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FIRST PERSON: Cambodia trip leaves lasting impression on LifeWay employee

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Peering over the shoulder of a Cambodian motorbike driver, I saw sights that still stick so vividly in my mind:

— Roads that were impassable for most vehicles, except the small motorbikes on which we rode to get to our churches each day;

— Wood and bamboo houses on 12-foot high stilts, sitting in fields of mud and water;

— Smiles and waves from men, women and children out fishing, swimming or tending the rice in their flooded parcels of land; and

— Cambodians whooping with laughter and shock as this plump parade princess rode by sitting “side saddle” on the back of a small bike.

Although I spent 10 days wading through hip-deep water and riding over muddy roads washed out by the worst flooding in 60 years I wouldn’t trade a million dollars for the experiences I had during my mission trip to Cambodia.

As a member of the LifeWay team joining with International Crusades on this trip, I was thankful God had allowed me to see what he is doing in other parts of the world.

There were nine of us altogether on this team, including Jerry Wolverton, Phyllis Young, Michael Yarber, Dom Dyt and LifeWay retiree Don Davis. Also joining the team were volunteers Pat Still, Ann Davis and Frankie Dans.

Each day we split into teams of two to conduct house visitations that had been prearranged by the four churches to which we were assigned.

Typically, we visited four to six homes each day, with up to 50 people crowded in a small room, curious to hear what we had to say. The Cambodians have been so repressed by Buddhism, communism, the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot that some of them didn’t even know who God was. Sometimes we had to start with Creation and work our way up to Jesus Christ.

Yet, it was obvious by the look on their faces that the Holy Spirit had revealed the truth of salvation to them. Our team of nine saw l,332 decisions, 13 rededications and three church starts.

Of the many Cambodians we met, one man in particular touched me so deeply, inspiring me by his tremendous walk with Christ. Pastor Voom, a 70-year-old pastor of the largest church in the region, was one of 13 preachers who had been imprisoned many years ago for his beliefs. He and one other man were the only two survivors of the ordeal. He was reluctant to speak freely about his experience, but he did tell us that his stay in prison was so long that his clothes rotted off of his body.

We will never understand the cost he has paid for his faith in Jesus. As Don Davis said, “Looking into Pastor Voom’s eyes is like looking into a deep well.”

Yet, this incredibly kind man with a wonderful sense of humor showed me that a life placed in Jesus Christ can endure and emerge victorious and full of joy after living through such hardships. With sparkling eyes, he chuckled every time he described the day I fell off a 2’x 4″ plank into foot-deep mud and got my shoe stuck. When I yanked my foot out, I fell off the other side of the board — “splat” into the mud. It took two children to rescue my poor shoe. Pastor Voom laughed until his side split.

What a treat and blessing God gave us. Yes, this trip was hard, but I wouldn’t change one minute of it. I always feel like these mission trips are a giant party that God has invited us to attend, so we can witness his work in other places and see how he is blessing other cultures. I’m truly learning that every tribe and every tongue will be represented before the throne on the day we all lift our voice in unison to praise the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Leigh Ann Dans is employed through LifeWay Christian Resources’ Marketing Planning Dept. She joined a group of volunteers on a LifeWay-sponsored mission trip to Cambodia on Nov. 1-14.

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  • Leigh Ann Dans