We want to thank all those who have been praying for us and those who have been supporting us. We really are blessed and have so much to thank the Lord for. He has been keeping us safe; even when I (Mathew) was hit by a motorbike, God kept me from being badly hurt. He has been giving us strength even though we have been sick much of the time we have been here. The Lord has been giving us fruit even though the people here are known to be quite closed to the Gospel. God is giving us wisdom to learn the language although Khmer is a very difficult language. Praise the Lord for His love and care towards us.
Many of you have heard of the 10/40 window of which Cambodia is a part. If you haven’t you can check out this link (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4C9sSy3uxg) to see a brief video explaining its importance. Although many people in Cambodia are Buddhist and resistant to the Gospel message, we are seeing fruit. In the past few months we have had the joy of seeing many people put their faith in Jesus Christ. Only God knows the number for sure, but 297 people have indicated to us that they have put their faith in Christ in the past three months. Although we are in the 10/40 window where there is great opposition to the Gospel, many are coming to Christ as we serve those in the 4/14 window. Nearly 85% of people who make a decision for Christ do so between the ages of four and 14! Most of those 297 who have turned their lives over to Christ were children. May God receive all the glory—we are just happy to be a part of what He is doing.
We began weekend children’s ministry as soon as we arrived, but we have been expanding into weekdays as much as possible as well as into new locations. We also began another ministry which Heni likes to call the “Little Lambs” ministry. Part of the reason we started this ministry was because the local children loved the Sunday Children’s Club so much that they thought they should be here every day learning like the Bible school students. They kept showing up in the back of the classroom or playing in the sand pile (for laying tiles) or playing with the puppies. One day when Souban (a Bible school student) was laying bricks with mortar, one of the little boys got a trowel and sand and was “laying” his bricks with wet sand, trying to copy Souban. Another day, Chung (also a Bible school student) was on a ladder painting and a little girl climbed up to hug him (even though he told her not to climb the ladder). We tried to shut the gates and keep them out sometimes, like when the work was dangerous or we were giving exams, but they would line up at the gate and rattle it while yelling “Teacher!” until someone came and paid attention to them. Most of them are too young to go to school but their parents work so they are left alone all day. One of the boys is named G1. He was abandoned by his mother who ran off to Phnom Penh (the capital). His father is a junk dealer and is always out scouring the streets for scraps and garbage he can sell. So G1 wants to be at the Bible school all the time. Around us, the children are rough and hard to teach, but they love the attention and care they receive.
The kids can also be very cute. When we are walking on the streets, we often have kids running after us shouting “Teacher!” and waving. A little five year old girl has come up to the gate so sweetly with her notebook and pen and asked if it’s time for class yet. Another time a boy came to our door very distraught. We asked what was wrong and he kept repeating, “Where did my teacher go?” The Bible school students rotate in the different ministries and the new teacher wasn’t there yet, but the boy was so eager to continue learning about God—he didn’t want to even waste two minutes waiting for the teacher to come. Most of the children just wander the streets all day waiting for their parents to finish work, so they are eager for both attention and something to do. Some parents come trying to sell their children. Pich is a ten year old boy that has been coming to listen to the Word of God. I was so happy that last week he went to church with us. He grabbed my hand walking back home and didn’t want to let go.
We are teaching the Bible school students how to be more effective teachers and evangelists for the children. Some of them confessed that at first they didn’t enjoy being around children but that God is changing their hearts. I was so pleased when Sokha came and passionately shared her vision with Heni, myself and Nelly, one of our staff. She grew up in the village where the Bible school is and received Christ through the ministry of the teachers while they were teaching her English. She has just completed her two years of training in the Bible school and is entering her internship. She has a great burden for the children in our community and with tears in her eyes asked if she could do her internship with us ministering to the children. We were happy to agree and even happier that in 2014 we will have three full-time staff focusing on children’s outreach. While Sokha will help us here (along with the students in training), the other two will use motorbikes to go to remote villages to teach Sunday schools.
As we are preparing for this new ministry called Motorcycle Sunday School Mission, we have been sending some of the young men out to see where the best places are. The Sunday school program is for all ages but is most popular among the children and youth. This week we sent two “scouts” to a floating village called Kompong Phluk. They were well received by the village chief who said there were 240 households in the community. The guys rode the motorbike for two hours and then had to board a boat to get to the village because it is made up of rafts and boats. The chief said they once had someone come and share the Word of God but after six months she stopped coming and the one family who had started following Christ had renounced their faith. Please pray for wisdom as we seek to find the will of God concerning where we should open Sunday schools.
We are taking every opportunity to reach adults as well. At the beginning of the last term four of our current Bible School students received Christ. It has been a wonderful experience to live with them day in and day out while teaching them to be disciples of Christ. When they had a chance to go home, they all were able to share Christ with their families. We have also ministered at the hospitals and once at a prison for those convicted of drug related offenses. It broke my heart to see boys as young as ten in with the adult population because they had gotten hooked on drugs. Almost each weekday we are doing prayer walks through our community and sharing the Good News with the neighbors. The students have been visiting a paralyzed man named Lok San. He is lonely all day while his family works and really enjoys our students visiting. I was just told a few minutes ago that today he decided to follow Christ for the first time. We held eight Christmas parties where we gave out gifts and explained the Good News and many started to follow Jesus at that time. Personally, I have had opportunities to speak about God to some older people and pray every morning that the Lord would open their hearts to the Good News.
We have invested a lot of time in the Bible school. It had some things that needed ironing out when we arrived. So we have been repairing the buildings, organizing, straightening things out administratively, healing broken relationships and of course teaching the Bible school students. Because we are now the only full-time teachers in the school, we have a lot on our plate. We do have several volunteer teachers who really are a blessing to us. With things shaping up at the Siem Reap Bible School, we have started building the second school in Kompong Chhnang. However, it will be a long time before we finish it completely. Most importantly we will need to receive more missionaries before it can start.
We were so blessed that the first six students have finished their two years of training in the Bible school and now are beginning their ministry. They will be teachers, preachers, pastors, and evangelists at a variety of ministries. This was the first time anyone finished the training in Cambodia so we are very proud of them and rejoicing in the Lord. All of the ministries would have liked to have more interns joining them, including us! There is a great need for missionaries in Cambodia, please pray that the Lord would send out more workers into His harvest.
With Love in Christ,
Mathew and Henrietta Wylie