When God impressed us to start a school in our town, we had to decide where to focus our attention. At that time, we were working in two different villages that were in the opposite directions from our home. The school would be in a third location. With only Daniel and me working, it was impossible to keep up with all three places. So we prayed and asked God where we should dedicate our time. After praying, we decided to focus our work on the school and on Punih village where there was some spiritual interest. We decided to reduce our efforts in Boan village where several years of work had yielded no spiritual interest. Every once in a while, we would make a visit to Boan village to keep up contacts, but our visits were less frequent.
In January when I went with a group to work on the school building project, I decided to visit Boan village. Since we have been in the States while Daniel recovers from cancer, we have not visited Boan in over a year. We left so quickly last year that we didn’t even have a chance to visit and explain why we were leaving.
Early one morning, I put on my jacket and headed to Boan village. I parked near the middle of the village and got off my motorbike. It was great to see new developments as I looked around. Many new homes had been built, and others had been torn down. I decided to look for Lokru. At his family’s house, I found his younger sister bathing her child in the cold air. We made small talk, and she told me that Liu’s daughter Eng had been badly burned. I made a note to visit them and see how she was doing. Then I asked her where Lokru was. She told me he was now a teacher at the village school. She sent someone to call him. We went inside the house and sat down. Soon Lokru came in with a big smile on his face. He was excited to see me and asked about Daniel. As we talked about the happenings of the last year, he beamed his bright smile and told me about his baby girl. Soon it was time for him to get back to school to teach, so I walked down the hill to Liu’s small house to see Eng.
Liu and three of her daughters greeted me when I arrived. Soon they were telling the story of how Eng had fallen asleep on the ground next to the fire. In the night, the smoldering sticks had shifted as the fire burned down. One of the sticks had gotten close enough to Eng’s polyester shirt to ignite it. By the time the girl awoke, the whole side of her shirt was on fire and melting onto her skin. She screamed, waking her family. There was little water in the house, but somehow they were able to put the fire out. However, Eng’s left side was badly burned.
In the morning, they took Eng to the doctor in town. He gave her some medicine and sent her home. The Tylenol he prescribed didn’t help the pain much. When I arrived at their house, Eng was sitting on a bench next to the fire with her shirt off, because wearing it was too painful.
The group that had come to help build the school had several nurses. I thought it would be good for them to look at Eng’s burns and give their opinion on the best treatment. Wincing, Eng put on a shirt, and then she and Liu got on my motorcycle, and we headed back to the school.
The nurses quickly took in the situation and began caring for Eng. There were pieces of melted shirt still attached to the wounds. After cleaning the area, they bandaged her entire midsection with white gauze. Then I took Eng and Liu home and told them we would come and change the dressing the next day.
The next morning, three nurses and I loaded up and headed out to the village in the truck. When we arrived at Liu’s house, I was happy to see all four sisters this time. Kuis had been absent the day before. She gave me a big hug. Eng’s burns looked a little better. The nurses cleaned and debrided the wound as they removed the bandages. This of course hurt a bit, but it was good for the healing process. Bits of new pink skin could be seen under the debrided areas. Then the nurses bandaged the wounds again.
We sat and visited with the family. Kuis told me she was getting married in a couple weeks and introduced me to her fiancé. Then she suddenly asked me if I would pray and ask Chief God to help heal her sister. Her other sisters quickly chimed in, begging me to pray. I was surprised by their enthusiasm. We all gathered in a circle and put our hands on Eng. Then I prayed that God would heal her burns. It was exciting to see that Kuis and the others still remembered Chief God and wanted His help. Maybe the seeds planted years ago were beginning to germinate. We said our goodbyes and promised to come back two days later to change Eng’s dressing.
The next time we returned, Eng’s wounds had dramatically improved. We could see much more healthy pink skin. This was the last time we dressed her wounds before the group returned to the States, but we felt confident that she would continue healing.
In March, I took another group over to work on the school building. I wanted to return to the village to see how Eng’s burns had healed. This group had a doctor with them, and I took him and a nurse out to the village with me. We found Eng and her family working in their field. Her burn was completely healed. The doctor had seen pictures of Eng’s burns when they were fresh, and he marveled at how well they had healed. God’s touch was evident.
As we visited in the field, I asked the family if they would like to come and work at my house for a few days cleaning out the weeds that had taken over our yard while we were gone. They agreed to come and work the next day if they could find a motorcycle to borrow.
The next day, they did not arrive, and I assumed they hadn’t found a motorcycle. The day after that was Friday, and they came to work. I left them at the house working and went to attend to the needs of the group that was working on the school. When I returned later that evening, they had already gone home.
Sabbath morning, I was at the school preparing breakfast for the group when one of our student missionaries called to tell me that the ladies had come to work at the house. Oh no, I thought, not on Sabbath! I was dreading having to go home and tell them they couldn’t work that day. They had borrowed a motorcycle to come and had paid for the fuel, too. Because they needed the money, I knew they would be disappointed to hear that they couldn’t work. As I drove home, I wrestled with how to approach the situation. I prayed, asking God to give me the right words to say.
Liu, Kuis and Rien smiled at me as I drove up. I parked the motorbike and walked over and greeted them. I asked them what time they had left work the day before, and told them I had just missed them. Then I told them I was sorry I hadn’t been able to tell them before they left that today was the “rest day,” and they couldn’t work. I quickly added that they could come back on Sunday. Liu piped up, “Oh, it’s no trouble for us to work today.”
“I know,” I said, “but I can’t let you work today because Chief God wants us to rest and worship Him today. Right now, I am heading to the church to worship.” Then an idea popped into my head. “Would you like to come to the church and worship with me?” I asked.
Kuis looked excited. “Yes, I want to go!” But the other two didn’t look so enthusiastic. The three of them talked as I went inside to call our SM for church.
When I came back I again asked them if they wanted to go. Kuis said, “Rien wants to go back to the village.” I could see the disappointment on her face.
“The service isn’t very long, and there will be other Pnong people there,” I said. “Why don’t you come and try it, and you can leave if you want to.” This seemed to tip the scales, and they agreed to come. Liu got on the back of my motorbike, and the other two followed on theirs.
When we arrived at church, we joined the Khmer Sabbath School. I quickly pointed out a few of the other Pnong people sitting near us who had come from Punih village. The girls sat and listened. During the break before church, some of the Pnong ladies came and talked with them.
Kuis and Rien picked up a Khmer children’s quarterly and paged through it, looking at the bright pictures and excitedly recalling stories they had learned years ago from the Pnong Bible story books. These two girls were some of the few who could read the books, and they had read them over and over again. I asked them if they still had the books. “No,” Kuis said, “they were ruined and lost.” I asked the church planter’s wife to give them an extra copy of the quarterly.
The church service began with lots of music. The young children sang a song followed by a song from each of the third and fourth graders from the school. I was surprised to see that a majority of each of the classes were present at church and actively participating. Then the group that came to help at the school sang a special number filled with beautiful harmony. Kuis leaned over to me. “Very good!” she exclaimed. Kuis and Rien enjoyed the service. They told me they wanted to become Christians, but the village elders would not permit it.
At testimony time, I went forward and told about what had happened that morning. I told them that I believed God had worked things out so that Liu and the girls could come to church that morning. Then I publicly welcomed them to church.
That Sabbath, our SMs were finishing a 10-week series about the plan of salvation. Bezi was presenting a summary of the last 10 weeks. It was a perfect message for Kuis and Rien. At the end, he asked those who wanted to follow Jesus to stand. Both Kuis and Rien stood up as Bezi prayed.
I marveled at how God had turned a potentially bad situation that morning into such a blessing. Though we have not been actively working in Boan village, God has. Though we are pushed to our limits with the work among the Pnong, God is still working in the hearts of those we can’t minister to on a regular basis.
Please continue to pray for Kuis and Rien and their mother and sisters. Pray that they will be able to stand for God someday and choose to follow Him with all their hearts, despite the village leaders who don’t want them to become Christians.
Daniel’s health is better now, and we are planning to return to Cambodia very soon to continue our work. We still have some funds to raise before we can relaunch. Please prayerfully consider helping us with a monthly pledge or one-time donation. Your gifts are greatly appreciated. Thank you so much.