From June 18th to August 9th, I served in Phnom Penh, Cambodia with several missionaries through the United Methodist Church (UMC). One of the many ministries in the UMC office in Cambodia is called Community Health & Agricultural Development (CHAD), which is a microfinance organization that helps local families & villages become economically self-sufficient, embraces new agricultural resources and the use of clean water & improved nutrition, and accesses the Cambodian health care system.
Lord’s Blessings Upon An Undeserving Sinner
Before I departed to Cambodia, I feared many things, particularly because I was sent alone to live alone in this foreign place. My mind was racing with all sorts of possibilities. But God showed me & reminded me through my own forgetfulness that He is our Lover, Bridegroom, & Provider (Song 5:2-16). Though it was unnecessary to have two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, living room, flat-screen TV, & air-conditioning, these are what were given to me. And I can only thank God for such abundant provision. I didn’t deserve it, but it was such a privilege to have all these things. The Lord also blessed me with co-workers who were so welcoming & loving. Moreover, I’m so thankful to have had the mentor assigned to me there. I can say so much more about how grateful I am for God’s provisions, but let me end with a few paraphrased words from a sermon on Luke 6:1-11 titled “Lord of the Sabbath”:
God is the one who met all of David’s needs—the bread of the Presence (Luke 6:3-4). God’s provisions only point to the greatest provision of all through the death & resurrection of Jesus Christ for all those who live by faith, all those who God has declared over as chosen, holy, & beloved: salvation, eternal life, perfect peace, everlasting healing, unshakable hope. It is only by the grace & mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that we are given, in this present, temporary, perishable life, food to eat, a place to live, family & friends. And it is only by His grace & mercy that we, who come to Him in genuine faith of the Gospel, are given new hearts & new spirits; He removes from us our hearts of stone & gives us hearts of flesh (Ez 36:26). If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come (2 Cor 5:17)!
Taming the Tongue & Wisdom from Above (James 3)
There are many aspects of this worldly life & earthly flesh that James urges us to put to death, one of which is a slanderous, destructive, murderous, unsupportive, discouraging, unloving, and unwise tongue. Prior to my trip, I met a lot of people from different denominations with different theologies. All of this led me to a place of constant, self-righteous seeking to prove that I’m right and they’re wrong. And many times, I was so easily filled with anger and frustration, which Paul urges us to put to death (Col 3:8). This struggle to tame my tongue and, at times, hold it continued in Cambodia as I encountered Methodists with a traditional foundation in John Wesley’s teachings. But God so graciously and mercifully humbled me with a Beatitude: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt 5:9). In this Beatitude, “peacemakers” are referring to those who actively bring conflict to an end. But I was the one bringing conflict to a start and seeking arguments here and there on things that were, in the end, not worth causing division within the Church. As I pray for more wisdom and discernment, and by His grace and mercy, the Lord is helping me to discern when to hold my tongue and to ultimately agree to disagree without conforming to the thoughts of others along with a greater understanding of God’s heart of love.
A Heart of Gratitude & Rejoicing Through Prayer (1 Thess 5:16-18)
Throughout my last week there, I caught dengue fever. I initially didn’t think much of it. By the third day (Saturday) I was diagnosed, I was able to actually sit up, move around, & eat a bit. But little did I know that it is a common thing for its symptoms of high fever & extreme dizziness to fluctuate. The next day (Sunday) was the worst of all the nine days I had dengue fever. Unable to sit up due to the dizziness along with a loss of appetite, I laid down/slept on my bed for 15+ hours that day.
Throughout that entire weekend, I sang the song “,” originally by Hillsong, over and over and over again while lying down on my bed. I also prayed for good results at Monday’s visit to the SOS International Health Clinic. And I banked on normal health results because I thought, “If I just sing this song more and pray this prayer more, perhaps God would bless me with these results on Monday.” But that wasn’t what happened. The French doctor called me in, shared my blood test results, & told me that my platelet count went farther down from 127,000 to 61,000. I was angry. Angry at God. Why? Because He didn’t do what I had expected Him to do. I was angry because, even after singing “Healer” multiple times & praying prayers for a quick recovery, Monday’s results didn’t match up to what I wanted. Even when supporters emailed me to check up on my health, I read their emails with such anger & frustration.
On Monday night, the symptoms died down a bit. I walked to my living room, pulled out and heated a bowl of chicken noodle soup, and as I intended to pray a short prayer for the meal, the Spirit led me into a time of repentance. As I felt angry and frustrated with how things turned out that day, I could feel this spiritual battle going on inside me. And by the grace of God, all I could say was, “God, I’m sorry. You are still and always will be good. Forgive me and help me, for such faith needs more feeding & growing with the Bread of Life and the Light of the World.” And somehow, I ended my prayer with 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Lord, help me to live a life that abides in your will for me in Christ Jesus. Help me to rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances, even in this time of sickness.” At that moment, these were a few thoughts that crept in: “Man, how can I, the very being that God created, be angry at, be frustrated with, and question my Creator? Who am I that I put the Lord to the test and challenge His ways? Are not His ways higher than my ways and His thoughts, my thoughts (Isaiah 55:9)? Are not his plans divine and perfect, sanctifying and disciplining all those He loves, treating them as His children, acting in these ways for their own good (Hebrews 12)? And has not God blessed me with so many things that I do not deserve? How can I live out this life with such anger and frustration, yet not with a heart of gratitude and rejoicing? Thank you God for leading me into this place of repentance. Forgive me of my iniquities and discipline me. Deliver me from all evil that lead me astray from Your holiness. Set me apart for Your glory and mold my life in a way that reflects who You are. Help me, Lord, to rejoice at all times, pray unceasingly, and give thanks in all circumstances. Thank you.”
For the next 4-5 days, the symptoms persisted, if not elevated. And it wasn’t easy to rejoice and be thankful in the midst of physical sickness. But God has been helping me to see more clearly and be more thankful for the daily blessings that He has given to me (and all of us): life and breath for another day, food on the table, clothing, shelter, family, and friends (1 Tim 6:6-8).
Love Never Fails (1 Cor 13:8a)
I believe that this two-month trip was a very sanctifying time for me through the healing power of the Spirit. The Lord is helping me to seek out His wisdom and discernment and to have self-control with my actions and tongue. My understanding of God’s love and ability to love as He loves are obviously nowhere near perfect. But I’ve been filled with less frustration & so much more peace through my experiences in Cambodia. Praise God! :)
Strive to love the way 1 Cor 13 describes love. Depend on and be desperate for God to mold your actions, thoughts, heart motives, and words in a way that reflect the biblical love. Repent unceasingly & seek the Lord to grow in you a heart of Love.
I had such an amazing experience & I can’t thank my supporters enough for both the financial & prayer support. This debrief is two months in two pages, and there’s so much more I can share with you. So if you want to talk more, feel free to text me @ 201-281-6365 or email me (firstname.lastname@example.org).
“Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.
- Joel 2:12-13