Thursday, April 23, 2015

April Update 2015: Continued

April's Update continues...

A few weeks ago, we left you suspended with all other exciting news awaited.  So here are just a few more news to share around...

Because the KEC youth conference was on the same time as Easter weekends, all the International Workers and other church leaders involving youth ministry left town to join the youth conference.  So, we were not in Poipet when this happened.  But since returning from the conference, however, we kept hearing about this exciting story, repeatedly, that we are inspired to share with you as well... 

For Good Friday service,  although the five Poipet key church leaders had met previously to discuss plans and actions concerning the coming event in each of their responsible locations, some leaders had concerns that not many would show up for the service for reasons as follow:  Since most of the church people travel by bicycles or motorbikes, would they be willing to travel in the dark and risking potential dangers that may await them on the secluded routes?  And because most of the young people had already left for the conference, would there be any people left to attend the service? And "We don't have missionaries to help us", voiced a concerned leader.  But as it turned out, "The Living Water church was full house!" said one lady from church.  The usual families who came on Sundays attended the service, and a  lot of new people also came.  A week before the actual service, the men gathered to help clean  up the church yards, and the ladies had lovingly and beautifully decorated inside the building.  "Many people  came to help", said Lydia, a Poipet women ministry's key leader.  And all around us, many people seemed to have the same expression that Pastor Chean, a newly ordained pastor for the Living Water church, "He did a great job!" leading the church to remember Christ's suffering and what Jesus did for us at Calvary over 2000 years ago...

For Easter Sunday, all the Poipet KEC churches of the C&MA came to join an early morning service at Living Water Church.  Because of the lack of transportations, only five out of eight Poipet KEC churches could come to participate this joyful celebration!  Even then, "The church was packed to the limit!" commented the newly Pastor Chean.  To help accommodate all the seating arrangement, the church leaders rented tents along with 200 extra plastic chairs, in addition to the church's own chairs.  Each church group had opportunities to present their special songs .  And Rev. David Manfred, the Cambodia Field Director of the C&MA, having left the youth conference early, was able to travel from Phnom Penh to Poipet in a night bus, to be the guest speaker for this happy occasion.  Following a fun fellowship with a pot-lock meal, each exciting church group got themselves ready for a memorized Scripture competition!  Weeks earlier, each church group was give a sheet of information containing selective Bible passages, to be memorized before hands, in order to be able to compete on this day.  Those who had memorized the most were awarded with seasonal fruits as prizes!  Ready, set, go!  And Mrs. Moum along with the Malay house church came in first place, followed by Santepheap  church, second place, and third place went to Aang Salaa church!  When asked how and when she had learned all these Bible verses?  "I've studied and memorized many verses during my three years in prison!" replied Mrs. Moum. And "That was so much fun!" And "Let's do it again!"  as everyone else seemed to agree... 

A few weeks ago, an amazing thing happened to the Body at Christ at Living Water Church!  One young couple, newly believers, has severe financial struggle.  Because of poor decision making, this couple owed people a lot of money!  And every day their debtors were coming to their doorsteps to collect or demand payment.  Though this couple have a few valuable properties and are willing to sell them all in order to pay off what they owe, they could not find any potential buyers!  Their circumstances were so severe that they were having suicidal thoughts.  Understanding about their dire situations, a number of church families took immediate actions!  Willing to take a risk, each family lent their small savings to this young family in their time of crisis.  The world may view this as a foolish act by the church families or the world may see this as a scheme from the couple, but we admire the conviction and strong faith of the church families as they saw to the needs of others above themselves!  Please pray for potential buyers to come along, SOON, before their next month payment is due!

As requested for your prayers, on  March 24-26, we went to Phnom Penh to join the KEC Mohasonibaat/ Conference!  Because the event took place every two years, this was the most exciting and most anticipated event for the KEC church leaders!  Alliance key church leaders and representatives from all over Cambodia along with representatives from the Cambodian Evangelical Church (CEC) District from United States--  they all came to participate this exciting occasion!  Many gifted speakers preached messages based on the conference theme, "...And go on to Maturity..." (Hebrews 6:1).  On the last day of the conference, there was a recognition service honoring those who are newly ordained pastors.  Among the seven (7) newly ordained KEC pastors, all but one of them were the people in whom we had greatest honor and privilege to be part of mentoring process and disciple them in various ways throughout the past 20 years in Cambodia!  It is such a rewarding feeling seeing these godly men taking on the roles of caring and nurturing their own local churches.  Please continue to pray for these leaders of the KEC churches for wisdom and directions and clear visions as they lead and care for their local churches.  This recent ordination gives us a sense of closure as, Lord willing, the C&MA mission is planning to exit out of Poipet by June 2016.

April 14-16 was New Year! Many people left Poipet to return to their hometowns for this annual festive celebration.  This was also a great time of testing and trials for the new believers.  Many were pressured to return to their own ways of life, worship the spirit of their ancestors.  To help lessen the pressure, we created fun activities, at our place, as a diversion for those who want to come and hang around.  For the first two days of the New Year, as many as 60 people, for each day, came to fellowship with one another in various traditional games.  

In the afternoons, we had every available jug and bucket filled up with water, and everyone had a blast squirting and splashing cool water against one another!  It was a refreshing activity, for a chance, having to deal with daily extreme heat. For those people who traveled, some people encountered a number of serious accidents.  Praise God none of the church families got hurt.

Saturday, April 18, was a fun day for soccer evangelism out reach for the Poipet ministry!  More than 100 kids, under age 14, from all over the  Poipet areas, came to participate in the exciting sport event!  Soeuth began the day by speaking a short evangelistic message pointing to them that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.  When asked if they were interested in receiving the Free Gift of salvation, many stood up to receive Jesus into their lives!  The day continued with exciting friendly competitions among the 8 teams of U14.  But by mid afternoon, the game was sadly interrupted by a sudden huge rainstorm!  To preserve the dirt field for future games, however, the leaders decided to post the competition until this coming Saturday, April 25!  Please pray for this outreach ministry.  The young people are very open to the Gospel!  And they, so craving for a chance for fun activities or fellowship, were so excited to be in the sport activities that they  were willing to travel from distant places, even on their own personal expenses!

Seeing that the sport activities were coming to an end, I decided to drive home early, while the rain drops were still falling, in order to avoid risking being stuck in the muddy roads, and while Soeuth remained at the church site.  Apparently the heavy rainstorm had caused significant damages to tree branches all over Poipet!  And as I pulled into the garage (made by stilted pillars and tinned roof), as in a slow motion from a movie scene, the garage's roof was tilting to one side, ready to collapse on me!  Quickly, I backed away, but not quick enough...  The whole building felt crash upon the hood of my truck! Shaken by the incident, I shouted a prayers of thanksgiving.  SOMEONE was definitely watching over me!  Looking back, the whole situation could have been much worse, if I was to remain under the collapsed building!  Praise God to be alive, again...  

Please continue to pray for our safety and protection, and please continue to pray the same for our children as well.  Thanks.

Please continue to pray for urgent needs regarding the church building project for the KEC Bethlehem Church.  We are at the beginning of yet another rainy season, but the leaking church building remaines unchanged... For those who have been financially supporting this project, THANK YOU! Though some funds have been coming, the leaders could not actually begin the building projects until at least 75% of the fund needed are received.

Please share with us what God is doing in your life and how can we be of encouragement to you as well.  Thank you for partnering with the Poipet ministry.  As always, we appreciate your prayers and support. 

Soeuth and Syna

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

April Update 2015

Dear Friends,

Greetings from the land of the tropics!  We are at the peak of a HOT season where the average daily temperature is in the high 90's to mid 100's degrees in Fahrenheit!  One of the good things accompanying the hot season is the arrival of the juicy, mouth-watering sweet mangoes! So if you don't mind a little heat, and if you enjoy many kinds of rich yummy tropical fruits, now is the time to visit Cambodia! And if you plan it soon, a festive traditional Khmer New Year is also coming, April 14-16!

Last month, we'd asked you to specifically pray for the KEC youth conference; and here are some of ways that God answered your prayers:

On March 31, we made a 14- hour drive to the youth camp, at Modulkiri Province, a day ahead of everyone, in order to get things ready and prepared for the arrival of the youth.  On the way there, we'd encountered a number of minor problems along the way but were thankful to have arrived safely.  The conference started on evening of April 1 where Rev. David Manfred, Cambodian Field Director, did an excellent job preaching about the Agape Love.  Staying with the conference theme, "IRON SHARPENS IRON", David challenged the youth to seek true friendship that can only be found  in Jesus! Upon an altar call immediately after the sermon, more than 100 youth stood up to recommit their lives to God!

While  planning for this youth conference, we had anticipated to face some challenges along the ways, as expected for any major event; and sure enough, the problems did arrive, one after the other:  Problem #1, while most of the youth had safely arrived to the conference site in the afternoon of April 1, a few vehicles, due to mechanical problems, were still stranded in the dark- night roads.  Sometimes during that night, however, the remaining groups  began to arrive, one after the other, some at arrived 11pm, 12:30 am,  2 am, and at 3 am!  After 24 hours of sitting in 3 cramped vans, 46 people traveling from Poipet were among the last groups to arrive! And because of the late arrival, we thought that many young people would not be up on time for the next morning service. But the committees were quite surprised!  By 8 am on next day, all the youth showed up for the morning service! Once again, David Manfred, our guest speaker for that morning service, made another altar call.  And again, about  another 100 youth stood up to the challenge!

Problem #2: The youth committees had previously made arrangements with some local food merchants and had ordered 100 kilograms of pigs/ pork, one whole cow, 100 kilograms of fish, vegetables, and 500 kilogram of rice, to be delivered ahead of time to the camp site in order for the cooks to prepare 7 meals for the entire conference!  Upon our arrival in the late evening of March 31, however,  we'd discovered that  only about 1/3 of the total food goods had arrived!  And the nearest market was about  1 hour drive away from the camp site! A big challenge was trying to find volunteer drivers to take the cooks back and forth to local markets in order to buy the remaining needed goods!  But GOD, seeing to all the details of our needs, sent us godly people, just in time!  Missionaries and local pastors (those who accompanied the youth to the conference), each took turns to drive the cooks to and from markets...

Problem #3:  Because distant location (from Poipet, the driving would be from one border to the other) and because of the high cost for traveling expenses,  the committees had expected to host about 300- 350 youth.  But by 8 am on the second day, after the committees did a repeated head counts, however, more than 700 people attended the KEC youth conference!

Where to find housing for all these extra young people? And to feed all of them for all 7 meals? Yikes!!! Once again God came to the rescue! God stirred in the hearts of local people to respond to the need! The Pnong tribal church people opened up their houses; each family took in 30, 40, or 50 youth into each of their houses! Also, seeing the shortage of extra helping hands, about 80 tribal men and women from  local areas, all came to volunteer helping with meal preparations!  With the money received from registration fees  and along with two offering collections, we had just enough cash to buy all the needed food...

Problem #4: Since we did not have enough space to accommodate all the sport activities, at the last minutes, the committees decided to take the youth to visit the famous Bou Sraa Water Fall! But how to transport all these 700 plus people to the falls? Once again, God showed up!  Local tribal church people came up with six mechanical trailers, known by the local language as "Kor Yun" (meaning "mechanical cow"), along with vans and buses, all the youth were excitedly transported to and from the water fall!

About 95% of them were first timers to visit this water fall!  Since the camp and the water fall located so remotely far away from the provincial hospital, we were concerned should there was any medical emergency.  But even with all those many people in one park, no one was seriously hurt! And although we had four registered nurses waiting to be served at the camp, aside from a few minor illnesses, however, there was no severe medical emergency! Only the mighty hands of a Living God could keep those hyper- active exciting youth safe from injury!

Other problems also arose. Problem like a huge rainstorm totally surprised us on the second day of the conference that uprooted a tent and upset some of the food tables! Or that, in one of the meals, the chef accidentally FORGOT to add salt to one of the main dish!  In all of these problems, God was there to answer all our needs!  And we had thought that, for sure the young people would raise up complains against the youth committees because of the many problems! Instead of complains, however, many had said "this was the most enjoyable and the best youth conference" they had ever attended!

All the youth left the camp by 4 AM of Saturday of April 4.  Everyone had a long journey home.  The Poipet group arrived around 11 pm on the same day.  A concern, would the kids be up and willing to coming to church for a joined Easter Celebration service?  According to Mr. Chean, a key church leader from Living Water Church, "The church was packed with people! There was not enough chairs for all of them!  And no one had fallen asleep!"

During the week before the conference, the committees had arranged to have 350 T-shirts with the C&MA logo and the conference theme printed on.  The shirts were meant to be sold at the youth camp for small profits in order to support the conference.  Desiring to support the youth ministry, however, parents from Living Water Church bought some T-shirts for themselves!  Seeing all the colorful T-shirts being wore around town, a number of non-believers also came to buy a few of them as well.  By the time we left for the conference, more than 60 shirts already sold!

Oh, we also have other news to share with you.  But I think this is enough excitements for now.  Once again, thanks for praying.  Our God is truly ALIVE!!!!  And HE is at work!!!!

Soeuth and Syna Lao