Saturday, July 31, 2010

Don't Delude Yourself

The following is an excerpt from the book, A Chance to Die, The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael, by Elisabeth Elliot. The first quotation is by Elisabeth Elliot, and it is a description of how Amy Carmichael felt about "good" missionary meetings (for example, a meeting like our modern day missions conferences) back in England. The second quotation is taken directly from Amy Carmichael's diary.

"How could people at home write of a 'delightful' missionary meeting? Had they absorbed nothing of needs unmet, cries unheeded, griefs uncomforted? Did they attend for nothing but the tea and cake, the conversation, the chance to examine exotic curious, and then tell themselves that they were doing all that could be expected of them?" -Elisabeth Elliot

"Missionary work is a grain of sand, the work untouched is a pyramid...Face it. Look and listen, alone with God. Then go, let go, help go. But never, never, never think that anything short of this is being 'interested in missions.' Never, until this point is reached and passed, delude yourself into thinking that you care at all." -Amy Carmichael

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A Cambodian Martyr's Story

The Cambodian Christians who were slaughtered during the Killing Fields over three decades ago were truly a perfect picture of true commitment to Christ; and, like those martyrs mentioned in Hebrews 11, the world was not worthy of them. And yet, their stories are seldom told in most churches and Christian circles today. The following is an excerpt from the gem of a book, Killing Fields Living Fields by Don Cormack. This is the account of a bold Christian named Haim, who, with his wife and children, would be martyred for their unrelenting faith in Jesus Christ.

Haim's entire family was rounded up that afternoon. They were "the old dandruff", "bad
blood", "enemies of the glorious revolution", "CIA agents". They were Christians.

The family spent a sleepless night comforting one another and praying for each other
as they lay bound together in the dewy grass beneath a stand of friendly trees. Next
morning the teenage soldiers returned and led them from their Gethsemane to their
place of execution, to the nearby viel somlap, "the killing fields".

The place was grim indeed and bore many gruesome signs of a place of execution. A
sickly smell of death hung in the air. Curious villagers foraging in the scrub nearby
lingered, half hidden, watching the familiar routine as the family were ordered to dig
a large grave for themselves. Then, consenting to Haim's request for a moment to
prepare themselves for death, father, mother, and children, hands linked, knelt together
around the gaping pit. With loud cries to God, Haim began exhorting both the Khmer
Rouge and all those looking on from afar to repent and believe the gospel.

Then, in a panic, one of Haim's young sons leapt to his feet, bolted into the surrounding
bush and disappeared. Haim jumped up and with amazing coolness and authority
prevailed upon the Khmer Rouge not to pursue the lad, but allow him to call back the
boy. The knots of onlookers, peering around trees, the Khmer Rouge, and the stunned
family still kneeling at the graveside, looked on in awe as Haim began calling to his son,
pleading with him to return and die together with his family.

"What comparison, my son," he called out, "stealing a few more days of life in the
wilderness, a fugitive, wretched and alone, to joining your family here momentarily
around this grave but soon around the throne of God, free forever in Paradise?" After
a few tense moments the bushes parted, and the lad, weeping, walked slowly back to his
place with the kneeling family. "Now we are ready to go," Haim told the Khmer Rouge.

But by this time there was not a soldier standing there who had the heart to raise his
hoe to deliver the death blow on the backs of these noble heads. Ultimately this had to
be done by the Khmer Rouge commune chief, who had not witnessed these things. But
few of those watching doubted that as each of these Christians' bodies toppled silently
into the earthen pit which the victims themselves had prepared, their souls soared
heavenward to a place prepared by their Lord.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Reflections at Salem

Last week I took my family to Salem, Massachusetts. When most people think of Salem, the first thought that enters their minds is "The Salem Witch Trials." However, we did not drive to Salem to investigate that rather insane chapter of American history. We went to Salem to learn more of the man after whom we named our son. We went to witness the very place from which Adoniram and Anne Judson sailed away nearly two hundred years ago as America's first foreign missionaries.

As my family and I made our way down to the wharf from which Adoniram and Anne Judson sailed back in 1812, I could not help but imagine what it must have been like on that day. They were so young, only twenty-three years of age, when they boarded the Caravan at the Salem wharf and said goodbye to their loved ones. This would be Anne's final goodbye, for in just a few years, she would be in the very presence of the One for Whom she was making this sacrifice. For Adoniram, over thirty years would go by before he returned to New England. During those thirty plus years, he would bury several of his precious children and his beloved wife Anne; he would faithfully spread the Gospel for seven years until he saw his first covert; he would spend nearly a year locked up in a death prison; he would have a new marriage with Sarah Boardman, but after only a few years her death would part them. And yet amidst so much suffering, God would use him to bring about the birth of the Burmese church and the translation of the Burmese Bible. He would also write the first Burmese-English dictionary, which would be used by generations of missionaries after him.

As I stood there and looked upon the waters of the Atlantic, I imagined the Caravan being right in front of me. I could see a gathering of people as they said farewell to this committed young couple. I could see their parents and their siblings weeping, comforting each other as they wondered when they would see their son, their daughter, their brother, their sister again. This scene played out in front of my eyes as I held my son, Judson. Then, my attention shifted from the distant past to that present moment. My focus changed from imagining a past event to examining the present state of my own heart. I thought, "Am I willing to pay such a price to obey and serve the Lord?" And then I wondered, "What is my level of commitment? Will I serve the Lord as long as it is convenient? What about when I am called to pay a price? Will I remain faithful then?" And then I looked at my children. "Will my son be a man who is committed to Jesus Christ? Will my daughter be willing to follow the Lord wherever He leads?" O, that I were more committed to the One Who died for me! O, that my children will accept Christ as their personal Saviour at the youngest age possible, and live a life that pleases Him! O, that God would use us as we live and labor among the Cambodian people! May we stay faithful to Him Who is ever faithful to us.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Friendship at a Laundry Mat

We thank the Lord for the opportunity we have had over the past couple of weeks to get to know a sweet lady named Nagwa. We met her at a laundry mat in Concord, New Hampshire. Linda gave her a Gospel tract, and she received it happily. We talked to her for nearly the whole hour we were in the laundry mat, and before we left she invited us to her home. She is a refugee from Sudan, and was brought up under the teachings of Islam. She has a four year old son named Mohammed and a two year old son that she calls "Baby." (I can never remember his real name.) We went to her house, and she welcomed us warmly. She made us some authentic Sudanese food and some Sudanese tea, which, I must say, is some of the best stuff I have ever had. She has become a good friend over the past few weeks, and we thank God for allowing us to meet her.

Through Nagwa we met another lady who is also a refugee from Sudan named Isol. She, like Nagwa, is a very sweet, personable lady, perhaps a little more shy than Nagwa. She has a little boy who is four days older than Judson name Obala. She has become a good friend as well.

Praise the Lord, both Nagwa and Isol came to Landmark Baptist Church of Loudon, New Hampshire last night, along with their children, to hear me preach and present our ministry. I preached on the love of God out of 1 John 4. 1)The Definition of God's love- God's love is unconditional and sacrificial. 2)The Display of God's love- Christ's substitutionary death, burial, and resurrection. 3)The Demand of God's love- for those of us who have received Christ as Saviour, there is a demand on our lives to live not for ourselves, but for Him Who died for us and rose from the dead.

By God's grace, I preached Christ crucified and risen from the grave. Both Nagwa and Isol listened. Please pray for these dear ladies, that the Holy Spirit will deal with their hearts about their need for Christ. Pray for us, that we can continue our relationship with them. God has really knit our hearts to them over the past couple of weeks.

The Killing Fields: A Perpetual Nightmare

To understand the people to whom you are ministering is absolutely vital. For us to understand the Cambodian people, we cannot separate the current state of Cambodia from the horrors that took place thirty-five years ago. In Cambodian history, the years 1975-1979 have been given the grim title, "the Killing Fields." It is estimated that over twenty-five percent of the population of Cambodia perished during those bloody years.

Some may ask, "What relevance does the genocide thirty-five years ago have in Cambodian ministry today?"

Consider the following thoughts. Three million Cambodians died in a span of four years. Among those were skilled workers, intellectuals, and the next generation of entrepreneurs. In fact, these types of people were prime candidates for execution, because the Khmer Rouge considered anyone with education to be the most serious threat to the communist revolution. With these untold hundreds of thousands of potential leaders, businessmen, and teachers being executed, a social vacuum was created, stunting the economic growth of Cambodia substantially, and creating a destitute society composed mainly of refugees with limited education. That is one of the reasons Cambodia is considered the poorest country in Southeast Asia. Ministering in Cambodia involves seeing utter and complete poverty every day. Many of the people have lost hope, and have accepted the fact that not only were they born in absolute destitution, but that they will die that way as well.

Cambodians are known for their serene, peaceful smiles. On the surface, Cambodians are some of the friendliest, most cordial people in the world. But festering beneath many of these facades are hatred, bitterness, and anger. If you have ever met a Cambodian aged thirty-five or older, most likely you have met someone who lost multiple loved ones during the Killing Fields. My mother and father-in-law lost three daughters during that nightmare. My mother-in-law will talk about it, but my father-in-law still has a serious struggle. In fact, one day we were watching a documentary about the Killing Fields in his house. In the documentary, a former Khmer Rouge soldier was being interviewed, and he very casually described that his job as a Khmer Rouge officer was to execute children. His description of his former atrocities was eerily nonchalant. My father-in-law walked in about that time, listened for a second, and in a rage demanded that we turn off the documentary, and then he stormed out of the room. Many Cambodians still struggle with bitterness because of what happened from 1975-1979.

The following are some sober comments made by various journalists throughout the years concerning the Killing Fields of Cambodia:

"...Cambodia has achieved a distinction which has so far eluded even those countries unfortunate enough to experience the full weight of terror brought to bear by even the most monstrous tyrants of our time; it is the first country to be transformed into a concentration camp in its Cambodia, ignored by the outside world, the unburied dead cry for vengeance, and the living dead for pity; and cry, both, in vain."

(Bernard Levin, The Times April 22, 1976)

"Having emptied and vandalised the cities, Angka Loeu (The Organisation on High, aka the Khmer Rouge) proclaimed the birth of a new 'Democratic Kampuchea' and proudly declared, 'More than 200 years of Cambodian history have been virtually stamped out'. It is difficult to dispute that claim. Within a few days, the Organisation on High had advanced faster and further than any other revolutionaries of modern times toward obliteration of an entire society."

(John Barron and Anthony Paul, Murder of a Gentle Land, Reader's Digest Press, 1977)

"Cambodia is synonymous with utter disaster, a blood stained experiment in social engineering which left over two million dead...The Khmer Rouge had a paranoid hatred for anything to do with love and its expression: husband and wife, children, family, culture and religion."

(Elizabeth Becker, When the War was Over, Simon and Shuster, New York 1986)

"The Khmer Rouge were Marxist fanatics. They laid to waste the golden harvest fields, transforming them into blood red killing fields."

(Haing S. Ngor, Surviving the Killing Fields, Chatto and Windus, London 1988)