Wednesday, July 29, 2009

When Broken is Good

The very first morning that I awoke in the land of Cambodia durning my first survey trip three years ago introduced me to something I had heard about, but did not really believe actually happened.

Bro. Benefield told me to take a walk if I so desired on that first morning. His only request was that I wait until sunlight. We were to meet together at nine o'clock that morning, but since I was suffering from jet lag, I was wide awake at about four.

As soon as there was light enough to see, I took a shower and excitedly rushed out the front door into the country that I had been longing to visit. I only knew two phrases: "Jom-ree-up-sewa"- a formal greeting that you say with your palms together in front of your face as a sign of respect- and "Sok-sabye"- a phrase that basically means, "Are you doing well?" When I hit the streets of Phnom Penh, I was greeting everyone I saw. They must have been thinking, "Bproh saw nung nayuk nah? Goaht ch'cooat nah!"- "Who is that white boy? He's crazy!"

As I strolled up and down the streets of Phnom Penh around the block near the church, a lady who was squatting in the front doorway of a small shack similar to one in the picture above called me over. Thinking that she wanted to converse with me, I gladly went to her with palms together in front of my face and said, "Jom-ree-up-sewa, Ming!" She sneered, paying my sign of respect no attention, and proceded to call someone from the back of the little shanty. She called several times, and finally a young girl, 12-15 years of age I suppose, came to the doorway.

This girl immediately began smiling very flirtatiously at me, and began physically enticing me. It took me a second to realize what was happening, and then it hit me. "No!" I shouted, throwing my hands up. I quickly walked away, feeling filthy. I went straight back to my room, sat down on my bed, and thought, "What just happened to me?" And then I thought about that girl. Who was she? What was her name? Who were her parents? Why was she in that position?

And then the Holy Spirit smote me. "Chad, she has never known what real love is. Her parents obviously haven't shown it to her. But I have called you to come to these people and to live out the love of Christ that constrains you." I was broken that day. That is when broken is good.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Evidence of Commitment

Christians in 2009 struggle with commitment. We give up to easily. Hardships come, and we run the other way. Instead of asking God to teach us through trials, and strenthen us through trials, we ask God to remove the trials, and we have no interest in what God wanted to teach us. We just want life "our way."

The following is a quote by Adoniram Judson, the first missionary sent from the United States to a foreign country. He and his wife, Anne, left for Burma in 1812. Here is the letter that he wrote to his future father-in-law before he and Anne were married. Pay close attention to the level of commitment that Judson possessed.

I have now to ask whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world? Whether you can consent to see her departure to a heathen land, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life? Whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death? Can you consent to all this, for the sake of perishing immortal souls; for the sake of Zion and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with a crown of righteousness brightened by the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Saviour from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?

There was no Plan B in the Judsons' life. His commitment would pay off. Although it took nearly seven years to see his first convert, he remained faithful to God's call upon his life. By the end of his life, the were over 8,000 believers and 63 churches. He also translated the entire Bible from Greek and Hebrew into Burmese, along with a Burmese-English dictionary.

Anne died in Burma, along with her and Adoniram's first two children. Sarah Boardman, the woman whom Judson married several years after Anne's death, died on a ship en route to the States, the only trip that Judson ever made back to America, thirty years after his initial arrival in Burma. Throughout all of these hardships, he remained committed.

How is your level of commitment? I must ask myself this question: "How much will it take to make me quit?"

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

From Their Lives: Life Testimonies of Christians in Cambodia

When my family and I landed in Cambodia in June of 2008 for our month-long survey trip, there were two people waiting for us with the Benefields: Ta, my dear friend and Bro. Benefield's "right hand", and Karona, the lady you see pictured here.

Karona has been my Khmer language teacher both times I have been there, and she is a magnificent teacher. But more than just being a great, effective teacher, she is a commited Christian who has a passion for her fellow-Cambodians.

Karona shares an apartment with one of the other young ladies from the Grom-jom-nom Baptist Dom-nung La-awe (Good News Baptist Church), and her gifts and talents are invaluable to the ministry there. She works faithfully with Bro. Benefield and Ta with translation (Bro. Benefield is constantly producing materials: tracts, books, children's material, and a monthly devotional called the "Daily Light"). God has brought Karona from the "infant" stage of Christianity just a few short years ago to being a leader amongst the ladies of Good News Baptist Church.

When I see the commitment and faithfulness of people like Karona, I am humbled at the thought of my own lack of commitment and faithfulness. Karona and Ta may look at me and think, "This man is from America, and he can teach me much about Christ." In reality, I believe they teach me much more about the Christian life and how to live it than I teach them. God is truly using them.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

From Their Lives: Life Testimonies of Christians in Cambodia

Ree, the young lady in the bottom right of the bottom picture wearing the pink shirt, is such a joy to be around. During my first survey trip in 2006, I didn't even have to know Cambodian to see that she had a joyful spirit. Bro. Benefield led her, her mother, and her father to Christ.

I visited Ree's home three years ago with Bro. Benefield. She was embarrassed to have me, a "sophisticated American", in her home. Honestly, at that time she lived with her parents in a small shack in an ally similar to the top picture above. While most American kids have their own bedroom, Ree had her own corner of one of the two rooms that composed this house. There was no mirror for her to use to fix her hair. She had no closet in which she could keep her clothes. She had no computer. No TV. She had a corner. The only privacy she had was a bedsheet that was used as a curtain around her little corner of the room.

Although her father made a profession of faith, he still struggled, like the majority of men in Cambodia, with alcohol. Ree's mother came to church while I was there in 2006, but her husband's destructive ways kept her discouraged. Ree's older brother was arrested for threatening to abuse his parents if they did not give him money.

It seemed to me that Ree's only escape from this existence was the life she found at the "Grom-jom-nom Baptist Dom-nung La-awe" (The Good News Baptist Church). There, anyone who did not know her family situation would think that she did not have a care in the world.

Please pray for Ree. When I made my second survey trip, I only saw her at church one time. Obviously, she had become discouraged, and as a result had become less faithful to the Lord and to His house. I believe that God has an amazing plan for this young lady's life. But Satan has an amazingly destructive plan of his own.

Pray for Ree, that she would allow the grace of God to penetrate her heart, and that she will become all that God wants her to be.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

From Their Lives: Life Testimonies of Christians in Cambodia

The next few posts are going to take glimpses of the lives of several of my friends in Cambodia that I have made on my two survey trips. They are all members of the "Grom-jom-nom Baptist Dom-nung La-awe" (Good News Baptist Church) of Phnom Penh, Pastor Stephen Benefield. Bro. Benefield is the missionary that I will work with during the first half of our first term, Lord-willing. He planted the "Grom-jom-nom Baptist Dom-nung La-awe" about five years ago, and God has added many precious people to this local, independent Baptist church.

Ta is probably my closest Cambodian friend (besides my wife, of course). We became good friends in 2006 under the funniest of circumstances. At that time, I spoke a word or two of Khmer, and he spoke about one or two words in English. One time, he tried for about five minutes to either tell me something or ask me a question. After several hilarious attempts to communicate through our own made-up sign language, and after several minutes of frustration, we both looked at each other and laughed, and then went our separate ways.

If my memory serves me correctly, he had been saved for a couple of years when I first met him; and yet in spite of the fact that I could not understand his language, and in spite of the fact that he was a fairly young Christian, his humility and simple faith challenged me.

In 2006, Ta was working with Bro. Benefield as an assistant who helped with various small tasks around the church. When I went back in 2008, Ta was preaching in children's church, leading singing at Vacation Bible School, and preaching in the adult service. Praise the Lord, I was able to communicate with him in Khmer, and our friendship was strengthened.

I am praying that God will continue to use this 26 year old man; and that he, if it be the Lord's will, will become the pastor of the "Grom-jom-nom Baptist Dom-nung La-awe".

I went to Cambodia thinking that I, the American missionary, would boost these Cambodian Christians to a new level spiritually. The fact is, when I look at the life of Ta, I am humbled. He challenged me spiritually. He edified me. He encouraged me. He helped me. Let's pray that God will keep using this young man- my friend, Ta.

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Sobering Thought from Philippians

Do you have "life verse"? You know, a verse that has had a special place in your heart that you use when you sign your name. Many Christians claim to have a "life verse", and many Christians do not. Regardless of whether or not you claim to have a life verse, you do have one.

"How is that?" you may ask. "What if I don't claim to have a life verse- you can't say that I have one if I don't have one!" It depends on your definition of a life verse. While we may not all have a verse that we use when we sign our name, we do all have a life verse according to another definition. Here is the definition: "Life verse- a verse that describes your life."

The book of Philippians contains two key verses, and one of these verses is your life verse. Philippians 1:21 reads, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." What an awesome verse. Notice that Paul did not say that Christ was a major influence in his life: he said that Christ is his life. Is this your life verse?

Skip to the next chapter. When you read Philippians 2:21, you see quite a different verse. "For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's." Oh, how I pray that this is not the verse that describes my life. But how often does it describe my life?

So, which is your "life verse"? Which verse describes your life? Are you a Philippians 1:21 Christian or a Philippians 2:21 Christian?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Deputation- Keeping Things in Perspective

I am just beginning the arduous 1000-300-100 plan. You know what that is, right? Sounds like some kind of whacked out insurance policy, doesn't it?

Actually, the 1000-300-100 plan is a major part of a missionary's life before he gets to the field. It simply means this: I must call 1000 churches to schedule 300 meetings- this means that approximately 700 churches that I call will not result in a scheduled meeting- and of those 300 meetings that are scheduled, only 100 will probably actually take us on for financial support.

Now, let's make things very clear. I am NOT complaining. This is just how it is. Obviously, not every church that a missionary calls can take him on for financial support. But sometimes a missionary can be in the middle of this process and become very selfish- a sort of, "What can I get out of this" mentality.

I want to share something that the Lord allowed me to experience the first day I began calling pastors. I believe He allowed this to happen so that I could keep things in perspective during the 1000-300-100 plan.

It was about the third call of the morning, and I was calling Pastor Bryce Hager in Taylors, South Carolina. I talked with him briefly, and he said that at the time they could not take on any new missionaries. Obviously, I was a little bit disappointed to hear this; but nothing compared to how I would feel just a few seconds later.

He went on to tell me that I could call him back in a few weeks, because the next day he was leaving for Australia. When I inquired about the purpose for his trip, he said, "My two year old granddaughter passed away a couple of days ago. My daughter and son-in-law are serving in Australia. I will be back in a few days."

I did not know what to say. I felt the Lord was leading me to simply have a short word of prayer with him, and I did. I asked, "Pastor, can I just have a quick word of prayer for you and your family?" "Sure," he replied.

Here is the bottom line: we as missionaries need to realize that what we are doing is not about us. We do not begin the ministry when we get to the field; we are already in the ministry, and we have an opportunity to minister to hundreds and thousands of people before we even get to the field to which God has called us.

Let's pray for Pastor Hager and his family. And let's keep things in perspective.

Friday, July 10, 2009

About Linda

Linda's parents, Phary and Mom Svay were refugees from the country of Cambodia. They fled their native land in 1980. (Just a side note, Cambodia rarely drops beneath 75 degrees in temperature. When Linda's parents arrived in America, their first stop was New York City- it was December.)

One might ask, "Why did they have to flee?" That is a good question, and one that I did not know the answer to until I was 22 years of age. The reason can be summed up in two words: Killing Fields.

There was a brutal civil war in Cambodia between two factions: the pro-American Cambodian National Army, led by Lon Nol, and the Communist forces, aka the Khmer Rouge, led by Pol Pot. Linda's dad fought for five years against the Khmer Rouge, but to no avail. In 1975, the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia. Linda's dad, along with millions of others, had to lose his identity- because if they had found out that he was a soldier in the former regime, they would have executed him with no hesitation.

From 1975 to 1979, over 3 million Cambodians perished at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. Education, religion, and family were all abolished by Pol Pot. Everyone worked- the children, adults, and the elderly. The Khmer Rouge's favorite phrase was, "To keep you is no profit; to destroy you is no loss." During that time, every day was a twelve hour work day, and the ration of food, which consisted of one bowl of watered down rice, was given twice a day.

Linda's parents survived this horror. After arriving to America in 1980, they spent a few months in New York City, and eventually moved to Long Beach, California, with about 100,000 other Cambodians.

Linda was born shortly after their arrival to Long Beach. She was the first-born child in America. Her two older sisters never made it out of Cambodia. They perished there as babies. Linda grew up in "Little Cambodia" or "Cambodia Town" as Long Beach has been dubbed.

Her family fled Cambodia in search of a better life. They found it. Linda, however, did not just benefit from her parents' escape in a physical way, but she also benefited in the greatest possible way. She not only got a "better" life, but she received eternal life, because Pastor Sambath Mao, the Cambodian pastor of First Baptist Church of Long Beach, California, visited her house and shared the glorious Gospel of Christ with her.

Now Linda is going back to the country her parents had escaped from nearly thirty years ago. Lord-willing, after years of serving the Lord there, Cambodia will be known as the "Living Fields."

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy 4th of July

We had a fun 4th of July as a family. We just went up to the park- Linda, Elly, Judson, my mom, my dad, my sister, and I- and had a relaxing time watching Elly on the playground and then watching a firework show that took place at a nearby church. It was a comforting thought that we live in a country that gives us the freedom to have such times. How blessed we are to live in America.