April 7, 2013

April 7, 2013

Dear friends,

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We had a great services today. This morning and evening some of our young men sang the song, Lead Me Lord. Kosal, wearing the blue shirt, translated it from English. The best part about their singing this song is that the testimony of their lives back up the words. Here are the words to this song in English:

It’s hard to take the first step, when I don’t know the way.

Each turn is so uncertain; I learn to walk by faith.

But You gave me a promise that You would never leave,

You will lead and guide me, O Lord, I do believe,

Chorus

Lead me, Lord, I will follow

Lead me, Lord, I will go,

You have called me, I will answer,

Lead me, Lord, I will go.

Your plans for me are perfect, I never need to fear,

For though at times I feel alone, I know that You are near,

My heart just wants to follow, I’m willing to obey,

Take my hand and lead me, I’ll follow all the way.

This morning I continued preaching on the theme of A Transformed Life. This morning’s message was the seventh one in the series. This morning we focused on Romans 12:10a. Be kindly affectionate one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another. The words “kindly affectionate” in the Khmer Bible convey the concept of helping to “guard each others heart.” This morning I focused on the importance of using our tongue to build each other up rather than to tear each other down. I believe that this truth spoke to many hearts this morning. The church continues to memorize the book of 2 Peter together. This coming week we will be quoting 2 Peter 2:13-15.

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We recently had a combined service and Pot Luck. We try to do this every six weeks. It is a special time for a few of the believers from our various village ministries to have the opportunity to join the services in Phnom Penh. It is important for them to see and feel that they are not the only ones who believe in Jesus. They (from the villages) are encouraged by the large crowd, the singing, the testimonies, and the time of fellowship afterwards. We (from the city) are all encouraged by their boldness for the Lord. It is often much more difficult to live for the Lord in the village than it is in the big city. This month everyone brought their own version of Rice Soup and we enjoyed a special meal after the evening service.

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During the evening service sister Soam shared a testimony of her joy in the Lord. You may recall several weeks ago that I wrote about the persecution she was going through in the Cham village. During her testimony she shared several of the events that she believes God used to bring her to Christ. I won’t seek to validate or invalidate her testimony; only God knows the methods He has chosen to draw her to Himself. Soam shared that three years prior to her accepting Christ she was very disillusioned with her religion. She knew that what was being taught and practiced at the local Mosque was not truth. Yet, she didn’t know where to find truth. She shared how that one night she had a dream. She believes that an angel appeared to her in the dream and told her the following: “If you want to know the truth, you will find it in Jesus Christ.”  The problem was this – she didn’t know who or what was Jesus Christ. She had been born in the Muslim village and lived there her entire life. All she had known was Islam. Moving forward in time – About two years ago several of her friends from the village accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour and soon after began witnessing to her. She knew right away that this was what she was looking for. She knew that the hatred in her religion was not from God. She also knew that there was nothing that she could to to take away her sins. She needed God’s forgiveness. She accepted God’s forgiveness and she bears witness that no amount of persecution can take away the joy and peace that she has in the Lord. She said that she dare not back down in her commitment to the Lord because if she does she knows that those who are persecuting her will never get saved. She believes that they need to see her joy and contentment in the Lord. She has asked that we pray for her husband, Hem, to be saved.

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We were blessed to have some of the senior class from our home church in California visiting with us for their senior trip. They attended our combined service and sang the song Sometimes We Wait. Our folks were blessed by their song as well as their examples of love and humility.

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Poverty is a very serious problem in much of the 10/40 window. I researched online to try and discover where Cambodia currently ranks in the poverty index. I discovered that economists actually have a formula that they use to determine where each country falls in regard to wealth and poverty. I can assure you that poverty is much more than a formula to those who live all around us here in Cambodia. It is their life. The majority of their waking hours are spent just seeking to make enough money to live and eat for that day. Those who have done the research tell us that approximately 60% of Cambodians live on less than $2.00 a day. (30% on $1.00 or less) Some are under the mistaken notion that the cost of living in many third world countries must be very cheap. I can’t speak for other countries but I can provide you with some practical every day examples of the cost of items here in Cambodia. These prices are approximate. Milk – $8.40 a gallon , Gas – $5.50 a gallon, Ground Beef – $5.25 a pound, Chicken – $2.75 a pound.

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For thousands of the young people in Cambodia the key to survival has been working in the garment factories that scatter the outskirts of Phnom Penh as well as several other provinces. As westerners it is very troubling to see the workers herded into trucks and transported from their shabby apartments to the factories every morning. One can literally see several dozen of these trucks every morning heading to each factory. Each truck holds approximately 90 workers. They work, often under very challenging circumstances, for 10-12 hours a day for about $65 a month. Much of their salary is sent back to their village in order to help support their parents and siblings. It might be a good family field trip for you to sometime take your children to WalMart or the local mall and merely look at the tags on the clothing that is sold there and think about the young people all around the world who labor to make that clothing. It ought to affect the way that we as Americans view the cheap items that we buy.

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Some have no marketable skills or farmland from which to derive an income so they have resorted to gathering trash and recyclable items which they sell for cash. This woman likely supports several children on the small amount of money she can gather each day from the profits on her recycling efforts. Those who recycle will go door to door in the city and collect items from people at their homes. Unfortunately, the majority of homeowners sell these items to the recyclers and so there is not much profit left to be had. We always enjoy giving our recyclable items away for free along with a gospel tract.

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It is always amazing to see how, even the poorest of the poor, will often times have priorities that seem to be out of kilter. Here we see a very basic village shack made of scrap aluminum. Right next to this shack is their satellite dish that provides them with satellite television. The television and the satellite are all run on batteries because this village, to my knowledge, does not yet have electricity.

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Our lives are touched in so many ways as we seek to minister among the poor here in Cambodia. One of the things that touches our hearts is when we see poor children being generous with the small amount of money that they do have. Srey Neang, 14 years old, is an example of a young lady who lives in less than ideal circumstances which I will not elaborate upon. This past week she came to church with a gift that she presented to me. It was the tie that I am wearing in this photo. You should have seen the joy on her face as I wore it this morning to church. She has a job and gets paid $.31 an hour. I have no idea how many hours she had to work just to earn the money to purchase this silk tie.

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Taiwan and his wife are another example of two new followers of Christ who are learning to honor God with their lives. I have begun teaching a series on Wednesday evenings on the topic of Biblical Stewardship. This past week SokKang shared a testimony with me regarding how God is working in their hearts to be faithful to Him with their possessions. Taiwan works full-time as a chef. SokKang is a stay-at- home mother. Recently Taiwan made a mistake at his job that caused an entire chicken to spoil. All the other employees encouraged him to hide the mistake from the boss. They assured him that they would help cover for him. His immediate response was, “No, I must tell the boss what I did.” They assured him that if he told the boss then his pay would be docked for the value of the chicken. Taiwan responded to them by saying, “I could deceive the boss, but I’m a Christian and I know that I could never deceive God. I will tell the boss and let him take it from my pay.” He did tell his boss and his boss did say that he would have to pay for the chicken. As SokKang shared this testimony with me she did it with a smile on her face! She said, “Pastor, I am so thankful that my husband is honest. He is a great example. He has been witnessing to the other employees at work for several months. Now they will see that he is truly God’s child.” The amount that Taiwan was due to pay was equal to about 8-10% of his monthly pay but he was happy to do it because he knew he was doing the right thing. The good news is this – When he got paid at the end of the week the boss had a change of heart and decided to not penalize him. He thanked him for being an honest employee!

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Please pray for the ministry in Taiwan’s village. For quite awhile now our workers have been teaching 300-400 children each week in Ta Skov. The video that I have attached to this update shows some of the children walking to the Bible study. We have had resistance off and on for a couple of months now from a “church” that is in the village who has been running just a small handful of people. They became very angry at us for going into the village and teaching the children about God. A couple of weeks ago they began offering free English classes to try to draw the children away from us. (This is a common tactic here in Asia that is used by “churches” that want to draw a crowd. That is the point – they draw a crowd. A crowd and a congregation are not the same thing…I digress…) They managed to entice about 100 of the children away from our Children’s Ministry. However, we are very encouraged by the many children who are more interested in hearing God’s Word taught than they are in receiving free English classes. It appears that we may be losing the location where we have been meeting for over a year now. Please help us pray that God will grant wisdom and direction as we seek to locate a place large enough to accommodate that many children.

Here is the link to a 12 minute video update that we did after this morning’s service here in Phnom Penh. https://vimeo.com/63499776

Thank you for your continued prayers and interest in the ministry here in Cambodia. If we can help you in any way please feel free to contact us.

Because of God’s grace,

Dave, Debbie, Joshua, Jeremy, and Jason

March 17, 2013

March 17, 2013

Dear friends,

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This morning we had a wonderful service here in Phnom Penh. Bro. Keo preached a message on the subject of Integrity. Two of the ladies singing groups sang special numbers. Although it was hot in the auditorium, the spirit was good.

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Friday morning Kanha and Man were married at the church. This is our church’s first wedding and it went well ! We are all so challenged by this young couple’s testimony for the Lord. They made the decision to wait until Monday to go on their honeymoon because they did not want to miss their ministry responsibilities this weekend. Please pray that this godly couple will be blessed in their marriage and used to win many more souls to the Lord.

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Brother and Mrs. Chan Sin are visiting us this week. Brother Sin is the pastor who oversees the Cambodian ministry at our home church in California. It was a blessing to be able to have him with us for our Saturday soul-winning in Prak Pnou village. They were also able to join us for the services at the church today. We were privileged to have Brother Sin preach for our evening service. At 77 years of age, Brother Sin is likely one of the oldest living Cambodian pastors in the world. He is almost certainly the oldest living Baptist pastor of Cambodian decent. Tomorrow morning at 5:00 a few of us will leave for Mrs. Sin’s hometown in Battambang, Cambodia for the purpose of witnessing to her family. She has only one sister who is still alive and she is in her mid-80’s. They have requested prayer that she will receive Christ as her Saviour while they are in Battambang.

It has been a blessing to have 20 folks here visiting from our home church. Several of our guests are here on their senior trip. Monday and Tuesday the young men will accompany some of our folks to Pra Bang village (2 hours from Phnom Penh) for the purpose of preparing land to build a church building. The ladies will help with some fix-up projects around the church in Phnom Penh on Monday and then they will have a shopping day on Tuesday. They are a wonderful group of young people and are a great testimony of the love and solid Christian training they have received in their homes and Christian school. I have included pictures of several of the young people so that their parents can see they are happy and healthy! (except for some minor stomach issues!)

Here is the link to a short video that we shot this morning during Children’s Ministry. https://vimeo.com/61994992

Because of God’s grace,

Dave, Debbie, Joshua, Jeremy, and Jason

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March 10, 2013

March 10, 2013

Dear friends,

We had great services this weekend here in Cambodia. This morning I continued the sermon series dealing with the transformed life. The text verse was Romans 12:9, Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. I focused on the phrase “abhor that which is evil.”  It was a blessing to see the faces of new believers in the congregation who are hungry to know and obey God’s Word.

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Brother Kosal, in the blue shirt on the left, translated the English song, “It Wouldn’t Be Enough” into the Khmer language and some of the young men sang it this morning. It was a good reminder to our church that salvation is not obtained through any good works that we can do but only through faith in Jesus Christ and His shed blood on Calvary.

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The men sang the hymn, “Let Him Have His Way with Thee.” It is often difficult for our Khmer friends to sing the English hymns that have been translated into Khmer because they are unfamiliar with the melodies. Though the Phnom Penh church is still young, we have been able to learn around 40 hymns (not including short choruses or traditional Khmer hymns). This year we are trying to introduce two new songs per month.

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It has been a blessing to have Bro. Sara and Neaty Vong visiting with us. They are missionaries on deputation sent out by our home church in Long Beach, California. Debbie and I have had the privilege to know them both since they were in Jr. High school. Our people here in Cambodia have been praying for them for several months now and have thoroughly enjoyed being able to meet them in person. Tomorrow Bro. Vong and I will meet to discuss the vision for soul-winning, discipleship, and church-planting here in Cambodia. There are over 14,000 villages in Cambodia. The vast majority do not have a church that is faithful to God’s Word. There is much work yet to be done here and we greatly anticipate the Vong family completing deputation and joining in the battle! Please pray for Bro. Sara, Neaty and their children as they travel from church to church.

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This past Friday afternoon about 30 of our faithful ladies had the opportunity to have a ladies fellowship here at the church. Debbie spoke to them from the book of James on the topic of looking into the mirror of God’s Word and being willing to change whatever is wrong.

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They enjoyed a meal together as well. It was a great opportunity for some of the newer Christian ladies to see how Christians have fun and fellowship together.

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All three of these young mothers have been saved here at the church. The truth is, apart from God, they have very little else in their lives that brings a smile to their face. Here you can clearly see that they enjoyed themselves as they competed in the “wedding dress” competition. The goal was for each team to decorate one member of the team and make a wedding dress using toilet tissue. I could hear everyone laughing even though I was clear downstairs in my office working! Thank God that these ladies have a church where they can grow and learn everything that God wants them to learn to be a successful wife and mother for the Lord.

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Last week we had the public engagement of Brother Man and Sister Kanha. About 40 family members and friends participated in the engagement. Lord willing, they will be married this coming Friday here at the church. They have been a very strong testimony to their respective families and I know that God is going to continue to use them in a mighty way. Couples don’t normally have public engagements in the west but here in Asia it is the culturally appropriate thing to do. It is basically a time when both sides of the family as well as friends come together to formally acknowledge the courtship relationship. During the celebration Man and Kahna both shared their testimony of salvation and their goal to live for the Lord and rear their future children for His glory. A representative from both sides of the family exchanged gifts with each other and gave public consent to the engagement. Pray for Man and Kahna as they are married this Friday. They both are faithful soul-winners and are actively involved in the various ministries of the church. I know that God will continue to bless their lives as they live for Him.

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Please pray for Grandma Sooan. I had the opportunity to lead her to Christ this past Saturday. She lives in Prak Pnou village which is about 30 minutes from our church. We now have several adults and children in this village who have made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ. We ask you to pray that our church leadership will have wisdom regarding the planting of a local church in this village. We currently go to this particular village twice a week but these new believers really need a good church where they can be taught God’s Word and grow in their faith. In addition to Grandma Sooan there were several young people and adults who accepted Christ this past week through our various outreach ministries here in Cambodia.

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Yangon, Myanmar has the world’s third largest Buddhist temple. Joshua and I recently took a tour through it. It is mind-boggling to realize that this temple was built as a place to house 8 of Buddha’s hairs that he supposedly pulled out of his head and gave to two traveling Burmese business men many years ago.

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Joshua and I traveled to Yangon, Myanmar in order to participate in a preaching conference at the Harvesters Baptist Church. Our good friend and mentor, Dr. Ron White, helped organize the conference. It was wonderful to see this independent Baptist church and Bible college that is led by nationals. Many of the nationals who attended the conference traveled for many hours by public transportation in order to be able to be there. I had the opportunity to preach three times while there.

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Brother Jeremiah and Sister Esther are national Burmese missionaries who are planting a church in their home village. Jeremiah graduated from Bible college two years ago and Esther graduated this past year. They have been married for four months and are excited about serving the Lord together. They traveled 20 hours one-way by bus in order to attend the conference. This past week, our village church voted to take this couple on for monthly missionary support. Our Cham believers are excited to partner with this young couple and help get the gospel to a place in the world where they can not physically go. It is a blessing that they recognize their responsibility to participate in the Great Commission by not just reaching their Jerusalem (the village), but also through helping propagate the gospel message to the ends of the earth.

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Last but not least – we are excited because Cambodia finally has a Burger King !! We ate there last week and it was great !! This is the first American burger restaurant in the entire country. It’s a good thing that it is 30 minutes from our home, or we might be tempted to go there often !

This coming week we hope to break ground on the third church plant. This particular church is in Kandal province and is about 2 hours from the Phnom Penh church. Brother Keo and Brother Sinath have been faithfully going to this village now for some time and we are excited about this new church. Several families in this village have been saved and are taking a strong stand for the Lord. Please pray for this project as it will take money and much blood, sweat, and tears to get the building up.

Here is the link to a short video clip that we made today. https://vimeo.com/61448158

Because of God’s grace,

Dave, Debbie, Joshua, Jeremy, and Jason

February 24, 2013

February 24, 2013

Dear friends,

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We had a great weekend here in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Thank you for praying for the various ministries. This morning our English choir sang the song, “It’s Through the Blood.” This song emphasizes the importance of the blood of Christ. We are thankful for the hard work and the time that this group invests to help provide good godly music for our services on a regular basis.

Today I continued preaching on a series dealing with the transformed life. Today’s text verse was Romans 12:9a, “Let love be without dissimulation…” (Dissimulation means hypocrisy). I devoted much time this morning and evening dealing with the truth that, as parents, our love for our children is to be unconditional. Love is unconditional but fellowship has conditions. This evening I devoted the entire message to stress the importance of not allowing an adult child who is a rebel remain in the home. This area of family life tends to be a strong-hold in many homes here in this part of the world. I have observed over and over, throughout the 28 years that I have been working among the Cambodian people, how the oldest child rebels and is allowed to remain in the home. Almost without fail he/she influences his siblings in the wrong way. Invariably we have seen each child, one by one, follow in the oldest child’s footsteps. So the purpose of today’s messages was to try and help prevent that from happening to the families of our church. We have so many young families who need to be taught truths that are so basic to us who have grown up in the church. Yet to them these truths are sometimes difficult to accept. I’m so thankful to have the privilege to help lead a church that, for the most part, is full of people who not only desire to know what God says, but desire to obey Him as well!

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Our people are continuing on in the challenge to memorize the entire book of 2 Peter. Each week we all strive to quote at least three verses. It is such an encouragement to see how many people have readily taken on this challenge. It is helping to build team spirit as well.

2.24.13 Socheat

This morning Vong Socheat, 72 years old, quoted the entire first chapter of 2 Peter all at once. She puts those of us who are younger to shame. As she grows in the Lord we really believe that God desires for her to use her influence to see many people come to know the Lord here in Cambodia. Sister Socheat has a high ranking government job in the Ministry of Education. Pray that she continues to grow in her faithfulness to the Lord and her involvement in the various ministries of the church.

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Koeuth and Pich are sisters who live in a Catholic orphanage not far from our church. They were so excited to be at church this morning. Pich shared with me that she is a Christian but has not been to church for a long time. She shared how she was so blessed just by being with the other believers this morning and taking part in the service. She has asked for prayer that she and Koeuth will be allowed to continue to come to our church. As a Christian she is very disturbed to see the other young people in the orphanage praying to Mary (as well as still performing Buddhist rituals). She says that she knows that is not right and we are only to worship the true God. Please pray that her authorities in the orphanage will allow these two young ladies to get close to our church ladies. I believe they have so much potential for the Lord!

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Last week we had the opportunity to spend a couple of hours with some of the couples in the church. We rented a large boat and took a two hour tour on the Mekong River. It was a blessing to have 14 of our faithful couples participate in this activity. There were others who desired to join in but were unable to because of schedule conflicts. Pray for the marriages in our church to be strong for the Lord. During the message tonight I made a statement that I have heard many times said from the pulpit in the United States – “We have weak communities because we have weak churches. We have weak churches because we have weak families. We have weak families because the husbands are not strong. The husbands, many times, are not strong because they have never been taught how to properly lead in their home.” We are planning, on purpose, to focus on discipling the men this year.

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It is such a blessing to see how Sinath and Sopheap are growing in the Lord. Their joy is very evident on their faces. They have recently undergone some persecution by their unsaved family members but they remain committed to follow the Lord in every area of their lives. Sinath is faced with making a very important decision this week that has the potential to greatly affect him financially. In order to maintain his testimony in the village it is very likely that he will decide to yield his rights to some land. This decision is not one that he is taking lightly but he feels that he may need to do this in order to be the testimony that he feels the Lord wants him to be. Sopheap is supporting him in this decision. Please pray that Sinath and Sopheap will have wisdom to make the proper decision. Lord willing, we will be building a church building in his village in a few weeks.

2.24.13 Sovann

I’m encouraged by the spiritual growth that is evident in Brother Sovann and some of his family. Sovann came to know the Lord through another group about 10 years ago. While we don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye with that particular church on many issues of the Christian life, it is obvious that Sovann developed a teachable spirit and a true heart to serve the Lord. Sovann and several of his family members have been attending the church and Bible Institute for about 7 months now. Sovann’s work schedule demands much of his time but he has made the decision to get involved in the outreach of our church as much as he can. Two weeks ago he began going soul-winning on Saturdays with our church. It has been a blessing to have him as my partner both of these weeks. Pray that Sovann and his wife will continue to remain teachable. I believe that God can truly use this family for His glory among the Cambodian people.

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You may recall that we are focusing on a village not far from here named Prak Pnou. Each Tuesday and Saturday we go there to teach as well as evangelize. There have been several adults and young people accept Christ as their personal Saviour. This past Tuesday PhanNy accepted the Lord as her Saviour. She has been attending the Bible study group for nearly a year now but just recently admitted that she was not yet saved. We are thankful for her courage to approach one of the workers this past Tuesday and express her desire to be saved. Pray that she will be faithful to the Lord. She has a burden to see others come to know the Lord as well.

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I’m so excited to let you know that Somvouth accepted Christ this past Saturday! When I went to go teach him at his home I could tell right away that there was something different about his attitude. Myself, Sinath, and Sovann have been going to his home for several weeks now and sharing the gospel with him. Thank you for praying for his salvation. Pray that his wife, Nyoum, will also see her need to accept Christ for herself. Saturday morning when I asked her if she was ready to turn to God from idols, her reply was, “I will follow my husband. Whatever he decides to believe I will believe.” It is evident that she does not yet understand that forgiveness of sins is something that she must personally accept. Pray for Somvouth to be faithful to the Lord. Somvouth is a self employed tailor and works on a very busy street that is in full public view. Every time I am at his house we draw quite a bit of attention to say the least. His neighbors are curious as to why there is a white man (me) at his house. It will be impossible for him to be an “undercover Christian.”

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Tomorrow afternoon Man and Kanha will become engaged to be married. We will hold a special meeting here at the church and certain people will be invited to come and witness the engagement. Engagements are normally quite a big deal in this culture. It is a time when both sides of the family come together along with friends and acknowledge the relationship. I led Man to Christ about 8 years ago. Kanha was led to Christ by a single young lady from our home church in Long Beach who served for a short time with us here in Cambodia. Both Man and Kanha have paid a heavy price for their faithfulness to the Lord over the past year. Man’s father, a village chief, has totally abandoned the family because of their faith in Jesus Christ. True to Muslim tradition, this past year he also divorced Man’s mother because she would not renounce her faith in Christ and return to Islam. Kanha’s entire family has made it very clear that they are very unhappy with her decision to follow Christ and turn away from Buddhism. Because of Kanha’s unwavering commitment to honor the Lord with her life, her family has, within the past two weeks, disowned her. The “straw that broke the camels back” was when she refused to follow her parent’s command to have a Buddhist Priest and alcohol at the wedding. Because of her decision to follow her convictions her family has totally cut her off. Though this young couple is experiencing much heartache because of the rejection of their family, they remain joyful in the Lord. Both of them are fantastic soul-winners. They both teach children and young people here at the church and I know that, as they remain faithful, God will continue to use them for His glory. Please pray that Man’s father and Kanha’s entire family will have a change of heart and agree to participate in the wedding that is scheduled for the middle of March. (Man’s entire family, other than his father, are now saved and faithful to the Lord.)

Because of God’s grace,

Dave, Debbie, Joshua, Jeremy, and Jason

February 10, 2013

February 10, 2013

Dear friends,

2.12.13 King

This past week Cambodia mourned the death of the former king, King Sihanouk. The funeral festivities went on for several days. During that time the government ordered there to be no weddings, no parties, no happy music, and no public display of joy whatsoever. It is said that perhaps a million or so Cambodians traveled from the provinces to take part in the funeral as he was revered by many to be a “deity.” His proper title was actually “God-King.” Unfortunately this funeral led to the compromise of at least one of the people who is a part of our church as she yielded to pressure from family and business associates to attend a part of the ceremony that no Christian should attend. We took a short portion of the service last Sunday morning to pray for those who are grieving the loss of their beloved king. We prayed that it would provide more of an opportunity to present the Gospel to those who are still lost. We also thanked God that King Jesus conquered death and the grave and we will never have to attend His funeral ! 1 Timothy 6:15 Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords.

Just after the funeral was over Chinese New Year celebrations began. The entire capital shuts down for three days. Even universities close their doors. It is good, in one way, for our church people because it provides a reprieve from the daily routine. However, the vast majority of festivities that take place during the Chinese New Year weekend are not events in which Christians ought to participate.

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The New Year is built around superstition, sacrifice to the ancestors and demons, drinking, and other forms of debauchery. It begins with a frantic fight to be the one to light incense at just the right moment in the Temple. The burning incense is then taken home and burnt on the family alter. The superstition is so strong that they  believe the “good luck” will determine their entire year’s events. If something goes wrong during the ceremonies they believe that they will be destined to an unprofitable year in their family and business.

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Ancestral worship is a spiritual strong-hold in the Cambodian community but it is particularly strong for those who are of Chinese heritage. Several of the adults in our church have been saved over the past two years out of this spiritual bondage. They felt the pressure from unsaved relatives to take part in the rituals. We praise the Lord that the vast majority of them have totally turned their back on ancestral sacrifices and they are taking a strong stand for the Lord. The pictures above are just a small sample of the items that are burned or “sacrificed” on behalf of the ancestors. You will notice that they sacrifice items that they hope can be used by their loved ones who are “trapped” in Hell. Items such as fake gold bars, clothing, fake cardboard Lexus cars and fake money are sacrificed. You will notice that the money is very clearly marked as a “Hell Bank Note.” The individual depicted on the front of the money is considered to be the King of Hell. This year I even saw a bag of potato chips sacrificed to the ancestors. You will notice the passport that is purchased by the living relatives, hoping that their effort will help their loved ones be able to leave Hell and enter Paradise. No doubt everything that is done on behalf of the ancestors is done out of love and desperation. How sad it is to see their hope placed in  something that is useless. Continue to pray that the Truth will go forth in this land and we will continue to see eyes and hearts opened to the Gospel. It is a spiritual battle that is waging. 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

It would be good to ask ourselves this question: Am I trying to keep my loved ones out of Hell as hard as the Chinese are trying to get their loved ones out of Hell ? I recently heard a pastor ask his church this question: Has the Gospel stopped with you or is it being passed on by you ?

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One area that we are striving to grow in is the area of Christian hospitality. I will admit that our family is a bit weak in this area. We are making it a point to use our home this year to, on a regular basis, show hospitality to the members of the church. This past week we were privileged to have four families into our home for a meal and some games. We all had a wonderful time. The adult men enjoyed learning how to play dominoes while their children tried to conquer the game Perfection. Lord willing we will have four more families over in a couple of weeks. It is our desire to, not just provide Christian fellowship for these new believers, but to model for them how Christian families are to enjoy wholesome and godly entertainment.

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This past week we took the two hour trip to Prey Bang village located in Kandal Province. This is the home village of Brother Sinath. The Lord allowed me to lead Sinath to salvation just over two years ago. Our workers have been going to this village for several months now and there are three families, in addition to Sinath’s family, who have accepted Christ. Additionally there is a good group of children attending the children’s ministry there in the village. The specific purpose of the trip was to scope out some land where we can build a simple church building. We are hoping to break ground in March. All the men from the Phnom Penh church as well as the church in Kompong Chhnang will join together to put up the building.

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This evening Brother Sinath shared with the church an update on the progress in this particular village. He shared the names of several more adults who, we believe, are close to accepting Christ. No doubt the enemy wants to fight this new village church and we need your prayers to ensure that the work continues to go forward and is not frustrated by local officials or neighbors who are not friendly to our intentions.

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Our return trip from Prey Bang was quite eventful as our Tuk Tuk died about 5 minutes outside of the village. (2 hours from home) We are thankful that God provided a truck that could transport the Tuk Tuk back to the city where we could get it repaired. You’ve never really experienced travel until you ride in a Tuk Tuk that is sitting atop a truck as it bounces down the bumpy roads of rural Cambodia. I guarantee you that my Chiropractor who just helped me avoid surgery this past August would not have approved of the ride whatsoever ! I spent the next two days being in constant remembrance as to the lack of wisdom on my part in riding in the Tuk Tuk while it was on the truck. Praise the Lord for ice packs and Ibuprofen !

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Brother Vanna is from Prey Bang Village and was recently led to the Lord by Brother Keo and Brother Sinath. This evening we invited him to share a public testimony during the service about change that God has done in his life since salvation. He shared how that prior to being saved he was a proud and arrogant drunk who was living a hopeless existence. Since being saved his life has been radically changed by God’s power. I know, for a fact, that he is fasting and praying for unsaved family members. Praise the Lord for the power of the Gospel ! Please pray that Vanna and his wife will continue to grow in the Lord and be a shining light in this very dark village.

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Several of the Cham believers sang a special number in this morning’s service. They sang the hymn “Am I a Soldier of the Cross ?” We were all challenged and touched listening to them sing every verse of this hymn. I believe that perhaps more than any other people group in this country, the Cham believers have endured the most persecution because of their total abandonment of Islam and their acceptance of Jesus Christ. Two of the verses of this song ought to especially speak to our hearts as American believers: (verse 2) Must I be carried to the skies, On flowery beds of ease, While others fought to win the prize, And sailed through bloody seas? (verse 4) Sure I must fight if I would reign; Increase my courage, Lord. I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain, Supported by Thy Word. Sitting in the congregation listening to them sing was Sister Soam who recently accepted Christ. Since being saved she has done her very best to be faithful to the Lord and has paid , and is paying, the price for her dedication. Soam spent her entire life in the darkness of Islam while knowing the whole time that she was following a lie. She gives testimony that for the past ten years she has been praying to the true God – Not knowing who He was but believing that He could hear her prayers. When Cham soul-winners shared the Gospel with her two months ago she readily accepted Christ. Please pray for Soam to remain strong in the Lord and in the power of His might !

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Grandma is the matriarch of the Cham village. It was a blessing to have her in the services today. She traveled all the way from the village to be able to join with the believers in the Phnom Penh church. I remember witnessing to her on multiple ocassions eight years ago and telling her that she would one day accept Jesus. I clearly recall her openly mocking me as I taught in the village. It is a blessing to all of us to see that her heart is now fully given over to the Lord.

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This morning during the 11:00 Children’s Ministry service I had the privilege of hearing Brother Kosal preach to the young people ages 12-18. Kosal has grown so much spiritually over the past year. He has submitted himself to spiritual accountability and we have seen him make great strides in several areas. Kosal is an English teacher in a local University but spends every free moment that he has serving the Lord. He has a true passion to see his Cham people come to know the Lord. This morning he preached a message about the importance of the young people having a strong testimony at home in front of their parents. It was a powerful truth that he presented that was backed up by his life. Kosal has had spiritual ups and downs, as we all have, but I believe that he has turned a “spiritual corner” and that God is able to use him.

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Not long ago Kosal was out soul-winning and led Retsmey to the Lord. Retsmey is a 19 years old Khmer young man who has chosen to put Christ first place in his life. His new found faith has so disturbed his Buddhist parents that they sent him to go live in a city three hours from here in an attempt to get him away from “the crazy Baptist church people.” What they did not know is that, though they sent Retsmey away, they could not ban the influence of the Holy Spirit in his life. Retsmey remained resolved to walk with the Lord. We were all very surprised and blessed to see him walk into the service this Sunday. His parents changed their mind and decided that they might as well allow him to return to Phnom Penh and do whatever he wants to do since they can’t “control” him anyway. Pray that Retsmey will remain close to the Lord. Yesterday he joined one of our neighborhood “Bus Routes” that is led by Brother Has. This will allow him regular accountability as well as provide him one-on-one mentoring.

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This picture has no real purpose other than the fact that I thought it was cute ! These young girls are led in this music group by Miss Samantha Thaing (on the far left). They sang the song, “Trust and Obey” as a special during the service this morning. The young lady in the middle is Tina. (Many of you heard me tell of how she prayed ten times one night for her parent’s plane not to crash as they returned from Malaysia because they were not yet saved and she didn’t want them to go to Hell… she is the young lady who refused to purchase alcohol for her father’s party. As you know, God blessed her faithfulness and answered her prayers. Both of her parents are now faithful believers and play very vital roles in the outreach ministries of our church.)

Please pray for the following items: 1) Salvation of Mr. Perun, 2) Wisdom as we are putting together a business plan that we trust will generate a regular monthly income for two of our families in the church who desire to be free from their careers so that they might serve the Lord more. 3) Wisdom and direction concerning the purchase of land that will be used by believers in our ministries as a Christian cemetery. This is a big need here in Cambodia.

Here is the link to a short video that we shot just after the evening service tonight. https://vimeo.com/59368318

Because of God’s grace,

Dave, Debbie, Joshua, Jeremy, and Jason