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Lent 2011

God's Faithful Provision in Our Journey

Day 17

By Esther Karimi Gitobu, United Methodist Missionary assigned to Cambodia

Then Moses told Aaron, "Say to the whole congregation of Israelites, ‘Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.'" And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. The Lord spoke to Moses and said, "I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, 'At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.'" In the evening quails came and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the groud. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, "What is it?" For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, "It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Gather as much of it as each of you needs, an omer to a person according to the number of persons.'" The Israelites did so, some gathering more, some less. But when they measured with an omer, those who gathered much had nothing over, and those who gathered little had no shortage; they gathered as much as each of them needed. And Moses said to them, "Let no one leave any of it over until morning." But they did not listen to Moses; some left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and became foul. And Moses was angry with them. Morning by morning they gathered it, as much as each needed; but when the sun grew hot, it melted.

—Exodus 16:9-21

Tears welled in my eyes as I listened to the stories of Cambodian women who survived the Khmer Rouge war (1975-1979). During our Bible Women trainings, we usually give our Cambodian sisters time to share their testimonies and how God has intervened in their lives in different circumstances. Seng Davy said, "I had to hold back my tears and sobs when I saw the my brothers' clothes being worn by other boys. It only meant my brothers were already executed." She must not show her grief. She pretended she did not know them, or else.

Saravy braved darkness in the middle of the fields in order to see her mother in another camp. In the dark, she would stumble and fall, gripping to leafy branches so that she would not be seen by prying Khmer Rouge soldiers. They could spot her and kill her right then and there. She said, "I was so homesick and longed to embrace my mom." Later on, she had to help her pregnant sister find shelter as she delivered her baby.

God heard their cry. And God dwelt with them.

Marilyn Chan cried as she related her story when as refugees at the Thailand border they were called by numbers and not names. She attempted committing suicide six times but never succeeded. Today, she realizes that God had a plan for her life. They were transported to the United States and were given refuge status and new names (not their Khmer names). It is in the United States that she was nurtured as a new Christian. After 18 years, she returned to Cambodia as a missionary and she has been empowering other women.

Eang Chhun had to pretend he was a farmer. Students like Seng Davy's brothers were killed. He did not know how to handle two water buffaloes, one slow and the other fast. He was being pulled apart by the two animals. Under the scrutiny of the Khmer Rouge soldiers, he survived.

In their hearts, Seng Davy, Saravy, Marilyn and Eang Chhun cried for life. They wanted to survive and live, notwithstanding empty stomachs while laboring for their rulers. These four dear siblings in Christ embody the whole Cambodian people. During the first day of the Khmer Rouge occupation, they thought life for them was for the better, a life of national sovereignty and hope. But they were wrong. About two million Cambodians were executed by the Khmer Rouge soldiers, but God heard their grumbling. God heard their cry. And God dwelt with them. Their testimonies of how they received Christ is worthy of telling. Their faith in God is so deep and profound. Seng Davy is the only Christian in her family, but she lives her faith through her unwavering and resolute love for her aged mom. Her faith has held her through beyond her expectations. She now lives in the United States.

Eang Chhun told how he pestered a friend to show him a book that he was reading. He thought it had pictures of beautiful girls. It was a Bible, and since then he became enthralled reading it. He has been the president of Kampuchea Christian Council, and now he pastors a church at Prek Talong in Phnom Penh.

Saravy has her own story of answered prayers, and now she takes care of the Kampuchea Christian Council Cambodian Christian Women's Association. Marilyn told how she received Christ at the Thailand border under a difficult situation. She and her husband are missionaries of the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church.

God heard their silent anguish. They were innocent victims of power struggle in their own country. In unusual circumstances they met the Savior. They accepted God's message and now embody the true church in Cambodia. They are now leaders of the fastest growing churches in Southeast Asia. God's faithful provision in their lives led to the founding of the church in Cambodia. And now we are one in bringing the Gospel to all.

I can't forget the word forgiveness that came from the mouths of these brethren whom I mentioned. They forgave in their hearts the persons who tortured them.

Whether we are in the wilderness like the Israelites or in the Killing Fields of Cambodia during the Khmer Rogue, whether we are in the slums or plush subdivisions and mansions, God listens to our murmurings. This Lenten season let us remember God's love in all times and in all conditions. Christ has made peace between all peoples. Let us embrace our sisters and brothers who have suffered so much, who now became important stones of the foundation of our Church in Cambodia.

Prayer

Dear God, we continue to thank you for the lives of our sisters and brothers who are now leading the church in Cambodia. Sustain them with your love and grace. Bless them abundantly. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Last Updated: 04/16/2014
 
 

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