Ashamed I crouched beneath your gaze.
Your presence I wouldn’t let touch me.
“Away from me, Oh Holy God,
Condemn the sin within me!”
Your righteous word decreed my death.
Your law stood true against me.
But from your hand I received no wrath.
Your eyes filled with grace and mercy.
‘Tis true I deserve a sinners’ death,
But joy came to me abounding.
Your tender touch, lifted my head,
And taught me of grace confounding,
Of blood so pure and innocent,
That was spilled by sacrificing,
Your beloved Son who is my King,
Who is now risen and reigning!
Well, I didnt stay away too long this time. Things are really starting to come together on the school, so I was able to take the morning off to get some thoughts down. The Lord has been doing a continual work of grace in my heart. And so my heart if overtaken by this grace. A grace that compels me to proclaim it's existence to all that would hear.
Again I have gone too long without making another post. Work on the school building and getting to know the rest of the team here, has filled up most of my days. On the rare chance that I get the day to myself, it is usually used laying on my bed or walking around the city in the humid heat of Cambodia. Unfortunately time has not been spent in front of this blog site describing it to you all. So I will now do my best to make up for it, and hope that if any of you all have questions, that you would kindly present them to me through Facebook or this blog. : )
Without a doubt, it has been too long since I’ve posted on this blog. But today it feels as though the Lord has drawn me into a quiet place where I can focus on sowing into this account of my life. I am back in Cambodia, and this time it’s not for just two weeks. I’ve committed to staying one year, but I am seeking the Lord as to whether He would have me here longer.
This is a season unlike any other I have stepped into. This is a season full of wondrous blessings and vital lessons. For the past few years, it has been as though I’ve been nursed back to health by my dear Savior. I went from a confused, frustrated, prideful, cold-hearted boy, to a child of God who longed for true intimacy and fresh revelation of the Lord Jesus. This process was achieved not through my struggling and working towards God, but rather though sweet revelation of the grace imparted to me through Christ’s suffering on Calvary. He is worthy to be praised, and it is through my understanding of Him, that I am lead to lay my life down daily for the God who was, who is, and is to come. Through Him all good things flow, and outside of Him, there is no good thing. Oh, how I pray that each set of eyes that cross these words would be drawn by His Holy Spirit to further revelation of His love for you.
This season is clearly a season of learning to be a servant not only in my actions, but also in my heart and attitude. And it has truly been a blessing for the Lord to grow those attributes in me, so my actions can genuinely reflect my heart and mindset to serve. But what I have discovered recently that really separates this season from any other I have walked through is the “inner-shell” that this season seems to hold. An inner-shell of peace and stillness. A stillness that is set apart for the work of the Lord in my life. In that stillness, I hold this longing for wisdom and discernment, a hunger for humility, and fertile ground to bury the Word of God in. And during my time spent in scripture the Lord has revealed to me that His investments into this core of my life, will produce the fruits of His unending love and His amazing grace. That is what has drawn me back to this blog. How fitting is it to have a blog name that describes the fruits of my Lord’s work in my life?! The Lord gave me the name of this blog a long time ago, and I now see that I have yet to understand the fullness of its meaning.
I will wrap up this post with some prayer requests that I hope you will take to the Lord on my behalf:
Wisdom and discernment, Unity among the Lighthouse team, Maintaining connection with the Church back in the USA, Spiritual gifts to flow freely, and that God’s gospel of grace would spread through this region and on to all the world.
My King is like a sunrise on this small quiet town
Palm trees reach up to touch His warm morning air
Flowers span their soft pedals to color the landscape of this,
For His pleasure alone does creation sing
This small, quiet, town joins the mighty chorus every morning
Lifting its songs and spreading it's branches
Revealing that only He is worthy to be praised
Yet this town, has remained small and quiet
This small quiet town has seen many changes
But has remained small and quiet
This small quiet town has lasted the ages
But has remained small and quiet
Who are the people of this small quiet town
Who walk the streets, and sweep the sidewalks
Day in, day out, only to repeat again
They too are small and quiet
And His Sun rises again and again,
As if to peer in and ask,
What is your story, oh small quiet town?
Your birds chirp to greet me
And your plants reach up to glean from me
But you do not acknowledge me.
You squint up to the sky only out of frustration
As though my light does not please you.
Your rats and dogs scurry away into the shadows
And await my absence, so they may return in peace
Why do you grumble come morning?
What entices your imagination, more than my beauty and mercies?
I have risen up fresh crop for you
I have warmed your homes and given you sight
Sight that has provided you safe passage
And revealed truth about your greatest fears
But you do not open your eyes.
Instead you stumble around in the darkness
And flee from the smallest bumps in the night.
Am I not larger than anything that has ever clattered around in the shadows?
Could I not dry up, and blow away an entire city should I desire.
Yet I have remained gentle with you.
I have done so only because it pleases me to do so
Know this, oh small, quiet, town
You have turned your face away from me
You have sought out the shadows
You have given your hearts over to wickedness and foolishness
So my Sun has shown hot upon you small quiet town.
I have shown you great mercies,
But my mercies have proven vain.
Should you desire wisdom
Flee the shadows, and seek Me
Fear the Lord who gives, and takes away.
I am tender with my those I call my own
My mercies will be poured out upon you once again
On this small, quiet, town
I too, have a small and quiet side
My voice has been kindled to anger
But my voice longs to be still and small
But I will move in large and mighty ways
Should I see fit.
So turn to me now
That my wrath may be cooled
I long to impart grace and forgiveness to you
Be still, small quiet town
That I may tend to your sores
For they are many
And many are deep.
Long it has been, oh dear city
Since you have allowed me to touch you
To give my healing warmth to your people
Surrender to my healing
That the Lamb who would purchase you
Might receive His glory this very day!
Oh small quiet town
Turn to the King
And receive His mercies
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end;
They are new every morning;
Great is His faithfulness. -Lamentations 3:22-23
WOW…my God is an Awesome God! I knew I was embarking on a journey when I headed out to the Knoxville airport at 5:15 on Monday morning. But what God had in store was beyond my any of my expectations. I arrived to the airport with the Kears at the same time my parents got there. We got my luggage inside and got checked in. More and more people started arriving some friends of mine, and some friends of Elizabeth, but mostly friends of both of us.
After getting checked in, Jeff, Elizabeth and I all started towards the security checkpoint, followed by an army of friends and family to send us off right. The time spent saying goodbyes and see-you-much-laters was precious and dear but had to come to an end. The three of us that were going, entered the line and walked up to security while turning and waving each bend of the line. After entering the terminal we found some seats and started talking about how we were feeling and how this whole “moving to Cambodia” thing didn’t even seem real. However, not long after we started talking, our names were called out over the speaker for us to see the gate attendant. So we approached the desk and were told that due to a bad strut on the airplane, our flight would be delayed enough that we would miss our connection in St. Paul that was to go on to Tokyo, that was to go on to Bangkok. This was some VERY bad news because what the airline didn’t know is that we had separate tickets that would take us from Bangkok to Phnom-Pehn. And not just that, but we were supposed to meet another person in Bangkok, and we all had hotel reservations already placed for that night. The gate attendant told us we would need to go back out past security and go to the check in counter to see about other ticket options. So we turned and headed back out.
As we turned the corner to go past security, I could see many of my family and friends still talking right outside of security where I’d left them. Abigail Kear was the first one to see us, and the look on her face was one of confusion, joy, and some more confusion. We didn’t have time to talk, so we explained everything on the run as we headed to ticketing. Jeff Oakes worked hard and long with the ticketing lady with no success. Our best bet was to go back and see if the plane might be fixed in time for us to make our connection in St Paul. The lady told us that if the plane left by 10:15 we would be able to catch the flight if we hurried, but our luggage probably wouldn’t make it in time. So we returned back through security and waited for our flight. As our 10:15 deadline approached, Jeff asked Elizabeth and me what we wanted to do if the plane didn’t make it in time. We could return to Knoxville, and try to catch a flight the next morning, or we could fly to St. Paul and see what we could do from there. We decided to take the flight to St Paul and enter the airline system.
When we hit the ground in St Paul, we went to the gate for the Tokyo flight just to see if it was still there. However, the plane was flying away as we reached the gate as was expected. We then found an information and booking desk and explained our situation. We sent a page to the Atlanta airport to tell Martin, who was to meet us in Bangkok, that we would not be able to meet him. But, we had no idea whether or not he received it. Jeff then continued to try to figure out how we could possibly get to Bangkok before our separate flight left. The attendant said that the database showed that we had already been rerouted to Hawaii. Yes that’s right…Hawaii!
This meant that we would arrive a day later than we planed and would miss our flight from Bangkok, but it was the fastest way to Bangkok we could find. We decided to take the flight to Hawaii, spend the night there, and fly on to Tokyo in the morning. As we were waiting to board the plane, we saw that the flight we were taking was going to Seattle, not Hawaii. When we asked at the counter about the issue, we found out that we would need to fly to Seattle, get off the plane, wait about forty five minutes, then reboard the plane and fly to Hawaii. In Seattle, we were able to access a free internet connection and catch up with what was going on in the world. Then we reboarded our same plane and continued on to Hawaii.
Honolulu was absolutely beautiful. We arrived to find that the airport is open to the outdoors and a fresh ocean-tropical breeze blows across your face as you enter the terminal. We acquired some vouchers from the airline so we could sleep and get cleaned up at a discount hotel near the airport. We got to the hotel, and got some sleep; I snored…loud. After taking some verbal abuse for disturbing other’s sleep, I went to look out the window. From the 11th floor, I could see a far way out. The sun was rising and I could see houses nestled in-between volcanic mounds. And the vegetation was lush and exotic. I found a latch on the window and opened it up. Immediately, the fresh Hawaiian air burst into the room and everyone turned and took a deep breath. It was truly indescribable. Jeff said that he now knew he wanted to bring his wife to Hawaii for vacation. Sadly it was time for us to leave our island paradise and board another plane, so we went to the airport to check in.
Jeff and Elizabeth checked in just fine, but when I tried to check in, I got a message telling me to see the ticketing desk. So after I waited in line, I was able to find out that my luggage was missing from their system. The best we could do was to continue on and hope that my luggage would find me further down the road. We had some time to grab some breakfast and use our cell-phones for the last time before we were out of our domestic calling range.
We flew from Honolulu to Tokyo, and in Tokyo we found an information desk so we could attempt to find our luggage. There was a young mousy lady who made phone call after phone call and tore away at her keyboard. She would get on her walkie-talkie, then make another phone call then type type type, then repeat the process for what seemed like an hour. All of this was in Japanese, and she just kept smiling, so we had no idea whether she was having any luck or not. What made her job so hard was that our baggage claim tickets no longer applied to our luggage because our luggage was all rerouted with us, but we didn’t receive the new claim tickets. When she finished she looked at us and said that she was able to find some of our luggage in the database, and that she would continue to work finding the rest of it. She offered to meet us at our departure gate and tell us what she was able to do. We gratefully accepted.
When we were waiting in line to board the plane, the lady found us and told us that she was able to find five of our six bags and they would be on our plane, but she couldn’t find the sixth yet. It was amazing enough that she was even able to match any of our bags up with us, and so we were thinking five out of six isn’t too bad. We then flew to Bangkok, Thailand not knowing what ever happened to Martin, or our luggage. We went through passport control and then to baggage claim. There we waited to see who was going to get their luggage and who wasn’t. I got both of my bags, then Jeff got both of his, and we knew Elizabeth had drawn the short straw. Sure enough, she got one of her bags, but the other never showed up. We then made our way to the lost baggage office and again explained everything that had happened thus far. The baggage assistant showed that there was a flight from Tokyo to Bangkok that was to arrive in about twenty five minutes from a different airline, but she said that the bag might be on that flight. We had our doubts, but then we prayed and prayed and went to the luggage carrousel for that flight and watched. The first bag wasn’t it, nor was the next and so on and so on, as we prayed and prayed. Then about the fourth bag from the end, it popped up out of the conveyor belt and we began to praise God! Next on our to-do list was to find Martin. Did he ever check his email or hear the page in the airport? Did he go on to the hotel? Is he STILL waiting at the airport? We had no idea where he might be. So when we arrived to the Bangkok airport, we went through passport control, and looked for Martin. We couldn’t find him, so Jeff made some more phone calls and without any success, we called the hotel to get some sleep before we were to head out in the morning.
We reached the hotel pretty late at night and tried to see if we could still redeem our reservations from the previous night that we were unable to collect on. After explaining our airline experience, we were able to change our reservation, and we found out that Martin had not come to the hotel. The beds were very hard, but we didn’t much care about that. We got up early and headed to the airport, not knowing whether we would need to repurchase our tickets, or even if we could get a flight. We went to the desk and again explained our situation. They were very unsure of how to handle the situation. Jeff was at one counter an Elizabeth and I were at the next counter over. The lady that Elizabeth and I were talking to told us we needed to go to customer service to buy new tickets, but then the lady talking to Jeff said she could just change our tickets. So after re-explaining our situation again, both the ladies decided it was too complicated and just gave us new tickets for the next flight to Phnom Pehn. Then they took our luggage and gave us our tickets and sent us on our way. Our luggage was WAY over weight, and we were all probably going to have to pay close to one hundred dollars in fees, but instead we didn’t have to pay ANYTHING! So immediately the three of us raised our hands up to heaven and started praising God and singing right there in the middle of the airport. We had gotten over our huge hurdle and had done so without having to pay any fees or fines. God truly brought us out of what could have been an impossible or EXTREAMLY expensive situation. The only thing left to do was to find our plane and fly to Phnom Pehn. But we still hadn’t heard from Martin and we had no idea if he was with Lewis or if he was still in some airport. So we boarded our plane, still unable to make communication with Lewis or anyone who might know where Martin was and began the flight to Cambodia.
The plane was small so every seat seemed like a window seat, and from it, I could see the flat square-shaped rice fields that continued on as far as the eye could see. I told myself that I was home, but it just didn’t seem to feel real yet. As we got off the plane I could feel the warmth of the Cambodian air as I walked off the plane. We went through immigration and got our temporary business visas, and then FINALLY got a hold of Lewis. He told us that he was unable to meet us at the airport, but there would be a taxi waiting for us outside the airport. Sure enough as we walked out, there was a short dark Cambodian man with a sign with big bold letters saying “JEFF OAKES”. We greeted the man who spoke no English and followed him to his van. We loaded his Mercedes van and got in. This wasn’t some royal treatment we were receiving. Almost every vehicle over here with four wheels is either a Mercedes or a Lexus, but none the less, it was a nice van. We made signals to the driver to borrow his phone and Jeff called Lewis to figure out whether this driver knew we were to go. Jeff then asked Lewis if Martin ever showed up at the airport or if anyone was even there to meet him. Lewis said he hadn’t heard anything from Martin, but Jeff knew Lewis well enough to see through his game. Martin had indeed gone on to Cambodia and was with Lewis in Kampot already. We were to tell the driver to go to Kampot and we would soon be home. It was about eight in the morning and about four hours later, many pot holes and too many close calls to count, we arrived in Kampot. We only made one stop on the drive at a small gas station, where we got some drinks and chips. Jeff bought the driver a can of apple juice that he thoroughly enjoyed. He had obviously never had apple juice before. He kept studying the can and turning to give Jeff two big thumbs up. When he finished his juice, we were on the road again.
When we reached what we thought was the city limit, the driver pulled over and Jeff called Lewis to find out where we were to meet him. But the driver kept pointing like we were at the right place. But there was nothing around but some salt fields and a store that makes concrete elephants. Before Jeff could get directions, Lewis showed up out of nowhere and tapped on the window. Sure enough behind the wall beside us was the home that Lewis and his family had been living. It was a large home that is owned by some other missionaries that are currently out of the country. We all unloaded our belongings and Lewis paid the driver and we all went inside. Shortly afterwards, Walter and Lisa and their two boys showed up and we all sat down to some soup. Jeff dispersed gifts to the Burke family that church members had sent with him. After lunch, us guys went over to the house the Burkes will be moving into and worked on scraping and painting until dinner time. When we got back, I was able to get online and post an update on facebook. (Thank you everyone who has sent messages and left wall posts!!!) For dinner, the ladies had made pasta and marinara sauce with parmesan cheese. It was absolutely delicious.
Elizabeth and I then crammed our all our luggage into a car with seven people went to the house we would be living at for quite some time. It was very dark outside, and I was too tired to even make sense of all the turns and signs, so when we got there, I just spilled out of the car and walked upstairs to my new room. The bed was not a twin size bed like I had planned for, so I gave my sheets to someone else, and then went to bed.
I woke up around six in the morning and spent some time looking out the windows and doing some reading. As other people started waking up I went downstairs to check out the house. I went outside and looked at it for the first time, and was simply blown away with how nice of a house God had provided for the team. It is owned by a doctor in the town; he is renting it out and living next door while he builds a new house. He is a good landlord, and speaks good English. Once everyone was awake, the guys headed back over to the Burke’s soon to be home, and continued working until about four in the afternoon. Around noon Lewis brought some lunch to us and then put us back to work. We made a lot of progress that day. We had finished the entire upstairs, and had scraped most of the downstairs. When we are finally done, it will look very nice, but until then, here is a lot of renovating that we will be doing.
At four we left and went back home to get cleaned up. I was told that the internet barely worked sometimes and didn’t work at all most the time. This is probably due to other people running cables out to our internet cable, so we are having the company come “fix it” when they get around to it. Until then, I have been using my free time to type this summary and hopefully post it soon. Anyways, we got cleaned up and headed to the house where the Burke’s are currently living, and we gathered for some time of prayer and worship. The time was well spent. We talked late into the night, and I felt like I was about to pass out. As soon as we got home, we ate some dinner and I crashed in the bed.
The next morning, I woke up around six again and grabbed some cereal for breakfast. Everyone else here sleeps until about eight, so I have some quiet time each morning where I can let my thoughts run free without any distractions. I did some reading and once everyone else was awake, we spent some time talking and getting to know each other better. Then around 10:00 Ryan, Elizabeth and I went with Lisa to go get some bread and then Lisa went back to start on lunch while the three of us did some walking around the city. This allowed me to get my bearings of the city again. It’s nice to have an idea of where you live in relation to everything else. Kampot is still the same Kampot I loved so much the first time I came. The breeze felt heavenly and I couldn’t help but stretch my arms out and let the wind whip at my clothes, as the warm sun fell upon my face and feet. I love walking through this city; you are compelled to shout out praises to the living God, while your heart is turned to intercede for every adult and young person that your eyes fall upon. And there is such a sense of the moving of God in this city, it is truly a precious and intimate time. The Father is about His work, and his laborers, though few, are willing and eager.
As we were heading back in the direction of home, Pekadey (SP?) saw us from her restaurant and shouted at us and waved us down her street. As we reached her restaurant, Two Sisters, she greeted us with a joy that seems to bubble from her all the time. She is a real encouragement and a living testimony to the kingdom of God. When someone Pekadey has never seen comes into her store, she will approach them with a sincere smile and says to them, “Hello, I’m a Christian, and would you like to know why?!” She not only unashamed of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, but she is a powerful evangelist for its cause. She has been a real encouragement to me here in Cambodia. Her husband, Vutha, was to be ordained to be a minister in the nation of Cambodia later that same day, and she was filled with excitement and anticipation, that seemed to flow over onto anyone who was nearby. After eating our cookies and telling her we would see her at the ordination, we left and went home for lunch.
Later that afternoon, the whole team headed to the orphanage for the Vutha’s ordination service. We filled the place up with people from the salt field church, as well as some other churches in the area. Not to mention all the orphans and our team. We spent some time worshiping in Khmai. Lewis has said that he believes every Cambodian is tone deaf, and I have yet to hear anything otherwise. But despite the lack of any key to sing in, there was a joyful noise lifted up to glorify God, and it was good. Then the service continued as Lewis gave witness to Vutha’s testimony, and Jeff Oakes spoke on what ordination was and why it was important. Then Vutha as given a charge by Lewis. Vutha as then presented symbolic gifts to equip him for his ministry. The church elders prayed for Vutha and then we ended the service. The orphans brought about thirty pounds of fresh fruit out on a table and it was quickly devoured by the crowd. The fruit here is so fresh and juicy, that one can’t help but slurp and squirt juice everywhere. Eating here is a very messy but enjoyable experience! After the service we all went home, ate some real dinner, and got some sleep.
The next day Walter and Lisa took Elizabeth and me out to the market to get some supplies for our rooms. The market was not made for six foot American men to walk through, the isles are about a foot and a half wide at the widest point, and it is a very tight squeeze to pass someone as they stop to shop. The roof is about five and a half feet tall at some points, so I remained in a hunched over position for most of our shopping. Another thing about the market, is that the old ladies don’t hesitate to grab your “backside” if they want you to move. And apparently this is common practice, as I was “moved” seven or eight times before we had finished shopping. At one point I heard Walter, who was walking behind me, let out a quick holler, and about three seconds later I realized why, because the same lady found me in her way as well. Lewis had explained that this is not an advance; it is simply how they make their presence known as they pass you. Much like honking your horn as you drive. When we were done shopping we went back home and unpacked our purchases. I’ve about have my room completely settled into. I am still working on getting a desk so I can have a place to sit and work from.
At about two o’clock we headed over to Lewis and Kristen’s to play some games and spend some time hanging out. Some of us played risk, while others played chess and other games. I do wish I had brought some of my games with me, but there was no what I could have known I wouldn’t pay for overweight luggage. When the game of risk FINALLY came to an end, we sat down together to worship and pray. Lewis filled us in on what we could be praying for and where things were standing at the moment. We pressed into the Lord, and praised His goodness. When we finished, we all headed out to the CoCo House to eat. The CoCo House is where we ate about every meal the last time I was here. It is under new management and new staff, but the menu had hardly changed. We all talked and laughed and ate. After dinner, we headed home and I went straight to bed.
It is now Monday the 18th at about 7:30 in the morning, and the plan for today, and many days in the future, is to go over to the house the Burkes will be moving into, and scrape, paint, and clean until it is ready to move into. As David Wilson once said, going on missions simply means taking out the trash. So here I am, taking out the trash in the nation of Cambodia…May the Lamb who was slain receive the glory for His suffering!!!! God let your glory fall in this city and in this nation! Our God is an awesome God!