Brum-brum. Brrrrrrum. Scre-e-eech. Hiss! A large truck carrying the massive pressed-block machine stopped at 1 a.m. on our narrow road in Phnom Penh to begin what would turn into several hours of unloading. The middle of the night is the only time they make big deliveries here because traffic is too heavy for trucks during the day. Thank you to everyone who united to give our project this gift! The quality building blocks from this machine will be an invaluable boost to God’s work in Cambodia. After two years of traveling and fundraising and almost a year living in houses that didn’t keep out rain or insects, we are looking forward to using some of the first blocks to build a place we can call home.
Since we arrived in Cambodia, we have been praying that God would show us exactly where our home should be. There are no for-sale signs or realtors. We just drive around introducing ourselves to strangers and asking if they know of any land for sale in the area. We have been waiting for the rainy season to arrive before seriously looking for land. Places that looked promising before are now deep underwater. The few hills are occupied with Buddhist shrines and temples.
With Stephanie’s mom, Jan Roberts, here for a visit, we decided to spend the day property hunting. We drove past miles and miles of rice fields flooded 10 feet deep. By afternoon we were hungry and discouraged. We pulled to the side of the road to say a desperate prayer: “God, You have led us so clearly over the last few years and brought us here from so far away. Please bring us the last few steps.”
After a few more minutes of driving, we noticed we had left the floods behind, and the land was sloping gently upward. We turned onto a long driveway and spotted a foundation for a large building that had never been finished. Mom suggested we inquire with the nearest neighbors. They kindly left their chores and made us feel at home. The grandma had the sweetest smile and a bubbling laugh. Grandpa told us he felt as if he were in a dream. It was the honor of a lifetime that we had stopped by so he could meet us and be our friend.
He told us the land was not for sale. The foundation had been for a school, but construction was halted because there were already enough schools in the area. He said if we wanted to buy land, there were two long lots for sale across the street with more than 100 mango trees, dozens of coconut trees, rubber trees, good ground water and a house that had been abandoned for several years.
Grandpa took us by the hand and led us on a tour of the property. It is 10 beautiful acres, long enough that we can build at the back where the noise from the road is muted. The surrounding properties are covered with trees, too. The soil is sandy and ideal for making blocks. We could fix up the abandoned house and live in it while we build a new house. Later the old house could be renovated for use as a clinic, school and church.
The owners and the neighbors know we are Christians, and they are happy for us to come. We shared about how we teach people about healthy living, and they exclaimed that they had heard of us and what a great help we had been to other people. They said they had even tried three times to find us themselves. They commented about wanting their children to learn English. They told us that three Chinese people and two Cambodians had tried to buy the land recently, but they decided not to sell to them because they didn’t want to risk having loud Buddhist festivals, drinking or a pig farm next door. They are willing to sell the land to us for less than they have been offered, and they said they will pray that we become neighbors. “If Allah helps you become my neighbor, then I will quit smoking,” the owner promised.
There are a hundred other blessings we don’t have room to mention here. The land is central to three of the villages in which we will be working. It is surrounded by hundreds of mosques in every direction that represent the people God has called us to reach. A few minutes away, there is an all-girls Muslim boarding school that draws more than 1,000 students from all over the province. We might be able to volunteer there. And the land never floods!
In His own timing, often at the last minute, God likes to show us His plans that are more beautiful than we can imagine. This is what prayer will do. And we feel the power of more prayers than just our own. Thank you!
We have put a small deposit on the land, and now we need to raise funds to purchase it. The price stretches our budget just a little, so any extra gifts towards our housing fund are greatly appreciated. The size of the land also means that we can share it with our missionary partners, Carly and Eric Tirado, who plan to launch this fall.
We thank God in advance for providing a pleasant, peaceful, permanent base for many years of mission service.
Joshua and Stephanie Lewis
Adventist Frontier Missions