Cambodia – Week 1
We arrived in Siem Reap and learned that there had finally been a break in the rains that day for the first time in several days. We were grateful to hear that good news. We visited with Emara’s family before heading to Battambang. There was water everywhere! Some streets in Siem Reap were still under water and as we travelled we saw so many of the rice fields, roadside markets and homes still covered and standing in flood waters from the heavy, consistent rains over the past several weeks.
On the way to Battambang, we scheduled a couple of meetings: one with a ministry team from DJD Cambodia Ministries and also with the Pastor of Grace Brethren Antioch Church in Battambang. It was very encouraging to hear the stories of how powerfully God is moving within and around the Battambang Province area, as well as the unity and cooperation among the various ministry organizations and churches in Battambang Province…it is a beautiful picture of the Body of Christ!
Heavy rains accompanied our first night in Battambang and did not let up until daybreak. We had little hope of being able to travel to any of the villages as we started the day Thursday morning. Chiv received a call from the leaders in Svay Cheat telling us that the roads were not passable. Then Ban Ho called to say that we might possibly be able to make it to O-Khmom. The word “possibly” in Khmer apparently means “everything’s a GO”, so we made plans to head to O-Khmom. The leaders from Svay Cheat were anxious to join us, so they ask us to wait for them and they would come to Battambang by motorcycle…they would meet us in less than an hour. Well, it took a little longer than an hour…nearly 2 hours…because of the road conditions leaving Svay Cheat, but they did make it and it was so good to have them join us. Did we mention that their motorcycle had no brakes? Well…their motorcycle had no brakes! And yes, we helped them get it repaired before their driver headed back.
On the way to O-Khmom we took a little detour to a new village called Pray Thom (?). A couple of families from that village had attended the first crusade meeting at O-Khmom. They believed in Christ that day and were baptized, but their village is too far away for them to be actively engaged with the O-Khmom church. They have been sharing a testimony of Christ faithfully with others in their village and have asked Chiv to come share with their village, too. Travelling to Pray Thom was just a bit challenging, but thanks to a very skillful driver and God’s grace, we made it safely. (Ban Ho and Leang, two of the leaders from O-Khmom met us at the Water Dam). We walked the last ¼ to ½ mile to the village and were greeted warmly by 70-80 men, women and children. It was a special time of getting acquainted, making salvation necklaces together and sharing God’s story of salvation and grace through Christ Jesus. Many responded to the gospel, believed in Christ and were baptized in a nearby flooded pond…it was a very special time!
We left Pray Thom late afternoon and headed to O-Khmom to spend the night. The rains had held off all day, but the roads were…well, let’s just say the roads were horrible! After a couple of close calls, we finally got stuck…really stuck! Darkness came way too quickly that night and even with a skillful driver, three very capable, industrious and creative Cambodian men, one very strong and courageous Cambodian American evangelist, and an old, but very willing American civil engineer, working by flashlight, we only managed to get the van stuck even worse. The only good thing that came from our efforts was that by the time we had finished, we had the van situated and angled in such a way that it was pretty much blocking the entire road. After about an hour or so, a tractor came along…our faithful and gracious God providing an answer to our prayers for help, Praise God! With his help we finally managed to pull the van free after a couple of failed attempts. I’m sure that it would have been a very bonding experience for us to have spent the night in the van, but we were all very grateful to finally arrive safely at O-Khmom that night.
Very, very heavy rains at O-Khmom that Thursday night, so no real chance of leaving anytime soon. However, it ended up being one of the biggest gifts from the Lord as we had the opportunity to spend lots of quality time in God’s Word and discipleship with all of the O-Khmom and Svay Cheat leaders over the next two days (Friday & Saturday). We have so much to share with everyone about that time in the Lord…it was a beautiful, beautiful time together sharing and learning from God’s Word! Even in the best of our plans, we could have never anticipated or planned such a precious time.
Night-time in the jungle is a very interesting experience…the night sky is absolutely breath-taking! The Glory of God on display in the heavens…WOW! And then there are all the “jungle monsters” who are singing their praises to God with all kinds of different noises. I think they must have regular praise services scheduled at, on, around and in the church building every night beginning at 11:00 until sunrise!
We went back to Battambang Saturday afternoon, and decided to stay in Battambang on Sunday. We had the privilege of worshipping with a church in Battambang called Compassion of Christ. On Monday morning as we headed to Svay Cheat, the rains began again. We pulled over alongside the road to pray, sharing with the Lord our heart’s desire that His will be done with our day and asking that the rains not be a hindrance to what He had for us to do. Within just a few minutes the rains stopped and did not return for the entire day! We praise God that His faithfulness and power were demonstrated to us once again!
Monday morning in Svay Cheat was spent at the local grade school sharing with about 450 children (Grades 1st -6th). The children were curious, engaged and very attentive. In the afternoon we worshipped with the Svay Cheat church and then visited 11 critically poor and needy families. The flooding has kept many families from being able to work, and with no work, they have no money for food. We were able to provide rice for these families for the time being, but please pray that the rains will stop and work will become available soon!
Tuesday, Chiv shared all day at a pastors & elders conference in Battambang. There were approx. 120 attending from all over Battambang Province. God really spoke through Chiv as he shared words of instruction and encouragement. It was a privilege to meet so many very precious men and women who are faithfully serving the Body of Christ in this Province. Some of the leaders from O-Khmom and Svay Cheat were able to attend. After the conference we had a very special time with three of the leaders from O-Khmom who stayed over-night with us. It was a beautiful time in the Lord as we all shared scripture, testimonies and prayer requests before praying together.
Wednesday morning we were given permission to share at a service with prisoners at the Battambang prison. Afterwards the warden and assistant warden expressed their appreciation for us coming to share and bring food to the prisoners. They have invited us to come back anytime we are able…God has really given great favor and an open door in that place. That afternoon we spent a couple of hours with a ministry based in Battambang for the past 10 years. They now support over 7,000 active house and village churches with a staff of around 250 pastors and leaders. They estimate their membership at 90,000+ men, women and children. Last month alone there were 2,500 new believers in Christ!! Their ministry is focused on sharing the gospel in the rural areas of Battambang Province with an emphasis on making disciples who will make other disciples…sounds very familiar! We are hearing that same heart and emphasis for disciple-making over and over again from several different ministries and churches in the Battambang area.
We are in Siem Reap today. It has been a good day of rest, study and reading, as well as an opportunity to make a connection and spend time with Emara’s family. We pick Jeff and Mark up tonight and then head back to the villages on Friday…first to Svay Cheat, then to O-Khmom and Koun Domrey. Please pray that the Lord will order our steps according to His will. We will be spending time with the leaders in each village church studying God’s Word together. They are so eager to learn and so open to being taught. Pray that with all the things competing for our attention that we will be diligent to slow down and look for those quiet moments of time together in God’s Word.
We love you very much and are so grateful for your prayers on our behalf. Grace and peace to each of you in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ…!
Chiv, Emara, Mike & Deb