh as well as in Stung MeanChey. Veasna’s parents both came to the Lord over the past year and a half and they are in favor of him training for full-time Christian service. Veasna was reached with the gospel about 5 years ago through the Children’s Ministry. PRAY FOR VEASNA TO TRUST GOD AS HE IS ABOUT TO BEGIN THIS NEW PHASE OF HIS LIFE.
Debbie and I led Navy to Christ several months ago and we have all been praying for her husband, Sok, to be saved. Sok works long hours seven days a week selling ice cream from a cart. He has little, if any, free time. The bottom line is this: If he doesn’t work for a day, they may not eat the next day. We recently held a small baby shower for Navy in our Married Couple’s Sunday night small group. The reason that we did it during our group time was to encourage Sok to come to church. We were all excited that he came! Today we were both up at the hospital for awhile with Navy and Sok as she just gave birth to their baby son last night. I had the chance to talk to him some more and he has indicated that he will “become a Christian very soon.” His Buddhist mother recently died but before she died she called him over to her and told him that he ought to “follow his wife’s decision to be a Christian so that there would be unity in the home.” While we know that receiving God’s gift of salvation is not a decision that is made in order to “have unity” in the home, yet it was a blessing to hear that she told him to become a Christian. Sok is Vietnamese and it is very likely that the only thing keeping him from being saved is his belief in ancestral worship as it is quite prevalent among the Vietnamese people. We hope that his mother’s words will ring in his ears and the Holy Spirit will use them, along with the teaching that he has heard and read, to soften his heart to the gospel. PLEASE PRAY THAT SOK WILL SOON BE SAVED.
MengLy has visited church on several occasions with his wife, Neang. He works as a mophed taxi driver and seldom, if ever, takes time off. Again, if he doesn’t work for a day then the family will likely not eat the next day. PLEASE PRAY THAT MENGLY WILL RESPOND TO THE GOSPEL AND BE SAVED.
I met Chanta several months ago as he was working security at one of the local malls. This past week, while taking the teens ice skating during Youth Conference, he had the opportunity to meet several of our men as well. They were able to stand and have a conversation with him. He has invited me to go and visit him in his village which is 21 kilometers from Phnom Penh. PRAY THAT WE WILL BE ABLE TO WORK OUT A TIME TO VISIT HIM IN HIS HOME AND EVENTUALLY BE ABLE TO LEAD HIM TO CHRIST.
We are happy to welcome baby Abigail and John into the world! Our nursery is about to get a bit more crowded as we have several more ladies who are due within the next 2-3 months!
PLEASE PRAY FOR YOM AS SHE IS SCHEDULED FOR A CESAREAN DELIVERY THIS NEXT WEEK.San and Yom are both faithful believers and have paid a price for their faith. San is the national leader of one of our village churches. In addition to going soul-winning in various villages, each week he and his team of workers minister to around 100 folks.
It’s difficult to believe that it was six years ago this week that our family started Pacific Baptist Church of Phnom Penh. So much has happened since then and so many people have come and gone. There have been far more people reached than we could have imagined and we thank God for His provision over the past six years. This picture was taken during our first public service. Four of the men in the picture are today serving alongside of us in the ministry. I had the opportunity to lead each of these men to Christ and there is nothing better than serving alongside them! I remember leading Sinath to Christ the Friday evening just two days before the church started. He lived directly across the street from our house and I would go and meet with him nearly every evening for several months before he finally got saved.
Sinath’s wife, Sopheap, did not receive Christ for nearly 5 months after Sinath got saved. She hated the gospel and didn’t want anything to do with us. As a Chinese Cambodian her faith was in idols and her ancestors. I remember the Sunday morning when she suddenly appeared in the auditorium. No one knew she was planning to attend church that day and we were all quite shocked. Right after the service I went to talk to her and asked her if she would like to accept Christ. She responded by saying, “I already did that this morning before I left the house!” Come to find out she had been waiting and watching her husband’s example. She didn’t believe that anything could actually change her husband from the mean man that he used to be. After watching him for several months she finally saw that God is real and that she was in need of a personal Saviour as well! Sinath and Sopheap are both faithful servants of the Lord Jesus Christ and we count them among our closest of friends.
Debbie and I were truly shocked to have the church present us with some gifts during the morning service in commemoration of our church’s six year anniversary. We had actually forgotten all about it with the busyness of Youth Conference. We are blessed to serve alongside some of the greatest people in the whole world!
The new outreach in Stung MeanChey continues to move along. We had the opportunity to speak for the Thursday evening mid-week service this week and it was great to be able to see everyone once again.
Ta Sakrut, the retired College professor, was right in his place as he has been since the day he got saved a few months ago. I always joke with him about my outlines because he always sits and reads through the outlines before the service starts. As he is reading he circles and underlines different parts. I joked with him that he was circling all my grammatical mistakes (he taught Khmer literature for around 40 years) as I’ve been known to actually make up Khmer words in the past 🙂 He always answers back that he likes to read the outline ahead of time and underline the parts he thinks he wants to go back home and study on his own! We are thankful that his cataract surgery went well. He is excited to be able to read more clearly.
SokCheat and SokChuen are brothers and were both saved about the same time. They are both married and SokCheat has a newborn baby. Bro. Man is investing a lot of time in them and they are growing in the Lord. They both attended every session of the Youth Conference and seemed to really benefit from them. PLEASE PRAY FOR THEIR WIVES TO BE SAVED. Lord willing these two young men and their wives will be the future leaders in Stung MeanChey!
Soveat, Sokun, and Tida are all young adult ladies who have been reached with the gospel through the outreach in Stung MeanChey. None of them come from a Christian home and are, at times, discouraged by their parents from doing what is right. We are thankful for their example and their resolve to be faithful to the Lord despite the opposition. Kahna and Phalley have invested a lot into their lives and it shows. It’s always exciting to see new believers here discipled by nationals. PLEASE PRAY FOR THESE THREE YOUNG LADIES AS THEY ARE GROWING IN THE LORD. Lord willing, they will be the future leaders in Stung MeanChey as well!
Sophal was led to Christ by Bro. Man about three years ago. He was growing in the Lord and faithfully served in ministry. A couple of years ago he made the decision to take a job in Korea. He sought no counsel until the night before his airplane was scheduled to depart. I remember sitting with him in the stands at a soccer game where our Pacific Baptist teen boys were competing, and discussing his decision with him. With tears streaming down his face he admitted that he had not sought counsel because he knew that he was not supposed to take the job – there was no church for him to attend in the part of Korea where he was moving to, and he knew that God didn’t want him to go there. Bro. Man has done a wonderful job of keeping in touch with him over these past months. We are all so happy because he bought a one-way ticket back to Cambodia this past week and has decided that he needs to move back here. He is enrolling in college and has a desire to be back in church and once again walk in obedience to the Word of God. He attended every session of the Youth Conference and we saw the joy that was on his face! PLEASE PRAY THAT SOPHAL WILL BE FAITHFUL, AND ONCE AGAIN LIVE HIS LIFE FOR THE GLORY OF THE LORD.
We want to share with you two stories of ladies whose lives have been changed by the power of the gospel.
Hong came to visit her son and the ministry here in Cambodia this month and it was great to get reacquainted with her. We met Hong back in 1991 while we were serving the Cambodian community in Long Beach, California. We met her through her brother-in-law whom we had led to Christ some time earlier. At that time she was not open to the gospel. He life basically consisted of gambling. Every time that I saw her she was sitting with other Cambodian women in a big circle playing cards. Little by little we were able to get to know her better and lead her to Christ. She recently reminded me that just after she got saved I went to visit her house and saw her once again sitting in the circle with her friends gambling. She reminded me of what I did – I sat down in the circle with her and threw money into the middle. The honest truth is I don’t have the slightest clue how to play cards (and it is a good thing!). Apparently I sat there for a moment joking with her then got up and left the house. After I left, she said that all the ladies in her gambling group began scolding her: “You are a Christian now. You know that you are not supposed to be gambling any more! Look – your pastor just busted you!” She told me that she has not played cards nor gambled in any way since that day. She was sharing with me that even her unsaved friends knew what was right and what was wrong for a Christian and that she is thankful that God helped her immediately get victory over the sin of gambling.
About 20 years ago there was a group of Cambodians in our church in Long Beach who decided they were not happy with some decisions that Pastor Esposito and several of us made at the church. Rather than responding in a Biblical manner, they decided to get up a petition and stage a protest. I won’t go into detail about the tragic events that happened in nearly every one of those families in the years to follow but suffice it to say that it is never right to act as Korah (Numbers 16) or Absalom (2 Samuel 15) against godly leadership. Those folks were proud, ungrateful to the Lord, and apparently not walking close enough to the Lord to see the spiritual destruction they were about to bring upon themselves and their children. They tried their best to influence Hong to follow them and rebel against the leadership. Hong made the decision to follow the Lord and follow the leaders and she is still reaping the blessings these many years later while many of our friends who rebelled are living lives full of regret after having lost all spiritual influence in the lives of their children. One of the evidences of God’s blessing in Hong’s life is manifested through the testimony of her son, Adrian.
Hong’s son, Adrian, is serving as a bi-vocational missionary with us here in Cambodia. She was very surprised to see how God is using her son to make a difference in the lives of many folks here in Cambodia. It was wonderful to be able to sit and talk with her for awhile and rehearse old times together. *She didn’t just visit Cambodia to see Adrian and the ministry here. She also came to meet her, Lord willing, future daughter-in-law!
We are thankful for the power of God to deliver Navy from the power of darkness. By her own testimony she was the village drunk for the past couple of decades. She was a mean, rude, demon worshiping woman with no peace. WHEN SHE GOT SAVED A FEW MONTHS AGO GOD CHANGED HER LIFE! She told me yesterday that she has not had a drink since being saved. I asked her if she has had any temptation to seek help from evil spirits or her dead ancestors. She responded by saying “NO! Why would I want to worship demons? I know the living God and He has saved me!” It was a blessing to see her this past week. She traveled to Phnom Penh from her village and was able to join in for one of the days of our Youth Conference. PRAY FOR NAVY TO STAND STRONG FOR THE LORD. SHE IS THE ONLY CHRISTIAN IN HER ENTIRE VILLAGE.
This video was made by Bro. Vannak, one of our national leaders. He played it during the message that he preached for Youth Conference this past week. It is reminding us all that if God had not shown us His grace we would still be without hope. Furthermore, there are many people all around us who are still in need of the gospel – Who will tell them?!
Because of God’s grace,
Dave, Debbie, Joshua, Jeremy, and Jason