“Yes, Noy, I know where your wife is, but I can’t tell you,” I repeated firmly.
“But I looked for her most of the night!” pleaded Noy. “I went to every place I know in town. I went to her mother’s house. I searched around in the jungle . . . afraid that . . . well, afraid of what I might find. I haven’t slept for two days!” Noy’s eyes were filled with panic. “You have to tell me where she is!”
In my heart I whispered thanks to God that Greg just happened to be in the office with me when Noy came looking for his wife, Ma Ceort.
“She is in a safe place,” I assured Noy. “When she is ready, she will contact you herself. It is her choice, and we choose to respect her choice.”
“Where is she?!” Tears were gathering in Noy’s eyes. “She can’t take care of herself!”
“If Greg had ever treated me the way you treated your wife, I would have run away, too,” I said. “I would be very scared, just like Ma Ceort is. I would need a few days to think and pray. Right now, Ma Ceort wants a divorce. You can’t force her to come back to you after you have beaten her.”
“Yes, I did beat her very badly,” Noy admitted. “But my words are the medicine she needs. What I did was wrong! I don’t know what happened to me. Anger just washed over me, and I couldn’t stop. I have never beaten her badly like that before. I must see her.”
“Love can’t be forced,” Greg joined our conversation. “Ma Ceort is like a flower. Love will hold her gently and carefully. Force, on the other hand, is like holding a flower too tightly: you will crush her,” Greg said, closing his fingers into a tight fist. “Treat her with love and respect. Trust her, and she will bloom. If we tell you where she is now, it would be like crushing the flower. You need to show her that she can trust you again, and that will never happen with force. You have hurt her deeply, and healing takes time. Give her time and space. Otherwise, you will have no chance at all to reconcile with her.”
“I don’t want to be an angry man like that,” Noy confided. “But no matter how hard I try, I can’t change. I want to do humanitarian work for our people, the Pnong. I want my family to have hearts that want to help others, too. I want people to see a good example of what a family should be like. But this temper of mine . . .”
“You told me just last week that you wanted to prepare for baptism,” Greg reminded Noy. “When we make these kinds of decisions, Satan isn’t going to sit idly by and watch it happen. He will try to discourage you. I think that is what is happening in your family. There is hope for you and your family.” Greg looked earnestly into Noy’s eyes. “But you have to be willing to follow Jesus all the way, not just halfway. When we ask Jesus into our hearts, He takes out the old, evil heart and gives us a new heart that wants to listen to Him and follow Him. He takes out the anger and gives us love instead. This is a total miracle. No matter how hard we try, we cannot change our own hearts. It is a miracle that the Holy Spirit will do in us if we choose to follow Jesus 100 percent. I believe that if you let Jesus into your heart, He will save your marriage. If you don’t, the same trouble will happen over and over.”
“When I was in the jungle last night looking for Ma Ceort, I prayed to God,” Noy’s voice trembled. “I told Him I was sorry and I want to change like you said. I asked Him to help me find my wife.”
“Would you like me to come and meet with you every week?” Greg asked. “We can study about how God changes our hearts and how He wants us to treat our families. When Ma Ceort is ready to come back, we can study together with her as well.”
Fast forward two months after a few weekly studies on the topic of conversion . . .
I am sitting with Ma Ceort in the cool of the evening chatting about life. She has been back home for several weeks now. I ask her how things are going between her and Noy. A beautiful smile lights up her face. “Noy is a new man. It’s like I met him for the first time. In the past he never admitted that he was wrong. But now he admits when he makes mistakes. If he feels like he is going to be angry, he takes his Bible and goes somewhere alone to read and pray, and his anger dies away.”
Tears spring to my eyes. God is in the process of working a miracle! “Tell me more,” I coax.
“When I get home from work, I’m so tired. I usually cook and then run off to night classes. Noy had never cooked for me before. After all, that is women’s work. But now, sometimes when he sees how tired I am, he tells me to go rest, and he will make the meal!”
“Before,” Ma Ceort continues, “in the evenings Noy would spend hours on his smart phone or computer. But now he reads his Bible instead. Sometimes he stays up late into the night reading it. He has a little notebook, and he writes what he is learning. Then he gets up early and reads the Bible. He even takes his Bible with him to work in case he has any free moments.”
My heart is bursting with joy. “This is making me so happy!” I tell Ma Ceort. “Jesus is giving Noy a new heart. And He is giving your family a new beginning.”
“There is more!” Ma Ceort exclaims. “Just this week, Noy’s friends and extended family members asked him to come with them to drink rice wine and do animal sacrifices to the spirits. He has always gone in the past. But this week he explained that he could no longer join in these activities because his family was with Jesus all the way, not just halfway. He called many relatives and told them of his decision to follow Jesus completely. Many of them were angry, but he stayed strong. Now he wants to become a Bible worker. Greg could teach him, and he could teach our Pnong people. It would be so much easier that way since many Pnong don’t speak Khmer and can’t understand what Greg is saying. Do you think that is a good plan?”
“Yes Ma Ceort, I think that is a very good plan,” I reply squeezing her hand.
Please pray that God will protect this precious family as they grow in their faith and that He will keep them from discouragement. Noy is a strong leader in his community and is already telling stories at church about answered prayers and how he is witnessing to his neighbors. Ma Ceort is teaching the kids’ Sabbath School with renewed energy and confidence. I know God has big plans for this dear couple and their children.