“Thanksgiving” is an American holiday which was started when the Christian pilgrims celebrated and gave thanks to God for all he did to sustain them in the new land of “America”. Since it is an American Christian celebration, it is really only celebrated in the United States though some other countries like Canada have their own “Thanksgiving” holiday as well.
I don’t recall too many “Thanksgivings” in America growing up as the child of missionaries, but my Mother would always cook chicken or some years we would splurge and buy a $50 turkey in the Philippines. In Cambodia, our turkeys are about $40 for just a little 9-10 pound turkey! However, as delicious as turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce all smothered in gravy is, the essence of Thanksgiving is giving thanks to God. This Thanksgiving I am thankful for so much, but on this day I have a special “Thanksgiving”.
Today, November 24, 2011, Thanksgiving Day, we are running the first pages of our Bible on our new Bible printing press in Cambodia. We will probably not have any turkey, but we will give thanks to God for his provision and miracles.
For nearly 10 years I have been hunting and searching for a Bible printing solution in Cambodia. The reason is simple: we have tens of thousands of people coming to Christ every year, and only about 20% of Christians can get access to a Bible. There were only 3 places in all of Cambodia that even sold Bibles and you could only buy 2-3 at a time because they were afraid of depleting their stocks before the next annual shipment of a few thousand copies would arrive.
When I talked to church leaders and various ministries about the possibility of Cambodia having a Bible printing press nearly everyone just blew off the idea, including those ministries which focus exclusively on publishing Bibles. Seven years ago, we started translating the New Testament from Greek with the help of the Asia Bible Society. During the last seven years the team of translators completed the New Testament, started into the Old Testament, completed a Bible dictionary, and a concordance of the entire New Testament. During that whole time I tracked down every contact I could find who would help me find a printing press to print Bibles. You see, in a former Communist country, which is still leaning heavily toward the centralized control and a society based on fear, it is very difficult and expensive to try to get Bibles into a country which wants to have a single religion (without any Christians) and has the controls of a communist state. The only one who wants Bibles imported into Cambodia are the small minority of Christians, no one else does. However, as a Cambodian Christian ministry registered with the Ministry of Religion, Words of Life has permission to print in-country. The only problem, there is no printing press in Cambodia that can print a 2,000 page Bible on thin paper.
Over the years I tracked down sources from Germany, Austria, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Indonesia and all over America. Some pastors helped me by contacting press suppliers, publishers and anyone who would listen to my dream. At times I was discouraged, like the first time I laid eyes on a Bible web press. I was least worried about the multi-million dollar price and most worried about the technical specifications which would require the power of a whole Cambodian city to run the thing! It looked impossible. Finally, an old Minnesota-Norwegian bald guy came and listened to my vision. Rolf Garborg. Then he, and so many others a Bethany Press went to work to find a solution. They worked late and night and early mornings contacting suppliers, equipment operators separately from their regular jobs.
They include wonderful and visionary people were from the following groups:
Partners in Publishing; Bethany International; Bethany Press; Hosanna! Lutheran Church in Minneapolis; Maclellan Foundation; Nordick Foundation; The Master’s Plan Foundation; Heights Church in Prescott, AZ and Tim Comer a volunteer consultant who traveled to multiple countries to examine the equipment; Good New Printers (our Cambodian partner) and the press manufacture who made the customized press just for us, Sud & Waren.
It took, this many people and more to make the dream of the press possible. But today, it is running and starting to print the first 30,000 Bibles.
But with a year of Thanksgiving, is also a year of expectations for the coming year. My dream is to print 1 million Bibles in 5 years in Cambodia. We have 20 years of a lack of Bibles to catch up on! I feel confident that in only a few years from now we will be celebrating another Thanksgiving of accomplishing that goal and I know the list of people who made it possible will be significantly longer!
The early pilgrims were united in their Christian faith. Many, many died in their first year, but many survived. They worked together, shared their resources, celebrated their victories together and mourned their losses together. While there were other colonies which we started before the Plymouth Pilgrims, none had so much influence on American culture. Recently I read that more than 10% of all Americans today can trace their ancestry to Plymouth Pilgrims who came over to American on the Mayflower. I know that I can. My ancestors from the Hyde family, and maybe yours too, where sitting together giving Thanksgiving to God for his provision. It is a tradition which we celebrate today, but for all new reasons. This year, in 2011, I give Thanksgiving to God for all the people who believe that the Word of God will change Cambodia for the better and disciple a generation of new believers.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and may your coming year be filled with miracles of God’s provision!