I was still on active duty with the Navy in 2012 when my wife, Bethany, and I took an exploratory missions trip to Cambodia with Cadence missionary, Paul Bradley. For a week we toured all over the country and visited a Cambodian Army base called Unit 51. At that time, Cadence Foreign Armed Forces Ministries, in partnership with 3Seams, was completing a one room sewing center (really an enclosed garage) in a village just outside the base entrance where many military families lived.
After retiring from the Navy and moving our family to Chiang Mai, Thailand as full-time missionaries in 2017, I returned to the 3Seams sewing center with my Cambodian partner, Sareth. I was excited to find military active duty personnel, spouses, and relatives hard at work creating amazing products to be sold locally and in the United States. More importantly, I learned that before they start their work, these beautiful women have a Bible study, fellowship with one another, and pray together.
I met the sewing center’s caretaker, Sohka, and her husband, Soeum, an Army Communications Officer. Sohka is a combat veteran herself and proudly showed me her military photos from when she fought the last remnants of the Khmer Rouge. Sohka’s sister also sews at the center and her brother, an Army Captain, is a medical assistant.
As Sareth and I were about to leave, the family asked if I could stay longer and teach them a Bible lesson. We studied “The Faith of the Centurion” from Matthew 8 together and discussed practicing servant leadership at work and in our homes. Perhaps moments like these are routine for many missionaries, but to me, this one was part of a greater story—a story that started before I knew Christ, when I was 14 years old and met Paul Bradley, then a youth pastor at Bible Fellowship Church in Ventura, California.
As a brand-new missionary just trying to figure out how to live in southeast Asia, this was a very special moment for me. It reminded me of what I felt like the first time I had “the deck” driving a Navy ship or my first flying mission, where I led a crew of ten men hunting submarines. I was again in new territory, and this time God’s Word was coming alive in Cambodia.