Tuesday, May 17, 2011

An Encouraging Word

I met Mark back in 2004 when we were in Prague the second time.  He was teaching English and working for a missions group in the city.  We've stayed in touch over the years and I followed his journey from Eastern Europe, back to Illinois and then into Asia with great interest.  Imagine what a change!  He's been through a number of trials, both man-made and spiritual, but has come through them by God's Grace.  He's returning home from Cambodia after several years there. 

Last weekend they hosted a retreat for a group of young people and I asked if I could share his report.  It was so encouraging... in the midst of chaos, God's Word is powerful... and the enemy knows it!  Don't let your heart be troubled...

(Mark is the lone white dude in the back...)

May 16, 2011
Hi Everyone,
I want to update you on how the retreat went last weekend.  I am grateful for all of you who prayed for me and this retreat.  I felt strong in the Lord because of your prayers.  It would be nice to report that everything went smoothly and as planned, but it did not. 

The venue for the retreat was a two level open air structure on stilts in the middle of a pond.  This was located a short distance outside of Phnom Penh.  The building has a bridge that leads out to the top level with stairs leading down to the lower level.  We arrived early Friday morning and planned to stay until the early evening on Saturday.  This was our plan at least.  It was a beautiful and peaceful location to have a retreat.  The morning went well and lunch came together without any problems.  The students worked in teams to prepare the meals. 

It was a cloudy day but I have grown to like the clouds because they block the scorching sun.  As the morning passed, the clouds began to get darker and darker.  In the afternoon at about 2 we resumed our meetings.  During this time I was going to share about Jesus’ command to love one another from John 13:34-35.  We began with a time of worship.  We had sung about 3 songs when the sky exploded with torrential rain.  Everyone began to scurry about trying to get everything out of the rain and put up tarps to protect us from the deluge we were now in.  In the end, we had to concede to the rain.  The decision was made to abandon ship and move the retreat to one of the Young Life centers.  The process of getting everyone and all of our stuff moved took some time.  It was dinner time when we finally finished getting everyone moved back to the Young Life center.  By now, our schedule was out the door.  After some reshuffling, we got the evening schedule put together. 

After dinner, we again had a time of worship which was to be followed by me giving the talk that I was going to give in the afternoon.  I was also asked to cut a little for time’s sake.  That was no problem.  I have had to do that many times before.  Oh, I forgot to mention something.  After arriving in the morning I realized I did not have any notes with me so I trusted that the Lord would bring back to mind what he wanted me to share.  So it came time for me to speak.  All was going well.  I was just beginning to talk about Jesus’ statement that, “All men will know that we are his disciples if we love one another.”  I had barely got the words out of my mouth and the electricity went out.  I stopped for a moment and said, “This is a very important teaching of Christ that we need to be reminded of.  It is apparent that our enemy does not want us to hear it, but we are still going to hear about it tonight.”  I continued the rest of the teaching in the dark.  Maybe this was a lesson in faith because we are “to walk by faith and not by sight.” 

I give God the glory in all of this.  I was given the opportunity by the enemy to compound my discouragement.  I have to confess, I was becoming a bit discouraged after our wash out in the afternoon.  By the time the electricity went out though, I was laughing inside.  My laugher was not because insanity had set in rather I laughed in the face of the enemy’s attempts to thwart God’s purposes.  In the end, I was encouraged to know that I was used in God’s purpose for that moment.  I was encouraged because the message was well received by the young people.  I was also encouraged because I was able to spend time getting to know some of the young people on a deeper level.  Again, I thank you for your prayers.  It is an encouragement to me to have brothers and sisters in Christ who stand together with me in the work that God has called me to.  It is a demonstration of what I was teaching about.  Our love for one another compels us to stand together.  Thank you! 

May you know the closeness of our Lord today.

Encouraged in Him,
Mark Fishel

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