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.
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.
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?
We worshipped the Lord today. I waited in the courtyard of my hotel for Chantha and Sharon to come and pick me up. Water of Life is a growing church with a diversity of people, both locals and foreigners with lots of young people who are excited about Jesus and his Word.
The church is similar to Hope Now Bible Church in that the service comprises singing, prayer requests and the preaching of the Word. The difference is, the service lasts for two hours! There are four pastors who share the preaching duties. The young pastor today preached from Romans 8.
The leader of the group is pastor Kurt. Kurt and his wife Kendell are missionaries with Calvary Chapel. They’ve been here for three years. Prior to that they were working in Poland. They have four beautiful children.
Pastor Kurt and I hit it off right away. Like Carol and me, they are from So. Cal. (Huntington Beach), and we discovered that we have mutual friends. The Christian world is a small world. Kendall’s sister lives in Fresno!
Several of our Hope Now Cambodia friends came to church with us today, and we all went out for coffee afterwards. It was fun to spend time with Sam, Bait, China, Chantha and Sharon.
Tomorrow morning I am meeting up with Sam for Bible study before he goes to work. Sam is a good friend and I love being around him. If he were in Fresno I would hire him in a minute (although he and Johnny would be a handful).
It was a great day with wonderful people.
For all drought stricken/delta smelt protecting Californians:
When I turned on the water to take a shower this morning there was no hot water. I got dressed, went down to the front desk and told the nice young man that there was no hot water. He said he would send someone up to my room to check.
Meantime, I ate breakfast. After breakfast I went to the desk to ask if they had figured out the hot water issue. He told me, “You must turn the handle to the left.” I said, “Of course, I understand that, and I did, but it still was not hot.” “Sir”, he said, ” You must let water run for 10 minutes and then you will get hot water.”
Eight minutes to go….