By Daniel, a member of the Christ Central Presbyterian Church short-term team who visited our village for about a week last summer.
The Cambodia missions trip was my first mission trip of my life. I wasn’t too nervous because I knew that this was something that I am called to do. There was no doubt. Also, I thought of it as a duty that I must fulfill and something that I must do on this earth before I die as a believer. I’ve only imagined how missions is from what I have heard from the missionaries I got to talk to. When I got to Cambodia, it was definitely different.
As a team, we met up quite often before departure. We would get together and pray. We also tried to prepare lessons and crafts for different ministries that we were getting involved with. Right from the get go, the first day, we realized that we should revise our plans. We scrapped our weeks of planning. I personally felt like I was robbed, but it was necessary. God humbled our team through this. Because most of us were planners like myself, we liked things to be organized and structured. But God had different plans and different ideas in His mind. As we went through day by day, we would adjust to new settings, new people, and sometimes unexpected surprises like a heavy rain. But during our sharing time at the end of the day, we knew that God was good. Besides, we are simply His instruments.
Unfortunately for me, this humbling part was the easy part. The difficult part was trying to convey to these people that God is good. Being a Christian is a good thing. It is something that you would want to cling onto even if your own life or even if your family’s life is at stake. So whenever I interacted with new believers and unbelievers, I smiled. I tried to be kind. I tried to be generous and thoughtful. Of course, God broke me down once again.
I realized that this fake smile was very exhausting. I realized that I did not have the true joy of salvation. My 3 week trip seemed unexpectedly long by the beginning of week 2, and I wanted to go home. My passion to be involved with enthusiasm died down. I was physically drained. The heat and humidity was getting to me. I wanted the comforts of my own room. I missed my clean and nice clothes. As this desire grew, I was not able to smile anymore. I was unsatisfied doing God’s work. But when I saw my teammates smiling and professing the Gospel, I was encouraged, but also discouraged at the same time: why can’t I be truly joyful?
I knew that I was not fully convinced that being a Christian is necessarily good. Sometimes, you feel even more lonely when you you believe in God. Sometimes, the struggles you face are unfathomable by your friends outside of the Christian community – or even within the community. Sometimes, I would have to give up things that I have grown to love more than God. Sometimes, this struggle is just too real to feel joyful. I felt like I was lying – leading these people into suffering and more heartbreaks.
As God broke me down, God also provided me a way to escape this by the time I got to the village of Ankjeay. Physically, I was very drained. Even though it was hotter and there was no A/C, I didn’t care. I was simply too tired to complain. Fortunately, I taught the guitar the next day to the kids in the village. This was something that I enjoyed doing back at home. And the kids were simply so eager to learn that I couldn’t help but smile. When the kids learned new chords and strums faster than I anticipated, God showed me visions of how some day, these kids may become praise leaders, leading people into worship. That motivated me to stay after hours. A week is a short period of time, but I wanted to teach much as I could. This ministry that I got to work with became almost effortless. Also, by this time, our team got very close and understood each other a lot better. Our team’s considerate encouragements toward one another and the warmth of the family meal by Sokha and Luke definitely kept me going. I was even more excited when Pastor Luke shared his plans with some of these kids. Some will be granted scholarships to get into colleges in the city. And by the grace of God, the selected kids did pass college entrance exams, and are on their way to college. These little miracles and work that God is doing in this village and other ministries of Cambodia, made me want to stay or revisit. I wanted to witness the good work that God is doing here.
Soli Deo Gloria. That’s what I wrote in my journal every night on this mission trip. And God really did do everything to glorify Himself. Even discontent son like me, God used. I don’t think I was ready to go either, but I don’t know where this boldness came from. This trip was about God, but I focused too much on myself. Only after I saw God working in these individuals, I was able to be more honest and be more relaxed. I realized that regardless of what I do or don’t do, salvation does not belong to me, but it is a simple gift of God. I can only pray that God will be gracious to these people as He was gracious to me to taste the glimpse of the joy and the hope that I have through Jesus Christ even during the times of trial. That is my simple prayer that I still cling on to after the trip.
We hope this update finds you content in God’s grace and seeking His kingdom. We are grateful for your support and prayers that allow us to continue to teach the word of God in the village. This week is the Cambodian New Year, so we are in Phnom Penh for a few days before returning to the village towards the end of the week. The rains the past couple of weeks have brought some relief from the hot season. Sokha recently wrote a blog post about this year’s hot season and the struggle for water: http://lifeincambodia.org/2014/04/11/water-wells-heat-and-dust-the-dry-season-2014 .
In spite of the extreme heat, students in our English outreach classes continue to attend classes faithfully on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Several students come early to practice playing the guitar and to sing Christian songs from the Khmer Purple Hymnal. There is only one hymnal in Khmer. The first half of the hymnal has songs translated from English into Khmer, and the second half of the hymnal is songs written by Cambodians set to traditional Cambodian tunes. The tunes are quite familiar to most Cambodians and can be heard at any wedding, funeral or festival.
Song number 138 in the hymnal is one of their favorites. The first verse is: “I have been saved by you. There is no other god who can help me. You are the only one. There is no other god who can free me from my sorrow. Only a gift from heaven. Now I have you as the Lord of my life.” There are many edifying hymns that have been written by Cambodians that we would like to share from time to time. Most of them were written at the end of the Pol Pot era when many Cambodians were coming to Christ in refugee camps.
Last July, a group of young church members started learning how to play guitar with the purpose of using it to glorify God. Sokha has taught them on Saturday afternoons as well as a few short term team members last summer, a MTW intern and a friend that visited. By December, some of them could play a simple Khmer Christmas song during the Christmas church service. Presently ten of them can play guitar well enough to help lead in singing in the first half hour of the English outreach classes as well as in the Sunday worship service with Sokha. We are praying and hoping that soon they can serve the Lord confidently with their new talent and can lead singing without Sokha.
Pisey, Saran, Srey Lin and Navy, the four girls in the discipleship/vocation program have been doing well in their preparation year. Besides, learning English, computer and taking a Bible certificate program from Moore Theological College, they have been passionately involved in helping teach the children in the English outreach class for beginners as well as the Sunday school class. Reaksmey, Sokha’s younger sister, travels from Phnom Penh on the weekends to train them as well as a few other church members to teach the Sunday school children. It is our hope that one day these four girls will soon be able to teach the class by themselves.
In addition to our normal work, we try to make time to work on a few translation projects from time to time. Every month, we translate four or five questions and answers from the Westminster Shorter Catechism and use them in the church worship service. We are about 1/3 of the way through the Shorter Catechism now. Also, we just finished editing/revising a Gospel Coalition Booklet titled the “Gospel and Scripture.” Next, we will start editing/revising another Gospel Coalition Booklet title “What is the Gospel” by Bryan Chapel.
As we feel called to work in this village long term, it is our desire to minister to the students as well as to reach out to the villagers more effectively. Therefore, we need a better place to stay, and larger classrooms. The rats, snakes,centipedes and scorpions that often make their way into our rental house, along with roof leaks and a number of other small problems has made it an exhausting place to stay. One year ago, with the help of some of the students’ parents, we managed to buy five connected rice fields along the village dirt road for a reasonable price. Since then, we filled them up with dirt. It is about half a hectare in size with a beautiful landscape in the background. With permission from the government, we have been able to start building a house. The construction of the house is about half way through with the help of the village construction workers. Along with the construction of the house, we are writing a proposal for a pending classroom project in the coming months.
Your partners in the gospel,
Luke, Sokha, and Hannah
Sokha’s description of the yearly struggle for water and the 2014 dry season: When we first moved to Angkjeay village, we asked our landlord if he had a well. He told as that he had one. As we looked around and couldn’t see one, we asked if he could show us his well. To our …
A Bit of Background: This December marks two years since our village church plant first began to meet for Sunday worship. Most of our church members are in their teens and started coming to church through our English/Khmer Bible outreach classes. Despite the strong societal and family pressure in the village not to leave Buddhism …
Two years in the village: This month marks two years of ministry for Sokha and I as a married couple in Angkjeay village. God has been gracious in sustaining us in spite of the difficulties we have faced both physically and spiritually. About nine months ago, many tall trees were cut down and electricity poles …
The article below was written by Kay Burklin and Opal Hardgrove from Mission to the World’s home office after a recent visit to our village: One at a Time in Cambodia by Kay Burklin and Opal Hardgrove Maly (name changed) lives in a small, remote farming village in Cambodia. Because of her critical nature and …
Mission to the World recently featured Sokha on their MTW One Child webpage: Her mother didn’t want her and couldn’t—or wouldn’t—take care of her. So an aunt took in Sokha and her three siblings and did her best to lovingly provide food and shelter and give them a decent life. But tragedy struck and the …
Below is a video about our ministry that was made for the Mission to the World Ambassador’s Conference, March, 2013:
“My children, remember me! The sins I committed were to provide for you. My suffering and pain has been unbearable in hell. Now, I have been freed for a short time. Do not forget to bring me food, my beloved.” These are the lyrics of the early morning and late night chant that blares from …