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 behind, we have seen God at work to continue to mature our first group of church members who were baptized in July. We are seeking to disciple them and plan ahead so that they can have a reliable vocation in the future to support their families and the church.
Most families in our village are subsistent rice farmers with some supplemental income coming from raising livestock. Most of the students finishing school or dropping out end up working in clothing factories or similar types of work. The hours are long, the work and housing environments are unsafe, and the type of work is unsustainable as one grows older. For instance, one of our students, Kunthea, has an older sister who finished school about a year ago. Not knowing what to do with her life, her parents sent her to the city to work in a roadside television/coffee lounge for $60 per month. These are usually rough places for young women to work. At a minimum they would be
similar to a sketchy bar and often fronts for prostitution. While she was not part of the church plant and did not study with us, her situation is quite common among students finishing school in our village. Often, regardless of a student’s ability, the money and guidance is not available for them to pursue further education or training after high school. They enter into a cycle of dead end jobs bouncing around hopelessly from one place to the next.
As we thought about the students in our church plant who have finished school or will be finishing school soon, we knew that most would find themselves in similar situations without assistance. So we asked: How can we help these students mature in Christ, stand strong in their faith and be witnesses to their families and friends? How can we help these students obtain the skills and education to be able to get jobs so that they can support their families and the church in the future?
We decided to put together a program where students who are faithful members of the village church plant could choose to be part of a discipleship/vocation program. During the first year of this program, they would start a Bible certificate program from Moore Theological College (http://external.moore.edu.au/
The start of the program: We have recently launched the program with four members of Angkjeay church plant, Pisey, Srey Lin, Saran and Navy were baptized and joined the church plant in July. They have faithfully been coming for the past 2 years from the time when we began to meet for worship. These four successfully passed their national high school exam in September 2013. They are currently studying English, basic computer, and an introduction to the Bible course that is part of Moore College Certificate program on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays with us. In addition, they are assisting us with the ongoing English/Khmer Bible outreach classes and the Sunday school class for kids. Please pray for the four students in this program. We are excited about the ways that God will use them to bless the church in Cambodia.
Village and Family Life Update: Finally, electricity has made its way to our village. Last Sunday was our first day with electricity after two and a half years of living here. It has indeed made our lives easier. We do not have to put up with the loud noise of the generator when we do laundry or need to get things recharged when we go to the city, and we actually have lights in every room. Frequent blackouts will still be common, but then it is just back to what has been normal life for us. In the midst of everyone’s excitement, the nearby Buddhist temple has started showing movies almost every night. The blasting noise sometimes continues until 11 pm. Another neighbor blasts his new stereo and dish TV all hours of the day. We are hoping that when the first electricity bills need to be paid that things will calm down.
Hannah has grown taller and prettier, and has been walking for about a month. She enjoys life in the village. She is very friendly. She waves hello and goodbye to those passing by. She can say bye in English and let’s go in Khmer now.
Please pray that our marriage would be strengthened and that our parenting of Hannah would be based upon the grace of God and the wisdom of His Word.