It is the day of my departure and I’m in my room enjoying a cup of coffee, looking out over the city, and thinking about the work in Cambodia we did over the past couple of weeks. We barely scratched the surface. There is so much to do. But our primary goal is to be ambassadors for Christ. Jesus came to seek and save the lost, and our three staff guys do the same. He said, “Go and make disciples”, they try to obey. Jesus said, those who believe in him will do “greater works”, Chantha, Mout and Van are taking him at his word.
Yesterday, we began early with breakfast and a Bible study. We always enjoy our Bible studies. God’s Word is encouraging and builds everyone up. Those morning Bible studies are a highlight for me. I need to do more of them when I get home.
Some days while I am here we do not have a master plan for a particular day. Often we will say, Let’s just go and see who or what God puts in our path. We call those days “fishing expeditions” and like real fishing, they are so much fun. We never know what will happen or who we will meet.
Looking at life as an adventure from God is a good way to approach each day. If I go about my day aware that God is in control of everything I encounter, e.g. waiting in a long line at a store, stuck in traffic, flat tire, whatever it may be, then I begin to have a better attitude. Perhaps God has me in that long line to give an encouraging smile to the person in front or behind me? Or to say a positive word, or to spend time praying, or speaking with the tow truck guy about eternal life? It is difficult to do and takes practice, but try to consider every inconvenience as a gift from the Lord.
We did that and came across four men who arrived in Phnom Penh six days ago. They were hanging out in a park with no direction and not sure about what they should be doing or how to do it. We prayed with them and discussed getting jobs and making a new start in a new country. They need help and if they want it, we will be there for them. These were older guys (the oldest was 54). They had spent some time in prison in the U.S. and were happy to have their freedom here. One of the guys was from Fresno, but had been locked up in San Quentin for many years.
Mout and I had a meeting earlier in the week with an American who is setting up an organic farm and needs some guys to run the tractors and work various jobs. The position includes housing and three meals a day. These men, being older, had worked on farms as children and youth with their families and enjoy farming. Mout and Chantha will take them to the farm next week to see if it is a fit for them. Did God place these men in our path today for this reason? We will find out. Remember, it is an adventure!
Our day ended with dinner and goodbyes. It is always tough to say goodbye. May the Lord bless Chantha, and Mout in Phnom Penh and Van in Battambang.
My coffee cup is empty and it is time to wrap up a few things before heading downstairs with my luggage, getting in my taxi, and beginning the 30 hours trek home. Thank you for following and supporting this journey and Hope Now’s work in Cambodia (We need ongoing financial support to help these men). I will post updates from time to time and will keep you informed about my next trip once God gives me the thumbs up to move ahead.
We hit the streets and the market today, my last day. Lots of sights, sounds, and smells.
Caution: May load slowly on some devices, be patient.
Dredging is controversial. It keeps waterways open and provides sand for cement, but it also erodes the shoreline and messes up the ecosystem. Nevertheless, it is interesting to see. I took this video on the Mekong River last week.
My friend Mout had an extra tripod and he gave it to me as a gift. I tried it out on the rooftop tonight. The weather was miserably hot, the air hazy and the sky uninteresting, but the buildings and rooftops always have character.
There are a few rooms in my apartment building which open up to the roof. While taking photographs, a guy came out of his room. I asked him where he was from, he said “Russia”. He asked me the same, I said “U.S.A.” We looked at each other and smiled. He said, as he made two fists and hit them together, “Our countries are like this.” “Yes” I replied, “but we are not, right?” We both laughed and shook hands. I hope this photo does not go viral. I wouldn’t want people to think I was colluding with the Russians! My new friend’s name is Slava. Why can’t we all just get along?
Finally, it is Khmer New Year. Thousands upon thousands of people flee the city to the countryside. I went out earlier for a cup of coffee. The main street is always a cacophony of cars, trucks, motorcycles, tuk-tuks, bicycles and people. Not today. The bustling city is in repose. I am celebrating New Year’s Day twice in 2018.
To get a glimpse of what New Testament times were like, come to Phnom Penh. Just like in the days of the early church, tremendous adversities are faced here. Idol worship is rampant, thinking all paths lead to heaven is common, opposition from those who do not want this strange “religion” of Christianity to disrupt their culture is an undercurrent. Fear and depression were evident in the early church as they are here today.
The great apostle Paul did not ride the crest of spirituality all of the time. He did not keep his feelings hidden either. He said, “For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart…”. Once Paul was depressed, or downcast (2 Corinthians 7:6), then God sent Titus to come and encourage him. God sends people to help us in our times of need.
Our staff in Phnom Penh faced discouraging health issues this week. Mout is dealing with pain in his knee and Chantha has been struggling to heal from a motorcycle accident which caused trauma to his left knee. His leg has been pulsating with pain and is swollen. Today we decided to get medical help.
Our first stop was to Physiotherapy Phnom Penh. They specialize in Manual Therapy, Sports Injuries, Rehabilitation and Acupuncture. We were not sure what they could do for Chantha, but thought Mout might be able to gain some relief from joint pain in his left knee. The certified Physiotherapist is a big Dutchman like me, although he had a few inches of height on me. We exchanged some family information and he was happy to meet another dutchman. After examining Mout he determined acupuncture might be a good start, but told him to get and x-ray so he could see if there is underlying damage to his cartilage.
Chantha was next. The therapist was more concerned about his condition. He wanted to rule out a blood clot. He was wary of Chantha even walking for fear of a blood clot. He advised Chantha get an ultrasound. This news discouraged Chantha. Mout and I sensed despondency. We tried to encourage him. I said, “Let’s to get the x-ray and the ultrasound done right now.” We left the physiotherapist and headed to the clinic.
Again, Mout was able to get in right away and have and x-ray taken of his knee. But for Chantha, because it was the beginning of the Khmer New year, the techician who did CT Scans would not be in until next week. More discourgement.
I remembered my friend Dr. Tom Johnson. Dr. Tom is the pastor of International Baptist Church (IBC) and heads a ministry called Streams in the Desert which performs medical missions throughout Cambodia. They specialize in goiters which are prevalent here due to lack of iodine. Dr. Tom is an M.D. Mout had met him a couple years ago when he and I attended IBC. We saw him on Wednesday night at a prayer meeting. I couldn’t get through to him on my phone so Mout tried on his. We asked if there was any way we could bring Chantha over for an examination. Dr. Tom told Mout his children were all sick and didn’t know if it would work out, but gave some advice over the phone. While at the clinic, Dr. Tom called my phone and told me “Yes, please bring Chantha by and I will look at him.”
We hailed a tuk-tuk and made our way to Dr. Tom’s house. When we arrived the gate was locked, but Mout called him to tell him we were outside. While waiting, Chantha and Mout began sharing with the tuk-tuk driver about Jesus Christ. Chantha told him how to gain eternal life, and Mout showed him the Gospel of John and had the young man read some passages. The time we waited for Dr. Tom to come and open the gate was just long enough for this to happen. It was all in God’s timing.
Dr. Tom welcomed us and after praying began getting Chantha’s history and discovering all that happned since the accident. He knew just the right questions to ask. In about 30 minutes had determined his swelling problem was not due to a blood clot, rather from a muscle tear which first occured during the accident and which had been reinjured about three weeks ago when Chantha had begun to exercise again. It is not a chronic problem and will most likely heal over time, maybe several more months, with proper rest, elevation, and compression. There was immediate relief in Chantha’s face. He went from discouragemet to hope.
Mout is going to continue therapy for several weeks until he gains full use of his knee. Chantha is going to rest his leg and give it time to heal. Both men are reaching out to other deportees with a message of hope and encouragement through Jesus Christ.
I am no Titus, but I am blessed to be able to be here to help these men and encourage them in their time of need. As long as God has a purpose for me I will continue to help.
Cambodia is no paradise. There is much affliction and anguish here. (Click to see how Cambodia ranks in the world for life expectancy). Our staff have no health insurance (it is not available to them), so Hope Now took care of the cost (which is much less than in the U.S.). God is the comforter of the downcast and he uses me and your gifts do more than you might even imagine. Thank you.
No matter where in the world a Christian may travel, there is always a bond of love between God’s people. Tonight Mout and I attended a small prayer gathering with fellow believers from International Baptist Church. It was led by medical Dr. Tom Johnson who moved as a missionary to Cambodia with his wife Anna in 2000. Tom and Anna have four gregarious and engaging adopted Cambodia children.
Their 13-year-old daughter asked me if the next time I came if would mind bringing her some things. I asked her what she wanted and she said, “Sour patch kids!” I said, “How many?” “About 100 cases!” I told her she would have to ask her parents, but yes, if they agreed, I would bring Sour Patch Kids for her…but not 100 cases.
We began with Scripture reading from Romans and then by singing Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus. There were eight of us at the prayer meeting: Mout and me, Dr. Tom and Anna, two of their kids, Joseph and Jonathan, Piper (a missionary intern), David from Nigeria, and Maurice.
Maurice is 18 years old. He is the most mature, intelligent and godly 18-year-old I have met. His father is from Sri Lanka and his mother Cambodia. Maurice attends the university where he is confronted by Buddhism and spirit worship. Maurice did not participate in some of the Buddhist festivities and his school mates said he would get marked down for it. But he told his teacher he could not participate in any of the New Year celebrations because he is a Christian and it goes against what he believes. His teacher accepted his belief and allowed him to skip some of the festivities that are pagan. He is a leader and exudes joy and love.
Mout and I shared about our ministry and asked prayer for our brother, Chantha who is still in pain from his motorcycle accident several months ago. We ended the night by singing the Fanny Crosby hymn, Blessed Assurance.
Photo credit: Mout Iv and Victoria.