I would like to share an email written by a good friend of mine, Missionary Rodney Ruppel. This is a great story. It blessed my heart tremendously, and I believe it will be a blessing to you too.
If you will read that story slowly and carefully, you will notice some beautiful jewels buried in the details. Let me share a few of my thoughts from this story.
1. First we plant, then we wait patiently.
Not everybody gets saved the first time they hear the Gospel. In fact, most don’t. Oh, how we need patience! I don’t know who the first person was to share the Gospel with Samnang. Apparently Sokhom first heard the Gospel at a Christian church more than 35 years ago. The people of that church had no idea that the seed they planted in that young woman’s heart would bear fruit in a totally different century, even a different millennium! Would you be willing to share the Gospel with someone today if you knew the seed would lie dormant for 35 years? My great-grandfather was witnessed to and prayed for over the course of many decades by his wife, daughter, grandsons, and eventually his great-grandchildren. Finally, in his 80’s he believed on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation.
2. God is sovereign.
After years of confusion and searching and living in a country were almost everyone is Buddhist, they got a Christian family as neighbors! It reminds me of the time I sat down on a crowded plane and started to talk with the lady sitting next to me. She was Taiwanese and had been visiting her Christian brother in California. She was flying back home to Taiwan. As I talked with her, she told me that her brother had been doing his best to tell her about Jesus, but she still had some questions. After I told her that I was a missionary returning to Cambodia, she said, “My brother’s not going to believe who I sat next to on the plane.” About an hour later, she bowed her head and trusted Christ as Savior.
3. A good testimony is worth a fortune.
Michael and Julie Carlyle and their four teenage girls are new in Cambodia. They have been here for only about a year. Their language skills are not quite to the point where they could lead their neighbors to Christ themselves, but their lives reflect the grace and love of Christ. These are people with smiles on their faces and compassion in their hearts. These are people who live and love like followers of Christ. These are people who behave and talk and dress in a way that is a good reflection of their Lord. We should never underestimate the power of a good testimony.
4. While the greatest benefit in salvation is reserved for the sinner who has just been forgiven, there is also tremendous joy and benefit to the faithful messenger.
I have known Brother Ruppel for 10 years. Just like any servant of Christ who is busy for the Lord, he and his wife, Becky, have experienced their share of trials and heartaches. Nevertheless, the past several months have been more troubling and trying to them than perhaps any other time in their 14-year ministry. They have had trial upon trial in recent months. They are bearing some very heavy burdens right now. One of those difficulties involved the passing away of an elderly gentleman in their church who had been a faithful pillar of their church for many years. Everyone in the church called this sweet man “grandpa” and his wife “grandma”. When a person dies, that is one of the toughest times for a Cambodian Christian to stand fast, because of the intense pressure by unsaved relatives to participate in all of the idolatrous practices of the funeral. Sadly, some of “grandpa’s” family didn’t do real well with that test of faith, and that was a source of great disappointment to Bro. Ruppel, his family, and his church.
It was when these emotions were at their strongest that Bro. Carlyle called Bro. Ruppel and asked for his help witnessing to his neighbors, Samnang and Sokhom. Bro. Ruppel followed the Lord’s leading not realizing at the time that he was getting ready to lead another “grandpa and grandma” to Christ. The odds of leading one elderly person to Christ in this country are pretty low, but an elderly married couple? It’s almost unheard of! Yes, Samnang and Sokhom needed Bro. Ruppel to tell them about Christ that day. But what no one but God realized was that Bro. Ruppel who was missing “grandpa” and was sad over “grandma’s” wavering needed them too! The first Sunday that this couple visited Bro. Ruppel’s church, New Hope Baptist Church, was the Sunday after “grandpa” went to Heaven. I was told that people all around the church were whispering, “Look, God sent us a new ‘grandpa’!” Wow! What a great and gracious God we serve!
I hope this story challenges you in the same way that it challenged me. Please help to pray for all involved in this story. As Bro. Ruppel mentioned in his email, Samnang and Sokhom are embarking upon the wonderful journey of having a personal relationship with Christ. They need your prayers. The Carlyle family would appreciate your prayers as they complete language school and seek God’s leadership for their future ministry here. The Ruppels would be grateful for your prayers as they strive to serve God in this land that is truly home to them. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, please pray for “grandpa’s” wife, children, and grandkids. Some are yet unsaved and need Christ. Some of them are saved but their faith has been shaken. Please pray that they would be faithful and true to their Savior. You may read more about this story here.