International Ministries

August Update, Part One

August 22, 2003 Journal
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I want first to say to all of you that have been providing financial support for us through World Missions Offering, United Missions, or directly through Specifics for our work, or personal gifts, thank you so very much for your support.We are so grateful for your support!I hope to begin thanking you individually by letter soon, but please know for now how much we appreciate your support.You make it possible for us to continue work here.
Debbie and I met with Pastor Sok's supervisor two weeks ago and we apologized to him for not talking with him first about our concerns with the Holy Spirit teacher.Deb went with me as we were able to learn that contrary to my initial suspicions that I wrote of before, it was a friend of Debbie's that had passed on information (from Debbie) to someone in the US that eventually got back to Pastor Sok's supervisor.It is a long story so I will not tell it, but God worked in a small but miraculous way, revealing to me how information and what information was actually passed along.
Because of that we were able to talk more openly and completely with Sok's supervisor.Debbie's friend was extremely gracious and apologetic and helped matters wonderfully by apologizing to him also.She was a gracious role model for us.It has been such a burden removed since I discovered what really happened and made amends for our wrongs.Sok's supervisor was also gracious in hearing our amends.
We again asked to speak with Sok's supervisor about the Holy Spirit teacher. He did not seem thrilled but agreed to do so soon.However, he recently has postponed that time for a month, so please pray.He is a busy man but we are a little concerned he might be backing away a bit from this sensitive issue.

CHURCH

The church situation continues to be difficult.Mr. Bot, the assistant pastor, was away from church for the past two consecutive Sundays, attending a technical workshop on fish production.Mr. Bot manages his own fish hatchery and provides fingerlings for more than 700 farmers in the area.
Anyway, on the first Sunday he was gone, Pastor Sok announced to the congregation that Mr. Bot would no longer be allowed to preach.Pastor Sok had not spoken with Mr. Bot beforehand.He referred to Bot as "a very evil man" because he was studying under a "counterfeit teacher" and because he had disobeyed his orders to not study under that teacher.Once a week, Mr. Bot attends a Theological Extension Education course about 20 miles away. The course is soundly scriptural and used by many conservative evangelical missions.The teacher and materials could hardly be called creative, or "counterfeit".
In Mr. Bot's place, Pastor Sok has appointed two new assistant pastors, one of whom is his son-in-law, a man whom is still young and I consider still immature.Both assistants spoke about one month ago.They repeated Sok's recent teaching that study of the Bible and prayer (outside of his church) is not useful.In past years Pastor Sok preached nothing of the sort, but it appears that he's picking up on the Holy Spirit teacher's teaching, particularly now I believe, because it gives him a way to discredit other teachers, whom he clearly considers a threat.
Please pray for Mr. Bot as he now contemplates what to do.On the second Sunday Mr. Bot was gone, Sok stated that now "all the stubborn people" are gone, a reference that I interpret as indicating Mr. Bot is not only being demoted but being told he is no longer welcome in the church at all.I've talked with Bot.I suggested he consider challenging the pastor to invite the "counterfeit teacher" to the church for questioning and evaluation.I also suggested it may not be inappropriate to simply ask Sok publicly by what authority he feels he can "fire" and evict the assistant pastor without consultation or prior communication with either Mr. Bot or the congregation.
We prayed together.I prayed that the Lord would clearly guide and direct Bot, and that Bot would be open to whatever God wants him to do, not me.
Please also pray for Yey, Paul, and Nyaa, whom are three of my staff and were told they were no longer recognized by Pastor Sok more than a month ago.They have started a meeting group in their own village.They are mature men, but still young and relatively inexperienced in church leadership.A serious concern of mine is that none of their wives have strong faiths, not a desirable combination for spiritual leaders.Please pray for their wives.This leadership is a bit new to the men and I think they would rather be under some sort of wider association or fellowship in the Cambodian church, but are not sure what to do.They plan to talk soon to Pastor Sok's supervisor about the option of staying part of his association.This of course is of much concern to Deb and I, as it is Pastor Sok's supervisor whom has the close association with the Holy Spirit (HS) teacher, and whom we suspect is getting involved in a cult.I've expressed my concerns to them, but it is not my church.I'm finding it difficult to talk intelligently to local Christians about the cultish nature of the HS teacher when they lack good scriptural grounding nor do they have the advantage of hearing directly the untranslated English words of the HS teacher as I do.I believe the best thing is for local Christians to get lots of good teaching, but that is exactly what Pastor Sok is restricting now.I continue to teach my staff, and they have reiterated clearly they want to continue that.Praise the Lord for that anyway.

MEDICAL WORK

We also ask for your prayers for wisdom and discernment for the Tuberculosis Project, a project we work cooperatively with the local Cambodian government.Last week higher level health authorities paid a surprise visit to the project and made a number of comments and criticisms.We were not informed of their visit until they had come and gone.We suspect they may have made some unflattering comments to the local gov't health director that he found personally embarrassing.In a meeting the next day with us, the local director made a number of demands that would increase his control over the TB project.He also accused our Cambodian administrator of hiding records and various decisions from him.Very uncharacteristically for me, I really lost my cool, which was not too bright.His charges were ludicrous, easily proved untrue, and one demand was contrary to an important agreement he had personally made to us.But losing one's temper is usually not helpful.I apologized to him at the end of our meeting for my behavior, but of course cannot take my behavior back.I have recognized however that our administrator might have a less than good attitude towards the local health director and we've already had a talk about that.I'll be meeting with the govt health director again tomorrow to see if we can come to a satisfactory compromise.Please pray that I will have much more grace than before, be a good listener, act more like a Christian, and yet be wise enough to protect the quality of the program's service.I fear that his demands will lower the quality of the service and jeopardize the chances of recovery for patients.Debbie is tempted to quit the project, but since the angry meeting two very ill dying TB patients showed up, producing very mixed emotions in her.She is suspicious that God brought them by.

JESSE (on the lighter side)

The other morning I quietly told Jesse not to hang around too close to Mr.Phien (gardener/courier) because Mr. Phien had a severe case of pink eye ("red eye" they call it here).A few minutes later he went to the window and yelled to one of my staff who had just arrived by bicycle.Mr. Phien was practically standing next to him."Huet, don't go near Mr. Phien or you'll catch his "red eye" sickness.Huet, Phien, and I chuckled about it for several minutes.

Thank you again for all your prayers, encouragement, support, and concerns.We are indebted to you all, and especially to God, who has been so good, gracious, and trustworthy.

By His Grace,

John Coats