Monday, September 03, 2007

Kep & Divine Interruption

On Friday morning we left for Kep a small seaside resort that is not quite on the main tourist list as yet. Kep is located in the south of Cambodia on the Gulf of Thailand. It is about 3 hours drive from Phnom Penh and as we headed into the rural areas it is an opportunity to see the plush green rice paddy fields intermingled with little villages and markets that dot the route to Kep. What I have often noticed on driving out to the rural countryside is the water lilies and beautiful flowers that grow in the midst of all the over grown grimey vegetation that lines the streets and water. It reminds me that God can still make something beautiful despite the dark surroundings.

Many years ago before the Khmer Rouge era, Kep was a place where all the rich & famous hung out. Some might call it the French Riveria of Cambodia as it has a small beach and a boardwalk that was recently refurbished. Yet in the midst of this coastal town, are ruins of many beautiful homes and estates that were destroyed but not by the Khmer Rouge. Instead, when the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia they looted and stole all the materials that were in these houses. Today, Kep is a place of ruins but yet the land values are rising as the government has been promoting development in this area. Currently there are two main hotels and a few guests houses but it will be just a matter of time when further hotel developments will dot this landscape. The place we stayed at is the Beach Hotel which is situated on a hill right in front of the beach. It provides a wonderful view of the Gulf of Thailand and the sea breeze that comes off the Gulf makes it a great place to have some R&R. Our plan in coming here was to just simply take it easy and for the most part we did rising at 6am and heading out for walks along the boardwalk with our Ipods in hand praising the Lord.

Our first day in Kep we got talking to a young Khmer man named Diamond who oversees the hotel while his big boss is in Phnom Penh. He was so friendly and wanted to constantly practise his English on us. Diamond was recently married to Moon---these are their real English names in case you are wondering ---- and so on one of the evenings we went for a walk with them and as I looked up into the sky and saw a plethora of stars, I remarked that God had made the stars. This small comment was the beginning of a longer spiritual discussion that I would have with him and as we went to bed that first night we prayed that God would give us more opportunities to chat with Diamond as he had commented that he had been a buddhist monk for 10 years.

On Sat morning as I sat in an open veranda near our hotel room, Diamond came over to see what I was doing. He noticed I was reading the bible and I asked him if he wanted to practise his English. As he was quite keen to do so, I opened my bible to Genesis and he began to read Genesis 1. His English comprehension and reading was excellent and so this led to greater dialogue but what struck me most was his reaction when he read about what God was creating in each was like watching a child who was in awe and wonder about God. As he read the creation account I could see and hear from his responses that God's word was speaking to his heart and it gave us an opportunity to dialogue further that God had created man and woman in his image. I then led him to Psalm 139:13-16 and he began to read about how we were each fearfully and wonderfully made. From there we moved to John 14:6 that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and then as he began to ask more about Jesus, I led him to Matthew 1:18-24 about the Virgin birth---has anyone ever tried explaining the immaculate conception to a person whose first language is not English. This is where my OMF friend Cathy jumped in with her Khmer. We then moved from there to the good news of John 3:16 and then started talking about the Cross and the Resurreciton before we finally hit Revelations 21 about the New Jerusalem. By then over 2 hours had passed and we decided to break for lunch. During this time we hastly made a call to another OMF partner Ling who lives in Kep and we asked if she had any Khmer bibles. Thankfully she did and as she was meeting us for dinner that night she brought it with her. Later that afternoon, Ling who is Cambodian appeared and all 3 of us sat with Diamond sharing the gospel but Ling now began to show him the verses in Khmer. We finally got to Revelations 3:22 about Jesus knocking at the door and wanting to come in if we would let Him in. It was at this point Diamond said that he would like to go to heaven and so Ling was gracious in sharing with him what steps he needed to take.

Diamond had not yet made a decision for Jesus but we viewed our time with him as a divine interruption and we believe it is just a matter of time before he receives Jesus. I was touched by his hunger to know more and during my time with him as I felt like Philip talking to the Ethiopican Eunch as we moved from scripture to scripture. We prayed with him before we left and we are thankful that our friend Ling is living in Kep and can follow up directly with him. One of the interesting tidbits from this whole experience was what Ling told me later. She said when sharing the gospel with Cambodians we must always start with the Creation story in Genesis 1 and not with the cross or with the gospels because after the Khmer Rouge era Cambodians have struggled with their identity because all the 'gods' they believed in had been destroyed. I never knew this until she mentioned this and as I look back at my converation with Diamond it was just interesting to see how the Holy Spirit had led our discussions to start at Genesis 1. As I recalled Diamond's reaction to God's truth it brought to mind the words from Romans 1:17 that the gospel is the power of salvation for all who believe. God's word indeed was breathing spiritual life into this young man's body. We may not see the fruits of our labor but we take heart in knowing that God has given us the opportunity to plant His seed in Diamond's heart and we trust that the Holy SPirit will water these seeds so that this young man can truly make a decision for Christ.

1 comment:

Soomie said...

Wow, powerful! Holy Spirit is amazing and God uses us even on our R&R times! Amen...