God’s Work in the Jungle

Published August 2, 2019
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In the remote jungles of Cambodia, God is at work in amazing ways! You will be encouraged by this report as Devon Swanson (BCM '16, BTS '19) shares a firsthand account of the power of the gospel to break through the strongholds of darkness.
According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.
Philippians 1:20

The Lord gave me this verse shortly after Dr. Tom Johnson asked Pastor Mark Gillmore and I to travel to Cambodia on an exciting two and a half week ministry adventure. The goal of the trip was to survey Mondulkiri, the last remaining unreached region of the country, and to plant churches in the villages with the greatest need. Due to Dr. Tom’s outstanding reputation as a medical doctor in Cambodia, our team was able to obtain permission from the government to set up clinics in Mondulkiri to diagnose and treat illnesses and diseases. This would act as our bridge to getting the gospel to the people.

For me, one of the most impacting parts of the whole trip was to watch Dr. Tom share the gospel with literally every person within his reach.

Joining us on the trip were 12 Cambodian pastors and evangelists, all of whom worked closely with Dr. Tom in his ministry. It was incredible to watch these men, as they were all very capable at giving the gospel and were not ashamed to talk to anyone about Christ. Clearly, Dr. Tom had not only trained them extremely well but had led them by his own consistent witness. For me, one of the most impacting parts of the whole trip was to watch Dr. Tom share the gospel with literally every person within his reach. It was very obvious that he had the love of Christ for the people of Cambodia.

As our team entered the remote jungle, we  began facing many challenges that threatened to discourage our mission. These included overheating vehicles, intense weather conditions, and the predominant Buddhist presence in every village. Thanks to Dr. Tom’s emphasis on prayer, however, the Lord always overcame these challenges.

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Two of the major highlights and extraordinary miracles of the trip occurred in two different villages along our journey. The first began in a village called Ochlor. Here, we were cordially invited to stay at a family’s house and operate the medical clinic out of their home. During the course of our stay there, the husband and wife both got saved along with several others from the village. We were able to quickly baptize these new believers and assemble together as a new church on Sunday. 

Unfortunately, the recently saved wife was also very ill. Dr. Tom did all that he could for her but eventually had to take her to the hospital for care. Sadly, the doctors there were not as careful and concerned as Dr. Tom was and ended up giving her the wrong medicine, which resulted in her passing away. Still, the Lord used this for good, as the husband insisted to his Buddhist family that the funeral must be a Christian one, perhaps the first ever in that village. Amazingly, 9 more people trusted Christ after the funeral service, and several more were baptized, including two sons of the deceased mother.

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The last village we visited before leaving the jungle, was supposed to be the farthest unreached point in Cambodia. Sitting only a few miles from the Vietnam border, we determined that this would be a prime area to plant a church. Shortly after arriving, we were discussing the possibility of a new church plant, when our host told us that she attends a church just down the street. When asked how many attended, she said that there were around 300 regular attendees! On Sunday, we decided to visit the church ourselves to determine if a church plant was still necessary for this area. It was so refreshing to discover a packed building full of people eager to hear from God’s Word. The church was clearly gospel-oriented and doctrinally sound. Needless to say, we left that village excited to know that the gospel had long ago preceded our coming.

Needless to say, we left that village excited to know that the gospel had long ago preceded our coming.

Just before leaving the country, Pastor Gillmore and I were also able to spend a couple days with Jason and Leah Carpenter. We were extremely blessed to see their love and burden for the Cambodian people in their region. Although, they have only been in that area for a very short time, they already have a strong testimony and relationship with the villagers. The Carpenters have learned to respect the culture of that country and in turn have earned the respect of its people. Now, as a result, many doors of opportunity are opening up to them to be able to give the gospel and see churches planted.

I am so thankful to the Lord for allowing me to go on this trip and am extremely grateful for the many lessons He taught me through it. My heart has been challenged with a renewed burden for the lost and encouraged with a revived respect for the power of the gospel. This trip as a whole has taught me not to limit in my thinking what God can do and is doing in the world. Seeing the unexpected work of God in the jungles of Cambodia has made me want to witness it in every country I go.
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