“What was the one thing that made you want to be a Jesus follower the most?” Greg asked. “What thing about being a Christian is the most precious to you?”
“Knowing that God loves me, and I can also love Him in return,” Suty replied, beaming.
“And following Jesus is not a burden!” Suty’s wife Neary interjected. “Following Satan is such a heavy burden, and it makes you poor.”
“Knowing about Creation and the Sabbath day is the most special for me,” Songkum shared.
“I experience so much freedom in my heart now!” Chee exclaimed. “I also feel so much healthier. When my neighbors come to visit me, I tell them how free I feel now that I follow Jesus. I also tell them how much healthier I feel, and they ask me which traditional healer has such powerful medicine. They remember how bad my health used to be. I tell them that no traditional healer has helped me, but God has done this! Some of the ladies tell me they want to be Christians, too, but their husbands won’t let them. I tell them to become Christians anyway, and their husbands will follow.”
“What about you, Dot?” Greg asked a shy, young mother who, along with her husband, had decided to follow Jesus and had their home dedicated just two weeks before.
“Protection,” was her quick reply.
“And you, Omna?”
“That God cares for me.”
“Uncle Koin, do you have something to share?” Greg asked another not-yet-baptized believer.
“Following Jesus feels so light! Satan has so many heavy rules. If you make a mistake or have an accident, you have to ask the traditional healer what to do. You have to offer this sacrifice and that sacrifice. But with Jesus, if I have a problem, I just talk to Him about it. It doesn’t cost a cent! And when I talk to Jesus at night, I sleep so peacefully all the way until morning!”
Greg was visiting the group of Pnong believers whom he and our student missionaries had been preparing for baptism for several months. Just two Sabbaths before, two of the couples in the group had been baptized! Now three core families of believers are nurturing the new interests and those who are preparing for baptism.
Watching these new believers grow in faith has been one of the most soul-satisfying things I have ever experienced. Just last Sabbath, one week after two Pnong couples were baptized, we were having our praise and testimony time before the sermon. “I thank God that He helped me resist Satan’s temptations this week,” Songkum said. “My friends called me over to hang out with them, drink alcohol and eat dog meat. But I prayed that God would help me be strong, and I ran away to my house.”
“And I thank God, too,” Mean Leap said. “My friends called me and wanted me to join them in a drinking party. But God gave me strength to turn down the invitation.”
After a sermon from Greg about keeping our eyes on Jesus when temptations and problems come, our friends asked us if we all could go visit a lady who also wants to become a Christian. Omna had been in the hospital for several weeks getting treatment for tuberculosis. But she had not been idle! She had made lots of friends and told them about Jesus. Now she wanted to take us to the house of one of these friends. As we sat and visited with Omna’s friend, it was beautiful to watch our new believers share their stories about Jesus and what He had done for them.
As much as we Westerners can share with Pnong people about how Jesus freed us from fear, we can’t share it in the same way a Pnong believer can. We have never experienced the crippling fear of serving the spirits, the heavy bondage of mandatory animal sacrifices and the resulting grinding poverty. But for our Pnong brothers and sisters, the memory of this is all too fresh, and the contrast with their exhilarating new freedom in Jesus is breathtaking! Gratitude and joy bubble up within their hearts, and they just have to share it.
I have had seasons of life when my relationship with Jesus felt dried-up. I have heard all the Bible stories, the teachings and prophecies countless times. At times they have tasted like dry, stale morsels of bread. Sometimes I have craved fresh bread straight from the oven that would nourish my soul. If only I could uncover something more sensational, something new, maybe it would bring satisfaction.
So why did the Bread of Life seem stale to me? I had been storing it too long, saving it up for doomsday! Bread is made to be shared, not stockpiled. When Greg and I took our dry crusts of Bible stories and teachings and began to share them with those who had never heard, a miraculous transformation took place right before our eyes. These stale morsels became fresh, fragrant, hearty, satisfying food for the soul. As our friends tasted the Bread of Life for the first time, we also tasted the amazing flavor and smelled the tantalizing aroma anew! The same story of the Creation and the fall that we have known all our lives suddenly sparkles with fresh, new meaning as we think about it from our listener’s perspective. Our prayers take on new meaning as well as we plead with God for the salvation of our friends.
“Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend money for what is not bread and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance” (Isa. 55: 1-2).