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.
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
ExGay Testimony & Suggestions re: How to Reach out to the LGBT.
Requested by Preacher Jong Madlang-awa with a Filipino (church) audience in mind. The message is universal.
“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” John 14:2-6
This is English and Tagalog. My wife is from the Philippines (Tagalog language, a nation of islands, mostly Catholic). 🇵🇭
We serve in Cambodia (Khmer language, between Vietnam and Thailand, mostly Buddhist). 🇰🇭
Both people groups eat mostly “rice and noodle”-based dishes. Same region (Southeast Asia), different countries.
“That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” 1 Peter 1:7
2020 was tough. We trust that one day we will look at Covid in the rearview mirror. But through it, the Lord reminded that suffering yields gratefulness for blessings big and small. Even the most bitter of unbelievers will have a testimony of thankfulness for simple things that we all previously took for granted – such as eating in a restaurant with family.
“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” James 1:2-4
2020 began with a much longer-than-expected stay in the U.S. The Lord used it. Many believe that they were born “gay”. Fighting back lies with truth, getting ex-gay testimony out there is vital. To recap highlights:
We were honored to share ex-gay testimony and become a resource for 23 churches and 1 school.
Personal testimony was kindly shared 1-on-1, as the Lord led, just like we do in Southeast Asia. However, the reception was much less polite. Although the purpose is to save an individual from a lifestyle of heartache and everlasting judgment, we Americans are known around the world for unwillingness to take correction. Rebuttals ranged from “How dare you judge…!” to “I’ll see you in hell!” and other phrases that should not be repeated. The Lord thickens skin through trial. In the recent words of an old buddy of mine, ‘We’ll be back!’
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
At 6pm that same evening, the students and their families joined us for Christmas dinner at a Korean restaurant.
Similar to last Christmas, the gospel – including the Second Coming of Christ – was shared prior to asking the blessing. Tracts were made available.
Buddhism focuses on “being a good person” / doing good. It can appear that the Christian is likewise “just trying to be a good person”. This confusion leads people to believe that “All religions are basically the same” and steers them around the cross to everlasting damnation. With unbelieving parents in attendance, my wife suggested that I use this occasion to clarify.
“…seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” 1 Timothy 4:1
“For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men…” Mark 7:8
So I worked with our Cambodian language teacher to get the proper words necessary to convey that message clearly. I shared that we do not “do good” because we are trying to “be good people” but because we want to point them to the Lord Jesus Christ – the only One who can save them… so that they will be ready to meet Him when they die. Click below for video excerpts:
Much thanks to Aunt Bobbie who contributed to bless the kids and their families for Christmas, 2020 & 2019.
Praise the Lord!
Ways to Partner with Us: 1. Pray for: – Conviction, eyes to see and ears to hear for the LGBT. – Revival for the U.S. – that we would stand for all timeless, Bible truth in these days no matter what the cost. – Spiritual fruit from U.S. church engagements. – Open hearts & spiritual fruit here in Southeast Asia. – Stand with us in prayer for the promised son. – Financial support to keep us in the field doing what I am called to do. 2. Click Here to Donate via PayPal (tax deductible)!