“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 the loud speakers at the Buddhist Temple that is about 100 yards from our house. The annual Pchum Bun festival which is also known as the ancestors’ day has arrived again. It is a 15-day festival celebrated to offer food to the Buddhist monks in order to feed the spirits of one’s dead ancestors, relatives and friends who are believed to have been detained in hell for committing “big sins.” These ancestors are freed to receive food from the living relatives during this time. If no food is offered to them, then they will curse the living. In fear, the living get up at 4 am to throw lumps of rice around the temple to feed the dead. Later in the morning at 8 am, they return to the temple again with food offerings for the monks.
On the first day of the festival, my wife took breakfast to Yeay Chrong. While she was still sitting with her in her hut, a drunken old grandfather holding a Bible in his left hand and a walking stick in the other approached her. She immediately recognized him. He once told us that he used to go to church, but due to his family’s persecution and pressure, he stopped attending church. We had encouraged him to attend Angkjeay Church service with us, but he withdrew out of fear of his wife. As he came closer to her, he held out the Bible and asked if his Bible was the same as the Bible we used. She said “Yes” and invited him to attend Angjeay church plant service once more. However, before she could finish talking to him, he walked off. As he was moving away, she caught up with him and asked if she could talk to him more about the faith. He whispered that he was too drunk to talk right now and walked off quickly. On the way home, my wife met his wife who was on her way from the Buddhist temple. She asked her if she knew that her husband has been wanting to go to church. The wife smiled and said, “Yes.” Then my wife asked if she could let him have his wish this time and that she herself should come to church with him too. She said she wanted too, but she was afraid of her grandchildren and the spirits of her dead ancestors. Further, she did not think she could stop following the Khmer tradition. We know that this is not a new story. Satan has been driving people away using fear and empty human tradition throughout the ages.
From meeting under mango and coconut trees, Angkjeay church plant has been able to put up a worship shelter from its church offerings. It had been six months since the Angkjeay church plant had moved from Missionary Esther’s village to its current location. We had been meeting in an open space on the property of one of the villagers. However, by the end of May, as the rainy season was approaching, it was necessary to put up at least a simple worship shelter. Before a shelter could be built, seven trucks of dirt were bought to fill in the low part of the land. This part of the land could have been leveled up using a bulldozer, but instead church members both young and old came together to help level up the land to save money. A few weeks later, the land was ready and a worship shelter made of palm leaves, bamboo, and wooden poles was constructed. We’ve been meeting in this worship shelter for about three months now.
Prayer requests and praises:
- Hannah is two months old now and has been able to settle into the swing village life well with us. We are grateful that she has been healthy so far.
- Pray for us to continue to be bold and passionate in sharing the gospel with the villagers.
- Pray for those adults who are the grandparents and parents of our students who want to believe in Jesus but are pulled back by fear of the persecution from their families, friends, and spirits of their dead ancestors and evil spirits.
- Pray for Orm Sorn’s health. He’s been suffering from high blood pressure. He is one of the adults who has been faithfully riding his bicycle to church.
- Pray for all the students who have been attending our English/Bible classes to love and adore the Lord whole heartedly like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it they may grow up into salvation. We have just launched a Bible class on Saturday evening for students. We’ve started reading a new translation of the New Testament in Khmer that is much clearer translation than the older versions. And I have also distributed Proclaimers and Bible Sticks for them to listen at to the Bible in Khmer at home.
We appreciate your prayers offered to God on our behalf and your ongoing faithfulness to financially support us. We couldn’t continue in the work without friends like you.
Your missionaries in the Cambodian countryside,
Luke, Sokha, and Hannah