The two primary reasons we chose our house in Stung Treng were its size (just right for our little family) and location (right in the middle of a “village” of neighbors). One reason we didn’t choose the house was its newness or its beautiful landscape. We knew it would take some work to make it live well, and we were okay with that. So over the past six months, we’ve been chipping away at various projects, big and small. One of the biggest has been making our small yard a safe and somewhat pleasant place for humans. Thankfully, I love yard work, but this was yard work I’d never experienced: working with a piece of land that evidently had been a dumping ground for all kinds of trash—from broken glass, metal, and plastic, to layer upon layer of rock (both natural and added gravel). Again, I really do like this kind of work most of the time, but after a full Saturday at it, I’ve sometimes told Bonnie Ruth that 8 hours of yard work here feels like 16 hours of the same in the US but actually accomplishes only as much as 2 hours! Both my joy and frustration in the work has often reminded me of gospel ministry, particularly in a pioneer setting. To make the land green with grass, trees, and flowers is a sweet pleasure to me; but how I long to do so on truly virgin land—uncultivated land, still untouched by years of human abuse! Is this not the dream of every gospel minister, regardless of location? But is there such a thing as “virgin” territory? Whether it be with the deep-seated assumptions of an animistic/Buddhist culture and worldview as we meet here, or with the increasingly prevalent secularism of the West (or worse than both, the “prosperity” gospel!), the Enemy has been faithfully “sowing” the ground with toxins that prevent life from taking root. Sometimes my personal evangelism consists as much of explaining what the good news isn’t as it does explaining what it is! What we need is patience and endurance to continue proclaiming faithfully.
Despite the great need for such ground clearing, it is always a joy to share the gospel with people I meet while out and about. My focus now is primarily Lao language study, so these opportunities are mostly random, but over the past month they’ve occurred in increasing numbers. Please pray for additional opportunities and for conversions.
I continue to meet every afternoon with my Lao language tutor, Napi. Napi is 26 years old, very helpful (both with Khmer and Lao) and is a joy to be with each day. He does not know the true God. Please pray for our meetings, that they would be profitable both for my language proficiency and for his soul.
Physically, we are all well. Since I last wrote, the weather has cooled down a bit. The days are still warm, but with the increased rain the nights are often quite bearable, which is all we need to be happy. Please pray for those nights when we don’t get the break that we think we need! Yes, please pray for physical stamina and spiritual joy during exhausting days of work.
The unexpected highlight of my month was a visit from my brother Jonathan. He was able to steal away from his work in Indonesia to meet me in Phnom Penh for two days. As always, the time was rich, both in conversation and food. Praise God for this unexpected refreshment.
The home front
The school year is off to a solid start (we’re in week 2), and enrollment is up this year: 6 students in 4 grades, with 2.5 teachers (our dear friend Brooke Illsley, Bonnie Ruth, and me), 1 classroom, and 1 toddler to roam to and fro while the big ‘uns are busy studying. The good news, though, is that come October, Henry will have a little brother to roam with him! Bonnie Ruth’s due date is late October, and we constantly thank God for an amazingly smooth pregnancy (considering a record-breaking hot season from March-May). Please pray for continued health and strength, both for Bonnie Ruth and our littlest boy.
Thank you, brothers and sisters, for laboring together with us here.