International Ministries

Projects Update

February 16, 2004 Journal

A number of you have asked about our work and projects.I realize I haven't said much about them in recent journals so will start tying to catch up with this journal.

Tuberculosis (TB) Project

This project is running much smoother than it did two years ago.The reforms God allowed us to complete last year have improved it greatly.We believe we have restored confidence, including ours, that patients now easily can obtain proper treatment, and we are now able to locate and treat many new persons whose health was slowly being destroyed by TB.So many of these patients are very poor.

But there are still some bumps.It is a cooperative project with the government and we find that the government medical staff are not always truthful with us, often putting our own administrator between a rock and a hard place.For instance, a few days ago, I learned via our administrator that the government is using expired TB drugs for our patients, but the government nurse is hiding that from us.We must now find a careful way to resolve this problem.We must make sure patients get good drugs yet at the same time minimize the powerful government nurse venting his wrath on our administrator, which can jeopardize the project.Tricky problems like this are frequent and we need to deal with them carefully, but it can get old.

Of more concern to us lately has been the attitude of our administrator. Mr. Uan is a Christian and has performed his job wonderfully for a year now, but recently that has changed a bit.We have found that he has started neglecting some of his regular important duties.He is very loyal to Pastor Sok and has come to believe it is very wrong for me to teach scripture to our staff, which he does not attend.I suspect this belief has affected his work attitude and morale.Uan tells me there should only be one teacher and has quoted to me Acts 3:22-23,

"for Moses said, 'The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from among his people.'"

He says Pastor Sok, in our case, is "our prophet", and since Sok wants me to quit teaching, I should obey.I explained the verse is not about Pastor Sok but about Jesus, and that Peter is quoting Moses to prove to his audience that Jesus was the Messiah.Mr. Uan is also the one who persuaded one of my female staff to stop attending my scripture teaching a few months ago.He convinced her that her husband was sick because God was angry with her because she was attending my teaching.Mr. Uan does not reject scripture, but, like Sok, says it dangerous and wrong to study or teach scripture, and that scripture is inferior to God's Word spoken through Pastor Sok.This is what the HS teacher also teaches.I've asked Uan for scriptural evidence for his position and his proof is John 5:39, where Jesus chastises the religious leaders, "You diligently study the Scriptures because you think by them you possess eternal life."

I read the next sentence in the passage to him and tried to explain that Jesus was not discouraging anyone from studying scripture but was criticizing the leaders for refusing to accept what the Scripture says. Anyway, we've had a couple long talks.I told him we wanted to keep him as our TB administrator and had no desire to let him go, but that it was unacceptable for him to be telling anyone, staff or otherwise, that to study scripture was a sin.I've also asked him to return to performing all his duties.Please pray for Mr. Uan, that the truth will become clear to him. We really do not want to let him go, and believe God very clearly led us to hire him last year.We feel he genuinely tries to do what he believes is right, whether truly right or not.Yet it is so difficult for him to think that any of Sok's teaching could be wrong.

School Project

This project has been going well.Because there is little government politics and we have a good project education director it requires little of my attention.Best of all, it has made significant improvements in local education.Unfortunately, it is expensive.Last year I proposed to local school officials and the villages that whenever we had the funds available we would provide the construction materials for a new or repaired school if, (1) the villagers provided the labor or labor costs, and (2) the district school authorities would provide a teacher for each classroom.A few of you have helped with schools and desks before, and I want to repeat now how very grateful we are for your help.

I made the above proposal because we have a severe shortage of teachers in our villages.The nearest elementary school has 1100 students and until recently had only 8 teachers.Now the school authorities have added 5 teachers at the urging of the principal and in anticipation of us fulfilling our promise.Teachers do not like to work out here because we're in the sticks, their salaries are very low, the villagers are poor, and opportunities for extra private income are few.The only teachers that stay is people who grew up here, and have family and rice fields here.But we can't get many local teachers because so few local kids get a good enough education to make it to a teacher's college.And the main reason their education quality is low is precisely because there are so few teachers.

It's a catch-22 situation.

This proposal however seems to have suddenly lit a fire among the officials to find teachers for our villages.They are very short of schools and classrooms (130 students per classroom, divided into two groups that study a half day session each) and are eager for us to help with them.Many of the old schools that they do have are broken down structures with dirt floors, deteriorating walls, leaky roofs, and too few desks.But this last year we were able to build or repair a small number of classrooms, and provide many desks for the students.We have long encouraged parents to send their kids to school and now with the new teachers and classrooms, there has been a surge of new children that parents are sending to school.We think this is great, especially since the amount of land is not enough for all the children to become farmers.There is only about 2 acres of farmland for the average family of 5 or 6 people, not enough to feed everyone.Another great benefit is that when we complete new classrooms, we also have the opportunity to publicly address all the students and teachers and explain who we are, whom we believe God is, why we are here, and why we want to help them get a good education.

Unfortunately, we must follow the national government blueprint for schools, making this project expensive.Each classroom, complete with foundation, concrete floors, brick walls, and desks cost $5,000.I have only been using surplus personal funds or funds specifically given for this project, simply because it is expensive and I don't want to shortchange our other less expensive projects.I have promised to build 7 new classrooms for 7 new teachers this year so I'm trusting that God will provide, one way or another.

Hopefully, more on these projects in the next journal.

Many of you have sent us birthday cards.Some have sent personal gifts. Thank you.And to all of you who have been supporting us and our work financially, thank you, thank you!This is a tough year financially for International Ministries so all the more we appreciate your gifts.Thank you for thinking of us, supporting us, and praying for us and the work here.

May God receive all the glory.

By His Grace,

John Coats