Monday, October 31, 2005

Vietnam On The Lords Day

We worshipped the Lord this morning in our hotel room in HoChiMinh City, Vietnam. Although this country claims to not restrict religious meetings, the truth is far from reality. Russ Burcham delivered a powerful lesson from 1 Corinthians, chapter 2, on worshipping God with emotion. Gail and I along with Bill and Marie Claire McDonough sang praises and communed together with Bro. Russ.

We are in Vietnam checking on the progress of the boat construction. All three decks are completed with roughed in electrical and plumbing. We made many decisions about placement of furnishings and wall and floor coverings. We could almost begin to imagine living and working on the boat as we spent most of two days there. Gail is drawing designs for cabinets and closets and desk area for our cabin as we are flying back to Cambodia tonight. I love her more each day. How blessed I am among men!

We met several brothers in Christ this weekend in Vietnam. They held a worship service for about fifty this morning. One missionary is American, another Laotian, and the last is from Cameroon, Africa. They have been asked not to meet anymore and we are fearful that they may all be deported or worse. We were advised not to meet with them as to not draw any additional attention to their presence and to not jeopardize our work. Religious freedom is a wonderful blessing and we dare not take it for granted.

Pray for open doors in Vietnam. There are eighty-nine million who do not know Christ there. I visited a large bookstore in this town of ten million or so and inquired about any "religious material". The young clerk looked perplexed for several long moments and then she smiled from ear to ear. She then pointed to a copy of the latest Harry Potter fiction novel. She followed that up with a copy of The DaVinci Code.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Cambodian Church History

The Lord's work began several decades ago when missionaries from Thailand came to Cambodia. They primarily made short excursions with only minimal results. In the mid 90's, a brother from the United States was teaching bible in a church of Christ training school in Singapore. His name was Bob Berrard and he was sponsered by the Sheffield, Texas church of Christ. Brother Berrard befriended a young Cambodian named Lork Choy in that school and upon graduation, Lork, called James now, invited Bob to work with him in Cambodia.

Brother Berrard accepted the challenge and moved to Phnom Penh in 1998. He not only planted the Lord's church in the Cambodian capital, but started a preacher training program. Bob traveled extensively outside the capital to many small villages to spread the word. All was going well until one fateful day in 2003. Bob Berrard gave his life for Christ in a motorcycle accident on his way to a small village to speak God's word. Bob Berrard is the reason we are here today.

Before his death, Bob had asked Bill McDonough to bring a medical team to Cambodia and help the poor. Bill was in Cambodia at the time of Bob's death and felt called by God to continue the good work the Sheffield church had begun. When he saw the Mekong River and the people who lived by its banks, he dreamed of a boat and as Paul Harvey says, "that is the rest of the story"!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A First

Everyday is a new experience here in Cambodia. This day has been no different than any of our previous six days. Gail rode a tuk-tuk to school at seven o'clock am. The tuk-tuk is a motorcycle with a small carriage behind it that will carry up to 6 people at a time. It takes about twenty minutes for her to go across town for her two hour course each morning. She then rides another twenty minutes to get home. So far so good! I am so proud of her. She can already communicate quite well with people on a basic level and everyone says she is progressing very well. I, on the other hand, can only count to ten!

I told you earlier that I had gotten my drivers license. Well today I drove for the first time solo. The traffic is like nothing you have ever seem before! The cars do not stay in their own lanes as in the US. They merge into each others lanes at various times and it is difficult to have another car just come straight at you! I have been told to not pay any attention to motorcycles. Just dodge the other cars and trucks. I will try again tomorrow.

This weekend we will travel to Vietnam to see the progress on the boat. Gail will get to see her new home away from home for the first time! She really is a trooper. I thank God every day for her courage and strength. Continue to pray for us as we do for you back home daily. God bless you all. Rick

Friday, October 21, 2005

School daze...

Rick and I decided to try to exercise every morning, and so far we are two for two. Of course, our small accomplishment to due to the fact that we are not quite over time difference and are waking up at 5:00 am. So we might as well walk. It definitely is cooler and it is interesting to see the life of the people as they start their day.

Today I went to the beginner Khmer class at the Institute of Language. This class session had started October 5, so the teacher said to come and see if I could understand what was going on. Then I could decide to stay, or start with next session class. My eight weeks in Madison must have stuck with me because I am going to stay. I will get up every morning and attend class from 7:30 until 9:30, Monday through Friday. I was the only American in this particular class. It was interesting listening to Korean, Chinese, French and Australian students learning Khmer through English. The accents were fun to listen to! The teacher is Khmer and very kind. He would say something that really wasn’t correct about the English grammar, and the teacher in me wanted to correct him, but I didn’t!

We had dinner last night with a young couple that dedicated five years here in Phnom Penh to work for the Lord. Their names are Nathan and Cheryl Wheeler. What an encouragement they are to see their love for the people. They have been here thirteen months and concentrating on their language skills. They have a church meeting in their home on Sunday evening across town from where the church of Christ building is located. They hope to reach that side of town and hopefully attract young working people. We see their commitment to Christ at such a young age and think of Carlos and Maribel and their commitment to Christ. It is humbling to see both couples’ love for the Lord.

Rick purchased his Cambodian drivers license today. That is pretty much all it! Not sure if he will drive anytime soon. The traffic pattern is very interesting here. The traffic rules are varied and not many follow them anyway. It is just a slow merge and respect for cars, motos, cyclos, and pedestrians. You have to see it to believe it! Perhaps we can attach a short video clip to this blog. Another day has passed and I haven’t cracked up with emotion. All the prayers must be heard. Thanks!

Monday, October 17, 2005

The Journey begins.........

I experienced for the first time a new feeling yesterday. As we were packing to leave for seven months, I suddenly realized that we weren't coming home in a couple of weeks! And then it hit me: we should have started packing earlier! I think we have most of what we will need or that we could get in our four suitcases, but it also struck me that we were leaving behind 99% of our material possessions. That is a good feeling in a weird sort of way and scary in another.

I do not know exactly what God has in mind for us in Cambodia, but I have a wonderful secure feeling that HE knows and it is going to be special. Someone said last week at the World Mission Workshop that he would work in a certain mission as long as the Lord "lets" him, not as long as He "needs" him to. It is a privilege to serve God, not a duty or an obligation. I feel we are the most blessed people on earth!

We just finished seeing a homemade DVD made by our fellow servants Carlos and Maribel Precido. We have only known them for one month but it seems like much longer. This special couple has been living in HSV and worshipping with our church family. They will leave in two weeks to begin their church planning project in Miami. This couple is on fire for the Lord! Carlos spoke to us last Sunday morning and delivered a powerful sermon about fixing your eyes upon Jesus. He told inspiring stories how God has worked in their lives and challenged us to trust God when the wind and the waves seem so frightening. They worked hours to make this DVD
showing many of our closest Brothers and Sisters in Christ saying good-bye. We sat with tears streaming down our faces as our friends, family, and especially our children said such wonderful encouraging things to us. We will cherish this video for the months to come as we miss all of you so much.

Well, we will be landing in Taipei, Taiwan in less than one hour. We have been traveling for 21 hours now. We will land and have a short layover then we will begin our last leg to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Thanks be to God for his bountiful blessings and loving care. We also thank each of you for your love and prayers.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Last Supper

We had a wonderful experience the last few days at the annual World Missions Workshop held this year at Harding University in Searcy Arkansas. On Saturday night Monte Cox who had invited to make a presentation this year said as he walked by our table at dinner time that we were almost eating our "Last Supper!" Well it wasn't our last one but he was close!

We met several new friends and were reacquainted with several old ones at the workshop. We made a presentation on the Mekong River Boat Project to about 50 people interested in Cambodia. Sokhom Hun and his family came to the workshop from Dallas Tx. He and his family were their and shared heart wrenching stories of their life in cambodia before they fled to the US. We have grown to love them in a very short time. We met two young couples who are planning on moving to Cambodia in the near future! That is so exciting to us and we will pray for them often as they work out the details. They are Casey and Chris Allison and Andrew and Natalie Hayes. Another couple Jake and Shelly Hendrix, whom we have worked with in the past in Guyana, South America, also expressed an interest in making a survey trip to Cambodia. WOW! God is doing great things in Cambodia. We also found out that the next Asian Forum will probably be held in Seim Reip, Cambodia next year. We look forward to that experience.

Our church family gave us a nice plaque this morning in our last service with them for a long time. The Elders prayed with us and commended us for our future plans. We will miss everyone very much. From 2 to 4 this afternoon, Dr. Kristi Gipe and her staff held a nice going away reception for us. Several hundred past patients and friends came to wish us well and made us feel good. Our children have also been with us the last 3 days and that has been a real blessing.
Well we leave in twenty hours from now and we have not started packing yet, so we will start that tedious process. Pray for us as we take this great step for the Lord tomorrow!

Sunday, October 09, 2005

The Lord's Day

Today was full of emotion for Gail and I. Full of anxiety for me because I delivered the morning sermon to our church family! Full of sadness because next Sunday will be our last Lord's day with our church family until we return next May. But most of all full of excitement over the adventure the Lord has in store for us in Cambodia.
I challenged the Village Church of Christ to be alert to God's calling. He is forever calling us to Him and back to Him as we stay away. When we receive His call to the Christian Life, He then calls us to a holy life of service. (II Tim. 1:7-9)
We leave in less than five days and are working feverishly to tie up all loose ends we are aware of. Hopefully, the ones we are not aware of will be small ones! We are both feeling small symptoms of unease as our departure day approaches. Keep us in your prayers.