Barnabas Mam spoke this evening on the theme of Christ at the centre of it all:
Joined the Communist Party in the 1970s. In late teens, loved to get involved, especially against corruption and injustice, so organised many protests against the Cambodian government and the USA.
His mentor sent him to spy on the Christian church, to find out how many Americans were there, and how many Cambodians were involved in supporting this work. But as he heard the story of the Prodigal Son he found himself in that story. The closing thought was you might have thought that believing in Jesus Christ is to believe in a Western family but instead it is to go home. Between 1972-1973 over 3,000 people gave their lives to Jesus at these rallies. The Communist leaders sent him to the wrong place.
The Cambodian church went through real revival to deal with the suffering that would come through Pot. His father asked him “If the communist ome to power they will destroy your church, burn your bible, kill your fellow leaders, can you still practise your Christian faith?” I will worship God anywehere, and then Branabas challenged him about his Buddhist faith.
Pot ruled Cambodia with terror and atrocity. It became a totally agrarian country – no banks, no schools, everyone focussed on growing and catching food. The Government targeted a number of groups – the rich, the educated, the leaders and more.
Over 1 million killed during the killing fields, lost 6 of his family to this. Out of 10,000 Christians only 200 survived. How could you survive, all his fellow pastors were killed, no Bible to read, and no close friends allowed. Barnabas saw Christ in his suffering. He knew he was not the only person on earth who was suffering.
2 Corinthians 1:5 – the more we see Christ suffer the more comfort we receive from Him. The few verses that he could remember, became sources of power, encouragement, e.g. Isaiah 53:5. As Christ suffered for me 2,000 years ago there was a purpose.
Begin the day and end the day with Jesus Christ: how do you do this with no band, no worship group, no Bible, no preacher, no congregation. Not even 2 or 3 gather in his name could work! Counted the stars as God’s blessing on him. Had to wake at 4am to do an hour of prayer before the prisoners woke at 5am, and then again prayed and worshipped when the other prisoners were asleep. Instead of Scripture Readings he spoke the memorised portions of scripture, e.g. Psalm 23. Sang about his eternal home as he had no home on earth; and sang How Great Thou Art when it was raining cats and dogs so he could sing from the bottom of his heart. Lived below the basics, no choice, no education, following where the Lord lives, Psalm 51 – the Lord is Shepherd. Assigned to be a Chef in the Prison, caught several fish which “fell” into his cooking pan!
Learnt to be sensitive to Christ’s prompting. Twice a week you would go through prisoner interrogation. Often asked “do you miss your wife?” because he was still emotional he must be revolutionary – he was killed; another friend said “no, not at all” and he was accused of being a liar and killed straight away. The Lord spoke to Barnabas and said Matthew 10, be shrewd, but do not worry about what to say and how to say it. When he was asked did he miss his girlfriend, I am here at this school not to miss anyone but to learn to work as hard as you do.
Trusted Jesus Christ for anointing. His friend was a former pilot, and spoke 1 French word, and was beaten and tortured for 2 hours. Barnabas was called for at midnight, and he was asked did he speak English, the language of the enemy of the regime. If he told the truth he would be killed, if he lied he was not the son of God. He told them the truth and was given various portions to read and a meal was prepared. The officers said to take better care of him.
Many friends died through murder, labour, illness such as malaria. Barnabas buried many others but then wondered who would bury him if he died. But he was one of only 27 out of 3,000 prisoners to have survived.
You may feel you can’t bear your burden any more, you may have felt like giving it up, but don’t. Let Christ be at the centre of your worship, prayer, conversation, reading, work, living – Christ will lead you from darkness to light, from low to height, from bad to good. Let us have confidence in Jesus Christ.