It seems the older one gets the less new friendships he has. Most adult friendships develop early in life when the kids are small. I have many of those deep friendships. We moved away and left my friends behind, but our friendships remain intact and when we meet on occasions, we pick up where we left off. Once kids grow up and after moving several times, new friendships do not bloom as often.
In my mid-sixties, I am fortunate to have new friend. Well, our friendship isn’t brand new. My friend and I have been acquainted for several years. He lives around the block and a few times a month I see him when he passes in front of my house, walking his two little dogs. When I am out front, doing yardwork or enjoying a beverage he stops for a moment and we talk—Not deep conversations, but we have hit it off. Like older guys do, we joke, talk about our health, make small talk; nothing deep. But the friendship developed.
My friend and I could not be further apart in our background. He grew up on the east coast, New York. I like New Yorkers. They are articulate and straight-forward. I am from the left coast, California. Often I am indirect and can’t find the right words. He’s a hard driver and I am more laid back. I am uncertain about our political differences, but I am sure they differ. During the presidential primary I voiced my approval for voting for Trump. He smiled and wasn’t as vocal, perhaps trying to preserve our fledgling friendship. I like guns; he appears to not like them. He once said in passing, “Nothing good comes from owning a gun.” We are different since I believe in the hands of a good and responsible person, lots of good can come from gun ownership. He has a fast-brand-new Dodge Challenger (lucky guy), I have a 12-year-old Nissan truck, with a chip in the windshield. As for spiritual things, we may be different. He knows I am a pastor. He does not appear to be a bumper sticker guy. I have one that says Jesus Saves. He curses, I don’t (full disclosure: I try not to!).
Yes, we are different, but he is my friend and I am better for it.
My friend and I are alike too. We are both about the same age. I enjoy pointing out he has a few years on me. He takes care of his home, and I try to do the same. When there is a problem in our neighborhood he addresses it and tries to fix it. Me too. We both like mild sarcasm. He and his wife like Butterfish Poke Bowls. We do too! He is the president of a company and I am a former president of a company. He’s a dog lover, I am also, although I am happy we do not own one right now.
One day about a year ago my friend walked by my house and saw me unloading my golf clubs from my truck. “Are those golf clubs I see?!” “Do you golf?” I asked. “Occasionally.” “Well, we will need to golf someday.” If that happened, it would have been the first time our friendship moved from my sidewalk to another venue, the golf course.
It happened—a few months ago. We played 18 holes. Oh, and that’s another difference: He is a good golfer, I am not. He says he is lousy but underestimates his game. He can chip a shot with one arm and get the ball pin high. We played again this week. He gives me pointers on the course which I appreciate. He told me I shouldn’t listen to someone who has a messed-up game (except he did not say messed-up). But I listen anyway and he’s taught me a lot.
My friend is not a Jew but in his teenage years he was a caddy at a Jewish country club. He liked the tips, he told me. One day he caddied for two men—Their bags slung over his shoulders. He had on his white Converse high-tops, no traction. It was early in the morning and the dew was heavy on the grass. He had no problem carrying the clubs but he stumbled as his feet slipped on the way up a hill. “If this is how it’s going to be all morning, you can just head back into the clubhouse and caddy for someone else!” one of the Jewish men snapped. “No, I can do it” my friend said. “It’s just a little dew and it’ll be okay.” He slipped again, and the man exclaimed “That’s it, you can drop the clubs and leave!” My friend said, “No problem!” He gently set down the other man’s clubs and then picked up the contentious player’s bag in both hands and threw it down the hill. The clubs exploded from the bag and slid down the dewy hill. He never caddied again.
See, that is a New Yorker, and that is my friend.
Soon I leave for a training and encouragement mission to Cambodia. Recently, I received an email from Dr. Tom Johnson of International Baptist Church, asking if I would speak one Sunday morning while I am there. He added this note at the end,
“I need to inform you that the upcoming Prime Minister Election is July 29th. Things may get a little dangerous. We are not sure??”
Recently, the Supreme Court abolished the opposition party. There is a lot of tension within the Country. Will you join me in prayer for safety, not only for me, but our staff and all the men we work with? Most of all, pray that Jesus Christ will be glorifed in all that we do.
In preparation for teaching the good news on Sunday, I am studying Ephesians 2:11-22. In this passage, the apostle Paul deals with unity of the Jews and Gentiles in the Church (two groups who hated each other). A question one might ask while reading a portion of Scripture like this is, What value does this have for me today? Two things to think about.
That is what unity looks like. I am blessed to attend a church that is a unified body of Christ. But a reminder is still needed. As Christians we REALLY need to know what this means because it runs contrary to our natural inclinations and the current world view.
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.