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This devotional is part of a series in January that tells stories of “Bold Faith” written by CBF field personnel and members of a team composed of clergy and laity from across the Fellowship who are leading of process of prayerful discovery that will result in a faithful response. Find out more about this process called Toward Bold Faithfulness.
By David and Lauren Bass
Before arriving in Cambodia, I knew that developing a foundation of ministry there would be a slow process. We were committed to language school. We were also committed to letting our Cambodian partners take the lead instead of taking charge ourselves. And, we were committed to learning Cambodian culture.
But even though I was prepared for things to be slow, they ended up being even slower than I thought. It took almost two years to learn the language, only to find out that there was a royal language, quite different from everyday language that was required to talk about God and Jesus. So we spent more than a year learning that vocabulary and practicing reading and teaching from the Bible. We initiated conversations about ministry ideas with our partners, but they kept responding that we needed to wait; the time was not yet right.
One year turned into two, and two years turned into four, and there still wasn’t a clear path for us to do the ministry that God had placed on our hearts: supporting the Cambodian Baptist Union by helping its pastors receive training and other forms of support that will help its churches have sustainable ministries.
At times, we wondered if the reason our ministry was proceeding so slowly was that we were doing something wrong. And in some unguarded moments, we sometimes found ourselves thinking that perhaps we weren’t the right people for the job. But God met us and spoke to us in our discouragement. We realized that because we weren’t involved in many ministry programs, we had more time to learn language. We had more time to observe the culture. We had more time to sit and listen to our local partners and, as trust was established over a period of time, we could share more of our hearts with each other. All of these were good gifts, even if they weren’t the gifts I was looking for.
As different people share what bold faithfulness means to them, I know that there will be many stories of transformation that happened through the courageous ministries of my fellow field personnel and other ministers throughout CBF. But throughout our time serving in Cambodia, God has taught us about the other side of bold faithfulness.
For us, bold faithfulness has meant learning language—even when doing so has humbled me beyond how I was expecting to be humbled. It has meant not diving into ministry programs before our local partners think the time is right. It means building trust the Cambodian way, for which there is no shortcut.
Waiting itself can be bold. Listening and building trust when you’d rather be out doing something can be faithful. Learning and building strong foundations can be bold. Wrestling with the tension of what my identity is when I’m not able to do the things I think I ought to be doing can be faithful. This is not what I wanted to learn about bold faithfulness over the last few years. But it is what I needed to learn.
When the time comes to act, that requires bold faithfulness as well. Our partners have asked us to start a monthly pastor training program in one of Cambodia’s southern provinces this year. This will require different kinds of boldness and faithfulness, and I’m sure we will be stretched and humbled in new ways.
It is essential to realize the courage it takes to sometimes simply wait—to listen; to learn; to be humble; to let God work on your own heart; to receive a gift from God that you didn’t want, but that you desperately needed, and then to be grateful for that gift.
David and Lauren Bass serve as CBF field personnel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. To learn more about and support their ministry, visit www.cbf.net/bass. To join them in bold faith and help shape the future of the Fellowship, take CBF’s online survey today at www.cbf.net/survey.