Chiv likes to refer to the days in O’khmom and Kon Domrey as being “in the jungle”. It’s not like the jungle that Disney and the Nature channel have left imprinted on my mind, but it was very remote. If Chiv and Emara had dropped me off and left, I don’t think I would have found my way back out for a long, long time.
If they had, I probably would have made a lot of friends along the way. Everyone I met was very gracious and showed us amazing hospitality. The amount of food the prepared for us was downright embarrassing. It was also delicious (and, of you’re wondering, none of us had even a hint of tummy trouble except for Chiv, who downed a bowl of one of his favorite dishes chüruh l’hong/pickled papaya, knowing full well what he was in for.)
… OK. I had to stop writing for a minute, because we just had an unscheduled Chiv-stop to his niece’s house. (I have to apologize in advance for this next part, because it gets a little bit convoluted.)
His niece came to O’khmom a couple of days ago to see Chiv and her sister, who is the wife of Ban Ho (one of the four leaders of the O’khmom church. Chiv mentioned to her in O’khmom that he wanted to find some good sugar cane, and she said they had great sugar cane near her house. We had passed her house, but Chiv decided he really wanted us to try sugar cane, so he called her at the last minute and we turned around. (Keep reading – the good part is coming … wait for it … wait for it …) May Huang and I asked Chiv where we were when we stopped and he just said it was his niece’s house and asked if I still had some cross necklaces that have black-red-blue-white-green-gold colors to share the gospel (Troy and Carla, if you’re reading, they were crosses you made). I did and got them out.
I wasn’t getting much direction from Chiv, so I asked if he’d like me to give them to the kids playing in the street. He casually said, “No, not yet” and added, “We’ll see who shows up.” We walked across the street to the property that Chiv owned through the Pol Pot regime and gave to his Uncle just before he fled to Thailand while the country was under Vietnamese occupation.
We sat down under a tree and were offered coconuts to drink, and shortly thereafter bags of cut sugar cane.
By this time, about twenty-five people had gathered under the trees, and it seemed like everyone was excited to hear the Chiv and Emara had stopped by unexpectedly. To top it all, Chiv’s oldest living sister from Battambang happened to be visiting at the same time, and it was making for quite an rich unplanned reunion.
Then Chiv casually asked if I wanted to talk about the crosses. I shared, Chiv translated (probably better than the English version) and, to be honest, everyone was looking like they were tired of listening by the time I got to gold and talked about eternal life, so I tried to wrap it up and said, “God’s love for us is the most amazing thing in the whole world, and He offers life and salvation freely to everyone. I verbally handed the baton to Chiv and said I thought it might be smoother if he finished the invitation directly instead of interpreting. He finished up and said, “Just wait a minute. They’re getting water. I don’t know who we’ll baptize, but they’re getting the water. One woman stood up and walked toward us and Chiv talked to her for a moment, then asked her, “Do you believe in Jesus Christ?” It was in Khmer, I asked specifically how he phrased it afterward, but there was no mistaking what he was asking her. She answered, “Yes” Chiv continued (in Khmer), “will you follow him all your life?” Again, she answered, “Yes.” Chiv prayed for her as the water of baptism flowed over her head and onto her face.
Then another woman, and another. And a young girl and a young man considerably taller than me and then I lost count.
Chiv’s older sister wrote down the names of the people who had accepted just put their trust in Christ and been baptized.
In the time it’s taken me to write this, we’ve made it back into Battambang. I just overheard Emara say, “God really blessed us today. People baptized, people converted.” and I can’t think of a better way to say it.
David, May, Emara & Chiv