The Rev. Christa VonZychlin and the Rev. Wayne Nieminen are ELCA missionaries in Hong Kong serving in theological education. Here Christa describes an experience she had on a recent trip to Cambodia. To support Christa and Wayne, or another of the ELCA’s 230 missionaries, go to www.elca.org/missionarysponsorship.
On day three in Cambodia, I was invited by Lutheran Theological Seminary in Hong Kong alumni Sarah and Sarin to go out to the countryside, outside of Phnom Penh, where Sarin’s parents live in a small village. Sarin’s dad had been crippled years ago while living in a refugee camp, so his tiny mom has worked to sustain their family with small business and farming projects.
Sarin was the first in his family to become a follower of Jesus Christ, and one by one the rest of his family came to faith, too.
Except for his dad, who understandably, had a lot to wonder about this God, this Christ Jesus, this new Lord of his son’s.
However, through divine interventions – and maybe through the new, fresh voices of Sarin’s bride, Sarah, and the beautiful grandchildren they gave to Sarin’s dad – maybe because of their regular visits, their persistent love and because of some dreams, over the last few years Sarin’s dad has been given some amazing dreams, he discovered that God’s Son is for real.
It was a beautiful story and a moving testimony to me of the power of God’s Spirit to draw people to Christ, even in the countryside, even in Cambodia, where recent human history seems to contradict the existence of a caring, loving God.
“So where were you baptized?” I asked, just out of curiosity.
“Baptized, I haven’t been baptized yet. But – (he said in Khmer, with Sarah as our translator, but he was looking directly at me) you’re a pastor. You could do my baptism!”
And there was a basin of water. A congregation was easily, enthusiastically summoned. An “acolyte” was found to add more water to the basin.
As they continued down the road, they came to a stream of water. The eunuch said, “Here’s water. Why can’t I be baptized?” He ordered the chariot to stop. They both went down to the water, and Philip baptized him on the spot. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of God suddenly took Philip off, and that was the last the eunuch saw of him. But he didn’t mind. He had what he’d come for and went on down the road as happy as he could be. (Acts 8 – The Message translation of the Bible.)
And I kid you not, my Bible just “happened” to be bookmarked at exactly this passage that day.