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Highlights of 2014 – Looking Forward in 2015

Posted by on Jan 22, 2015 in Church Planting, Sarah's News, Training | 0 comments

Highlights of 2014 – Looking Forward in 2015

Milestone

2014 was the year that a major milestone was reached on the road to seeing the Cambodia Dream become a reality. I now have 3rd generation disciples within 1 year of leading people to the Lord. This means that I led someone to the Lord and trained them to be a multiplying disciple. This new disciple then led someone to the Lord and trained them. And my disciple’s disciple led someone to the Lord and is training them to do the same all in less than 12 months. I’m sure that 2015 will be the year that we reach 4th generation disciples and beyond and I’m praying for many streams of 4th generation disciples. With the opportunities that the Lord is opening up to train both Cambodian leaders and missionaries in these strategies, a multiplying movement of disciples and churches across Cambodia is more than a pipe-dream.

I have had to learn and change a lot in order to ride this exciting wave of God’s purposes for Cambodia. The process has been as exciting as the signs of progress.

Those of you who have been reading the fortnightly Cambodia Dream Prayer Updates  http://cambodiadream.info/prayer-partners/ will have had a glimpse of several of the people who have been won to the Lord last year through myself or those I am discipling.

Vuen

Vuen

Vuen after his baptism

One person I’m very excited about is Vuen, who turned from being a psychotic alcoholic to a multiplying disciple in a matter of months.

Vuen is related to a family in Baset, who have been believers for a long time but haven’t become multiplying disciples. Vuen lives about 10 km from Baset, has had a problem with alcohol for at least 10 years, squandering his assets and those of his older sister to the point of dire poverty. He lost his wife and 2 daughters, couldn’t keep any job and was losing his sanity. He had tried to quit drinking several times but never succeeded. He didn’t want to hear anything about Jesus.

In April last year, Vuen realised that he had reached rock bottom. He consented to stay with his relatives in Baset for a while. His older, illiterate sister prayed for him and asked me to share the gospel with him. God had prepared his heart. He asked Jesus to set him free from the demonic visitations he was experiencing and Jesus did so. Tha, a 5-month old believer at that time also encouraged him to depend on Jesus and nothing else. Vuen began to be transformed from the inside out and has not touched alcohol since. In less than 2 months, he was back in his village, holding down a full-time job and learning to share the gospel with others. He shared with many people at his workplace at a dry-dock, and 5 workmates decided to follow Jesus and meet with him every lunchtime to learn to be disciples that make disciples. Three of those workmates left to find better paying work before Vuen learned to baptise them in water and the Holy Spirit. However, they were already equipped to lead others in the first steps of depending on the creator God, who came to earth, died, and rose again to free them from their sin and karma. The other 2 workmates were baptised in water and the Holy Spirit in one of their lunch breaks. They then left to find other work but were already seeing transformation in their families and marriage relationships and were keen to pass on all that they had learned.

Last week, Vuen took someone to a hospital in Phnom Penh and got into a gospel conversation with a couple of people while waiting outside. Two people turned into a crowd of about 20 as the Holy Spirit anointed him to share with wisdom that amazed even himself. There were some in the crowd who had been involved in churches for several years but said that he explained things more clearly than they’d ever heard. I’m sure that is because Vuen hasn’t learned to be a cultural Christian but just a disciple of Jesus within his Cambodian culture. He doesn’t have the baggage of mixing up Western Christianity with the simple truth of the gospel as it applies to Cambodian culture. He shared the gospel for almost 6 hours and didn’t even think of taking a lunch break. He seems to have been sustained spiritually in the same way as Jesus when he was sharing with the woman at the well (John 4:31-32).

Tha

Chantha-with-vine

Tha using a vine to explain branching off and multiplying disciples

Seeing God work in the life of Tha (short for Chantha) has also been a real highlight. He became a believer at the end of October 2013 and God has used him to lead over 30 people to the Lord in 2014 and equip many of those to make disciples. He has become an eloquent advocate for the necessity of all believers to be disciples who make disciples.

A few months ago, Tha shared the gospel with a friend of his, who is the village leader in a neighbouring village. Tha was surprised to find out that this man already believed in Jesus. He asked the two questions that he asks every believer he meets, “How long have you been a believer?” and “How many disciples have you made?” Tha was shocked to find that his friend had been a believer for over 10 years and had never told anyone about Jesus, not even his wife. He continued to share with him anyway and discovered that this man believed in Jesus but also depended on the spirits. Tha led him to turn his allegiance solely to Jesus and to become a disciple who makes disciples. The village leader led his wife to the Lord. His wife’s response was, “Why did you not share this with me before?”

In November, Tha and the village leader travelled together on some business to the next province. They happened to bump into some friends of the village leader from his days of being involved in a church. They hadn’t seen each other for many years. The catch up on old times was extended to several more people in the area who had become Christians through the same ministry. Most of those men had become pastors of small churches in their villages. Tha and the village leader accepted the invitation to stay for lunch and the sharing together continued. Tha was the newest believer in the group of 5 or 6 church leaders. He asked them his usual 2 questions and rejoiced with them for the 12, 18, 20 or 30 people who were in their churches. He then asked them, “What will happen to your church and to the work of God in your village when you die and your church members die?” The leaders had never considered that. Tha broke off a tree branch and said, “What if you and all of your members branch off and make disciples who make disciples?” They quickly understood that this was a key strategy that would enable the gospel to spread easily throughout Cambodia. They were very excited as they glimpsed the way that they could be obedient to the Great Commission rather than just trying to sustain a small group of believers.

Coming up in 2015

The hands-on process of evangelism and multiplying disciples continues to be the highest priority activity for me in 2015 but God is opening up many more doors to envision and train both Cambodian Christian leaders and missionaries to “branch off” and make disciples who quickly make disciples.

Sarah at a recent Jonathan Training for Cambodian pastors

Sarah at a recent Jonathan Training for Cambodian pastors

My colleagues and I in the Jonathan Project are not only continuing to train missionaries in the Jonathan Training course and on-going peer mentoring groups but we have been invited to train pastors of hundreds of independent churches across Cambodia. We are on the look-out for “Jonathans” who are willing to believe that God can save this nation of Cambodia beginning with just a few courageous and obedient disciples (1 Sam 14). We will focus our efforts on those who apply what they learn.

Vireak & Poe

Vireak & Poe

God has brought us into contact with a young Cambodian couple from Siem Reap province who seem to have been prepared by God for Church Multiplication Movement ministry before they even heard that such a thing was possible. After my first meeting with them to share the vision, they turned down money donated to build a church building, understanding that a church building at this stage of their ministry would stifle multiplication. That has got to be a first for Cambodia and probably for many other nations. I’m very much looking forward to training and mentoring Vireak and his wife, Poe. They have a vision for all of Cambodia and beyond to be impacted by the gospel.

Thank you for the part that you have played in God’s long-term plan for this nation of Cambodia. The Cambodia Dream of disciples and churches spontaneously multiplying throughout Cambodia and bringing deep transformation to lives and whole communities has been birthed in God’s heart and we are privileged to have glimpsed it and play a part in it.

Highs and lows in Prey Veng

Posted by on Jun 13, 2013 in Sarah's News, Training | 0 comments

Highs and lows in Prey Veng

“Can you come out to Prey Veng province and run a story-smith workshop for a group of pastors and children’s workers?” a missionary asked me. I slotted it into my calendar and wasn’t expecting it to be too big a deal since Prey Veng isn’t far away.

Last week, I discovered there is an area of Prey Veng so undeveloped that it has the feel of being isolated and remote. The 130km took almost 4 hours to complete including a stretch of road under construction that proved one of my most challenging 4-wheel-driving experiences, in mud so slippery I often had no control of the vehicle. I then discovered that the missionary family I was staying with not only had a rather rustic house but a dry pit toilet, which I’ve never met in Cambodia before.

The following day, the 16 workshop participants and I quickly established rapport and got into the fun, games and activities that take people from never having made up a story to making up stories to teach effectively and telling Bible stories that result in life change. Unfortunately, the afternoon snack must have been touched by unwashed hands because that night I began to suffer giardia type symptoms.

Dry pit toilet interior

Dry pit toilet instructions: Lift the cement lid, do your business but pee separately in the red container. Throw toilet paper and ash into the pit, close the lid, empty the red container out onto the grass outside. (Not pleasant!)

The second day of the workshop was a real challenge as I was not feeling well, but it was great to see the participants develop and begin to get excited about their ability to tell stories. That evening, diarrhoea set in and I had many trips out the back to the pit toilet. I began to wonder if I’d be able to do the last day of the workshop at all. I reached out for God’s grace and healing power and slept for about 3 hours. I still had my doubts about my capacity to cope with the day but I gained more and more strength as the day progressed despite not having access to any medicine.

The final day completed the journey for the pastors and children’s workers and most of them finished with a sense that they could do what they’d never imagined they could before.

I took a different route back over more solid, though much bumpier roads, and arrived home amazed at how good I felt, given how the day had started.

Please pray for the pastors and children’s workers in Mesang district of Prey Veng province to see great fruit as they use stories to reach the hearts of Cambodian people.

Sharing Jesus with Those Who Have NEVER Heard

Posted by on Apr 17, 2013 in Church Planting | 0 comments

Last Sunday, I took the opportunity to share the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection with 2 old ladies in Baset. When I got to the part where Jesus was on the cross and asked His Father to forgive those who crucified him, Vat asked, “Is this a true story or made up?” The other lady has heard me share several stories before and assured her that this was true.  Later, when I got to the resurrection, Vat interrupted again and asked, “Is this Jesus a man or a woman?”  Wow! I’ve never been asked that question before, but given the Khmer language does not indicate gender in their pronouns for he/she, I could see why Vat needed that point clarified.  In amazement, I questioned her about what she’d heard about Jesus before. She had NEVER heard the name of Jesus to even have an idea that he was a man.

Older women are often the most religious and most isolated from the gospel

Older women are often the most religious and most isolated from the gospel

The church in Cambodia has grown to a little over 1% of the population claiming to be Christian and most people seem to have some concept of the Christian religion and the name of Jesus, even if they don’t know anything about him.  The Western trappings of churches in Cambodia attract some people, particularly the young, who see anything Western as synonymous with wealth and opportunities. However, it forms a barrier to the vast majority of Cambodians who value their cultural heritage, particularly the middle aged and elderly. I’m so thankful to God that he has helped us to find ways to share the gospel with those who have been cut off from hearing about what Jesus did for them.

Both women I was sharing with were blown away by the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection and wanted to know more. So I shared Buddha’s 4 Noble Truths and the clear gospel message of Jesus having taken all of their sin and bad karma for them. I asked Vat if she wanted to believe in Jesus and repent to be made clean from her sin. She said yes!  We were interrupted at that point and she had to go.

Please pray for Vat that she would experience being born again by the Spirit of God and that I’d be able to meet up with her again and begin to disciple her.

Buddha’s teaching helps Cambodians understand the gospel

Posted by on Mar 7, 2013 in Church Planting | 0 comments

The cycle of suffering and reincarnation

The cycle of suffering and reincarnation

Undoubtedly, the most effective way to teach anything is to begin with what people already understand.  Jesus did this constantly when he used everyday life situations and parables that his listeners were familiar with.

Last year, I met a missionary to Burma who shared the way they used Buddha’s 4 Noble Truths to point people to Jesus. I immediately recognized this as a gem that could work in Cambodia.  Over a couple of months, before returning on Home Assignment, I experimented with sharing these 4 Noble Truths and seeing how they could be used to help Cambodians come to Jesus. Before long, I refined it to a simple discussion that rapidly connected with Cambodians of different ages and situations and led to many people saying “I want to learn about Jesus”.

Now that I’m back from Home Assignment, I’m excited to find that a friend and colleague has started using the 4 Noble Truths as his chief method of evangelism, and is training new Christians to share the gospel with it as well.

On Sunday, a woman in Baset village asked me to visit her sister, who is ill, in another village. A neighbour lady joined us out of curiosity just when I began to share the 4 Noble Truths.  It was clear that the woman from Baset and her sister were under strong spiritual bondage that kept them from taking it in, but the neighbour had a heart prepared by God and she immediately responded to the gospel!  It is hard to describe what it was like seeing her fall in love with Jesus in the matter of minutes.  The neighbour, whose name is Im, then began explaining the gospel to the two sisters.

Today, the colleague who has begun using the 4 Noble Truths, excitedly sent me a text message to say that he just led a Chinese Cambodian man to Jesus in one conversation, again using this method.  Praise the Lord!

This method is not a magic wand, but since it helps Cambodians to understand the truth of the gospel, grounded in what they already understand, those whose hearts God has been preparing experience no barriers to accepting his wonderful gift of salvation.

Click Buddha’s 4 Noble Truths to see what Buddha’s 4 Noble Truths are and how we use it to share the gospel.

Please pray for a sweeping movement of disciples who make disciples as more people are trained in using this simple way of sharing the gospel with Cambodians.

 

You And Your Household Will Be Saved

Posted by on Jun 21, 2012 in Church Planting, Rapid Truth | 0 comments

Individual salvations seem to be the exception not the norm in the New Testament. The norm appears to be whole households accepting Christ together. It is our Western, modern culture that has re-interpreted spiritual principles into our individualistic framework and made it seem that individual salvations are the goal God has in mind. However, Paul’s message was “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household.” (Acts 16:31) When he said this, he didn’t mean the jailor to be saved and some months or years down the track other members of his family to be saved one by one. The jailor and his whole household were baptised together that same night.

Rapid Truth Recording in Studio & Out

Posted by on Apr 28, 2012 in Rapid Truth, Resource Development | 0 comments

Rapid Truth Recording in Studio & Out

Although recording in a studio is preferable, I’ve opted to start using a high-quality voice recorder so that I can take it to Preah Vihear province and record the storytellers on-site instead of getting them to come to Phnom Penh.

We still had the problem of finding a location in Preah Vihear with minimal disruptive noise.  The solution was to record in a guesthouse bedroom with air-conditioning.  Heavy rain and some repairs on the wooden staircase threatened to disrupt the recording session, having been perfectly quiet during our practice times of course, but thankfully, we were able to practice another story and record a little later on.

Sina, adding the welcome addition of a woman's voice

Going to Preah Vihear meant that I could try out 3 new storytellers, including a young woman, which is wonderful.  The trip also resulted in a great opportunity to inspire some Korean missionaries with the impact of using storytelling for ministry in Cambodia, and for Renee to see more of the country.  It was great to have her as photographer.

We managed to record 4 more stories over 2 and a half days.

Meanwhile in Phnom Penh, we have recorded several more stories bringing our total to 10 out of 26.  We still have a way to go but we are making progress.

Please continue to pray for this process of recording to continue smoothly and that the resulting tool will enable thousands of people to share the good news of Jesus effectively in Cambodia.

When poverty leads to death

Posted by on Apr 21, 2012 in Church Planting | 0 comments

When poverty leads to death

Sot, a 65 year old grandmother, almost starved to death. Her family are poor but they are able to keep food on the table. The problem is that Sot has had several hospital stays over the last couple of years; the last one being only a couple of months ago. The family sold farmland to pay the expensive medical costs.

Several years ago, Sot allowed church planters to use her front yard as the venue for outreach activities. These activities were closed down by the village leader before my involvement in Baset. Sot hadn’t become a Christian but I continue some contact with Sot and tell her stories of Jesus from time to time.

Now Sot was sick again. I visited her on 13 April and found her thin and weak. She complained of stomach problems and hadn’t been able to eat anything for several days. Being Khmer New Year, I figured we had to see her through the holiday and then if God didn’t miraculously intervene, get her to hospital. We prayed for her and bought a dozen small UHT packets of milk. On 15 April, I saw her again and was shocked at how much worse she was. She was wasting away before our eyes. She was so weak, she could only whisper a few words before needing to rest a while. We prayed again.

Sot has a young relative who has just graduated from medical school. Being Khmer New Year, she was in the village. I enlisted her help in convincing the family of the severity of Sot’s situation and the need to get her to medical attention.

A few days later, I asked about Sot and discovered that she was still at home, very close to death and the only medical help she was receiving was from the local doctor who put her on a drip. They also had Buddhist pre-death chanting being performed for her.

I couldn’t know about this and do nothing. I figured that it was a financial issue that kept her family from taking her to hospital and determined that Sot’s life was worth whatever it might cost me to get her treated. I prayed that it wouldn’t be too late.

I enlisted the help of Samat, the young doctor, and yesterday we went to Baset despite the family still saying they wouldn’t agree to take her to hospital. It took over an hour and many assurances that they wouldn’t be financially burdened before they agreed with the plan. We then waited for the local doctor to provide another saline drip, had a few men carry Sot into the back of my ute and then set off along the longer but smoother dirt road back to Phnom Penh.

We were able to get Sot registered in the principal government hospital as a near death case of extreme poverty, which is the only situation in which medical care is almost free. I paid the admission fee of $15 and will continue to pay the food costs for Sot’s sister as she does the patient care, which is not provided by nursing staff in this part of the world. I’m amazed that in the end the financial outlay is so little and that for so little, Sot would have been left to die.

Once in hospital, an endoscope determined that she had a stomach ulcer, a feeding tube brought nourishment bypassing the ulcer and by this morning, she was picking up.

Please pray that Sot makes a full recovery back to strength and that even her chronic conditions of diabetes, heart problems and brittle bones will be healed. Pray also that she will fully trust Jesus as her Lord.

A few hours ago, one of the Christians in Baset told me about another medical need that was rending his heart. I don’t know much about it yet but it seems to be a 24 year old woman in dire poverty with some strange fever. I may be making another hospital run tomorrow, but wouldn’t be great if God healed her before then!

 

 

Meet Renee

Posted by on Mar 20, 2012 in Sarah's News | 0 comments

Meet Renee

After 4 years of pursuing the dream of Church Multiplication Movements in Cambodia without any missionary teammates, it has been absolutely wonderful to have a lovely young woman join me for 4 months.  Renee Blok and I met at PanAsia conference in Phuket, Thailand last year.  She said God had called her to be a missionary from the age of 12 and the kind of missions work she wanted to do was exactly what I was doing.  That sounded promising.

Renee decided to come and join me for several months to see if God would confirm to her that she should join my team.  She arrived just a few days before Christmas and was thrown in the deep end with little time for thorough orientation in the lead up to the Baset Christmas outreach.  She spent her first Christmas away from family in the village, eating chicken curry and fish soup.  I did manage to get us to a Western style restaurant for a more traditional Christmas dinner on Christmas night.

Her role has been to learn Khmer, join me in almost daily intercessory prayer and follow me around on village trips to see what it is like to be involved in reproducible church planting.  Renee has taken to it like a fish to water.  She is doing great at learning Khmer the conversational way and is developing friendships in Phnom Penh, Baset and Setabo.  Her language learning is even opening up potential new opportunities to share the gospel in Baset.

I had been praying for God to provide me with a team for a long time, but now having had a taste of it, I’m praying all the more fervently.  Truely, two are better than one (Ecc 4:9-12).

Renee only has 4 weeks left with me before she returns to Australia and determines exactly how she is going to follow God’s calling on her life.  I’ll have to get used to solitary prayer meetings again for a time. :(

Please pray for Renee to trust the Lord and follow his leading even in the face of other pressures and voices.

Please pray for all the hurdles that Renee will have to jump before her dream of being a missionary is realized, such as getting a credential with ACC and raising support.

I know that whether Renee works with me or others, she will be a great blessing.  I am of course hoping that she will end up working with me long-term.

Here’s a link to Renee’s blog for you to follow her journey: http://rb90.blogspot.com/

Jonathan Training 2012

Posted by on Feb 29, 2012 in Training | 0 comments

Jonathan Training 2012

“The training more than met my expectations”, “It was better than I expected”, “It exceeded my expectations”…  These were some of the comments on the evaluations for the latest Jonathan Training held in Phnom Penh in January.  Clearly, all the hard work that went into teaching the course paid off.  The team of 5 core facilitators and other guest presenters did a wonderful job of making the training experience interactive, varied, challenging and even transformational.

Experiencing the Model, Assist, Watch and Leave cycle of reproducible ministry

This was the first time we had particpants from countries outside of Cambodia, with 6 of the 19 participants from restricted-access countries around Asia (which might help explain the blurred faces on the group photo).  There was a great variety of people in the training, from those who have been on the field for over 10 years to those newly arrived and still in language learning.  Those who are new to the field have the advantage of learning how to spark Church Multiplication Movements from the beginning of their ministry and avoid many of the hidden pitfals, but the disadvantage of being limited in developing an actual strategic plan, since they may not yet know exactly where they will be working.  Those who have been on the field for many years have the advantage of knowing their ministry situation very well, but the disadvantage of it being difficult or sometimes even impossible to turn something that was begun on addition strategies into a multiplication strategy.

We are continuing to follow up all who participated, to encourage them to pursue the vision of ‘viral’ Christianity that produces an exponential multiplication of disciples making disciples and churches planting churches until all of our people groups are reached.

Relating Disciples Make Disciples to what participants already know

What we began last year with attempting to make the training concrete and interactive, we pushed even further this year with very few straight lecture sessions and lots of activities involving small group discussions, drawing, poster-making, lego, chocolate, hand signals, video clips and story telling.

Steve Parlato was our ‘outside expert’ for part of the training, who has successfully helped to spark movements in a closed Asian country.  We greatly appreciated his experience and insight.

Our wonderful team of facilitators and guest presenter, Steve Parlato

After spending more than 2 weeks together in the intense learning and sharing atmosphere from 8 am to 5 pm, with homework and preparation in the evenings, one of the facilitators owned to waking up after it was over with a certain lost feeling of “what am I to do today?”

What we do today is put it into practice, making ourselves partners in God’s vision for these unreached peoples to stand before his throne in eternity.

Christmas in Baset

Posted by on Feb 4, 2012 in Church Planting | 1 comment

Christmas in Baset

Christmas is not a public holiday in Cambodia, so with Christmas falling on a Sunday, this was the first time that we’ve been able to celebtrate Christmas in Baset on Christmas Day.

We left home after 6 AM to transport most of the Christmas dinner food to be prepared in Baset.  Those who know how to make Cambodian curry and the special fish soup had much to do throughout the morning.

I took my good friends from Australia, Alex and Garry,and new comer, Renee, visiting in the meantime.

Singing Cambodian Christmas carols

In Cambodia, celebrations are important and are supposed to be very public.  So Christmas is a time when the Christians can enjoy doing just that.  They didn’t have speakers blaring music towards the neighbours but with electricity newly connected in Baset village, they were able to use a sound system for the Christmas carols and the neighbours heard enough to know it was a real-deal celebration.

Piset telling the Christmas story

Piset did a great job of telling the Christmas story and of course that was followed by a group discussion.  In oral cultures, the most effective way for people to learn is through stories and then the opportunity to process the implications of the story verbally.  It always gives me great joy to see new people break the “sound barrier” and participate in a discussion about Jesus even if they are hearing about him for the first time.

I was also excited about having Pov, Praich and Bunthuen there, all of whom have been showing real interest in the gospel.  They were just a few of the 20+ not-yet believers made up of relatives and friends of the disciples in Baset.

Cambodian curry is a must for a Cambodian Christmas

Lunch was not like anything my visitors had ever had for Christmas dinner but they enjoyed it nonetheless.  We were back in Phnom Penh by the evening and then had a second Christmas celebration at a restaurant that had a Christmas buffet, complete with roast turkey and a few of the must-have Australian Christmas foods.