My son Ben and I left for Hong Kong on Jan 2. Hong Kong is a very modern
and VERY crowded city of about seven million.
My son Ben and I left for Hong Kong on Jan 2. Hong Kong is a very modern
and VERY crowded city of about seven million. It is a prosperous and modern
city which has weathered the change of government from the UK to China in 1997
fairly well. The downtown section is on Hong Kong Island which has as a backdrop a
beautiful mountain. The church we visited has about 1800 members. There is an endless
variety of interesting and delicious food here which bears little resemblance to
the Chinese food eaten in restaurants in the US. We spent the greatest amount of
time with Aaron Chow who is an evangelist and teacher for the church and his wife
Theresa. The church here has an organized teaching ministry called Oasis. Members
of this group include the fairly young David and Kalun as well as Mike and Lorinda
and a more mature couple Turner and Elizabeth. I taught classes for Oasis on God
and Science and Archaeology and the Bible.
From there, we took a fast train to the bustling city of ***** where Red
Dragon #1 church meets. The churches in mainland China are underground. It was a
truly striking experience to teach for a church which does not meet legally. The
church here almost never meets together for “security reasons,” and when they do,
they do not sing songs so as to not attract attention. When they eat in public areas, they do not pray
out loud. Those who work for the church here must not admit this, even to their own families. Instead,
they work as “consultants.” Despite all this, the churches here are strong and growing. The
Christians have great faith that God will do amazing things in China. I was blessed to speak on Sunday
to about two hundred on From Shadow to Reality. The food here is, if anything, more interesting
than in Hong Kong. The next day I spoke to 130 on Science and God. The city seems rather
prosperous; thought signs of lingering extreme poverty can be seen in the countryside. Church
members work very long hours. I would love to share the names of my wonderful hosts here, but
will not for “security reasons.” Ben and I enjoyed shopping here. It seems everything we buy in the
US is made in China. Here we can buy it at the source, for much lower prices.
We returned to Hong Kong for one more day and one more class before traveling on to
Bangkok. We met with two regions for a midweek service as I spoke to about 700 on From Shadow
to Reality. On Wednesday Jan 9 we flew to Thailand. Bangkok is a sprawling city of 12 million.
There are many very modern buildings as the country is rapidly moving from “third world” to a prosperous
country. Still, most get by with wages which would appear shockingly low to a Westerner.
The traffic here is very bad, but the government is now building infrastructure which is beginning to
make a difference. The Thais revere their octogenarian king in a way which borders on worship. He
is a figurehead who still wields tremendous power through the incredible respect he is given by the
people. We spent time with Oat, the main teacher for the Bangkok Christian Church, as well as
Bunsong and his wife and Ken and Lena Chow, who have moved to the city from the US to help
build up the church. I gave lessons on the Book of Daniel, The Problem of Pain and Suffering and on
Freedom in Christ to the church, as well as one on Leadership and Membership to the Bible group
leaders. The church of about 120 members is faithful, but still trying to find its way in this very Buddhist
country where Christians make up under one percent. We took a wonderful tour on the river
and through the canals with Sophan and his wife Dong. The food here is very spicy, but absolutely
fantastic. We also dined with Ken who shared the story about his family’s escape from Cambodia
before the Pol Pot regime. They carried with them a ruby which turned out to be the largest ever
found in Cambodia. Its sale for 1.2 million dollars led to family wealth which sons Ken and Sokhoun
have used to build businesses, all of which have a benevolent aspect. They have done much to help
the Thai and Cambodian people, which makes me proud.
From Bangkok we traveled to Phnom Penh. This is the somewhat sleepy capital of Cambodia.
We were struck immediately by the poverty here, but also by the smiles and friendliness. The church we
met with here is led by Sovann and his wife, with the help from the visiting missionaries Cesar and Jennifer
Lopez. The church of a bit over two hundred, after going through some hard times is very healthy
and growing. They have great vision, both to help the Khmers with benevolent projects and to bring
Christianity to this Buddhist country. Ben and I visited Toul Sleng, the genocide museum with the
young ministry couple Raksmey and Srie Oun. This is a very disturbing monument to the outrageous
genocide perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge and the Pol Pot regime.
Everyone we met lost more than one
member of their immediate family in this genocide. Ben and I were very impacted by the pain and suffering
of this people—yet they are happy. It is ironic that I taught on The Problem of Pain and Suffering
here. I also taught a class on the Book of Daniel and one for the staff on using our gifts in the church.
Ben was able to tour the Sihanouk Hospital while I taught. This hospital is run and staffed, in part, by
members of the church here as well as ex pats from our family of churches. The faith, courage and vision
of our brothers and sisters here in Cambodia is inspiring.
From Phnom Penh, we spent a day and a half in Siem Reap. This city is the gateway to the
marvelous, spectacular, stupendous ruins of the Khmer people. We toured Angkor Wat, Angkor Tom
and Ta Prom, which is where part of Tomb Raider was filmed. We were so blessed to visit these world
treasures. Also a blessing was to meet with and teach for the new church which was planted here quite
recently. We met with about fifteen members and several guests as I taught on Science and God. Most
of the church here are very young Christians. They have great hearts and vision.
We then returned to Phnom Penh and continued to Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam. This city of
over 10 million is the economic center of Viet Nam. It is a bustling city of ten motorcycles to every car.
It is not unusual to see four on a motorcycle, with the driver using his cell phone! There is a flavor here
of the French influence from colonial times. Viet Nam is officially a communist/atheist country, yet the
people do not seem as oppressed as one might guess. It remains a very poor country, yet economic
growth has been very strong. The church we met with here, like that in China, is illegal. However, the
church recently applied for legal status. For this reason, they are able to meet legally, at least for now.
The leaders have been threatened and forced to move several times. The group we met with has nearly
eighty members. There is an excitement, zeal and vision here which are like nothing I have seen. The
church is exploding with growth. The group is now so large that they do not allow guests to come to
their meetings as they do not have room. Please pray that they will find the resources and location to
meet. The lead couple, Hong and Hung are very encouraged. There is vision to plant a church in Hanoi
in 2009. Ben and I visited the War Museum. This was a very shocking account of the tremendous suffering
of the Vietnamese people. It gives a rather one-sided view of the war, but this is a view that we in
the United States have not seen. We were sobered and I found myself apologizing to the Christians for
what was done to them. Hung was born in a hospital which was destroyed by American bombing soon
afterwards. I taught classes on successive nights for the church on The Book of Hebrews and Science
and God. When this group meets, everyone is there. The commitment is a wonderful example. The
singing is great and it is immediately obvious that this group loves meeting together. Ben and I were
very privileged to meet with this wonderful group of Christians. A conference for Vietnamese expatriates
is scheduled here for 2009. This will be a great opportunity for anyone who can make it.
After two day is Ho Chi Minh City, we returned to Bangkok for one more class, followed by the
long return trip to San Diego. We returned exhausted but encouraged much in our faith.