Here’s a big-picture view of our next month—things we’re praying for and anticipating.
Making God big and the Bible “small”
For the past year, I’ve been devoting nearly all of my time to preparing the curriculum for this year’s two sessions of the Ratanakiri Pastors School. The dry-season session is next week, May 13-18. I’ll be joining my teammates and about 70 church leaders in Ratanakiri province to work through Genesis – Judges together. Our goal is that these courses would make the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, less formidable and more accessible for our students. One of my long-standing requests to God is that he would raise up a generation of Bible readers–Christians who spend their free time just reading the Bible! But this won’t happen as long as such large sections of Scripture continue to intimidate and bewilder them. Please pray for our students, most of whom do indeed have a high commitment to Scripture, that God would reward that commitment by revealing himself to them more deeply, beginning next week. Pray for their churches and families also, that they too would benefit from pastors and fathers who are saturated with God’s words. Pray for me and my teammates as we teach next week. The days grow long and hot this time of year, so we need physical, spiritual, and mental stamina. Finally, please pray also for Bonnie Ruth and the kids as they hold the fort while I’m away.
The unreached Lao of Stung Treng
The week after Bible school (May 22-24), several Cambodian and Laotian pastors will be traveling to Stung Treng for several days of prayer and strategizing about how to reach the 50,000+ unreached Laotians who live here. When we arrived in Stung Treng two years ago, we were unaware of any efforts to target the Lao-speaking population here. This meeting next week is just one of multiple new Loatian-targeting initiatives that have popped up in the past two years. This gives us hope that God is indeed hearing our prayers and is indeed working to gather the Lao, even when we are occupied with other tasks. Praise God for this encouragement and that he doesn’t depend on us! Please also pray that this meeting would be profitable for all of us.
Language again! (Lao)
The week after that, I’ll be heading across the border for a week of focused language study, in an effort to jump-start the little bit of Lao that I had picked up in our first months in Stung Treng. Please pray for a quick re-acquisition of all I’ve forgotten and for much progress beyond that also. Again, remember Bonnie Ruth and the kids.
Finally, the week after that, my globe-trotting parents will be making their second Southeast Asian tour in as many years. We can hardly believe they’re getting to come again, and the halls are already bedecked with paper chains counting down the days.
Have I shown you my new pocket knife?!
Those of you who have followed us since we arrived in Cambodia almost 7 years ago will know that of the various adjustments and difficulties we’ve experienced as strangers in a strange land, nothing has compared to the difficulty of acquiring the Khmer language; for me in particular, the language has been the source of much frustration and, at times, even despair. All the growth spurts everyone else talks about—never happened. And so for these many years now, you’ve read our updates, no doubt eager to hear and pray about new opportunities for gospel ministry … but instead, it’s Jeremy again, complaining about how hard the language is. But these past six months, the Lord has finally been answering your and our prayers in uncommonly encouraging ways. Various tasks that not too long ago were either impossible or demanded inordinate amounts of time and effort, are now reasonable opportunities for building relationships and ministering the gospel.
I feel like a little boy who just got his first pocket knife. It’s in his pocket right now, but he’s ever aware of it as he roams about, just waiting for an opportunity to whip it out and put it to good use. Just look at all the stuff I can do now! For the first time as a missionary, I’m having to choose what ministry opportunities to pursue and what to pass by—because I can do so many things with my knew knife! What a blessed dilemma. Thank you, brothers and sisters, for persevering with me in this. And please thank the Lord for this new competency with the language.
So, by God’s continuing grace, I’m hopeful that these updates going forward will not have that much to say about language learning (at least Khmer language learning; stay tuned till next month when we get to do it all over again with Lao!).
What I can’t promise is that these updates will have nothing more to say about the weather. While a fair number of you are still shoveling your sidewalks, we’re realizing yet again that the snow is indeed whiter on the other side (of the world). Hot season is upon us, so please pray for physical stamina and the ability to focus mentally as we go about our tasks.
Pastors School next month
Thanks in part to the herculean efforts of my co-workers JD and Rhit, the curriculum for the Pastors School next month is ready: 144 pages surveying the message of Genesis–Judges. Please pray for both the teachers (me and my teammates) and students (about 70 pastors from 5 different language groups) as we work through this material next month (May 13-18). Pray also for favor with the authorities—specifically that their concerns about unrest in the months preceding the July elections would not lead them to prohibit us from meeting.
Please join me, dear friends, in praising the Lord and in asking him for additional help and blessing.
Answers to your prayers …
I just returned from Phnom Penh with ten 1-year visas in hand, as well as an agreement with a sister organization that is helping us obtain these for the next few years. Praise the Lord for this answer to your prayers.
Several months ago, you also began praying for additional teaching opportunities for me here in Stung Treng. For about a month now, I’ve been meeting weekly with two small groups to teach an introductory overview of the Bible. The first group is an elderly lady and her daughter, the only Christians in their village (about 20 minutes from our town). We meet every Tuesday evening. The second group is four young adults, three of whom are new believers and one an interested non-Christian. Praise the Lord for these opportunities and pray for fruit in the lives of these dear people.
And please keep praying
I continue to spend most of my work hours preparing the curriculum for this year’s Pastors School sessions in Ratanakiri. Please pray for me, that I would understand the text of Scripture and be able to communicate its message to my students. My teammate JD who is working with me in this project expressed our goal like this: “to make God big, and the Bible small.” While that first part is transparent enough, perhaps you’re not so sure about making the Bible small. What we mean is that due to its size, age, and cultural distance from us, the Bible can be an overwhelming and intimidating book, particularly the Old Testament. And if we in the highly literate, highly educated West feel this way, how much more our brothers and sisters with limited literacy and formal education. Our prayer is that this material would be a tool by which our students can increasingly access the whole Bible and thereby know the God who reveals himself there.
I am thoroughly enjoying the work of preparing this material … when I can get to it. In recent months, I’ve spent inordinate amounts of time dealing with other necessities such as passports/visas/driver licenses/etc. This, combined with unexpected visits, constant noise, and an earlier-than-last-year hot season, make progress painfully slow. Pray that I will make the best use of the time I have and that I will receive every “interruption” joyfully as from God’s hand.
Pray for peace in Cambodia. As this summer’s national election approaches, the ruling party continues to muscle its way forward by any means necessary. Additionally, US-Cambodian relations are strained at present. Pray for both the population generally, and for us as foreigners residing here, particularly American foreigners. We believe there is yet much work to do before the Cambodian church as a whole can thrive without the assistance of missionaries.
A few anecdotes to inform, amuse, and burden …
The whole neighborhood turned out earlier this month to watch the Super Blue Blood Moon. The neighbors refer to an eclipse as “Rahu [a legendary monster] catches/swallows the moon.” Traditionally, when the eclipse begins, Cambodians bang on their fruit trees and shout, “Help the moon! Help the moon!” The subsequent harvest depends on whether Rahu swallows the moon completely, spits it back out, or perhaps expels the moon sideways! One neighbor said that a pregnant woman must not look at the eclipse or her child will have defects. Another neighbor assured me that these are mere superstitions that Cambodians perpetuate in good fun.
A few months ago, Judson and Salem were the junior attendants (Khmer “angel children”) in our neighbor’s wedding. Then last month, Judson and Eden participated in the wedding of our friends, Pi-set and Srey Non, both committed Christians. I had several opportunities to talk with Pi-set and his mother about differences and similarities between his wedding (as a Christian) and a traditional Buddhist wedding in Cambodia (like our neighbor’s). For the uninitiated westerner, both weddings would appear equally strange. But there were important differences. Most fundamentally, Pi-set and Srey Non had no priests chanting blessings, nor did they make any offerings to ancestors and other spirits, both a staple at any Khmer wedding. While I would consider this the most important difference, it is certainly not what caught the attention of nearly any Cambodian attending the wedding, including the bride and groom. From the guests’ perspective, a wedding in Cambodia is first and foremost an opportunity to get drunk. It’s no secret that Cambodians love cheap beer and lots of it. A “Khme-nglish” proverb here says, “Why to drink if not to drunk?!” In other words, the typical Cambodian simply does not have a category for “social drinking.” So when a Christian decides that his wedding will not include idolatrous offerings or the blessings of pagan priests, no one seems to care. I asked Pi-set and his mom about this multiple times—their many non-Christian relatives didn’t mind at all. But to have a wedding with no beer? That was indeed scandalous and a cause for real persecution toward Pi-set and his mother.
While I’m thinking about alcohol in Cambodia … This recent article describes the sad lives of waitresses in Cambodia’s thousands of Karaoke clubs. One of the girls interviewed in this piece (named Thyda) first describes the rampant sexual abuse the waitresses endure. Then she says,
I had to drink every day to keep my clients happy, because my duty was to make my clients happy, even though on some days I was sick. I still had to smile and drink …. I was always drunk and I sometimes woke up still drunk, then I’d go to work and have to continue drinking….
Thyda reports having to drink 6-12 cans of beer per day—just to keep her customers happy.
The sexual abuse is indeed tragic and horrifying. But it’s not surprising. Nor is it surprising that customers drink to get drunk. But what I’m still trying to comprehend is the urgency that you join me in my drunkenness; otherwise, I won’t be happy, and it’s your fault! And you must join me in my drunkenness—a beer or two for you is not enough! After 6.5 years in Cambodia and attending many different celebrations (from weddings, to birthday parties, to holiday events), I assure you that I’m not misrepresenting the common mindset. When we drink we must get drunk, and when we get drunk, you must join us—only then are we all happy! Perhaps this impulse stems in part from the strong sense of community for which Asian cultures are well known. Regardless, it does make me appreciative toward the total abstinence of most Cambodian Christians that I know.
Thank you for praying for the Ratanakiri Pastors School. The Lord did all that we asked of him and more. Our time together happened to coincide with the 500th anniversary of Luther’s posting his Theses, so JD took the opportunity to teach a series of brief Church History lessons on the Reformation and the history of Bible translation. Other than a very basic skeleton of Cambodian history, most of our students have never studied the past (theirs or anyone else’s), so this was both new ground and a highlight for us all. I’m already looking forward to several years from now when Church History comes up in the curriculum—these men will eat it up. Since many of our students are assisting with the various Bible translation projects in Ratanakiri, the history of Bible translation seemed to be particularly enlightening and motivating. To see pics of our week together, click here and here.
Immediately after the Bible school, I made a “quick” trip to Phnom Penh for a meeting where I received some very encouraging news about our visa situation. As I understand it, we will be able to continue receiving our visas as before. While you and we have been praying, actually long before that, the Lord was at work via the faithfulness of a fellow missionary in Phnom Penh, who for 20+ years has been building a relationship with a key official in the Ministry of Cults and Religions. Though not a Christian, this official understands the nature and purpose of our work and is committed to helping us secure the visas that we need for continued ministry here. Praise God for both of these his servants, and thank you for your prayers for this matter.
Now that I’m home from the Pastors School and the Phnom Penh meeting, my attention turns full-time to preparing the curriculum for the Spring session of the Pastors School. Please pray for us—we’ve begun the project already, enough for me to feel somewhat overwhelmed—so please pray for …
- Insight: both into the text of Scripture and the audience that we’re writing for
- Focus: freedom from the multitude of distractions that surrounds us
- Stamina: both physical and mental
- Joy: that the glorious truths we’re working with would indeed ignite our hearts with love for God and his people
This Sunday-Friday, Oct. 29-Nov. 3, I’ll be joining several other missionaries to teach a group of about seventy pastors, future pastors and women teachers in Ratanakiri province. Our theme for the week will be “Theology for Worship (part 2).” Please pray for us:
- For teachers: clarity of expression and appropriate applications to the lives and ministries of our students
- For students: mental focus during the long hours of lecture and discussion; spiritual receptiveness to the glory of what we are studying–may this study indeed result in praise
- For all: good health, physical stamina, and joy from the Spirit
- For Bonnie Ruth, the kids, and Brooke as they hold the ship without me for the week
Faith and vocation
We recently requested your prayer for two crises, one of faith, one of vocation. Your outpouring of encouraging emails and assurances of continued and increasing prayer have been an immense boon. Thank you. One of our partners wrote about the visa crisis that she put a sticky note on her Visa card reminding her to pray for our situation every time she used it! Our response: “Shop ’til you drop: spend and be spent!”
Here’s the latest on both matters. The new restrictions on visas are explicitly designed to target people who draw a salary from within country but who are not paying taxes. Thus it makes sense that we should be exempt; nevertheless, we’ve been lumped into the same big category. However, we are hopeful and have reason to believe that the Ministry who grants our visas will indeed allow us to proceed as before, (though probably not without a fair amount of extra time and paperwork). Please continue to pray that we will find favor with the authorities as our renewal date gets closer (early February).
Second, the months leading up to my last update were difficult both spiritually and physically for me. Multiple factors contributed to a season of discouragement, and for the most part, our circumstances remain unchanged. But my outlook, energy level, eagerness to pursue my calling here, and interest in the people around me have improved dramatically. And that, almost immediately after Bonnie Ruth’s call for prayer. Thank you, dear brothers and sisters, for fulfilling your role as rope holders, praying both for the peoples of Cambodia and for the ones you have sent here to win them.
Upcoming Pastors School
Most of my time right now is occupied preparing to teach in the next session of the Ratanakiri Pastors School, Oct. 29-Nov. 3. We will be covering Part 2 of an introduction to Systematic Theology, using the newly-translated Big Truths for Young Hearts (“Theology for Churches and Families” in Khmer). Please pray for me, my fellow teachers, and the church leaders who will meet that week. The Pastors School is one the primary reasons for our being in Cambodia; we see it as an essential means for strengthening and expanding the church among multiple people groups of northeast Cambodia.
Related to this, please pray for more opportunities for me to teach and preach here in Stung Treng. For one reason or another, such opportunities have been rare. I need such opportunities (for my own continued development); and we’re convinced from Scripture that the people around us need it as well.
Please pray for spiritual light in the lives of Leenaa (pictured above) and Sopiap (below). Leenaa is one of our many next-door neighbors. She and her three kids (11-year-old, Chet-traa is one of Judson’s favorite playmates) often show up at our house right at dinner time 😉 so we’ve been using these opportunities to share Christ with her. Like most Cambodians, Leenaa listens politely. Sopiap (whose medical and spiritual needs you’ve prayed for before) listens willingly as I share the gospel with her during our weekly visits; she even asks an occasional question.. Pray that both Sopiap and Leenaa would embrace the gospel personally.
A few anecdotes to inform, amuse, and burden …
The other day I was with Judson in a rice shop being peppered with the usual litany of Cambodian questions for me as a foreigner: What do you eat there? What’s the weather like? How many kids are you allowed to have? How much money does the government pay you per kid? Then came another common question: are you happier in America or Cambodia? When I said that I actually liked living in both places, a lady told me that here it’s better because we have freedom and there you don’t. Taken aback somewhat, I asked what she meant. Her explanation: People in America have to work, here we don’t!
Recently I was sitting in a secluded spot by the Sekong River that flows through our town when a man and woman in their mid- to late-twenties drove up on a moped. The woman disappeared into the woods while the man walked over about twenty feet from me and began to relieve himself (which is totally normal here) … directly onto his foot (which is a first for me)! Yep, and this was no accident either: emptied his entire bladder, right onto his propped-up foot. He then walked my way and sat down about ten feet from me, propped up his dripping foot, pulled out his phone and began to take a video … of me! As if I were the one who might be the subject of a Nat Geo documentary! Well, with the help of Google, I learned such practice has a long tradition (traceable to the Aztecs) in natural medicine. Sure enough, to top it all off (quite literally, actually), the woman shortly reappeared with a poultice of leaves she had gathered and applied it to her man’s foot.
Another first for me … Recently I visited a Christian friend (Cambodian) who currently lives in Laos but returned to Cambodia to renew his passport. He told me of a Christian family in his church there whose brother passed away. In the video he showed me, you can hear the family wailing all around as the coffin is taken away from the house on a cart being pulled by a walk-behind tractor, surrounded by a small crowd of people. What was so unusual was that the people taking the coffin were actually “kidnapping” the corpse, forcefully taking him from his Christian family in order to perform the traditional ceremonies that would ensure appeasement from the various spirits. While this is certainly a first in my experience, the fear that drives the kidnappers in this story is everywhere evident around us here in Cambodia. Please pray for true freedom, not from a hard day’s work, but from the fear that subjugates the peoples of SE Asia.
Please pray for our visa situation. For years missionaries in Cambodia have been able to purchase what is called a Regular Visa (valid for 1 year). But beginning this month, the government will require a document called a work permit that proves valid employment in Cambodia. Because we do not receive a local salary we will be denied a permit and thus denied a visa. The Ministry of Religion understands this problem, and tells us that they’re working on a solution, but it’s unlikely to come in time for us or our teammates to renew our visas (ours expires early February, 2018). Numerous other missionaries from dozens of missions boards across the country are also affected. Please pray for wisdom for us as we research our options, and favor in the eyes of the authorities.
Visit from Memaw!
One of our summer highlights was to be a month-long visit from my (Bonnie Ruth) mom. We all excitedly made the 7-hour trip to pick her up in Phnom Penh and returned home a few days later. Four days into her stay, however, she fell down the stairs in our house and landed face down on the tile floor. We heard the commotion and rushed to find her lying unconscious. Seeing the obvious head injury, we immediately called two local friends, one a nurse, one a doctor, who examined her and helped us secure an ambulance. So at 11:30 pm, she and I squeezed into the back of an old Montero Sport for a harrowing night ride through heavy rains and flooded roads, navigating fallen trees as well as countless carts hauling illegal lumber without lights! Next morning at 5:00, we arrived safely in Siem Reap, the closest hospital with the equipment for a CT scan. The initial scan and x-rays revealed, among other things, swelling and hemorrhaging on the brain, and the doctor indicated that she would need surgery as soon as possible to relieve the pressure. For this, we would need to go either to Phnom Penh or possibly Bangkok. So we climbed back into an ambulance (much nicer this time!) for another 5-hour ride to Phnom Penh. In answer to many prayers, the second CT scan revealed that the brain swelling/bleeding had increased only slightly, meaning that surgery was not as urgent. Mom and I spent four nights in ICU and another four in a regular room for observation. Thankfully, subsequent scans showed that the swelling/bleeding was decreasing and no surgery would be needed. While the brain injury was certainly our greatest concern, honorable mention also goes to three broken ribs, a fractured vertebra, fractured wrist, fractured facial bones, and collapsed lung!
After being released, we were hopeful that she might be able to return to our home in Stung Treng, but the pain levels (combined with the bumpy roads) soon ruled this out. So after ten days apart, Jeremy and the kids—including newly-weaned Elisha!—joined us at a guesthouse in Phnom Penh where we made some memories nonetheless. A couple weeks of air-con, some western food, and playing games with Memaw—no one complained! Praise the Lord that though she has had quite an ordeal, she is on track to make a full recovery and was even able to make her return flight earlier this week. We just hope the memories from her visit don’t discourage her from future visits!
While reading the Psalms recently, I noticed how often David begins by rehearsing his many troubles. Enemies, personal sin, setbacks, fleeing for his life, loneliness, exhaustion from constantly running, depression from feeling forgotten (or worse, hated)—all are common expressions in David’s prayers to God. Yet somehow, these same prayers almost always end with praise. How? And why? Did God answer in the affirmative every request David made? Were these negative circumstances removed? No, but David wasn’t finding his hope in smooth circumstances or from somewhere deep within his own heart. His source of hope even amid trouble and discouragement was in his never-changing, always-loving, and supremely sovereign Redeemer. Though our struggles aren’t normally of the magnitude of David’s, circumstances in recent months are forcing us to remember that our Hope, like David’s, is indeed steadfast. Our Hope—through hot days, nearly sleepless nights, discouraging lack of fruit, promising relationships that turn apathetic, lack of love toward the very people we are here to serve—has not changed. We cling to the same promises that the peoples will one day sing his praises. We hope in the same promises of ultimate renewal, both within and without. And we rejoice in the promise that our Hope is ever present with us. And so, brothers and sisters, please pray for us. Jeremy specifically is experiencing an unusual level of discouragement, in part due to prolonged seasons of apparently unanswered prayer, as well as physical and mental fatigue.
Writing to the Corinthians about his extreme adversity, Paul said, “But that was to make us rely not on ourselves, but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.” We are always grateful for your many reminders that you are indeed praying, and our hearts are hopeful that his blessings will be granted to us and the peoples of Cambodia through these prayers.
Reasons to pray
- Physical stamina throughout the day and good rest during the night
- Persevering joy
- Renewed love and compassion for the people around us
- God’s blessing on both teachers and students as we start a new school year
- Fruit of conversion among those who have heard the gospel:
Ta and Yay (our 84-year old neighbor and his wife)—Jeremy recently shared the gospel with Ta and surprisingly, he listened without interruption for 15 minutes, quite unusual as Ta enjoys teaching the youngster (Jeremy) about life in Cambodia (and Jeremy enjoys listening to these fascinating life stories too). Sadly, his response was typical: Jesus and Buddha are both great teachers that help us all get along. Pray for light and for further opportunities.
Ming (an elderly lady)—pray for understanding and faith
Napi (Jeremy’s former language tutor)—pray for renewed interest
Moni (a young woman, newly professing faith)—pray for increased understanding and perseverance
Reasons for praise
- Brooke Illsley is back with us for another school year. She has been invaluable in helping me with the schooling of our children.
- Though my mom’s visit was not what we had planned, I’m thankful for the quality mother-daughter time during those days and nights in the hospital and also that we were able to address all of her needs here in country.
I recently read some advice from a veteran Cambodian missionary: never make important decisions in April or May—the hottest, and often most discouraging, months of the year. And while this year’s hot season has been a refreshing breeze by comparison to last year’s record breaker, it’s still hot. So we’ll follow that wise advice and not bolt for cooler climes, but in the meantime, please pray for endurance, both physically and mentally. We are tired. Particularly Bonnie Ruth needs your prayers for strength and wisdom in the use of her resources.
I continue to spend much of my time honing my Khmer and preparing Bible lessons for my former language tutor. Please pray for his continued interest (which seems to be lagging and somewhat distracted, lately) in the gospel, as well as for additional opportunities for me to teach other Christians or people interested in the gospel. When I last wrote, I was praying for wisdom in the use of my time—Khmer vs. Lao. After getting input from my team leader, I am focusing my efforts on Khmer preparation and seeking only to maintain what Lao I’ve gained until next year when I will focus more fully on Lao.
Day-to-day life also provides numerous unplanned opportunities for sharing the gospel. Most are brief, one-time encounters. But a few are developing into longer-term relationships. One such particular instance is with an elderly lady, Sopeap, whom we’ve been able to help with medical care in Phnom Penh. Please pray for Sopeap as she listens to the gospel, that the healing she is receiving in her body would be matched with healing for her soul. Pray also for another young woman we have recently helped. Her medical issues stem both from her 9 abortions and possibly from an STD received from her husband. Please pray for this woman—that the brokenness in her life and body might work itself out in a truly broken spirit before God.
Finally, please pray for increased interaction with our immediate neighbors. I have recently tried to make some adjustments to my daily schedule in order to create more opportunities to spend time with them. Pray that these efforts will bear fruit for the gospel.
Perhaps the best part of life in Cambodia is the teammates God has given us. I couldn’t have handpicked a better group to work with. In February, we spent a day with our co-workers in Ratanakiri, celebrating 10 years of Cambodian ministry for our dearest friends, Brian and Lydia Kane. The Kanes’ testimony of faithfulness through frustrations, discouragements, failures, and now increasing success and usefulness gives me as great a hope and encouragement as some of my favorite missionary biographies. Following their example, I press on in hopes that my 10-year update will be as filled with fruit and gospel opportunities as I see them (finally) enjoying!
Then, for the past 2 weeks, we enjoyed a visit from one of our pastors, John Wheeler. John and his family of 10 ministered the gospel for 20 years overseas (Turkey), so we had not a few things in common. His wisdom of experience and his pastoral care for us was an immense boon, and we praise God for giving pastors and teachers to his church, even to those members who may be on an extended leave of absence!
Finally, the highlight of our year thus far was a visit from my parents, my favorite and most valuable supporters. By far, their 40 years of constant prayer and faithful modelling of the gospel have been the most influential force directing my path into missions. And certainly no one else has paid the price of “losing” this son for the gospel as they have. (Sometimes the real sacrifice of missions is paid, not by the missionaries, but by the parents who lose their kids and grandkids.) So indeed, our joy was full when Mom and Dad trotted the globe like two twenty-somethings (Jet lag? What jet lag? Stomach bugs? What’s that?) to spend two wonderful weeks with us in February. Again, I was confirmed in my desire and prayer that I (and my kids) will be like them when I grow up.
Sharing the old, old Story …
Earlier this month, I had the unexpected (i.e., unplanned and unprepared for!) opportunity to spend a week with 18 young adults, working through the storyline of the entire Bible and discussing basic tips for personal Bible reading and study. I had about 1 day to prepare for the week, so it was a strange mix of stress and joy. An added difficulty was that most of my students were from tribal villages (Kravet and Tampuan) so both student and teacher were working across language barriers. But praise God that in that vast gulf between our birth languages, we did indeed connect, albeit with some occasional linguistic detours. Most of these young people come from fledgling churches where they serve as the de facto leaders, so I rejoice to know that the material we worked through is actually being used in a number of these churches throughout our province! I’m also hopeful that this will lead to further opportunities to minister with this same group.
… with those who’ve never heard
I’ve asked you before to pray for the conversion of my language tutor Pe’own. Unfortunately, Pe’own is no longer my tutor since he has now returned to nursing school (more below on how this affects my Lao study). The good news, though, is that my relationship with Pe’own continues to flourish, and in addition to his random visits to our home, we are now meeting weekly to study the Bible together. I’ve shared the gospel with Pe’own in greater detail than with any other Cambodian thus far, and he continues to show interest, even calling himself a believer! Several points of evident confusion still remain though, so please pray for us: for me, that I would clearly delineate what this good news does and does not promise, and also that I would in no way make the way narrower than Christ himself made it; for Pe’own, that his eyes would be opened to see the glory of Christ alone as the Lord and Savior of man.
ພາສາລາວ vs. ភាសាខ្មែរ
Any update from me wouldn’t be complete without a little complaining about language learning; so here goes: for the past 2-3 months, my Lao study has fallen on hard times. With the loss of my teacher and with some additional teaching opportunities in Khmer, I’ve had very little time to pursue Lao or to search for a new tutor. I’m very glad for these teaching opportunities; it’s one of the two main reasons we came to Cambodia. I need wisdom, though, to discern how Lao study fits into my life and work at present. Please pray with me for this wisdom.
Earlier this month, we had the great pleasure of receiving Steve and Beth Osborne from our partner church in Smyrna, DE. Steve and Beth both have substantial experience living abroad, including in third-world countries, so we had a blast exchanging stories that only people with those experiences can fully appreciate. Their fellowship was a blessing for our entire family.