Archive for December, 2016

Thoughts on Christmas Eve

There are so many different thoughts going through my head as I begin to write this week’s blog post.  Thoughts about Christmas and how much more it represents than what so many of us make it out to be. There are many clichés which are used at this time of the year, we use the Christmas story to justify exuberant spoiling; spending excessively to show our love for a small inner circle which we have the joy to grow in life with. The problem is that’s not what Christmas represents.  In fact, I believe that Christmas was just the start of 33 year journey to the cross that in turn would lead to the birth of a movement in Acts. Through that movement somehow those early church Christians did what they were discipled to do; tell the world! That world included you and me and because of someone being that reflection of Jesus we found the truth, the gap that prevented peace and an understanding was filled by the Holy Spirit!

So this Christmas I ask the question what was Jesus really about?

For me it is simple, Jesus was a gift, and because of that we learn to give. But much more than that Jesus represents a Father who is generous way beyond anything we can ever fathom. Throughout the life of Jesus he constantly tells us to give to the poor and needy. How many times have we read those words and what do we do about? Friends I’m questioning myself here, what do we do about it?  Nothing we have is ours, it’s worthless until we realise that can we start giving in the way Jesus tells us to do. We have all went mad at Christmas, many of us have gone in to debt to keep up appearances, the pressure society puts on us all is immense but it’s not from God. Jesus makes giving simple, He tells us to test him, He challenges us to give over and above and then He says watch and see what happens. Over the last few weeks we have challenged people to help the work we are doing here, a work that needs your prayers but also your support. We don’t like asking for help, we know things are not easy but this Christmas time are you making Jesus happy in your response to what He challenges us to do. We thank you all for supporting us in many ways but if you want to be part of the church planting at the start of next year please use the ‘support’ button that is available.

The other thought I have about Christmas is all is forgiveness.  Of course we all know that Jesus was the Messiah, our Saviour and his death offers us all forgiveness. Through His lifetime He taught many times on forgiveness, but ultimately his death and resurrection spoke forgiveness more than any other single act by any other person. For me this has always been simple, if you are a Christian forgiveness is not an option but a lifestyle we must live. If we expect God to forgive us then how can we not forgive others? There is a pretty straight forward parable about the unforgiving servant, if we don’t forgive as Christians then we are hypocrites. This might seem harsh, you might be thinking you don’t know what they have said or done and you’re right I don’t, but what I do know is that we have a Saviour that does and He can help bring you to that point of forgiveness. Too many Christians don’t talk to family members, church family members, people who they shared years of memories with yet they are happy to accept the forgiveness of God!

Friends are there areas in your life that you need to realign this Christmas, areas you need to be excessively generous in whether in the church or your family? This Christmas is a time to stop holding grudges, hurts, even hatred in our hearts and instead offer olive branches to those who have maybe hurt us. Let’s agree to be Jesus in our actions through our generosity and our forgiveness.

Last Sunday we had the privilege to dedicate Sokhom and Rith’s baby boy Eden in our church service.  This was so special because it was exactly a year since I brought them up onto the platform and told the church we need a miracle for them to have a baby, as a church we believed for a miracle and on Sunday I got to hold that miracle as we celebrated the healing power of Jesus!


Dedicating Baby Eden

I want to finish this blog by saying a big thank you for the love you have shown us this year, we appreciate the journey you have travelled with us.  We don’t know who all the people who financially help us are but God does, and you will receive your reward. To all you prayer warriors we cannot thank you enough, without pray nothing is possible! Thank you to Paul Hudson and the International Mission’s team including Roy Johnston in Ireland, we couldn’t do this without you all. To Pastor Gary, Pastor Davy and the whole of Bangor Elim we love you and miss you all. Ruth McKee and the mission’s team you are awesome! To all the churches we have links with we cannot thank you enough and we wish every single one of you and your families a very Merry Christmas and a Joy filled New Year!

That leaves me only to say as we serve out in Cambodia we are very far away from our families and friends whom we love so much. We miss you all and are sorry for being so far away and not getting to share special times together, please know we really love and miss you all. It gives us a little glimpse of the pain separation causes and this year we desperately ache for those that have lost loved ones, especially life partners.  At this Christmas time I ask you to join with us to pray for Maureen Crawford, Dorothy McCready and their families as they both face their first Christmas without Bill and Joe.  You are all in our thoughts and prayers and we know God will be your comfort and give you strength over this time of year.

We will not be doing a blog next week as we are taking the whole church to the coast for a special New Year party and church service refocusing us all for 2017.  Have a wonderful festive season, God bless you all.


Seasons Greetings from all the Elim Cambodia staff


Immanuel, God with us

During a skype conversation this week we were discussing what Christmas in Cambodia is like.  For anyone who missed last week’s post by Emily please take a few moments and read, it is so well written and sums up our feelings exactly.  During this season of Advent I have had moments of pining; wishing to be with friends and family, having to wrap up in layers before going outside,  drinking hot chocolate to warm up again, and singing carols by candlelight.  My thoughts are also with those who will not be looking forward to Christmas because they are missing a loved one, or don’t have anyone and will be lonely at this time, or are struggling with anxiety, health issues or problems in their life.

It’s a time for us to reach out to those in need, to be aware of those who may be lonely or grieving; a simple gesture is all it takes and could mean the world to someone this Christmas.

At the conclusion of our skype we were reminded to think about one name, a name with so much importance ‘Immanuel’.

‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us.’ Matthew 1:23

God with us!  God is with us, each of us, in whatever situation we are in this Christmas.  He brings comfort to the grieving, hears our cries and answers our prayers.

This week Emily and I had the joy of accompanying the village ministry team to Tuol K’day.  We left the Elim centre at 7:30am with the car loaded up with presents, stopping on the other side of the river for snacks for the children and baguettes to go along with the Khmer curry for the church party. The boys and girls had already started to arrive when we pulled up at Sarak’s family home helping to unload the car and decorate the area with balloons.  Sophea chose the children who would take part in the nativity story and they were so excited as we helped with their costumes.  There was a lot of giggling as the characters got ready and some children tried to sneak a peek through the window! While Sophea directed the actors in a quick rehearsal, Rith and Sokchea organized some games with the rest of the children.  I’ve been to Happy Kids Club many times but like children at any Christmas party they were buzzing with excitement and full of life!


Tug of war 

The audience were settled back down on the tarpaulin sheet and Sarak narrated the Christmas story.  The characters were brilliant and the adults and children thoroughly enjoyed it, Joseph’s wig brought lots of laughter and I had a chuckle as the gifts were given to baby Jesus – one of which was a bag of plastic toy fruit and vegetables! Following a quiz on the first Christmas all the children were given a present, and although it was a very simple gift each boy and girl said thank you with a big smile on their face.


The cast with the director and narrator


receiving Christmas gift


Merry Christmas from Happy Kids Club

As the children returned home Sophea, Emily and I visited a few homes giving out the remaining knitted blankets donated by the ladies in Portadown Elim church.  The temperature drops in the villages at night and the two elderly ladies were absolutely thrilled with their gifts.  Their smiles were radiant and lit up their whole face.  Three blanket and hat sets were also given out to babies and even though two of them were sleeping the hats were put on straightaway and the blankets were laid over them.  Thank you to those knitters who are using their gifts and hobby to keep these precious babies and ladies cosy over our cooler season.


This precious lady was so thankful for her gift

Following a rest on the hammocks during a torrential downpour the adults gathered for their Christmas church party.  Sarak’s father had made a delicious Khmer curry which everyone enjoyed after their time of worship and the message by Sarak.  It does your heart good to fellowship with this special group of people, they love God and enjoy worshipping Him together.  They support and encourage one another and its humbling to sit amongst them.  Please pray for this community of people, daily life is a struggle and they have to work so hard to survive.  As we sat around the table enjoying the curry and a coke, ‘Immanuel’, God was with us and will be with this group of people who have received the greatest gift ever!

On Christmas Day we are holding our special service where we hope many friends and family members will join with us as we celebrate the birth of Jesus.  Please be praying this week as invitations are given that people will come and learn about the real meaning of Christmas: Jesus, the Saviour of the world!

This week I came across this quote by Randy Alcorn ‘The best part of Christmas is not the presents we receive, but the presence of God with us.’  Christmas greetings are sent from everyone in Elim Cambodia, we pray you will know God’s presence at this special time of the year!


Christmas in Cambodia

December – the month which would ordinarily make me super excited to open up the doors of my advent calendars (yes, plural), excited to wrap up in blankets in front of the fire while watching Christmas films while the tree casts that calming glow which would create that Christmassy atmosphere in the house.

It’s a little different this year – as my first Christmas away from home, and spending it in a completely different culture, it’s proving to be somewhat strange to even believe it’s already December. It’s supposed to be ‘cold’ season (think mid 20s – what we’d consider a heat wave back home) yet we’re still melting in 30+ degree heat and fighting off the mosquitoes that have found a home in our Christmas tree. Saying that, the decorations are up, the tree is twinkling away, Christmas music is playing and we have a host of films to watch to get us ready.


Christmas night with friends


Decorations in church

It may be strange and surreal, but it’s making me re-evaluate what Christmas means. Being in a primarily Buddhist country, Christmas isn’t nationally celebrated so we’re not bombarded with all the commercialism and craziness that is attached to it back home. It’s somewhat refreshing, even in the moments where I miss home at this time of year. I think we so often lose sight of the true meaning of why we celebrate – the distractions that come our way in December that make us look away from the real joy of what Christmas truly is about. It amazes me whenever I take a moment to pause and reflect that it all began with a baby in a manger – the most humble of beginnings for a King and Saviour.

It’s not about the show – the best light displays, the Father Christmases with sacks of gifts, the most extravagant trees or shop windows. Everything screams at you to buy the best deals, the promotions for presents that family and friends are ‘guaranteed’ to love, the crowded streets of people scrambling to get last minute gifts. Since being in Cambodia, I’ve had my eyes opened to a whole new world and way of living. People aren’t always in the best of places, people live on next to nothing, and people work shifting rubbish off the street or having to earn money by working in seedy bars at night. It’s a way of life, and it’s painful. Life is hard for so many people; and while I’m not in any way meaning this to come across as saying to not enjoy Christmas, or feel guilty for having a comfortable season, but just to be mindful, to pause and remember that Jesus came into this world to save, to overcome the evil and the darkness that surrounds, but He didn’t come with loud fanfare and parades but He came, as a baby, in a place that you would never imagine a King to be born into. But that’s just it – He came to our level. He grew up and broke all social boundaries, angering the Pharisees by hanging out with the prostitutes and debt collectors, healing the sick and laying hands on the outcasts of society. He got His hands and feet dirty by serving the least of these. These are just my thoughts in reflecting on what Christmas means after being in a new country for the last half of this year, and being in December in a place where it’s still tropical and humid to the point where air conditioning is quite literally a life saver. (Until we have a number of power cuts in a day… which has happened a few times recently!) What can we do for the people around us who maybe need a friend, or time spent over coffee, or practical help in their home, etc.?

How can we best impact our communities in spreading the love of Jesus – a love so amazing that He would leave His home in Heaven and meet us right where we are?

Coming to the end of 2016 – and almost the end of my time here, having a month left is making me reflect on the past year, and more so on the past six months. To have experienced a new culture, to have gone into something completely new, and to have lived in a country which is so far removed from my old sense of realities, it has definitely been a rollercoaster. Going back home will be another kind of rollercoaster as I try to settle back after six months of life in Cambodia, but I’m glad for it: even for the hardest moments because I have learnt so much and hope those lessons come back with me.

In the blog last week, there was an update on the current work being done to plant churches here in Cambodia. To see the passion and dedication of the team in tirelessly working toward planting more in the near future is inspiring and it excites me greatly to see how this is coming together. As I mentioned earlier, Cambodia is mainly a Buddhist nation and to know that there is vision to see the country won for Jesus is incredible to witness, as anyone who has come here will know how much of a battle it can be as a Christian to live here with the intensity of spiritual oppression at times. Writing this, I was reminded of Isaiah 61, and while reading it, it struck me how the entirety of Isaiah 61 is such a beautiful promise to this country. So I would like to encourage you to flip through your bibles to that passage, have a read, and pray for the work being done here to rebuild, restore, renew and bestow upon this nation a crown of beauty instead of ashes. The team involved in church planting are absolute warriors in all they do for furthering the Kingdom and while they are on the front lines out here, if you feel in any way stirred to help then please consider a financial gift which would be used toward a number of resources, materials, bibles, etc. to be used in the church plants and Happy Kids clubs; which will play a huge part in the people coming to know Jesus and learning of His love for them. There is a donate via PayPal button on this page, so it’s easier and quicker to be able to give a gift should you feel led to. Every little helps in playing a part in the bigger picture, so no gift is too small to be used in furthering the work that is making a difference in the lives here in Cambodia.

Church Planting update

Over the past few weeks we have taken a bit of time to rest and it has really helped us recharge the batteries, we have missed doing the blog, thank you for being patient with us, it’s good to be back. So it’s officially December! Esther can play her Christmas music without me muttering a negative comment of some sorts. I love Christmas but not so much that it seems to start in July. I must mention right at the start of this blog that Bangor Elim are hosting a very special Christmas experience called “The Wonder of Christmas” on Thursday 8th and Friday 9th from 6-9.30pm and also all day Saturday from 10am until 8 pm.  Please go along and support it, from what we hear you will be totally blown away, Esther is heartbroken to miss it so go in her place and enjoy every minute.


As we head towards the end of the year we are really focusing on our church planting, by the end of 2016 we will have four churches running with the plan for another 4 village churches next year along with a city church. A village church operates from a house along with a children and youth ministry, whereas a city church is a fully functional church with a building and many different activities to bring the families to Jesus. The reason we need a city church is some of the provinces are too far away to impact from a distance so we will establish a church and then from that church we will go out into the 18 local villages planting a house church in each!


One of our church plants in a village

I have never been so excited within the work we are doing as I am today.  The young team I have been mentoring over the last three years or so are ready for the exciting things that lie ahead. It is a true joy to watch their growth and maturity. Chamnap has been a massive addition to our team and we are really seeing great things begin to take place.  I urge you to cover the existing churches and those that we intend to plant next year in prayer on a daily basis. We need God’s protection, many of these areas have evil spirits and we are aware that we are in a serious spiritual battle. Thankfully we win, we always do because Satan has been defeated, Jesus is victorious and He always will be!

We spent two days this week at the first Cambodian church planting conference hosted by our very good friends New Life Fellowship. It was excellent, our ten church planters were all in attendance and it was so special to study along with the team; learning from spiritual giants of the faith, brothers and sisters who have been planting churches for over twenty years. We received many good resources that we can now use to bring people to the Lord. We really want to publicly thank Pastor Jesse, Pastor Chuck, Pastor Sophea and Wayne Hester for their vision and the blessing that we all received from that vision.

I want to really challenge you this festive season, as you may have noticed we now have a ‘support’ button with Pay Pal, and we need your help. To plant the churches in the villages we need loads of resources, Bibles and materials to run Happy Kids Clubs and the churches.  This Christmas we want to ask you to partner with us by giving a financial gift towards the work. Some of you already give in other ways and we really appreciate that, but if you have journeyed with us over the past years and don’t already partner with us, I want to encourage you to become part of what we do.  As we grow we need and rely on the generosity of people like yourself, I urge you this Christmas don’t leave it to someone else, no gift is too small. Please pray about it and then donate, I will respond personally to any gift that is given with information on how we used the money. We will keep the appeal open throughout December, the more we can raise the more we can do next year with more people coming to know Jesus.

As always we appreciate your loving kindness and your thoughtful prayers, God bless you all.