The Lord’s Work

It is my final Saturday in Phnom Penh before I go home on Tuesday. What a beautiful day it was.

The day began with an early morning men’s Bible study I again had the privilege of leading. We worked our way, verse by verse, through the amazing chapter of John 6. The entire passage is about eternal life–Jesus, calls himself the Bread of Life.

We had a compelling discussion about men who are believers in Jesus, yet are married or joined with unbelieving Buddhists.

We determined that Jesus is teaching believing men to be the spiritual leaders in their homes, and while hard, Jesus requires complete commitment.

Jesus is exclusive. No one comes to the Father, except through Him. Believing men cannot allow idols or false gods into their homes.

I encouraged these men to lead their wives and children–Attend a Bible teaching church as a family and lead their family in the way of the Lord. Spiritual leadership is difficult and may cause division in families, but eternal life is at stake. It was a thought provoking discussion.

After Bible study, we moved on to purchase a bicycle for Sa, the man I described in an earlier post. Four of us boarded a Tuktuk I had rented for the day; Chantha, Sam, Sa and me. Mout rode ahead of us on his moto. It was hot–we were sweating and continually drinking water–we stopped for coconut water along the way to the bike shop.

We found a street with shop after shop of used bikes. I’ve never seen so many bicycles on one street. After thirty-minutes of testing several bikes, Sa found the one he liked, and we made the package deal with the shop owner of bike, helmet, headlight and taillight, a cable lock and a pump. We tied the bike onto the back of our Tuktuk and headed off for our next adventure of the day, a hospital visit.

In one of the local hospitals there was a young man recovering from leg surgery. A drunk driver hit him two nights ago and knocked him off his motorcycle. His leg was injured and his head suffered an abrasion. He was wearing a helmet.

The young man is Kahn. I introduced him in a previous post. Several days ago I was praying for him and his friends at his house, now he is in a hospital bed with a plate and several screws in his leg.

Hospitals are never fun, but this one was depressing. A once impressive stairway–wooden, dirty, worn, with hazards on nearly every step–led to his room. The hallway could be used as a set for a horror movie. A World War II era gurney sat against the wall. I couldn’t help but wonder how many people had lain on it. Sa commented, “I bet people have died on that.”

We entered Kahn’s room through an old wooden, army green door way. The room was a drab beige with a dirty tile floor. There was no AC–a fan next to his bed kept the air moving on this hot day. His room was shared by another patient.

He was happy to see us and eager to be discharged.

With little money and no health insurance, Kahn is on his own. The drunk driver came to his room and threw money at him saying, “I’m doing this as a favor. You will need to pay me back.”

Kahn told us he has to pay for everything that is done for him. Every bandage, each redressing of his bandage, every shot, every IV. They even charged him twenty-dollars to be carried up the stairs to his room.

The hospital staff gave him a thin cloth to wear around his waist–his sheets were not crisp and clean as expected.

We tried to encourage him–I read one of my favorite hospital Psalms, Psalm 127. I placed my hand on his shoulder and we all bowed and prayed for him. My heart went out to him.

He thanked us for coming, and later text message’d us with his thanks.

It was a hospital visit none of us will forget. Pray for Kahn, for his physical and spiritual healing. He is a good man.

Our team of four made our way back to my hotel where we ate lunch at the local Mexican restaurant; I had eaten there two times before. I had enchiladas, and they were delicious.

Our day together moved Sa’s spirit. Since coming to Cambodia he has had little contact with Christian men. Today, he got to travel with us and be a part of our team. This evening he wrote to Chantha via a text message (In his own words):

“I want to say I am very greatful, you guys really put hope back into my heart, at first I almost give up on myself and let go. But you and Christ gave back that hope. When I got home I cryed and thank our God, for your love and care…I love you guys. From you brother Sa…Today was the happiest day of my life, thank to you my brother.”

What a moving message. It touched me when I read it.

The only thing that will help and encourage a person is the love of Jesus Christ and His Word. That is what we all tried to do today–show the love of Jesus. He is our only hope. I am honored to team up with my brothers (Mout, Sam, Chantha, Sa) and be a part of the Lord’s work.

I can’t wait for tomorrow. We get to hear the Word of Christ preached at Calvary Chapel in the morning. I will share, during the service, about Hope Now and our work.

Thank you for reading my posts. They are posted in love, to encourage you. I hope they will. Thank you for your prayers.

Please leave a comment before you go.

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Darkness and Light

The Gospel of John is a book I have been reading with the guys this week. John presents a motif throughout his gospel of spiritual “darkness and light.” Every culture has spiritual darkness and light. Some cultures are better at hiding darkness. In Cambodia, darkness and light mix it up in the open for all to see.

~Buddhist monks receiving obligatory gifts from a gauntlet of worshippers in the marketplace. A woman offering prayers before false idols for all to see: Darkness.

~A flower blooming among debris. A Christian man (Chantha) sharing his faith with a Buddhist man: Light.

~Power and money not used for good: Darkness.

~Christian fellowship and the Word of God being shared to some who believe and others who don’t: Light.

My goal during this trip is to help men who are believers see the importance of letting light shine.

Can you find examples of darkness and light where you live? How can you be light today?

“Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you.” ~Jesus

“We are not of the night or the of the darkness.” ~Paul

Thank you for reading and for your prayers. Please leave a comment.

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A pastor friend of mine in Phnom Penh met me for lunch today. He and his family moved to Phnom Penh a few years ago. He was a missionary in Poland. I asked him if the people of Cambodia are more open to the Gospel than the Poles. “Absolutely”, he said. “Sometimes it takes years, in Poland, to reach one person. In Cambodia there is an openness–a hunger–to know the True and Living God”.

While the people here are happy and friendly, they are trapped spiritually in a miry pit. I shop at a little jewelry store when I am in Phnom Penh and the nice woman who runs it does not open until afternoon. I asked her what she does in the morning? She goes to pray to her dead ancestors. Trapped.

Travelling along the road this week we passed masses of people at a market, surrounded by flies, trash, the stench of decaying food, and noxious fumes from the hundreds of vehicles passing in front of the market. Today we drove alongside a putrid slough. It was the most disgusting sight I have seen in a while. A dark purplish, slimy, murkiness with a sheen of oily goop on the surface. Next to the slough were businesses and food vendors. Children played along the side of it. One young woman was preparing a meal on a bridge that crossed it.

The Slough of Despond in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress came to mind. In the story, Christian fell into a slough. He struggled and struggled but could not get out. He had such a heavy burden on his back and every time he tried to escape, his burden held him down. But a man came to him named Help:

Help: What are you doing in there?

Christian: I was trying to get to the Gate over there, but as I was going along I fell in.

Help: Why didn’t you look for the Steps that lead to the Gate?

Christian: I was afraid. I didn’t know what was inside the Gat. Fear caused me to run away from it and fell in this Slough.

Help: Give me your hand.

Christian gave him his hand and Help drew him out, set him on the Ground and told him to go on his way.

When a person is in a miry pit and in danger, he needs help to get out. Help comes from the Lord. He is mankind’s only hope. Psalm 40:1-2 says,

“I waited patiently for the Lord and he leaned toward me, and heard my cry. He also brought me up out of the horrible slough, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon the rock and established by steps.”

The Gospel of Help that comes from the Lord is what will change a heart and The Gospel of Help is how we rock rescue those reaching for our hand.


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Going Fishing

This story is about fishing for men. Fishing takes patience and the tenacity to find the right spot, where the fish are biting.

It’s difficult to be brief because what goes on in Cambodia is complicated. Please bear with me.

While I was reading John 6 this morning, I had a thought it would be productive to go find deportees who we could encourage and pray for. These men need hope. Let’s take hope to them. We would spend just a few minutes with them, letting them know they are not forgotten and are loved. Isn’t that what everyone wants and needs?

Chantha, Mout and I met early for prayer. Each of us prayed out loud, asking God to direct our steps.

As our journey began, we hired a Tuktuk and asked the driver if we could pray for him before we left. He agreed, I prayed, Chantha translated. I prayed for safety on the roads and for him to look to Jesus Christ. Then, off we went.

Our first stop was RISC. RISC stands for Returnee Integration Support Center. RISC is the first stop for men and women deported to Cambodia from the U.S. They do an adequate job with limited funding. We hoped there would be new deportees, but no new guys arrived this week.

Deportations of Cambodians occur every week. There are 506 Cambodian/Americans here. These are young men (and a few women) who were legal immigrants to the United States and who came with their parents escaping the Killing Fields of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970’s.

Most of them were born in refugee camps in Thailand or Vietnam in the late 1970’s or 1980’s. They came to the U.S. as babies or young children. These children grew up, did not become citizens, and committed a crime.

This is where immigration and deportations gets complicated. Regardless of your opinion on immigration/deportation, the way our country does it is tragic, unethical, and shameful (I’ll give you an example in a moment). Governments (including our wonderful country which I am loyal to and love) are not always good, and in these deportation cases the United States has destroyed families.

Many of the young men committed their crime, did their time in the U.S., got out of prison/off parole, turned their lives around, had families, jobs, became tax-payers, some even owned businesses (Like Mout who was with me today). But a changed life is irrelevant to our Immigration Customs Enforcement officials. There seems to be no rhyme or reason who gets sent to Cambodia.

Since there were no guys to encourage and pray with at RISC, we met with the workers there, Sarith and Song, to thank them for their good work in helping these men and women who arrive.

Heading back to our Tuktuk we prayed again that the Lord would guide us to some men. The Lord brought to the minds of Chantha and Mout guys who we might visit, so we moved to another fishing hole and tracked them down. The first was Sa.

Sa has been in Cambodia since late last year. He is a personable man of short stature, but with a big heart. We found him standing on the side of the road near the neighborhood where he lives. Sa was so pleased that we took the time to find him and visit him.

He invited us to his humble little room he rents for $40 a month. To get to his room, we navigated through narrow, dirty alleyways. To some, his room would be considered a hovel, but he kept it neat and it was clean. We entered, and he invited us to sit down. He had no furniture in his room, just a folding cot. Mout and Sa sat on the floor, Chantha and I on the cot.

Sa works as a security guard where he makes $150 per month. Like Mout, he came from Philadelphia. When he was high school age he lived in Long Beach and for two years attended Jordan High before dropping out. Jordan is the high school where I attended and graduated. Mout and I had an immediate bond with Sa.

He was so humble and thankful for our visit. Sa told us he is lonely because he has no friends or family. His day comprises going to work and coming home to his little space.

I asked him if I could pray for him. He wanted prayer; he needed prayer, and he craved the fellowship and attention we were giving him. Sa reached under his bed and pulled out a book he said he reads every so often; it was the Bible. We invited Sa to our Bible study next Saturday and the church service at Calvary Chapel on Sunday. Pray that he will come.

Sa walked us back to the street where our Tuktuk was waiting. He told me he would like to do what we are doing to help and encourage others. We left Sa feeling humbled, and we thanked the Lord for making our first catch of the day such a beautiful one.

“God, please give Sa hope for each day. Help the Christian men here to encourage him, guide him, and give him hope in Jesus Christ.”

We moved on. “Lord, where shall we go next?”

As we pulled up to the house, three young men were standing outside. The three of them came in January. One was from Boston, another Stockton, the third Long Beach. I spoke with Kahn from Stockton; he told me a little of his story.

Seven years earlier he had committed a crime. He had a family and was working. For seven years his life had changed for the good; Seven years.

One morning, in May of 2015, he was driving his mother to work. On the way, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers surrounded his car. They made him and his mother get out of the car. They handcuffed him and confiscated his car. He asked them if his mother could drive the car home. They told him, “She can walk home.” These are not good people.

From Stockton they transported him to Elk Grove. Over a period of months they moved him from Elk Grove to Bakersfield, then to Arizona, then back to Los Angeles. They placed him on a chartered plane with several other deportees. All of them shackled the entire 8,000 mile flight, guarded by armed Immigration officers who accompanied them on the flight. They flew Kahn and the others to Phnom Penh where they opened the door told them to get out and wished them a nice life. Never again able to return to the United States–Banished for life. All of this at taxpayer expense.

This story is repeated with hundreds of young men. Kahn has a three year old daughter. She’s wondering what happened to her daddy. Our government is not only ripping families apart, but ripping off taxpayers.

Our purpose is not to get angry with our government for their unethical treatment of these men, rather to encourage each man and woman to trust Jesus Christ for eternal life. God has placed them here for a reason.

Man made governments will let us down. One day, believers in Jesus Christ will live on a new earth. There, the righteous and just King of kings will rule.

Our fishing trip was exciting, uplifting and humbling. Chantha and Mout plan on taking similar fishing trips at least once a month. And we pray that other Christian men will join them. Please pray for all those deported. God has a plan, he is working. Pray that Christian men like Chantha, Mout and others will be faithful to God’s call.

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Before heading to see a movie last night with my friend Sam, we stopped off for dinner. Chinese sounded good. Maybe some vegetables, prawns, chicken, rice, etc.?

The menu had pictures, so it made ordering easy. I was thinking chicken nuggets. So when I ordered, “Chickenknee”, it sounded Chinese. Go ahead, say it out loud, “Chickenknee”–Sounds Chinese, right? “Must be their way of saying chicken nuggets” I mused.

The waitress looked at my friend Sam and said something in Khmer. I asked him, “What is she saying?” He replied, “She’s asking is that the dish you want?” “Yes, that’s what I want! I want chicken nuggets.” “Okay, She wanted to confirm your order.” He smiled. 

When the plate came, it looked like the picture; just what I had ordered, chicken nuggets. When I popped one in my mouth, it dawned on me. “Sam?”, I said, with a somewhat sinking feeling, “Am I eating the knees of chickens?” “Yes, pastor. That’s why she asked you when you ordered. Was that what you wanted?” Oh.

Have you ever tasted a little knee cap crunching in your mouth?