Welcome Back!

July 4th picWelcome to our newly updated website! It’s been quite a while since we posted anything, so this update will allow you to re-familiarize yourself with us and our ministry as well as acquaint you with some changes that have taken place.

Of course, our beliefs and mission are unchanged – to take the Good News of salvation to the people of Cambodia. Our family, however, has grown from 3 to 5, with another addition expected next February. After spending 4 years ministering and learning in the cities of Phnom Penh and Kampong Cham (watch the video), we believe the Lord is calling us to the town of Memot to plant a church in that needy location. We invite you to learn more about this effort.

As always, we are so thankful for those who faithfully pray for and support the ministry, and also for those who stay in contact with us. We plan to be in the States for the next several months, and are so thankful for those we’ve been able to see so far, and for those we are scheduled to see later this year!

Please feel free to take a look around to learn a little more. A video on the Cambodia page may be interesting for those who wish to understand more about the spiritual need there. Enjoy, and God bless!

Ladies’ Tea

Mrs. Ruppel taught the lesson

One of the many holidays celebrated here is Cambodia that is not celebrated in the US is International Women’s Day. Since Mother’s Day is not observed here, this is one the biggest opportunities for our church to do something for the ladies. This past Saturday, our church here in Phnom Penh had a Ladies’ Tea. There was a great turnout of church members, visitors, and ladies from other local churches. Mrs. Ruppel taught a wonderful lesson and presented the gospel to the ladies. We were especially excited that our landlord’s wife came with her children. They are Buddhists and are far as we know have not really been exposed to church or the gospel. We are praying that the Lord would use the contacts made and relationships strengthened for the furtherance of the gospel. Please be in prayer for our landlord’s family. Because our language abilities are so limited right now, we can’t do too much, but we desire to be used of the Lord in their lives.

Nikki and Srey Oun
Nikki with a new friend

Giving Thanks

SalvationsAs Thanksgiving approaches, we are especially thankful for the opportunity to spend this time with family. As our departure date rapidly approaches, we especially cherish these special times. We are thankful for God’s supply as He has allowed us to reach our support goal. We are thankful for a wonderful day of services yesterday at Calvary Baptist Church, Nikki’s home church, and for three souls that trusted in the Lord! Most of all, we are thankful for the grace of God in saving us and putting us into the ministry. It is all of the Lord, and we never forget that. We hope that all of you will have a blessed Thanksgiving remembering the goodness of the Lord!

Progress and Prayer Request

As the summer comes to an end, we are currently in Western Massachusetts, prepping for another conference in Pennsylvania at the end of the week. Joshua is enjoying the chance to spend some time with his great-grandmother while we are here. We had the opportunity this weekend to visit a couple churches in Connecticut, connecting with an old friend and then presenting at North Stonington Baptist Church. We had a wonderful time with Pastor Tim Gengarella and also shared some fellowship with several who spent time in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. I am always very interested to hear the experiences of these men, and marvel at how the Lord has worked His will in opening that part of the world up to the gospel.

Papaw McElveen

Deputation is progressing well. We currently have 94% of our support promised, and are planning to fly out this upcoming January. Please be in prayer for our moving preparation.

Please pray also for Nikki’s dad, Charles McElveen. He is scheduled for thyroid surgery tomorrow to remove a suspicious lump. We are hoping and praying for a good result from this procedure, and would appreciate you joining us in lifting him up before the Lord.

I Serve a Risen Savior

Easter is a time to remember in a special way many truths about our Savior. We were reminded of who Jesus was and is as we spent Resurrection Sunday at our home church, drinking in the wonderful cantata and soul-stirring messages. Sometimes, however, we don’t realize how blessed we are until we see the plight of many unbelievers.

Wat PrasantidhammaLess than 5,000 people live in the nearby town of Carrollton, VA, yet it is home to a Southeast Asian style Buddhist temple, or wat. Someone had told us it was there, and yesterday we decided to see if the rumor was true. Set on a tiny backroad in this rural community, Wat Prasantidhamma looks like it could have been lifted straight out of a Cambodian or Thai village. There, Buddhist monks are actively practicing their religion and teaching others. We removed our shoes and entered the wat to look around, where we met a friendly monk named Ikeshai. He is Thai, and was happy to tell us about the temple and various events held there. I began to ask him about his religion and his goals. Readily, he explained to us what he believes about dhamma, the cycle of life; the need for self-emptying and inner peace through meditation; and the inevitability of good and evil in our lives. As we pressed him about where he came from and where he is going, he repeatedly told us, “Don’t worry”. The only thing that matters, in his opinion, is the here and now. Although one cannot change fate, they must endeavor to have good thoughts, good speech, and good actions.

ImagesIkeshai was aware of his sin, as he spoke about the bad thoughts and actions we all struggle with. I tried to explain to him the Creator God and the punishment that comes with sin. He believes that we must be emptied of self – which is true. Our souls, however, were not designed to be vacuums. We will be filled with something. Paul put it this way: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me…” Galatians 2:20. I told Ikeshai about Easter, and how our risen Savior gives us power over the sin within us and over death. Finally, I challenged him with the thought of eternity compared to the few years we may have on this earth. He did not react much as we shared the truths of the Bible with him, but we hope and pray that he will consider some of these things.

Although I have witnessed to Buddhists before, this was my first experience sharing the Gospel with an Asian Buddhist, and certainly with a Buddhist monk. It highlighted some of the challenges of preaching Christ in a culture with far different beliefs, but as I left I was struck anew by a few things about our Lord:

– God is Alive! Although Ikeshai spoke of the need to venerate the Buddha as a great teacher and enlightened one, he does not know a living God. We cannot take it for granted that God is alive and active in this world. The earth around us and the events in our lives are not just manifestations of dhamma, they are revelations of God’s power and grace! Because of our living Savior and His resurrection power, we too can live eternally. “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen” Revelation 1:18

– God is Love! Again and again, this Buddhist monk stressed how our betterment rests upon our own efforts. If that is the case, we are powerless against the sin that is in our nature. Praise God, He loves us enough to offer forgiveness, victory, and new life. We are grateful just for the opportunity to serve such a God, not to earn merit or achieve His favor, but to show our love in return. He is the only one worthy of our devotion and service.

“Rejoice, rejoice, O Christian; lift up your voice and sing…He lives!”

New Year Milestones

We have a few exciting blessings to celebrate in 2013:

First of all, we are officially debt-free! The Scripture says in Romans 13:8a, “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another:” We are very happy that now we can fulfill that verse and also begin saving for our passage expenses.

Support Level

Another exciting development is that we have now topped 50% of our support. We are humbled and joyful at how quickly this amount has come in and have high hopes for what will happen in 2013. Please pray that this will be the year in which we reach 100%!

We have not been quite as busy over the holiday season but have still managed to be in churches in Florida, Virginia, Georgia, and North Carolina. God is always good, and we are looking forward to our many upcoming mission conferences.

Summer Travels

The fact that we have not posted recently certainly does not mean things have been boring for us! In fact, it has been an extremely busy couple of weeks.

Our great summer trek started with a stop in Ohio to spend some time with our ministry partners, Chris and Diana Stivers. They are also on deputation to go to Cambodia, and our plan is to work as a church-planting team. We had a wonderful time catching up with them and their young son Connor. During our stay, we also got to help their home church, Gospel Baptist Church, as they converted an old school bus to be used in their bus ministry. Valuable time was spent in planning and fellowship.

Our next stop was Pittsfield, MA, to present our work to Cornerstone Baptist Church, a church my family and I attended every summer on vacation. Nikki and I both had an opportunity to minister here. Pastor Neiner graciously allowed me to preach that evening, in a service that several members of my extended family attended. This was a great blessing and an answer to prayer. My family was up visiting as well, so we enjoyed the New England weekend together.

The 4th of July week found us in Dover, DE for Capitol Baptist Church’s annual Jubilee meeting. Strong preaching in the morning and evenings and our wonderful hosts the Wheelers made this a terrific week. One of the highlights was an afternoon of door-to-door soul-winning, in which both Nikki and I had the privilege of leading young people to the Lord. We also got to see our college friends Stephen and Julie Knickerbocker, missionaries to Burkina Faso, and spend some time catching up with them. We left Delaware physically tired but spiritually refreshed.

This past weekend, we travelled back to Massachusetts, enjoying services in Fitchburg, MA and North Adams, MA. North Adams is only a few miles down the road from Williams College, site of the famous Haystack Prayer Meeting. This took place in 1806 when 5 seminary students took shelter under a haystack during a rainstorm. Their talk, then their prayers turned to missions, and the prayer meeting that followed is credited with starting the modern mission movement in the US. It was a special reminder to stand on the location where this pivotal event took place, and join our prayers to theirs. May God bless us all with the zeal that these young men had for His work.