Loak Crew To (lit. "Pastor To") has become a friend of mine. He has been working with my friend, missionary Ray Shull, for over five years at their church here in Cambodia. He was led to the Lord by the missionary I am currently working with, Stephen Benefield, several years ago after Ray had already befriended him and showed him the love of Christ. Since Ray was the one whom God used to bring Loak Crew To to church for the first time, they naturally developed a close friendship. A couple of years later, after Ray returned to Cambodia from his first furlough, God led Loak Crew To to become Ray's co-laborer at a brand new church plant. God has used Loak Crew To in an amazing way...so amazing, in fact, that the Buddhist leaders in his home village are vehemently opposed to his freedom to preach Christ in that village. Here's why.
Several years ago, the Lord allowed Loak Crew To to start a ministry in his home village in the province of Kompot. Over the years, that ministry has been on the receiving end of God's blessing. Many have come to know Christ as Saviour, and have continued to grow in grace. Today, Ray Shull, Loak Crew To, and Loak Crew Proh (another Khmer pastor working with Ray) take a trip twice a week to Loak Crew To's village to disciple believers and teach the Gospel to new people interested in Christ.
Ray recently told me that the Buddhist leaders in that village have no problem with Ray or Loak Crew Proh preaching in the church- but Loak Crew To is a different story. You see, Loak Crew To was a Buddhist monk in that village for about seven years before he was saved. Those Buddhist leaders know that he has great influence on the people in that village. These religious leaders wouldn't put it in these words, but the fact is that they know that Loak Crew To is a dangerous weapon in the hands of God.
There are two important truths that I want to draw out of this testimony. First, one of the main keys to reaching a nation with the Gospel is national pastoral leadership. Truly, they are mighty weapons in the hand of God. My prayer is that God will allow me to be a part of training Cambodian men to be spiritual leaders in local, independent Baptist churches in Cambodia. I thank God for men like Loak Crew To, Loak Crew Proh, Loak Crew Sakaun, Ta, Hawn, and several others- some who are in full time ministry, some who are lay-leaders- who have been a great encouragement to me during my first term in this country. Secondly, this testimony is a microcosm of the reality of present-day Cambodia. There is religious freedom in Cambodia. The fact that roughly 2 percent of population follows some form of Christianity- at least what Cambodians view as being Christianity- doesn't really bother anyone at this point. As long as that number doesn't grow very much, things will be just fine. But I guarantee that when the Gospel seed starts to bear much fruit, there will be people in high places that will be anything but happy. That may be the very thing that brings an end to foreign missionaries' "long leash" here in Cambodia. In that case, it will be of utmost importance that there are scores of men like Loak Crew To who will be used of God to do what we foreigners will be hindered from doing.