In September 2019 I stayed a few days after a TEAMS outreach to enjoy some extra time with our missionary Merlen Lamanilao and daughter Kezia. After many visits through the years, they know I need to have some important stops at our favorite, off-the-beaten-path restaurants, serving flavorful food not found anywhere else. As we left a few days later the departure was filled with the usual hugs and comment, “See you next year.” Then the pandemic in 2020 happened. Now, that seems like a lifetime ago, but wow did it put a pause on many of our usual plans.
After almost four years I was able to visit my dear friends again. Now we know every opportunity is such a gift from God, and this was truly a gift as I was traveling on my birthday. Merlen, Kezia (on vacation from university in Australia), and Merlen’s sister met us with smiling faces and plenty of hugs. Upon arriving at their home, I was surprised to see birthday decor and a cake. It was 2 a.m. and yes, we enjoyed the cake. And I didn’t insist on coffee. For those who know me, that’s major. One more thing, Merlen has a coffee maker that only comes out of storage for my visit. That is pretty special!
Before the trip, I was told we would be limited in traveling because national elections had just concluded. I was sort of disappointed we wouldn’t be able to visit the churches. Even with that news, I still knew there would be God opportunities.
One of those wonderful surprises was that a few leaders had come to Phnom Penh to vote. I was especially glad to hear of one lady, Leng Sok An, who hadn’t returned to the province yet. When she became a Christian in her late 60’s she was determined to attend the School of Ministry. In many Asian cultures, women that age are expected to be babysitters for their grandchildren. Upon graduation, she insisted on being allowed to assist in pioneering work in a remote area several hours from the city. Seven years later, there’s a thriving church. At 75 years old, she is still passionate about riding her bicycle through nearby villages, praying for their salvation.
The Power of Testimonies
In one of Dutch Sheets’ daily podcasts, Give Him 15, he shared a comment from a Messianic Jewish Rabbi regarding the Hebrew meaning of the root word “testimony.” The rabbi said it means, “to repeat; to do again,” or “do time again”. It does not mean only to “tell about or give witness of something”. The Everlasting God places the power to do or accomplish something into time, and it is forever there. His words are eternal, alive, and powerful (Ps 119:89; Heb. 4:12). Through His laws, principles, and Word, we can tap into this power. “So, we believe that when one declares God’s Word or shares what He did in the past—a testimony—the same power is released to ‘do it again today.’”
During this visit I've been grateful for the times of prayer I've had with individuals and couples I knew as young people—born again during the first years of Lamanilao’s ministry. The Rabbi’s explanation was a confirmation to remind them of their testimonies from their youth, occasions when they had received specific words and promises about their future. It was encouraging for them to know God still wanted to empower those words. He had not changed His plans just because they were not yet fulfilled. I believe we will soon be hearing their new testimonies, because His power was released to believe He would “do it again today.”
This scripture describes what is obvious about each of you, “As water reflects a face, so one’s life reflects the heart” (Proverbs 27:19). Today I can say that your heart for the world is truly reflected in your giving and prayers. What would be "Mission Impossible" becomes "Mission Possible" through this ministry partnership—an incredible testimony of His faithfulness to fulfill His word. Thank you so much.