July 30, 2014
[Taylor:] When I first began this missions journey, I felt sorry for Cambodian Christians in a way that was unfair. It's not that I lacked respect for them; I certainly viewed the Fleenors with admiration in light of all they gave up to follow God's call. Still, without saying (or thinking) it in blunt words, my perception of Cambodia's believers before the trip was one based mostly on pity for their circumstances. I noticed at the outset of our trip a great overwhelming opposition for the country's Christ followers, but as I've interacted with this faithful remnant personally, I've learned to appreciate one thing most of all: in the midst of adversity and obscurity is where God's love shines brightest.[Rachel:] My feelings before coming to Cambodia were similar, with the expectation that we were going to encourage our brothers and sisters and God was going to use us to shine His light- a startling contrast to the bleak surroundings. What I did not expect to see was God's flame of redemption burning relentlessly in so many of the individuals we would interact with- reflecting back strength, Love, and joy.[Taylor:] Rachel and I want to share with you who these individuals are, and how they illuminated the way God's kingdom unexpectedly flourishes. Two men come to my mind in particular: Paul Fleenor and Soem.Paul is a compassionate servant of The Lord and tenacious dreamer. His consistent kindness to so many people we encountered impressed our team. Paul's enthusiasm for fitting in activities with us - though at times unpractical - left no doubt for how profoundly he appreciates our presence, and beyond that is a tangible example of ambition in a redeemed personality.That said, this same man of righteousness and hopeful ideals faces personal discouragement. Doctor Fleenor offers his medical expertise in cases ranging from mild to traumatic, but rampant corruption resists his attempts to start his own clinic; he equips girls - formerly victims of trafficking - to rejoin society through their own careers in medicine... yet brothels pop up and move among the cities like so many weeds, perpetuating the hurt Paul seeks to combat with healing.In a raw conversation he and I shared, Paul confessed that God's unchanging, faithful character is all he has to rely on when everything around him is failing. I pray that God's trustworthiness is where we find hope for our hearts and world, too, whether in seasons of security or of suffering.The second person I want to describe to you all is Soem (pronounced: seem), who directs the kid's club in Battambang. My direct interaction with this Khmer Christ-follower was limited to delivering a gift-- decorative pins of crosses that my father wished to donate, and which Soem gratefully received. Even without knowing him personally, however, I could see his love for God through the children he cares for.These boys and girls are a blessing to be with, and it is wonderful for them to have kid's club as a safe, loving community. Still, the same can not be said for the home environment and culture the children are exposed to after; the world outside the Church wants to hurt and mislead these young souls... and in far too many cases it's already happening. Redemption is a beautiful but messy process, requiring a costly empathy and patient commitment, because brokenness does not completely disappear in this life.I can't speak authoritatively for Soem. Nonetheless, I hold deep respect for this brother of mine in Christ. I thank God that he is sensitive to these little ones, given that a single week with them was emotionally overwhelming. How much more overpowering should it be for their spiritual shepherd who knows their hardships intimately and relates with them and their families daily? I can only assume that he perseveres by remembering how relentlessly Jesus pursues us... and perhaps also by celebrating those small victories in the hearts of individual children, which have exponential potential for the next generation and lasting significance into eternity.[Rachel:] Meeting the Fleenor family, playing and interacting with each of the five uniquely created and gifted children, seeing Paul's medical ministry at work in the clinic and in his passions and dreams for serving God and His people, and getting to know each of them a bit better and be a part of their encouragement was an immense blessing and honor. Though I didn't get much personal time with her, one of the most remarkable parts of spending time with the Fleenors was seeing Diane Fleenor. Together, the family is an intimate illustration of the unified diversity in the Church, and Diane is a vital, strengthening, and grounding figure in it.Though her presence seems reserved and quiet, strong empathy and holy compassion are evident characteristics of hers; not only in being a loving mother to her children and perfectly complimenting partner to Paul and his own gifts and ambitions, but also instrumentally in social work with the children and families she ministers to in Cambodia. She knows nearly each (if not every) child's name, story, personality, and needs. That kind of care and intentional bearing of that knowledge alone are supernaturally sustained parts of her heart- the daily horrors and hardships of poverty, abuse, injustice, and spiritual warfare could be borne no other way. It is just as amazing to see her when she smiles, emanating peace that two weeks ago, I probably wouldn't have been able to wrap my mind around, but know now that comes from the only God we can trust in and receive that kind of peace from.[Taylor:] It's by these individuals and many more (save the date forAugust 8thor feel free to speak with us in person) that I learned fundamental truths of the heavenly kingdom in a firsthand level. It is not accomplished primarily by massive revivals, but a humble beginning like that of a mustard seed (Matthew 13:31-32); not from confining the Gospel underneath a steeple, but offensively building and prevailing against the very gates of hell (Matthew16:18); not through winning popularity with a best seller book, but writing an impression of eternal value on human hearts (2 Corinthians 3:2-3).