Psalm 68:20, 33-35 Our God is a God who saves! The Sovereign Lord rescues us from death. Sing to the One who rides across the ancient heavens, his mighty voice thundering from the sky. Tell everyone about God’s power. His majesty shines down on Israel; his strength is mighty in the heavens. God is awesome in his sanctuary. The God of Israel gives power and strength to his people.
While we were in Rattanakiri we had the opportunity to hear some amazing accounts of God’s power on display, at work in the hearts and lives of people in this province. He is showing Himself to be more powerful than any ancestral spirit or demon, able to heal hearts and physical ailments and give peace, freedom and joy. How beautiful! I want to share a few of these stories with you.
On Thursday our group had planned to visit the prison where the believers have been doing outreach several days a week. They have seen over a hundred people turn to Jesus and a number of “cell” churches started. Because of an escape a few days before our arrival, however, our visit wasn’t able to happen. Instead, we hopped in a car and on motos and drove to the top of a high hill overlooking the prison on one side and offering a breathtaking view on the other side of the valley and mountains in the distance.
After the noises of the city that are constantly in the background here in Phnom Penh, the quiet of the hike was beautiful. The view was stunning and we paused together as a group to pray and praise our Heavenly Father. While we got to see so many amazing things, the Enemy is pushing back in this area! But God is more powerful and He is preserving His name and witness among the people groups represented in Rattanakiri.
On the way up the mountain we stopped at a large statue of Buddha. Many people used to come to this shrine to offer their prayers and incense. Several young people from the church in the area began to prayer walk around the shrine. One night, one of them had a dream where they saw the spirit come out of the statue and leave. After that, people remarked that their prayers didn’t seem to be answered any longer and the shrine no longer had any power. Gradually, fewer and fewer people have been coming to pray there.
Each clan has certain foods that are taboo or certain practices that are prohibited, based on a spirit encounter from past generations. For example, we heard one story of an ancestral grandmother who went looking for her husband. She got lost in the process and stopped beneath a tree to rest. In a dream, a wild chicken came to her and said that he would help her if her family would worship the spirit of the wild chicken. When she woke up from her dream, a wild chicken was in the tree above her and the spirit guided her back home. From that time on in this family, no one was allowed to eat wild chicken in order to appease the spirits.
Freedom from the work of keeping the spirits happy and the ultimate power of God has been crucial in the faith journey of many in this animistic culture. There is no middle ground as people shift their allegiance from appeasement and worship of spirits to wholehearted devotion to Jesus Christ. This has also been a powerful witness to extended family and friends. As they see the believers eating foods formally prohibited without suffering evil consequences, and seeking healing through God rather than offering sacrifices, many have put their trust in God also.
Many of the people in this area have not had the chance to learn to read and write in their language. We heard several stories of people who became believers and had a strong desire to learn to read and write. They prayed fervently and God miraculously provided the ability to read His Word. God is not only powerful but compassionate in the way that He works in our lives!
Photo Credit: Kristin Tillotson