After one year of silence, I have decided to rerelease this blog which to me sums up my heart and purpose in life. Why have I been so quiet? Honestly, I feel as if I lost purpose in my blogging. Distracted by, well…me. It’s time to begin writing again, and prayerfully continue the purpose given to me in my life. My purpose is this to love God and love you! Enjoy.
I hear a lot about evangelical tools. I’ve read books about church planting methods. I own tracts (somewhere in a dark closet collecting dust). And, I’ve preached hell, fire, and brimstone. But, after trial and lots of error, I know the most underutilized, most powerful, and most effective tool for evangelism today. Friends, we are told to boldly share our faith and need to know how to do that without sounding fake. I feel like I need to share the full story with you about my experiences in Gha Nget with the hopes that the story will remind you of love as a beautiful path to salvation. (Featured picture is Nary, Vanny, and me in 2002)
Just yesterday, Sumpooa (pictured with me in her red-flowered dress), when asked if she was ready to accept Christ, said “no-one has loved and cared for the people in my village more than Ann. She helped the crippled man. She helped the lady with burns when no-one else cared.” Why do I share that with you? I want to start from the beginning. Hang in there.
Marc and I had moved to East Cambodia with 2 motives: find some quiet to be refreshed from burnout and no-one else would go to share the gospel there. With God opening the doors rapidly, we knew this was his plan. I was happy about this plan but after about 6 months of living in rural Cambodia homeschooling my kids, I got an itch. I prayed to God “Lord, I don’t want to be on the sidelines of sharing my faith. Please let me use my skills again to lead people to you.”
About that time, we had a visiting team from Florida. They were going to a difficult to reach, distant community, in a really hot place to build a rainwater harvesting tank for a school with no water. Getting out there felt awesome. I finally got a breath of fresh spiritual air when I got to share God’s love with the students.
The darkness and lostness was evident too. Seeing Gha Nget, with no known believers and no knowledge of God’s love pricked my heart but I was uncertain whether I was ready to handle such a place after an exhausting year in my life. I went home and prayed another prayer “Jesus, I know your plan is for all 41 villages of Gha Nget to know you. Please just let us be a part of bringing the gospel to them.” With stateside on the horizon, we only had 4 months left in East Cambodia. I decided to go once a week to teach health and share the gospel. I had not been in this role in quite a while and was nervous.
I have trained many community health teachers and my role has been mentoring them while they enter new areas. But, there was no-one to go but me. I asked our partners to go with me the first week to explain the health classes. The first day I went was with Nary and Tharith, my Khmer partners. We met Sumpooa who sells a few things from her home on the corner by the school and whom we met when building the tank. When we talked to Sumpooa, she didn’t seem to understand our plan or what we were doing. But, she agreed to use her front porch for the health class. She also let us know that she didn’t expect many to come.
I went home and prayed and prepared my first lessons on staying hydrated. I printed out a couple of pictures, demonstration for making a rehydration drink, and bought a few coconuts to share with the group. The first day I went, I picked up a farmer boy who recently accepted Christ. I gave him a coloring page about creation, some crayons, and mat, and told him to take the kids aside and tell the story and have them color. We left at 6 AM for the 2 hour drive to their village. That was the first of many trips to that same place. Surprisingly, many people attended each health class. Only lasting 20 minutes, I taught basic health lessons that any American would know. I used creative methods to help them enjoy and understand it. Then, I sat and listened to their stories. Even the village leader and his wife enjoyed the class. Their favorite part was at the end when I would take all of their blood pressures. This was the time that they would share with me and I shared with them. They were stressed, worried, tearful, lonely, scared and I listened and told them about Jesus who loves them.
After four weeks, I wondered when a big opportunity would come. Then about week five, I overheard the ladies talking about a woman who was burned from a gas fire. They pointed to her house and explained that the house was being burned down. They believed this woman was cursed so burning down the house would end the curse. The conversation in my health class deteriorated as they said “she deserves it because she is rich and doesn’t help anybody. Her husband is corrupt.” And, on and on. I told the class that I would be visiting her house afterwards if anyone wanted to go with me. I had one volunteer.
She is one of the most needy people I have ever met and her name is Puon . With an abusive husband and piles of debt, she has come close to committing suicide many times in her life. I shared about Jesus but felt she was only half heartedly listening to me as she was blinded by her circumstances and helpless condition.
After class that day, we walked to the lady’s house with the burn named Sreyone. She was laying on a table behind the house which was currently on fire. Her face was beautiful but had fear, pain, and hopelessness all over it. Her burns were deep and began from her shoulders down to her feet. Weeping, infected wounds dripping with yellow pus and even in the creases behind her knee and at her elbow.
I felt this was the moment. A kind of light bulb went off in my head. A prick in my body from the Holy Spirit. I felt compelled to pray. The gardener boy who was my assistant tried to explain who Jesus was but I saw a look of confusion on her face and her husbands face. We prayed for healing that day. I left the village and immediately called our office in Phnom Penh to order the needed supplies to start wound debridement the following week. We prepared for a long process of scrubbing deep wounds which would be painful but necessary for healing. The next week I arrived to the health class with Marc on hand (he’s the wound guy!). Immediately, the class began to gather and shared with me how much better Oun was. I didn’t believe them. I walked to her small hut that her husband built her and as I saw her sitting up, my jaw dropped! God had healed her. Every wound was dried up. No infection. No deep burns. Nothing to clean. Just scars as a reminder. For those of you who understand burns, you realize that there was no logical explanation. I don’t even think she grasped how miraculous this was as her first question was “do you have any ointment that I can put on not to prevent scarring?” We shared about Christ with her some more and gave a speaker with the gospel and worship music on it. They loved listening to that speaker. A month later, she left that village never to be seen again.
Stateside came and went. I told this group that I would be back. When January rolled around and we got settled in, I prepared myself to return for a visit. Again, we had a visiting team from Florida building a rain water tank in a nearby village. The first day I saw Sumpooa, she hugged me. Both of us felt an excitement to be together again. One by one, many of the villagers ran to greet me with hugs and questions. I now felt a bond with them. My heart ached for them to know Jesus. This feeling was deeper than before.
“It’s time to see who is really interested in Christ,” I thought. I want them all to hear the real message. I also felt a kinship with them. I wanted to be there. It was no longer a feeling of obligation but a feeling of love. It doesn’t make sense. These people have nothing to give to me. They were considered unlovely in many ways. With no water at their homes, no toilets, and bad hygiene practices they were often sickly, needy, self focused, and smelled like fish paste. But, I felt love in my heart. I pictured myself sitting and eating curry with them for holidays. I wanted my kids to play with their kids. They had never left their village and seen the beautiful waterfalls only an hour drive from their home. I wanted them to see that waterfall. I knew they struggled with depression and anxiety and they knew it too. I asked if they were interested in learning strategies to overcome. Of course they agreed! My main strategy was Jesus, but overcoming negative thinking, sleep, and a bit of diet was in there too.
I had no one to go with me. I prayed and sought out partners. I had a new plan in mind. There are many different villages on the road that leads to Sumpooa’s house and several after. Those past her house are the Bunong hill tribe people. They were in greatest need of help but did not feel welcome to come to my health group the year before. My plan was to first stop at Sumpoa’s house, followed by teaching health in the 2 Bunong villages beyond. I knew I needed Bunong partners to get into those villages with trust. I found a willing partner and the first week was interesting and good. The first group, being all Khmer, it was obvious to me that this was not enjoyable by my Bunong partner. I began to see the wall between these 2 groups as she saw their seeking Jesus as fake but the Bunong seeking Jesus was more real. I saw that there was not much difference in these 2 people groups.
The next week the partners changed. Somehow, I spent the next 3 weeks with Bunong partners who were not believers. It was awkward but I found their familial connections with these Bunong villages to be essential in getting in with trust. Nary and I did get to share the gospel with these ladies but “not yet” was their answer.
After the first month, these new partners found themselves too busy to go. I went on my own. This was not my husband’s preference but I reminded him that he needed to be with the kids and that this was God’s plan. I loved those days. I spent 3 weeks alone and the drive was quiet, meditative, and peaceful. I also found myself exploring new areas in need of the gospel. Sumpoa’s group were watching me closely. They were shocked that I would go there alone. They felt that I needed a friend with me to go to the Bunong groups. Puon was my new partner and a Bunong man who had recently accepted Christ, agreed to go too.
Puon was funny in these Bunong areas like a duck out of water. The first week she witnessed 40 Bunong people attacking my coconuts that I was carefully cutting and pouring into cups to evenly share with the group. She watched in shock as the men shoved the women and children out-of-the-way to take the coconuts to their home like savages. I just did the appropriate Asian laugh that they do when they see this wicked behavior. It was actually pretty funny to see these naked men, except for the see through Krama cloth around their waist, as they held the coconuts like a football player running towards the goal.
Following the health lesson, we attempted to teach the group on prayer. The drunk men behind us clung to the word “Amen” as they repeated it mockingly comparing it to the sound a pig makes in labor. On to the next group! I know that when a Khmer tells you that a group is just a bit that way, they point their finger as if behind that tree is what you are looking for. The Bunong new believer Toe-ee pointed his finger and explained that there was this group wanting to accept Jesus, with no clean drinking water they were waiting for us to go. “Will you go with me?” He asked. How could I say no. We planned the trip for the following week and Puon agreed to be the partner.
It was noon and we had just taught the first 2 classes when I arrived at Toe-ee ‘s house. With 12 ceramic water filters, Puon, and Toe-ee’s whole family in tow, there was barely any breathing room in the car. I told Toe-ee that I had brought enough rice and pork for our car load to share and asked if he wanted to stop on the road before we get there in order to eat. He said “no, they don’t have much food so we need to wait and share it with them.”
Our journey to this distant, very distant, extremely distant path (not a road) began. An hour and a half later, driving through one deep ravine, a river, a mud pit, and almost high centering my car more than once, we arrived. A group of huts next to a river with no building in site but lots of people. I think that my car was the first they had seen in a few years and am certain I am the first white person there.
The village gathered in a small hut who I later realized was the son of Toe-ee who lived there with his wife and 2 small children. Chatter began in their Bunong language and we entered the home.
I was very hungry and thirsty. The unbearable heat was so intense. I realized these people made an income by cutting down every single tree within miles of this area leaving only small bushed behind. There was no shade and the sun pierced down on my previously white face. I entered the house where a fire was going. Expecting to begin with lunch, I sat with the ladies to see what we would do next.
They were cooking their latest prize, a small bunny. Not a rabbit but a bunny they had found in the forest. It was all bones. They added some green leaves freshly picked out of the river, she made her pot of food. I looked at the group of about 30 adults and way too many children too count and realized my 4 servings of rice and pork needs a Jesus-moment-of-feeding-the-thousands big time.
But, these obviously starving people did not have food on their minds in this moment, but rather wanted to know what I had to teach them. I taught the lesson on hydration and about the filters which I was selling for a dollar. After the lesson, we talked about Jesus. They talked about Him with love and affection but had only heard of Him 2 months ago. No one in this village was literate. I told the story about how Jesus had healed the woman who was bleeding for years and was healed just by touching his robe in faith. They clung to every word and toe-ee helped translate. They wanted to begin their church and Toe-ee’s son agreed to teach them.
The miracle of feeding the thousands unfortunately did not happen that day. I snuck a serving of rice and pork to Puon and her 10-year-old son, they quickly ate the food while hiding behind the car. It was an hour later, now 3-o-clock before we ate and drank water. My heart broke as I realized the feeling of hunger and thirst that I felt was a daily occurrence for them.
We would return to that village 2 more times before the rain waters made the ravines and rivers impassable but Puon wasn’t able to go back with us. When I asked Puon if it was because she didn’t get to eat till 3? She told me “no, not at all. I would trade all my food to experience the joy that I felt going with you that day!” But, she said she returned home that night to her drunk and hungry husband who beat her for not preparing food for him.
Life is so hard for these people and I saw it up close. In the past seeing that kind of pain on a regular basis would have burdened me. At times, I would lose a whole nights sleep thinking and strategizing a way to take their pain from their lives. But, not now. I’ve come to realize 2 things. One, when I meet people in pain, it is the pain that leads them to Christ. It is the hole they can’t fill in their hearts where Jesus steps in. He does that in His timing. Not mine. Their hunger, thirst, abuse, hard labor, and evil that surrounded them was why they were so attracted to Jesus, to prayer. His love was the first touch of love they had ever seen or experienced in their life. Second, they needed to learn to pray and have faith in the unseen God to meet their needs. Not me.
Which reminds me of a moment on the road in Gha Nget where I met this lady. Sitting on the side of the road with a look of hopelessness on her face. Immediately, the Spirit told me to pull aside. I approached her with the prayer that God would wipe the shock and horror off my face.
The bumps were grotesque and covered every inch of her body. The discomfort and pain she experienced every day and night of her 40 years of suffering was unthinkable as she carried this incurable disease. My only thought as I approached her and she looked away in shame was to touch her, hold her hands, and listen to her. She shared her struggles but surprisingly, her perspective was more about how people had cared for her. How villagers had fed her. Then she paused and said “I have only been touched twice in my life. Once 20 years ago, I met a foreigner like you. He hugged me apologizing to me for not being able to take away the pain. He prayed for me in the name of Jesus.” She spoke of this moment as if it was the best moment in her life. One hug. Here I was holding her hands and realizing the impact of this moment in this woman’s life. I prayed for her alongside Nary and peeked for a moment to see her mouth moving in prayer too. Power in that moment. I haven’t seen that woman again but I hope I will in heaven.
Word got back to our national partners in Phnom Penh that I was going to Gha Nget alone. Nary wouldn’t have it. She decided to join me one week. This day began to be the best day of the week for both of us.
Nary was 14 when I first moved to Cambodia. She was a neighbor who wanted to know English. I was a foreigner who wanted to learn Khmer and how to cook Khmer food. She and another friend moved in downstairs before Marc and I had kids (years ago!!) Every evening we had a group of 5-6 that we taught English Bible stories and they taught us back in Khmer. We laughed a lot together and watched Nary grow up. When she was 18, we hired her as a cook. She made the most delicious Khmer food. We sent her to an English cooking class in Phnom Penh and she learned to make the best spaghetti, fried chicken, and pizza you’ve ever tasted! We were blessed to have her.
She was with us for about 2 years when she began to change. She had a lot of rich friends in the city and would talk forever about the clothes they wore and how much their jewelry cost. No longer did she want to study the Bible but her evenings began to be filled with social activities. This was the time that I had a newborn so I didn’t mind the breaks from the daily Bible study of the past. One day, as I was exercising, I ran up to find her in my purse. I had been missing money lately from my purse and at this moment suspected the reason why. It was not a surprise to me as my Bible study “friends” were often found digging through my drawers and quite a few things had walked away. But, we knew we had to let her go. The church made a plan for her to be alone for about 6 months. She shared with me later that during this period of time in her life, she prayed and God changed her heart. She decided that she wanted to help people. Her husband Tharith also felt a similar call in his life though spiritual pursuits were not yet on either of their hearts at this time. She spent four years working on a pharmacy degree and we spent little time together.
I was busy learning how to do health groups and trying to find willing partners who got the vision for meeting health needs and sharing the gospel faithfully in one village for long periods of time until the church is established in that village. It was the specific call God had put on my heart but I spent years teaching people who seemed to go out the back door as quickly as I taught them. Tharith began working with me as he was close to finishing his medical degree. I began meeting with Nary and Tharith who after having their first child shared with me their burden to see mothers healthy and raising healthy babies. I knew it was time to give Nary another chance. She had grown spiritually and was ready to be discipled, I taught Nary everything I knew. We walked together daily.
I began discipling a group of health teachers everyday. We met Monday thru Friday and spent an hour in Bible study and prayer. These ladies were growing leaps and bounds! We had a group of about 16 ladies and several of their husbands who learned to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit, to lead people to Christ by love and sacrifice, whose gift of faith grew beyond mine, and were passionate about sharing Christ and starting churches with health groups. But, Nary always stood out to me.
For 2 years, our group grew and saw many miracles, experienced many unexplainable occurrences, began many churches, followed by a painful fire. The bonds we felt in this group made me feel like one body. It was like a strange organism with one brain. We began to read each others minds as our minds were led by one Spirit. We knew each others spiritual gifts so every opportunity flowed like a perfect waterfall. It felt magical and the power in the air was evident. Churches were bursting from the seams! Our group of 30 grew to 100 and we were hosting events all around to lead more.
Then, the most horrible thing happened. Hate, gossip, and lies filled our group like cancer. Months before this, several began having strange dreams. One elderly man in our group who we call “Lazarus” had a dream of a giant, fierce, angry monkey with horrid long teeth and dripping saliva. In his dream, he walked towards the evil beast and when he did numerous other beasts came running out behind and he was surrounded by smaller sized evil monkey-like creatures that were there to kill. When asked where the monkey was, he pointed to one of our most faithful members. No one talked about that dream but we were to realize a year later what it meant.
Confusion broke out and it seemed like no-one in that village was free from it. Unexplainable hate and anger filled people who use to be about love and healing. The church was a mix of glares and eye rolling when it use to be a place of love and acceptance. My heart was broken and I felt like a broken jar with no way to help anybody out of this pit.
I pulled myself up to go to our normal morning Bible time to find myself with absolutely nothing to say. Everything I had taught before was from the Holy Spirit but the words were gone. I had taught thoroughly about gossip, hate, lies, but the devouring had already happened. So many were a part and I had no clue who to believe. A few months later, we made the announcement that we were closing the program and reopen in distant locations. We let most of the people in that room go. We all went our separated ways.
The church went back down to 30. Several of the church plants we began disappeared or associated themselves with other church leadership. It was a season of sifting. I know that now but back then I felt like a failure. God was quiet. And it wasn’t just me. We were left with a core group. Tharith, Nary, Lazarus, and 2 other couples who were willing to move away to distant area.
The first day this core group met for morning prayer after all the others had gone, we were all quiet but felt something new we hadn’t felt together in over a year. It was the beautiful presence of the Holy Spirit. We sat in silence. Ashamed. None of us were innocent. Confession began and healing restored this small group. What could we do with the many church starts, brand new believers, and the sense that we had nothing to give to anyone. As a group, we decided to continue on. We held our normal once a month “Bible teaching event” and it was more painful than joyful. Like coming off a high point in life with the understanding that the special spirit of revival we felt before was gone, probably forever. It was just quiet.
As we made our decision to leave and move to Mondulkiri, few understood our move. Some felt that we left at a bad time and we abandoned them. But, I knew we had to. I knew if we didn’t get out of that center of gossip, hate, and lies, that we would sink. The hardest part of leaving was the core group. Persecution, hate, lies, and gossip was far from Marc and I now but all of it fell on top of the core group who decided to partner and work with us. Family members cut them off. Villagers glared at them. They were no longer invited to attend events. They were extremely lonely.
Nary choose to stay in her room at home between her work hours and pray. Her mother was so worried about her. She called me begging to help Nary. I didn’t know what to do. I knew God said to pray for her but give her time. She was broken. The closer she got to me, was seen with me, if she invited me to her house for a meal, she was persecuted by others because they questioned her motives for my friendship. She distanced herself from me. Until she heard I was going to Gha Nget alone.
Our conversations in the car going and returning from Gha Nget were beyond description. So much mutual pain and deep spiritual understanding that I had with no-one else on this earth. The loneliness yet presence of God in ways that no-one else understood. She knew it. We cried at times and would talk through the details of the past 2 years and at times we hurt so bad that I would pull the car over and pray with her. Our pain was the same. Though it hurt to relive it, finally the veil of confusion was removed. We were able to put pieces together and realize the cause of the fall.
Nary is a compassionate woman. One story she shared with me was about her cousin who got married. Her cousin was hired by her. She felt compassion for her because her cousin couldn’t find a job. This young girl attended all of our discipleship groups and learned the health lessons well. She was a great village health teacher with no complaints. We loved her and she loved us. This young girl fell in love with a Buddhist man and agreed to marry in a Buddhist ceremony. As family and friends, Nary had a serious conversation of warning with this cousin with gentleness, prayer, and love.
When the wedding day came 6 months later, Nary was in the pit of her loneliness. She was shocked and excited to be invited to her cousin’s wedding by a relative. She thought to herself, “this is when everything will turn around!” She spent the day getting dressed and assured her husband that all would be fine. She rode her moto down the street to the wedding and was seated at a table alone. All of the villagers knew Nary and they came in one by one past her table, which was towards the front of the wedding entry. Many walked by with glares, whispers, and sat far from her. Maybe they blamed her for closing down the program. We still are unclear about the whys. Nary held back the tears. Many of those people had been patients of Nary’s. They are people she helped many times before. Her heart broke and she had to leave. She was about to burst into tears. She quickly got home and shut the door to her room screaming in tears and agony with God. Her family heard her and they were worried but Nary refused to leave the room. As she shared with me, “all my pain had to go to God. If I talked to anybody, I knew I would sin. I was on the verge of hate and it wanted to enter me. No one understood my pain, no one could understand why it was necessary to suffer but God told me it was.” We traded these painful events back and forth on these car rides but they became less and less as our joy of being together increased.
After knowing Nary for 15 years, I now saw a new Nary. There was something incredibly attractive about her. When she taught Bible at Sumpoa’s house, you could hear a pin drop. The words from her mouth were more than human words. Its like the pain and suffering in her past caused the flesh to die and what was left was a spiritual being. She now had more to offer than physical healing but a power that came from her. Not only that, for the first time in 2 years, we got to experience the whole one mind, one heart thing again. We were now a much smaller organism but rarely needing words to know what the other is thinking.
One example was when we were teaching health in the first Bunong area. The group was extra ordinarily large and wild this day. The men had begun drinking since early in the morning. For the third week in a row, we attempted to share about Jesus, prayer, and lead some songs of worship. Every week, the men disrupted this part of our teaching. But this week their words hurt as they began making fun of Jesus. They made of Jesus’s name and each time they did I felt a deep piercing feeling inside.
We ended our lesson talking about nutrition and food groups that day and I was busy cutting oranges into bite sized pieces to share with the group when a man shoved the women and children aside and grabbed the knife from my hand swinging it in the air. I was so distracted by the knife that I didn’t realize another man was reaching for my phone and car keys. Nary yanked the phone from his hand and I looked up momentarily only to look back and see my oranges being scooped into the krama skirts of the men as they tripped away. But, the biggest man of the group (later I find out he is the police man of the group) stayed right next to me. Three men came around and tried to pull him back. I made eye contact with one of these men. I saw kindness in his eyes. But, this police man was stronger than all of them and I began to realize their was a satanic strength in him. I reached forward and gently pulled the knife from his hand and quickly returning to the car to put it away. In the chaos, I looked aside to find a sweet woman who I have wanted to share Christ with since day one. She had a look of pain in her eyes that filled me with compassion. When I made eye contact with her, she wiped away tears from her eyes. The Spirit told me to go to her house. I raced to tell Nary. Nary was attempting to deliver the filters to those in need at the car when the drunk man pushed her aside and refused to let us into our car. In that moment, Nary and I looked at each other and prayed out loud. Nary handed him a water filter and said, “will you help me hand these out?” For some reason, he agreed. I looked at Nary and said “lets hurry, God wants us to go to her house” pointing at the woman with tears. Nary gave the drunk man the last filter which he appropriately handed to the last person in need and we locked the car with just our Bibles in hand.
Her house was the last one in the village about a half mile walk into the forest. We were followed by about 6 others and a few children laughing and playing. I was surprised to see the kind man following us too. All of the drunk chaos was behind us now.
We entered into her little hut uncertain if the floor would hold us. As we gathered in a circle, the wife of the kind man took on a role in that circle as a leader, a seemingly natural leader. “Please tell us more about Jesus,” she said. My jaw dropped.
Maybe those of you who have never done missions over seas, think that his happens to us everyday. But, the truth is that this has probably happened to me only twice in my 15 years. Most people we meet are blinded from the gospel and it takes lots of prayer and work to take the blinders down. Her blinders were down. The group listened eagerly as we shared stories from the Bible. How Jesus is the perfect sacrifice and they did not need to sacrifice their animals to spirits. We explained how Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit instead for our protection. They were in awe!
I was in awe. I worship Jesus often but rarely do I get to see people realize that they no longer have to waste their precious meat to evil spirits who want to cut off their heads! What freedom! They believed immediately. They were happy and excited to hear this good news. God doesn’t want their meat but wants their heart. For some reason, this group found no issue with giving God their heart. I think it is because no-one ever wanted their heart before.
There is so much more to share but I want to end with the events that happened just yesterday. We were fortunate to have a couple who are national partners with us yesterday because their car broke down on the way to their village where they are teaching health. They saw the broken car as a sign from God to go to East Cambodia to help us.
The first group was small due to villagers leaving to plant the rice fields. I was a bit disappointed. More of a fear that those who have been anxiously learning about Christ forgot Him and there may be nothing to return to in the coming day. I hid that fear and kept a smile on my face. Sumpoa and her husband Pisay sat with us on the front porch and we spent an hour doing small talk. She loves to cook and he is the rice wine distiller for the community.
To someone who doesn’t know Asian culture, this hour may have seemed like a waste of time but I know different. It’s like Nary said in the car “she is watching us closely. She will accept Christ but only when she is certain that we are the real thing. That we practice what we preach.” So as the hour passed, Nary asked if we could sing songs. Happily, Sumpoa showed us a video on her phone of her husband and daughter singing the praise songs and dancing. We had given them a speaker with Bible and songs and they told us how they play it every afternoon and night. They pray together as a family now. They have peace and joy like never before. She said they decided to no longer do Buddhist ceremonies but during the holiday they spent their money on hosting their parents for a big meal instead. They took down the idols, Chinese cloth, and other items from their home alongside 2 other families in that village. We spent another hour singing songs, answering questions, and preparing a Baptism time for the future.
We headed to the Bunong group which was pleasantly calm. No more drunks with knives. We now do all of our Bible teaching after the health lesson in the home in the back. The kind man and his wife? They are Boo Tang and Ming Huin. The first couple to accept Christ in that village. They are listening to the Bible stories each day. New people are accepting Christ there every week we go.
But life is not easy for these people.
Yesterday one of the ladies attending our group was distressed due to her son being taken away by the police. I asked what happen and she shared this story:
Her son went into the forest and his pregnant wife was home. A drunk neighbor came to borrow money and the woman refused to give it to him. He took a knife stabbing her side. The husband returned and found her badly wounded. He grabbed the neighbors face and pushed into the fire where their food was cooking. Police came to take them both away. The mother and baby both died that day. As I listened to her story and saw how it brought discouragement to the new believers, I was filled with the Holy Spirit and told them “where there is Jesus evil will flee!” At that we all agreed and I expressed the urgency that they must share the gospel with all of their friends and family. We prayed for their family members together and the mom who lost her daughter-in-law and grand baby accepted Christ that day.
“At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.” Matthew 11:25
Just last week, when I went to teach, I found the Bunong village quiet and no-one was there waiting for us to teach. A few villagers walked up and told us that there were soldiers in town from the big city and they were there to talk to the villagers about elections. Not much else was said at that time. We taught the health lesson about worms and parasites. We gave out garlic instructing them to increase the garlic in their foods to decrease worms. After that we entered Boo Tang and Ming Huin’s house for the Bible study. The women looked scared and were quiet. Ming Huin shared with us why. The soldiers told the villagers that they heard there are Christians in that village. They said that anyone who follows Jesus is a criminal because Jesus is a criminal. Ming Huin explained that the soldier actually stretched out his arms to show a cross and said that the soldiers nailed Jesus to a cross because the government decided he was a criminal. Therefore, he is a criminal. The soldier went on to say that the Bunong people are spirit worshippers and they should remain that way. We asked Ming Huin what she thought about that. Here was the response of this illiterate, poor, sweet, hill tribe woman:
“They can kill me or even cut my head off but they cannot take Jesus from my heart. If I don’t have Jesus I have nothing!”
What great insight from this friend of mine. Do you want to know how to better support Christian workers on the other side of the world? Read more!
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As a teen and a woman in my 20’s, I honestly did not believe that wisdom comes with age. I thought what I knew was enough and didn’t need the input of others. Wow, thank God He knew what I needed and didn’t give me what my arrogant self deserved! This got me thinking. What if I could summarize my greatest life lessons in a short swallowable piece that even a millennial can chew!
Not only are honest, transparent life “clichés” or quotes important for others but it is also important to say who we are in brief pieces. It keeps us from the temptation to behave as the culture and world around us defines us. I pattern my life daily after the Bible as its words change me and from that source I have compiled my most important pieces that help keep me focused on my goals in life. Honestly? I believe your favorite quotes and clichés say a lot about you too!
There are many ways that I have changed to become a better, happier, healthier, and easier to live with person these days but for fun I will sum them up in 10 of my favorite clichés!
Michael James described it best in his book The ABC Model For Personal Growth And Self Discovery. We all have layers with some deeper than others. To live intimate whole-hearted lives that impact others, we must peel back layers with time, patience, and love.
Why is this cliché important in my life? I control my time and nobody on this earth should be in control of my time. This freedom keeps me from burnout and allows God to control my calendar. With technology pulling the needs of the world into our every minute, boundaries must be set.
I will resist the tempo of the day and age I live in and walk at the pace I need to walk at. Why? Because I want to stop and smell the flowers (or kiss the 96-year-old elephant) on the way.
We know not to compare ourselves with others. We look through friends post on Facebook and Instagram and we know to celebrate their successes and agree that not all is being revealed on their timeline. Comparison is the thief of all joy. But, there is still a small voice that creeps inside of us. The more time we spend looking at others lives, the more we think that this is the standard for our own. Then we sit with phone in hand and Bible next to us. Sometimes I think that I believe the Bible will enter me by osmosis. Do you? I often act that way. How do we break the small voice inside of us comparing ourselves with others? By filling our mind with truth throughout each and every day. Music, Bible, positive words, are all ways to refresh and remind ourselves of who we are.
“A flower does not think of competing to the flower next to it. It just blooms.” Zen Shin
Check out this article for some life changing perspective! 100 Year Olds Say A Positive Outlook is The Key To A Long Life
No-one can resist a smile and a smile on the outside can change our heart. Rejoicing in everything and choosing joy as my continuous state has revived me many a times and will until the day I die.
Time does heal wounds. I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut and wait and see. I’ve learned that often the best response is to be patient but often the hardest thing to do. I’ve learned that quiet presence can heal others more than my mouth.
Blaming others for our situation or judging others in their situation shows immaturity, lack of faith, and a judgmental character that will make you a very lonely person.
Lecrae is right. We have to accept what we cannot change and go on. Though this is not a polite cliché to say to others it is often one I say to myself. I pray that if you could walk away today with any change from reading this blog it would be this quote and reflection on from who this quote originated.
Reinhold Niebuhr’s quotes are some of the most powerful and impactful quotes of the day. From presidents to alcoholics anonymous, many lives have been changed. His serenity prayer about acceptance is a prayer that I’ve prayed and meditated on many times. To read more, don’t miss this article: Five Things You Should Know About Reinhold Niebuhr.
This cliché will save you from a lot of heartache and stress! Another way to say it is “mind your own business.” I’ve learned that being a peacemaker in ALL situations possible is the best place to be!
Looking at various proverbs, quotes, and clichés can reveal a lot about one’s culture and beliefs. One of my favorite Cambodian proverbs is ចេះមកពីរៀន មានមកពីរក។ which means “You learn from studying; you gain from hard work.”
Another interesting Cambodian proverb revealing much about their belief in karma and current crisis is as follows. . .
(Do good, get good. Do bad, get bad.)
This ancient proverb has recently been changed to sarcastically describe corruption in the modern world:
(Do good, get good. Do bad, get money.)
I find these last 2 quotes very interesting. The first quote about doing bad or bad sounds like a good quote to live by. But, think about what you are saying about others. If they are experience multiple bad events in life, does it mean that they were bad and so deserve it? Of course not. Therefore, we have to be careful what we quote.
There are also clichés in American culture that I would like to see changed.
“Pick yourself up by your bootstraps!” describes our individualism to a fault. While “we can’t help everyone” excuses our lack of willingness to help another in need. Here is my addition to this cliché:
“We can’t help everyone. . . but everyone can help someone.”
Share your favorite clichés or quotes in the comments here and lets see what pearls or wisdom we can pass on to others!
There is nothing that makes you feel lonelier than being rejected by someone who you love. Loneliness is one of the Devil’s favorite tools to use against a believer of Jesus Christ. It seems like such an ironic tool to use against someone who is never alone, but, alas, it creeps up sometimes. A single person going through a hard break up, can feel very alone, especially in the church setting. Suddenly, the topic that everyone used to speak to you about every Sunday, became an untouchable one.
“The avoidance of the subject can often feel
like an avoidance of conversation all together.”
All the sudden, you are no longer on a path towards marriage, so you are looked at and addressed differently. They may mean you no harm, but what they are doing feels to you like a demotion. These things, along with the rejection of a loved one can lead to an overbearing sense of loneliness and can make it easy to forget that you are truly never alone.
I was recently immersed in this particular deceit from the Devil when my heart was broken by my first love. Maybe you were like me and had this belief that the first person you would let yourself fall in love with would be the one God had chosen for you, and you would spend the rest of your lives together. For some people, that is how it works out. In fact, that is how it happened for what seemed like everyone around me. That is not how it happened for me. The Devil fed lies to me day and night after my break up and I willingly believed them because of the intense hurt that seemed to be swallowing me.
“I must not have been good enough. I must not have loved him as well as I should have. I must have done something wrong. I am alone. I should have seen it coming. I shouldn’t have invested as much of my heart as I did. He saw me for who I really was and he ran away.”
All lies. All from the Deceiver, yet so easily and freely accepted by a wounded soul.
But, I can also say that the love of our Father has never felt so tangible to me than it did during that time.
There was (and still is) a battle going on in my heart. As the lies were streaming in, my Father was showing His love for me fervently. I couldn’t see it at the time, but it is so obvious to me now. He surrounded me with friends and loved ones who poured their lives and love back into my empty heart. They cried with me, laughed with me, prayed with me, held me, and sat silent with me when I had no words. They were the tangible hands and feet of Jesus. I still felt every rip and tear of my heart being pulled from my chest, but they were there beside me. It was no less painful, but I was not alone. You see, when the Devil strikes hard, the Father strikes harder. As the Deceiver was pouring in lies, my Father was slowly and gently reminding me of His truths.
One of the best ways to fight the loneliness from the Devil is talking with someone who can relate to what you’re going through. Who better to relate to than the God that has shown continuous and eternal love to a fallen world that repeatedly turns from Him? Come to find out, a lot of my friends had been through similar situations as me. The LORD put many people into my path who had stories that began with a broken heart like mine. I was so surprised to find out about these stories, that it had me wondering why I had not heard them before. Sometimes, as children of God, we feel we must put on this image that we have everything under control. That our lives are perfectly put together and planned. That is not the case at all. As a child of the Savior you can admit that you do not have everything under control, because you know the one who does. That’s when I came to realize:
It is okay to not be okay.
Although I do not know what God has planned for my future, I do know that He has me. If you are going through something similar, I would encourage you to choose to take this time to let God establish who you are as an individual. Accept that He will bring someone into your life at the right time. Or not. Part of trusting God’s plan for your life is being content with being single, (deep breath) forever. Wow, that was daunting to write, and I can imagine it was just as daunting to read. Let’s reflect on that for a second.
You may be thinking: “Tallie, God created man and woman to have companionship. He created me with a desire to love and serve a husband/wife, so why do I have to be okay with being single forever? I thought we were supposed to be fighting loneliness, not embracing it?” Hear me on this! Being content with being a single person is different from not desiring a spouse and it does not mean that you are content with being lonely.
I met a girl the other day who in telling me about herself and said something along these lines; “There isn’t a man in my life currently, but I am okay with that for now.” Normally I wouldn’t have thought twice about this statement, because I have heard it so many times; I’ve even used it myself. But for once, I let myself truly hear what she was saying. She was putting a condition on God. For now, she is content with being single, but at what point is she “not okay” with it?
Let me make myself clear. Marriage is a beautiful blessing from God and it should be cherished and desired. However, it is not the only thing and should not be desired above a relationship with the Father (that is called idolatry). Just ask any married person. The focus should not be on, “Why haven’t I met my spouse yet?”, or “Why couldn’t they love me like I loved them?” but on what God has truly called you to. In Matthew 28, the LORD gives us this command: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you”. If your focus is on that, then God will bless you in ways you would have never imagined on your own. Who knows, that blessing may be a husband or wife who loves you so much better than the person you thought you’d marry. The battle with the loneliness of the Devil is a daily one; it is not going to be easy but it will get easier the more you fight it. The LORD ends the great commission with a little encouragement that I would like to leave you with as well.
“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
“I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.” Issac Newton English mathematician & physicist (1642 – 1727)
Deep down, we all desire to be influential and purposeful in life. But, how can we in this day and age? It seems that relationships are more shallow than ever before. Time for devotion and prayer seems less and less. With the world at our fingertips, our attention span can barely hold on for any dialogue with depth. This is why I write today. I’ve come to realize that my time on this earth is short and everyday must count. Second, I am unique. You are unique. We all have things to contribute to those around us in this world. Lastly, the people in my circle are there for a reason. The people I interact with today are people that God put into my life to be in relationship with me.
I usedto be shallow. When I was young, being popular and accepted was too important to me. I often behaved not like myself, but rather, like others I thought were prettier than me. This only worked to bring me happiness when times were good, but when I hit a low spot, I found myself to be very lonely. My relationships had no depth. They were based merely on fun. I’ve changed a lot since then. I’d like to share with you the intentional changes I made in my life in order to live each day purposeful. Living in constant aim towards my goals and also being the person I am and want to be.
Being deep, is giving all of your mind and effort towards what is in front of you at each present moment. Being deep is being present in that moment not thinking about other things, nor planning what you want to say, not looking at your phone, and not worrying about the future. Going deep means putting aside your own feelings and putting yourself in the place of the one in front of you. Its intentional, takes effort, and therefore is rewarding.
“Do not pity the dead Harry. Pity the living, and above all those who live without love.” – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
In order to be intentional in relationships, we have to be prepared mentally for what is ahead. If not prepared, we participate in our interaction with others based on how we feel at that moment instead of interacting in a way that is who we want to be.
TIP: I often start the beginning of my week thinking with excitement about those that I know I will interact with. I pray for them. I pray that I could have an opportunity to help them in some way. I focus on the good about them and about our meeting no matter what the situation is. Every meeting is an opportunity for good. Every circumstance I encounter, my Father is in control. Therefore, I have nothing to fear.
TIP: What about friends online? I live across the world from most of my friends. Therefore, I have chosen to take seriously my social media times. I am intentional at engaging others. I think about their posts and how to comment in a way that is uplifting and good. I post what I want to share with intentionality to be vulnerable yet positive for others. I have certain times of the day that I devote myself to friends on social media and I do so with prayer and joy.
Lastly, reflection is a must in being intentional in relationships. When going from one setting to another, a time of reflection and prayer is often necessary. For example, when I leave work and am returning home, I often pull aside to take a moment and think about the circumstances of work that are bothering me. I pray for each one and plan for the next day. After feeling a sense of release, I continue my way home where my family is waiting for my attention. You know what? I am able to walk in that house and give them what they need with all my mind! I have found that this time is key to living in the present and enjoying each moment. Find ways to clear your mind so that you can give your attention to those who need it.
Go Deep: Plan for it. Be it. Reflect on it.
Think about how incredible and exciting our spiritual walk would be if we treated each interaction with our Savior with the same depth described above! Are your times of devotion and meditation much shorter than they should be? Sometimes mine are too! What if we stop sitting there in guilt about the short amount of time we gave God that day and instead set apart our feelings and place every thought on Him! What about emphasizing quality over quantity this week and see the results in our spiritual walk.
Being present and deep with God is an incredible way to start your day.
TIP: When singing a song of worship, put all of your mind on Him. Focusing on the words.
TIP: When praying for a need, spend time on that need with Him taking on His perspective over your own feelings and lack of belief. Ask for His perspective on your need.
TIP: In intercession, pray for the lost in a way that takes it to a God sized response. Such as praying to feel the burden of their lostness so you can better pray better for the lost. Or that you could be instrumental in bringing that person towards salvation.
Quality prayers that are thoughtful and deep indicate 2 things: great faith and humility. Humility says I need time with you. I need your heart for this. Pride says “you got 5 minutes” and efforts are in human strength.
The first step to being intentional is being content. Without contentment, we will always long for things not within our grasp or our good. Everything is against you in the battle of contentment. The world is constantly telling you that there is more to be had and that you deserve it. How does one become content? This is where purposeful living and prayer come together. First, we have to admit our failure in being content and admit our need for spiritual intervention. The root of lack of contentment is selfishness. With selfishness, it is impossible to put our thoughts and feelings aside for the sake of another. We have to give without expecting or hoping for something back. This is contentment. This only comes through prayer.
What is shallow living? It is skipping from one thing to another without going deep. Shallow living is one of the sneakiest and most common ways to steal our abundant living. Flipping through Facebook without deeply engaging others, ignoring a friend in need, and choosing not to put effort into relationships with family and friends are a few examples of shallow living.
Shallow spiritual living is doing rituals or activities without contemplating the daily application and making the changes in your life. Shallow living may feel easy but not when the heat is turned up!
What you will find, is that the deeper you go, the happier you are. The more intentional you are in your daily activities, the more peOple will see and like YOU! The more intentional you live by planning for it, being it, and reflecting on it, the more you will meet all of your goals in life! Go get em! And, please share with me what you will be intentional about today.