We had some great opportunities for international travel and influence several years ago when Rich was invited to Cambodia and to Kenya to teach pastors.
The trip to Kenya was initiated by our friend and professor who is a native Kenyan. As we seek to practice partnership, Rich was accompanied by Ryan. After a LONG plane ride, they arrived in Africa. Their final destination was a remote region where some warring tribes were still fighting with spears, bows and arrows. Though primitive, their weapons were deadly nonetheless. People turned out in droves for Sunday services in which singing alone could go on for many hours. Here we encountered a deep reverence for God and His Spirit, and an abiding seriousness about the faith. At the same time, profound joy and gladness accompanied their worship. It was a privilege, not merely an obligation which brought God’s people together. In the same spirit, the 35 or so pastors who gathered under Rich’s teaching undertook their Bible study with earnest zeal.
Rich and Ryan experienced the Lord’s hospitality and welcome and made many lifelong friends. One of the many contrasts with life here in America was the gratitude for educational opportunities, both with and without a Christian emphasis.
A big adjustment for Rich was the climate; it was frequently remarked that they were in a “cool” season, but Rich eventually found that he had to sleep on a mattress outside in order to achieve even a modicum of comfort! In spite of some culture shock, we continue to celebrate the opportunity to see our God at work in a world utterly remote from our own and to have a small part in the ongoing work of the Kingdom there.
Cambodia presented its own joys and its own challenges. What a great privilege to be invited to partner with our friend and professor who has been involved in church planting in Cambodia for many years. Rich and Ryan, our intrepid travelers, found at least one important similarity with their African experience: the seriousness and commitment with which the Cambodians approached their Christian faith. In this case, a couple hundred pastors came to hear Rich’s teaching. They were most eager to learn, and to extend Christian hospitality and respect to their honored guests. A special treat of “baloot” was offered, which is an unhatched embryonic duckling still inside the shell, apparently considered a delicacy. Ryan boldly partook, but Rich, being faint of heart, had to decline!
What was amazing to discover in Cambodia was the robust faith, and the New Testament model of forgiveness and reconciliation. Former Khmer Rouge officers were now in fellowship with former enemies. Those who had killed and persecuted their fellow Cambodians were received with God’s astonishing grace and forgiveness. Murderers sat alongside victim’s families. Such a thing could only happen because of our Lord’s sacrifice on our behalf. Brought to life once again is the Scripture: “..that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end.”( Eph. 2: 15-16) Praise His mighty name!