Tuesday, June 19, 2018

June 2018 Prayer Letter

Dear Praying Friends and Family,

We have been so excited to have some new visitors at church recently. First of all, we’ve had between 3-5 kids join the upstairs adult service, and at least two of them have made a profession of faith. As they’ve continued coming back, they’ve also brought a couple other visitors with them. 

Although we haven’t had as many visitors downstairs, we have had a few kids start showing up again that had stopped coming for a while. We did get one new visitor, a cute four-year-old little boy, named Vongdien. His aunt, Jenra (13 years old), insisted that he would be able to sit downstairs without crying, and sure enough, he did, all by himself! His older brother, Jenrut (11 years old), looks almost identical to him in facial features. It has been exciting to see the changes in Vongdien over the past month since he first started coming. He sits quietly in class, enjoys doing the craft time, and even started trying to answer questions recently.

Thank you very much to everyone who prayed for my school’s concert last month. I really enjoyed playing with so many of my students and hearing others of them playing in groups or individually in front of such a great crowd of people. For some of my students, this was their first experience, and they were quite nervous. Others couldn’t wait to finish just so they could get to the refreshment time at the end of the program. I had the exciting opportunity of getting to join some of our teachers to play through the classical style of an extended version of Phnom Penh, a song that was written by King Norodom Sihanouk.

The students are already six weeks into the semester and keeping busy. They’ve had multiple quizzes in English, education, and Bible, although there have definitely been some struggles along the way. It’s been exciting to see one of our students put forth so much effort this semester into both his grades and his demerits. He was one of the three whom we were asking prayer for at the end of last semester, since his grades were reaching a critical level. This semester, however, he’s made a complete turnaround, as he’s only gotten five demerits so far. This morning, he actually arrived earlier than all the rest of our students, which is a huge change from last year.

Currently, in education class, the students are working on writing their “philosophy of education.” This project is not only for those who will pursue a career as a teacher, but for each of them in their daily lives, since they will have opportunities to interact with others and try to share the Gospel with them. We pray that each of them will have opportunities like Paul spoke of in 2 Timothy 2:2, “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”

Finally, please be in prayer for the upcoming elections here. They will be on Sunday, July 29. This is going to be a critical time in this country’s history, and we are already seeing some preparatory signs of what is going to happen during that time.

Thank you so much for all your prayers. They are blessings to me and to each of us here! I am so thankful for the part that each of you have had in my life.

Reaching forth,

Rebekah Fruin

Thursday, April 19, 2018

April 2018 Prayer Letter

Dear Praying Friends and Family,

So, I wanted to let you know about some tragic news that has been in the headlines recently. I want to apologize in advance for any of you who were planning on coming to Cambodia and hoped to partake in the long-established tradition of eating a-ping. Due to some changes in laws and due to a lot of the illegal forestry that the government is trying to curb, our tarantula population is dying out here in Cambodia. As a result, there are not quite as many available to purchase for consumption, so the prices have gone up and the supply has gone down. If you come in the near future, there may still be some hope of you joining in the traditional meal of fried tarantula, so you may want to plan your trips accordingly. I hope the news isn’t too devastating for those of you with thoughts of visiting Cambodia.

(For those of you that are interested in following Cambodian news, I would highly recommend using Google Alert. I use this and get daily highlights of any news headlines throughout the world that mention “Cambodia” or “Khmer.” In many ways, this has allowed me to keep up with the Cambodian news better than any other option around.)

Another thing that has been in headline news recently has been our upcoming elections. When are elections, you ask? Well, on Sunday, July 29, 2018, Cambodia will be holding her countrywide elections. On that day, places of business are required to either shut down or else to make absolutely sure that everyone has the opportunity to get away and vote. Standing in line to vote could take quite a while, so the whole country is greatly affected on that day. These elections will choose the party that will rule Cambodia. The CPP, the current ruling party, has won the last four elections, which are generally held every five years. If they win again this year, Hun Sen will continue to rule as the prime minister. If you’re curious as to how long he has been the prime minister here, my answers for the last prayer letter’s questions are below, including the answer to that query. Please pray that the Lord’s will, regarding the elections and the following aftermath, would rule.

Somewhat along those lines, there has been a large influx of Chinese influence here in Cambodia. There are many Chinese companies in regards to construction and architecture. This, of course, has also brought in many Chinese workers. However, China has also had a long-term relationship with Prime Minister Hun Sen and has had some influence regarding the elections and other events. This may be an exciting open door in the future, especially if one is able to pick up some Chinese in conjunction with Khmer. Can you tell what one of my goals is for the future, Lord-willing?

Two exciting upcoming events for me are starting back to Bible college this Monday, April 30, and the annual concert at Simphony music school on June 3. In regards to the college, the students are excited to be two-thirds of the way done with their classes. It’s hard to believe there is just one year left of college! However, we do covet your prayers in regards to the students, that they would grow spiritually and academically this next year. We have seen growth in certain areas, but lack in others that we sincerely desire to see. More and more, we realize our vast need to lean on the Lord and ask Him to allow us to see the students through His eyes. He has great plans for each of them, and He has given us the privilege of working with them during this short time in order to better equip them to serve Him. Our responsibility is to do our best, and I have been very thankful for this month break in order to consider ways in which I can improve and be a better conduit of His working in their lives.

The concert at Simphony is exciting and quite nerve-wracking, especially since several of my students have been absent the last several weeks for holidays and personal sick days. We also have a new director at the school, so the preparation for this concert has been quite different than in previous years. Still, with all the busyness, God has still opened up doors for witnessing at the music school. One little boy in particular, Sombath, seemed quite burdened about the gospel story and why Jesus would die for his sins. We’ve had several talks over the three years that I’ve been his teacher, and it was exciting to see his concern for the consequences of his own sin, as well as to see his desire to trust in Jesus Christ. The following week, he came back to class and excitedly told me that he had told his friends and his brothers about Jesus, although he was a bit discouraged that they didn’t believe him. Please pray that I can continue ministering to him and his brothers, since I see each of them weekly.

It is interesting how God opens various doors for witnessing. This last week, while my mom and I were walking by the river for our daily exercise, a lady came running after us and calling for us. She wanted to ask us what we thought about Khmers moving to live in America. She wasn’t sure if Cambodia was easier or America was easier. But, after that, she asked us why we came to Cambodia. We were able to share a little bit about our church and that we are telling others about Jesus Christ. We invited her to come to church, but she staunchly refused and said she cannot because she is a Buddhist and must follow her own religion. Although the door is very closed with her right now, we are praying that maybe the Lord would see fit to open a door with her in the future.

Finally, for those of you who were unable to find the answers to my questions in my last prayer letter, I have attached them, in an abridged version, at the bottom of this one.

Thank you again for all your prayers and encouragement! I am thankful for you all!

Reaching forth,

Rebekah Fruin

Questions and Answers to Previous Prayer Letter:
1.       How many different New Years are celebrated in Cambodia?
a.        Three – International (January 1), Chinese (in February), and Khmer (in April)
2.       When did Cambodia gain independence from France? When did Cambodia gain independence from Pol Pot? When did Hun Sen begin ruling as the prime minister in Cambodia?
a.        Cambodia became an independent country from France in 1953.
b.       Cambodia was taken over by Pol Pot in 1975 but was freed in 1979.
c.        Hun Sen took over in 1993 and has been in power since.
3.       What is the world's largest religious monument (and is based in Cambodia)?
a.        Angkor Wat
4.       When is dry season in Cambodia? When is rainy season in Cambodia? When is cool season in Cambodia?
a.        Traditionally dry season runs from December to April
b.       Rainy season is the rest of the year, from May to November, but we have the most rain in September and October.
c.        Cool season is traditionally from November to January, overlapping parts of the dry season and rainy season.
-          So, yes, we are currently at the end of the dry season and just heading into rainy season. It is certainly feeling a bit warm at this time, too, with temps at 88 degrees Fahrenheit and 65% humidity. Even the Khmers thinks it’s a mite warm at this time!
5.       What percentage of Cambodia is Buddhist?
a.        Between 93% and 95%

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

February 2018 Prayer Letter

Dear Praying Friends and Family,                                                                                                           

So, I decided to try to make my prayer letter a little different this time around. I thought you might enjoy some trivia regarding Cambodia, to help you learn a little bit more about this beautiful country. At the same time, hopefully, I can give you an update on what is going on over here.

1.         How many different “New Years” are celebrated in Cambodia?
Just a hint, there are more than one! As a matter of fact, we’re coming up on one of the New Years at the end of this week. This weekend, February 16-19, Cambodia will be celebrating Chinese New Year and welcoming in the year of the dog. Many Khmer have relatives or ancestors from China, so Chinese New Year is a widespread festival in Cambodia. Everywhere we walk now, we see the festive red banners with gold trim, dangling red strings, and other red and gold decorative animals, posters, and other paraphernalia being sold. During this time, it is not uncommon to enter a business and receive a red and gold envelope, often with a small amount of money inside. Everyone is excited about the upcoming days off from school (except at our Bible college, where we don’t break for Chinese New Year). Even I get to have a break from teaching piano this Saturday, which I am extremely excited about! However, with all the festivities, there are many rituals involved as well. Already, the Chinese pagodas have been sending out groups of teenagers and young adults to do the lion and dragon dances in order to ask the spirits for good luck for the upcoming year. There are a whole list of things that you should and shouldn’t do during this time. A clean house is important, but so is a full pantry. According to tradition, certain colors or meetings on the first day of the Chinese year bring good luck, but medicine, sharp objects, or lack of certain things can bring bad luck for the whole year. This Thursday is a time that is very difficult spiritually, as the spirits will be hard at work amongst the people. That is the day that many will choose to force objects to pierce through parts of their body. They believe that the more they can do, the more they will have peace of mind and push the bad spirits out of their lives. What a hold Satan has on these people during this time!

2.        When did Cambodia gain independence from France? When did Cambodia gain independence from Pol Pot? When did Hun Sen begin ruling as the prime minister in Cambodia?
Sorry, I know that’s a lot of questions within one question, but since they are all related, I thought I would put them together. Cambodia is relatively young, in the sense of being an independent country. However, the people of Cambodia claim a very rich history, since at least 800 A.D., if not before then. Although the country has been through a lot of upheaval at various times in their history, there are certain leaders that Cambodia looks back on with pride, such as Jayavarman VII. However, one prayer request that I’d like to let you know about are our upcoming elections here in Cambodia. Currently, they are slated to be on Sunday, July 29. If you’ve been following the news about Cambodia at all, you will already know that there have been different things going on between the various parties. China is becoming a major ally for Cambodia, and the relations between the United States and Cambodia have traveled through some mountains and valleys. Please pray that the Lord’s will would be done during this upcoming election and that those in the church would follow His guidance in voting.

3.        What is the world’s largest religious monument (and is based in Cambodia)?
As a hint, this religious monument is based in Siem Reap, which is where one of my piano students recently went with a group of other students from our music school. There was a first-time piano competition in Siem Reap that was open to the surrounding Asian countries. At this festival, our students were able to compete against other musicians, as well as attend some various music workshops, attend nearby tourist sites, and just spend some time getting to know each other. Although I only had one student go this year, she did extremely well and was one of the gold prize winners. Now that this festival is over, some of our students will begin preparing for a competition in March. At the same time, our music school will be preparing for our annual concert in the summer. However, we will also be adjusting to some major changes at the school, since our director recently moved on to another job, and we currently don’t have anyone filling the role of director. Please pray, as this definitely leaves everyone feeling a little anxious for the future. I was grateful for our previous director, because I saw him lead our school in a good direction, and I’m looking forward to seeing what God will do next.

4.        When is dry season in Cambodia? When is rainy season in Cambodia? When is cool season in Cambodia?
Traditionally speaking, this time of year should NOT be cool season, since we are already in the middle of February. However, we are extremely thankful for the beautiful weather we have been having. The students at the Bible college have been thankful as well, as it has allowed them to attend to their studies better, plus leave the window closed in the classroom during our lecture times. The students are looking at just five to six weeks left in this semester and they are excited. Once they are done with this semester, at the end of March, they will have just one year left of Bible college. We’re currently in the middle of studying Philosophy of Music, plus our normal Bible and English classes. I also teach piano to the students on Monday. This, in addition to a required hour of English typing and an hour of piano practice a week, regular homework, and writing a personal doctrinal statement, has kept our students pretty busy. Please pray that they would do their best and learn as much as they can through this last year of the Bible college. It’s a little scary to think that their time with us is almost done!

5.        What percentage of Cambodia is Buddhist?
Although a very large percent of Cambodia is Buddhist, a number of other religions have infiltrated as well. Hinduism was one of the first religions to influence Cambodia. Islam has been in Cambodia for quite a while, and you can often see various mosques in certain parts of the city. Roman Catholicism has been in Cambodia as well, although it is mostly prevalent in the Vietnamese circles. There is even a small group that follows Judaism. However, the Mormons have also made a headway into Cambodia, and there is a particularly large congregation not too far away from our church. We have been working with some of the children in the areas around our church for years, but there have been various times that it seems like Satan is working harder than normal to pull those children away. We recently encountered another of these situations, where a girl, who seemed like she was growing spiritually and asking very deep questions, got drawn into the Mormon church. She and her family claimed they were staying away from it, but in the last couple of weeks, she hasn’t been coming to church and some other children told us she was trying to get them to go to the Mormon church with her. It’s a little discouraging to see someone of such promise get pulled away. At the same time, attendance has been dwindling, as different children have decided they don’t want to come, or they are sick, or have tutoring class, or even work. Please pray, most of all, that God would raise up a core of strong believers in the church. Pray that He would bring some adults in, and that they would hear the Gospel and get saved. Please also pray for a strong national pastor to lead the church.

Hopefully, this trivia time gave you a glimpse of Cambodia in a different light. I’d love to feature any questions that you might have in my prayer letter. If you’d like to send me a few questions, I’d be happy to put them in one of my upcoming prayer letters so that you can see a bit more of the ministry God has given to me here in Cambodia.

Thank you for your prayers and financial support! They are a tremendous blessing and encouragement to me.

Reaching forth,

Rebekah Fruin