One of the best gifts God offers us is the chance to find purpose in life. Chris and Amy Gesler say they’ve found that, and are sharing that gift with people of all ages in Kampong Cham, Cambodia.
The Geslers help lead the Friendship School, a Xenos Global Partner, which was founded in 2009 by a group of Cambodian teachers and a team from Xenos. Its goal is to address educational, physical, and spiritual needs not only of its students, but their families and the broader community as well.
Chris Gesler says he went to church as a kid and received Christ as a middle-schooler, but found church to be boring. He reluctantly said yes to an invitation to visit a Xenos high school group, and found it engaging. He connected there, and began a faithful walk with God.
Amy says she was a rebellious teen, but heard about God’s love and grace in college. She received Christ then and was captivated by the thought that God had a purpose for her life.
Both say they did not have a sense of a call to missions as young believers, or as a married couple, but that started to develop as they heard from people who were heading out to the missions field. They took a short term missions trip together to Cambodia in 2001, and developed a burden for the people of Cambodia.
This burden turned into practical conversations about the possibility of becoming full time missionaries. When Xenos missions leaders announced plans to expand the Cambodian team the Geslers applied, and worked their way through the steps to join the team in 2004.
The Geslers moved to Cambodia with a young child—their daughter Lauren was under 2 years old—and went on to have another daughter—Sydney—in 2007, while home on furlough. Their daughters are now 15 and 12. Lauren has been involved in a Westerville high school home church when in Columbus and Sydney just started a junior high girls’ cell group and will be going to Blowout Camp.
Amy says one of their main challenges has been their children’s education. Kampong Cham is a small town and there is no international school for non-Cambodians. Cambodian schools would not be appropriate for their daughters, so Amy home schools them. It’s one of her main day-to-day activities, along with discipling Cambodian women who have a leadership role in the Friendship School and its ministries. She says she has a special burden to help these women see God’s purpose for their lives, the thing that first drew her to a relationship with God. She says she works to help them have a vision for God using them to not only reach non-Christians, but to be part of discipling fellow Cambodians into leaders who can reach more people.
When they first moved to Cambodia in 2004 the Geslers worked in the capital city of Phnom Penh. In 2008 they moved to the much smaller town of Kampong Cham to start the Friendship School, working alongside a group of Cambodian believers. Chris’ primary role as a missionary is helping shepherd this school, which started with a single first grade class in 2009 and has added an additional grade each year. The school now serves kids in first through 10th grades, after which they move on to a government school with their peers.
Chris says the school’s scope goes beyond the kids it serves. It also is a platform for evangelism and medical assistance, reaching out to family members and people in the community. It also offers English classes.
Recently the Geslers joined with their Cambodian brothers and sisters to hold a baptism. 39 people were baptized, vocally sharing about their relationship with God through Christ. Chris says among them were teachers from the school, who came to the school as non-Christians—there to teach higher level subjects to older students—but have since received God’s gift of forgiveness. He says it was a great joy and very encouraging for them.
Chris says they’re are now exploring ways to expand their outreach to nearby villages. As with the school Chris says mature Cambodian leaders are now taking the lead role. He asks for you to pray for them, that they can have a vision for their work and a passion for the people they can reach and disciple.
The Geslers say they enjoy the easy-going, relational bent of the Cambodia culture. They say the people truly enjoy setting everything aside to talk—that they value that time together. Amy says they aren’t as troubled with busy-ness, and when together they are not always looking at the clock. She says they are very hospitable, and, despite their financial poverty, very generous when others are in need. Chris says, as he’s struggled to express himself in a second language, the people have been gracious and patient—very happy that you’re interested enough in them to learn their language.
But Chris says the thing that he’s learned is that, despite cultural differences, people around the world are quite similar in their hearts. At their core, they struggle with the same basic issues, though they are manifested differently in different cultures.
In their free time, the Geslers like to exercise and play basketball. Amy enjoys baking and has shared that with her girls. She says her older daughter makes bagels and sells them as a way of making a little money since the Cambodian economy doesn’t offer part-time jobs to young people.
When they’re here in the United States, Chris and Amy say they enjoy the changing, moderate weather, which allows for more outdoor activities than does the extremely hot Cambodia weather. And they say they enjoy a good steak while here!
Here are some prayer requests:
- Pray for the students who have graduated from the Friendship School, and now represent Christ in their government-run school. Pray for them to be able to share their faith, which is a challenge since Christians are a tiny minority of people in Cambodia. The students have been willing to share their faith in other situations, but pray for them to have courage at their school.
- Pray for the Cambodian leaders who now bear much of the burden of the work. Pray that they will have a passion and vision for how God wants to reach the lost and raise new disciples through them.
- Pray for the new effort to expand their influence to neighboring villages, which is in the early stages. Pray for God to give the leaders wisdom, and for God to be opening hearts to hear about His grace.
- And praise God for the 39 people who recently were baptized!
Please consider supporting their work through prayer and financial giving. You can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can learn more about the Friendship School at dwellcc.org/missions.