We Ten Went

We Ten Went

A year later reflecting on the mission trip to Cambodia.

map-of-cambodia

Alert:  Random thoughts coming up!

I am amazed at the missional mindset of so many people at church.  The willingness to either go or, if not go, then support those who go in prayer and financial generosity.

The link with Cambodia came through a tenuous family link with an Australian church.  We piggy-backed their magnificent endeavour over the years to support the church in Cambodia and see the Church be a blessing to the people of Cambodia.

photoThe friendship strength of the two teams that straddled the globe was quite something (although, I would have loved to have been there a few extra weeks to see what psych/ego dramas played out – but that’s a speculative unknown!

I loved the team we were part of, and the country we were in.  It has left an indelible(?) mark on my heart and mind, and I’m sure I speak for the team!

The reflection of our brief time there is a continuation of our physical time there.  There is a gospel-logic to going, and there is a gospel logic to processing and thinking about what happened there!

transformIt was a busy time; a chalenging time; a hot time; a thoughtful time; an unusual time; a playful time; a significant time.  The time was right, to talk with who we talked with, to preach to who we preached to; to give to who we gave to; to bless and be blessed by those all around; to live and learn another people and place; to pray and share and witness and eat and laugh.  We did it all and more.

The tuk-tuk’s were great fun, especially in a team of so many, chugging along throught the streets and traffic – sweet.

But the pepper.  Oh, the pepper, the Cambodian pepper:  Sell everything you have and buy some Cambodian pepper – if you like your pepper, you will love this pepper.  Sometimes I have a dinner with my pepper – it is the fragrance of heaven and the taste of the Kingdom!

(There is Cambodian pepper in Heaven – of that be assured)!

killing-fieldBut the pain, oh the pain.  Cambodia is a young country, robbed of its heritage, history and all that is in the past.  If Jesus can pray as he’s being nailed to the cross, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing!” We can only surmise that the madness of Pol Pot was another evil manifestation of what a particular human being did not know what he was doing…did he know?  Probably….but so did the Roman soldiers.  They knew they were nailing Jesus to the cross, but they didn’t know what they were doing on a cosmic soteriological level…..how could they?  They were just following orders!  But Pol Pot and the apocalypse he unleashed of the evil hoardes was quite something!  To stand in the Killing Fields and read, watch, walk and feel, breathe, smell, think!  That is agony enough, but it isn’t enough; it is never enough!

The Church in Cambodia:  young, energetic, hopeful, faithful, fruitful.  Lord, bring it to completion.

with-transformHidden pain, despair, degradation, women, men and children, lost to the demonic world of prostitution, but not lost to the love of God, never!  Mercy will triumph over judgment because mercy does triumph over judgment….always……forever…..!

Lord, just say the word, and we/they will be healed….

 

 

 

 

 

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Phenomenal Penh

Phenomenal Penh

Here’s my brief write up for the Baptist Times on the mission to Cambodia we experienced in November 2015….

From Torquay to Cambodia

Barton Baptist Church recently undertook a mission trip to Cambodia, involving the whole church. Minister Richard Matcham reflects

Cambodia

It is an incredible thing to attempt a full-scale mission trip that includes the whole church! We always knew that all of us should be involved, but that only some of us will go.

Barton is a small-ish Baptist Church in Torquay, and we took ten people on a mission trip to Cambodia in partnership with a church in Australia, who themselves took thirteen people.

We wanted it to be an inspiring time of trusting God for provision, hearing God’s voice, uniting for the team and church, and the like. We didn’t want to merely see the seasoned travellers go, but the unseasoned. We didn’t want those with missions’ experience to be the only ones, but those going for the first time.

Nor did we want only those with the means to go, but also those with no natural means to go. In the end we had a good combination. For those who stayed, they prayed. “Some will go; some will stay; all will pray!” That was our tag-line.

It was a sweet irony that a Baptist church in the English Riviera partnered with a church in Victoria, Australia, called the ‘Riviera Christian Centre’. This church has been partnered with several ministries within Cambodia for the past fifteen years, and every year, they take more people, young or old, experienced or not, to experience the world of Christian ministry within the format of short-term mission.

Cambodia was simply breath-taking, amazing people and truly amazing pepper! It was also heart-breaking. The country is a generation from the catastrophe of the Pol Pot era in the 1970s. Thus it is a “young” country, but it is emerging at pace as it faces the future.
The ministries we experienced were connected to the big city church in the capital Phnom Penh (or ‘Phenomenal Penh’ as I like to call it), and two particular ministries: one devoted to the education, feeding, health and nurture of children from very poor backgrounds, called ‘Transform Cambodia’; the other, a ministry that offers support, education and dignity to women and children who had been caught up in the trafficking industries, called ‘Precious Women’.

Every aspect of ministry focus had its historical tragedy, but there was not one without present or future hope. In a country where the Killing Fields have become an open museum and a testament to human evil, there is hope, and a significant part of it is located within what the church is doing, empowered by the Gospel.

Cambodia2Outside the capital, we visited the town of Poipet, on the Thailand border. This border town, displays the usual subsistence-level poverty and great wealth, side-by-side, as it is in many places around the world. Here, we supported the ministry of the church (a plant from the capital), including youth work, preaching, outreach and evangelism, prayer, pastoral ministry and the like.

There was much here that challenged many on the team, but despite whatever each individual on the team was experiencing, I for one, was so impressed with how the personal difficulties were covered for the sake of the corporate unity and the wider mission. The group held together in a truly astonishing way, even though for some, the difference in culture was challenging!

It is my hope and prayer that, in doing something like this, we gain a fraction more of the Kingdom of God and the wider world. That our churches exist for more than our local communities; that it is good for our local communities to see and know that their local church has done something out of the ordinary. That they are people who take God seriously, that God is not content with mere localism, even if we are; that our horizons must expand if we are to love and serve in a world that desperately needs to experience the love of God in Christ.

A banner of gratitude and thanks hangs at the back of our church from the members budding Christian community in Poipet. It reminds us that Barton Baptist Church is inextricably linked to the worldwide church. And we’ve been there to make and then tell our own stories of the love of Christ!

barton
The Revd Richard Matcham is minister of Barton Baptist Church in Torquay

 

 

An eternal tormentist, annihilationist and universalist walk into a pub…

An eternal tormentist, annihilationist and universalist walk into a pub…

What follows is part of a wider response to various questions that theologian Rob Knowles has responded to.  Here, after writing a thorough response and critique of C. S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain, to which the opening of the article below refers, Rob proceeds to outline the actual biblical view(s) of what is associated with biblical notions of judgment and hell.

This debate suffers from the worst kinds of crappy-Christian polemics, historical amnesia and hermeneutical foreclosure, and dare I say, the real possibility that many Christians are going to be really cheesed off if God does indeed save everyone! Similarly, if God does or will save everyone, would that constitute what my brother refers to as ‘a pleasant hostage situation’?

If someone of the scholarly stature of A. C. Thiselton can confidently and unashamedly assert that within the Bible there exists three contradictory traditions, the interpreting community that is the Church had best sit up and pay proper theological attention!  At the very least, this would make an interesting discussion actually worth listening too, if our three traditions named in my title ever got into that pub!

Anyway, enjoy.  Cheers….

gbbf-glass

How could hell be just?
I have already said a lot on this question in my earlier theodicy on “the problem of evil”. There I offered a highly modified version of C.S. Lewis’s theodicy in his book, The Problem of Pain (see above). The theodicy went into some detail on the question of hell, and broadly rejected C.S. Lewis’ thinking on the matter in favour of A.C. Thiselton’s view, which we might call the “deliberate ambiguity” approach to hell. Lewis’s theodicy, in my view, was at its strongest in describing how, given that God had decided to create “persons” with (at least some measure of free will), then this was impossible without (a) some kind of neutral background – creation or “nature”, and (b) the possibility of us deciding to do wrong. These two factors explained 80% of the suffering in the world: that is, when it comes to the question: “why is there so much suffering in the world?” our answer is – roughly speaking – about 80% in agreement with the atheists. They say: there is no God; there is suffering; so humankind must have caused the suffering. We 80% agree that humankind must have caused the suffering – with the qualification that demonic influence on humanity also has to be accounted for.


The main exception to this was (c) what Lewis referred to as remedial suffering – suffering associated with God’s disciplining intervention into our lives, and with our going “cold turkey” on sins once we had decided to follow God – a “cold turkey” experience that Lewis, rightly, likened to crucifixion, since Paul speaks of the crucifixion of the sinful nature in the Christian.


In my view, though, Lewis’s theodicy was at its weakest in its depiction of God as being less than able to fully resolve the problem of human sin – as though the Almighty God was threatened by sin, and could only partially guarantee a partial salvation that heavily depended on our co-operation and works. The effect was to leave the reader exhausted, thinking that his or her works could be the deciding factor in his or her salvation.
To my mind, this view, whilst rightly stressing human responsibility, fails to present the biblical picture of God’s sovereignty. Yes, God is the crucified God, who suffers with us in weakness. And, for God as a man in Jesus Christ, nobody can under-estimate the suffering of the cross, and the difficulty God faced at that point, given the parameters that he had placed upon himself.

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