Category Archives: General

Realizing What It is All About

The following blog post was written by Sharon Jung who was part of the January 2018 Sojourner Church short-term team. Sojourner Church is the sending church of our teammates Paul and Susan Lee.

I didn’t have a lot of expectations for this trip. Isaac, my husband, encouraged me to go and his experience was almost vacation-like last year. So, I thought I would see some ministry work, hang out with the Lee’s and get a break from my ordinary life.

Our first full day was jam-packed. We worshiped with KCC (Khmer Christian Church), the Lee’s local church in Cambodia. I couldn’t understand a word but I still got all choked up realizing we are all part of the same body of Christ. Paul and Susan, Caleb and Nate are so much a part of the community there. Watching them interact with their church members, speaking in Khmer, it was very cool … I understood why Cambodia is “home” for them now.

So that same day we went to Prey Thom with KCC. And there we had several “stations” going on at the same time. A dental clinic, VBS and I gave a talk on nutrition and handed out vitamins. I honestly know nothing about nutrition and some of the kids ate a week’s worth of vitamins all at once even when we told them not to. We also saw a little boy, maybe 3 years old, who had been in an accident with a large farming machine and had a huge gaping wound on about a third of his face and I had nothing to help clean or disinfect it. The children clearly came from poor families and most of them had no shoes and were wearing tattered hand me down clothes. We saw this huge need there but I felt unprepared, inadequate and unhelpful. But at the same time, I was so encouraged. The members of KCC were so happy to be there, playing with the kids, tending to their needs while Pastor Thet was leading worship with the adults. I can’t imagine going there every Sunday, 3 hours each way, but they do … preparing lunch and eating together on the way and with praise songs literally blasting in the van on the ride there and back.

The next day at Precious Women I gave a training on basic self-care and other health topics. There was some miscommunication and they were expecting an actual doctor to be there to examine the women. While I thought my training went well a part of me knew I wasn’t meeting their expectations. Many of the questions were about their ailments and wanting a diagnosis and treatment, something I can’t do. I talked and fielded questions all day. By the next day the physical and mental toil took over my body and I literally cried all day. I couldn’t stop crying, the tears just kept flowing.

Then we left for Angk’jeay. When we got to Luke’s house, it was like walking into the equivalent of a governor’s estate. He had built a playground, a basketball court and several open areas for ministry and teaching. Again, we had a dental clinic, VBS, we also taught English and I gave my self-care training. The same thing was happening, a line of women wanting to know what was wrong with them, how to be cured, wanting medication. But this time I turned to Sokha, Luke’s wife and my translator, and said “We live in a fallen world, there will always be sickness and pain, I don’t know what to say to these women.” And she goes, “then we pray for them.” And then we started praying for them.

That’s when I realized this is what it’s all about. We can certainly help with physical needs and temporary “band-aids” but God wants all of us to ultimately go to Him, for comfort, for strength, for healing, for answers to the meaning of our lives. Short-termers can only do so much and even “lifers,” what we call missionaries like Paul and Susan, are at the mercy of God’s plans.

And we were lucky enough to see some of the fruits of those plans. I mentioned I talked about nutrition in Prey Thom that first day, my translator was a girl named Pisey, a university student from KCC who grew up in Angk’jeay, the village Luke and Sokha live in. Pisey learned English and the gospel from them and eventually went to the city on a scholarship through MTW. And now she ministers to her own people in Prey Thom with KCC and returns to Angk’jeay once a month to teach Sunday school.

I can’t fully describe how it feels to witness such fruit. To see the poverty, the corruption, the lack of opportunities for most of the population in Cambodia and then to see God revealing Himself and making opportunities and showing His people that He loves them, you just have to go and see for yourself.

2017 Year in Review: January and February

A few highlights from January and February 2017:

Sokha translating for Joel Kim who is now the president of Westminster Seminary CA at the Khmer Pastors’ Retreat, Jan. 5th-7th in Kep, Cambodia.

My mom and Hannah. My mom visited from Jan. 9th to Jan. 20th, 2017. It was the first time for her to visit Cambodia since our wedding.

DeAnn Harris visited us along with my mom. She was a missionary in Cambodia for two years leaving two weeks before the Khmer Rouge took Phnom Penh in 1975. It was her first visit back since she left. She has an amazing story of how God has cared and provided for her. You can listen to part of her story here: http://www.riveroakstulsa.com/mediaPlayer/#episodeaudio/44

Valentine’s Day party with our students. You can read about the dangers of Valentine’s Day in Cambodia here:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/02/12/the-country-where-valentines-day-is-the-most-dangerous-day-of-the-year/?utm_term=.dea4dd9a1e58

Asa’s baptism. Our team came down for Asa’s baptism on Feb. 26th.

CCPC and CCSC Short-term team 2017

From July 18th to 23rd, a joint team from http://christcentralsf.com/ and http://www.christcentralsc.com/ served with us. This was the fifth time that Christ Central Pres. Church sent a team to work with us in the village and the third time that Pastor In led the team.

Ryan, Lydia, Andrew, Sharon, Beka, and Pastor In

Update 1 and 2 below are two updates written by the team while they were in the village.

Update 1: We just finished day 2 in Angk’jeay village with Pastor Luke and Sokka. The ministry out here consists of reaching out to the village kids through teaching them English (beginner, intermediate, advanced), playing games, teaching guitar lessons, and most importantly teaching them about Jesus through praise, sermon, prayer and the love of Christ through building relationships. The kids are precious and every moment is something very special. An update for the entire team, we are all healthy, in hopeful spirits, exhausted but tremendously blessed. Team unity is increasing but I guess that’s what happens when you pack a bunch of people in a car (26 at one point). Check out the picture.

For all the past STM teams, the students remember you and all your stories start to make a little more sense. Can’t wait to share more with y’all when we’re back.

To the church, thank you so much for the prayers and the continuous support. Lord knows we need them. Please keep them coming.

Ps: Cambodia is hot and humid and there are bugs. But not as bad I expected, so there’s that.


Update 2: Today’s Sabbath Rest was a little taste of heaven. It seemed fitting to wrap up our final day at Angk’jeay Village with a worship service together with our spiritual family. After a full week of teaching, basketball, music, crafts and tons laughter, we ended with encouragements, prayers, and a tearful farewell. God is truly Big in this Small Village. Never underestimate, that God can be worshipped in the most unexpected places. On another note, this also concludes our joint CCPC & CCSC team as they fly back to the states tomorrow. We celebrated with a final boat ride with the MTW team and old friends from KCC. It was a perfect bookend to a terrific day. We are exhausted but it was a blessed Sabbath Rest! Lastly, pray for us as we take on another week of urban ministry in Phnom Penh. We might have less man-power, but plenty room for the Spirit! Thank you for your prayers!

Bolong’s Facebook post thank you:

Our student, Bolong’s thank you to the team.

Kunthea’s Facebook post thank you:

Our student, Kunthea’s thanks you to the team.

Bolong’s Testimony

Bolong, Kunthea and Srey Pich are in their senior year of high school now. They have been studying with us since they were in 6th grade. They came to study when Daniel Pak and I first went to live in the village in Jan., 2011. This was before Sokha and I were married. All three of them are members of our church too.

From left to right:
Kunthea, Luke, Bolong, and Srey Pich

The two pictures below are from Feb., 2011.
See red arrows: (left to right) Srey Pich, Bolong and Kunthea.

(See red arrow) Bolong – Feb., 2011

Luke and Bolong – Sept. 2016

A recent visitor asked me for some of the students’ testimonies. I asked Bolong to write his testimony out in English. Below is his unedited testimony in his own words.

Teresa Smith’s Reflections from Her Trip

Teresa Smith’s Reflections from Her Trip (Luke’s mom)

On Jan 7, 2017 DeAnn Harris and I took off on our almost thirty hour flight to Cambodia. We went to visit missionaries, Luke and Sokha Smith, who reside in Ank’jeay village. Luke is my son and Sokha is my daughter-in-law. DeAnn is a good friend of Luke and Sokha’s and now a good friend of mine and a great traveling companion.

Once you arrive you feel like you have already been through many dangers toils and snares (jet-lag). Ha! Even though it was my second time to Cambodia. It was a time of venturing out of my comfort zone and putting my complete trust in God.

First of all it was a joy getting to know my long distance grandchildren. Hannah was two and one half last time I saw her and is now four and one half. We had lots of fun with tea parties, playdough, and puzzles. I also gave her bread making and cinnamon roll lessons. She has mastered kneading bread very well. The dough took some pretty good punches but turned out some tasty bread and cinnamon rolls. Good job Hannah!

This was my first time to meet seven month old Asa . He is a very busy boy and just beginning to crawl.He seems to enjoy life in the village with the constant attention. What more would a seven month old boy want?

Now a bit about life as a visitor in a missionary’s world.
One of my highlights of course was just experiencing life as a villager. Since I am a country girl I adapted well. Not to mention eighty degrees in January. Not bad.

One of the things the Smiths’ do is teach English classes in their yard to the children. It was great to meet them and interact with them. Some are very fluent in English.

I read Bible stories, played basketball, and oh yes! The girls and I had a hoola hooping contest. You are never too old to hoola hoop. After meeting these beautiful children I know why Cambodia is referred to as “The Land of Smiles.”

Another thing I done was to recite a couple of the books of the Bible that I have committed to memory. I recited the book of Jonah and the book of James. I taught them the value of the memorized word of God. On my last night in the village three of the students had memorized Psalm one and recited word for word.I never dreamed that when I started memorizing scripture in my forties that God would send me to the ends of the earth. World Traveler was not in my vocabulary, but God had a different plan for my life.

I spent eight days in the village and four days in the city of Phnom Penh and two days of travel time. What an adventure! I truly saw God’s love all over the world.

Summer Update 2016

Hello friends and family,

As summer comes to an end, we wanted to send you an update.

Family update
Our son Asa Eldad Smith was born on May, 29th! It was a difficult delivery that ended in a c-section. Thankfully, Sokha and Asa both made it through in good health. I have attached a new born picture of Asa and a more recent picture. Karen, a nurse practitioner, on our team wrote a blog post about his birth that you can read here: http://mccluremissionaries.org/2016/06/06/meet-our-newest-mtw-cambodia-team-member/

Hannah turned 4 on July, 28th. She adores her little brother at times and is very jealous of him at other times. We have just started a pre-kindergarten home schooling curriculum with her. Hannah loves playing with the students in the village when they come to study, and picking flowers in the flower garden by our house.

Translation Update
After five years, Sokha and I have finished translating the Westminster Shorter Catechism into Khmer. We have tried to translate it in a manner that is accurate and easy for Cambodians to understand the biblical truth that is being taught. We have printed off and distributed 300 copies so far. We are using it in our outreach classes and Saturday evening youth Bible study.

Prayer for New Missionaries
We have had three families leave our MTW field team this year for health reasons or a change in call. Could you pray for new missionaries to join our team, especially long-term missionaries? Our team urgently needs someone to handle finances and administration. In addition,church planting opportunities are plentiful. The latest statics show that 87% of the villages in Cambodia our still without a church plant Here is a link to a description of some of the opportunities on the MTW website:https://mtw.org/serve/index?query=&filter%5B2%5D%5B%5D=237

Link for support
https://mtw.org/missionaries/details/luke-and-sokha-smith

Thanks for partnering with us through your prayers and giving!
Luke, Sokha, Hannah and Asa

Village Sustainability Project

Here is some information written by a former teammate a while back about Eternal Life in Christ Church’s pastoral intern, Samuth, and his wife, Kunthea. They are part of what we call the Village Sustainability Project:
I’d like to share just one more story about a young man named Samuth. Here he is pictured with his wife Kunthea. Like most, he was raised in one of Cambodia’s 14,000 villages, and like 96% of Cambodians, he was raised a folk Buddhist, his worldview dominated by the pursuit of good fortune, a fear of spirits, and ancestor veneration. In fact, when Samuth and Kunthea got married, most of their families did not attend the wedding where their ancestors would not be worshipped, but I’m skipping ahead.
Now one characteristic of Cambodia that is still as true now as it was nine years ago when this story begins, is that if you can speak English, your life can be radically different. There is just a world of opportunities that becomes available for you. And so in the second semester of tenth grade, Samuth began to study English with a missionary who had moved relatively nearby. I say “nearby” because not many missionaries come to live in the village; but I say “relatively” because it was still an hour away by bicycle. And so in order to study English, Monday through Friday, he began to stay at the nearby Buddhist temple during the week.
The following year, in some way perhaps foreshadowing what was to come, he left the Buddhist wat and moved into the student center the missionary had organized. And it was now English on weekdays, Bible study on weekends. He grew in his understanding of the gospel and grace, and the next year, he was baptized into the faith.
So if I may now skip ahead several years, Samuth has now completed Bible school and is currently serving under the mentorship of MTW missionaries Luke and Sokha Smith at Angk’jeay church plant, where some 30-35 of our brothers and sisters gather for worship every Sunday; and where they have baptized twenty-eight students over the past three years.
Every Sunday, Samuth now preaches or presides over worship in rotation with Luke. On Monday afternoons, he visits and reviews the sermon with two elderly adult church members and again to kick-off an evening outreach class. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, he now teaches English to about fifty grade school students; they’ve come to learn English just as Samuth had nine years ago. And once the English lesson is complete, he teaches from Scripture.
Once monthly, he travels to Phnom Penh to attend Presbytery meetings as well as review sessions to prepare for his upcoming ordination exam. And he hopes one day to plant a church in another village, perhaps one of the 12,000 villages in Cambodia that is still without a local, worshipping community of faith. It has been a privilege to see him grow in his faith and in the exercise of his ministry gifts, all through personal tragedies and trials that have faced both Kunthea and him.
Well, one of the most vexing questions we and others around the world face, is: “How we can more wisely and thoughtfully steward those resources God has given us to give?” And in particular, in contexts of extreme poverty, how can we do this in a manner that does not breed dependence, but rather promotes the long-term health of the local church?
Last spring, we were awarded an Ambassadors grant for a Village
Sustainability Project, which provided Samuth seed money to purchase cows. The income he generates raising cattle would provide for his family, while honoring both his past experience, and his local context, where he is eminently more relatable raising cattle – as others in his village are apt to do – than solely ministering while receiving foreign funds.
Through this grant, Samuth has a way to pursue his call to pastoral ministry and provide for his family, in a way that a community of young students and subsistence rice farmers never could. Because of the support of donors, we have the ability to implement a creative, contextually-appropriate solution to that vexing and urgent question: this has been a way to share our resources, generously and sacrificially, in a manner that dignifies rather than patronizes; that fosters healthy interdependence, rather than perpetual dependence.
We are still in year one of this project and it will be another year before the first calves will be sold, but Samuth is thrilled about its prospects and sincerely grateful for this partnership.