Two weeks ago, in response to the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19, the Cambodian government urgently announced to suspend all classes in schools across the country, and in the following days, all religious gatherings are to be called off. This policy seems to limit our church life, but the energizing and moving God continues to lead us to breakthroughs.
Most of the saints who live the church life in Phnom Penh are those from other provinces who go to study, to work there or serving the church in the capital. Among those the church in Phnom Penh, the number of students is close to 1/4 of the total number of the attendance to the Lord’s Table meeting, while Chinese and Korean saints’ makeup is 1/3. Before the prohibition of religious gatherings, responsible brothers who served in Phnom Penh had already fellowshipped and arranged each district to create network groups for saints. The local widely used social media messaging apps are Facebook and Messenger, thus 1-3 small groups could be set up in each district so that saints can still use online resources to gather when they cannot meet physically. In such a situation, saints could still use the resourceful internet to gather (considering some local saints are not familiar with the internet, thus Zoom is not the main messaging apps in Cambodia, lest many saints lose their church life due to not knowing how to use Zoom. Zoom is used in the Chinese district, and Korean saints meet in a Korean saint’s home because the number is around 3-4 peoples).
After the order was issued two weeks ago, a significant population of Phnom Penh left, and most of the saints also returned to their provinces. At this uncertain time, we began to use the Internet for meetings, and we used the phone or Internet to meet and to shepherd of the saints during the week. There are some blessings, and of course, there are restrictions.
Here are some examples:
1. Breakthrough the regional restrictions, allow us to shepherd saints or students who return to other provinces with saints who have hearts functioning. At this time, new ones are shepherded by phone calls or online. According to statistics, our home meeting in the past week has not been decreasing, instead of increasing (the average number of saints participating in the home meeting for last two months has been 52, and 57 people have been in the past week).
2. There are no local churches in some saints’ hometowns in other provinces, but they can continue to have church life through online meetings.
3. Some saints were originally unable to gather due to geographical distance; through online meetings, they were recovered back to the Lord’s Table meetings and even being a part of prayer meetings.
4. Owing to the number of people in the online gathering group is relatively small (7 people in a group maximum), everyone can function and prophesy.
5. Through the arrangement in the online groups, saints who have the burden are able to join and coordinate, such as the writing of the report and script, contact other saints in the group, etc., so as to raise the saints who can be commissioned.
1. Limitations of the communication apps itself, such as volume and screen clarity. In addition, consider the saints’ inability to focus for long periods during online meetings.
2. The internet and call quality in other provinces and countryside is not high, thus some saints returning to other provinces responded that they could not use the Internet in their homes, and some could not receive calls.
3. Some new ones’ families are unsaved, thus they cannot pursue and pray as freely as they were in Phnom Penh.
4. Online gatherings or shepherding are not like common gatherings. If the saints are not in good condition or their life is a bit lax, they cannot be contacted.
1. Considering the clarity of the apps and the concentration span of online saints’ meetings, we currently arrange a one-hour online meeting on Lord’s Day. There is no singing at that time. We only pray, read messages, prophecy and summarize. We hope that the saints would enjoy the meeting in this limited time.
2. If there is a problem with the network or communication in the village of the shepherded ones, we will shepherd by recording, including reading messages, prayers, and transmitting the scriptures. We will wait until the other party receives the Internet signal and reply. As for the Lord’s Table meeting, saints will go to places where they have internet access to meet with us online.
3. If the family of the new one has not been saved, they will not be forced to sing and pray together at home. He will also be shepherded by recording or scripture transmission so that he will remain connected with us and enjoy the Lord during this period.
4. If the saint does not appear in the group during the meeting time or fails to be connected online at the designated time, text him/ her to schedule another time, or shepherd them directly with the literature. When the situation improves, then resume using video-and-voice call functions of apps to connect.
During this period, although there is a severe epidemic outside. But the saints enjoy the sufficient grace of the Lord –This grace is not only for us to find peace and joy in it, but also for us to be strengthened by the Lord to continue to feed his flock and care for the needs of the saints.
I hereby list a few testimonies as follows, in the hope that we can be encouraged:
During this period, it is very precious to shepherd the saints through the Internet. Although it’s not as convenient to pursue face-to-face with saints as before, video calls still help us to break through the geographical limitations. Once, in the process of shepherding the new believer, I wanted to only use the voice-only call to shepherd him, but I saw that the new believer specially opened the video option to meet me, I felt quite motivated. And when he took out the morning revival to pursue together, I felt that during this period, I need to help the new believer to touch the Lord’s word urgently. In addition, when shepherd another new believer, he said that his family had not been saved and could not pursue together at home, otherwise his family would be strongly opposed; therefore, we prayed for each other by sound recording. Thank the Lord, I hope that, he will be more confident in the Lord in this stressful situation. In addition, due to the epidemic situation, a Chinese saint has arranged his wife to return to the homeland, he himself remains in Phnom Penh and continue to work, but there is still terror and helplessness in his heart. Thru fellowship, we pursue the Lord’s word together, pray together, and renew our consecration together. May the Lord strengthen him, and he can overcome through the Lord’s name in this difficult situation. Hallelujah, the harder the circumstances are, the more the hearts of men open towards the Lord. May we all seize this chance, testify concerning this real and living God to others.
Although saints cannot meet face-to-face during the epidemic, through the Internet, brothers and sisters still come together to pray, sing hymns and share and encourage each other. Some saints used to be unable to attend prayer meeting because of distance, but this time they were also brought into the church’s prayer through the Internet. Some saints did not attend the Lord’s day meeting before and were connected and recovered by the online meeting. It is also very convenient for brothers and sisters to contact saints through the Internet, and they can contact more saints. Sometimes I can shepherd three saints in one night. Praise the Lord! The limitations of the outside environment cannot stop the Lord’s spreading and move among us.
By gathering online, the number of saints multiplied. Thank the Lord, because of the impact of the epidemic, in order not to give up our own meeting, we started online meetings. I thought online meetings would limit our enjoyment, but every brother and sister tried their best to exercise their spirit to maintain our enjoyment. Now, for a month, the number of saints has increased rather than decreased, This also enables some working and busy saints to join in the meeting and enjoy His richness. There are certain restrictions meeting online, but through the fellowship and the practice of brothers and sisters together, we can achieve the goal of enjoying the Lord. In the beginning, the enjoyment of singing hymns together was greatly reduced because the network could not be synchronized. At first, we fellowship that we sing by taking turns one by one, but still feel there is any shortage. Through continuous improvement, we’ve now settled on one person playing music now, other saints mute their mics. This way, both accompaniment and synchronization can be achieved, and then unmute the mics when pray-reading and prayer this ensures that audio will not affect each other, and each saint can release the spirit. It’s getting more and more enjoyable. (Testimony of the Chinese district. The Chinese district started the practice of meeting online a month ago, due to preventive measures towards the spread of the epidemic.)