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

Mansion over the Hilltop

Praise the Lord!

“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.

Perseverance

“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

Praise the Lord!

2020 Ministry Recap

Prayer Partners:

Thank you for your faithful support!

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:

My testimony is not about me. It’s about what the Lord did for me, that He can do the same for anyone who is willing to repent and fight to follow.

The Lord Jesus Christ is truly “The God of the Impossible”.

“With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.”   Matthew 19:26

Click here to read more about 2020 U.S. ministry.


In late October, we arrived in Cambodia and hopped back into the saddle. Highlights:

Evangelism with a Focus on Reaching the LGBT:

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

“Long time, no see!” gave way to opportunity. Two men came to church with us.

Sharing Ex-gay Testimony in Cambodian Churches & Schools:
Before Christmas, I was honored to shared at a Bible school. Click below for video excerpts:
I shared, and we sang at another church in the capital city this past Sunday. Five more churches are on deck. Praise the Lord!

“Satan, which deceiveth the whole world… And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” Revelation 12:9-11

Teaching Neighborhood Children:
Against much opposition from culture and family, our neighborhood students are growing and did an excellent job again this year performing in church. Praise the Lord!

Click here for more Christmas Ministry photos.

“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)!

Praise the Lord Jesus Christ!

And Thank You for your support!

USA Ministry Update

Prayer Partners:

Thank you for your support. Our Visa applications were approved, and we passed our Covid tests. After 10 months back in Pennsylvania, we headed out to return to Cambodia. Praise the Lord!

In spite of Covid season, through this extended homestay, the Lord opened doors. We were blessed to serve 23 churches and 1 school through sharing ex-gay testimony and being a resource. Dad & Mom also shared perspective as parents of an ex-gay prodigal at many of the churches. Praise the Lord!

Click Here to view “Serving Churches USA 2020” photos.

There is a way out of a gay lifestyle for those who are willing to turn away from following their deceitful hearts to follow Christ. Must be born again. Praise the Lord!

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor [a]homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. AND SUCH WERE SOME OF YOU, BUT you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

To pastors & churches who welcomed us: Thank you for standing with us on difficult Bible truth in these last days!

We came home for Christmas 2019. Little did we know we would still be here 10 months later. The Lord has a way of bringing good out of challenges.

“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

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Matthew 6:33

2 Ways to Help:

  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.
  • Financial support from U.S. church engagements.
  • Financial provision for a much-needed truck.
  • Smooth-as-possible transition back to Cambodia.
  • Open hearts & spiritual fruit in Southeast Asia.
  • Stand with us in prayer for the promised son.

2. Click Here to Donate to either fund via PayPal (both tax deductible)!

Praise the Lord Jesus Christ!

And Thank You for your support!

2019 Ministry Wrap-up

Prayer Partners:

Thank you for your faithful support.

Patience is key to evangelism. While building and fostering relationships, we prayerfully seek opportunities to reiterate the gospel message.

Christmas is not widely celebrated in Cambodia. In recent years, globalization (i.e. movies, tourism) has made Cambodians more aware of what goes on in other countries. Although the true meaning of Christmas is not widely known, the whimsical happiness associated with the holiday is embraced.

Through this fascination with Christmas, the Lord opens doors to share and reiterate the gospel. Equipped with Christmas tracts in Cambodian language, the Lord led back to each of the primary contacts made through “street ministry”.

For Christmas…
Students and their immediate families were invited to a buffet dinner. We thanked the Lord Jesus together in prayer- for the food, for coming to die on the cross for our sins…

Each who would receive was given a tract with the gospel in Cambodian language.
Students were given a spending limit and allowed to purchase needed items for school.
Faithful soldiers were given their own Bibles (Cambodian & English language side by side).

Praise the Lord!
Thank you to my Aunt Bobbie for the donation!

The primary purposes of this ministry are to evangelize unbelievers and disciple those who repent and give their lives to Christ. The Lord promises to meet the needs of His people.

Ability to speak clear English empowers a student to get a job in the more lucrative tourist sector. Students with zero initial English knowledge at the beginning of the year can now read and speak some basics.

A number in this small group have prayed to repent and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

Praise the Lord!

There is a lot of pressure to turn back and to conform to culture. Please pray for these kids.

Lord-Willing Plans:
We continue to trust the Lord for a school / ministry center. Recently we have looked into the Accelerated Christian Education (ACE- School of Tomorrow) curriculum.

Financial Needs:
1) Truck- for everything from taking kids to church to getting groceries.
At the moment, we have a scooter (motorbike). My wife is not able to drive it. While long trips can be an adventure for me, 3+ hours on the back of a motorbike is a lot to ask of my wife.
2) Healthcare- We have been without insurance for two years.
3) Living Expenses- We are currently 50% funded in terms of daily living and ministry expenses.

Serving the Church:
Suicide within church communities is becoming increasingly common.

I remember being a terrified 14-year old boy with a strange desire hidden within the congregation. Through testimony & song to encourage and what the Bible says about this struggle for clarity and conviction, we strive to be a resource for those who struggle and their loved ones.

In 2019, we were privileged to share “ex-gay” testimony & song within Christian establishments in Cambodia such as: International Baptist Church of Siem Reap, Bible Baptist Church Russey Keo in Phnom Penh and Shade of Grace School in Battambang.

Through April 2020 (Lord willing), we are in the United States sharing in churches.

(Revision: Covid-related travel restrictions actually kept us in the U.S. until October of 2020.)

We would be honored to share “ex-gay” testimony & song at your church.

Please email matthew.karchner@castawayministries.org for more information.

“The Lord’s Army” & “Father Abraham” – Neighborhood Children’s Ministry

“And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.”     Genesis 22:18

“And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?  And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the Lord am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my Lord unto his servant?  And the captain of the Lord’s host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so.”     Joshua 5:13-14

Praise the Lord!

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

2017 Report & 2018 Lord Willing Plans

Hello, Missions Partners:

Thank you for your prayer and financial support. We are especially thankful for the Lord’s leading.

2017 Highlights

  • Evangelism Results: In response to sharing the gospel in Myanmar and Cambodia churches, a number of people prayed to receive Christ. Through street evangelism, 7 people prayed to repent and give their lives to Christ. Praise the Lord!
  • Evangelism Where?: In person, the gospel was shared in 7 countries- U.S., Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore. Using online avenues, the gospel has been shared in many more.

  • Evangelism in Person- How Many?: Goal is to share Christ with at least one individual each day on average. Recently keeping statistics, I am confident that the 365-person minimum has far been exceeded. Praise the Lord!
  • Online Ministry- What Are You Doing?: Daily we have been posting Scripture with a photo (usually corresponds in some way to the text). When time permits, we have posted the same Scripture in up to 10 languages matching the people we have befriended through local evangelism and regional missions. Recently, as the Lord led, we began sending the same passage via private message to 20+. Partnering with other ministries and on our own site, we have posted brief teachings, ex-gay tips and testimonies (ex. video testimony in 5 languages). These have yielded opportunities. Folks from around the world have reached out for encouragement. As we share testimonies, blessings go both ways. Praise the Lord.
  • Stop Beating Up the Broken Campaign: These are testimony-sharing church visits designed to build compassion for the broken through awareness of the struggle. Where there is opportunity, Rebekah and I also typically sing.

 

Examples of how the Lord works when least expected: Street evangelism and testimony sharing at churches can coordinated in tandem. Working within very hospitable cultures with less emphasis on advanced planning, we find that sometimes it is best to prayerfully show up on a Sunday morning. One weekend, we attended Rebekah’s friend’s wedding, researched local churches for where to go the next morning. After Sunday service, we were introduced to a young lady who struggles with same-sex attraction and gender identity and a church that loves her but did not know how to approach it.

Over Christmas, Aunt Bobbie was here. After setting up a tent in a campground, we left and came back to find that someone had pitched tents remarkably close to ours… making conversation inevitable. We made friends and shared testimony. Moments before departure the next morning, another young lady who struggled with gender identity joined their group. Quietly during goodbyes, there was an opportunity to share with her.

  • Board Meeting: While home in July, we held our annual board meeting. Pastor Osterhout of First Baptist in Curwensville, Camerly Abajian and Joshua Maines were added to our board in 2017.

Christmas 2017

  • Christmas Choir: We were blessed to sing with Bangjak Baptist Christmas choir for the Christmas service and at two local malls as outreach.
  • Christmas Album: We recorded a Christmas album. Thank you to all who purchased it.
  • Christmas Giving: Focused on street ministry and refugees:

o 70+ individuals- primarily people we have met through street evangelism who struggle with same-sex attraction and/or gender identity.

o 3 Christian refugee families who have suffered persecution for their faith. These folks are an inspiration.

Lord Willing 2018 Plans:

  • Establish a ministry center readily accessible from red light districts where we can have Bible studies.
  • Lead the willing through the same steps through which the Lord led me in order to break old-life habits and establish new identity in Christ.
  • Take bigger strides in the “Stop Beating Up the Broken” Campaign. Share testimony in more churches, focusing on areas known to have an LGBT community.
  • Streamline online processes- daily Scripture posting, blog writing, discussion items within our support group.

The Lord is faithful. Praise God for all that He has done and for all that He continues to do as we trust Him.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Please Pray for:

  • Conviction for the global LGBT+ community.
  • Awakening in Southeast Asia.
  • The Lord’s grace and mercy for us.
  • The Lord’s provision.

Questions for You:

  • As we embark on a fresh start, we welcome your feedback. What do you suggest that we do differently in 2018?
  • Do you know of a church that may consider supporting our mission? If so, please reply with contact info so that we can reach out while planning church visits.
  • We are looking for volunteers to help with online ministry (ex. video editing, Scripture posts, providing feedback toward improving our facebook page and web site). If you are interested, please reply with availability.

Please click here to financially support Castaway Ministries.