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For as much traveling as I do you would think I would have attained the top tier of a frequent flyer program, however, Cambodia is not a hub for any airline and most of my flights are on budget airlines (truly cattle class). However, one of my favorite airlines is EVA Air based out of Taiwan. When I travel to and from the USA I try to fly EVA because I love the service, comfortable planes and flying times. Eventually, I made my way up to “Gold” on their frequent flier program. At such a level I am allowed near complete freedom on their planes; extra bags at no charge and they even greet me by name on each flight. Some people may think I am a superstar they treat me so nice! My wonderful flying experience has always been limited to EVA, however, because they had no partners.
Well, just a few months ago EVA joined the Star Alliance. This alliance includes about 20 different airlines who then cooperate together. One of those airlines is Singapore Airlines. Just last week my wife and I flew to Australia; a destination that EVA air does not fly too. However, when I showed them my EVA air gold card they welcomed me as if I had flown my 200,000 miles all on Singapore Airlines which in fact I have not flown for nearly 15 years.
Noit and I enjoyed the lounges at every airport eating gourmet foods and enjoying soft comfortable chairs. We checked-in at the first class line where there never is a line and our bags always came off the plane first. We were even given special cards which allowed us to bypass any immigration lines as well. We were treated like royalty. We were strangers to Singapore Airlines, but they treated us as if we were long-time friends. I love being a part of the Star Alliance!
I just came from speaking in Australia at a church called “Stairway Church” in Melbourne. After my speaking was done we joined in a conference where Bill Johnson was speaking. At that conference the Pastor of Stairway Peter McHugh made the comment, “We welcome any visitors to Stairway. Enjoy your time. But don’t stay, go home!” He also commented that they celebrate the different “steams” in which God was working and welcomed seeking God together. They treated us, and everyone else, as royalty. We had full-access to the services of Stairway church and they would do anything to help us during our time in their congregation. We are not members of Stairway Church but we were treated like royalty there. Stairway church is a part of the Kingdom Alliance.
There is no membership rules to join the Kingdom Alliance. It does not have a head office apart from the Throne Room of Christ. It is a personal choice by a Christian to give royal treatment to fellow travelers on the journey with God: To receive them by name, regardless of who they clocked their miles with, and treat them as Jesus would. How would Jesus treat a gold card member:
- As his own son.
- With honor and respect.
- With love at all times.
- As essential partners in the Father’s purposes.
- (Regardless of others opinions or past mistakes.)
- And always with a posture of a servant.
You, as a believer, are members of God’s Kingdom Alliance. As you live your life for Jesus you have a gold card which gives you full-access to the heavenly Throne Room. You are entitled to everything good that other partnering airlines (churches) offer. However, a gold card member with Jesus never insists on what they are entitled too, yet is required to give that service to others. Therefore, as a gold card member in the Kingdom Alliance your job is to: treat all other believer’s as God’s own son. You are to honor and respect them and show love at all times. Treat them as essential partner’s in the Father’s purposes regardless of the past. Do everything for others with the posture of a servant. It’s your choice. The Kingdom Alliance only works when you honor others. Jesus said, “do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31). That’s the gold card treatment of the Kingdom Alliance.
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I remember when these kids were knee high and now they are graduating from High School! Their graduation highlights the grace of God at work in their lives. For all of them, they will be the first high school graduates in their family; first in their village and some the first in their whole district. Still today, less than 20% of Cambodian graduate from High School. Honestly, apart from the grace of God this never would have happened for these kids as well.
They all come from remote jungle areas where they had no schools. None of their parents or siblings ever attended school. They came into the Imparting Smiles center long more than ten years ago and worked their way through school. Literally, kids who stay with us have little free time; they study from dawn until late in the night every day. They all started school late, so they are all technically “adults” ranging from age 20-24. However, unlike many organizations which “dump” the kids at 18 years old, we made them a promise we would see them through high school, regardless of age. A high school graduate in Cambodia does not have the maturity of a high school graduate in America or Europe. While an 18 year old senior in American usually drives a car, has a part-time job and makes most decisions on their own, a Cambodia senior has few responsibilities. Cambodian’s are still considered “youth” until they marry. It is at that point they may leave their home and take on “adult” responsibilities. None of our seniors knows how to drive a car, look for a job, or create a small business. Those are skills to learn in the years to come.
Thanks to a few giving friends in Chattanooga, TN and Katy, TX and the Cambodian government we are able to offer another level of assistance to the kids: university. In Banteay Meanchey, Cambodia we have been provided with the opportunity of full-scholarships to Meanchey University though the Cambodian government officials. We also hope this to be an opportunity for developing maturity of the students for life. They will work part-time and attend university if they so desire. It is a rare opportunity which I hope all of them take an advantage of.
What if we didn’t help these kids? What would their live have been like? We can see from their siblings who didn’t have a chance for education we can see what might have happened: Some girls were sold to marry elderly foreign men, others sent to Malaysia to work in factories or homes as live in maids where conditions are often abusive and only earn the family about $2000 per year. All of them have also had siblings die of malnutrition and disease, so they might not have even survived without our help. All would have spent planting and harvesting season working a day laborers in harvesting cassava or cutting lumber illegal for military officials in the jungles. The boys might have gone to Thailand to work on construction site and then being discarded near the completion of the project without pay, then arrested by Thai police for illegal work. Everyone cheats Cambodians with low education, everyone: Cambodian’s themselves and foreigners too. One of the boys is actually from a minority tribe (Stieng). . . and is the only one I know who has graduated from high school. Congratulations to you all!
I came to Cambodia to minister two decades ago and I learned early on that transformation of people, communities and nations is not instant, but requires time and effort. These graduates are a perfect example. More than a dozen staff and teachers have cared for these kids for the last decade, every day, and every night with no break. It really is a 24/7 job. Dozens of sponsors have helped to build buildings, teach skills, send encouraging notes or sponsor them. Literally, to see these six graduates make it through school has required assistance from as many as one-hundred people from all over the world, including Australia, Canada, Malaysia, Singapore, and the United States. Thank you everyone who has helped and prayed for these kids.
If they so desire, we will not quit with them now either, but given them an ever greater hand-up by helping them through university. We will also help them to find their first job as they learn to take responsibility for their own lives. Next year we will have nine more graduates, the year after that fifteen and the year after that twenty. . . the snow ball is rolling! Thanks for helping to bring transformation to these kids lives!
As part of a practical exercise in listening to the Holy Spirit is going out into the town and finding a person of peace (Luke 10:6). Before going out in groups of three people they went they prayed seeking the Holy Spirit’s revelation about the people whom God wanted them to meet. More than fifty teams went out and all of them had amazing experiences, but I’ll just highlight a few here.
Vision of an elderly lady: One group came back full of joy. They proudly displayed a photograph which they had printed on their walk back to the church. Before they had left they prayed together they saw a vision of an elderly woman sitting in front of her house. They had a clear description of the house as well in their mind. They discussed it and headed out to find that house and elderly woman. After walking a few blocks they spotted the house and the elderly woman. Even though they had experienced many supernatural things they were absolutely shocked that the vision they had was perfect. In front of the house they met a ninety-eight year-old lady who never came out of the house. Her child was a senior government official as was embarrassed by her elderly mother so forbid her to leave the house. However, after many years in seclusion she chose that moment, when her son was gone, to step out of the gate. Only minutes after she moved a chair to sit in front of the house these three ladies approached her. They immediately told her what Jesus had done and sent them to her to encourage her. She was so blessed as they gave her words of encouragement from their prayer time. The ninety-eight year-old grandmother was so encouraged.
Real relief given to a complete stranger: Another group prayed and saw a man who had urination problems and was sick and suffering. As they went out, they felt one many who was nice to them along the road was that man. So they ventured an intrusive question. They asked the complete stranger “Do you have trouble urinating?” He was shocked, but responded affirmatively. The men explained that Jesus had given them a vision of the man and that Jesus wanted to heal him. After talking with the old man a while they prayed for him first time and then second time and then the old man said that he was better, but they were not very satisfied that he really was better. However, before they left the house, they felt that God wanted them to pray for the old man the third time. After praying this time, the man rose up immediately and told them he was completely healed and went to the bathroom to urinate. He proudly boasted that he could urinate freely and gave glory to Jesus for healing him!
Security guard returns to the family of God: Another group of three men had a vision of a security guard and had words of encouragement given to him. As they walked they found the man who they had seen when they were praying. They discovered that the man, a private security guard, was actually a believer but had back-slidden and not attended church for many years. In fact, he had become a terrible person and was even sent to prison. He thought he was worthless in his life and no one cared about him. However, these men told him that Jesus loves him and never would leave him. When the group came back to the church, the security guard left his work and came with them so he could re-join in fellowship with the family of God.
Foreigner in Black: When another group prayed they were surprised to get a vision of a foreigner wearing black clothes: a t-shirt and shorts. They were just poor rural women who didn’t know any foreign language, but they went out hunting for this foreigner anyway. They thought, ‘How can we communicate with a foreigner when we can’t speak a foreign language?” While they were passing by a guest house, they saw one lady who is the exact person in their revelation. So they went to meet her. She was a Vietnamese, but she could speak Khmer, their own language! Then, they told her about Jesus and prayed with her. The Vietnamese lady was very happy to meet them and hear about Jesus in that way.
Interruption to change a life: Another group of women had God reveal to them a vision of an old lady with white hair and red scarf around her neck and was walking on the street to another group of people. This group went out and found the exact lady. They interrupted the other group and shared with them what God revealed to them about her and then shared the Good News with her. At that time another lady joined them. After hearing about Gospel of Jesus, both of them decided to believe in Jesus. Right there on the street they prayed to receive Jesus in their hearts.
Hidden Background: One lady spoke to another man about his past life, yet they did not know each other. Both are church leaders in different provinces. One lady shared that the Holy Spirit had revealed to her that the other leader, Duch Hak was formerly a strong persecutor of Christians and that God healed him of a mental illness which was instrumental in him believing in Jesus. Duch Hak shed tears as he shared that he never told his own background to anyone. He was encouraged by the love and forgiveness that he experienced in Jesus through the word of knowledge. Both were encouraged that truly Jesus is truly alive.
Let me share a brief confession. I graduated from a Christian university with a Bachelor’s degree in business and computer science. I was also a devout Christian and entered seminary to do a master’s degree. I was convinced at the time that it was only a matter of time before the Christian religion could be completely “digitized” and automated. I felt every sermon, theological doctrine, and program of the church could be put in a digital format and the regeneration of the Christian religion would just become automatic. Today, all these possibilities are in place. Podcasts eliminate the need to physically go to church every Sunday just to listen to sermons. Online Bibles and media solutions bring scripture and personal worship to your finger tips. Webcasts allow a crowd experience in the privacy of your home. Then I had a crisis of belief. If my religion could be so efficient that it could be programmed, then it wasn’t a religion worthy of following. I became bored with my faith. I then sought to see the experience of the scripture in my own life. If my God was truly alive then I wanted to live in the supernatural today.
Twenty years later I have come to discover a supernatural Christianity. In my daily ministry with churches and their leaders I have been convinced not only of the authority of the Bible, but also have observed how much leaders depend on their own cognitive abilities to lead, solve problems, and make key decisions in their life while, in effect, showing disobedience to the scriptures themselves. We know for certain that Jesus gave believers his Holy Spirit in order to be our teacher and counselor (Acts 2:38, Hebrews 6:4). This is our “divine trump card”. God is living in us and is always ready to help us. Yet, in most leadership meetings I am a part of the outcomes are dependent on human thinking. Why? Jesus has given us His Spirit to speak to us about any issue he chooses. The church is to be a spiritual entity, birthed and led by Him, yet does the reality of our Christian life and churches reflect this spiritual culture? With this burden I asked some leaders to help me change the church culture around me. So, three years ago we started to help leaders step into a spiritual lifestyle so that depending on the supernatural leadership of the Holy Spirit would become more natural than just thinking themselves out of problems. Our “trainings” are full of practical application. Two key leaders have helped us step into this supernatural lifestyle: Neil Dowling and Peter McHugh who are both from Australia and both have spent more than a decade helping the church in Cambodia.
The following are a couple of testimonies which were highlighted from the week of training. These testimonies are mostly related to what the Bible refers to as ‘words of knowledge’ (1 Corinthians 12:8) and prophecy:
Feeling Someone Else’s Pain: Serey fell out of a tree before the seminar and got back pain and even could not turn left or right, however had a very big surprise at the seminar. One lady complained of having back pain for no reason, just sitting in the chair. Neil who had experience explained that for the lady who had the pain for no reason that God could be showing her that someone has that pain and God wants to use her to heal that pain. The lady then asked if anyone had a specific back pain and Serey revealed her pain. The lady then prayed for Serey and immediately she was healed. She was so shocked that it was an instant healing she was overcome with joy and amazement.
Double back healings: The same lady who got the word of knowledge through the physical sense of pain in her back also prayed for another man named Tun Hourt who also had back pain. In 1977, during the Khmer Rouge era, he was transporting rice and the oxcart he was on slipped on the road and overturned. He was entangled in ropes and a wood pole impaled him leaving a large hole and scar in his back, plus permanent pain. After prayer he revealed that for the first time since 1977 he felt no pain and that somehow the hole in his back had disappeared!
Unexplainable supernatural: Just to prove the Holy Spirit is spiritual and not bound by operating in our rational, cognitive and limited mental abilities something special happened too. During one of the session something odd appeared during the worship. Someone spotted a glistening object on the floor. It was odd-looking. When someone picked it up, it appeared to be a gem about a carat in size. Rationalism says someone dropped a gem, however, the entire group was poor rural leaders whose average income was less than $2.00 a day who would never had money to own a large gem. So it is unlikely someone misplaced their gem and then wouldn’t claim it. However, Cambodia is a land which has lots of gems and I have viewed hundreds of different kinds, but nothing like this. It was almost a combination of diamond and golden. Looking from the bottom it appeared gold. Looking from the top it has brilliant colors. This has never happened before in any of my hundreds and hundreds of trainings and I don’t know why it did happen. Could it be a misplaced gem? sure. Could it be a plant by our teachers? I guess. Could it be some kind of gift from God demonstrating that he is indeed supernatural and sovereign? Absolutely. Do I need to understand it? Nope.
Here is what it looked like when I took a picture of it with my camera-phone:
Normally, you would think that a Baptist raised-evangelical leaning-conservative-solid proponent of scriptural authority-yet a simple follower of Jesus would not write about such “radical” topics dealing with the supernatural aspects of our faith. However, I feel those who love scripture, like myself, need to be reminded that Jesus is not based on the Greek textual study, but is alive today. He is God. He is at the core of His Being supernatural. So, why do we try to pretend we follow a rational God? Personally, I am thrilled that my God can reveal himself beyond the limitations of science. Today I am not bored in my Christian life. I am glad I follow a God who is so much greater than what I can rationalize away. Many qualities of my God are certainly “unexplainable” and “supernatural”. For this I have faith in a living God.
Recently, I was teaching in the Kale Heywet School of Missions in Durame, Ethiopia. I was impressed with the students there, their eagerness to learn, but more importantly their closeness with God. As students they were not simply learning strategies or compiling knowledge, but exercising their faith in spiritual disciplines.
- 3:00-5:00am Morning Group Prayer for the Unreached People of the World
- 5:00-7:00am Rest
- 7:00-7:30am Prepare and Breakfast
- 7:30-8:00am Prayer and Worship before Class
- 8:00-10:00am Session 1: Missions, Evangelism and Cultural Study classes
- 10:00-10:30am Break
- 10:30-11:00am Intercession and listening to God
- 11:00-1:00pm Session 2: Missions, Evangelism and Cultural Study classes
- 1:00-2:00pm Lunch
- 2:00-3:00pm Rest
- 3:00-5:00pm Session 3: Missions, Evangelism and Cultural Study classes
- 5:00-6:30pm Agriculture on Campus (for growing their food to eat)
- 6:30-8:00pm Rest
- 8:00-9:00pm Supper
- 9:00-12:00am Study/ Homework
Agriculture work: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Time eating: 2 hours and 30 minutes
Prayer: 3 hours
Homework/ daily reading: 3 hours
Classroom lectures/ training: 6 hours
Sleeping/ resting: 8 hours
Graduates from the Kale Heywet School of Missions have seen as many as 10,000 Muslims come to Christ, more than 200 churches planted in previously Muslims areas. I would say their daily schedule has a lot to do with the results they are witnessing in ministry. For two years, by choice, each morning they wake at 3:00am to pray continually for two hours. During the day it is quite common to see groups of students gathered for prayer during their break times. The week I was teaching at the school, several of the students, in addition to fasting every Monday decided to do a 40 day fast to see God and his guidance for their lives into the mission field upon graduation.
Western trained minds are often looking for key strategies which can be replicated. Textbooks, videos, teaching methodology and all quality of professors are all elements we look for. Yet, it seems the most important learning these students do is seeking the face of God.
I went to seminary in several different prestigious theological schools and I can tell you my daily scholastic schedule was very different.
During rainy season in Cambodia our showers are fast and violent. It will rarely rain for hours on end, but usually strong weather systems move across Cambodia rapidly. They are often preceded by violent wind storms; many which whip up micro-tornadoes.
Our Kracheh children’s center was hit by a micro-tornado a few years ago and it was a miracle that no one was killed or injured, though many musical instruments were destroyed and buildings damaged. This weekend as I was driving up to Kracheh there was another micro-tornado that hit along one of the main roads I was traveling on. The storms appear quickly and violently and within a minute they disappear. This micro-tornado caused unbelievable damage to a traditional Cambodian wood house in seconds. The foundation of the building was made from concrete pillars with a large hardwood top floor and a very heavy cement tile roof. In a matter of a second the once beautiful home was completely demolished as if it was hit by a bomb. Even the concrete pillars were shattered. It is not even recognizable as a house anymore. Unfortunately, the owner of the house broke his back when the home collapsed.
In February I was visiting the homes of two of the girls at our Kracheh center, Chantha and Chanthy. As I was leaving I snapped a picture of their home in the village. A few weeks later, it too was demolished by a micro-tornado.
Why such terrible storms? Well, Cambodia has always have very violent wind storms, however, the massive deforestation in what was once a area thick with jungle only ten years ago. Now, there are only a few small trees remaining. The temperature seems much hotter and also the winds seem stronger as well.
When the micro-tornado hit, the mother, two daughters and their new baby brother were inside the house. The little baby is a special promise baby, named Pirum. Her mother, Khon, had three abortions and after counseling she prayed that God would give her one more child, specifically a son.
During the storm, the door was ripped off first and one of the daughters said she wanted to go and try to hold the door. Her mother believes, if they didn’t stay huddled together that one or more of her children would have been killed. Her two oldest girls were both injured when the house collapsed. The roof beams hit them in the head when the whole house came crashing down about twenty feet from where it previously stood.
The neighbors were hit almost as hard, though did not have complete destruction of their homes. One neighbor’s uncompleted home, with no roof or walls, was even thrown nearly 3 feet off its foundation. It is amazing to think that just the wind moved solid hardwood beams into the air like that with no walls or roof to create a larger surface area. It will have to be dismantled and rebuilt back on the foundation.
The other neighbor’s house was flipped upside down with the long-legged stilts facing to the sky. When I took this picture they had just re-righted the home after removing the walls and roof. The neighbor was not home when the storm hit.
The government sent out a quick response team, however, the only thing useful they brought was a 20kg sack of rice. All of their rice was destroyed by the rain water. The two bottles of soy sauce that was donated was not that helpful, nor were they given any supplies to help fix the house. They hope to re-build the house as soon as possible because it is now raining and they are living under a tarp since the micro-tornado. I have promised to help them with a new galvanized roof sheets once the new house frame is completed.
Did God send a micro-tornado?
Well, it is always sad to me when I hear of disasters in America and I hear people saying, “Why did God do this to me?” I can guarantee you that God did not do that. We know clearly from the Bible that while God could send a wind storm, as he is all-powerful, he certainly would not harm his children. Two significant stories in the Bible involving wind are the wind at the Red Sea and the wind on Galilee Lake. On the shores of the Red Sea the Hebrew people faced certain death until God sent a wind to separate the sea and the people were saved from the Egyptian pharaoh (Exodus 14). In the New Testament, Jesus calmed a wind storm that so scared the disciples that they thought they would die (Mark 4:35-40). While Jesus could certainly use wind to enact some divine justice, to hurt this poor Cambodian families is unlike his loving character. Jesus loves us. Satan, however, would be glad to send a wind storm. Satan is a lover of destruction and death (John 10:10).
While we can do little to stop or prevent a micro-tornado, we can respond to the crisis. We can love people. We can share what we have with those who have lost everything. I believe that through our response, and through the faithfulness of this beautiful family who is struggling to serve God, Christ Jesus will be glorified. In this village, Chantha and Chanthy’s family is the only Christian one. I know that God will use this terrible disaster for good and soon the village will know even more about the love of God.