“These things have I spoken unto you that in me you might have peace. In this world, you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world.” These words Jesus spoke, recorded in John 16:33, have been the anchor for my soul as over these 43 years of ministry I have seen nations fall, riots roar, and martyrs made.
The things that had been spoken are called the Upper Room Discourses and are recorded in John chapters 13 through 17. In them are the great promises of a place to be, a Comforter to guide, love among the believers, unhindered prayer access and answers, fullness of joy, complete provision, and finally peace. These promises have all come to play in the adventure we share in Cambodia.
I entered Cambodia on foot in 1994. A church in Singapore had planned a short-term trip to coincide with a peace march being held by the Living Buddha. The idea was to pray in the key towns of Poipet and Siem Riep and at Angkor Wat, that great wonder of the world and set for Tomb Raider. At the last minute, the pastor from Singapore could not go so they asked if I would lead and be responsible for the team. They paid my ticket and lodging so for me it was the Lord’s direction and provision.
The country was at war. The Khmer Rouge was trying to eliminate the national government, and the place was an active battle ground. A French man in the Living Buddha’s group was kidnapped and killed. The road we traveled was pocked with fresh mortar holes and lined with land mines so it had become a death trap for those who were selected to be targets. We rode in the back of a pick-up truck taxi, covering ourselves with a heavy plastic when we traversed ultrasensitive areas. All the way I encouraged the team that we were, according to the Upper Room, abiding in the vine and perfectly safe.
We arrived in the dusty battleground town of Siem Riep. Showing all the scars of war, it was not the refuge we had thought; but after finding a cheap hotel, we set up a prayer routine and began walking the town. Prayer teams are wonderful, especially those who allow the Spirit of Truth to lead them into all truth. Equipped with the Word of God and the illumination of the Spirit, we started to praise Jesus in the midst of a very active spiritual place.
Making our way to the highest dome of the Hindu Temple, Angkor Wat, we became very active in worship and binding prayer. It is amazing what can happen when you focus on the throne of Jesus and proclaim His goodness among the nations. Declaring Him was first the task of the Prophets, and then the Angels, and then John the Baptist, and now the Church. What peace and joy flow through and from the team as we set our hearts on Jesus.
A teenager offered to guide us and became very interested in our activity. I noticed many monks in the place. Actually, more monks than I had ever seen in one place. Asking him what was going on, he told me the Living Buddha was there giving audiences and orders of monks had come from all over South East Asia to receive his words and blessing. Indeed, the spacious grounds of the ancient temple were filled with clusters of the saffron robed followers. A blessing from the current manifestation was worth the arduous journey.
I asked the boy to go and tell the Buddha that I wanted to meet him. He was reluctant as I was not the typical offering-giving New Ager who would feel comfortable with “His Presence.” But, with some encouragement he went only to return with an assistant to the Buddha who allowed that in fact “His Presence” would receive me. Briefed on proper protocol and flanked by Singaporean Chinese, I sat before the Living Buddha. A very thin fellow with a cracked glasses lens, he epitomized Buddhist poverty.
“What are you doing here?” I asked, taking note of his peaceful demeanor.
“We are having a peace march,” he answered in perfect, clear, American English.
“Where do you come from?” I asked enjoying the chess game as we discerned each other’s strength.
“I come from Everywhere,” he replied with a wry smile, eyes sparkling at the improbability of any response from me. As he spoke he offered me a glass of iced jasmine tea. “The blood of Jesus,” he said as he pushed it forward to me.
“Wait a minute,” I thought. “Only the Pope does that.”
“When were you last with the Pope?” I asked enjoying the tea.
“Just last month we had a meeting of the World Peace Council which we attended together,” he replied producing a picture of the group. Indeed, there he was cracked glasses and all.
“What passport do you use?” The question came from the Holy Spirit for sure.
“I am a U.S. Citizen. The UN rescued me from here and took me to New York and arranged for U.S. citizenship.”
I kept a straight face thinking about how far that cracked lens and robe had gotten him, and wondered if the IRS has counted the value of all the gold in all the temples that give him offerings. With that I felt it was time to go. The line had been quite long and we had cut and people were becoming impatient.
Holding out my hand I asked if I could pray for him. He agreed, but positioned himself so that his head was higher than mine and those watching would think I was receiving his blessing. As I took the hand of the Living Buddha, my mouth turned to cotton, my heart felt like it was being squeezed, and searing pain went through my head.
“Jesus, I ask you to bless this man. That he may know you…” With my head clearing, breath returned, heart strong, I continued “…and that he may know that You alone give perfect peace.”
Leaning forward and in a whisper, he said, “Jesus is the Prince of Peace.” The Asian men who were with me kept their composure until we cleared the exit door, at which point they leapt, danced, and shouted with joy. Amazed at their actions I waited until they were again calm and asked what that was about.
“You do not understand because you are not Asian. He just confessed Jesus which no monk will ever do; He is the ‘Strongman’ that had to be bound. Jesus is going to break through in this place.” Don Wong and Eric Feng danced their way to the car, praised their way to the hotel, laughed their way to the airport, and proclaimed the victory.
The story spread and the church leaders of Cambodia asked me to come and share with them. Faith was ignited, the war ended, the peace was established, and now SEAPC is giving the children’s picture Bible, My Precious Book, to 15,000 fourth graders in the very province through which we traveled on that “peace march” trip. We are reaching out to 126,000 students in 488 schools with the promises Jesus gave us in the Upper Room.
Have a Merry Christmas indeed.