Phnom Penh, Cambodia: City of Wonder
"The team from Resurrection Life came over and made such a lasting impact on our ministry here. They have been such an encouragement to our leadership team and the congregation as the team lifted up our arms in ministry. Even during their short time here, they were able to help meet several needs that we had been praying about for a long time. Their love, encouragement and service was tremendous, and we are eagerly looking forward to their returning to partner with us soon!"
Jesse McCaul, Senior Pastor
New Life Fellowship of Churches, Cambodia
It has been nearly four months since I returned from my first journey to Cambodia. I usually post updates on Grace Works within a month of my return, but Cambodia caught me off guard. It is only now that I am willing to share some of my thoughts concerning this land which is just emerging from tremendous oppression.
Killing Fields, temples, rivers, mopeds, garbage, depravity, heat, and need are all familiar icons of Cambodia. However, on day three, I was a bit disgusted with myself for allowing all these surroundings to overwhelm me. I was appalled at the filth, the human waste, and the obnoxious smells. I had to fight back the urge to gag when pockets of stench would strike my senses. It seemed I could not get past all the immediate noise, smells, and sights to feel the true pulse of God in this nation's capital.
All these factors added up and gave me a very sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, and I was in a funk! I was disappointed in myself for not “bucking up.” Nothing could have prepared me for this. I asked the team to pray for me late that night. Thanks be to God, by morning my zeal and resolve had returned and no longer did the decimation of Cambodia affect me physically. Instead it affected me spiritually; my spirit was rising and I began to sense that pulse, God’s pulse for His nation -- Cambodia. His grace fell upon me so mightily that by the time of our departure I was already dreaming of returning.
I left with a team of 14 from Mid-Michigan, and each of them had individual assignments as well as team projects. They worked hard in the heat and gave every ounce they possessed. For many on the team this was their first experience on the foreign field, and I can’t begin to fathom what must have been reeling in their minds! I am accustomed to third-world nations; I actually feel right at home halfway around the world. To realize the personal shock I was experiencing at my level, I could not imagine what it was like for them. Every one of them was engaged in ministry; each of them left an indelible God print.
While in Phnom Penh, we made several trips to surrounding provinces. We provided children’s ministry, where children sang, learned English, made crafts, and received flip-flops. I met with pastoral leaders in the province and encouraged them with the Word; we prayed, studied, and sang together under a small thatch canopy. Team members, including myself, helped with a health clinic and treated many, many patients. We painted and decorated rooms at Cambodia Outreach, held workshops for everything imaginable, and spent a lot of time with Cambodian teachers.
Towards the close of our time together, we financially sponsored a pastor’s conference, where I taught for two days. Many of the pastors had never stayed at a hotel before, and it was exhilarating to watch their excitement. They were giddy! God’s manifest presence was sensed many different times as spontaneous praise and adoration erupted. Misconceptions of God were revealed and released to be replaced by the true realities of God’s love for His people. We gave away free resources, music, brownies from Michigan, and we ate the biggest grapes I have EVER seen. Move over Promised Land!
While I was ministering on the first day at the pastor’s conference, God’s spirit arrested me right in the core of my preaching; it seemed like I said nothing for several minutes. I looked beyond the pastors and witnessed the incredible, raw beauty that we were surrounded by. It was at that moment that my heart was literally overwhelmed by the reality that I was in Cambodia living my destiny and preaching my heart out all the while loving every minute of it. I was left speechless right there in front everyone. I wanted time to stop; I wanted to take in everything that His spirit was depositing and miss nothing. It happened all in the span of probably 60 seconds, yet it will remain within my heart for all eternity.
There are so many moments that I still cannot articulate. I must trust that He will reveal these things at the proper time; after all, it is He who makes everything beautiful in His time. Better to spend one day in His house than a thousand elsewhere; better to be brushed by His presence for a moment than to sit in a room with 60 kings (Psalm 84:10, my interpretation).