Three weeks to go now before I return to Australia. My mother keeps telling me how many days there are left, and I’m really not liking the reminder.
I have lately been challenged with the thought that, although I am teaching English here, which is something that is thoroughly helpful when taught by a native English speaker, I realised that I’m not actively sharing the gospel while I’m here, which really should be the end goal of what I’m doing …right?
Sure, some might argue that deeds are a great part of sharing the gospel, and I would be inclined to agree with you. Most of us have heard the quote, “Preach the gospel, and if necessary use words.” Some say St Francis of Assi said it, although I haven’t found evidence to support that this has been quoted correctly. There are other quotes from the bible to support this too, including “The Sheep And The Goats” parable in Matthew 25, and one of my favourites, from Micah 6:6-8, and particularly the latter verse: “He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”
I love that the bible talks so much about the Good News not just being about words on a page or a clever quote from a sermon two Sundays ago that most of us probably forgot about by now. It’s the life we live here and now, and people are reading this gospel every day when we go about our lives. People ask me why I came to Poipet, because it’s quite an unusual place for a foreigner to actually want to stop and live in (most barangs simply pass through and continue on to Siem Reap). I then tell them that when I visited the same school two years ago with a group, Preah-Yesu (Lord Jesus) told me I’d come back here, and I tell them that I was scared at first but I’m now glad I came. In short, this is the testimony I tell them. Some nod thoughtfully. Some are confused by the story and want me to explain again what I like about Poipet so much that I would want to stay here.
Since returning from Phnom Penh two weeks ago, I’ve taken to wearing a few of the “fair trade” t-shirts that I bought whilst on my little break. All of them have a message to do with social justice or following Preah-un (God). Some messages are written in both English and Khmer, others in Khmer only. It’s been interesting to see just how many motodop drivers, restaurant staff, teachers, or even just people on the side of the road, stop what they’re doing and read aloud whatever is on the t-shirt that day and comment on it. It’s started conversations and it’s challenged me to be a lot more wary of the way I conduct myself too, as suddenly I can’t just hide behind the guise of spiritual anonymity anymore. If my shirt says “Preah-Yesu srolang nek” (Jesus loves you) and I’m getting upset at a street seller for not telling me the truth about something they are trying to sell me, then I have to re-think what that says about God’s love. It might not necessarily be a bad thing to get upset or assertive, but how do I do this in a way that reflects that I follow Jesus?
A friend of mine commented one time on the typical “Jesus” stickers on the back of Christians’ cars. I suppose some of you may have seen them before; the fish, the “honk if you love Jesus”, the Christian radio station bumper sticker. We were debating about whether they were a help or a hindrance to spreading the gospel. He argued that the stickers immediately caused a lot of people to see the driver of the car differently; suddenly they would be perceived to be driving the way they do “because” they are a Christian. Either they would get judged for speeding, or for driving too slowly, or for cutting someone off or waiting too long to let other drivers in first, or accidentally running a red light, or parking in a no-parking zone for a few seconds to collect the mail. It’s just too much pressure, he argued, and perhaps not a fair way to represent what Jesus means to us. I can see where he is coming from, but I am still trying to decide whether I agree. I don’t really have an answer to this yet, but I thought that it was yet another relevant way that some Christians wear their heart on their sleeves and in doing so, fall under a lot more scrutiny from the general public for the way they conduct themselves, whether good or bad. People watch Christians because they want to see whether they actually live what they talk about. I think it is something worth remembering.
Part of me wants to jump into a brand new car and shout, “The Lord needs it!”, just to see if I could get away with the argument that I am simply following the example of Jesus. (Matthew 21:2-3; Mark 11:2-3; Luke 19:30-31)
Ah, yes. Carjacking, for the Lord.
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Just this week I rediscovered my love for visiting coffee shops and scribbling on napkins. When I was studying at Morling College, this is the method of listening I discovered worked for me if I wanted something to sink into my head; that if I was drawing something, I would have to sit still and stare at something long enough for my eyes to drink it in properly. It’s my meditation when life is all too busy. Today I remembered that I had been carrying a calligraphy pen around in my wallet for the past two months, only to bring it out rather rarely, usually to demonstrate calligraphy to my advanced English students at Salah ABC. Today though, I remembered the reality that waiters and waitresses will undoubtedly see whatever I leave at the table after I’ve paid my bill. While I was studying at Morling College two years ago, there were one or two occasions where I wasted a few packets of salt and pepper arranging piles of black and white granules into a portrait of whoever was sitting opposite to me at the table. I still don’t know whether the kitchen ladies actually appreciated the fact that a salt-and-pepper face was looking up at them when they would come over to clean the table after lunch, but I figure it would’ve at least added some interest to their day.
Today I resolved to myself that I’d start leaving quotes again. On napkins, on the back of paid bills, on receipts. Something that staff might pick up and pause to read before throwing out. Not necessarily from the bible, although this is what I usually have on-hand, but just something to point towards the fact that life is more than just what we see in front of us. I figure that it costs me nothing, and it isn’t difficult for restaurant staff to clean up, but I hope that at least one person might read a napkin and seek out more about what it means. This week, this will be my conscious method of evangelism, although shy. I might never see the results of it, and maybe it will make absolutely no difference. God sees though, and I believe that he has a plan for this country and its people.
Due to a poor internet connection at the CCFC Office (and possibly a firewall issue that I haven’t been able to figure out on our office router), I can’t get photos to upload when I’m at home, as WordPress pages don’t load correctly. However, when I can, I have been trying to put up as many photos as possible when I am at the coffee shop on the border, which is the only other half-reasonable internet source in Poipet. Unfortunately as I have a lot to do this week (another week packed full of art classes at MMF Happy Home and English class in the later afternoon with ABC School), I may not end up being able to publish this update until next weekend, so sorry for this. Hopefully these late-night thoughts are somewhat stimulating though, and although I haven’t quite figured out my stance on everything I’ve written, I hope I’ve written enough to get people thinking.
Please pray for me as I enter into another rather busy week of planning two lots of classes as well as supporting and encouraging the other members of our team in their respective tasks. Each of us is dealing with our own personal lives, both good and bad aspects, and unfortunately despite how busy things are here in Poipet, time waits for no one and life continues to go on, so this can become stressful at times. I would appreciate your prayers, and I thank you again for all your support. I hope that something I’ve said tonight has encouraged you.