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

Year-End 2018 Ministry Update

Prayer Partners:

Thank you for your faithful support. 2018 was an interesting year.

As much as we have tried to focus primarily on evangelizing LGBT+ adults, the Lord seems to redirect us to children’s ministries. Although baffling at first, we now view children’s ministries as early stage prevention.

The Lord is the driver. Summarizing what we see in the rear view mirror and telling you what we think we see ahead, this update is written from a passenger’s perspective.

Rebekah and I are back in Cambodia, where I was originally called. Praise the Lord.

We were saddened by the loss of Rebekah’s mother but rejoice in her legacy. She stood for Christ against fierce opposition and raised three children in the Lord.

c1ed6a77-8756-427e-a906-1bdb50855389

If terms of time investment, teaching was 2018’s primary ministry focus. A number of students prayed to receive Christ. Born into deeply rooted Buddhist homes, they have uphill battles ahead of them. Children’s Bible storybooks were given to those who showed genuine interest in going forward to serve the Lord. Please pray that no weapon formed against these kids would prosper, that they would fight to follow and grow up to be bold witnesses.

“But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.’” – Matthew 19:14

Sometimes we feel like we have not had time to do much intentional in-person witnessing to those who struggle with same-sex attraction and gender identity. About that time, we go to the market and end up sharing with a someone who identifies as transgender or go to get a haircut and end up sharing Christ with a same-sex couple. The Lord leads.

During teaching breaks, we continued to explore our region and witnessed along the way.

“And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.’” – Mark 16:15

ca19e403-97f3-4d36-bf3d-21bcf107bec3

Encountered Yamu on the street, a homeless man with fresh head wounds from an accident. Took him to the hospital. Met basic needs. Shared the gospel and connected him with the local church. Pray for Yamu.

454f2985-e70c-4696-8e4d-2f9d821a9fcf

Sharing Christ with young people in a restaurant in Kandal Province.

8d1bc1a3-0c38-44bf-aa5b-07d8111b2957

Shared Christ with young men while on a missional adventure in Preah Vihear Province. Have you shared the gospel with someone this week?

“For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel.” – 1 Corinthians 9:16

A doctoral candidate at a Christian university in the U.S. included our testimony as part of her research for a thesis advocating repentance and following Christ as a healthy alternative to a homosexual lifestyle. We are thankful to be counted as soldiers in this war. Are you?

Online we continue to post Scripture, typically daily in English and weekly in several other languages. Men who struggle with same-sex attraction continue to reach out for encouragement toward following Christ.

Though we were not able to get home to the U.S. or Philippines for Christmas, we returned to my former home in Kandal Province. We sang, “God, Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen” as a family at Mercy Baptist Church.

On your behalf, we took Christmas gifts to the kids that I used to teach on the porch. Rebekah picked out ‘sport shirt and shorts’ sets and wrapped each with a tract inside. Some were given Bible storybooks. They were thrilled. Thank you for your support!

Quick to scurry off, the kids were encouraged to hunker down to pray and thank Jesus. Anticipating that none of them would be there when I looked up, I was overjoyed to see them all knelt down. It was another unforgettable moment in Christ.

The Lord delivered me from a life of guttural sin. Like the commission of the demon possessed man, my primary ministry goal has been to witness for Him wherever I go.

“(Jesus)…said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.” – Mark 5:19-20

Nothing is more important than sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Across Asia, we were blessed with opportunities to share in churches. I share, and then typically my wife and I sing. Upon request, we have offered guidance to church leaders in evangelizing the LGBT+. We strive to lead by example in sharing the gospel- including the requirement for repentance and warning of coming judgment.

“For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” – Acts 20:27

“But my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” – Hebrews 10:38-39

20180923_224248

An evening of witnessing to transgender prostitutes in Kathmandu with Pastor Gyan

At our home base in Siem Reap, we have been blessed with opportunities to serve under Independent Baptist Church of Siem Reap (a largely Filipino church that preaches in English and also has a Cambodian service) and Siem Reap Ministry (a primarily Cambodian church). We admire Pastor Joel Madlangawa at IBCSR for his sound doctrine and courage; and Pastor Tieng Tan at SRM for his humility and perseverance in sharing the gospel.

At the end of nearly a year at Westgate International School in Siem Reap, I chose to resign after being reprimanded for Christian teaching and giving children’s Bible storybooks (which were confiscated from many of the children).

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” – Matthew 6:24

The Lord provides. We have looked into several options, such as running a guesthouse with space for teaching and an outreach in the countryside. Please pray toward this.

A missionary on our first short term mission to Cambodia in 2010 shared, ‘English is the best way to get the gospel through. Everybody wants to learn English.’ Recently we began teaching about Jesus and English in our neighborhood.

In looking toward a more established ministry center, we have begun talks with local pastors, missionaries and folks who have embarked down similar paths. Most began with a small school or education center which culminated in a church plant.

Please continue to pray for us as we trust the Lord for the son that He promised eight years ago.

Praise the Lord for all He has done and continues to do as we fight to follow down this narrow, difficult path that leads to eternal life! May the Lord bless you for your support!

Contend for the faith!

Victory and Peace in Christ,

Matthew & Rebekah Karchner
castawayministries.org

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”- Philippians 4:13

Apart from Him, I can do nothing. (John 15:5)