I want to thank all of you again for your World Mission Offerings.Your gifts are extra appreciated this year as IM is experiencing serious income shortfalls.The home office is letting go 20% of its home office staff this month, and may begin calling home some missionaries in 2004 if the financial condition does not dramatically improve.So we especially thank you for all your efforts and gifts for this World Mission Offering and all of 2003.We wish to be here in Cambodia only if it is God's will and know God is not lacking in anything, so we do not worry whether we will be sent home or not. But it has been according to God's wisdom that he uses your gifts to do His will and we surely appreciate your faithfulness.Thank you all for what you have provided!
Many weeks ago, I talked with Pastor Sok about what he thought about me attending the church again.Many church members had approached me and asked me to come back, asking why I did not come.I decided to simply talk to Sok directly.Sok said I was welcome to attend.However, I thought it good to sit down again and clarify some issues so I met with him again more recently.I told him that there were basically two reasons why I had stopped attending.First, I told him I took his repeated angry words of "you don't need to come here anymore, just you go your way and I'll go mine" quite seriously.The second reason was that he had preached the last Sunday I attended church that "this church was for only those who accepted all of the HS teacher's teaching and that those who did not accept it need no longer worship here."
I clearly stated to Pastor Sok that my concerns with the HS teacher's teachings had not changed and repeated those to him again.He replied that I had the right to believe whatever I wanted but that he was not opposed to me attending the church.Most of our talk was quite genial.We went around the grace issue again and again.He said again that he could not be sure of his salvation because he still had sin.Grace is so often poorly understood here, even by many pastors.Its made many Cambodian churches susceptible to pride, false teaching, and cult-like groups, especially since many missionaries have made the same mistake I've made, not giving new Christians a solid grounding in God's word.I told Sok if he was waiting until he's perfect to get his salvation, he'll be waiting a long time, and that if he could be perfect, Jesus need not had died.I told him there were still areas in my life I had great difficulty handing over to God but I believed I was saved and the Holy Spirit was working in me to change me.Please continue praying for Pastor Sok.
Although Sok seemed congenial in our talks, the sermons have not reflected that.Since our talks, his sermons have regularly denounced Bible teaching and my staff who continue to study with me.Two weeks ago, I finally attended Sok's church for the first time in 6 months.This was not an easy decision.I have received counsel to return and other counsel to stay away. In the end, I thought attending from time to time was the better decision for now.It was a discouraging experience, despite that many in the church warmly welcomed me.After a few songs, church consisted nearly entirely of a long angry sermon by Sok.No praying.The first half of the sermon was devoted to severely telling everyone that only 2% of them really believed. He then preached at length that it was okay to read the Bible from time to time, but it was wrong to study it or learn from a teacher (me, he meant).
He seems to be making a concerted effort to force all my staff to either choose studying with me or leave the church.One of my staff said she was told to give him a date by which she would make a choice.Many of my staff have come to me and asked me what they should do as they believe that Sok wants them to leave.They have been clear they don't want me to stop my teaching.It's difficult to advise them.I do not want to encourage division in the church.There is no nearby alternate church, and yet I don't see how they can stand the onslaughts week after week.If Sok really wants them to leave either my teaching or the church, I imagine he'll probably succeed.I was shocked and greatly encouraged however when two of my staff told me they were simply going to ask Sok if he wanted them to leave.They have always been afraid of him.I asked if I could pray for them first.I prayed that the Holy Spirit would lead them, give them just the right words to speak and a good attitude toward Sok.They both excitedly approached me a few days later.They said they didn't know how it happened but no matter what Sok said or how angry he got, they felt no anger, and they were able to counter all his questionable exhortations with many scriptural references and arguments.They said they were amazed with themselves.The younger one said, "I've always been afraid of him, and yet I was able to easily defend studying scripture." I told them they had just experienced God's Spirit and power working through them.I thank the Lord for generously giving of his Spirit.
This last week I attended the new church, started by three of my staff.Its about a half hour bicycle ride away.The sermon was sound, clear, simple, and straight from scripture.There was much prayer and singing, and considerable time for questions and discussion of scripture newer people did not understand - a golden opportunity for teaching by the leaders.No leader is trying to dominate everything.I had a good visit with these new leaders recently and we talked a lot together about the New Testament church model, how it functioned, leadership style, and the purpose of church leaders and teachers.Our study and discussion made me wonder about the way many of our own American churches operate.We spoke at length about how Paul teaches, as in Ephesians 4:11-13, that leaders are to build up the body of Christ for works of service, that their job is not to dominate or lead simply for the sake of control.Please continue to pray for them also. They seem to be maturing, but they are still young and few.
We are very grateful these days to the Lord for his working in our family. Jesse was beginning to experience frequent headaches and had sores all over his body.Any scratch or cut would get quickly infected and weeks later would still be red, swollen, and filled with pus.He was getting new scratches faster than they would heal.It appeared as if someone had beat his legs and arms.Debbie was avoiding antibiotics since he's taken them so often before, and they usually cause him many other problems.One afternoon while Debbie was away traveling, Jesse developed a high fever.After he fell asleep that night, I kneeled beside him and asked God to heal his fever (I had no idea what to treat him for) and started praying that God would not only take away his fever, but that he would do so as a sign that he would heal Jesse of his headaches and his festering sores.I had just said these words when Jesse moved a little bit and I accidentally brushed against his body.I was startled because his body was completely cool when only 2-3 minutes before he was feverish.I spent the rest of the prayer simply thanking God for his generous answer and rejoicing that Jesse was going to get better.The headaches indeed stopped, and his sores started healing quickly.Soon they were all gone.Debbie is delighted as she was quite worried about his health.God's been so good to us.His grace and goodness are certainly undeserved.I guess that's what grace is.
Debbie is busy and excited with preparing for the arrival of a small mission tour that is coming here for a short exposure trip.
Again, thanks to all of you for your prayers, encouragement, and support of all kinds.
By His Grace,