Sokha and I have been in the village for about five weeks now. We’ve been adjusting to married life, living in the village, and new ministry responsibilities. We are living in the same village where I lived from January to March of this past year, but in a different house. It has been challenging to get used to life without running water, electricity, restaurants and supermarkets again. In addition, I had typhoid fever a few weeks ago, and am still not back to feeling normal. We can’t say that it has been an easy transition, but we pray that in the midst of our weakness that the power of God will be showed forth. As His ambassadors to these people, it’s our desire to see Christ’s great commission in Mathew 28:18-20 being accomplished through our lives. Therefore, we are much in need of your prayers.
We’ve been teaching children English three times a week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Children are classified into three classes. The first class between 12 to 1 pm is a class for students who have just started to learn English. There are about 45 students in this class. The second class between is 1.15 to 2 pm for young children between the age of 3 to 8. There are also about 45 students in this class. The third class between 5 to 6 pm is a class for advanced learners. There are about 10 students in this class. Most of them are either in secondary school or in high school. Therefore, there are about 100 children altogether. On Friday afternoon, we read the Khmer Children’s Bible with the advanced learners and have them translate a few sentences. We have also encouraged the rest of the children to come half an hour before their English classes to read the Khmer Children’s Bible. We begin class by reviewing the story that they read and asking a few questions. We’ve also been running Sunday School class on Sunday morning between 7 to 8 am. There are about 60 children attending that we know mainly from the English classes, but a few children also come that don’t come to the English classes. We strongly hope to see God draw these children to Himself.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we spend time getting to know the the village, the village life, and the children’s families through house visits. This is the time of the year when rice seedlings are transplanted into the fields, and public school students are on their two and a half month vacation until the beginning of October. Since most people are farmers, all of them are quite busy working in the fields. Everyone has to help out in the fields. Even young children between the age 4-6, whose families are short-handed, have to help in the fields. Other than working in the fields, the villagers are skillful at catching and trapping fish, frogs, shrimp, growing vegetables, and raising chickens, ducks and pigs. Most families have their own small vegetable gardens, pig sties as well as chicken houses by their house. We can say that these people will not starve as long as they are diligent with their hands.
So far, we’ve taken several walks through the village. Every time, we are on a walk, we marvel at the views in the village. The sky, the shades of green in the fields and the mountains are indeed beautiful. We praise God for putting these marvelous paintings up for the villagers and us to enjoy. Gratefully, we are escorted by a number of our students from the English classes, and are welcomed into their houses for being their children’s teachers. Teachers are well respected in the village. This gives us a chance to build good relationships with their parents and family members as well as to share with them the reason we are here in their village. We normally try to pray for each other as we take turns to speak about God, the creator, how they were separated from Him by their sin, and His love to save them from their sin and His eternal punishment. Most people are open to the gospel though the old folks seem to hold tighter to their Buddhist and animist beliefs. Before leaving their houses, they often give us whatever they have as gifts such as fish, corn, fruit, and glutenous rice cakes.
Through these house visits, we met an old grandmother who has been disowned by both her son and grandchildren. Two of grandchildren’s houses are our neighbors. As a result, she has been living by herself in a shack surrounded by a small rice field. She cannot see well and yet she has to cook, buy food, and earn money by polishing the leaf-stems of coconut branches. She gets paid 400 riels (10cents) per kilogram of the leaf-stems. These are used to make an assortment of things like brooms and roofing thatch. She has a sister living in the US who has been sending her some money, but her other grandchild is the keeper of the money. He sends her some pork and a small amount of money every few days. We try to visit her more frequently to find out her situation as well as her needs. We’ve also been sharing with her the gospel and God’s great love, and even encouraged her to stop by our house to spend time and have meals at our place. One early morning about a week ago, she stopped by our house and handed some of her rice plates and bowls to Sokha as her last inheritance. Sokha was stunned and touched by her actions. Every time we talk to her, she often says she does not know when she will die and who will care if she dies. Our hearts break every time we think about her. If God pleases, may He give her a new heart to believe in Him before she dies.
We have also seen that a number of children are not taken care of very well by their families. Ravi, a second grader, has dropped out of school and is known in the village as a thief. A 7 year-old, Sam Art, and her younger brother Ream were left by their mother to live with their father and grandfather. We were told their mother is working in one of garment factories in Phnom Penh and would not return to them. Both children are lost in their own world, and hardly speak at all. A 14 year-old, Sophorn, and her younger brother, Ponleu, who are going to be in grade 7 and 5 next year are being raised by their mother, as their father has gone to work in Phnom Penh. Although Sokha was brought up in a Christian orphanage for ten years, she prefers to help educate and train the parents as well as to supply their basic needs so that they can take care of their children. We especially feel burdened to love these children help their families.
On Sundays, I have been preaching at the Prey K’Chiey church plant, and Sokha assists with the music. The group is made up mostly of students from the outreach work of missionary Esther and teacher Saran over the past three years. We are discussing how this young church plant can be slowly brought to maturity. There is much to be thought through, so we need your prayers as plans are being made.
With our recent marriage and a few supporters needing to reduce support or stop support over the past few months, we are in need of some monthly support. If you are interested in supporting us or know a church or friend that may be interested in supporting us, please let us know. Here is the giving information: Donation website: www.mtw.org/donations To donate by check write “Luke Smith- 17118” in the memo line, and send it to: MTW, P.O. Box 116284, Atlanta, GA, 30368-6284.