Monday, July 4, 2011

A Timely Reminder

Well, we are still looking for a church to call home during our stay in Cambodia. We’ve enjoyed both churches we have visited. This past week we went to an Anglican church…. A first for us! The church had a guest speaker, named Timothee Paton, a missionary here in Cambodia for over 10 years. It was a great message and also a chance for us to hear about the mission organization he runs here on the streets of Phnom Penh. I’ll spotlight his ministry on another day but I just found his talk so exciting that I had to share.

First off, for those that don’t know, Cambodia is a Buddhist nation. Most of the locals here at least claim to be Buddhist and many of them actively practice the strictest form of it, Theravada Buddhism. There are temples (“wats”) throughout the city where Buddhists can become monks for a short or long length of time. These monks are distinguishable around the city because they wear bright orange (usually orange, anyway) robes. They are working to earn good “karma” to cover up the sins of their past. They can do this for years or as little as a couple months. I’m still learning about their faith, and I’m finding it fascinating that they basically are hopeless, believing that they will never be good enough to enter Nirvana (Heaven) no matter what they do. How sad to live that way! That’s where all these Christian organizations are helpful. We show them that there is an answer and they can be forgiven. There are hundreds of missionaries in Cambodia sharing that message.

So church was basically filled with missionaries. The English service was, anyway. They had a Khmer service first which probably had a different crowd, but the crowd we saw was made up of missionaries.

So how do you preach to a congregation of missionaries? That must be a unique situation. Tim Paton did a great job. His message was powerful and his testimony even more so. Here’s what I got from it… the message the Holy Spirit gave to me, anyway. I'm not sure what anyone else in the room actually heard.

The sermon was from 1 Kings 17, about Elijah. God told Elijah to leave everything and go live in a ravine. He said he would drink from the brook and that the ravens would feed him every day. So, Elijah obeyed. I have to be honest… I’m pretty sure I couldn’t be that faithful. But Elijah was. And God is. God did just as he said. For many years Elijah lived there and every morning and night the ravens would bring him bread and meat. The message: God is with you always. The pastor pointed out that God doesn’t just call you to go someplace (like Cambodia!) and then shout from the sky “Good luck!” No, instead He goes there ahead of us. And then He goes there with us. And He provides for every need while we are there. I mean, honestly, can any of us look back and see a time when our needs were not met? Real needs? In the next section of the chapter Elijah meets a widow who is heading home to cook her last meal for her and her son, and then die. That’s what she says. Have we ever been so desperate that we were headed to cook our last meal and die? If we were, and someone asked for some of that meal, would we share it? And yet, she chooses to faithfully serve Elijah some water and bread. And guess what – she doesn’t die. No, instead God is there with her. He never lets her oil run dry or her flour disappear, no matter how much she uses. How amazing is that? It’s a real miracle. One of so many miracles in the Bible.

And it was a reminder I totally needed. As we started our search for apartments, I was feeling a bit discouraged because we realized that we needed a little more money than we had been prepared for. Well, God showed me through this story that I don’t need more money. I just need a little more faith. Ok, maybe more than a little. Maybe a lot more faith. We came here in faith and all our needs will be met. There is no question of that. God will provide because He’s right here with us.

The pastor spoke about several missionary examples throughout the past and throughout regions of the world who stepped out in true faith… going to a place they were called without raising any support. Just living on blind faith! A lot of missions organizations won’t even ALLOW that these days. But it was truly inspiring! I realize that worrying about one hundred extra dollars is so petty when God has provided so much! Instead I should focus more on why I’m here.

Tim has seen so much in his years in Cambodia. In a couple days, after I talk to him some more, I’ll tell you more about his ministry that has helped reduce the number of kids sleeping on the street at night from TWENTY THOUSAND to under ONE thousand in less than 12 years. His testimony of the things he has seen and heard over this past decade was moving. When he came here there was just a handful of churches in Cambodia, all of them in the big city of Phnom Penh. Now, churches are spreading throughout every region of Cambodia and the people are changing because of it. A nation is changing because of it. People’s lives are changing as they go from hopeless to filled with HOPE.

And how many years did I spend sitting in a nice, air conditioned, friendly church while these people were seeking answers to life’s most basic question…. “Why am I here?”

I am excited to give them the answer to that question. God is with me and with my family, and He will provide for our physical needs so we can minister to the spiritual needs of others. What a great reason to be here!

But Cambodia is a big place. This EARTH is a big place. Maybe God is talking to YOU about serving Him overseas?

No matter where we are, God is with us. Serve Him from your country, from your city, in your workplace, in your home. And He will ALWAYS provide for our needs.

I hope you enjoyed hearing about the message as much as I did.

It was a great reminder for me.

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