A Darkness In Siem Reap

Khmer pastors wave from the balcony of the HBC in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Khmer pastors wave from the balcony of the HBC in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Good morning from the HBC in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I am sitting in class, listening to pastor Jeff as he teaches the word – Matthew 9-10. Good stuff. And just in case you’re thinking, “What is pastor Steve doing writing his BLOG in class and not listening to pastor Jeff?” Well, yes, I can do two things at once. Perhaps even three things. Maybe four. I don’t know, four may be too much. Uh. What was I talking about again? Oh, yeah. Hmmm. Anyway. It is Wednesday morning here. I already taught my class. I get the privilege of teaching Galatians each morning and 1 Thessalonians in the afternoon. As Jeff is teaching Matthew, he is reiterating what we are learning in Galatians and 1 Thessalonians. The concepts are very familiar. Either he is stealing my notes or the Holy Spirit is working here. Hmm. Where are those notes anyway? The Spirit is definitely working. I taught this morning on the flesh vs. the Spirit in Galatians 5. It is a bigger battle than any MMA fight.

Pastors learning at HBC

Pastors learning at HBC

The flesh lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh. The strong desire of the flesh wants to do the things of the world; the strong desire of the Spirit, to do the things of God. Which one will win? The one I feed the most. Speaking of food, Jeff made an awesome egg, turkey, ham, cheese, burrito this morning. Anyway, walking in the Spirit is so important. If we feed the Spirit in our lives, by yielding to His will, then our spiritual lives become strong. If we are constantly doing fleshly things, then we are going to be fleshly people. Good stuff. Well, good stuff if we walk in the Spirit, that is.

The bridge over the moat at Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia.

The bridge over the moat at Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Over the weekend we went to Siem Reap. Saturday, we walked through the various ruins and temples. I am told that Angkor Wat is where Pol Pot got his inspiration for his revolution. At one point in Kampuchea, which is what Khmer people call their country, there was a great kingdom. In fact, that ancient kingdom ruled from Thailand to Vietnam. Pol Pot wanted to restore that kingdom. It was a kingdom where the king lived in prosperity and the people lived off the land. Pol Pot’s problem was that there were too many people who were educated and living in cities to go along with his plan. So, he decided to rid himself of educated people and anyone who had “soft hands” and let the farmers and the workers rule. The king at the time of Pol Pot’s revolution fled the country. Pol Pot basically set himself up as king, even though he never called himself that, and ruled over the people. When his reign was finished, he would have slaughtered 3 million of his own people — all the educated people, the artists, teachers, and those who knew how to do business. At the end of his reign, the Vietcong invaded Cambodia and cornered him in Angkor Wat with those last few of his loyal followers. He was able to escape into the forrest and the Vietcong took over the country. They basically saved the Cambodian people and brought back their old king. However, they set up a prime minister, who has the real power. This man, still reigns to this day. All of this happened only 36 years ago.

The western entrance through the wall into the temple grounds of Angkor Wat.

The western entrance through the wall into the temple grounds of Angkor Wat.

Angkor Wat was built to be the capital of the kingdom and the state temple for king Suryavarman II, who ruled Cambodia from 1113-1150. It is a fascinating place. There is a moat that surrounds and keeps the temple and it’s grounds protected from forest and enemy alike. As we approached the bridge across the moat, the first thing I noticed was the enormity of the structure. It is almost overwhelming that people could build something this large so long ago. We crossed the bridge and entered in to the first structure, the wall surrounding the temple grounds. Angkor Wat is in the forest. It is surrounded by water, but even at this time of the year, which has milder temperatures than normal, the heat and humidity is stifling. Walking into the wall provides shade from the scorching sun. Within a few minutes, though, we were through the wall into the courtyard.

The bridge inside the walls of the temple grounds. Our guide described this as the "Rainbow Bridge."

The bridge inside the walls of the temple grounds. Our guide described this as the “Rainbow Bridge.”

There is another bridge, but this one has no water around it. It is surrounded by fields, which, we are told, is were the original marketplace stood. At the end of the second bridge, we climb some steps to the outer courtyard of the temple. Within a causeway, there is a huge bas-relief. It depicts the story of a spiritual battle between the demon king and the good king Suryavarman II. The demon king is actually the good king’s brother. The good king called upon the monkey king to come and help him in his fight. The monkey king is not good, but is willing to help. The Cambodians believe that monkeys, because they are constantly stealing and causing mischief are the reincarnated souls of those who were evil in their previous lives. The good king wins the day and builds the temple for the god Vishnu, which is part of the Hindu religion.

A bas-relief depicting the war between the demon king and the good king, who were brothers.

A bas-relief depicting the war between the demon king and the good king, who were brothers.

The temple was originally dedicated to Hinduism, but later became a temple dedicated to Cambodian Buddhism, which still retains some Hindu beliefs. After walking through the courtyard of the temple, we enter the inner structure, where there is a place to beat your chest and rid yourself of your sins. (To which Bre says, tongue in cheek, “Wish Jesus would have known about that, he wouldn’t have had to go to the cross.”) We walk past worshippers of Buddha and a huge Buddha statue that is dressed to impress. Yes, they clothe the Buddha statues here. It’s kind of freaky, when you walk buy one that is clothed. It almost as if the statue is alive. The smell of incense is in the air. It is overwhelming at times. We walk past smaller Buddha statues. Cambodian Buddhism is not like other Buddhism. While Tibetan Buddhism follows the teachings of the Buddha, in Cambodia, they actually worship the Buddha himself.

Structures on the temple grounds of Angkor Wat.

Structures on the temple grounds of Angkor Wat.

Up and then down some steps, and we were standing before the temple. It was closed due to a holiday. Things are closed here often for holidays. I am told there are four Buddhist holidays per month. The sloth in me is beginning to like this place. Actually I do love these people. They are an amazing people who are full of passion. I so desire that they would all come to know Jesus. Not to say that they are all good. Actually, there are wicked people here like anywhere else in the world. The devil has his playground here. But God can take these people from darkness into light. God can give them hope through the peace that comes from surrendering to Jesus. Many have. Many more need Jesus.

The temple was huge. I am told that if we were able to climb its steps, (which, I might add, are not up to OSHA standards) we would have a magnificent view of the surrounding area. Really wish we could have done that. Perhaps next time. After lunch, which was awesome, by the way – hamburger and fries – we hailed two more Tuk-Tuk’s and off we went to a place called by the locals, “Tomb Raider” because the film was shot here. During the filming, Angelina Jolie fell in love with Cambodia and the Khmer people. She is an advocate for this country and has adopted two Khmer children. Tree roots cover some of the structures here, giving them a mystic beauty. I am reminded of the cue at the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland as we walk up to the first structure. I wonder if they got the idea for that temple from here? Hmmm. Again, a beautiful place.

The next stop is called Bayan. This place is stunning. The structure itself looks like Angkor Wat: structures with stairways and doorways without doors and hallways leading to courtyards.

The entrance to the temple at Bayan.

The entrance to the temple at Bayan.

But on closer inspection there is something staring at us. It is the walls. Carved into the walls and the spires are gigantic human faces. Each one seems happy, so I guess we’re okay. Idols are everywhere. Bas-reliefs, statues and the like. They are all worshipped in this place. It reminds me of what the Psalmist said – “But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases. Their idols are silver and gold, The work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they do not speak; Eyes they have, but they do not see; They have ears, but they do not hear; Noses they have, but they do not smell; They have hands, but they do not handle; Feet they have, but they do not walk; Nor do they mutter through their throat. Those who make them are like them; So is everyone who trusts in them.” (Psalm 115:3-8)

The entrance to a dark room with a Buddha idol.

The entrance to a dark room with a Buddha idol.

When Angkor Wat was overthrown by the enemies of the Kampuchean kingdom, they moved the state temple to Bayan. Although it is a beautiful place with beautiful architecture, it was perhaps the darkest place in the journey. In one room the Buddha was dressed and incense was burning. What appeared to be a golden crown on his head glimmered in what little light burrowed through the thick darkness of that room. I took a few steps toward the room and turned immediately back. The darkness was thick and at once I felt as if I was on the enemy’s ground. Demonic forces seemed to be at home here. As I walked away from the entrance to the room, Curtis and Bre were walking toward me. Bre immediately turned around as well and she said she noticed the same thing — a thick darkness around that room.

Again, Bayan is a beautiful place. You literally come face to face with ancient Cambodian culture. It was probably my favorite architectural piece, but my least favorite spiritually. I haven’t felt right since we visited this place. I feel an oppression of the enemy. I daily have to put on my armor – Ephesians 6:10-18 – and take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:3-5) There is a real spiritual battle going on. There is a real devil that is not happy about any of us following Jesus. Pray for us that we would be even more bold to give the Word of God in a powerful, Holy Spirit filled, uncompromising way. Pray for those who minister here on a regular basis. They are truly serving in Pergamos, Jesus described Pergamos as where Satan’s throne is. If the devil has a throne today, it is in this place. It is in the 10/40 window where so few have heard the gospel. Pray that those who are here, like Curtis and Bre, Randy at Water Of Life, the Khmer Pastors that we are teaching, and countless others, Khmer and Foreign, that they would all guard their hearts and minds and that they would be able to take ground for the cause of the gospel.

A stunning sunset in Bayan, Siem Reap, Cambodia.

A stunning sunset in Bayan, Siem Reap, Cambodia.

So, we exited Bayan and stopped along the bridge to view the sunset. It is absolutely beautiful as it sets just beyond the forest at the edge of the moat. We headed back toward the hotel and stayed for one more night. The next day, a Tuk-Tuk drive toward the bus station, then we board the bus for the ride back to Phnom Penh. We arrived in the early evening and were ready for some dinner. We grabbed a couple of real Italian pizzas from the local Swiss guy. At least his business partner is Italian. Wow! This pizza is the real-deal. Great pizza. After I am absolutely destroyed by Curtis once again at Madden 25 on playstation, he graciously gives me a ride back to the wonderful, amazing, Long Thaily Guest House. Where, by the way, I was dealing with a ton of ants! Yes, they were everywhere last week. They were on the walls, they were on my iPad and iPhone, they covered the bed. I had to get the Guest House people to come up and change the sheets and spray to get rid of the ants. On Sunday, I noticed that there were more ants! This time they were crawling out of the wall sockets. I really didn’t know what to do. It was late and I was ready for bed. Most people were in bed already. I grabbed my OFF Deep Woods spray and sprayed every last one of them on the wall. Guess what? No more ant problem. Now, however I have run into another issue.

A Gecko climbs on the ceiling of a stairway up to Curtis and Bre's apartment. A similar Gecko was my roommate for about a week and a half at the Guest House.

A Gecko climbs on the ceiling of a stairway up to Curtis and Bre’s apartment. A similar Gecko was my roommate for about a week and a half at the Guest House.

I have a friendly little Gecko in the room. Actually, he’s about six inches long, so, he’s really not that small. I am trying to get a picture of him, but he is proving to be allusive. Well, he makes a sound at night that keeps waking me up. I have been playing worship music as I go to sleep, and last night uncle Gecko… (I named him uncle Gecko. Why you ask? Because of the ant problem, of course.) Anyway, I think uncle Gecko wanted to sing along with Scott Cunningham. Uncle Gecko was particularly loud last night. Geckos are strange creatures. They slither, kind of like snakes. I wasn’t prepared for that. I am used to lizards that walk. For some reason, though, I am really wanting to get insurance through Gieco. Not really sure why. Hmmm.

Okay, I guess that is enough for today. Monday and Tuesday were teaching days. Tuesday… (wait a minute, are you still reading this? I thought that was enough for the day! Okay, if you’re still reading, then I’ll continue…) Tuesday, I was using an illustration and asked if the pastors had learned anything from me. They said that they had learned very little. Wow! That’s a hit to the ol’ self-esteem. I thought I was the most awesomest teacher ever! I kept trying to figure out what they meant. Adam, our translator told me that he understood everything that I was saying and that he was explaining it the same way that I was saying it. But they all said they weren’t learning. I felt discouraged for about five minutes. Actually less than that, really. I really wanted to know whether they were experiencing a lack of knowledge or a lack of understanding, or both. Today I decided to test their knowledge. I asked several key questions about the previous day’s lessons. They answered each question perfect. I then asked them if they understood what I was saying. Then, each one began to explain to me what they had learned. Hmmm. Their problem was that they didn’t think they understood, but they actually did. Whew! That was close. I guess God was trying to teach me humility. Sometimes I think I am above humility. I take pride in that. Anyway. God shows me that I am not the awesomest teacher. He is. I am not the one that brings understanding, the Holy Spirit does. My opinions matter very little. But God’s word is what is important.

Okay, well it is getting late and Bre is making an incredible chicken and rice dinner. Looking forward to hanging out with the Johnson clan for a little while tonight. May the LORD Jesus richly bless you. May you be filled with His Spirit and have knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. May the LORD bless you and keep you. May he make his face to shine upon you and give you peace. Pray for Cambodia. Pray for the provincial pastors that we are teaching. May they continue to understand the word and be able to clearly teach it to their congregation. May the LORD bring many to Jesus through their ministries.

Testing Day

Good morning from the beautiful Somadevi Hotel in wonderful downtown Siem Reap, Cambodia, near the Thailand border. I am writing this BLOG early Sunday morning here after a great weekend visiting one of the wonders of the world, Angkor Wat. Internet has been intermittent and at times, just off, which I guess that would explain the intermittence. So, I am unable to post any BLOGs from here. But I wanted to tell you about the weekend and how test day went. I’ll write as if it is the day.

FRIDAY

The new Boys home in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

The new Boys home in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Fridays are test day. I met Curtis and Jeff at 7:00 AM this morning outside the Long Thaily Guest House. We began to walk toward the HBC. As we walked we talked about what was going to happen during that day. Lots going on. Curtis and Bre were still setting up the boys home, which will be near the Water Of Life boys home. The boys will get to live in the house, get three meals a day and be able to attend college at no expense to themselves or their families. Teachers in Cambodian schools used to require that students pay them directly, even in grade-school, Jr. High and High Schools. This was outlawed by the Cambodian government, but no one enforces this. Teachers do not actually teach anything in class. Students must pay teachers extra for tutoring, where the real learning happens. Students basically have to bribe teachers. The great thing about what Curtis and Bre are doing here through Harmony is providing a good education for these boys and sharing the love of Jesus with them. It is an involved story, but Curtis and Bre had requested from the government that certain boys be part of this home. They expected it to take a while. Things usually do. However, they were released a lot sooner than they thought, sending them scrambling. Even though this was not the expected time, it was in God’s timing. Curtis and Bre are doing a fantastic job, even though things seem out of control. God is in control. He loves these these boys and is using Curtis and Bre to be His hands and feet in their lives.

It is testing day. We arrive at the HBC and begin setting up for the test. Pastor Khorn Mao leads the class in a few worship songs. I am beginning to get some of the tunes and am able to hum along with them, praising Jesus. There is one particular song with a universal word in it that they sing a lot. It is Hallelujah. How awesome! We sing that one together often. Adam hands out the tests and writes other questions on the white board. The pastors begin writing down each word and then begin their test. They each finish at different times. One, Han, completes the test in about an hour. Han is an interesting character. He is a young man who looks stylish with his sunglasses on at all times through the class. I learned that the reason for this is that he had pink-eye. He was able to get medicine for it at HBC and is well on his way to healing. Another, Ty (tee), finishes a few minutes after that. Ty is Curtis’ right hand man at the HBC. He is a Khmer man, with a wife and one young son named Joshua. This little boy is always around the HBC and is mischievous as any other 4 year-old. Technologically sound, there is never a time when Joshua is without his dad’s Android phone, constantly downloading and playing games. One by one each student leaves the room.

Khmer pastors learning about the letter to the Galatians at the Harmony Bible College in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Khmer pastors learning about the letter to the Galatians at the Harvest Bible College in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

When I think about the different pastors that make up our class it reminds me of the incredible grace of God. Among the 9 pastors there are two single men, Pilot and Khorn Mao. The rest are married and have children. Three of them are former Khmer Rouge soldiers who fought for Pol Pot during the Cambodian Revolution. One man is a former pimp. Most of these men came to faith from their mothers, who were had become Christians earlier in life. The Soldiers came to faith when a foreign missionary spoke to them about the love of Jesus. What a testament to the grace of God. Pray for these men that they can overcome the demons of the past and that they are able to fight the good fight of faith in such a dark place. Pray that they put on the armor of light.

Pastor Jeff, left, and Casey Johnson ride on "The Mekong Express" bus to Siem Reap.

Pastor Jeff, left, and Casey Johnson ride on “The Mekong Express” bus to Siem Reap.

After the test, Curtis and Jeff came to me and asked if I wanted to go to Siem Reap, where Angkor Wat (Angkor Temple) is. It is one of the wonders of the world. Of course I wanted to go. It would be a 5 hour bus ride from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap and a couple of days stay in a hotel, so I had to run quickly back to the Long Thaily Guest House and pack. Our bus would leave at 2:00 PM and soon, we were on our way. The bus company is called, “The Mekong Express”. On our journey we followed the Mekong River. It was incredible to see. Recent rains had caused the Mekong to swell and even at some points overflow it’s banks. People in boats were fishing in the river and there were even water buffalo along the river banks. We traveled through some villages along the way and were able to see Cambodian Village life.

Curtis and Bre, missionaries at HBC, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, ride "The Mekong Express" bus to Siem Reap.

Curtis and Bre, missionaries at HBC, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, ride “The Mekong Express” bus to Siem Reap.

It was surreal at some points. It almost seemed like a ride at Disneyland. Potholes were huge and the bus had to make sharp turns to avoid them. At some points we just went over them. We’d fly up, then forward, then back. The village people, (no, they didn’t sing YMCA, but hey, that would’ve been cool) lined the street as the bus went by, some of the kids waved. Cows were everywhere. But they are incredibly thin and gaunt looking. You can see their hind bones. It is ghastly to look at sometimes. But, I am told, that is what healthy cows here look like. I’ll try to get a picture and show you.

After our five-hour ride, which, because of the view outside and World War Z playing on the big screen at the front of the bus, the time went by quickly. Before we knew it, we were once again negotiating for a Tuk-Tuk in Siem Reap. We went to one hotel, then another, finally reaching our destination, the Somadevi hotel. Angkor Wat was incredible. I’ll share more about that in my next BLOG. Pray for us. It is very dark here in Siem Reap. We are pretty sure we encountered some sort of demon in one of the temples. It was a darkness that I had not felt in a while. The spiritual warfare is thick here. Pray for this city. May the LORD do a great work among the Khmer people.

At The Classroom

NOTE: I didn’t have a good internet connection in Siem Reap, where I finally finished this post, so I am publishing this, and the next BLOG post a few days late.

Greetings from the classroom of the Harvest Bible College in beautifully humid Phnom Penh, Cambodia. It is Thursday at 10:57 local Cambodian time, and pastor Jeff Johnson is teaching right now. (No, not that one, the one from Calvary Mountain Church in So Cal, who is actually Curtis’ dad).

The pastor’s are listening intently and learning about Matthew chapter 5 and the freedom that we have in Jesus. Matthew, Galatians and 1 Thessalonians are overlapping and it’s great. They are learning three different books of the Bible, but the same message. Awesome!

Dining Room at Jars Of Clay restaurant, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Dining Room at Jars Of Clay restaurant, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Pastor Jeff came to town late Tuesday night with his son, Curtis’ brother, Casey who is turning 17, October 27th. Jeff taught Matthew yesterday and will continue until chapter 13, I believe. After the first two sessions Wednesday, we all went to Jars Of Clay to eat. It is a restaurant that has fantastic food, but that is not all. They see their restaurant as a ministry to the community, helping women who were in the sex or labor trade. Read the menu attached to this BLOG to see more.

The Jars Of Clay menu describes their vision.

The Jars Of Clay menu describes their vision.

Curtis ordered his favorite, the Chicken Parmagiana and, of course, I ordered a… milkshake. I wasn’t really all that hungry. Curtis encouraged me. It’s his fault! He said the shakes were really good. He was’t lying. It was awesome. One of the best I have had in a long time. Jeff and Casey jumped in a Tuk-Tuk and went to visit the Killing Fields. Curtis and I talked for a while about the new ministry they have, which is a boys home. He was on his way to get things ready for the home. Bre was getting the house ready and also registering the boys for college and Curtis went to help. It is a lot of work, but a blessing that these boys will not only get a secular education, but also learn about Jesus. Please keep them in your prayers.

Curtis went one way on his Moto and I walked the other toward the Long Thaily Guest House. When I got to the room, I opened my iPad and listened to pastor Chuck Smith’s last Sunday morning Bible Study. What an awesome message. He would go to be with Jesus just three days later, and yet he taught three services on Sunday morning! Wow! What dedication. If you have not seen the sermon, click on this link and listen. It is worth it. <a href=”http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=1UOH2SSe7MI&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3D1UOH2SSe7MI”>Pastor Chuck’s Last Message</a>

Pastors listen and take notes at the HBC, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Pastors listen and take notes at the HBC, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

After listening to pastor Chuck and studying a little for the afternoon class, I walked from the Guest House to the Bible College once again. I arrived a little early and was able to set up the chairs a little different than before. As it got closer to class time, the Khmer pastors began filling the chairs. We went through 1 Thessalonians 3. It was a great time in God’s word with a lot of discussion. We talked about persecution and difficulties that the Christian will endure. I wanted to write “sometimes” as a qualifier, but it would not be honest. Truth be told, all Christians who desire to live in a godly way will go through difficulty. It was a long, but fulfilling day. Curtis gave me a ride to the Guest House on the Moto and before long, I was up in my room. I listened to Chuck Jr.’s message from this past Sunday at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa. It was also very good.

After I listened to the message, I laid down on the bed and fell asleep. The next thing I knew, something was ringing and it seemed like it was the iPhone or the iPad. I did everything to make the noise stop, clicking buttons and putting in codes. But actually, it was that thing on the little end table, a phone. I missed the call. A few minutes later, Curtis was knocking on my door. It was time for dinner. Downstairs, Jeff, Casey, and Bre were waiting for us. I never know where we are going for food. It can be all over the place. This time it was down by the river. The Mekong River, to be exact. I had no idea that the Mekong River flowed through Phnom Penh. Wow. The Tuk-Tuk ride to the river was as exciting as ever.

Tuk-Tuk drivers are always an encouragement to pray. You get in a Tuk-Tuk and pray that you will survive to get to the destination. The roads are crazy here. They get even worse near the river where it is crowded. Cars, Tuk-Tuks, and Motos all weave in and out in an orchestrated chaos.

Missionaries, Curtis and Bre Johnson dine at a restaurant along the Mekong River, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Missionaries, Curtis and Bre Johnson dine at a restaurant along the Mekong River, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

We ate at a restaurant across from the river called, The Riverside Bistro. It was good. Real good. Curtis had a Pizza. So, I had a Pizza as well. It was awesome. Really good. And really filling. That is one thing that I have noticed being here. The food is given in small portions, but is very filling. After dinner, we boarded the Tuk-Tuk and headed back to the Guest House. We parted company, Curtis, Bre, Jeff and Casey walked toward home, and I went upstairs for bed. It was a tiring day, but a good day.

Thursday was more of the same. Jeff and I taught our sessions. The pastors had a great time discussing the scriptures with us. We went to lunch and then went to the Russian market, Jeff needed some sunglasses. RayBans for only $3.00! Well, they might be RayBans. Okay, they’re not RayBans, but they say RayBan on them. They fit well and block the sun, which is always good. You can get tons of name brand items here extremely inexpensive. They are, of course, not the actual brands, just names put on them. I tried to haggle with one of the clothes shops ladies, but they know foreigners too well. They want high prices from those of us from America. But Curtis assures me that if I haggle with them enough, I’ll get a good price. Got some great shorts that, at Wal-Mart would have been about $20, for only $6. Going to try to get another pair for $5. A dollar is a lot of money here, and perhaps the savings can get me four bottle of water! By the way, we can not drink the water out of the tap here. But bottled water is available everywhere for $0.25. However, the awesome Long Thaily Guest House provides 2 bottles of room temperature water for free each day. The water taste pretty good as well.

I headed back to the HBC. No nap today. The power went out a half-hour after I began to study for the afternoon class. It was out for a while, perhaps 20 minutes or so, but then came back on. The Khmer pastors didn’t seem to care one way or the other. I am told that Cambodians get their power from Vietnam. Every now and then, the power draw is too great and it overloads the circuits.

When the power finally came back on, the pastors began filling their seats once again. We began by reviewing for the test the next day. I think they are going to do great in Galatians, but 1 Thessalonians seems a little tough for them. We studied through the end of chapter 3 and the first 12 verses of chapter 4. It was a fruitful time. After class, I went back to the Guest House and took a little nap and we went to dinner afterwards to the Japanese place we went to before. Instead of the spring-rolls, I tried what Bre had ordered, the noodle salad. It was awesome! It is kind of hard to describe what it is like. It is salad meets noodles, meets ground pork, meets dressing. Me meets good food. Yum!

Please pray for the Khmer pastors that God will open their hearts and they will retain what they are learning. Pray that the message of God’s word goes throughout the kingdom of Cambodia. God bless.

Teaching At The Harvest Bible College

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.

U.S. Dollars and Khmer money. Most purchases are done with U.S. Dollars unless purchase is under $1.

U.S. Dollars and Khmer money. Most purchases are done with U.S. Dollars unless purchase is under $1.

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

Harmony Bible College, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Harvest Bible College, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

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 great young man who translates for all three classes. He is in some ways, the most important person in the room.

Adam is a great young man who translates for all three classes. He is in some ways, the most important person in the room.

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.

Our Worship Leader Khorn Mao leads worship before each session.

Our Worship Leader Khorn Mao leads worship before each session.

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.

Khmer pastors take a break from their studies to lift up pastor Saeed Abedini in prayer.

Khmer pastors take a break from their studies to lift up pastor Saeed Abedini in prayer.

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.

Khmer pastors learning about the letter to the Galatians at the Harmony Bible College in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Khmer pastors learning about the letter to the Galatians at the Harvest Bible College in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

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.

These booths are on the walk from the hotel to the HBC.

These booths are on the walk from the hotel to the HBC.

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.

A woman begs on the streets of Phnom Penh.

A woman begs on the streets of Phnom Penh.

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.

Moto riders scurry through the busy streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Moto riders scurry through the busy streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

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.

Motos for rent at the Russian Market, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Moto parking lot at the Russian Market, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

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.

The view of a rainy Phnom Penh, Cambodia from the wonderful Long Thaily Guest House.

The view of a rainy Phnom Penh, Cambodia from the wonderful Long Thaily Guest House.

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!

S-21

Good morning from the Long Thaily Guest House. It is a beautiful morning in wonderful Phnom Penh, Cambodia!

Woke up this morning quite early. I arose at 1:30 AM local time and opened the curtains to the room and saw the glorious sight of downtown Phnom Penh. There is something peaceful about this place at 1:30 in morning. There is less traffic. A few motos and a car. A little early for the Tuk-Tuk drivers, I think. I wrote my previous BLOG and looked forward with eager anticipation to what the LORD would have for this Sunday morning. I met Curtis and Bre in the lobby of the Long Thaily Guest House at 8:45 AM. It was pouring down rain, so Bre asked if we would mind getting a Tuk-Tuk ride to church. We did.

Tuk-Tuk's are motos and covered wagons combined.

Tuk-Tuk’s are motos and covered wagons combined.

The driver sped along the rain-soaked roads that were full of potholes which became great seas of water in the midst of the road. One pothole was about as big as the Tuk-Tuk itself. I thought we were going to fall in, but the driver masterfully went around and turned a couple of corners and, voila, we were at Water Of Life Calvary Chapel. What a wonderful place this is. The Khmer people sit inside the church, the foreigners, like me, sit on the outside porch. The service began with worship – 2 songs in English. It was wonderful hearing the Khmer people sing to glorify Jesus in English, but it was nothing compared to how they would in Khmer. The third song began in English, which the last few verses ending in Khmer. Then, two more songs in Khmer. I worshipped with all my heart regardless of what I could or could not understand. What a blessing to be in fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Cambodia! It was awesome to worship the LORD this morning.

After worship, Randy, Director and Overseer of Water Of Life Ministries went to the stage with a translator and gave the bulletin announcements. He also asked for any new people to stand and say where they were from. Of course he called on me, and I said that I was Steve, from Arkansas. The girl in front of me was from Texas! Yes, I flew more than 6,000 miles to end up sitting behind someone who was from one state away from me in the United States. Wow.

Randy is a wonderful man who is full of the joy of the Lord and has infectious enthusiasm for the things of The Lord.

Randy and Daniel at the Water Of Life kitchen.

Randy and Daniel at the Water Of Life kitchen.

After giving the announcements, it was time for the word. What an experience this was! The entire service was in Khmer! A girl was translating for the first time that Sunday, and she did an awesome job! Randy, and another pastor who is on staff who was a missionary in Poland, are raising up Khmer pastors to teach that it would be a ministry of and to Khmer, filled with the Holy Spirit throughout.

Water Of Life Calvary Chapel and Water Of Life ministry are two separate entities. Water Of Life Ministry is a home for boys in late high school to college aged. Randy lives on Campus with 43 boys of whom many are orphans either because their parents abandoned them, they were too poor to take care of them, or they were wanted a better life for them. Sending their children off to college also means one less mouth to feed. One such young man, who is a true orphan is Daniel.

Daniel and I pose in the Water Of Life kitchen.

Daniel and I pose in the Water Of Life kitchen.

When Daniel was in his villiage, he spent most of his time chained in a house. Whenever Daniel would be free, he would terrorize the place and become violent. Randy and Water Of Life were asked if they could do something for this poor young man. After prayer, it was agreed that this was the Lord’s will. A missionary doctor came through at one point and gave Daniel some anti-depressant drugs and they seemed to help a bit. Daniel become a believer in Jesus at Water Of Life and devoured as much scripture as he could in each day. Randy said that Daniel is by far the boy who reads the most scripture at Water Of Life. Months went by and Daniel seemed to be improving greatly. He seemed in his right mind and healthy. One day, Daniel (who was named Daniel as an English name because of his love for the book of Daniel) came to Randy and asked if he could not take his medicine any more. He complained that it made him foggy minded and lethargic. Randy hadn’t noticed the lethargy for some time now, and told Daniel that it was up to him. Daniel responded, good, because I stopped taking it a few months ago. Randy asked Daniel to what he attributed his healing. He said that it was prayer and his reading of the scripture and applying it to his life that brought about the healing. It was the power of God working through the word of God transforming the people of God. Randy was quick to point out that God can use doctors and medicine. But in Daniel’s case, in this poor country were doctors and medicine is so limited, God chose to heal him through the word of God.

During service, the rain came down so hard that it was difficult to hear the pastor or the translator. The rain subsided for a while, but after service, someone let the cats and dogs out. The rain was as heavy as any rainstorm in Arkansas. It is strange, but so many things here remind me of Arkansas. The road outside of the church building became a raging river. Te a great guy, who works for Harvest Bible College, drove up in a small SUV to take us to our lunch destination.

Missionaries Curtis and Bre Johnson enjoy a meal at the local Mexican restaurant called Alma.

Missionaries Curtis and Bre Johnson enjoy a meal at the local Mexican restaurant called Alma.

Where else would we go to lunch after church? Mexican! Alma again. I had a Torta that was incredible. Also, I was talked into eating a piece of Tres Leché cake. Okay, maybe I went along with it. And the best ice coffee I have had since I have been out here. The missionaries love Alma because the food is good and safe and because it is a ministry to the Khmer people here in Cambodia.

After lunch, we went to Harvest Bible College. Te, Adam, my translator, Curtis and Bre, showed me around the facility, the classroom and an office that I can use to study between sessions. I was able to get a strong WiFi signal for the first time in Phnom Penh there! I, of course, immediately posted a couple of BLOGS, and some photos and checked my email. Special thanks to Bre for helping with the BLOG. Curtis and Bre walked home and Curtis returned on his Moto. We rode over to S-21. If you have never ridden a Moto on the streets of Phnom Penh, then you have missed the scariest roller coaster ride in your life. You weave in and out of traffic, sometimes head-on on the wrong side of the road. The only saving grace, besides fervent prayer ridding on the back of the Moto, is that traffic is very slow. Everyone looks in front of them and makes sure they get around others and let traffic through. It is, like the Tuk-Tuk, organized Chaos.

We arrived at S-21.

S-21

S-21 was a secret prison death camp of the Khmer Rouge during the murderous reign of Pol Pot.

It was cloudy and the air was moist. After Curtis parked the death-trap, uh, hmmm, the Moto, we walked in to S-21, the most infamous prison that the Khmer Rouge operated. I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I had watch a documentary about this place, and the killing fields a few weeks ago, so I had seen this place on video, but to be here evokes a completely different emotion. I was angry and sad when I watched the doc. When I walked through the interrogation rooms, the make-shift prison cells, I realized that angry could not describe how I felt and sad was almost offensive for it’s lack of feeling. Several times along the way, I wanted to cry, no, weep for the victims of this horrible atrocity. How could human beings do this to other human beings? This was evil beyond evil. This was demonic. It was from the pit of hell and these peopled lived and died at it’s doorstep. Can the fires of hell be strong enough judgment for those who will stand before their Creator one day and be held accountable for their actions?

Barbed wire was stretched from one end of the building to the other.

Barbed wire was stretched from one end of the building to the other.

As I walked through the final building of this former high school, there were rooms and rooms full of pictures of those who had brutally died at the hands of the demons that ran this place. The Khmer Rouge was meticulous in their record keeping. They would beat a confession out of people. Those in this prison would confess to just about anything and would implicate others as well under the duress of torture. A former guard said that the Khmer Rouge were interested in documentation. They wanted a signed confession, so the procedure was to beat and torture the prisoners until they confessed, but not kill them until the document was signed. After the signature was on the paper, the prisoner’s photo was taken, then they were brought to the Killing Fields and were slaughtered like animals. [picture] Even as I write this, more than 18 hours later, I am emotional. Tears come to my eyes, because the pictures of the Khmer people look like

A painting by a survivor of S-21 prison depicting the torture of a prisoner.

A painting by a survivor of S-21 prison depicting the torture of a prisoner.

people I have met while here. They are a beautiful people who were teachers, doctors, lawyers, musicians, artists, politicians. They were guilty of nothing more than living in a city and they were murdered for it.

On the path to exit S-21, there was a table with books on it, and a humble man in his 80′s sitting there.

Guards would tie ropes around prisoners arms and hang them from this crossbar to coerce a confession.

Guards would tie ropes around prisoners arms and hang them from this crossbar to coerce a confession.

We walked up and began to speak with him. Curtis asked him some questions in Khmer. When I saw the books and the pictures on the cover, I noticed that the man sitting here was none other than a survivor of the brutality of S-21. I put my backpack down, sat down next to the man and had my picture taken.

The prisoner in cell 122, Chum Mey, survived the horror of S-21.

The prisoner in cell 122, Chum Mey, survived the horror of S-21.

Books were for sale, but instead, I offered him a dollar for the picture out of respect for him and his suffering. Here he was, sitting in the courtyard of the former prison, the former school. Free, but never free. Always thinking about the evil that fell upon him and the 3 million others who exist in memory but in reality, they are no more. Mr. Chum Mey, spent months in cell number 122. I encourage you to look up his story. Google him. When Curtis and I walked through the cells, we saw a sign in cell number 122 that mentioned Chum Mey’s name and said that he was a survivor. It was an honor to be able to spend a few minutes with this man who looked evil in the face and was spared.

We boarded the Moto again, feeling almost numb. Then, someone came up to me and Curtis trying to get our attention. I had left my backpack at Mr. Mey’s table! It had my study notes and my iPad in it! Was it gone? We are in a third world country. Theft is commonplace here. I didn’t know what to think. I opened my backpack and there it was! My iPad, something that is probably close to six months wages here in Cambodia, was still there. Good thing I gave Mr. Mey that dollar! As I reflected on this, I thought, to go through what he went through, it changes you. Suffering changes you. It can make you bitter or it can make you compassionate. Some survivors are extremely bitter. It is difficult to blame them. Some, though, are like Mr. Mey. Compassion was on his face the whole time I spoke with him. It was not just the restoration of my iPad that was important to me. It was the fact that suffering had made Mr. Mey and his family that was with him (I am guessing that it was his grandson that brought my backpack to me) better people. Not that I would wish that horror on anyone, but Mr. Mey is a shining example of what to do when life give you horror. You do what he did. You survive. You change. You learn to let it go and you learn to love.

More on this in the next BLOG. I am heading out to the Harvest Bible College now. May the will of the Father be done through the power of the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus! Pray for us.

First Full Day – The Killing Fields

I am writing this BLOG post from the wonderful, beautiful Long Thaily Guest House in humid and rainy Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

View from the Long Thaily Guest House. Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

It is morning here now, 6:45 AM. Even though I am six stories up, I can here the noises of the busy streets below as if they were right outside of my window. Tuk-Tuk’s, which are Motos (kind of a motorcycle/scooter) attached to a covered wagon with seats, are whisking by and honking at other motos in the streets. Cars are scurrying attempting to avoid the motos as they speed by. Motos here are the main form of transportation. There are literally hundreds of them on the road. At least ten times the amount of cars.

I am writing this post the morning of October 6, although the events happened October 5.

I went to bed late Friday evening. Woke up at 6:30 AM, local time and was met in the lobby of the Long Thaily Guest House by Curtis and Bre at 8:30 AM. Bre asked if I was a big breakfast eater, which I am not, but since it was about dinner time in California, my stomach began to rumble. Since I was in Phnom Penh Cambodia, what better food to eat than… the local Mexican place, Alma. Yep, that’s right, authentic, not Tex-Mex, not even Cali Mex, but real, true Mexican food. Curtis and Bre frequent the place, which is actually a ministry where only the Khmer (pronounced, Kemai) are paid. All other staff are volunteers. Wow, the breakfast burrito, a home-made tortilla filled with eggs, potatoes, sauce, and refried beans, was one of the best that I have had in a long time. To make it better, Curtis told me to ask for bacon next time. Why? Because everything tastes better with bacon, silly.

After eating breakfast, we hooked up with a couple of other missionaries at Curtis and Bre’s home for a Men’s Bible Study. As typical for most ministries, the ladies already had a sweet fellowship that was fruitful in encouraging them in their ministries. I had the awesome privilege of leading worship and we went through Ephesians 4. Each of us had opportunity to discuss a portion of the scripture that seems to jump out at us. A great time that reminded me of “The Discussion” ministry that we had to college students a few years ago in Fort Smith.

Meta-Tauta. Yep, the only Greek I know, which probably isn’t spelled right, anyway, means… well, google it. You have fingers, right?

Anyway, Curtis told me about his bat. Yes, he has a pet bat. He hasn’t named it yet, and it just showed up in the hallway stairs, but it is his. He claimed it, and the bat claims his head every evening when he comes home as it swoops to say hi. Good bat. Nice bat. Wonder if we could teach that bat any other tricks, like how to call a Tuk-Tuk for us? Hmmm. Maybe for another day.

We called a Tuk-Tuk driver and after negotiating a good rate, Curtis, Bre and I were on our way. But this gets serious. We were on our way to the infamous Killing Fields. But before I get too serious. If you have never had the experience of riding in a Tuk-Tuk on the streets of Phnom Penh it is something that you will never forget. Bre described it as organized chaos. Curtis said that while on the road, you are only responsible for what is in front of you. So, cutting people off is commonplace here. They just drive. At least the Tuk-Tuk drivers will honk their horns at intersections. Wow. I’ll have to post some video of that experience next time we are on the Tuk-Tuk’s. It is a holiday here, and I am told that the traffic was light. Yikes! I wondered at times if we would actually make it to our destination.

Human skulls displayed in the memorial in the center of the Killing Fields, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Human skulls displayed in the memorial in the center of the Killing Fields, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Over 3 million people were killed during the reign of infamous Khmer Rouge leader, Pol Pot.

We arrived at the Killing Fields. It was overwhelming that people could be so cruel. I can not do it justice by describing what happened here. Please look it up. It is something that everyone should know about. As many as 300 people a day were killed here by men who were so desensitized that one of the guards made the comment that he used to try to kill the people faster so that he could get off early that night. Revolutionary music played which gave the impression that the Khmer Rouge were having a rally, but it was really used to mask the screams of those being executed for nothing more than dwelling in a city, being educated or being religious. There are mass graves everywhere on the property were as many as 300 people were buried per grave. To this day, bone fragments and clothes rise to the surface after a rain storm or flooding that washes away dirt. At one particular place, there is a mass grave that had mostly women and children buried within. There is a tree next to it and when it was examined by forensic experts, there were found (Warning, Graphic) fragments of the skulls of children and infants.

The Killing Tree

Guards at the Killing Fields would take children out of their mother’s arms and beat them up against this tree until death.

The guards pulled babies out of the hands of their mothers and, by the feet, swung them against the tree until death and then threw them into the massive pit — while their mother’s watched. Then, it is believed, because most of the women were not clothed, that they were raped by the guards and then their throats were slit until death. How can human beings do this to other human beings? This is a kind of evil that is demonic. Only those who are filled with Satanic hatred can be so cruel. I am told that the man who ran The Killing Fields, and S-21, which we will visit today, Duch, became a believer in Jesus. Praise God. He is remorseful for what he did, of which most of the Pol Pot regime is not to this day. Duch will spend the rest of his life in a Cambodian prison for his crimes, but his soul will spend eternity with Jesus.

A painting by a survivor of the infamous  S-21 Prison.

A painting by a survivor of the infamous S-21 Prison.

His story reminds me of another murder. Another man who attempted genocide on his own people: Paul the Apostle. Can the grace of God be that marvelous? Can a murder be forgiven? You might ask, where is the justice? The justice was poured out on the cross of Calvary. Jesus took the sin of Duch and washed it away. What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. I pray that Duch is used greatly in prison and that his life is lived in such way to glorify God. In the middle of the killing fields stands a monument to those who died in the killing fields. Their skulls are on display. It is a chilling testament to the wickedness to which human beings can descend.

After the killing fields, we had a much better ride on the Tuk-Tuk back. My heart was heavy there. I pray for the people of Cambodia. There are many who are now adults who lived during the time of the Pol Pot regime, and are still trying to make sense of everything. May the LORD Jesus grant them mercy. You know, God loves the broken-hearted. He cares for the downtrodden and the poor and mistreated. He loves the Cambodian people. I pray that somehow, some way, God makes sense of all of this sorrow.

We rode the Tuk-Tuk to a place for lunch, but it was closed and instead we decided to get a snack at the local American/Cambodian high-end coffee shop. It was good. Then, we headed back to my hotel and I got some rest, while Curtis and Bre had a meeting to attend. After being refreshed, from laying down (I really couldn’t sleep) we went to get something for dinner at the Corner Coffee Shop. I had a chicken sandwich, which wasn’t bad. The fries were good as well. We had a good walk back to the hotel and I was a little tuckered out from the day. I turned in a little early, 8:30 PM. I woke up nice and refreshed – at 1:30 AM! Yep. Ended up getting some study time in and some prayer. Looking forward to what today will bring – Church and Water Of Life Calvary Chapel and then to S-21 later in the afternoon. Pray that the LORD would give me the right words to say the Cambodian pastors tomorrow and this week that I would be able to impart some wisdom from the scriptures that will be spiritual to their hearts and tangible to their teaching. May the LORD richly bless Cambodia, Phnom Penh and all the provinces in the kingdom.

Leaving For Cambodia

Greetings from the Long Thaily Guest House in Beautiful Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I am writing this from my room and it is currently 1:10 AM local time. I am told that I will meet up with Curtis and his cohorts in the morning at 8:00 AM, so I will make this as brief as possible.

My trip began when the Shuttle Bus arrived to pick me up from my Brother-In-Law’s house in Whittier California. It was still morning, 9:00 AM, California time. Supershuttles have two options, you can either pay a low fee to ride to the airport with as many as seven people and their luggage in the van, or you can pay a larger fee to get the bus all to yourself. Of course, I opted for the cheaper route. The bus showed up at 9:05 AM. I kissed Monica and grabbed my luggage and went out the door. The driver had already come around to the rear of the bus and had the doors open for my luggage. After loading the luggage, he opened the side door for me, and I noticed something strange. There was nobody in the bus. It was just me and the driver. It turns out I was the only one leaving for LAX that morning at that time. The driver, whose name is Let (not sure if it is spelled right) is Burmese. I noticed a Buddha picture on his dash board and we began to speak about Buddhism. It was great that God arranged a Buddhist driver from Southeast Asia to drive me to the airport on my way to a Buddhist country in Southeast Asia! We had a great discussion about Buddhism and about life. He was interested in what I believed, so I naturally shared with him the gospel – it is not works of righteousness that saves us, but it is the precious blood of Jesus that does. We owe a great debt. Jesus not only paid the debt, but also fills our account with righteousness! Let seemed very touched by what we talked about. I will keep him in my prayers.

We arrived at LAX’s international terminal early and I was able to get through security without any issues. You know, just a thought, this has been the easiest flying I have ever done. I wore sandals and only carried a small backpack with me as my carry-on. It made it so much easier! The strangest thing I saw was that there were police in tactical gear with automatic weapons at the ready, not shouldered, index finger forward, ready to fire at a moments notice. I thought about taking a picture of one of the guys, but then thought better of it. Didn’t want to make the 6:00 news.

My Asiana plane.

My Asiana plane.

The plane was huge. A 747. It is amazing that something so big could actually fly. I guess it is a testament to modern engineering and the awesome power of the Creator God who made men and women’s brains to think about such things. Anyway, I took a couple of snapshots and waited for the boarding announcement. First D, then C, then ME! Yes, I was in B group. But they were simultaneously boarding first class people as well. There were two sky-bridges, one for first class and the other for peons. I wonder were Jesus would have flown? We sat down, readied ourselves for the 12 hour flight over the Pacific Ocean. I slept some, which was great, and I read some, which was awesome. 12 hours in a seat is a lot of time for just sleeping and reading. So, what else to do? Watch movies of course! What is great about Asiana Airlines is that all their movies have been edited for content. Every moves was at least PG-13, however, all cussing and sexual content was cut out. I wish I could get these movies for home use! I found out that The Lone Ranger was not as bad as people said. In fact, it was actually quite entertaining. Okay, Armie Hammer’s version of The Lone Ranger was extremely wimpy and at times he got me annoyed. But overall, it was a good movie.

Japanese coastline from 32,000 feet in the air.

Japanese coastline from 32,000 feet in the air.

Argo was a pretty good movie as well. But enough about movies. I got to spend some time in prayer and some time in the Word which is always awesome.

For hours and hours the only thing to look at was ocean and cloud cover. Then, Japan. Cloud cover blocked our view of Tokyo, which was kind of annoying. But I did get to snap a couple of shots of the west coast of Japan. It was awesome to see the famed Island nation. Then, before we knew it, we were landing in Incheon, Seoul’s International Airport. Ever notice in America that foreigners look lost as they mill about aimlessly through airport, malls, or other public places? Well I was that guy. Everything was in Korean. Everyone spoke Korean. It was like I was in Korea or something. Well, I guess I was. I asked someone where gate 42 was. He briskly pointed back 200 feet to a sign that said, “International Transfer.” And said, “There, go there.” In broken english. It was almost as if he was upset at the fact that I didn’t have the courtesy to learn Korean before I dared enter his soil. Hmmm. I know how people feel now. I guess we are all like that, aren’t we?

Inside the Cabin of the 747 flight to Incheon International Airport, South Korea.

Inside the Cabin of the 747 flight to Incheon International Airport, South Korea.

Well, before long I went through security again and was on my way to Phnom Penh (pronounced by locals, P-Nom Pen). The flight from Seoul to Phnom Penh actually seemed longer than the one over the Pacific. Probably because I didn’t get much sleep on that flight. Or, was it that I watched the latest James Bond movie, Skyfall. I don’t know if I was tired or what, but it bored me so much that I only got through the first 45 minutes of it, and that was because I feel asleep a few times through it. As we landed I had to fill out three forms – customs, Visa application (I wanted MasterCard, but they wouldn’t let me…), and arrival and departure card. I wasn’t exactly sure what would happen when I applied for the visa. I had watch a couple of documentaries about the Khmer Rouge and had just finished watching Argo and thought, what if they detain me? I paid them a $20.00 fee and I was on my way. As I left the air-conditioned airport, it hit me. I was home. Not that Phnom Penh was my home now, but what hit me was a thick wall of humidity. Yep. Left that all back in Arkansas, where it is cooler now, but picked it right back up in Cambodia. It actually felt good. Met up the the missionaries. Curtis, his wife, Bre, and the others were wonderful greeters. So looking forward to getting to know them.

What a blessing this day has been! Praise God, I made it here! Looking forward to seeing what God wants to do and open to whatever doors he opens for serving the people here in Cambodia. Pray for us. The work is just getting started.

On My Way To Cambodia

Our American Airlines flight to Dallas and on to Los Angeles was scheduled for 6:45 this morning, or so we thought. As I double checked the flight details, to my surprise, the flight was actually scheduled to depart at 6:25 AM.

Leaving Fort Smith

We finally made it on the plane! Heading toward the Dallas airport.

I quickly checked in over my iPhone and glanced at the time. It was 5:52 AM. We grabbed our bags and scurried to the Fort Smith Regional Airport, which was only 3 minutes from our home. We arrived at the Airport and found that the front counter had already closed down, even though a first boarding call had not been called. I asked a few TSA representatives if we could still board and told them I had checked in electronically. They seemed to want to help, and, if we had not had bags to check and a printed out boarding pass, we would be able to board. We had bags, and no boarding pass.

One TSA agent looked at the other and then said, “You’ve missed your flight.” It took a few minutes for that reality to sink in. We had missed our flight! What would that mean? The next flight out would be at 10:35 AM – 4 1/2 hours later! They offered to get us on the next plane for $75 per ticket or $150 for Monica and myself. I thought about my options. We could rent a car and drive to Dallas! I went and spoke with the rental car reps and found two strikes – One: No cars were available until after 12:00 noon, and the rental, for an economy car, would be between $159.99 and $224.00. Yikes!

The Cabin Of Our Plane

Flying to LAX.

So, as I returned to the American Airlines counter, I heard the announcement – The Delta flight had run into problems and all passengers would have to be re-booked on a later flight. American Airlines, before I could get back to purchase our tickets, offered the seats they offered us to any passengers of Delta. Ugh! So, at that point, we were on the dreaded … STAND BY …!

We waited and prayed that American would somehow find us seats on the 10:35 flight. It was not to be. So, we waited for the next flight, a flight that would leave at 2:50 PM – another wait of over FOUR HOURS! So, that’s a total of 8 hours at the Fort Smith Airport! Praise God that Cheryl Blatt and Madeline came and picked us up for lunch!

Well, I am writing this from the cabin of a Boeing 767, aisle 29, seat B, to be exact, and my lovely bride sleeping quietly next to me. Yes.

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A happy wife getting off the plane at LAX.

We were let out of purgatory and are now heading towards California. We must have looked pitiful to the nice gentleman at the counter. When I walked up to pay for the flight change, he already had a ticket in hand and said that our seats were reserved! We didn’t have to pay! He said the flight in Dallas would be a stand by as well, but when we arrived at the counter and gave them our stand-by tickets, they already had seats for us! God is so good!

Well, we’ll see what else The Lord has for us as we continue on this journey. I’ll let you know – We’re on the great adventure!