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Not Sorry, We’re Closed

Cambodian Christians honor Sunday

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“Why is this shop closed today?” asked a hurried customer on a busy Sunday morning.

“It is because the owner is a believer of Preah Yea-sue [Jesus],” said the owner of the shop next door.

“They always close on Sundays,” added another.

Many church families in Poipet are being inspired by other believers to take time off work to set Sundays aside for rest and worship. People with steady, secure jobs or those who work with local nongovernment organizations can easily abide by this decision. But for many poor families, this is a tremendous sacrifice. They work as laborers across the Thai border or sell fish, vegetables, dried fruit, and other snacks. Each day’s earnings are barely enough for their daily needs. To take a whole day off is a big commitment.

Lydia (right) was the first Christian shopkeeper Chenda (left) met in Poipet. Many store owners were curious about why Christians were closing their shops on Sunday, an unusual strategy in consumer-conscious Cambodia, where many of the store proprietors work seven days a week to provide for their families.

Despite this, some were willing to trust God with their incomes and, as a result, are experiencing His blessings. Those who make a living selling food were able to double their sales on Saturdays. A man and his wife from Living Water Church (Alliance) in Poipet sell recyclable goods to junkyards across the border. Like all other businesses, there were ups and downs, but this couple would excitedly share about the many blessings God gave them. Other families own small shops (selling toys, clothing, handbags, shoes, and hair accessories and products) but are willing to close their shops on Sundays; they also are seeing more and more costumers buying goods on weekdays.

Word spread in communities and local markets, and many began to wonder about these Koan Preah Yea-sue (children of Jesus). As the result, a number of people stopped by Living Water Church just to “check things out.” Every week, we often see new faces at the service; recently, there were 12 visitors. It is an exciting time for the Poipet Alliance churches.

Chenda, 30, a young wife and the mother of three small kids, was among the curious. She and her husband, Samnang, 32, heard the gospel from a visiting friend in February of this year and prayed to receive Jesus as their Savior. As the only believers among their families, they had many questions about life and their spiritual journey but had no one with whom to share their concerns.

One day Chenda overheard someone at a local market talking loudly about a Christian shop owner named “Lydia”—so Chenda headed straight to that shop. After a brief introduction, these two ladies, once strangers, were joyfully hugging each other like best friends while Chenda shed tears of thanksgiving to God for allowing her to meet another believer. Lydia immediately told her about us and our church.

That night, Samnang and Chenda invited us to their house to remove their shrines, idols, and other spiritual worship items. Needing support, we invited a few other church people to come along. We sang and prayed, and then, relying fully on the authority and power of Jesus Christ and with the couple leading the way, we tore away all of the worship items and put them into rice bags. Then we loaded them onto our truck, took them to our house, and burned them. Chenda and Samnang came along and stayed up to talk with other believers until past midnight.

Chenda encouraged her father, who has health problems, to give his life to Christ.

Since then, Samnang has lived a changed life, reading the Bible faithfully with Chenda. His mother (not yet a believer) took notice and began to tell her neighbors about his transformation. Chenda boldly shared the good news with her parents and all who came to her phone shop, urging them to make a decision to follow Christ “soon! Please! Before it is too late.”

As a result, Chenda’s father, aged 57, invited us to his house to tell him more about this good news. After Soeuth shared the salvation message with him, Chenda’s father prayed to receive Jesus as his Savior. He even let us cut off the spirit string from around his waist.

We encouraged Chenda and Samnang to call us any time with their questions. And they have! Sometimes they call at one or two o’clock in the morning wanting an explanation of Bible passages they were reading. Every day both Chenda and Samnang often give us exciting reports about what is happening in their new and changing lives.

Chenda told me that the wife of her next door neighbor (who sells shoes), like other curious people in the market, wanted to learn why Chenda and Samnang close their shop on Sunday. After hearing Chenda’s explanation, this lady expressed a desire to visit church.

Chenda, Samnang, and their three children stand in front of the bonfire of their old lives. The shrines were burned on the property of Soeuth and Syna Lao, Alliance international workers.

As God’s children continue to live as witnesses among the community, many people are finding true hope and salvation in Jesus Christ. At the same time, the enemy is not happy! He is trying every tactic and every scheme he can think of on God’s children. Some church families, especially those who were in contact with Chenda and Samnang during their conversion, reported having visions or dreams or seeing scary evil images at night, causing them to lose sleep. But all the believers seemed to say the same thing: “As soon as I called out the name of Jesus, the image just disappeared!” There is truly power in His name!

Please pray for Chenda and Samnang and other new believers to stand firm in their decision to follow Christ. Pray for protection for all of God’s children, especially those in Poipet.

Point of No Return

An approaching Khmer or Chinese religious holiday is often a testing time for new believers, because they are pressured to return to their old way of life and worship the spirits of deceased ancestors. During the Chinese New Year, we had opportunities to lead people to find true salvation in Christ. A number of those who came to Christ or are still considering following Him based their decisions on the testimonies and the daily lifestyles that some members of Living Water Church chose to practice to honor the Sabbath. During the holiday, small hungry children firmly refused to eat choice food because it had been offered to evil spirits. “That would not be pleasing to Jesus!” they told the unbelieving relatives. While the temptation is great during the festive holiday, one young boy refused to drink alcohol even though it was offered to him for free. Instead, he quoted Scripture to the person who tried to give him the drink: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). Then, he took his sister’s hand, and together they walked away from that Chinese New Year’s party.

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