Forrest McPhail, missionary in Cambodia
We continue our series from last week - this time, Forrest McPhail, a missionary from Cambodia, will answer some more questions that students submitted.
1. Name a time when God saved your life. What was your closest near-death experience?
There were two similar occasions when God spared my life through miraculous means while I was driving my moped long-distance to village Bibles studies. In both cases, I was driving down the highway in Cambodia heading for home.
The first time, I was in my lane driving normally, fast because of the highway. Ahead of me, a city bus came barreling towards me, passing a vehicle in his lane, which would certainly shove me off the road. Steep drops into rice fields were on both sides and there was no time to stop and jump off. Right as the bus and would have hit me, I swerved off the highway onto a built-up patch of dirt that just happened to be at that exact spot, just enough to keep me from crashing below.
Another time, I was passing a parked semi-truck in my lane, as I began to pass, again going highway speed, a pickup truck suddenly came flying up a steep dirt road from the left, swinging on to the road coming towards me to pin me against the parked semi. I closed my eyes, holding on. I opened them to find I was passed the two trucks. There was no room for such a deliverance. It had to be God.
2. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?
I have eaten dog, frogs, rat, egret, water buffalo, fire ants and eggs, python, miniature deer, wild boar, jungle turtle, etc. But the worst was when a Cambodian farmer challenged me to eat his dish: jungle stir fry. It contained chopped up cow intestine and jungle weeds. He dared me to eat it and then stood there to watch. I ate it, praying all the way—and had seconds!
3. What would you or your family most appreciate in a care package?
Back when we first went in 2000, there were lots of things a person might send from the USA that would be special. Since then, Cambodian has rapidly developed and tourist has exploded, resulting in many import stores with American goods. At one point we received a care package that contained a bunch of Little Debbies. Believe it or not, it made us quite emotional!
Beyond food items, some favorites we have received in the past have included things that people have made reminding us of their prayers: personalized coffee mugs with signatures of those praying; kitchen cloth items with names of people praying; prayer lists taken from our prayer letters that had been prayed through and signed by those in a church that prayed through that list, etc.
4. If you could change one thing about how you got to the mission field or what you’ve done on the mission field, what would it be?
God has been thoroughly gracious in all things. We have been given strength and provision for every step of the way, in all circumstances. We are most blessed and grateful to God for our privilege to serve Him in Cambodia.
Our first six years on the field were largely taken up with the passion of our hearts: language and culture acquisition, evangelism, and church planting. The Lord slowed me down by allowing me to be afflicted with post-viral syndrome/fibromyalgia which greatly challenged my ability to minister. In the ten years since, we have been in a continual state of prayer regarding how best to serve Christ and be useful in the advance of the church on this pioneer field. I have often struggled with lack of physical and mental energy to do the types of ministry that we went to Cambodia to do. My passion was for aggressive evangelism and disciple making, especially in the villages where Christ was not named.
God provided many opportunities for that type of ministry, but on a much different scale than we desired. He did, however, give us opportunity to participate in and encourage church planting in Cambodia in ways that we could not have foreseen.
The lesson learned? It took far too long to accept the limitations that God had given and plan ministry accordingly. I had almost idolized a kind or style of ministry that I was no longer able to perform. I had to find contentment in my Captain’s plan and seek opportunities to serve Him faithfully within it.
We do not know how the Lord will work through us His individual servants, or how He will guide us over time to do the work for which He has called us. The key is to humble ourselves, go, fulfill our ministries, and allow ourselves to be led by our Lord one step at a time. We are, each one of us, but one very small part in the greater work that Jesus is doing through His people to build His church. He is in control of each small part. He will make no mistakes.
5. What methods are you using to make opportunities to meet unbelievers and develop relationships with them?
Missionaries have widely differing means of meeting unbelievers and developing relationships depending upon the culture they serve in, their own personal gifts and talents, and the political situation. For us, we have enjoyed a very open and friendly Cambodian culture, religious freedom, and relative ease maintaining visas. What this means for us is that we have enjoyed greater latitude when it comes to public witness and evangelism.
We have: sold Christian books in a city market, rented a market stall; held children’s and youth activities; put our children in the public school; done street preaching; went door-to-door with tracts that we have written in order to introduce ourselves; had Christmas parties; had short-term English activities; accepted the many invitations to weddings (they love inviting foreigners!); attended local funerals (as all neighbors would); sought opportunities for talking to men over noodles or coffee; held evangelistic meetings at a modest local coffee and noodle shop; took advantage of all conversations in the community and visited with neighbors regularly.
The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.