God’s presence in the midst of life and death

Warren and Marianne Schirmer have been long term supporters of the LCA International Mission work in Cambodia, promoting the work of the Lutheran Church in Cambodia within the LCA. Recently, they visited Cambodia and spent time with the ministry team in Phnom Penh. Warren reflects on one of their experiences which left a profound impression of the impact of God’s presence in this new Church community.

We had been warned as we walked to the Sunday morning worship area at Rainbow Hostel in Phnom Penh for the regular worship service. But we didn’t really know what the warning was about so it was a shock when we arrived. A tragedy had occurred overnight and there, lying in front of the altar, was the body of a much loved and respected former student and resident of Rainbow Hostel. Students from the hostel had gathered to grieve the loss of their dear friend and colleague. In the early hours of that Sunday morning, their friend had passed away from a suspected aneurism, after a very short illness. During his time at the hostel, this student had accepted Christ as his Saviour, and had previously expressed his wish for a Christian burial at the time of his death.

In the early hours of that Sunday morning, the members of this very small Lutheran Church in Cambodia had contacted each other about the news of the death. Members of the outlying villages, where the Lutheran Church in Cambodia church planting had occurred, immediately started the long trip into the city of Phnom Penh by tuk tuk or motor bike so that they could support the family of the deceased and the students of the Rainbow Hostel.

This was a time of firsts for the small but growing Lutheran Church in Cambodia. They had recently experienced their first wedding, the first ordination of a Pastor and now, we believe, their first Christian funeral. It was a powerful experience.

As visitors we couldn’t help but reflect on the horrific experiences the people had gone through during the atrocities of the Pol Pot regime. Although this was another death, it was different. I hugged one lady who had travelled for hours from the village Phum Krus into Phnom Penh that very morning. I knew that during the time of Pol Pot’s regime, she had been put alive into a mass grave, and had looked Death in the face many horrifying times. But right there and then, we all experienced the reality of salvation and God’s grace in a joyful, real and powerful way.

That Sunday morning service was one of the most significant events, to date, for the much-loved Lutheran Church in Cambodia. The students of the Rainbow Hostel (approximately 60 now baptised) saw the reality of God’s love and salvation in those precious few hours of that funeral service. This was an experience that Marianne and I will never forget.

If you would like to consider the opportunity to serve as a volunteer in mission, serving in practical ways, teaching English, teaching in the seminaries and institutions of our partner churches, or in local churches, you are invited to phone Nevin on (08) 8267 7300 or email nevin.nitschke@lca.org.au. For more information, go to http://www.lcamission.org.au/join-gods-mission/volunteer/

Read more stories about volunteering at http://www.lcamission.org.au/category/join-gods-mission/volunteers/