We're in Thailand awaiting the birth of our new daughter, Evelyn Joy. Had a doctor appointment today, and everything is fine. Will keep everyone updated. Taking these next few weeks to do some extra studying (Khmer and Bible study), praying, and reading; and of course I am enjoying this time with Linda, Ellie, Judson, and Bundle. Praying that God will bless us with a healthy baby, that Linda's health will remain good, and that we will receive refreshment so that we will be ready for the next two years of ministry in Cambodia. I have already met several people here in Bangkok who are from a province in which Khmer is spoken (Surin). Granted, it is somewhat different than the Khmer we speak in Cambodia, but we can communicate with them. Please pray that God will use us to plant the seed of the Gospel into their hearts.
Saturday, August 9, 2014
Monday, July 28, 2014
Freedom Baptist Church continues to go forward, praise God. The people are showing signs of possessing a faith that is growing, and there is visible evidence of their ever-growing desire to hear and do God’s Word. For that we are eternally grateful.
One blessing in regards to the ministry here is our Sunday afternoon children’s service. The Lord led me a little over a year ago to start this important ministry, and I am glad that I heeded His leading. A 14 year-old girl named Srey Noich received Christ as her Savior nearly a year ago. Her mother will not allow her to be baptized, but continues to allow her to attend the children’s service. A few months ago, because of the love that she experienced when attending our church, she decided to join our regular Sunday morning services. There are no games or candy- only the worship of Christ through song and giving offerings, the fellowship of believers, and the preaching of God’s Word. These are the things that bring Srey Noich, as well as the other members, back to our church week after week.
Srey Noich’s 14 year-old cousin, Lee Da, has attended the children’s service since its beginning. Her father, who is a Muslim, has not been a part of Lee Da’s life for several years now. Thankfully her mother, who is a Buddhist, allows Lee Da to attend the service. Lee Da is truly one of the brightest kids I have ever met in Cambodia. She is the only one who quotes her memory verse perfectly every single week. When I am teaching, I will sometimes as questions that require some analysis in order to answer- and she is always the one who “gets it” before any of the other children. Over the past few weeks, she has shown signs of interest in the Gospel. Please pray for her, that she will respond not only to my voice, but more importantly to the voice of the Holy Spirit as He shows her of her need for the Savior.
We have adjusted our weekly schedule to allow for more ministry opportunities. I thank God for three teenage young men that faithfully attend our church- Dara (Pastor Tho’s son), Vannsak, and La. Pastor Proh, Pastor Tho, and I have started using Thursday evenings as a time of discipleship with these young men. We meet together at 6:00, play some volleyball, and then spend some time in the Word. I believe that this will prove to be invaluable for all of our lives, as well as for the life of this church. Please pray for these young men.
Blessed to have Visitors!
In May we were privileged to have the senior class from Tucson Baptist Academy- a ministry of Tucson Baptist Temple in Tucson, Arizona- visit us for one week. Pastor and Mrs. Armstrong led this group of three young ladies and one young man, and I cannot put into words the blessing that the entire group was to my family and to Freedom Baptist Church. We hosted a mini youth conference that included two other churches in Phnom Penh, and had an attendance of around 80 people. Pastor Armstrong preached two helpful and needed messages, and Mrs. Armstrong and the four seniors fellowshipped with the Khmer believers, many of whom speak conversational English. The group was also able to bring much encouragement to the village church in Kampot led by Pastor Tho. We thank God for the wonderful memories that were made, and for the spiritual benefits that were received as a result of their visit.
Our family is doing well, praise God. Linda is healthy and expecting our fourth child in September. We are excited about the arrival of Evelyn Joy in just a few weeks. Elisabeth, Judson, and Emily are all growing and healthy. I can’t imagine my life without them. Elisabeth is on her way to finishing 1st grade, and Judson is on his way to finishing K-5. Emily is finally potty-trained!
Thank you for your love for our family,
Tuesday, July 1, 2014
This entry is merely a documentation of some of my more recent musings regarding missions in the Independent Baptist world. This is not directed at any particular pastor or missionary.
I have tried to be transparent in this entry. But I want to assure you that by God’s grace, I am still as sure of my call as I was nine years ago.
Some Thoughts on Fruitlessness on the Mission Field
So what is a young, struggling Independent Baptist missionary supposed to do? He has been conditioned to think that a lack of progress on the mission field is most likely evidence that he isn’t really cut out for missions work. This weighs heavily on him from week to week. He has given his life to learning another language and culture. He has spent himself physically, emotionally, and spiritually in getting the Gospel to his city. Dozens of churches have entrusted monthly financial support to him. And three years into his mission he finds that the task to which he has committed his life is far more formidable than he could have ever imagined. He knew that the soil was hard. He had heard others’ testimonies about the hardness of the soil; but he had never worked the soil with his own hands. Now the blisters are starting to show, and the pain is palpable.
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Cultivating the Soil While Sowing the Seed
Our evangelistic efforts are still consistent and empowered by prayer, and in fact we are adding an additional time specifically for our church to get the Gospel out into our city of Ta Khmau. As I was passing out Gospel tracts in a nearby area two weeks ago with Pastor Proh, I felt led to encourage him with these words: “We’re sowing seeds. And I believe we will see fruit if we remain faithful.” Although there is a strong nationalistic and, frankly, anti-Christian sentiment in the areas that God has called us to reach, I do believe that God is working in people's hearts, and that He will use our efforts to see people saved, baptized, and growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.
A brief update on some of the people you have been praying for:
Srey Neat: Ever since her mother returned from a distant province to live with her again, her reception to us has been much different, and she has stopped coming to church. Please pray that God will soften her heart.
Keang: This man in his 50’s we met a few months ago still receives us cordially, but since finishing the salvation study he has shown little interest in the Gospel. He is preoccupied right now in building a new house, so we hope that when the house is finished we will have more opportunities to speak of Christ with him.
Srey Noich: This teenage girl who was reached through the children’s ministry we started last year is growing wonderfully in the Lord, and intends to start attending our Sunday evening service next week.
La: La is now 16 years old and has been attending our church for one year now. While there are still some “rough edges”, his life has been wonderfully changed by the Gospel, and is continuing to be changed by the preached Word.
Reksmey: Thank God that Pastor Tho’s 5-year-old girl is doing better, and has not yet needed another blood transfusion since the one she received in March. Please continue to pray for her.
God’s Strengthening of Our Church
In our first year at Freedom Baptist Church of Ta Khmau, we have seen the church go through some difficult changes. First was the departure of the Shull family, the precious missionaries who started this work with Pastor Proh seven years ago. After their return to the States there were a handful of people in the church who stopped coming and have yet to return. Then on March 17 of this year one of our dear, faithful members, Dalin, a mother of three in her mid-30’s, passed away of a rare blood disease. To make matters even more difficult her husband, who had claimed to be saved and had attended the church for several years, made no effort to have any type of a Christian funeral, and in fact participated in the Buddhist ceremonies. (Our church did have a God-honoring memorial service for Dalin, which was a great source of encouragement for our church family). All of these situations seem like reasons for the church to be discouraged and weakened- but that is not the case. Those who have remained faithful through this past year have shown signs of definite spiritual growth, and have sensed God’s strengthening hand at work in their lives.
I have not only seen our people’s faith strengthened, but I have seen the leadership of Pastor Proh continue to grow as well. After weeks of prayer, observation, and seeking counsel from veteran missionaries, I, with the agreement of Pastor Proh, have decided to turn the church over to him near the end of this term, sometime in early 2016. Our church here in Ta Khmau, along with several other churches here in Cambodia, will support him, and I will help him with the cost of renting a building until they purchase their own land and build their own building. The Lord willing, upon our return in 2017, we will by God’s grace and through His strength plant a new church. The remainder of this term will be spent working with Pastor Proh and Pastor Tho in building up Freedom Baptist Church and preparing the church for the eventual transition of leadership.
Thank you for your love for our family,
Tuesday, March 11, 2014
An Answered Prayer RequestIn mid-February, Pastor Proh and I went and surveyed a village that our church has never evangelized. After our survey, we prayed with each other there on the side of the road that God would lead us to someone who would be willing to talk with us and listen to the Gospel with an open mind. Frankly, it had been quite a while since we had met anyone that I would call “interested” or “open” to listening to a presentation of the Gospel, hence our prayer request. The next day we led a small group back to that village and began doing what we do every Friday morning- passing out Gospel tracts. The men walked on one side of the narrow dirt road that ran through the village, the ladies on the other side, at a slightly faster pace. As we continued, I looked across the street and noticed a man in his late 40’s who was sitting in his hammock reading the tract he had just received from the ladies. I crossed the street and asked him what he thought about the tract, and if he had any questions. His answer surprised me. “This is right. There’s nothing wrong that I can see in here. We are sinners- all of us.” His comments after that were not quite as theologically correct- his subsequent comments indicated that although he recognized that all people were sinners, he had never heard about God’s solution to our sin problem, namely the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But that encounter opened the door for Pastor Proh and I to return and begin teaching him the Gospel. His name is Keang, and since that day we have met with him several times, and have nearly completed our presentation of the Gospel to him. Please pray for him, and for Pastor Proh, who is doing most of the teaching. At the very moment that we were meeting Keang for the first time, Pastor Proh’s wife, Chenda, was meeting with a lady in her 60’s named Om Pom (“Om” literally means “aunt”) who was also very receptive to the Gospel. Chenda has met with Om two more times since meeting her initially, and Om still has a receptive heart. Please pray for these two precious people, that they will understand and respond positively to the message of the Gospel.
Various Updates/Prayer RequestsLa: Thank you to those who have been praying for La, the young man we have been working with for the past eight months or so. After being saved and baptized, he has continued to come faithfully to church, and is now helping collect the offering. Collecting the offering includes praying for the offering. Although he still has a severe stutter, it is a blessing every time I hear him pray, knowing that there is not one person in our church who laughs at or mocks him. Usually after he prays, he immediately looks at me, and I always give him a nod and a smile of approval, to which he responds with an ear-to-ear smile of his own. His schooling is also progressing well, and I am happy to report that he is now reading and writing in Khmer on a basic level. This is a huge step for him. Thank you Bro. Doug Widmer and the Sunday school class at Corinth Baptist Church of Loganville, Georgia, for your investment in this young man’s life.
Srey Noich: Srey Noich is the teenage girl who received Christ as her Savior a few months ago as a result of the children’s ministry that we started. While her parents will not allow her to be baptized, they still allow her to come, and she comes extremely faithfully. Last week she gave a testimony that her grandmother is constantly trying to convince her not to come to church, but that she can’t help but come because of the desire that God put in her heart to come. Please continue praying for Srey Noich.
Srey Neat: Srey Neat is the teenage girl who was attending our services for a couple of months. When we met her she was living with her grandmother and alcoholic father, and her mother was living in a distant province. Recently her mother returned to live with Srey Neat, and since that time Srey Neat has not been in church at all, almost certainly because her mother did not approve. Srey Neat was about half-way through the salvation lessons when she stopped coming. Please pray for more opportunities to give the Gospel to her.
Reksmey: Reksmey is Pastor Tho’s five-year-old girl (you can see her on the back of our most recent prayer card) and Ellie’s best friend in our church. Reksmey was just diagnosed with what appears to be thalassemia, an incurable disease that destroys the red blood cells. The only treatment that we know about is continual blood transfusions. This was extremely difficult news for everyone, especially Pastor Tho and his wife, Chan. Please be in prayer for this precious family, and for me as I will take them to meet a Christian doctor next week to discuss this situation.
Thursday, February 6, 2014
I must confess that I'm a bit hesitant to publish what I'm about to write here. There is always the danger of a missionary coming across as a whiner if he includes in his written reports descriptions of his discouragements and difficulties. But I am willing to take that risk in this post, because I believe anyone who reads this entire article will walk away with a renewed understanding of the Good Shepherd's spiritual protection over His sheep.
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Spiritual Growth and a Good SpiritThe transition that took place in Freedom Baptist Church when the Shull family returned to the States was a good transition, and yet it had its difficulties. This is to be expected when such a treasure of a family that has invested years of love and labor into a church are no longer present. Everybody felt the emotional pain when the Shulls followed God’s leading back to the States. A couple of people have stopped coming, and while this can be discouraging, we are greatly encouraged by the spiritual growth that we have seen in many of the believers’ lives. Truly this is a testament to the sound Bible teaching that they have received from Bro. Shull, Pastor Proh, and Pastor Tho over these past few years. While the first few months following the Shulls’ departure was an emotionally difficult time of transition for this church family, I thank God for the spiritual growth that has taken place during this time, especially over the past couple of months. I am also greatly encouraged and filled with thanksgiving to God for the people who have been added to the church over the course of the past few months. La, Srey Noich, and Srey Neat continue to come faithfully. Immediately following Srey Noich’s salvation, she asked her parents if she could be baptized, to which they answered “No.” But thank God that she reported to us a couple of weeks ago that after asking her mother again, her mother finally agreed to allow her to be baptized. Pastor Proh recently told me about a conversation he had with Srey Neat’s grandmother, in which she told him, “Just a few months ago Srey Neat tried to commit suicide.” I don’t know all the reasons that she would try to take her own life, but it can all be summed up in one word: hopelessness. As I have observed Srey Neat’s participation in our services, I have noticed that she really loves coming to our church. I believe when she comes to Freedom Baptist Church, she feels that there is hope, that perhaps there is meaning and purpose in this life. Please pray that she will soon come to a full understanding that the meaning and purpose that she is searching for can only be found in a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.
God-given VictoriesI am learning that in the ministry we don’t always see the results we have been hoping for in the time frame that we originally anticipated. I have some pretty big dreams and prayer requests for Freedom Baptist Church- some things that when they do eventually come to pass, I will stand in awe at the great victories that God has wrought in our midst. But right now we are in a season of ministry in which we are still waiting for some of these major victories to come to pass (i.e. our own land and building, the opening of a Bible institute, etc.); but I am just as thankful to God for other great victories that God has given us over the past couple of months. I thank God for the great friendship and unity I have with my co-laborers, Pastor Proh and Pastor Tho. I thank God for the Christmas offering that our church sacrificially gave for an orphan boy named Mah who is suffering from HIV- the disease that claimed his parents’ lives- in our village church in Kampot. I thank God for many of our church members who have recently experienced trials of their faith, and as a result have become stronger. I thank God for first generation Christians in our village church in Kampot, which is led by Pastor Tho, who are memorizing the entire book of Philippians (a couple of teenagers have already quoted the entire book). I thank God that the same teenagers who quoted Philippians recently told Pastor Tho, “Memorizing Philippians has given me a desire to tell my friends about Christ,” and as a result there have been several first time visitors in the past few weeks. Truly, these are victories that only God could bring to pass.
Thank you for your love and your prayers on behalf of our family. We love you and thank God for you.