The following post is from one of CBF’s newly approved field personnel, Bill Peeler. He and his wife, Noy, will serve in Cambodia. Visit their field personnel page to support their ministry.
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Pastor Han is a rice farmer. We’ve known him since 2008. His home is open to all and becomes the local church on Sunday. Students who live too far from the provincial school stay there with his family so that they can attend classes. He wins them to Christ then disciples them to evangelize and minister with him. What he lacks in means he makes up for in sheer determination to tell people about Christ over an area encompassing a considerable number of villages as far away as Prey Chhka to the north and the floating village of Muat Kla on the Tonle Sap to the south.
He has three boys. Pastor Risa is his friend. He pastors a church not far from Han’s. They don’t compete for souls but work together to seek and to save the lost, then to train them in the Word and by example to live and grow in their newfound faith. His wife and mother-in-law work with him. Some of the young people he trained went with us to take the teams house to house. Among those he enlisted was a teenage girl from Chi Kreng. She accompanied the team I was on. She was an outstanding asset, attentive to our schedule and alert to the business at hand.
Pastor Vansan drives a tuk-tuk for a living. A tuk-tuk is a carriage hooked up to a motorcycle for hauling passengers and tourists. He lives in Poeuk a few kilometers northeast of Siem Reap but makes the trip on Sundays to teach the residents of Phlong Village where Noy and I had started a house church in 2010. We had worked three years for a large missionary-sending organization from 2008 to 2011. At the end of our three-year term, the Siem Reap Team Strategy Leader, that is, the TSL, and his wife dismissed us from service because, they said, we made them “uncomfortable”. This was just after we had seen 28 Phlong residents receive Christ and be baptized.
The TSL didn’t follow up with out work or find anyone who would minister to the new believers after we were gone. So I asked him for $300 of the monies people in the States had sent that was earmarked specifically for our use but subject to the TSL’s approval. We wanted to help Vansan with fuel for his tuk-tuk so he could travel to Poeuk to continue what had been started, teaching and ministering to the new believers as we had hoped we would continue doing ourselves. The way we were dismissed from service was to call it, “Term Completed” as if three years was all we had planned to do.
The TSL and his wife denied our request for the money. Their reason was that Vansan had once associated with the Wesleyans so he must be an Armenianist. They said we couldn’t use the money to help him with fuel to make the weekly trip to Poeuk because their organization is Calvinist.
But Phlong Village needed someone to take care of the new believers to help them grow in faith and not fall away. So we used our own money, enough for a year to be divvied up to him through the Irish pastor of the international church in Siem Reap. Vansan has not only taken care of the original group of believers but has expanded his ministry there and has gotten those believers connected with a nearby fellowship. You can’t beat that for faithful service. Reminds me of the parable of the three guys who were given the bosses money to invest.
Pastor Sok Chhay lives in Kdol Village. Like Han, he is a rice farmer. But unlike Han, he is a shy and quiet man. We’ve known him since 2008, too. His wife had died just before we started working in Cambodia. Then his church got up and left him for another church group that had moved into Kralanh and looked more attractive than his modest little group that used to meet under his house. His morale took a dive and by the time we met him, it looked like he had all but given up. He felt he wasn’t doing any good as a pastor, that he couldn’t compete with the new group in Kralanh.
But Noy and I stuck with him even when our TSL and his wife told us to stop going there. They said we were wasting company time, that Sok Chhay wasn’t able to grow a house church because he was being disobedient to God. But we knew Pastor Chhay better than that. We had spent a lot of time with him. We understood the reason he was in a slump and believed it was worth the trouble to help him get out of it and back into action. Chhay told us he had felt abandoned, that nobody seemed to care how he was doing. Nobody from our company had even gone to the funeral for his wife.
But Noy and I did care. He’s our brother in the faith. When we returned to his village this year we met people who were calling Chhay their pastor and his church their church. He’s living proof that God never abandons his servants, even when they’ve been wounded. It turns out his quiet nature is a gift. The people in his village like him for that quality. He has two daughters. They helped lead our teams house to house in Kdol Village.
And then there’s Pastor Thoeur. If there was ever a guy who had his act together, that would be Thoeur. He was always organized and tracking with the team keeping in step with the Holy Spirit and two steps ahead of us. The man never gets tired. I’ve known him since 2008, too. He’s the one who found us the house we rented back then. And he’s a tuk-tuk driver, is married and has a little boy. Like the others, his wife is his partner in ministry.
I have found that Cambodian women can really back up their husbands. I’d go so far as to say they’re the backbone of the relationship. They’re as beautiful and gracious as they are strong and hard working. I know whereof I speak in this matter for Noy, my Cambodian wife of 32 years, has all the right stuff. I’d never think of working without her. Not only are Thoeur and his wife great to work with, but the men who help him are equally dedicated.
To tell the truth, having had the good fortune to work with people like them and the members of the SMI team, and to see how such a disparate assembly of people, cultures, and social backgrounds can mesh so well together to do a job, I can’t understand how it is other so-called teams can be so dysfunctional and out of touch with each other and reality except that it must have to do with what compels us to do what we do. If it turns out to be anything other than the love of God, then nothing’s going to go right. But if it is the love of God, then what can go wrong?
Things may get screwy and there may be those who will screw their fellow laborers, but if the motivation is right, so will everything else be. That’s how it’s always been with us. The SMI logo says, “That none may perish”. That’s what compels them to do what they do. It doesn’t get any better that.
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