Our last update was about how times were very testing before the breakthrough. It seemed like we were waiting for an age to see progress in certain areas while not seeing much fruit in some others. Since then we have both learnt so much about perseverance and tenacity and also about God’s faithfulness. When He brings the breakthrough He really does break through! This last few months are a perfect example of how God can with His wonderful timing, work things together perfectly in just the right way.
At the end of December we again had the privilege of hosting a Harvest School Outreach team from Iris in Mozambique. The team were full of fresh graduates and leaders from the school of missions over there in the midst of revival and it was such a wonderful time of blessings, pouring out but also being poured into. We did outreaches to the bars and slums and street kids and had a wonderful time seeing Jesus’ love poured out on the Khmer people and receiving a bit for ourselves too!
One of my favourite moments was slum outreach. They got to meet the wonderful people from the slum community we had been living in and working in. The team split off into groups with some focusing on kids’ ministry, some focussing on prayer ministry and others just sitting and chatting with the locals. One of the outreach team members and myself (Steve) got chatting to one of my neighbours who was an alcoholic often spending the family’s money or not going to work because he was too drunk. One time while we were living there he even tried to commit suicide by jumping into the stinky sewage river, twice, because he was so fed up with life. We got talking to him and I learnt that just before we came to visit he had had another argument with his wife where she got angry with him for constantly letting her down. We got to just sit with him and love on him and let him know how valued he was and that there was hope. I sensed Holy Spirit was moving and opening his heart to receive. He seemed struck by our kindness and care for him and our constant input into his family over the last few months. After a really good chat and an opportunity to bless him he admitted he wanted to receive Jesus into his heart and accept Him as his Lord and Saviour. It was an incredibly touching moment and we could feel God’s presence as we were praying for him. Afterwards I asked him how he felt and he said he had joy in his heart. His wife has since noticed a difference in his behaviour. This was a big breakthrough for us as we had known him for over 6 months and seen his constant destructive habits and the horrible effect it was having on his wife and kids.
The slum community are very close to our hearts and along with this man there are many other brand new believers who have received Jesus but desperately need to be discipled with the word of God in Khmer. Our language skills only came to a point and we were limited by just how much we could teach them. For months I had been grappling with a number of ideas of how to go about this but each time I prayed about it God would say "not yet". It didn’t make sense to me and I was close to moving in my own wisdom and coming up with my own solution to the issue! The time was drawing near for us to go away for a few months and we didn’t want to just leave them without continued input and discipleship. Then one morning just over a month before we were to leave for the UK, God spoke to me just after I woke up and said now is the time for you to put something into place. That day I set up a meeting with a friend who I felt God had put on my heart to talk with him about having someone come and disciple the new believers and teach them more about the bible. He has been pastoring a church he planted in the area for over 11 years and has a great heart for the locals and for the poor. During the meeting he told me he had that slum area on his heart and wanted to go and check it out with me.
After I took him into the slum for the first time to meet the new believers when they met him they instantly liked him. When we left the slum he was really deeply touched by the people He met and the impact Jesus was having there and he said he wanted to "shout for joy". He explained how they as a church had been praying for this particular slum for years but before then they hadn't had the chance or the opportunity to have ongoing ministry there. They seemed so excited to now have this opportunity to do bible studies with the small group of believers and help disciple them with us.
Later on during his first bible study with the new believers he went over the theme of salvation and trust in Jesus Christ, to make sure they got it. While he was doing this there were many onlookers in the slum listening to his message and intrigued by the new faces and the small gathering of listeners sat before them. During that time four of these onlookers who before weren’t believers also made the decision to accept the gift of salvation in Jesus! The pastor's team are also holding separate meetings in the slum each Sunday morning to have a kids’ church because so many of the little children are so enthusiastic about church.
It was such a relief in my heart to know God was in control and that He was watching over his precious ones providing just the right people to come in at just the right time. It was also a relief knowing we wouldn't be leaving for the UK without them having continued, consistent input. God is so incredibly good and knows what he is doing!
Over Christmas we got the opportunity to minister in the local prison which is one of the largest in the country and one of the wonderful girls our team donated money so we could give a bag of gifts to all 390 prisoners. It was an incredible time in which some really powerful testimonies from different members of our team were shared and at the end I got to share a really clear gospel message on becoming a part of the family of God. Many of the prisoners put their hands up to join the family and not only received a gift bag for Christmas but also a new life in Christ! It was such a touching and powerful time and many of the prisoners were deeply touched.
One of my highlights was seeing an old Buddhist man who had his body covered with demonic tattoos ask for prayer. After the message we prayed for him and he was so touched by the presence of God that he came back up to the front at the end to receive more prayer so he could feel Jesus’ wonderful presence again. He seemed so hungry! It was wonderful to see Jesus pour out His lavish, merciful and perfect love on people who the world had disowned and written off.
In the New Year we made final preparations for our trip away to the UK. On our way back in Thailand we were blessed to be able to join in with the first ever Iris Asia leaders retreat, meeting fellow missionaries with Iris from all over Asia. It was a really powerful and impacting time really filling us back up ready for our time back in the UK.
We have been back in the UK since mid-January and are feeling pretty settled and we are so excited to soon meet our precious daughter who is due around the 20th February. It’s been a real rich time of connecting back with family and friends and making final preparations for the precious new life that will soon be coming into the world. We cannot wait!
I have been blessed to be able to find lots of work as a supply teacher pretty much straight away and have been to a number of different schools already meeting lots of wonderful young people! There have also been many opportunities to share about Cambodia and a number of other things during my continued time in the class room.
As we look back even through all of the transition, the waiting and the breakthrough, Jesus is perfectly in control. It’s Him we trust in and Him who makes things happen and in His perfect timing. We are so grateful that we get to be a part of this journey and are very excited tor all that is ahead. Thank you so much for your ongoing prayers and support.
Lots of love, Steve and Mollie (and baby bump)