Thirteen Years, A Mango Tree, and the Gospel
We arrived thirteen years ago this month in Cambodia. Some days it seems like just yesterday that we landed with our young family in tow. But when we reflect that our then Kindergartner is now finishing up her first year in college, we are reminded that time does not stand still (James 4:14)! We could not have made it without sustaining grace at work in part through each of you - 'holding the ropes for us'....thank you for praying and standing tall!
In Cambodia there is a cool season and a hot season (or slights variations). We are heading into hot season which means higher temperatures (not so exciting) but it also means it is mango season! Our family loves mangos (which we think are better than the ones you get in America) and we anticipate enjoying fresh fruit which will come off of our tree soon. Actually most people have mango trees and I think all Khmer LOVE mangos about as much as we do. What might be surprising to you is that we have a "neighbor" who lives in one of the mango trees on our street. His name is "Lok Ta", he isn't human but he is a (demon) spirit who protects and oversees our community. It is a beautiful tree but...
There is an offering of fruit and incense at the base of the tree many days. During holidays or on special religious festivals the offering is there, always facing west. When asked why the offering needed to be in that specific place the answer was simple. "The spirit told us to put it there. If we don't put it in the right place, he will get angry and if he is angry we will suffer and so will the entire community." This belief in the spirits inhabiting various places is an animistic superstition rather than Buddhist belief. But it represents a key part of the Khmer worldview. The spirit world is real and one must submit to the spirits of face the consequences. Cambodians may not be 'proper Buddhists' but they are very religious and will do anything which they believe will appease the spirits and bring them protection, health and fortune.
Can you imagine the pressure of having a hungry spirit living in the tree outside your home? What anxiety that must bring to the hearts of the occupants who might offend this demon! We have been struck over and again by the great fear people, created by God for His glory, are living in each and every day of their lives. The spirit world is alive and kicking here. Satan desires to keep people living in darkness and fear but the Gospel of Jesus brings freedom (Galatians 5:1)! Jesus came to the world as Light and Truth (John 1:14). Isaiah 9:2,6 says, "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned..."
My heart is heavy that the people we serve and love are so enslaved by the enemy. The Lord offers freedom from this bondage through Christ, He is the One who has authority over ALL creation (Matthew 8:31)! He is the Great Almighty God that has all power over this world and all that is in it. He has the power to bestow peace on this nation gripped with fear. Please pray with us that we would continue to be faithful witnesses to the Gospel before our neighbors and that the Cambodian people would see Jesus Christ who is the only light that can dispel the darkness.
Again, it is our privilege to serve Christ here. A special thanks to those of you who gave a special gift at the end of 2015, we were humbled by your generosity. The Lord continues to provide for our needs through your faithful support.
- Daren & Jodi Beck