My Hat’s Off To You

My return home from Southeast Asia was at midnight, May 31. At eight the next morning I had a doctor appointment (scheduled before the trip—no problem). Immediately after that, Deena and I packed the car and headed for St. Louis. A couple thousand church leaders from around the world were meeting there and I needed to talk with some of them. More about that in another post.

By this time I had been traveling and working for over three months straight without a break. So, we actually took a week off and visited family in Kansas and Arkansas. What a refreshing interlude! Thank you, Family.

Driving back to serious business in Lexington, Kentucky, where thousands of pastors and their families converged for four days and nights of inspiration and fun. It’s amazing how much networking still needs to be done after retirement, and how much more fun it is now.

This gathering was over just in time to drive to Maryland for Deena to tie up the work she had been doing during every stop.

From there, our diesel Jetta rolled away the miles to Union Springs, New York. Church members from across the state are meeting for camp meeting for ten days. It’s all good. But my reason for being there was to escort my friend, Saw Bu Bu to the stage for his ordination to pastoral ministry. Before leaving New York, I mentored Saw Bu Bu on some of his pastoral skills. He came to New York as a refugee from Myanmar (formerly Burma) and is being used by God to lead his people to Jesus. Congratulations my friend, and God bless you.

Pastor Saw Bu Bu and his wife Paw minister to the Karen people in Upstate New York.

During this month, I heard two things over and over. The first is, “I thought you were retired.” The second is, “I’ve been reading your posts, and I’ve been praying for you.” Now I know why this whole trip has been such a success. So many of you have been praying daily. I am gratified beyond words. God has responded to your prayer intervention for this venture from beginning to end. I am indebted to all of you. My hat is off to you, and I thank God for your prayer ministry for this work and for me

Local Young Laborer Makes Good

I had the privilege to preach about the wonders of Creation and its science at the Ekamai Adventist Church in Bangkok. It is on the grounds where we lived in 1981-1982. I could walk out the back door of the church and be in our former backyard. Doing so brought back memories of moving a small shed for our one-year-old to play in. Under it was a nest of baby cobras scurrying from their disturbed nest.

In those earlier years I was Director of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) for Thailand. We provided medical and nutritional aid for Cambodian refugees who fled into Thailand to escape the killing fields of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge. It was a tragic and yet victorious time to serve. (At that time the agency was still known as the Seventh-day Adventist World Service – SAWS.)

Danai worked in the refugee camps and villages along the Thai/Cambodian border.

After presenting my message I was approached by a man who seemed just a bit familiar. He eagerly reached out to shake my hand and asked if I worked with SAWS in 1981. “Yes. Were you here then?”

His name was Danai. He told me that during those years he worked for us in refugee camps and villages along the Thai/Cambodian border. He helped drill water wells and do construction work and whatever else was needed. The work done in those busy years took all forms to provide for people who had lost family and possessions. As he spoke his name began to be refreshed in my mind.

What about now? Danai was happy to report that after those hard-work years he returned to school. Now he is the director of the elementary school that functions on the same compound as the church. It was fulfilling to see the physical, spiritual, and intellectual growth of our young workers. It is also a reminder to me that no matter what a young person may be doing today, God has a plan to build them for greater service.

There’s Water in Pukneng!

May 16, 2022

Thank you for your prayers for the water in Pukneng Village, Cambodia (See April 22). They have been answered.

Our Cambodia Mission heard of the problem with the well and the great need the villagers have for water. They donated the money to buy an electric pump, gas-powered generator, and the miscellaneous supplies needed to install it.

A church member from another village in the area donated his expertise with wells. He helped our Gospel Outreach worker install the pump.

There’s water in Pukneng! Praise God!

Pukneng villagers praise and thank God for the restoration of water to their village.

Please continue praying for the teacher’s wife, Srey Kak. She is still being held under the control of her illness. Prayer is the answer. God bless you!

Were You Praying Sunday Morning?

Thank you. I felt your prayers.

May 8, 2022

It had to happen. Everything has been working so smoothly. But there had to be a test.

I arrived at the Bangkok airport in plenty of time just in case there was a problem. I try not to be the cause of a traveling crisis. When I walked up to the ticket counter to get my boarding pass, they told me my papers for a visa to Vietnam were not in order. This would have been midnight Saturday, Eastern standard time.

I stood there and started to pray. “God, I know you are in control of all things. You can take care of this. We have done due diligence to arrange everything properly. Thank you that you have a plan. Whatever it is, it is good.” After a half hour at the ticket counter, the attendant told me, “OK, we will accept this document.” I prayed a relieved “Thank you Lord,” and found my way to my gate.

Arriving in Hanoi, I stopped at the visa counter with my documents. “I’m sorry sir, this is not the proper document.” “I don’t understand,” I said. “We received this from the consulate in Washington. DC.”

“But it isn’t the proper document. We will have to send you back to Bangkok to wait for a visa.” I have an appointment tomorrow morning in another Vietnamese city in the south. “What can we do?” “There’s nothing we can do. I will call the airlines person to come get you to send you back to Bangkok.” That sounded really final. I could tell this immigration officer had been down this road before. He walked away and around a partition as if to say, “Good riddance.”

It had escalated rapidly from “What do I do now?” to

“Help me, Lord!”

As he disappeared, a man spoke to me on my right. “I’m here to send you back to Bangkok.” This was getting serious. It had escalated rapidly from “What do I do now?” to “Help me, Lord!” And with that, the immigration officer returned from behind the partition with another paper in his hand. “I checked our files and found this. You were issued a visa.” You can stay.

All the other people whose schedules for the coming week were nearly ruined flashed through my mind. They would not be inconvenienced. And I would not be embarrassed, yet. I felt your prayers. It doesn’t happen often, but I have felt the prayers of others before in different countries and situations. It is a warming, soothing, humbling feeling. Thank you all.

But I wasn’t finished. I left the immigrations area, changed some money, and bought a sim card for my phone. Searching in my neat stack of documents, I found the email from the Consulate with my visa. I had just misplaced it. I was the one who had caused all this turmoil. But God had resolved it anyway, by your prayers. What an amazing God He is! Now I am embarrassed. I guess I had better be even more sure for the next country—Indonesia. Please don’t stop praying. Now you know how much I need you.

We’re All Adopted

 April 29, 2022

After two days’ rest in Chiang Mai due to a little foot problem, we are on the road again. I’m traveling with Pastor Gus Portes, director of a mission of pioneers in the far north. The task was to see villages where we hope to establish a strong foundation by placing Gospel Outreach Bible workers. I wish you could see the beauty of the mountains and valleys.

Yi has been serving in this area since 2013. She has a passion for reaching people with the story of Jesus. We each have our God-given gifts and starting Bible work in remote villages is certainly hers. She has started work in three different villages in this area. 

In 2017 Yi found another passion. She saw orphans and other children who needed a home and guidance. It was only natural to start an orphanage. I got to meet some of her kids. Clearly, she is meeting a very real need. I spoke to the children (through an interpreter) about Jesus’ parable of building their house on a rock. I told them that here, they can build their lives on the Rock, Jesus Christ.

Pray for these orphans as they learn the life-changing story of Jesus

Yi loves these children, and she loves teaching people about Jesus. So, Pastor Portes and I are exploring a plan to bring another person to care for the children (the number is expected to grow to twenty soon) so Yi can get back to her mission to reach out to the people of this village with the message of the love of Jesus for them. I’m sure this village knows what she is doing for children and will be even more willing to hear her story of Jesus adopting each of us and taking us home with Him.

There are a lot of needs at a small orphanage like this. All Yi asks is that we keep them in our prayers. You may want to do more than that.

The Battle Belongs to the Lord

April 26, 2022

These past two days haven’t been what you would call fun. They were filled with travel, bus, taxi, travel, bus, taxi, repeat. A lot of time spent sitting waiting to arrive only to learn that the person you were supposed to talk with isn’t around. 

Of course, that wasn’t the way all the time was spent. Sometimes the person I sought was there and we had eye-opening discussions about the work that is or should be happening in different places. The men and women who serve at the Thailand Mission, the Southeastern Asia Union, and the Asia-Pacific International University are fabulous, gifted, and committed people! I am gaining a much better picture of the reasons behind what has seemed like less-than-optimal work results. They are working to repair the breaches. They need our prayers.

The Asia-Pacific International University is located in Muak Lek, Thailand. The University Church on the campus is a place for students to worship and learn more about the story of Jesus.

One thing has been learned when all the puzzle pieces start falling together. COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the work of the church everywhere you go. Some may be for the better, but much of it seems to be taking two steps back. Besides that, there are other major factors as well. You know what they are in your own life. So, for you, as well as in this work, what should we do? The first thing is to remember that placing blame is counterproductive. No one wins. Perhaps accepting it ourselves could be productive in the long run.

Now, it is time to pull together and re-establish the beachheads of the battle for eternity. We have lost some warriors, but the victory is still ours, because the battle is the Lord’s. Pick up where we are and begin to move forward again.

Now, it is time to pull together and re-establish the beachheads of the battle for eternity

I don’t need to tell you the struggles. You have your own. But be persistent and you will find joy through the endeavor. When I got returned to Bangkok and a different hotel, I checked my email and found news that my Indonesia visa has just been approved! Frankly, I had forgotten that I left home with nothing more than assurance that it might come—someday. It has been a major effort to get it, and God has come through without my continual worrying.

What are you fretting over? Give it to Him. He wants to take care of it for you.

It’s mangoes and sticky rice season in Thailand. If you know, you know.

It Was a Risk

Dateline: April 24, 2022 Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok at Sunset

It seemed like such a risk—making arrangements and even buying tickets before it was clear that these countries would be open to visit. But it has been two years since the last training visit. Some of these countries have waited longer than that. In this part of the world, when the Monsoon rains start and temperatures go high, it is almost unbearable and impossible to do training in the field on a schedule. If I didn’t go now, it could well be next year before the training could be done.

Just like at home, COVID keeps raising its head and threatening to close borders to travel. At the same time, countries required that itineraries, dated COVID insurance policies, and tickets be in place before visas are issued. They wanted to be sure that if a person gets sick, they will have the money to be hospitalized for two weeks of treatment, and they have tickets to get them out of the country. No other country wanted to have to pay to treat sick foreigners. That’s understandable. But buying all this only to have the country restrict your entry at the last minute is not really a good way to use the Lord’s money.

At some point, just like opening churches, training Bible workers simply must move forward. Global state of affairs must be recognized as efforts on the part of the evil one to subdue the Church and wear out the saints. The work must go on.

So, I bought my tickets and got help from a great visa service to find the bottom line on all the continually changing requirements to gain entry. It seemed it would never happen. Move ahead. God seemed to say, “Move ahead.” So I did. 

The first test was Cambodia. Less than a week before my departure, a visa seemed unlikely. Two days before my departure, the restrictions were dropped. It was smooth sailing through the customs and immigration desks.

Then, Thailand. I got my COVID test on Friday just in case. It was negative. But would other restrictions be raised? Today (Sunday) we heard that even the test wouldn’t be needed. Walking through those barriers that had kept so many out for so long was such a joy today. When God calls you to do something for Him, He will make a way.

When God calls you to do something for Him, He will make a way.

I’m sitting in a hotel room overnight waiting for the results of my entry PCR test. I’m confident what it will say. I’ve been watching God work out all the details. I’m still not sure about Indonesia. But I’m confident God has all that worked out, too. This glowing sky tonight seemed to be a warm welcome to an apprehensive traveler who trusts God will open the way. Can’t wait to see what tomorrow holds.

When the Former Things Have Passed Away

Dateline: April 23, 2022 Kompong Cham, Cambodia

It was the first time I have been through the city of Kompong Cham, Cambodia since 1973, nearly fifty years ago. The city is so much larger now. The buildings have grown into modern edifices of progress. It was difficult to distinguish anything I saw all those years ago. Until we drove past a short road that turned off to the right and into a large Buddhist wat, or temple. My mind was dragged back to the events of long ago.

We had come to Kompong Cham to distribute clothes and food to refugee families. They had fled their homes during the past few days and nights. They were escaping the attacks of the Khmer Rouge (Cambodian Communists) let by the murderous Pol Pot. 

The destruction of Kompong Cham

I remember houses beside the highway still smoldering from the fires that had consumed them. And as we had grown to expect, there were the families. Some had absolutely nothing except the clothes on their backs if that. That’s why we were there. Our SDA Language School in Phnom Penh was the only institution of the Church in the country of Cambodia at that time. So, when there was a need for someone to distribute relief supplies to those in need, it fell on us as well. It was actually a privilege to be called on.

A distribution of clothes, food, and other supplies to the people of Kompong Cham.

After our supplies were given until they were gone, we noticed there were other visitors in the crowd. Mr. In Tam, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Interior, whose name I don’t remember, and another prominent leader who I don’t think I ever knew, were all present. The Prime Minister gave an impromptu speech thanking us for our contribution. Then he asked me to sit with him for a drink. A picture of the chance (I don’t believe in chance) meeting showed up on the back cover of Cambodge, the national news magazine.

I met with In Tam, the Prime Minister of Cambodia, (center) and other government officials after the distribution was completed.

Those are days one doesn’t forget, even after fifty years. I’m glad the city has overcome their devastation. Won’t it be wonderful when “there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4 NKJV. Until then, there is a lot we can each do to alleviate the pain that surrounds us. Do you see it?

Dreams of Returning Home

Dateline: April 22, 2022 Stung Treng Province, Cambodia

Sam Ang is 67 years old. You might think she was older. That’s what hard lives and hard memories do for a person. 

Sam Ang (center of photo) longs for her heavenly home and wants each of her family members to join her there.

As a young woman, she and her family fled her home in Stung Treng Province. It was just a shack by the Mekong River, but because family was there, it was home. Her story was like millions in the 1970s. Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge soldiers came marauding through the area and everyone fled or faced death. It makes even home look uninviting.

Her dream was to return home. So, a few years ago she did. Although her husband died shortly after, Ang kept the family together and points them to a home beside the River of Life. Her children, grandchildren, nephews, and nieces admire and respect her. 

She reminds me of my own Grandma Julia. She bravely fled Ukraine before World War I and journeyed to Kansas. She never went back to Ukraine, but kept as much of her family as she could close to God.

We are all alike. We hurt the same and we dream the same. And even if we don’t know it, all our dreams are really about Heaven. Every step we take in life is either closer to or further from the Goal. “Keep your eyes on Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”

Unseen, Unknown. Except to God

Dateline: April 21, 2022 Pou Kreng, Mondulkiri Province, Cambodia

You’ve never heard of this place. How could you not? It is a shining village tucked away deep in the mountains of Mondulkiri Province in the northeast of Cambodia. Hidden five kilometers off the nearest country road, the only way to reach Pou Kreng village is by foot or on a motorbike. There is no road – only off-road trails winding through endless rows of rubber trees and spires of black pepper plants.

This small clearing is not planted for a reason. It belongs to the spirits. That’s what the people of the primitive Phnong Tribe believe. As a cemetery, it was considered to be inhabited by the spirits of those who had forever been buried there.

But one family found this now unused parcel. They were told what it had been and why no one lived there, or even step foot there. Sim and her husband, Soth are Christians. They are not superstitious about the spirits of the dead. And they were so poor that there was no other place for them to homestead. Other families were moved by the testimony of Sim and Soth. They turned to the God of the new Pou Kreng Village. Now twenty families live here.

Generally, there is peace from the spirits. Still, there are two ways their presence is still made known. The first is targeted at Srey Kak, the wife of Konn Ban, the Christian literacy teacher. When Kak bore their second child, she suffered deep depression that continues after five years.

She spends her days laying on the slotted hardwood floors of their home. Please join the villagers in prayer as we teach them to pray and fast for Kak’s healing.

Srey Kak sits in the doorway of her home.

The second large struggle is the need for water. An old deep water hand pump has served the village for years. Recently it broke and was repaired, but the pump stopped working again. The pump can be updated to electric but will require three months’ salary. Their wages on the rubber plantation are only $200/month. They bravely requested your prayers to join theirs to make this another victory over the spirits in the eyes of the surrounding neighbors. Now, God is not the only one who knows the shining light of Pou Kreng.