Rooftops, Russians, and Repose

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.

Canon EOS Rebel T7i, ES-F 18mm to 135mm, F1.3.5-5.6 (sorry I did not resize these photos so they may take a while to load).

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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?

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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.

God Who Comforts The Downcast

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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.

The Bond Of Love

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.

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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.

Walk A Mile In Their Shoes

Cambodia Staff_2018Thank you for praying for our three Hope Now staff members in Cambodia. From left to right, Mout Iv, Van Vath, Chantha Kong. They are champions for Jesus Christ. Each day they reach out to lost men and share the love of God to those in need of hope. Displaced from their own families in the U.S., Mout, Van, and Chantha give unselfishly of themselves and seek to glorify our Lord in all they do. Your prayers of support mean a lot.

Rightly Dividing The Word Of Truth

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We can only stay on course by knowing the Word of Truth.

Do you know the Bible? Can you teach it to others?  If so, you are in the minority. Consider these statistics:

  • 87 percent of American households possess a Bible, but most people who do (53 percent) barely open it.
  • Only 19 percent of American Christians say they read the Bible every day, and only 20 percent report thinking about biblical truths throughout the day.

It gets even worse,

  • Only half (51 percent) of American pastors have a biblical worldview.

People do not know the Bible like they used to. It is no wonder most Christians believe incorrect and false teaching. Here are just a few examples of false teaching which permeates the church.

  • God just needed another angel (Said by family and friends when someone dies).
  • God will not give you more than you can handle.
  • If you mess up, you may not be a Christian.
  • It is God’s choice, not ours if we believe or not.
  • You must repent of all your sins and confess before you can be a true Christian.

This list goes on and on. These five statements are not biblical, they are false teaching, and yet we hear them from Christian brothers and sisters.

In Cambodia the lack of Bible knowledge is dismal. The country is devoid of truth. Bible teaching churches are hard to find.

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This week Hope Now is leading our second annual (two-day) Christian Leadership conference for our staff.  The training is not nearly long enough, but it touches on and corrects many of the false points listed above.

Our day began by reading together through the book of Philippians. We spent time praying for each other. Then we saturated ourselves with the tenets of the Christian faith. Everything we studied was backed up by Scripture. Is the Bible the Word of God? What is the Trinity? Who is Jesus Christ? Who is the Holy Spirit? Are the sign gifts (tongues, apostolic miracles) still in effect? Did man evolve? How is a person saved? What is the Church? What biblical practices should Christians observe? Who are angels? Will Jesus return? What will our future in eternity look like? How should a disciple of Jesus live?

All of that in day one!

Tomorrow we take on the differences between salvation and discipleship, and we delve into the glorious book of Ephesians. If only we had more time!

The goal is to train our staff to use God’s Word to help men see they cannot save themselves, rather resuce comes only by the Savior. To teach that, our staff must rightly divide the Word. It is time to be an ambassdor for Christ. The days are numbered. We must know the Word of God and know how to commuicate it correctly and clearly with others.

Flood of Hope

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My staff, Chantha, Mout, and Van, back together, and hungry!

The growth of the city of Phnom Penh over the past decade can fool you. Eight years ago the beat down little town was beginning to heal and awaken from the devastation of war. Today, things have changed. From a distance it appears there may be a master plan for this burgeoning city, but look more closely and it is a hodge-podge of buildings erected by foreign investors. Like a tsunami, everything in its path is overcome.

As we made our way through the rising tide of monolithic towers in search of men in need of rescuing, we met about 20 of the 47 new deported arrivals, most of them shell-shocked by being removed from the only country they have known. They are staying in a make shift dormitory, on cots, until they are able to find a place of their own. Our staff made contact with these men to let them know Hope Now will be here if they need help finding a job and getting on their feet. From experience we know many will turn to alcohol and drugs.

This morning I taught a Bible study with several men who have been here for a while. In the study we talked about how there is a war between the Spirit and flesh. This opposition is a battle every man faces. The only way to overcome it is to walk by the Spirit (tough to do!).

Sunday will be an exciting day. After attending church our staff member, Mout Iv and his wife Mary are renewing their wedding vows. They were married several years ago in a cultural wedding with Buddhist trappings. Today they want to reaffirm their vows before God as they have grown in their relationship with Jesus Christ. It is happening on a little boat on the Mekong river. I will be performing the brief ceremony as Mout and Mary stand before God and about 20 of their friends.

Our Battambang staff member, Van Veth and his wife Ravy, made the six-hour trek by van to Phnom Penh and arrived this afternoon. We all enjoyed dinner together at one of the best places to eat in Phnom Penh, Mama’s New York Deli.  Now we gear up for a busy three days; Our second annual staff leadership conference begins on Monday!

Please pray for our staff here as they reach out to the lost and lonely deported men. They are doing a tremendous job and I am proud to serve with them and lend support and encouragement as they grow and help other men do the same along the way. May they bring a flood of hope to those they touch. Thank you for financially supporting Hope Now’s Cambodia work (click here).

 

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