This Little Light of Mine

Mom and Dad call for the kids to come close. As the sun tucks into the Cambodian horizon, they see a man running towards their camp. “Hey, you!” he calls.

They saw him earlier, walking around chatting with different families. It wasn’t a secret: he’s an informant. He’s the known as one who snoops and spies for the Khmer Rouge Army.

He jogs towards their house. Waving at them with a faux-friendly “hello”, he continues, “I see you guys have light. It’s been a few nights: how do you get the light?!

“Well, we made a candle from the pig fat and oil.” Mom explains.

“Really? Pig oil?! Where did you get it?” he inquired.

“Well, you know the pigs out in the field. I can show you, if you’d like!” Mom replies. Picking up the carcass with her beautiful beaming smile, she presents a rat. She shows him the bowl of oil. She explains that the wick is from torn mosquito netting they find. With pieces of metal, they have a makeshift stand to help hold the “wick”. (My parents would cook up the rats and they would keep the grease from the rats as oil for their candle).

“Wow, you guys are creative! You get light by getting oil and fats from the rat and with some cloth and scraps!” He exclaims. Amazed and content with their answer, he salutes them.

“Thanks for showing me! I should be going!” he remarks. Up he stands from squatting position, he nods his head and rushes off to the next house. He never bothered them again.

Photo by David Tomaseti on Unsplash

Mom and Dad lived under Pol Pot Regime for three and a half years. The soldiers required families to gather for a meeting in the evenings. The content of messages would range from work tasks for the next day or interrogations, or to promoting the evil beliefs of Marxism. When the families were released, with a sigh they huddled and gathered together weary from hard manual labor dressed in black from top to bottom and under the hot sun. Yet, as Scripture says, “Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength, Run and not grow weary, walk and not faint.” (See Isaiah 40) Yet, every night for three and a half years they were able to have candlelight and read their Bible. Mom and Dad show me even to this day, the Word of God remains. Seeing God’s faithful and goodness in such a time of tragedy only solidified their faith. Such a time of loss and yet they lived abundantly by grace through faith.

Isaiah 40:31 New Living Translation


31 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
    They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
    They will walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:8 New International Version


The grass withers and the flowers fall,
    but the word of our God endures forever.”

Cambodian Soup for the Soul

I thought I’d take a break from the heavy stories I’ve shared and share with you a recipe of one of my favorite soups!

A few days ago, I was on the phone with my mom. I am grateful to have her healthy and alive. She usually asks what I’m eating, so I asked her what she was having. She said she was just doing a simple ground beef meatball (with glass noodles) and cucumber soup.

A few simple ingredients:

*half a pound to 1 pound of ground beef

*two cucumbers (peel and cut)

*one teaspoon (or more) black pepper, you’ll want a lot!

*half teaspoon salt (for meatball mix) and half teaspoon for broth (flavor to taste)

*two to three green onion stalks (optional, if you do not like onions)

*one bundle/bunch mung bean string noodles aka Glass noodles or Wai Wai noodles (you’ll want to trim into quarter inch in length)

*6-8 cups Water (if you want more soup, add more water)

STEPS

Start by soaking noodles for a few minutes in very warm water.

Next, in a pot add 6-8 cups of water on high to bring to a boil. You’ll want to make small meatballs out of ground beef and noodles; so in a medium sized bowl, mix ground beef with cut noodles together. Add when water boils let it cook medium to high. Set timer for seven minutes.

Peel and cut up cucumbers into slices and then into quarters (set aside).

When timer dings. Add cucumbers and set timer now for five minutes. Taste as you go (my measurements for salt and pepper are a guestimate; sorry it’s out of habit!)

A couple of notes. You want it with a strong black pepper taste! As for salty flavor: you want it just enough flavor, not over salty. The soup takes about 15 minutes total! If want the cucumbers more tender, you can cook them longer. If you want to cook both ground beef and cucumbers about the same time, then cut the cucumber one inch thick. The soup is as simple as I described.

Simple and delightfully delicious!

Enjoy!

You can serve with some white rice: it’s great summer, spring, fall or winter.

A Shot In The Dark

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,

Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;

Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,

Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Great Is Thy Faithfulness by Thomas Obadiah Chisholm, 1960

In the midst of Khmer Rouge

He settles in a spot in the jungle. He is closer and closer to the refugee camp but he has to rest. Kneeling down, he settles on the dirt and lays down.

Dad falls heavily into sleep.

In the dark of night, he lay sleeping under the stars. Something jumps on his chest and begins scratching him. He begins to stir. The animal on his chest continues tapping on him as if it’s trying to wake him. The thumping wakes him from his slumber. Drowsily, he looks towards his chest and sees the silhouette of an animal…is it a chicken? He questions and goes for the animal. Attempting to capture it, he tells himself, “Oh, a chicken! Grab it, Ham!”

Startling out of his sleep, he turns. Rolling over hoping to grab the chicken, his hands rub what feels like fur not feather! Further, he feels a long tail. Alerting himself he says, “It’s not a chicken! It’s a rat!” Food scarce during these times is food nonetheless. His body continuing rolling towards the rat. He was just a few seconds too late to catch his next meal. Instead, he finds himself rolling downward into a deep ditch.

Not a moment later he hears “Kapow. Kapow. Swoosh. Swoosh.”

A spray of bullets fly across the ditch above him. On a path going directly through where he was sleeping just moments ago.

A sense of “cheating death” startles him awake. His palms are sweating and heart beating faster than it has ever before. He can feel his heart coming out of his chest. Shallows breaths exhales from his nose and Dad looks up. Those bullets could have pierced him seconds ago! He thanks God for another day to be alive.

Out of the Mouth

God's word tells us, "You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea". Exodus 20:4"
Photo by Paul Szewczyk on Unsplash

Public school for Mom was school next to a Wat (Temple). Seven Year Old Soun skips on her way to school. Her singing and hopping slows in tempo. She notices people bowing down to the monks. She’s a little irritated.

She continues hopping onward towards school. This image disturbs her. A couple of days later, as she bounces past the Wat, a monk calls for her today. He asks why she isn’t bowing. Quickly, she responds that she doesn’t need to bow; she only bows to the One True God. The monk huffs in frustration at her.

He’s thinking “What a brat! She refuses to kneel to us?!

Miffed, he shouts as she skips away “I will tell your teacher!”

Secure in God as her Creator and Friend, she continues towards her class; she skips and she waves a goodbye.

Later that day, her teacher calls for her. Teacher tells Seven Year Old Soun that when a monk speaks to her showing respect and bowing is the right thing. Disrespecting the monk is not appropriate for a student.

Seven Year Old Soun declares, “I will not bow to a man! The monk is just a man! Only God deserves worship!”

Teacher has little Soun’s fingers in her hand and hits her fingers with the ruler. Tears streaming down her cheeks, she begins wailing. She yells at Teacher saying, “God above sees this!”

Teacher, angry and annoyed at this seven year old, addresses Mom asking, “What God?! There’s no “God.”

To which Mom replies, “God, the One who created the heaven and earth. God, creator of all the plants and animals!!! This isn’t right; he sees this!”

Seeing that this defiant student has been appropriately punished, Teacher has hit her a few times on her fingers, and sends Soun back to her seat.

Soun is feeling alone, sad, and angry. She’s been disciplined for not believing what her teacher and the monk believe. She knows in her heart that God is real and he will defend her! She knows what she believes!

After school, Teacher is done with her daily duties. She wants to go have fun and visit a friend. She is excited to go meet up with her friend, but on her way to meet her friend, she’s was met by a couple of thieves instead. They attack her and take her things.

The following day, Soun sees her teacher bruised blue around her face and she announces she has to cancel school for a couple of days.


Psalm14:1a NKJV 'The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”'

Psalm 116:6 NLT The Lord protects those of childlike faith; I was facing death, and he saved me."
Photo by Greg Rosenke on Unsplash

Meet Your Maker

To You, O my Strength, I will sing praises; For God is my defense, My God of mercy.
Psalms 59:17 NKJV
https://bible.com/bible/114/psa.59.17.NKJV

While under watch of the Khmer Rouge, it became known that Dad followed Jesus.

To the Khmer people, Jesus is the White American God. Angry they threatened Dad. You will meet your American God, Mister. We’ll see to it. The soldiers left to report to their superior.

Upon hearing them say they’ll send him to his American God, Dad put two and two together: they were not going to purchase an airline ticket to send him to America to freely believe in his God, rather they wanted to kill him!

Photo by Amaury Gutierrez on Unsplash

For three days, Mom and Dad spent from sunrise to sunset praying. They sought the Lord. Praying fervently, “God, You are ruler over all. You can take care of us.” They pleaded with God. They said again, “I trust you, God. We are your children and you are our Heavenly Father. We know that you can take care of us.” Day after day, they pleaded with God. Mom prayed to God saying “We hide ourselves in you. You will take care of us.” Three days of praying, Mom had a dream that Missionary Paul Ellison was visiting their home. Arriving at the house, he handed over a bag with a gift for the family. He unravels mosquito netting. He continues to tell Mom that he will set the mosquito netting up for the family. “You will sleep well tonight!” After that dream, she knew that was God’s confirmation: he is worthy, he is trustworthy and he will indeed set a hedge of protection around them.

Day four, my parents notice the soldiers walk by and…continue to walk on. They didn’t stop. Like in her dream, a spiritual netting set around them! God has hidden them yet again from the soldiers and they did not threaten Dad anymore.

Huddling together, they praise God! Quietly they sang “What a Friend We have In Jesus.” Weight off their shoulder, breath in their lungs, they no longer needed to worry about having a target on them.

Suggested Prayer: God, you are worthy of praise! Thank you for caring for me. God, when life is scary and my fears are flying, I ask that you’d remind me that you are good. God, you are trustworthy. Today, I declare my trust in you. I thank you that you are my heavenly Father and I am your child. You will take care of me. I leave my worries and concern in your capable hands; thy will be done. Amen

A Vision of Comfort

Psalm 34:18a  "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted..."

Sitting there in the warm Cambodian evening, she recalls something like a vision… she was awake and aware but her eyes fixed forward into the horizon as she enters what is like a dream. Sitting in her home, she sees two or three visitors walk in to her home. As they enter, they come toward her. Her view fixed on their pristine and bright white clothing. Hearing the voice and seeing the silhouette, she hears them say, ” We’ve come to take your baby. We’d like to help take care of your baby.”

“What?” My mom a bit confused and responds, “I’m only seven months along. I don’t have a baby for you.”

“Yes, we understand. We will want to take your baby when he’s delivered and full-term. We understand he’ll need much. We are able to provide for him completely. When the time comes, we can take care of him best for all his needs.” The visitors replied.

In agreement, Mom said yes. She let Dad know of this vision.

A few months go by. Mom is full term, goes into labor and delivers baby David one evening. She sees her beautiful baby. He is captivating. Oh how she’s in love for the sixth time, but something is not quite right. Baby David was born with health problems. He began nursing irregularly after several days . At about a week, she notice his gaze was off and he was having his seizures again. He’s only a week old. She keeps on nursing her sweet child. Nurturing him like all the children who came before him. He looks up at her, smiles then he unlatches, Mom says he he gave her that one big smile and breathed his last.

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

She comes to grip with her vision. She knew it was time. She calls for Dad out in the fields.

Dad comes running. Strong and praying, he comforts Mom and holds baby David one last time. He wraps up baby in some cloths and digs the grave for baby David. Praying, they thanked God for their son. They thank God Mom is alive and well and recovering. Together Mom and Dad Thank God and tell him, “Yet again, I will trust you.” They thank God for his great comfort in such a loss. After Dad buries baby, Mom wails. Her broken heart. She is so sad. Dad reminds her that he’s gone to heaven and he’s in God’s perfect care. Remember, our God was gracious to us to let know that he’d take our son home. Don’t cry, he’s in heaven.”

Mom cries for a while; after some time, she releases him: he’s home. He’s got all the provisions he needs; he’s home.

Suggested prayer: Dear God, You are Sovereign over all things. I praise you for you are close to the broken-hearted and you are the God of all Comfort. I thank you that in the challenges of living, we will face trials. James says to count it all joy. I thank you that I can count it joy for my trial that I am facing. Help me be able to comfort others in their time of trouble. Amen.

Raise The Roof

But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.
--2 Thessalonians 3:3

A thief enters the Tean Residence in the middle of the night. He quietly makes his way to where Grandpa Tin lays sound asleep. Holding a knife, he raises his hands, and the moment he is to begin swinging the knife downward into Grandpa Tin’s head, he’s stunned! He looks from side to his, his arms unmoving. His heart racing and feeling frazzled, he decides to wake up Grandpa Tin.

The thief begins uttering, “Hello …help, can you wake up, and help me?”

Grandpa, unafraid, but surely confused as to why a stranger is standing above him with his arms upright he questions the thief, “Who are you?! What are you doing here?! How do you want me to help?”

The thief explains to him that he has come into the home to kill him and steal his clothes and food. However, he can’t move.

Grandpa assures him that he could help, but the thief would have to pray with him to the One True God, and that God could help him and he could be set free. Grandpa Tin kneels with the thief, his hand on the thief’s shoulder. He invites him into prayer. The thief who came to kill, steal, and destroy was shown mercy.

Grandpa Tin praises God for he protected him and his family!

What a mighty God, indeed!

A suggested prayer: God, Creator of all living things, I come humbly before you. I thank you for this day. God you are able and you are all powerful. I thank you for keeping me safe thus far. Today, I pray for peace over my heart and home. I pray that you’d provide peace and protection for me today. By your words you spoke creation into being. As Romans 11:36 says “For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen”

A Voice Like Thunder

Photo by Marianne Long on Unsplash

"Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me." --John 14:6


I count it a privilege to have parents who are followers of Jesus Christ who have intimately experienced his presence in their lives. They live today to display God's strength and grace in their lives before, during, and after the genocide.  Both of my parents had grown up in a home where both sets of parents called on the name of Jesus to be saved.

Evangelism in Cambodia:
In the early 1940's, before my mom was born, a missionary named John David Ellison (he was one of the first American born in Cambodia) had come to the village that her parents lived to present the gospel. My Grandmother Gnum and later Grandpa Tin became believers. Grandpa Tin had been an alcoholic. My mom retells a story from her parents: day and night, her dad would have a drink in hand. He had seen the missionaries share about Jesus and had seen his wife become a believer. After some time, her dad had hit rock bottom! Thirsty, yet no amount of alcohol quenched his thirst; he went for kerosene, yet still parched. Finally, he decided to trust in Jesus and in the instant of becoming a believer and follower of Jesus: alcohol no longer had a grip on him. He found living water; a well for his soul!

Grandpa Chan at a young age decided to be a Buddhist monk, yet that life would not satisfy.  As a monk, he saw people bowing down to give honor and receive blessings. He felt no honor should be due to him, a mere human; it was unsettling for his soul. According to my dad, Grandpa Chan often pondered the things of life asking, "Who created the world? How did the skies and the earth come to be?"  He eventually left the life of a monk and he married Ette (grandma). While in early years of marriage, Grandpa Chan had heard about Jesus through someone in the village. He chose to trust Jesus. 

One night he went to sleep, he was frightened. Even though Grandpa Chan had recently thrown away carved wooden images of Buddha, he still feared the laboeung (the devil taunting him), feeling an evil presence around him. Shortly after falling asleep he had a nightmare.  In his sleep, he was so stressed and scared; sweating profusely, until he dreamt of the overwhelming protective assurance of God, a voice resounding like thunder saying, "HE CANNOT DO ANYTHING TO YOU!"  

Growing up, I loved hearing this story about Grandpa Chan. Gathered in a circle a bunch of black haired Cambodian kids listening to their awesomely animated and confident Dad share this bedtime story. I imagined my grandpa in this round hut home on stilts. The hut had open windows. I imagined Grandpa Chan laying there on the mat: the camera zooms in on his face. He's wincing; his body twitching from the taunting nightmare and then a thundering voice calls from above: HE CANNOT DO ANYTHING TO YOU! Then suddenly peace: the trees outside of the hut goes from windy to still. The heart pounding softens and calmness returns to his breathing. He continues to sleep, this time his sleep is peaceful. 

I can't wait to share day 4 on Monday! I'm honored that you've read these stories of God's goodness and faithful to my family. 

When Ham Met Soun: A Peak At God’s Providence

"And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." 
--Philippians 4:19

I love learning about my parents; I hope that as I share their stories it will paint a picture of their lives in Cambodia. My parents were able to go to school while growing up and living in rural farm villages. They went to Ta Khmau Bible college, in fact that is where they met!

https://unsplash.com/@chriszackrisson

My mom was born in 1944; she was from the village of Siem Riep. When she was 17, in 1961, she left home for the first time to travel 200 miles westward aboard a bus to Ta Khmau Bible College in ក្រុងតាខ្មៅ (Krong Ta Khmau). Before she left home, her sister told her she would find her future husband at bible school. My dad was born 1941; he was from a hundred miles southwest in Battambong.

Being from farming families, how were they able to afford college? They sold their rice and veggies to other families and to large companies. My mom shared that she returned from school to work on the farm and help out her dad for one year before returning to complete her degree.

My dad wanted my mom’s hand in marriage after seeing her at school. In 1963, he inquired of his professors to ask my mom’s parents for permission to marry. Nothing came of it then. In 1964, his parents asked her parents permission for them to marry. This was how it was done culturally. At the time she had two or three suitors (how very Pride and Prejudice of her), and my dad was the big winner! My mom wanted to finish school first, so shortly after school was done: they got married on May 16th, 1965. (May 16th is also the date of our second born child, how cool).

Newlyweds, May 16, 1965

Stay tuned for day three! I’ll share about how the generations of faith would begin.