Imagine driving through Manhattan at 200 MPH and being asked to report on what you saw. That’s how our last month has felt, but I’ll do my best to share some of the pics we got, even if they are a bit blurry.
May Pastors School
First, the Ratanakiri Pastors School (May 13-18) was the most exciting week of my Cambodian life. God answered all of your and our prayers for me, my fellow teachers, and our students. My greatest desire was that our men would grow in both their commitment and ability to read Scripture, and we’re confident this happened. My teammates, JD, Brian, and Josh, as well as several other missionaries and local pastors, made major contributions. JD’s role was particularly important. I’ve never known a teacher more capable of making big truths accessible to people with little or no theological training; JD took my material and made it fit our guys perfectly. I thank God often for the opportunity to be mentored by a teacher with this kind of gift.
Our session began in Genesis, with God’s glorious plan to administer his good creation through the lordship of man. We ended in Judges, with Israel a second Sodom facing annihilation both from within and without. In the next session (November), we’ll see how David and his offspring both succeed and fail in resolving this horrible situation. You can start praying for that session now.
Lao church planting initiative
Immediately after Bible school, a team of gospel workers—both SE Asian and American—met for three days in our home to pray and strategize about reaching the Lao population of Stung Treng province. I could easily fill this and several more updates with life stories—from the amazing to the amusing—that I heard that week. But again, these are a few snapshots taken at 200 MPH:
- Many of these brothers and sisters were refugees during the Khmer Rouge era, spending time in the camps in Thailand before being relocated to the US.
- Joe (Khmer) and Kay (Lao) met in the 1970’s as refugees in Oregon. A widower and father of five young children, Joe proposed to Kay via English (second language for both) the day after they met, and Kay became a mother of five overnight. Kay would later learn Khmer at age 65(!) when she and Joe returned to serve full-time in Cambodia. As the only one in our meeting who knew both Khmer and Lao, Kay was a most important player. Oh for half the energy of this 75-year old lady!
- Aachaan (from a neighboring SE Asian country) taught himself to read by studying the Bible. After his conversion, he and twenty-one other Christians spent two years in prison for their faith.
- Bounoeuy is a long-time partner with us in the Pastors School. The day before our meeting, he had used his slingshot to kill a King Cobra that was poised to strike. I realized this week that such stories are the tip of Bounoeuy’s iceberg, actually.
But the best part of these stories was hearing one testimony after another that went something like this: “I began praying for the Lao population of Stung Treng X years ago, when no one else was doing anything about it.” And that’s one thing that our comparatively monotonous life story has in common with these giants. When JD visited us in our home in Wisconsin in 2008, he told us that somebody needed to target the Lao of northeast Cambodia. We began praying and asking you to pray—10 years ago. And we also thought we were the only ones doing so! But God has been stirring up pray-ers from all over and largely unbeknownst to one another. Does this not give you hope that God is indeed intent on answering these prayers? Press on, brothers and sisters. We are confident that your and our labors of prayer are not in vain.
So where do we go from here? For now, we keep praying. Specifically, we need laborers who can preach the gospel in Lao. The five Lao speakers in our meeting hope to return to Stung Treng every two to three months for a few days to continue making contact with a village near the border. But their work obligations at home prevent them from more frequent visits. Living here in Stung Treng gives me much easier access to the Lao population here, but I don’t yet speak (much) Lao. So as I pray, I must keep studying …
Immediately after our meetings, I crossed the border to spend a week studying language. Thank you for praying for this. I accomplished both of my goals: (1) I quickly regained the reading/writing that I had lost from two years ago and (2) confirmed that my understanding of Lao tones is correct. Please continue praying for my language study. This week I’ll begin looking again for a Lao speaker who can meet with me daily.
Visit from Mom and Dad
Finally, and speaking of giants, this unusually busy month ended in the most satisfying way imaginable, with a visit from my youthful, globetrotting parents. It’s no overstatement to say that I can trace nearly every blessing of my daily experience to their decades of prayer and godly example. So we were thrilled to share with them another week of our lives and the many good things God is doing here.
Thank you, brothers and sisters, for your labors with us. Because Christ lives, they are not in vain.