The air is cool this morning, not too heavy with moisture. It is enjoyable to sit on the balcony of my fifth-floor hotel room with a complete view of the quaint city of Battambang, Cambodia. My hotel is modern, but with an old French provincial look.
In the pre-dawn light, five stories down, the lazy brown Sangker river carries a lone fisherman in his small canoe like boat. I am watching him cast his net, but it comes up empty. The scene across the river is charming. A row of provincial shops and houses of the mid-1950’s line the main riverfront where the people of the city gather during the morning hours and evening to enjoy the cool and gentle breeze which blows off the river. Flag poles, as far as I can see, stand tall along the riverfront, each one displaying the flag of a country around the world. I see my country, far off, upriver. Next to it is the Cambodian flag. The juxtaposition shows the strong (but weakening) tie Cambodia has with the U.S.A. I am glad to see my flag.
As the Sun squeezes its way over the horizon through the thickening air, the serenity of the scene is broken. Another day has begun. A day just like the one before it and the one before it. The hum of motorcycles, the clanging of trucks with bad shocks hitting a pothole, horns beeping and blowing. People gather on the riverfront for exercise, before the heat of the day, with a trainer and loud boom box. They like their music loud and the sound travels up to where I am drinking my morning coffee and making my own noise, banging out this post on my laptop.
Battambang is filled with Khmer/American deportees. They are why I am here. We have a Hope Now branch in Phnom Penh (the capital city), and Battambang. Our staff member, Van leads a wonderful group of guys here. They are all struggling with the gut-wrenching pain of being torn from their families in the States and shipped off to a country they never knew, speaking a language foreign to them, unsure if they are using the correct word when trying to communicate with the locals. To the Hope Now men here, the local Khmer are strange and backwards. As a consequence, the deportees do not assimilate into society. The locals look down on them. After all, they are tattooed and too direct to suit the demeanor of the locals.
Yesterday was a highlight of my seven years traveling to Cambodia. Our day began with a staff breakfast and Bible study. Since we were headed to the river to baptise new believers, I shared passages about what God thinks of water and rivers. Rivers are mentioned 272 times in Scripture! Fresh water is a beautiful symbol of the Water of Life, everlasting life, we receive when be believe in Jesus. And, this Water is without price. There is nothing a person does to earn it or keep it once it is received. Baptism is a symbol and a picture of having received that Water of Life. It does not save or have any efficacious purpose. It is obedience to Jesus command, and a first step of discipleship.
The formula given for baptism is found in Matthew 28:19 where Jesus said, “Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” That’s what we did. Two of my staff were baptized, Van and Mout. They had been baptized before while in prison, but Van had water poured on him (baptism means immerse) and Mout wanted to be an example to the guys, professing his life in Jesus Christ. After them we baptized six guys! Each of them gave a brief testimony.
They are baby Christians, rough around the edges, filled with problems and cares of the world. But Hope Now is here to disciple them and pray for them. We are the messengers, bringing good news to the lost and encouragement to obey the commands of Jesus to those who are saved.
The once quiet morning is now alive and busy and noisier than ever. A new day has begun. In a moment I will close my laptop and make my way downstairs for another day in Battambang with the brothers.
Pray for us as we continue this journey with these men who are loved by Jesus. Pray they will walk with the Holy Spirit and become godly men who will lead their families to the Living Water.
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