Here is a summary of our activities over the past month. Please read, be encouraged, and return to prayer for us and the people of Cambodia.
Telling the gospel story
The whole Bible in 2 characters: Adam and Jesus. The whole Bible in 5 characters: Adam, Abraham, Moses, David, and Jesus. The whole Bible in 20 characters/events: [I’ll let you come up with your own list].
These are some of the things we considered together over the course of five weeks with the folks at Labansiek Church here in Ratanakiri Province, and the Spirit was there to help us all. He helped me as a teacher to speak clearly and understandably, even if not beautifully. He helped the brothers and sisters who listened to understand better the nature of the gospel, the wisdom and power of God, and the beauty of the church where they meet Him. Thank you for praying for us. Though I thoroughly enjoy my weekly private teaching opportunities here, prior to this series, public speaking in Khmer has always been less than enjoyable for me. But for the first time, I began to experience in Khmer some of the joy I have known before in leading brothers and sisters to understand the meaning of Scripture. This was yet another milestone and a great encouragement for me as I prepare for a hiatus from Khmer ministry.
Watching the gospel transform lives
Last Sunday, three members of Labansiek Church shared impromptu testimonies, all three of which are direct answers to some of our most repeated prayers and clear evidences of the gospel’s transforming power.
The first was Om Poan (pictured at right), an elderly lady who testified to God’s grace in leading her to humble herself before her children, confessing her sins against them. In a culture where status, including age, is highly valued, and humility before those of lower status or age is practically unheard of, if not scorned, this was an obvious product of the Spirit’s work.
Then, Leang told us about her recent opportunity to share the gospel with a group of teachers at the school where she works, thanking God that unlike past opportunities where she had succumbed to fear and remained silent, she was bold to speak the truth in love. Among a people who, by their native culture, are typically not bold to assert the truth, particularly when that assertion places them in the extreme, countercultural minority, this is another manifestation of the Spirit’s work. Leang’s testimony is just one of many recent manifestations of earnest efforts on the part of these Christians to evangelize their communities, including corporate prayer about evangelism and church planting in Veun Sai (a town with a heavy Laotian population just north of us). This is another answer to years of prayer, by you, us, and many who came here before us, that the Lord would raise up Cambodian evangelists to propagate the news of Christ’s reign throughout the country. Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters here: that they would not grow weary in what, right now, appears to be a labor with very little fruit; that they would not be paralyzed with fear and indecision in the face of a momentous task; and most importantly, that the Spirit would give them conversions.
Finally, Liy publicly praised God for her recent growth in the knowledge of Scripture and God’s character and exhorted us all to press on to know the Lord and to lead our children in this knowledge. This is just one more countercultural product of the Spirit: among a people where books and reading are primarily valued only as a means for greater financial gain, God is raising up men and woman who love to read and study Scripture, “only” for eternal gain; in a culture where parents don’t often invest themselves deliberately in the lives of their children for anything other than material well-being, God is raising up fathers and mothers who are striving to pass their recently received heritage on to the next generation.
Humility for pride; courage for fear; diligence for neglect. These are some of the ways that the gospel is slowly transforming a culture.
Telling the gospel story some more (to those who’ve never heard)
One of our most urgent desires in our final weeks here in Ratanakiri was to give the good news to our two closest neighbors one more time. And over the course of the last month, we’ve had opportunities rang-ing from brief and concise, to lengthy and detailed with various family mem-bers. One particular opportunity has given us unexpected joy and hope. Heng, our neighbor’s 13-year old nephew (see picture above; Heng is on the far left, along with his cousin, aunt and great aunt), has been living with them for the past school year. He is in 2nd grade but is exceptionally bright and has become one of our kids’ favorite playmates. About a month ago, I began sharing the gospel with Heng–he’s an easy target since he spends nearly every waking hour at our house–and he has responded with an unusual eagerness and understanding, even initiating conversations with me about the gospel, asking me to tell him more, and listening for up to 40 minutes at a time! So together, we’ve gone from the true God who made everything good, to man who messed it all up, to the Son of God and man who made everything right again. Please pray for Heng. Humanly speaking, his future is not particularly bright. The gospel will change that if Heng will embrace it.
Preparing to move around the world
I’m writing this while taking a short break from a whirlwind of furniture, boxes, and swirling red dust as we pack all our stuff for storage and for moving to the US for a furlough. Hot season is breathing down our necks, which makes for sluggish days and sweaty nights. So while many of you are still slogging your way through the powdery white stuff, we’re surrounded by several inches of the finest red powder. The other day, I lifted Salem into her seat at the table and popped her on the rear end, sending a cloud of red dust wafting over our dinner. Bonnie Ruth and I have been thinking lately about returning to life in the US and some of the accompanying changes: it’s back to bathtime before we go to church rather that after returning home (which makes so much more sense here); it’s back to carpet instead of hardwood or concrete (which suddenly strikes us as far more sanitary); it’s back to using forks instead of spoons (which also seems to make better sense in most cases); it’s back to back to closed-toe shoes and laces, instead of year-round flip-flops which come off the moment you enter a house; it’s back to appointments for everything rather than random, unannounced drop-ins. Thank you for praying for our success as we try to make a smooth transition—geographically, culturally, linguistically—from our side of the world to yours (most of you). We look forward to seeing you soon.