Tommy Downs

Tommy Downs

A Servant of Jesus Christ

French and Chinese

After 3.5 months in the states it was finally time for me to go back to Cambodia.

Professor of Missions

On the plane ride to Taiwan I sat next to a woman who must’ve been in her 50s, she was a professor of missions at Moody Bible College so we had a lot to talk about. She asked a lot of questions about the Cambodian culture and what ministry there is like and shared her stories and experiences in Africa.

In her denomination women aren’t permitted to teach so she had interviewed a lot of single women missionaries who had gone to Africa with the intent of being nurses but ended up raising up and teaching lots of disciples and pastors. Despite the disdain these single women had received for being single in the church, they were far more effective at learning the language and building relationships than those women and men who had their own families to contend with. The reality was that there are barely any single men on the mission field and so women have taken on greater responsibility because of that.

Back in Cambodia

Waiting in Taiwan for the plane to Cambodia it was such a delight to speak to Cambodians once again in their native language. They’re the friendliest people on the planet and God grows my heart bigger for them every day.


Landing back in Cambodia I took a walk from the airport to go shopping. This of course bothered and befuddled every rickshaw driver and tuktuk taxi operator.

“I’ve sat for a whole day straight on the plane, I’m going for a walk.” I told them.

At one point an American ran up to me and asked if I spoke English and told me that he and his girlfriend saw me sweating and that they had a spot in their tuktuk but he saw now that I was at my destination already. I thanked him and I went into the store and bought myself a caligraphy fountain pen set,

After that I put some money in my Cambodian bank and got a passapp ride (rickshaw) to my coworker Charity’s appartment and hung out with her and Tori. They insisted I stay in the city longer, but I was excited to get to my assignment. I spent the night in the city and the next day did some shopping and took Charity to the dentist and got some dental work done. I took the nightbus that night back to Preah Vihear province, my old home and visited my old friends and coworkers Amy and Thanak and Theara and Chamrong.

They were all excited to see me, the kids especially who I taught one more time. The next day I loaded up my motorcycle to make the 3 hour drive to my new home.


My new boss Charles set me up with an appartment next to his. It’s better than I expected and it’s weird living alone for the first time in my life, but it doesn’t bother me like I thought it would. I also live in a “city” now which is near many many villages that we work in, so that’s convenient.


During the day we split up into two teams of people and go to different villages. It’s been a couple days and I’ve joined my Cambodian coworker Chhay’s team with a few more Cambodians. Charles’s team is all Cambodians as well except that he’s Chinese. I’m a lot more comfortable speaking exclusively in the Khmer language now.

At night Charles and I go for walks and talk to people and share the gospel. People shout out, “Frenchman and Chinaman!” (but in their language of course) when they see us because it’s exciting to see and talk to foreigners.

I shaved off my beard the other day because it was uncomfortable in my helmet; so on coming to Oddarmeanchey none of my former acquaintances recognized me. Without the beard I look like I’m 20 to the average Cambodian, (I just turned 30) but with it I look much much older apparently, so of course the Cambodians implore me not to grow it back.

Sharing the gospel in Cambodia

Everyone is always curious about the tall “french” man (that’s what they call me) and want to know where my family is and if I have one. So of course I tell them that I don’t want a wife because I’m more interested in helping Cambodia know Jesus and that is the most important thing. As a single man it is much easier for me to travel and meet people and witness to them than if I had a family.

Witnessing to a family

Of course this leads to some confusion because in Khmer culture men leave for a year at a time to work in another province away from their family and so family is not an inhibitor on their work in any way (apart from having to financially support them). The children are often sent off to be raised by their grandparents, leaving the parents free to work and do whatever. My coworker Chhay explains that this is very different from American culture where the husband stays with and takes care of the wife and family.

Children are security and assurance that when one grows old there will be someone to take care of you. They’re a legacy, they’re hope of prosperity. But Jesus is my provider, he is my caretaker, and he is my legacy.

They love hearing about my siblings, that’s always a great way to pivot off them ranting about why I should marry.

“I already have a family in Christ.” I tell them, “In Jesus we are one family. Knowing Jesus is the only thing that has meaning.”

I used to hold out that I’d get married and have a family of my own someday, but I’ve since recognized that singleness is a great gift that I will not mock, reject or return. I used to be single because of insecurity and indecisiveness and fear of women, but having resolved those things, I’m now single due to resolve which is a blissful place to be.

“I’m happy already. Jesus is my joy.”


I’ve grown a lot in these past months, living alone no longer fills me with dread but with purpose.

I then go on to share about who Jesus is, what he’s done and how much he loves them. They don’t necessarily receive it then, but they now know that there’s a frenchman who traveled thousands of miles just to tell them about God and that to that frenchman that is more important than having a family of his own. And they have a better picture of God who left his glory in heaven to find them and save them.

Praise Reports

  • Charles has plenty of Cambodians he’s been teaching to do full-time ministry so I’ll get to take on more responsibility and work with some of them.
  • My sister Harmony and her family are fully funded and have passports and everything and are moving to Zambia really soon.

Prayer Requests

  • That these villages would know the true God.
  • That I would increase in fluency in the language.
  • That I set a good example and gain the wisdom to lead effectively.
  • That this team will walk by the spirit and that God moves with miracles and wonders to break through to this hurting people.
  • That I have favor in inviting more people to partner with me in this ministry, lest I have to return to the states prematurely to raise support.
  • For the expeditions coming in that we’d see a mighty move of God through that and that we would have Cambodians who can not only minister with but also translate for the teams coming in.


Sorry for talking so much on singleness, but it has just come up a lot lately. I love marriage, I love kids, and I admire everyone of you who has those things and the testimony it is to this world. Don’t pity me, I’m living an incredible life and can’t believe that I get the honor to serve God in this way.

To those of you who are single, don’t be complacent, don’t be ashamed of the gift you bear. Draw near to God, and take advantage of the situation for the glory of God. Remember that your value comes from belonging God and nothing else. You are complete in Jesus already.

I love you all! Sorry we didn’t get spend more time together, but we can video chat if we can arrange a time.

Your friend,

Tommy Downs.