Greetings from the wonderful Long Thai Ly Guest House six stories above the city of Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Tuesday was my second day teaching, but I am writing this BLOG Post for both Monday and Tuesday. I should be able to write one for Wednesday and Thursday on Friday. Curtis arrived at 6:50, Monday morning, on his Moto to pick me up in front of the Guest House. I hopped on the back of the Moto and off we went toward the Harvest Bible College. We weaved in and out of traffic down the street, barely missing potholes and Motos coming at us from the opposite direction. A few minutes on the journey, we arrived at our first left turn, the Russian Market.
The Russian Market is a wonderful place full of spices and Khmer business people looking to turn a buck. Yes, a buck. Almost all transactions are done with American money here. The only time we see Khmer money is when something is purchased and the change is less than one dollar. The Khmer do not use coins. The exchange rate between Khmer and the dollar is 4,000 to $1. The Russian Market has clothes to carpet, gadgets to gizmos and everything in between. There are food venders all around the Market where the air fills with the morning offerings. It is basically like a giant swap meet that received its namesake when the Russians were here in Phnom Penh. We get to the end of the Russian Market and straight into an intersection. These are always the scariest.
You do not wait for traffic to stop or slow down. If you do, you’ll never cross. There are no lights and no stop signs. You just go and dodge in and out of traffic until you make it to the
other side of the street, which, thankfully, we did. As we traveled down the street we went over a speed bump and to the next turn. Right turn, left turn, then straight and around a corner and we arrived at Harvest. We got there a little early to meet with Adam our translator for a prayer meeting.
Adam is a lanky kid in his twenties, but looks like he’s a teenager. He is an excellent translator. Even to the point of explaining some things a little better than I do. Adam has a desire to work with computers as an IT person, he wants to learn english much better than he already does, and hopes to go to America one day. We prayed for the Holy Spirit to do His work in the hearts and minds of the Khmer pastors. We prayed that the word of God would have an impact on them, their congregations and the villages where they lived. We have confidence in our God that He will accomplish the work that He has begun. The Spirit of God will work through the word of God and transform the people of God.
Khorn Mao, one of the Cambodian pastors, led us in worship. After worship, Curtis welcomed the pastors back to this semester of the Bible College, and introduced me. I was excited and a little nervous, having no idea what to expect. I had no agenda but to give these men of God the word of God. No pet doctrines. No rules and regulations. I was open to whatever the Holy Spirit desired. I figured that God knew what He was doing, so I might as well trust Him. The strategy seemed to work. We began in the Spirit working through chapter one of Galatians. We learned that Paul was an Apostle by the will of God and that grace always comes before peace. You have to have the grace of God before you can experience the peace of God. We learned that there is only one gospel. Anyone that preaches any other “gospel”, even if they were an angel from heaven is cursed. Paul gives his testimony and shares about the gospel. It is not from man, but from God.
The pastors seemed really open to what God wanted to speak to them. There were laughs and questions. It was good. I don’t want to give the impression that everything was perfect. The LORD had to change my approach throughout the class and there were some awkward moments when the pastors just stared at me, but other than that, it went well.
Curtis taught the second class which was the introduction to the Gospel of Matthew. Curtis’ dad will actually take over for him for the session today. I went up to the office and did some work on the BLOG and photos. We went to lunch at Jars Of Clay. If you ever get to Phnom Penh, you have to check this place out. It is awesome. Curtis, Bre and I sat down at a table on the third floor. I ordered what Curtis ordered. I do that a lot. Curtis probably thinks I am a food stalker. We ate chicken parmagiana. It was VERY good and inexpensive. I went back to the room for a nap.
This culture naps and showers often. When you live in 100% humidity and 100 degree weather, you need the energy and the shower. Wait a minute, why don’t I get a nap in Arkansas? The same 100% humidity and the same 100 degree temperature! I think I am going to suggest that at work. Somehow I don’t think they’ll go for it. I actually couldn’t really nap. I got some rest, though. It was 2:00 PM before I knew it, and I hurried out the door to get to the Harvest Bible College (HBC). Afternoon Class begins at 2:30 PM. I walked the same route as Curtis and I had rode earlier on the Moto. This time, though, about a hundred Tuk-Tuk drivers asked if I wanted a ride.
The barkers at the Market point to their wares and yell out something in Khmer that sounds like nothing I have heard before. It is not even a language I can guess at. I feel like that hispanic guy in Wal-Mart that just seems lost. Wait a minute. I AM THAT HISPANIC GUY that is lost! In a Russian Market! Previet anyone? The Barkers see me and attempt to make eye-contact. When they do, they do everything to compel me, even manipulate me into buying their item or renting their Moto or riding their Tuk-Tuk. It is an interesting experience.
The saddest thing is the beggars. Mothers carrying their children walking up to you, asking you for money. They are pitiful creatures. Dark, wrinkled, dry skin, as if they had been laid out in the sun to dry, like so many of the vegetables and fish laid on the ground. Their clothes are dirty and torn. It is enough to make you want to give them every last dollar. I want to help them — all of them. I know I can not. I pray for them. May the LORD bring them to a place of peace. May the LORD lead them to the Water Of Life that they would receive help physically and for their souls.
Everything looked familiar for me on my first walk to the HBC until I turned a corner. Curtis had taken me down a different route while we walked and I got that feeling like Gandalf in the LORD of the RINGS — “I have no memory of this place.” it was scary to be in a foreign country, speaking a foreign language, immersed in a foreign culture and not know where you are. I kept walking, though and eventually found the HBC. I entered in to the school. The pastors were eagerly waiting for me. I was a few minutes late because of my first walk. They are eager to learn and are always on time. The students became my teachers. The afternoon class is 1 Thessalonians. We learned that Paul loved and was thankful for the Thessalonians.
The word of God came to them and they welcomed it as it truly was, the word of God. From there, the word of God spread to the surrounding regions. Paul was not just about words, but about actions. When they were among the Thessalonians, they were men of character. Since the word of God had radically transformed Paul and his friends, the Thessalonians knew it would have the same effect on them. Paul didn’t just use words. He operated in love and in the Holy Spirit. Who wouldn’t want to be forgiven for their sins and have a life that is transformed by the power of God?
The food places and the chapters changed for Tuesday, but it was a very similar day. For lunch we ate at the local Japanese place. Curtis ordered spring rolls. Guess what I got? Yep. They were really good, but not what I expected. Bre told me that they had pumpkin in them, but I wasn’t prepared for it. It is kind of like pumpkin paste. The sauce was incredible! Good choice Curtis.
At the afternoon class, I struggled a bit getting the pastors to interact.But they soon warmed up and had a lively discussion about legalism and why we don’t follow the commandments today. Actually, we do follow the commandments, but not to obtain righteousness. We already are righteous by the blood of Jesus. We follow the commandments not to obtain righteousness, but because we are righteous. You see, we are not sinners because we sin. We sin because we are sinners. It is our nature to do so. We have offended God. But God made a way for us get right with him through Jesus Christ. God has done so much for us, we become so thankful that out of love, we want to obey everything that he thinks is good. But the power to do good still does not come from ourselves. It comes from having the Spirit of God in us. We going to look at that next week when we get into chapter five.
It was a good discussion.
After class, Curtis took me back to the Long Thaily Guest House in the pouring rain. It started to rain in the afternoon and didn’t let up until this morning. It is still dark outside now at 6:40 AM. Clouds are dark and ominous. Curtis called and we decided to get pizza. Well, what else are we going to get in Phnom Penh, Mexican? We would have, but Alma doesn’t serve dinner. Rats. Actually, they don’t serve rats either, but II am told we can eat rats here if we want. The pizza was awesome. Real Italian pizza. Big toppings, very little sauce. Excellent Italian bliss. We ended the night by playing Madden 25 on Curtis’ Playstation. I can’t believe I lost twice. The first time by only one touchdown, which Curtis got in the last second of the game. Worse yet? He was playing the Raiders. I know.
Please pray for us today. I need the power of the Spirit to teach, and they need the power of the Spirit to hear. Pray that I am not a distraction, but an encourager. Pray for Curtis’ dad, Jeff, that he would be the same. Pray that distractions are at a minimum. Pray that God is glorified.
God bless! Talk to you soon!