Greetings in the name of our Savior! Wiwin and I rejoice in God’s goodness and mercy to
us and pray He richly blesses you also. The ministry here in Cambodia is made possible by the prayers and support of many around the world. We look forward to seeing many of you when we’re next in the US on furlough, perhaps the summer of 2013.
Mom is back. You may recall I told you about a young man who’d been coming to our services in Kpbaom since the beginning. After much fighting between his unbelieving parents, his mother (like many desperately poor women here) left for Malaysia on a two year contract to work as a maid. Shortly thereafter the father left the children on their own. Vouthia and his sister were good students in school and in the church, and we were moved to help them. We (Wiwin & I, the church and even Team Timothy) have been providing them with rice, food and even a little money to pay school fees, so they can continue to study and, hopefully, graduate.
Meanwhile, in Malaysia, Vouthia’s mom (Nop Soknee) was having an even rougher time. Her employer was holding her passport (which they do to keep their domestic workers in bondage), and first one, then another family mistreated her. A third family she went to work for beat her, and she went to the police for help. They forced her employer to return her passport and let her come home. This is a very typical story of the “foreign domestic worker” and the life they have in Muslim countries.
Soknee was happy to be reunited with her family, and her children were much relieved. While she is not a believer she came to church to personally thank us for caring for her children. She stayed through the whole service and heard the sermon and the gospel. We do pray that God would use this experience to break her heart and turn her to Him.
Our First Anniversary
Wiwin and I have celebrated our first anniversary and taken a prayerful look back over our first year of marriage. As we expected there were some early adjustments in understanding and helping each other surrounding our differences in age, background and experiences. Through the help of godly pre-marital counseling, daily Bible reading, daily and weekly Bible Studies, and sharing our personal insights, God has used these trials to exercise and mature our faith and cement a strong bond between us. We look forward to the life of Christian service we will have together and pray you will rejoice with us as we are expecting our first child in June. The pregnancy has been hard on Wiwn, and she’ll be unable to venture out much on the back of our scooter, so we covet your prayers for her and our child.
The Trials of Farming
It’s been a difficult growing season for God’s people in Takeo. The rains were very late this year forcing many to delay planting almost a month. The rains were also lighter than usual leaving fields still dry and cracked on the very weekend of the worst flooding last year. The monsoon rains have stayed north in Thailand, flooding the Mekong river in Cambodia and destroying an estimated 10% of the winter rice crop here. The drought in the south endangers more as the monsoons have finished, and the rice hasn’t even set heads of grain yet.
Our people have been using the pumps some of you provided to flood their fields and protect their crops from the dry weather, but even with this wonderful gift, rice prices are down, and there’s little hope of getting the cash they need for the dry season; they will almost certainly suffer bitterly between now and next year’s harvest. Please keep them in your prayers.
The Gospel’s Reach
While we are planting a church and continue ministering in the same two villages, the ministry in this hard and broken land focuses primarily on spreading the gospel. There are few here who have ever heard the biblical gospel and fewer still who have received it. Those who receive it face loss of friends, family and status in their village. They also suffer from being functionally illiterate and having almost no biblical materials available to them in their language other than the local preaching and teaching of the word at a location within walking distance. Most Christians have no pastor to teach them anything, and so raising up Khmer men to be pastors is the greatest need this land has so that the people may be fed and shepherded once they know Christ as Savior.
While hoping and praying God will raise up local shepherds for His flock, the work of spreading the gospel continues. This past year we have seen some wonderful opportunities for presenting the message both to those who have heard but not understood and to those who may have never heard. Many, having heard the gospel, hate it, never come back and forbid their children to ever attend our ministries again. So we pray hopefully and earnestly for those who do not believe but do keep coming to our weekly ministry as well as our special opportunities.
This summer Team Timothy came and held a VBS in our two villages. Over 700 total people came to at least part of the program and heard the gospel message. While we have seen more 1,000 come to our special programs in the past, having ten Americans in town still brought many who had never come before. It was an event to be remembered for a lifetime for all who were involved.
This year we have also seen a number of new opportunities to preach and teach open to us as well. I have been preaching periodically at a local Reformed Bible college and seminary. I’ve also had the opportunity to teach over 100 lay pastors there. We’ve been blessed to teach and preach in a number of other villages here and there where Wiwin’s skills with the children’s ministry have proved a real blessing both to me and the children.
For me, perhaps the sweetest opportunity we’ve had is to get a translator available mid-week (between college semesters) to make a trip by scooter to do pastoral visitation. The people really need the individual counseling and encouragement from us. We went as a couple, did a brief biblical encouragement, listened to their issues and ministered to them as best we could in a short time.
Please continue steadfast in prayer for us, our people, and that our Sovereign Lord would make a way for this ministry to continue in these difficult economic times.
Your Servants in Christ,
Pastor Mark & Wiwin Baldwin