Not in Vain

“God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause His face to shine upon us. That Thy ways may be known upon earth, Thy saving health among all nations. ” ~ Psalm 67:1-2 ~

These holidays have been productive, but also included a couple of very sad occasions last week..

We lost two students.

1.
Khon got sick about a year ago. He went to the hospital here and they said it was tuberculosis and gave him medicine. Well the medicine didn’t work, so his Aunt (who is a house parent and teacher here ay WPY) took him to a hospital in Thailand, and they said it was a form of leukemia. They said it was quite advanved and treatment would be expensive. He comes from a poor farming family. Well he sold his share of the farmland to purchase medicine and treatment, but worsened and died the morning of Monday the 22nd August. He was 19.
We held the funeral service at his home in the village, but buried him here at WPY on Tuesday, as per his wishes. He wasn’t baptized, but in the words of his family, “He wasn’t a Buddhist.” and never attended the pagoda with them. The whole village got to hear the gospel preached to them from the 4 or so sermons over the 2 days of the funeral. We spoke about sin, death and the hope of the resurrection. We used the local custom of loudspeakers. We pray that seeds have been planted that will bear fruit and his death won’t be in vain, and are glad they allowed us to do a Christian funeral.

Khon was always a good, quiet student for me. A bit shy, but would talk when he warmed up to you. He got along with all his classmates, never rude or crude to girls, and although not the highest academically, always applied himself to his work. I remember one time being in the back of the ute going to the airport to farewell a volunteer, and the other boys were talking about how many girlfriends they have had, currently had, or wanted to have. Khon turned to me and said, “Teacher, I don’t want a girlfriend…. I want a wife!”

Khon - red shirt

Khon – red shirt

2.
David got sick about 2 months ago. He was a HIV positive orphan that has been here since he was about three years old. He had a bad reaction to a change in his medication, and lost most the skin on the upper half of his body. They took him to hospital, where he contracted a strain of antibiotic resistant bacteria which affected his intestinal tract. The poor boy suffered from chronic, explosive diarrhea, and it took a while for them to get on top of the bacteria. The first antibiotic they tried, he had a bad reaction too. He improved and came here for a week. Although we then got the diarrhoea under control, he was finding it hard to eat, due to a thrush infection from his mouth all through his intestinal tract, and lost weight. The hospital decided to admit him again when he went for a check-up, and sure enough the diarrhoea started again, as well as possible internal bleeding. He continued to lose weight. We aren’t sure if he caught another bug at the hospital.
Tuesday early morning he slipped into unconsciousness and was admitted to ICU and died early that afternoon. He was 14 years old and weighed less than 25kg. We buried him late Wednesday morning.

I once disciplined him with a cane to the hand when he was making class unbearable for Ely. But after that we got along quite well. When he came to ride the horse he looked very proud of himself. He always used to greet me when we would pass each other by the way.

David

David

Khon wasn’t expected to die just yet, the herbs he had been taking were actually making the lumps in his neck go down. David wasn’t expected until the day Khon died, and even then we were praying he would pull through. I am glad that they aren’t in any pain anymore.

I am so glad for the Bible’s teaching on death. We can know that our loved ones are sleeping in Jesus and will be awakened at His Second Coming, where there will be no more pain, suffering, tears, or death.

The following Sabbath we attended another funeral. The father of one of our students passed away. He wasn’t a Chrisitan,  but his family are and wished to do a Christian funeral. There, in that village, the Gospel was again preached to some who may not have heard of our hope before. Again we pray for a harvest from among those villagers, and for each family who suffered the loss of a loved one last week.

In other, better news, we also had three new volunteers arrive this week. Kim, she is from Germany; Conchis from Mexico, and Matthew from the USA. We are very thankful they arrived safely, and thank God for sending them.

Less than one week and then school will start again. Ely and I not only have some classes in the school, but will also commence teaching Hooftrek. Our first students will be from our Special class. These kids struggle academically, and some behaviourally, and a couple are physically disabled. We are excitred to have a chance to help the students in this way.

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ue know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” ~ 1 Corinthians 15:58 ~

This Year

This year has been amazing! In fact, the latter half of last year was pretty amazing too. Meeting the Balasingams, aka my Canadian family, in April 2015, which led to me spending summer in Canada. Where I was blessed, refreshed, and got to meet many wonderful people.

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Balasingam Family + 1

This year, I got to spend Christmas with my wonderful mother. Our first Christmas together in 5 years. My second summer for 2015. As a bonus, I got to visit Tasmania, where she had moved to the year before. I’d never been there before. It is a beautiful state, full of big-hearted, kind people. 2015 was the Year of Two Summers.

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Then I arrived back in Cambodia to a whirlwind of activity as God opened the way for Ely and I to purchase two horses. Then we had a couple of different groups of visitors who arrived bearing gifts of tack and equipment from different donors in their respective countries. Not only that, I’m still teaching full-time so with the horse duties added it makes for a very full schedule. I fall into bed exhausted each night, but constantly amazed at God’s sustaining power, His love, and leading.

I am also blessed to be able to be teaching Righteousness by Faith to my Grade 8 Bible class. It is exciting to see them start to understand and catch the first flickering of hope and love for God that I see in some of them. I’m using Morris Venden’s book 95 Theses on Righteousness by Faith, and I highly recommend it for everyone! Please keep all the students in your prayers, we long to see a Cambodia filled with young people who love Jesus and are actively sharing Him with their fellow countrymen.

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Fruit shakes with 2 Grade 8s

April is the time for Khmer New Year; also the New Year for Thailand, called Songkran there. My Canadian family was headed to the Bamboo School, in Kanchanaburi, Thailand, to build a library for the children there. Would I join them they asked? Oh Yes Please! And so I went. It was so good to be able to spend time with them again. I was very interested to see the Bamboo School, meet the children, and help out with food preparation. I can’t believe I’ve only known the Balasingams for a year, it feels like forever. It was very hard to say goodbye and leave them once again.

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Last Sunday, I put one of our donated saddles on Khzak, and rode him with tack for the first time. Today, we saddled him up again, and this time Ely rode him. Her smile matched mine. As Khzak is not quite 3, we are only riding him for 15 mins on Sundays, and only at a walk. He is proving to be a fast learner though. We are working on turning, halts, and backing-up, and he improved by more than 100% for only his second ride. We are so blessed with the horses that we have. Hopefully both boys will be gelded this month, and God-willing we will be able to purchase some bigger, older horses for the program.

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This year is not quite half way over, and yet I feel so full of blessings. God is amazing, God is awesome. God is love. I hope you can know, this year, how much God loves you.

“How great is Your goodness, which You have laid up for those who fear You; You have worked for those who trust in You before the sons of men!” ~ Psalms 31:19 ~

God is SO Good!

On the 5th of February, Ely and I took a trip down to Kompong Thom to buy our first horses. You can read that story here. It was a marvelous, faith building experience. God is so good!

Since then we have been so busy!. Owning a horse here is a lot more work than owning one in Australia. Our days are full with teaching and horse care. There’s grass to be cut, banana tree to be cut, paddocks to be watered and many other things to do.

Still, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I love having horses again. I love teaching the children how to behave and handle the horses. I would like some time to write my exams for all my classes, so please pray that we find some rice hay to buy, so that we don’t have to cut grass quite so often, which will free up some time to devote to exam writing.

It’s quite exciting to finally see HoofTrek become a reality, and we can’t wait to see where God will lead the program.

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On our trip to Kompong Thom, we stayed with Gemma and her husband Hym, who along with her parents have started a ministry in that area. They have been there for about a year now. They’ve built a house, planted gardens and are now trying to expand their gardens so they can be self-sufficient. It’s a lot of work clearing the land and setting up a working irrigation system, all down by hand or with a hand-operated tractor.

Nevertheless, they have been a bright light in that area for Jesus. Their property is located away from the village, and this has led the locals to wander over for a visit and ask them why they aren’t afraid to live alone out here. The locals are also curious about many other things, such as, “Why is the bathroom and kitchen inside?” and “Why is the baby wearing clothes?” All these encounters have given them a chance to witness for Jesus to their neighbours and to Hym’s family.

When I visited I felt God’s presence there. It was a joy to be there, away from the city, where I could actually see the stars and hear only the sounds of nature. The motto they have is taken from Philippians 4:6, and they summarize it thus:
‘Worry about nothing; Pray about everything.

And I think that is great advice for everyone. After all, can worrying change anything? Not at all! But prayer to the One who loves you the most connects you with the power of the Infinite, and nothing is impossible for Him. It is also a lesson that God has been teaching to me. That of trusting Him completely with everything I have and am. It is a totally amazing experience that has to be experienced to be fully understood, and I encourage everyone to live by faith – just give it a go. You will be overwhelmed with how good God is!

Please keep Gemma, Hym, their son Hyden and Gemma’s parents, Lesley and Dana and their ministry in your prayers. God is doing great things in the world right now, believe it!

God bless

A Bigger Plan

The Choice

When I was about 19,  it came to a point where I had a choice to make… Either God was real and I would follow Him wholly – or God wasn’t real and I would continue on the path that I was currently on… that of living for myself and doing whatever I wanted, whatever felt good.

I had been raised Adventist. I had “obeyed” the rules – and I’d even felt superior to others around me because I knew the truth.. I knew more than them. But I realized that my reason for obeying wasn’t because of any love for God. It was just what I’d always done, and it wasn’t even very good or consistent obedience… deep down I knew it was right, but I didn’t have a relationship with God.

So I had to make a choice; and if God was really real, then the only way was to serve Him with my whole heart… half-hearted commitment just didn’t make sense to me.

fork_in_road

I pondered this question for a day or two. I thought of everything I’d ever learned about God. I thought of past experiences and I thought about the future. I prayed and read the Bible, and wrestled. In the end, I knew that everything I’d learned about God was real. He is a God of love, He has a plan, and He is coming back, and He wanted a relationship with me. So I decided that I would start saying, “Yes” to the things that He revealed to me.

Saying, “Yes”

This was not easy. I had many things that I loved that God started asking me to remove from my life. First it was certain types of music. God asked me to get rid of a lot of the music that I had. This wasn’t too hard as I’d never spent much time listening to music and I didn’t have a large collection.

The next thing God asked me to remove was movies. This was a bit harder, but God brought to my mind the verse in Philippians 4:8 that says:

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

 I looked at the movies I had, and realized that the things they portrayed weren’t true, honest, just, pure, lovely, or of a good report. They didn’t glorify God; in contrast they glorified the world and things that brought pain and heartache to people.

Then while I was still thinking about this verse, God directed my eyes to my bookshelves. I had many books. I loved books. As my eyes rested on them, I realized that most of them portrayed things that were contrary to God, His character and kingdom. I realized that God was telling me that I get rid of all the books that took my mind away from the things of God. At first I resisted. I put it off. I even considered rereading them all one last time and then getting rid of them. A lot of money had gone into those books and I didn’t want to give them up.

Gently God reminded me that He wouldn’t ask me to do anything that was not for my long-term benefit, and after some more wrestling with self I was able to give those books up. There were other little things that God asked me to give up, change, or do. I got rid of some types of clothing; I began having regular personal devotions; and I started trying to use better words.

It wasn’t only self that I had to wrestle with to make these changes, but people around me noticed, and most thought I was crazy, stupid, and even my family thought I was becoming a little too extreme. But I knew that God had asked me to make each of these changes and was comforted by His presence.

I was amazed at how real God was becoming to me. I honestly felt like I was becoming a good person, and that God must have nearly finished all the work He had to do with me. I was maybe getting a little bit proud, but was secretly happy that He had never asked anything extra hard of me – like leaving my family and home, or giving up my horses….

And Then…

That is exactly what God asked me to do. This post tells how I ended up in Cambodia, and how God changed my heart to love the people and the His work. How God showed me that I was more at peace, and happier when I was following God’s will for my life.

Giving up the horses, and moving to Cambodia to be a volunteer teacher, were two things that I had never imagined for my future; but they were in God’s plan. And because I had begun saying, “Yes.” to God in the small things, I was better prepared to say, “Yes!” to the bigger things that He asked of me. How small are all our visions for our lives! God has a bigger, better, grander plan than even our highest aspirations and wildest dreams!

I have learned to trust Him. Everything that He has asked me to do – no matter how easy or hard I perceived it to be – has always been for my benefit. God has used each experience to reveal His character of love to me, and to show me even more things He wants to change in me so as to transform me into a reflection of His Son.

If I had not started said, “Yes.” to God I don’t know where I’d be today. But I know it wouldn’t be here. The blessings and opportunities I have had have all been because I decided to, by His power, say, “Yes.” to God in the small things.

When you decide to say, “Yes!” to God in the small things, I can promise you that God will take your life places you never imagined you would go. God will become so real to you – a faithful friend and guide, the peace of God will fill your heart and you will have fullness of joy.

The choice is yours!

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There is a Balm in Gilead

“The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved. For the hurt of the daughter of my people am I hurt; I am black; astonishment hath taken hold on me. Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?” ~ Jeremiah 8:20-22 ~

This verse was a proverb. Gilead was a place known for the natural medicines taken from the trees there. It was also a place where the people who knew how to minister the healing balms resided. Jeremiah is a book that talks about how God’s people were constantly back-sliding. Even though they still worshiped in the temple, although they still claimed that God was their God, they had brought in to their worship many forms of idolatry; customs and activities that appealed to their senses. As a result of rejecting God pushing His blessings away, they came under oppression from powerful enemies. They looked to the Egyptians for salvation from their enemies, but no help came; there was no healing. They didn’t seem to realize that their problems and lack of peace was not because they were oppressed by powerful enemies, but because they were, by their choices, separated from their loving, long-suffering God.

“For My people have committed two evils; they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.” ~ Jeremiah 2:13 ~

I remember times when I have hewed out for myself broken cisterns. Trying to find fulfillment in anything but God: looking for healing everywhere but to Christ, all the while not realizing that the root cause of my pain and emptiness was my separation from my heavenly Father. There is a balm in Gilead, there are physicians… but we are not healed because no man, and no medicine can fix the sin problem we have that pollutes our minds, bodies and this world. No human or medicine in this world can take away the hurt, fill the emptiness, or create morality in us.

Like Paul in Romans 7 we are frustrated by the fact that we do the evil things we don’t want to do, and we don’t do the good things which we desire to do. We struggle and fight and exhaust ourselves trying to be good, trying to be happy, trying to be content. And in the end all we find is that the world and it’s pleasures doesn’t have the answers; it can’t bring healing. With Paul we cry out, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” ~ Rom 7:24 ~   

And with Paul we too can know that there is a balm – the blood of Jesus; and there is a physician who can administer the balm – the Savior, Jesus. Like Mary, when we fall at the feet of Jesus we can be healed, renewed, recreated. Like the demoniac healed in the country of the Gadarenes, in Jesus we can find peace untouchable, the fullness of joy, a reason for living, a holy purpose for our lives, and unending, unchangeable love.

Healed

Come to Jesus today, kneel at His feet in surrender, accept Him into your life, believe that He is your Savior, and you will find healing and peace for your soul.

“Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” ~ 1 Peter 2:24 ~