One Sunday morning
I want to tell you what I saw one Sunday in Cambodia – not so much ‘what’ but ‘who’. Every week we attend two services on Sunday morning, the first in Khmer at Shalom Phnom Penh and the second in English at Shalom Tuol Kork.
The first person to greet me at Shalom Phnom Penh was a young, mentally disabled girl. I recognised her because she lives a few doors down from the church. She is usually dirty, shoeless and has little clothing, but she always smiles. She comes to church every morning because no one makes fun of her there.
I saw Phanna and Ming Phiep while I was climbing the stairs. They are a mother and daughter who have come to Christ in the past few years. Phanna lived with us while attending a Bible institute.
I greeted Pastor Chhinho’s mother at the top of the stairs. Her husband was murdered at his front door while she and her family watched. She is living day-to-day, leaning heavily on Pastor Chhinho and Keio (his wife).
Oam waved from across the room. I only know her as ‘grandmother’. She and five others from Shalom Phnom Penh travel every Sunday afternoon for two hours by motor bike to a small village called Pok Rusei so that they can tell others about Jesus.
One of the young men shook my hand. His parents were killed some years ago when a disgruntled neighbour threw a grenade into their front room. He and his siblings have been on their own for a number of years.
I noticed that a handful of the young men looked dishevelled this morning. It was because they had been beaten by a local gang the night before – one severely enough to go to hospital.
As I took my seat I noticed Borei carrying Wicheka into the room. Wicheka is a little one who can’t walk because of childhood polio. The message Pastor Chhinho gave to the congregation was on suffering and persecution. One of the young girls that came with me needed to excuse herself during the service; I’m concerned about her because she told others that she does not want to live anymore.
Later in the morning I will be preaching at Shalom Tuol Kork from John 3. I pray that Jesus would meet people this morning, just as he did Nicodemus. I see our short-term English teacher talking with a group of students that have come to church for the first time – praise God!
After the service I quickly gather the group with me so we can go across town for the second service, but not before my friend Met asks if I can come and see his oldest daughter who is sick. Met and his family collect recyclable goods from other people’s trash. Sickness seems a way of life for them.
We arrive just in time to pick up the rest of the 30 kids at Asian Hope. This will be our last weekend to live with these kids. Jodi and I feel privileged to have spent the previous two months with these children – though it has been stretching at times!
If time permitted I would love to share stories about each of the 30 children. They are trophies of God’s grace (Mark 16:15). As we arrive at the top of the stairs BJ immediately introduced me to Pastor Louie and his friend. They are religious refugees from Vietnam under the protection of the United Nations. Pastor Louie was imprisoned 20 different times for preaching.
On my way in, I spot Rose Marie and Helen. Both are widows who are giving everything they have to encourage, exhort and build up those they come into contact with in Cambodia.
Dr and Mrs Lee come over to say hello on their way into worship. They generously allow us to meet in a large room in their house. He has a PhD in Engineering and works for the Ministry of Education. Both see themselves as missionaries in Cambodia.
I see the rest of the Lopez family – miracles, all of them! I’m refreshed by the time of worship led by Nathan and BJ. During worship I make a quick head count. Sixty-four folk this morning; thirty-nine are orphans.
I preach on John 3:1-21. Praise God for his love, his Son, and our salvation! His lovingkindness never ceases.