LGBT Evangelism Story “Tom” (Cambodia)

A woman who identifies as a man, “Tom” is a 60-year old former soldier. “Khmer Rouge?” “Awt-tay” (No), she assured. Living with her extended family who addresses her as “Pa” at an entrance to Angkor Wat, she climbs trees to gather unusual forest fruit to sell in front of the house (common in rural Cambodia).

Just a couple of miles from home, the heavily touristed “ancient palaces” of Angkor Wat were built by King Suryavarman II in the 12th century when our region was the capital of the Angkor Empire. The pride and heritage of Cambodia, the temple complex is one of the few parts of the country where jungle and trees have not yet been cut to make way for farming.

The “Ancient Palaces” of Angkor Wat, UNESCO World Heritage Site; Siem Reap, Cambodia

Cambodians visit for free. Foreigners pay a hefty $37 fee. After 5:30pm, all enter for free. A few months ago, Rebekah suggested biking there with neighborhood kids. Similar enough to a Cambodian look, she passed the guard station without question. When the guards stopped me, I took a seat at the nearest house with a fruit stand out front to wait until 5:30. That’s where I met “Tom”. Toward the end of a getting-to-know-you conversation, I shared my ex-gay testimony.

When I returned to follow up, she said she had recently received Covid jab #1 (of 2) and had been suffering with symptoms, including agitation of a pre-existing heart condition. Later she shared that she falls out of a tree in the line of work roughly once per year. The Lord led to get her some medications and pray with her. That seemed to pave the way for the next visit. Our lives but a vapor, any of us could be taken at any moment. It was a good time to talk about the Lord.

Cambodian culture calls for extended conversations. Lasting around two hours, this was one of them. Note that this is a relatively new, budding relationship. My Cambodian witnessing partner was key in bridging the cultural divide. The two immediately began small-talking. The family shared fruit from the forest with us. Typically that means we have a conversation about which fruit is sweet and which is sour and who likes sweet and who doesn’t like sour.

We bought some pineapple from them and bonded. Cambodian women softly say “Jaa” for “Yes”, while men bark “Baht”. Tom says “Baht” and speaks of a “propun” she had in the past (word used for “wife” but likely not legally married). In favor of first building a firm relationship upon which to share a gospel that is alien to her, I overlooked such references. I pulled down my mask a bit to show a smile, crucial to social interaction in Southeast Asia. Roughly 30 minutes into the conversation, I noticed that her body language (legs crossed, ankle to knee) matched mine. This is very unusual posture within the culture. It seemed like a good time to begin with our questions.

In seminary, I have studied Buddhism and verified the claims of academia with Cambodians. Understanding what counterfeit paths Satan has ingrained in people is vital to effectively witnessing within a given cultural context. The root problem for Buddhism is suffering. The meaning of life is to end suffering. Buddhism teaches that suffering is rooted in one’s attachments and desires, which must be broken, in order to break the unsatisfactory cycle of reincarnation and enter nirvana.

An Apologetics class requires several field assignments. The Lord has used them to drive evangelism. We asked, ‘If there is a God who is good and loves us, why is there so much evil in the world?’ She said it is because people covet and gave examples regarding motorbikes and cars. This is in keeping with Buddhist teaching that holds covetousness as the highest wrong and source of suffering. We asked, ‘Do you like freedom? Do you think it is good?’ Yes, she agreed that freedom is good. We asked, ‘So that genuine freedom could be obtained, don’t you think we must have the option to do right and wrong, to be good or evil?’ She agreed.

She said God revealed Himself to her in a dream. She said people might say it was a ghost, but she knew it was God. Tom went to her bedroom and returned with the tattered cover of a children’s Bible storybook illustrating baby Moses. She said someone borrowed the contents and spoke highly of it – ‘true, good’ stories.

She said she follows all religions. We read Exodus 20:3-6 where the Lord commands us not to worship idols, graven images or any other gods. She did not rebuttal. Using her watch as an example, I asked, ‘If one person says that is a watch and another says it’s a shirt and another says it’s pants, can they all be right?’ She agreed and said that she believes in “Preah” (God). I reiterated that Jesus is the one and only God. She agreed. Then I shared the gospel message. She seemed to agree, but it is common here to verbally agree in order to be polite and avoid argument.

Looking at the tattered shell of that children’s Bible storybook, I asked if she wants a Bible. “Baht,” she replied. Then I asked if she would join us for church. She said she needs to be home when customers come. Her large family is more than capable of handling the few customers that stop by during this slow season. But her answer to this question was key. It exposed fear. Taking such a bold step away from Buddhism would be viewed as rejection of family, dishonoring ancestors and culture. I asked if we could pray with her. We did. The following morning, I returned with a Bible.

The road to Tom’s house was closed for a while for the Delta Variant but then re-opened. When I stopped by to visit before our most recent lockdown, she was feeding chickens out back. She pulled up a chair for me, and we talked for a while. She said she reads some of the Bible ‘when she remembers’. She asked for clarification on whether or not Jesus likes homosexuality. I told her that Jesus loves everyone but that He created male and female, not a “third sex” (common term for LGBT here), that two men together or two women together is sin. She quickly cut me off and changed topics.

Just like in the U.S., younger folks tend to be much more open to the gospel. At 60 years old, it would be quite a miracle if she were to come to Christ. Praise the Lord for opportunities to share the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ! Continuing to pray for Tom…

“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17

Ex-Gay Testimony Dramatically Retold

Thanks to #Unshackled for revising (some details changed) & acting out my #ExGay #Testimony as a dramatic story for radio.

Click the following link to listen (30 mins) – https://unshackled.org/program/matthew-karchner-pg/

Praise the Lord!

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Missional Adventure through the Jungle (Cambodia)- Follow-up

“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Galatians 6:7-9

“Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” Mark 16:15

Should Christians Drink Alcohol?

Born-again Christians should not drink alcohol. Nine years ago, the Lord delivered me from near death addiction. My situation was extreme. Am I saying that yours will be the same if you have a beer? No, but for some, especially when times get tough, it could go there.

1) It’s a slippery slope.

“There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.” Proverbs 14:12

If you and I are saved, why are we here?

Our primary duty is to evangelize.

2) For the sake of testimony- so that others can know Christ.

“Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” Mark 16:15

“You are the light of the world…” Matthew 5:14

Christ living within us, we are light of the world. When a hopeless unbeliever walks into a restaurant, he should immediately notice a stark contrast between the other tables and ours.

The difference should be like black and white. Our joy and peace should be evident through countenance, conversation and actions. Others are watching. We all have influence over people. Take your influence seriously. It’s responsibility. We are called to a higher standard.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” Hebrews 12:1

3) But we are free!

Well-intentioned: “I want to show everyone how fun it is to follow Christ!”

– We are not selling worldly fun; we are selling peace through forgiveness and freedom from sin.

Jesus turned water to wine to prove His deity.

“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” Galatians 5:13‭-‬14

“All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful, but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” 1 Corinthians 10:23‭-‬24

“We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” Romans 15:1

“The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” Romans 14:22‭-‬23

4) Alcohol impairs judgment.

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” 2 Peter 5:8

It’s difficult enough to follow Christ, all the more with impaired judgment.

We make ourselves sitting ducks for the enemy.

“Wine is a mocker, Strong drink is a brawler, And whoever is led astray by it is not wise.” Proverbs 20:1

“Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” 1 Corinthians 10:12

What is the reason you drink?

“Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” James 4:4

Do you long to be “part of”? Are we adults caving to peer pressure like a high school student?

Are you terrified to walk alone?

Are you not finding comfort in the Great Comforter?

Does He live inside you?

Do you start every day with Him?

When trials of life come, we should find comfort in the Father, not the bottle. Christ is enough.

“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

5) Christ is enough. Praise the Lord!

Why Praise the Lord?

“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord . Praise the Lord!” Psalms 150:6

“Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9

“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” Matthew 28:18

“…the Holy Spirit who dwells within us…” 2 Timothy 1:14

“…the Helper, the Holy Spirit…” John 14:26

“If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” 1 Peter 4:14

“So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
Genesis 1:27

“God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.” Psalms 46:1

“You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created.” Revelation 4:11

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above…” James 1:17