Thai-Cambodia Experience: A Journal

[Thursday January 11] Some people have wondered why in the world would I head to Thailand and Cambodia? What does that have to do with Ecclesiax? Short answer… people. Other part of that answer: Ecclesiax is not the centre of the universe God loves ALL people…

[Sunday January 14] Attended a sister, Thai church in Bangkok. These people are exuberant and they pay a significant price to live as Christians in a Buddhist majority. The church asked me to step forward and say a few words through a translator. I smiled and said: Ecclesiax in Ottawa sends you much love and greetings! I also requested that they pray for their sister church in Ottawa, Canada which is praying blessings upon them right now.

[Monday January 15] Spent the morning discussing Thailand and the church here with Dan, Greg and Erin Elford. The four of us then went out on one of the main streets for lunch. A real culinary adventure there.You can eat a large lunch for less than a dollar, drink included!

[Tuesday January 16] Wanted to go for a walk and get some fresh air, which is impossible to do in Bangkok. There is no fresh air. Walked around the 30 or so market stalls that set up right in front of the church building. Raw pig’s heads being chopped up, all kinds of fish flopping around, unusual vegetables I have never seen before. Crowds of people doing their shopping. Trucks, hundreds of motor scooters, cars, bicycles, all whizzing past on the street next to this spontaneous market. People eeking out a living in a poorer section of Bangkok away from the tourist areas, and this is where the church is. I see the sense of it.

[Wednesday January 17] Meeting for day long sessions with the Thai church leaders. The Thai leaders said they were so happy we were there showing solidarity with them. It feels lonely at times, they said. Discouragement can come – they struggle. At the end of the day, we all prayed together and then one Thai leader asked me to share my greatest difficulty and joy in planting Ecclesiax. I answered that my difficulty was often imagining that my ideas were great without talking to God. Then I shared my greatest joy. Seeing people who had zero church background embracing faith in God. This resonated with the Thai leaders. They all nodded with smiles as the words were translated for them. They then asked me how they could pray for me and Ecclesiax? Got a lump in my throat at that one. How humbled I was at that very moment. That is going to be a highlight of Bangkok for me.

[Thursday January 18] Heading to Bangkok international airport 5:30 am to board our charter flight to Cambodia – they tell me it is like going back in time 50 or 60 years. Got ready to head out to the actual Killing Fields memorial. Nothing could prepare me for the vibe that was there. Mass graves with plaques explaining what each section of the death camp did 30 years ago. I walked around it all slowly. Even now I am having trouble with this. It has left a mark on me. I went back outside and stood alone for a few minutes and just breathed. Had dinner with Dan and we talked about the day. About Cambodia. About God. About what God might be saying to us? Walked back down the main street with thousands of people rushing here and there. I tried laying in one of the traditional Cambodian hammocks . The rocking motion is nice, but my body feels like it is being shaped into a curved banana. Instead I try sleeping on a traditional Cambodian floor mat – it’s a little hard, but my body is not being molded into a new shape. The room is nowhere near as hot as I had thought it would be. It is actually pleasant.

[Saturday January 20] Was asked to lead the group of 40+ Cambodian church leaders in a lesson from the Bible. That brought back memories from 20 years ago, of teaching Cambodian refugees English in Hamilton. I stood up front and bowed with my hands clasped together as a sign of respect and greeting, they bowed back to me. Big smiles as I spoke. Dan teaches on urban church planting…

[Sunday January 21] Back in Phnom Penh proper we head over to the Khmer church. Dan is asked to share the God story. Meet a young church planter, also named Daniel, who tells a wild story about his neighbour trying to shoot him because he intervened in the beating the neighbour gave his wife. Daniel is able to stop that, but the husband a soldier, pulls out his service pistol and says: « What is this to you? Now I am going to kill you! » Daniel tells this story like it is normal. My jaw hits the ground. I look at him wide eyed and say: « I have no stories about planting a church that sound like that. »

Rev. Joseph Moreau is Lead Pastor at Ecclesiax FMC in Ottawa, Ontario