God’s Grace

God’s Grace

By Randy Cook for the Team

It doesn’t seem that long ago that I made my first trip to Cambodia and met a people whom I have come to adore and cherish. Now I am on my fourth trip – and what’s more – my daughter, Maddie, is part of the team this year. What a blessing it is to share this ministry with her! I am so very grateful to Dan at Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church for making the initial invitation to me in 2012.  God has richly blessed me to be able to come alongside CHO and participate in their ministries. My church, North End Community Church, is also now a partner, assisting through mission funds and prayer. 

Julie assigned me the next blog – which was supposed to go out yesterday.  You may be wondering why you don’t see blog posts more often from our team. Rest assured that it’s not due to laziness – but being scheduled from 6:30am-9:30pm or more every day – and every time I think I might have a moment – something else comes up, like getting to know my team members better – or losing the internet connection. We learn to be very patient here – as our impatient American tendencies and expectations must be tempered.  And guess what? The Lord ALWAYS provides!   

Today we completed our week of “work” which we began on Monday. Over the past four days, Pastor Bill, Craig and Anita Baldwin, and myself, have been teaching 75 pastors and church leaders from the local villages. I taught a course on discipleship, while Bill, Craig and Anita taught a course on marriage and relationships. Initially we were expecting 40 participants. Each day more people arrived – eventually totaling 75.  As with last year, when we had 80 participants, there was almost an even split of men and women, as well as young and old.  It is not possible to fully capture and describe all the experiences from this week of teaching, fellowship, testimonials and prayer.  Approximately 2% of Cambodia is Christian, which is consistent with what I discovered when I polled our students about their village churches.  However, I am once again humbled and inspired by the work of the Holy Spirit in our Cambodian hosts and friends, and reminded of my own poverty of spirit that sets in when I live in abundance and self-sufficiency.

Here are a few moments in word and image to help paint a picture of this place where God is active in the lives of His Faithful people. If only I could reproduce 115 degrees (with the heat index) and 85% humidity in this post for you. Just read it in a sauna cranked up to high. Blessings!

{God watches over Safe Haven. Safe Haven is a gated compound about 10 miles from Poipet where CHO operates a school for elementary and primary age children from the local villages, and also the training building where our classes were held. The property also has a brick-making operation and agricultural areas for growing fruits and vegetables.}

{Class must be in session. Outside our classrooms at the Safe Haven. Our feet are always dirty, but I love having my shoes off!}

{Team game as part of the Discipleship course. Four teams of 8-10 people had to move a ball from one of the room to the other, without touching it with their hands, or moving their feet. Only a few sticks were provided. Each team was to think of itself as a small church, learning to work together toward a common goal, encourage each other, and place members in positions to be successful. The game was a big hit, and revealed many valuable principles.}

{Participants in the Discipleship Course. Woman in pink once lived in Tacoma after fleeing Khmer Rouge in the early 80’s. We read lots of scripture every day – out loud. People jump in quickly to start reading and the moment there is a break someone else starts. When they see the last sentence approaching in the passage, ALL join in and read it together, ending with a hearty AMEN! The Holy Spirit is highly active here.}

{Craig and Anita role playing in Pastor Bill’s Marriage Encounters course. As Bill said, Craig and Anita “hit it out of the park.” They were such a blessing to the students, as they modeled a healthy and mutually loving relationship. Anita developed some strong connections with a number of the women, both young and old, and was such a blessing to so many.}

{Pastor Bill delivers the message at our morning devotional service at Safe Haven.  Rosa interprets (with no limitations). Bill gave this message twice on this day, once in a local village home church, and again here at Safe Haven with many of the CHO staff.}

{Our classroom building and all the student/participants for the Marriage and Discipleship courses after the certificate ceremony.}

{Our medical team – teaching a group of local police / first responders how to approach a trauma injury scene such as an auto accident. Dana commands authority in her uniform – and her delivery, along with Deb. Lita interprets, and Maddie plays a great dummy.}

{Machelle delivers a message of faith and trust in the Lord through personal testimony at our last devotional/worship service.} 

{Our fearless Medical Team – with Duncan – the masked crusader. The team works in the villages in the morning, helping teach nutrition and dental hygiene to children and parents, and with first responders in the afternoon.}

{Students at Safe Haven.}

{One of our participant/students – Kong. He is gifted in evangelism, bringing more than 150 people to Christ!}

{Bob at the feet washing ceremony that involved all 75 student/participants and the CHPC Team. A very meaningful time for all, modeling humility and unity in the Body.}

{Our leaders, Dan and Julie, with Anak, the director at Village Works in Phnom Penh. Dan and Julie are seasoned veterans in building and managing effective mission teams – and they make it so enjoyable!}

{Baskets made in Poipet are being transported. We’re pretty sure that’s not DOT approved.}

{A common scene in Cambodia. Sometimes there are five!}

{A momentary slowdown on our way back from a worship service in a local village.}

{Our Team at Village Works in Phnom Penh.}

{The Disciple Training diagram – teaching the levels of spiritual maturity.  This program was very well received and successful!}

{My interpreter, Sovan. Also my interpreter last year, we make a great team, as did all of our interpreters.}

Julie shared the perfect scripture at the devotional this morning for how we all feel.
2 Corinthians, 16-21:  So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.  Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come.  The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ. And gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.  And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  Therefore, we are ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.  We implore you on Christ’s behalf, BE reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 

From all of us, in a land that is healing and reconciling from so much pain and loss, we implore all of our Brothers and Sisters in Christ to be bold in sharing the Good News with a confused and broken world, which exists all around us. God’s grace is available to all, but not accepted by all, or even yet known by so many.  Be Christ’s ambassadors!