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.

Gospel opportunities

Leenaa and her two boys

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.

Sopiap with one of her grandkids

Sopiap’s house has been flooded for the past month due to extra rains and poor drainage

Culture notes

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.

The Sekong River during rainy season

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.