Tuesday, December 17, 2013

December Update (Part 2)

Dear Friends,

We want to let you know that the quarterly northwest regional youth rally on December 10 was a big success!  Though only 129 youth registered and paid for the meal, 190 people (and more) showed up!  Thanks to the devoted and hard working youth committees, all things went smoothly as could be.  Young people from three provinces came to join the festive celebrations. This was the first Christmas gathering for many of the people who came! Everyone seemed to have a great time, and everyone participated well.  And the singing was so joyous and LOUD that the musicians (especially the drummer) could hardly hear the beats! Many groups of talented kids took turns to perform their favorite songs and/ or choreography dances!  There were given opportunities for testimonies and sharing.  All giving praises to the Lord Jesus, the ONE who is the true reason for this celebration!

During the time of message Soeuth challenged the youth with many questions relating to the meaning of Christmas. “What would you do for Christmas?  What would you give back to Christ?”  Many stood up to give their appropriate reasons, including Thong, a newly convert. 

Thong, aged 24, is one of the key strikers for the division I soccer team for the Living Water Church. Over the summer, Thong, one of the soccer players from the community kids, has been coming to play soccer at the church ground.  Usually, gambling is very common in Cambodia.  There is an underline saying that goes like this, “If no bet, no sweat”.  In other words, people gamble for everything, especially during any sport events.  At first, Thong, being one of well know

best players, came to the church ground looking for such an opportunity.  Yet, as Thong observed, there was something totally different at the Living Water soccer games!  The games were exciting!  There were many great players from each competing team.  Yet, no one was betting!  “Odd!  What a waste of time” grumbled Thong.  Instead, the losing team members were doing the 10 push- ups for every goal made by the opposite team!  Thong also noticed that the language used by the players was different, too!  There was hardly any cursing or foul language heard!  From time to time when a player “accidentally” shouted a cursed word, then the game suddenly stopped!  Nobody played.  After a few moments of awkward silent, a guilty person stepped forward, apologized to the other players, stoop down, did the 5 push-ups in front of the groups, only then could the games be resumed!  “Such strange behaviors!” commented Thong.  But this fascinated him very much!  He liked it, in fact.  The warm welcome from the other players the fellowship after the games intrigued him.  
Even from the very beginning, Thong felt included and acceptance. This and many other reasons kept compelling Thong to come and to play at the church ground.   His curiosity to these “strange” activities led Thong to ask many questions.  Eventually, on Sunday morning, during a Sunday Bible study class, July 28, 2013, Thong gave his life to follow the Lord Jesus!  Since then, Thong has been very faithful coming to church regularly.  His new and exciting life caused him to constantly singing praises to God, non-stop!  Thong is often seen to participate in every church event.  Even with his off-key voice,
Thong is not ashamed to join the worship team on Sunday services!  Thong is currently studying a Living Water class with one of church leaders.  So, at the recent youth event, when challenged by the question, “What would you give back to Christ?” without any hesitant, standing up in front of nearly 200 people, Thong boldly declared, “I commit to give my life to serve Jesus Christ for the rest o my life!”  Please keep Thong and many other new believers in your prayers as they are taking “baby steps” trotting this new ground of being followers of Jesus Christ.

Another new believer who will participate in the Christmas event, first time in her life, is a young lady of 20 years old named Da Nat.  Because of her new, reversed role of being the “bread winner” for the family, and with her other responsibilities of caring for the family needs, Da Nat was sad that she could not join the recent youth event.  But she is excited about the coming joined Christmas event at the Living Water church on December 25!  Da Nat is working hard saving up money so she and her mother, Lena, and two younger sisters could afford a taxi ride from Malay to Poipet!

Da Nat was a typical care-free young lady who had high hopes and dreams of finding a good husband and a good future.  She is the oldest of three daughters belonging to Lena. As a good and responsible daughter, Da Nat was always careful to listen and obey her mother in every way she could.  Though Da Nat had helped earning some money from various side jobs to help caring for the family needs, the role for feeding the family was always belonged to her mother.  All of these had changed suddenly, however, on the morning of June 1, 2013, when her step father took an ax and brutally attacked Da Nat, her mother, Lena, and her younger sister (please refer to Lena’s story for details).  Like a flash of light, all her hopes and dreams instantly shattered right before her eyes!  Her beautiful oval face was suddenly replaced by a huge scar on her left cheek, and two missing front teeth now took the place her once beautiful smiles…  By the grace of God that all three victims miraculously survived!  (Lena who had suffered the most had to undergo many reconstruction surgeries on her head and eye)...

Before this tragic incident took, Lena, with the help of her three daughters, ran a small saloon shop at the corner of their small grass hut, where she did nails, hairs, and make-ups for interested costumers.  The small meager payments she received from customers were barely enough to put food on the table (mat) feeding the girls and while keeping the girls in public school.  Nevertheless, Lena was thankful for the shop.  However, now that Lena has one good eye remained and with poor eye sight along with other constant medical issues, Lena could no long carry on this responsibility.  The reversed role 
of being the bread winner now suddenly falls on Da Nat, the oldest girl of the family!

During the long recovery periods and with her mother constantly returning to the hospital, Da Nat was able to reflect on the miracles that God allowed in her life.  At their moments of difficult times, she was able to see the Love of Jesus pouring to her family through the loving care and responsiveness of the Body of believers.  And every week when the Bible study often took place at their house, Da Nat was able to hear the word of God being taught in the class.  As the result Da Nat was encouraged to study God’s Word with her family and on her own.  So upon Soeuth’s invitation, Da Nat committed her life to Christ on Monday, October 21, 2013.  Since then, Da Nat has been one of the regular attendees at the Malay house church weekly Bible study class. 

As the new role of caring for her family now falls on her, Da Nat is taking full responsibility of running the saloon shop where she earns small amount of money to help feed the family.  When asked what her future plans for life would be, Da Nat could only think for “one day at a time”.  Her immediate goal is for a chance to attend a beauty school in order to improve her skills in cosmetic and hair stylist.   And she will have that chance when January comes.  Starting in January will move to Poipet to live with us for a while in order to train in such a skill at one of the saloon shops here.

Please continue to pray for the many Christmas programs that are yet to be done throughout the remaining days of December.  Pray that each of these celebrations would truly bring honor to Christ and not just following the programs.  

This morning , we received words that Synath Tol, (Syna’s older brother), after over two years of struggling against cancer, finally went HOME to be with the Lord at the age of 50.  Synath, a devoted follower of Jesus, had served as a pastor with the Cambodian Evangelical Church  (CEC) in Tacoma, WA, for many years.  Synath is survived by his wife, Soupha, and three teenagers, ages 19, 16, and 13.  Please pray for the family during this difficult time.
We wish you and Blessed and Merry Christmas. 
He is the reason for this season,
Syna and Soeuth Lao


Friday, December 6, 2013

December 2013 Update

 Dear Friends,

WOW, it is December already!  We are very behind with our newsletter! Thank you for your patience.  
Throughout the months of September and October and early November, Poipet and most parts of Cambodia were filled with heavy rains and flood waters!  The flood destroyed many roads making it very challenged to travel.  As the results, many roads to distant house churches were impassable!  Though the members of each house church remained faithful with their weekly meetings, the assigned leaders from the Living Water (mother church) were not able to visit and offer any encouragement.  Praise God, now that it is dryer in most places we are just beginning to resume those visits again.  The tragic part, however, is that, even though it is now the beginning of harvest season, there is hardly any crop for the harvest!  Most of the rice fields or plantation crops were badly destroyed by the October flood!  As the results, we already anticipated that many of the church members would soon go to Thailand to look for ways to earn money.  This is a testing time for most new believers. Pray that they would remain faithful to the Christian walks no matter where they end up…
A number of significant events took place since our last letter to you.
1. October 1-7, we were thankful for a great a chance to visit and speak at a church mission conference at Detroit Lakes, MN, where we spoke about mission emphasis to all age groups!  Our prayer is that lives would continue to be impacted by what we’d shared about God’s works in Cambodia.  It was quite an experience moving from a tropical land of hot and humid 97 degrees Fahrenheit to a cool windy day of 53 degrees!  We were grateful for kind friends who graciously lent us their winter jackets to use for that whole week! At the same time, we were extremely grateful to thoughtful friends and colleagues who were willing to take turns caring for Jonathan during our absence.  Kandi Lay had the hardest and most challenged job of all taking over the “day shift” overseeing Jonathan’s home school works; on the other hand, Kate Manske, the Poipet team’s newest and additional team mate, took a more enjoyable job during the “night shift”.

2. Soeuth has been busy traveling to the capital city (PHN) and to other provinces for meetings and regional conference concerning the youth ministry.
3. The Living Water church was blessed to have a visiting team from the New York City helping with youth ministry, Oc. 19-27.  The team of two had fun times painting cartoon characters on the Sunday school rooms’ walls, and they also were a great help with the English classes.  The youth enjoyed spending time with and learning some dance moves from the team!

4. Soeuth was thankful for an opportunity to cheer for and watch Justin play at 7 Nation Soccer Cup at Chaing Mai, Thailand.  Go Dalat!!!

5. Our family had a great visit with Justin at Penang, Malaysia, October 30-November 6.  While at Dalat, Jonathan had a positive experience of shadowing a student for a day.  At the end of that day, Jon did a placement test for entering Dalat International School this coming January 2014.

6. In November, Soeuth officiated and preached at two weddings; and two more weddings remain for the month of December, in addition the many Christmas programs that we are expected to attend, coming up really soon...

7. At 2 am on November 17, Mrs. Chanrate, one of the key women leaders for Northwest region from Siem Reap Province had a massive stroke.  Unfortunately, the news of her condition did not reach to our medical team until 48 hours after the incident!  And with the lack of proper medical facilities in Cambodia, there is nothing much can be done to help… Although she is able to make use of her right extremities and is able to regain her speech, Mrs.  Chantrate remains left-side paralyzed.  This tragic incident is a big shock the to the family, and it also brought a great lost for the Cambodian KEC women ministry.  Please pray for Pastor Nhan (her husband) and the family as they adjust to this change.  Mrs. Chantrate and Pastor Nhan along with their 9 children have been faithfully and heavily involved in the various ministries of the Khmer Evangelical Church (KEC).

8. Soeuth, the only non-medical member, enjoys working with the medical team at the C&MA office, on Wednesdays, as a spiritual role, where the team provides loving cares and comfort to the patients seeking medical advice.  We are grateful to God for our professional medical team and “Dr. Soeuth” along with a number Christian Khmer staffs.  As the results, words of praises are being heard in villages by those who came to the clinic where, not only did they receive medical helps, but they also encountered Christ’s love in actions.
Below are something new and/ or coming events that we would appreciate your prayers…

1. Our entire Poipet team will travel to Phnom Penh as a convoy on Dec. 4-7 for team meeting and fellowship with other International workers there.  Pay for safe traveling to and from.

2. The youth ministry for Peaop Region (northwest) will have a Christmas event, a day of youth rally, on December 10th, at the Living Water Church, Poipet.  We are anticipating that at least 200 youth will come being that it is national a holiday.  Pray for safe traveling for those coming from Battambang and Siem Reap Provines and from other distant villages.

3. Pray for the Monday night Spiritual Leadership class meeting at our house where a total of 22 students come every week to study.  Many of the students are key leaders or elders from their church.

4. The KEC churches already scheduled for their many Christmas programs.  Many new believers will be celebrating their first Christmas this year. And a number of family members will be invited to join the celebration.  Pray the message of Christmas will be well received.  Pray for open hearts of those who come.

5. The Poipet churches will have the joined baptismal service at the end of December.  Many new believers are attending classes/ small groups to study and prepare themselves for this event. Pray that these new believers will sway from their decision to follow Christ.

6. Our older son, Justin, will come home from Dalat School for a long Christmas break, Dec. 19- Jan. 14.  Pray that we will have some quality family times even in the midst of business.  Then, on January 14, Jonathan will join his brother at the school.  Syna will accompany the boys back to school, and she plans to stay there for sometimes until Jonathan settles down at a new place.  Please pray for smooth transition and adjustment for all of us…

Please share with us about what God is doing in your life.  We would love to pray for you.  Thank you for being such a blessing to us through your prayers and financial support to the Great Commission Fund.   Youth faithful and sacrificial giving to the support of the CGF enables us to keep on serving here, bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ into this dark part of the world.  Thank you for living the call together.   Have blessed and Merry Christmas!  He is the reason for this season!

In Him,
Soeuth and Syna Lao
with Justin and Jonathan