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Crook Newsletter: January 2017

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by Debra Crook


We are already a few weeks into the new year and I’m sure it will pass as quickly as the last one. Over the holidays a friend shared a few scriptures with me to meditate on along with the statement, “That yes, the real reason and cause for this most MIRACULOUS SEASON of the year, is that you might SEE HIM!” Several days I just kept repeating it. Yes, Christmas reminded me HE CAME; an angel proclaimed a savior was born, shepherds saw him, wise men sought him, and God finally came to dwell among us. Jesus lived a short span of time but as he prayed to his Father he could say, ‘I brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.” Yes, that I might SEE HIM.


During the last part of 2016, Cambodia hosted a TEAMS outreach, consisting of medical clinics along with children’s ministry. We were privileged to be accommodated in a community where a pioneering church has started. As permits were being acquired, the village chief became their greatest advocate. He secured a local school for us to use, chairs for the people, a tent, and most of all, a big welcome. Our missionary there, Sammy Lamanilao, had named him “the man of peace” and after two days, I certainly agreed. He saw to it that both days were orderly and everyone was served.

Even if I had been a part of other medical outreaches in this country, something was different about this community. A unique thing was taking place. A man carried in a former Buddhist monk who had not walked for three years to one table and his wife was seated at another. After they had concluded the medical aspect of his treatment, they asked if he would like prayer… he quickly said yes. They asked us from the next table to join them. As we began to pray one nurse took his hands and he stood. He began walking slowly, one lap, two laps, three laps; around the table and chairs. On the last lap he began to smile; his wife said she hadn’t seen him smile like that for a long time. Yes, he accepted the Lord and a little while later we were able to pray with his wife. As the day progressed, people came and said they had heard the news of the old man walking and “came to SEE.” That day numerous elderly people accepted the Lord; Jesus was SEEN through His faithful children.


Sammy and Merlen Lamanilao, dedicated Filipino missionaries, went to Cambodia in 1999. They were from a different island of the Philippians, so I only came to know them through frequent visits during their first years in Phnom Penh. We soon became like family. I would bring food that they were homesick for, and they began introducing me to their favorite street foods. Every visit new things were happening. They served as the father and mother to the young people who were rejected by their families when they became Christians. They became the go-betweens for engagements, weddings, births; life blossomed in the Khmer. The church was established, disciples made, new churches planted, and a ministry headquarters established.

Sammy and Merlen were in the Philippines during the first part of December for his father’s 25th church anniversary. While here, he was hospitalized and moved from a provincial hospital to Davao City. He wasn’t improving and transferred to another hospital; that’s when he asked if Russell Board and I would come. It’s Monday morning in ICU, and I’m just standing beside his bed. He could hardly speak and what does he ask, “Did you have your coffee?” Typical Sammy. He was always concerned about everyone else and everyone who met him, loved him.

On December 15th, we had to say goodbye to God’s faithful servant and son. As I have shared about Cambodia in numerous newsletters through the years, I also needed to honor Sammy. This is an excerpt I found from a 2002 newsletter: “Pastor Sammy has had people come to the church to see what Jesus Christ looks like. One child told her relative she would like to go to church again because she wants to see Jesus Christ there. I’ll be honest with you, we did laugh with Sammy.  He shared how awkward it was to be referred to as Jesus Christ. ‘This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.’ (1 John 3:16) I am thankful for the sacrifice they are making to share this message with the Cambodians.” As I sat looking at Sammy and Merlen, I can also say, “I saw Jesus in Phnom Penh.” Fourteen years later… yes, Sammy lived for a short span of time, 47 years, but as he prayed I believe he could say to his Father, “I brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.”

Please continue to pray for his wife Merlen and daughter Kezia. All the attributes I mentioned of Sammy’s love for Cambodia are reflected in Merlen’s life too. She is an outstanding missionary and will need our prayers and support in this transition. You may send financial support to their account with World Missions Ministries: Samuel Lamanilao Account #24301S.

As I close, thank you for being a strong arm for me to lean on as we continue in our service to Him.

Photo Credits: Debra Crook

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