Tonight's guest preacher was another of Bro. Ruppel's converts. Waang was born and raised in Vietnam, in an area that once belonged to Cambodia. The area is called Kampuchea Kroum (which means lower Cambodia), and the people from that area are also called Kampuchea Kroum. They typically speak, read, and write Vietnamese, although they are ethnically Khmer (Cambodian). Waang says that in the first 9 years of his life while living in Vietnam, he never one time heard about Jesus. The Ruppels arrived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia just a couple of years after Waang's family. A woman that Bro. Ruppel had led to Christ invited Waang's family to come to church with her. After Waang and his dad went the first time, Bro. Ruppel started going to their house to witness to them. Wang says that Bro. Ruppel went several weeks in a row, and although the dad had no interest at all in the Gospel, Waang (who was around 14 years old at the time) sat there soaking up the message of the Gospel.
Waang shared two things with me about the first several weeks that he came to church. The first week that he went to church, Pastor Sakaun (who preached last week in our church, and who was himself a brand-new Christian at the time) was giving a testimony. He was telling about how God protected him and saved his life recently after being shot several times in the stomach by thieves. Waang says he went home thinking, "Yeah right! I don't believe that. If he had several bullets in his stomach, he would be dead right now." The other thing that he remembers from those first few weeks of coming to church was that his main reason for coming was that he wanted to ride the van. Many Cambodian people have rarely been in a car - if ever, so Waang thought it was pretty neat to ride the van. But after a few weeks of coming to church and Bro. Ruppel slowly and carefully explaining the Gospel in their home, Waang trusted Christ as Savior! He says from then on, he didn't go to church for the van ride...he went for Jesus!
Wang has now been in church for about 11 years, and God is greatly using his life. For the last several years he has served as Bro. Ruppel's assistant at the New Hope Baptist Church in Phnom Penh. He teaches the teen boys Sunday School class, teaches a children's class on Sunday afternoons, and preaches every Wednesday night at the mid-week service. In February of this year, Waang married Srey Oun, Pastor Sakaun's second daughter, and they are expecting a baby boy this December.
Tonight's message was on the topic of persecution. Waang began by reading Acts 16:23, the verse where Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown into the Philippian jail, and then he asked why Paul and Silas were thrown in jail. Before continuing on with the story, he turned over to II Timothy 3:12 ("Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.") to answer his own question. He put forth the premise that all Christians who are living for the Lord, obeying the Lord, and doing the things we should be doing WILL be persecuted in some way, shape or form.
The whole sermon was good, but here are a couple of statements that stood out to me. In illustrating the mocking and ridicule that is so common here, he said that Christians are often called "Jesus people" by unbelievers. Then he said, "Hey, we should be GLAD they call us 'Jesus people'! It's a whole lot better than being called 'devil people'!"
He also said, "Before you get saved you have LOTS of friends. But when you choose Christ, suddenly they are all gone! Many people will moan and groan about this loss of friends. 'Nobody likes me anymore! Nobody invites me to eat with them anymore! Nobody comes to my house anymore! They don't even look at me anymore! They say I'm a traitor! They despise me!' But there is one wonderful truth that has encouraged me many times. Hebrews 13:5 says that Jesus will never leave you nor forsake you. People will fail you, but Jesus will never abandon you!"
Our people responded very well to this sermon. There is a new lady who came for just the second time with her son and daughter, and she asked many questions about salvation after the service. I'm thankful that Bro. Waang was able to come preach, and I believe the Lord used him. And to think...11 or 12 years ago, he was coming to church because riding the van was fun. I wonder if there are any other teenagers who are coming to church for all the wrong reasons today, but a decade from now will be preaching the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ!