Standing Strong

A believer refuses to crumble under pressure


“If you want to offer the chicken to Satan,” my friend Rom told the doctors, “you are free to do it, but I will not.”

Rom had been dealing with a thyroid condition for some time, and finally the doctor in the Provincial Hospital in Kompong Cham, Cambodia, agreed that she should have surgery. But the morning that Rom was scheduled for the procedure, I arrived at the hospital to find her in the waiting area, prepped but worried. She told me that the doctors had already taken her into the operating room but had removed her when they realized that she had not offered a chicken sacrifice. Now they refused to operate.

‘Doom’ 4

Rom had become a believer through the Bethany Church (C&MA) plant in which my husband, Jeff, and I were involved nine years ago. Because formerly she had been heavily influenced by spirits, Rom taught me over the years how to deal with spiritual warfare in Cambodia. She prays with me and for me as we struggle through demonization issues in the village.

Rom entered the hospital after the week-long Khmer New Year celebration and began pre-operation treatment. She was put in Room 4. Several people from that room had died, and the patients presently assigned to it told Rom that she would have to offer a sacrifice if she were to survive. She had refused, and rumors quickly spread through the hospital.

Now, as Rom waited outside the surgical suite, she explained to me that, to show the doctors this was not an issue of money, she had bought a boiled chicken and left it hanging in a plastic bag on the window. The doctors tried to get her teenage daughter to offer the chicken, but she, too, refused.

A Higher Power

I went to the head surgeon, who was also the vice-director of the hospital. I told him very clearly why Rom would not offer the chicken.

He explained that three patients had died in surgery recently—all from Room 4! Although I was not afraid, and the patient was not afraid, all of the “folk” Buddhist doctors were very afraid. “The lives of these patients were my responsibility,” the vice-director said. “Their deaths will cause me great trouble with the spirits.”

“It is not you who gives life or takes it; it is God Almighty,” I said. “I hold your skills in great regard, but I know that there is a power even greater than you.”

“That is why it is important to make an offering to Satan!” he exclaimed.

“There is a power stronger than Satan, and Rom and I both know Him!” I said. “It is Him to whom we trust our lives! I will pray for the surgeons and for Rom from the time she goes in until she is out.”

‘God Is Here’

The vice-director agreed to continue with the operation, but the doctors under him were upset. I checked the white board to see who was scheduled for Rom’s surgery. I have had numerous run-ins with one of the surgeons, who has not always shown professional behavior. In fact, he was the one who had stopped the first operation.

Wouldn’t you know it? The head surgeon, who specializes in thyroids, was paired with this man. I was terrified to have that very surgeon, the one I least wanted, operate on her! As he pushed Rom’s bed into surgery, he bragged about what he would do to her and cursed both Rom and Jesus. He informed Rom that if she did not make a chicken offering, she would die.

As he argued, Rom gave answers that were quiet but to the point. “Someday Jesus will show you who He is!” Rom said.

I was worried, because the head surgeon was busy with administrative tasks and had not come. With all my heart I wanted to grab my friend, a widow with four children, and run. But Rom looked at me as she was being wheeled in, and said, “It is OK. God is here. I am not afraid. Make him operate.”

As soon as she was in the surgical suite, I ran to call my husband’s Theological Education by Extension (TEE) class, which was meeting at that moment in the next town, to pray. The women from the church, Rom’s daughter and her unbelieving mother also gathered with me in front of the operating room in prayer.

Easy Does It

Later, Rom told me what happened. The doctor, still ranting and raving, was strapping her to the bed when the head surgeon came in and told him to get out. Another doctor who is a very good surgeon was brought in. He had been the lead surgeon during the first “attempt” but had listened to the other doctor.

With Rom strapped to the bed and the anesthetist standing by, these two men questioned Rom carefully about her beliefs. Although she was about to have them operate on her neck, she answered all their questions clearly and with conviction.

The head surgeon had cautioned Rom months earlier that the operation would be difficult. In cases like this, I usually wait in front of surgery for at least three hours, sometimes longer. But about two hours later, a doctor came out, singing at the top of his lungs. As he walked past us, he said over his shoulder, “It’s over. She’s fine.”

A short time later, the head surgeon came out, cleaned up and dressed in his street clothes. “That was easy!” he said with a grin. “And I did a good job with this incision. It’s very small and neat!”

A Living Witness

Rom’s surgery caused such a commotion in the hospital that everyone soon heard about the woman who believed in Jesus refusing to make an offering to Satan. People came into her room just to see her and ask questions. But for me, the icing on the cake is that the surgeons also sought her out. One came very early in the morning, before anyone else was awake, to ask more questions about her faith in private. He came back after everyone went to bed as well.

I have been praying for these two men—the vice-director/head surgeon and Rom’s assisting surgeon—for eight years. I continue to pray. Jeff and I happened to drive by the head surgeon’s house, and he called us over to “sit and visit.” Our relationship holds strong.

Sometimes God does something in our struggle here in Cambodia which lifts our hearts and makes us realize that although the road seems impossible, He is always at work! I am thankful that Rom did not give up when I had wanted to grab her off the gurney and run from the hospital. I thank God that He is stronger than Satan and that He is in control of all the aspects of our ministry. God pulls all the parts that are closest to our hearts together in accordance to His will.

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