“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” 1 John 5:14
As cliché as it is to say, we will say it anyhow, “we can’t believe it’s already 2020!!!”. This past year of 2019 has been a full year for our family. We started the year living in the Phnom Penh in full-time language studies and ended the year living in Siem Reap ministering to the Vietnamese who live in the Samaki community. In between the start of the year and the end, a lot of things happened. Much more than we can write about and many of which were already mentioned in previous newsletters. But here are some highlights for the Nguyens in 2019.
January – March was mainly filled with school and more school. We continued to learn to read and write Khmer at Gateway 2 Khmer School and with our tutor. There were many nights in the Nguyen household that everyone was seated at a table somewhere doing their homework.
In April, we experienced our first Khmer New Year celebrations. To celebrate, we visited Siem Reap and were not prepared at all for what we saw. Among all the festivities, there were 3 full days of city-wide water fights. Our kids were ecstatic that for the first time in their lives it was okay to shoot random strangers with water guns and it was even more okay to shoot them as we drove by in our tuk tuks. We are glad that we had decided to visit Siem Reap and we believe that God knew our kids needed this visit as well. It gave them an ultra positive experience in a city that they would soon call home a few months later.
In May, we finished up our language study at Gateway 2 Khmer. Unfortunately, we only had time to finish up to level 5 but we also managed to spend a lot more time with our tutor in June and July, learning to read the Bible in Khmer. As we waded through the hundreds of new religious words we had to learn and read from kid’s story book Bibles, we were continually humbled at how much we still had to learn. And just when we thought we knew all the words in a sentence, we would learn that because of certain language idiosyncrasies, the sentences did not mean what we thought they had meant. All in all, we were grateful to learn at G2K and even more grateful to have a such a great tutor who was not only patient with us but who consistently pushed us to try harder.
June was a real flurry of events. On top of us finishing with our tutor, our kids also finished their school year and we prepared for our move to Siem Reap. It was sad to be leaving our apartment in Phnom Penh and all the great friends that we had made in the city. Our kids were especially sad to be leaving all the friends that they made at Hope International School Phnom Penh.
On July 1, our big move to Siem Reap came. We packed (overpacked) the truck and made the 6 hour drive from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh. We praise God that our previous house hunting trip proved to be fruitful and God provided us with a place that suited the needs of our family well. If you followed our previous newsletters, you will know that the house came with a lush garden full of fruit trees and all sorts of interesting fish, bugs and even reptiles such as snakes. Google told us not to worry as the Golden Flying Tree Snake we saw was only mildly venomous but all the locals we have talked to seem to think they are quite a bit more venomous then that. Thankfully, we’ve only seen the snake twice since moving in.
In July and August, we eased ourselves into the local ministry by jumping right into the deep end. We took part in Language Exchange camps and did our part in hosting various short-term teams that visited during these weeks. Looking back, it was indeed an exhausting stretch of weeks, but we were grateful for the teams that came and showed genuine love towards us and our children. I think for brief moments, our kids forgot they were in Cambodia and felt like they were back home, being surrounded by older teens and young adults, the same way it was in our church community in Canada.
September to November—Our Siem Reap Vietnamese Ministry Team started getting to know our ministry and its people better. We were busy with the weekday tutoring centre, Bible studies, youth group and Sunday ministries. Through those months, we definitely learned a lot about the people and the work that we were a part of. We are still working on calling people by the right names 😊. Every week…no, every day, we would learn something new. Some times it was something pleasing but other days we would learn things that would make us scratch our heads or send our heads spinning. In the midst of it all, we were reminded that our God is gracious. Amidst mistakes we made, He still chooses to use us as imperfect as we are. We are deeply convinced that there are many people in this community that can and will be reached with the saving message of Jesus Christ. We are humbled that He has chosen to use us at this time to do this.
In December, all our minds turned towards the Christmas season. On Sundays and at Bible studies, we worked our way slowly through the Nativity story. On December 22, we held a big celebration where the kids and teens sang songs and acted in skits. We were excited to see many parents show up to watch and we pray that the message of God’s great gift of Jesus Christ born on Christmas day will have touched some hearts that day. Please continue to pray for our team as we continue to seek for ways to reach more adults in the community.
As we look back at 2019 and look forward at 2020 and beyond, we ask for your prayers. We yearn to be more than just busy with ministry, but we want to be doing what God has called us here to do. We want to make changes not because we think it will make things “better” but make changes that will lead to changed lives for Christ. We know that we do not change hearts but it is God’s Spirit who brings lasting change in people’s lives.
Please pray for our family as we try to balance time and energy spent with family and ministry. Pray for our kids as they continue to grow up here in Cambodia. We are very proud of them and how they have handled all the transitions these past years. We are proud of the global perspective that they are gaining and proud of how God is building in each of them hearts that are becoming more compassionate towards the lost and needy. A few weeks ago, as we just finished hanging out with some of the kids and playing soccer with them in a parking lot, our son Jadon said, “I don’t know why but I feel sad inside when I think about them and…”. This was a proud parent moment as we explained to him that what he was feeling was empathy.
Thank you for all of you and your partnership with us as we serve here. Whether you have blessed us with cards, emails, words of encouragements, prayers or finances, we THANK YOU ALL and wish everyone all of God’s blessings in 2020.
David, Joyce, Jadon, Elisabeth, Josiah
Ps. Some of you have asked numerous times about Jadon’s peanut allergy. After a few incidences with peanuts this past year, we took Jadon to Thailand in December for further testing (there are no allergists in Cambodia). The good news is that though the blood test results still are high, the skin test showed a smaller and slower reaction compared to previous tests done in 2018. The bad news is that the doctors still believe his reaction is too severe to risk a oral ingestion test at this time. We were asked to come back in a year. This was disappointing to Jadon, but we are confident that God will continue to protect him and are encouraged that his few incidents with peanuts thus far have not led to any reactions.
Please continue to prayer for us in the coming weeks:
- Praise God that through a busy 2019, we have felt his presence with our family.
- Pray for our team to have discernment in our plans as we serve together in 2020.
- Pray for wisdom as we seek for ways to connect to and reach out to the adults in the community.
- Pray for our family life. Pray that we have Godly wisdom as we raise our kids in Cambodia.
- Pray for our ministry financial needs as we continue to seek out those who would like to contribute to our Siem Reap Vietnamese Ministry Approved Special.
Thanks again for journeying with us!