Friday, January 19, 2007

Christmas is such a special time of year, a chance to spend time with family and friends, to laugh, and most importantly to celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. It really is a season of joy. Our Christmas began with the Christmas party for our students at the WBI, and as you can see in this picture, there was a great amount of laughter and fun. It was hard being away from home, but moments of Joy like this are blessings from the Lord to make the separation tolerable.

We had all of the students and the staff at the WBI over to our house after the last day of classes before Christmas break. We had a special service for the students, times of giving of gifts, and great games and fellowship. It was an amazing night spent with our new family here in Cambodia.

We served fried chicken, chicken adobo, and spaghetti with meat sauce, a particular favorite of the Cambodians. Here you are seeing some of our students and staff with Tim in the kitchen as they fill their plates for a second time after everyone had finished dinner.

Pastor Poleak, the pastor of the church which is located on the third floor of the Bible School campus, asked us to be involved in his Christmas celebration this year. We were in charge of the games after the meal, which fit right in with our talents as teachers. We played many different holiday games, but the one that they enjoyed most was the ever popular game of musical chairs. Here you are seeing a large contingent of the players still circling the chairs, awaiting the music to stop so that they could push, pull, fight and sit victoriously.

Another game that we played required the contestants to draw a Christmas tree. Sounds easy, right? The only requirement was that they do the drawing with the paper placed on their heads. It was great fun to see them all patiently, and some not so patiently, drawing their trees with their papers held tight to their skulls. Here you are seeing the winner of the contest, whose tree was actually better than some of the ones that I draw when the paper in front of me.

Here you are seeing Pastor Kim Sua, his wife Eim, and his beautiful daughter Hannah. Kim Sua is on staff at the Bible School as a teacher and a translator, and he and his family have grown very close to our hearts as we serve together at the Bible School.

On Christmas Eve, we were sent to encourage the believers in Kampong Cham. Tim was asked to preach the Christmas message, a scary thought indeed, and we went to visit and grow closer to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. After preaching a message entitled, “Are we celebrating Christmas or Christ?” God provided an opportunity for us to put into effect the principles that we had espoused during the message. On our way home from Kampong Cham, our car broke down, stranding us in the middle of a very dark, and very lonely Christmas Eve. We were able to contact the pastor of the church, and he towed us back into town, but we were forced to stay in Kampong Cham for the night, a modern day Christmas story, though in this one, God provided an inn for the night.

One of the hardest parts of being stranded in Kampong Cham was that the car breaking down did not just affect us. We had two of our close friends with us who were also forced to spend Christmas Eve away from home. Channa and Chaney, the eldest daughters of our national superintendent, did not complain, but accepted the events with resolution, a mark of the fact that they were celebrating Christ in their hearts, not just the Christmas holiday.

When we finally arrived back in Phnom Penh, we rested for a few hours, and then we opened our gifts. It was a nice time to spend by ourselves, enjoying the gifts, a Christmas breakfast, and watching the holiday classic “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer”. It was really hard being away from family on Christmas, but we have learned that God always provides for our needs, and by having this special time together, we were able to really enjoy His blessings on that Christmas Day.

Christmas night was spent with the mission team and several of the national leaders at the home of Greg and Resie. This is a picture of Greg as he opened his gift from us, cleaners and polishes for his car, something in which he takes great pride. It was so pleasant to spend Christmas night with our friends and fellow workers here in Cambodia.

This is a picture of Resie, Greg’s wife, who cooked all day to give us a very special party. She had prepared traditional Filipino foods such as her famous chicken adobo, spring rolls, noodles, and rice. It was a great meal, and due to Resie’s amazing ability to cook, all of the foods were absolutely delicious.

The final member of the Fernandez family is their daughter Aleeyah, who is a constant joy to us. We have loved watching her grow and develop over these past six months, and seeing her open her Christmas gifts brought great smiles to our faces.

Finally, because it was my birthday, Resie had baked a cake in celebration. If you can’t read the sign on the cake, it says “Happy Birthday Titu Tim” which is the Filipino word for uncle and a huge honor for me. It was a great birthday, spent with great friends, where we enjoyed great food, and were able to celebrate the greatest event in the history of the world (not my birthday of course, but the birth of our Savior).
Several days after Christmas, we were very fortunate to receive not one, not two, but three packages in the mail. These packages had just been sitting at the central post office, and we never knew that they had arrived. The packages were sent from our adopted parents in Indianapolis, our youngest supporting group who are in a 5th and 6th grade class at our home church in Marion, and from one of our favorite churches in Montana. Christmas just kept on going, and it was a great blessing.

In our packages, we received the “necessary missionary provisions” such as Kool-Aid drink mixes, beef jerky, chokecherry syrup, and various cosmetics for Tiffany. It was a great blessing to receive these things and to read the letters and cards that accompanied the packages. Here you are seeing the great number of cards that we received from the group of kids from our home church. These homemade cards were read carefully, one by one, and they were a great blessing to us, as was every item and card that we received from our friends and supporters in the United States.

On the 30th of December, we traveled back to Kampong Cham to be involved in several other Christmas celebrations. First, we went to Tpong Khmum, which is a flourishing church outside of the main city of Kampong Cham. Messages were given by Pastor Greg and by Pastor Meng Hong, and then we celebrated with food and games. Here you are seeing several boys who were playing marbles outside of the church after the service.

I have never witnessed so much food prepared for a church Christmas celebration, but it was all wonderful. We all filled our plates, some of us more than once, and young and old feasted together. This young girl had just received her food when I took this picture.

Here you are seeing Tiffany and one of our students Theavy after they went through the line. If you look at their plates, most of the dishes included vegetables and meat served with rice, but a particular favorite was the fried bread that was eaten with the soup.

Four hungry men,
all lined up in a row.
Where did all the food go?
Nobody knows.

During the evening, we played games as the sun sank into the horizon. The lighting was perfect as we took this picture of three girls watching the games from atop their perch on the Jungle Gym.

After another night in the hotel where we had stayed the previous weekend, we traveled out to another church outside of Kampong Cham. Koh Kor church is growing well due to Pastor Perin’s reaching out to the community and the blessings of the Lord given through their new English school. Tim preached his sermon on “What God Gave and What He Wants for Christmas”, even reading two Bible Verses and telling a story in Khmer. Leak, who is shown here translating for Tim, has been a great friend a great language helper.

There was a very large crowd of children, teens and adults there for the Christmas party, somewhere between 150 to 200 people. It was great to see all of these people coming to the celebration of Christ’s birth.

The final event on the schedule at the Christmas celebration was a drama performance of the birth done by the children under the direction of Pastor Perin’s wife. Here you are seeing King Herod speaking to the wise men that have come looking for the new king. The actions were perfect; especially the evil laugh performed by the boy playing Herod, and it was great to see the children’s understanding shown through their performance.

After the New Year, which we celebrated with our friends at our house, we had yet another Christmas party, this one for the national pastors. We met together for a dinner, a special service with an amazing message by Pastor Greg about keeping your fire alive in the ministry, and then we played games. It was a great night of fellowship and fun with these men of the faith, and it was wonderful to see them having fun and showing their joy in the fellowship of believers.

The intern-pastors came forward to sing a special song that they had prepared. Hearing these young men and women sing of their faith and their joy is always such a blessing to our hearts, as is seeing their faces as they praise their Father in Heaven.

We led the games for the Christmas party, and we again played the Christmas tree drawing game. Here you are seeing Pastors Arun and Manet try to draw their Christmas trees on their heads. It is always so funny to see these pastors having fun, acting silly, and enjoying their time together.

Two days following the Christmas party for the pastors, we attended a wedding in Kampong Chnang. After leaving at 4:30 in the morning and driving on some very bumpy roads, we arrived in time for the morning meal and for the service. This young couple Pen and Tawi, who are both pastors in the church, were united in marriage in a traditional Cambodian service. It was our first Khmer wedding, and it was fun to see the differences and similarities in the services.

Much to his surprise, Tim was called forward to give a special blessing to the couple. It was a nervous moment of trying to find the right thing to say to this couple, but God provided the words and it was a high honor to give them God’s blessing for their marriage.

One of the most heartwarming parts of the ceremony came at the end of the service. The couple knelt down in front of their parents and received their blessing and advice. It was touching to see the two fathers wiping away their tears as they spoke to their children, giving them advice for marriage and releasing them to be united as a married couple. After the blessing, they were all showered with palm seeds, which was a fitting and fun ending to the ceremony.

One of the entertaining things about Khmer weddings is the clothes. It is customary for a bride to change anywhere between 5-8 times during the party after the wedding ceremony, and it is also normal for everyone to wear their best. Here you are seeing all of the “Missionary Ladies” getting together for a picture. (from left to right Amber Hirschy, Tiffany, Resie, Aleeyah, and Lindy Morgan)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

We have been busy!

We apologize again for the length of time since our last update of the blog, but as the title says, we have been busy! That is not an excuse, but it s a great lead in to tell you about some of the opportunities that we have been involved in the past month. We were blessed to be visited by several teams from the United States. We have been blessed by our students at the WBI, and their sheer joy of preparing to serve the Lord as pastors. And of course, we, like all of you at home, are getting ready for the holidays. So sit back in your chair, or wherever you are, and read about the goodness of God and how He is providing such a full life here in Cambodia.

Many of you know through the requests on our monthly prayer cards that we hosted a team from Kentwood Community Church in Michigan at the beginning of November. The team came representing their church, one of the leading financial backers behind the Wesleyan Bible School Relocation Project, and we were blessed at their desire to see the ministry in Cambodia furthered toward the goals of the future. The picture that you are seeing now was taken at the property where the Bible Institute will be constructed. In the picture, you may see a bare lot, but we see the future of the ministry in Cambodia, with all the glory given to the Lord.

Throughout their four-day stay in Cambodia, we held many meetings where we debated such interminable questions as internal vs. external hallways, design, and placement. We talked about building supplies, contractors, materials dealers, and so many of the other aspects of such a large project. Here in this picture, you are seeing one of those meetings. Standing between Tim and Greg F. is the architect. Seated to Greg’s left are the contractors who will be handling the construction of the new Bible School. After all of the meetings were completed and after much prayer, we felt blessed to hold in our hands the new design drawings for the Bible School and a budget for the completion of the project. Praise the Lord for His provision and for the wisdom that was given to us to make these decisions

We were also blessed to host the director of Global Partners Dr. Don Bray and his wife Joy. It was also a blessing to have Pastor Keith Nash from Mitchell Wesleyan Church with us, the man who was directly responsible for our great times of travel and sharing in the Dakota district. They came to share during our pastor’s conference, but we also took time to visit the site of the tragic burning that claimed one of our newest Wesleyan Churches in the spring of 2006, the story can be found in Wesleyan World Magazine. Here you are seeing Pastor Nash, Arun (the pastor of the church), Dr. Bray, and Joy standing amidst the ruins of the burned church.

Standing amongst the rubble, it was not hard to imagine the angry shouts of the crowd who burned the church, but there was also a definite sense of God’s presence. You see, the church was burnt and destroyed, but the work of the Lord is something that cannot be supplanted so easily. God is still moving in Boeng Krum, and His work is evidenced by the growing church, the way the language classes taught by Pastor Arun are touching so many people, and through the lives of those who are trusting in the Lord and walking with Him.

In Boeng Krum, we were able to do one of my (Tim’s) favorite things; eat with the people and try new foods. Here in a picture taken by Dr. Bray, Greg and I are feasting on snakes that were part of the dinner that mostly was made up of fish and other goods found in the river. The snakes were quite good, though I was disappointed to find that our scaly friends did not have more meat on them. Bummer!

The blessings of the Lord were upon the Pastor’s conference that was held at the beginning of December. Dr. Bray, Joy and Pastor Nash talked about leadership, joy, unity, and stepping out into God’s realm in our ministries. It was a blessing to be spiritually fed by these great leaders of the church, and everyone, the pastors and the missionaries, grew deeper in our knowledge of what it is to serve the Lord. Here, in a picture taken by Greg Fernandez, you are seeing two of the pastors who were asked to demonstrate unity. With the cords tied securely around their wrists symbolizing the power of the Holy Spirit and the love we share, they were unable to break apart. Praise the Lord.

The “Joy of the Lord” was a central messages of the conference. After the message brought by, who else, Joy Bray, the pastors came forward to be anointed that they too might regain the joy of the Lord in their ministries. Here you are seeing Resie Fernandez anointing and praying for one of the intern pastors who are currently serving around Cambodia.

We have been so blessed by the lives of our students at the Wesleyan Bible Institute. We have been dreaming about teaching at the WBI for many years, but now that it is a reality, God blessings have surpassed all of our dreams. These students are a continual blessing to our hearts and our lives. This is a picture of two of the students, Channa and Tewe (both on the left) and Channey, the Dean of Women, when they came to our house for a fellowship.

For our next fellowship, we played games. The games involved a great amount of close interaction, and the finale was a “three-legged” race. However, to all of those who know us well, we are never satisfied with the norm. When the “three-legged” race had been mastered, we continued to add people to the line until we created this “ten-legged” creature. The students had a great time, and they really learned a great deal about the importance of working closely with others.

At our most recent fellowship, we invited all of the students over for a night of praise and worship and crafts. To give a little background, all of the internal doors in our house are engraved with a dragon, which is the image of Satan in the eyes of the Cambodian church. We decided to solve this problem by putting scripture on our doors, covering the engravings, so that instead of seeing the dragon, we would be reading the Word of God. We asked the students to do an illustration of the various verses that we hung on our walls. Here Vicheak, one of the senior students, paints diligently on our roof which not only afforded great views of the city but also a pleasurable place to have fellowship with the students.

Here you are seeing Vicheak’s vision of John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son; that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.” The image of God physically giving our Savior from heaven speaks a great deal of His love for us and the sacrifice that Jesus made to come live among us. It also shows Vicheak’s understanding of the love of God and the meaning of this very important scripture verse.

This was our first major holiday away from our families in the United States and the first holiday without Tiffany’s father; it was hard for us to be so far away from home. However, God, as He always does, gave us exactly what we needed, a family for the holidays. We had a Thanksgiving feast at our house that included our friends and fellow laborers here in Cambodia. Pictured here from left to right are Lindy Morgan and Amber Hirschy (friends of ours who work with World Hope), us, Dr. Robert and Kay Bickert (guest teachers at the WBI), and Greg, Resie and Aleeyah Fernandez (who are our mission directors and leaders here in Cambodia). Praise the Lord for His providence, for He certainly is a great God who knows the desires of our hearts.

With Christmas so near, we opened the Christmas decorations that we brought with us to Cambodia. We also were able to buy a Christmas tree at a local book store, so we have our own little corner of Christmas in our house. It is a blessing to sit on our couch together, look at our lights, and listen to Christmas music. It not only gives us a time of rest, but it also allows us to settle comfortably into our new home and the new life that God has given to us here in Cambodia.

Praise His Name and Worship Him with us the Christmas season. We miss all of you there in the United States, but know that we still pray for you and think of you often. God bless you all, and never stop looking up to Him for everything that you may need.

Celebrating the “Word made flesh”
Tim and Tiffany Gallant

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Thank you for your interest in what God is doing in His ministry in Cambodia. We wanted to keep you informed of the happenings here in Cambodia so that you not only see the ways that God is answering your prayers, but also that you can pray more deliberately for us and the Cambodian ministry. The following pictures and explanations are from our Opening Ceremony for the Wesleyan Bible Institute’s new school term.

As a mission team, we had a vision to start the new term with a ceremony that would involve the parents and the pastors of the new students. We wanted it to be a time of appreciation and involvement of these parents, some of whom are not Christians. We envisioned a ceremony where we would be able to develop relationships with these parents, assuring them that we were not taking their children from them, but instead we were educating them to be pastors, which is a high honor. We also hoped that throughout the night, we would be able to share the Gospel with these parents, planting seeds toward their future acceptance of Jesus Christ as their Savior.

It was great to see all of the students eating together, even during this first night. It was a great encouragement to see them all together, knowing that their unity as students is essential to their time of development and learning at the Wesleyan Bible Institute.

During the ceremony, the students sat together at the front of the chapel, and their parents and pastors sat in the congregation. Seeing the students pray and sing together, worshiping God and dedicating their lives to His service was a great ministry to our hearts.

To further involve the parents in the ceremony, we had gifts for the parents to give to their student. Giving of gifts is very important and binding here in Cambodia, so the parents felt involved not only in the ceremony, but also in the educational process of their students. Here, you are seeing the national superintendent, Luc Kong Kimsan give his daughter Channa, the gift of notebooks and pens during the ceremony.

After the charge to all of the students concerning their dedicating their lives to serving God as pastors and teachers and a thank you to the parents and pastors for coming to the ceremony to support their students, we had a time of prayer. Corporately, we prayed for God to bless the students in their education, development, and discipleship while they study at the WBI. We prayed for God to bless the parents and the pastors so that they can be actively involved in their student’s educational process. And finally, we prayed for the country of Cambodia and the impact that these students would make on it in the name of Jesus Christ. It was an emotional prayer, and even some of the Buddhist parents had tears in their eyes when it was concluded.

After the prayer, we had the students present their parents with certificates of appreciation for attending the ceremony. We wanted this experience to have a lasting effect, and we felt that having a reminder that the parents could put up on their wall would remind them that their students is in God’s hands during this time that they are away from home.

After the ceremony, we had a time of fellowship and food. It was a great time of laughing, taking pictures, and showing our excitement at the beginning of this new term.

We want to thank you for reading this update about what God is doing here in Cambodia. We will continue to keep you posted on the happening here at the Bible School, and we hope that you are getting a great encouragement at seeing our God in heaven work in these specific ways in His ministry in Cambodia. Remember, He is working in the same ways in your life as well, so never, ever, stop looking for God’s hand in your life. It is there, and you can trust it because He is trustworthy in all circumstances.

Only by His Grace,
Tim and Tiffany Gallant