Isa. 61:3, To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.
Cambodia is a very poor and struggling country, where the average wage is less than 5.00 per day. Prior to 1975 there was estimated around 10,000 Christians. In the 1975’s a dictator rose up and after 5 years of torture, starvation and genocide, nearly 2 million Cambodians lost their lives. Reports claim 100-200 Christians survived. Today there are approximately 300,000 and growing. As we traveled and interacted with many pastors and Christians, we felt as though truly God has given beauty for ashes.
MTM team was invited to travel into the homes of the AIDS patients to pray, sing, and encourage them.
Our MTM team joined together in Phnom Penh, and left on Sunday afternoon March 11th for a 11 day, 1200 km excursion across Cambodia. This would include 6 days of teaching (4 the first week and 2 the next) at 3 different churches. Most of the attendees of the conference were probably in their late 30’s or early 40’s. The topics shared were on “Brokenness” and “The Godly Home”.
The Coordinator/Translator of the seminars was Phon Chanthorn (Tom), who was with an organization called Kone Kmeng. Their mission is to work with children at risk, by assisting in supplemental education, teaching in health, hygiene and providing wells for clean drinking water. This organization invited MTM to come to Cambodia to encourage pastors as they are networked with over 200 churches throughout the country. Supat (our driver) drove us the many miles around the countryside and cities of Cambodia but we recognized the presence of angels around our van as the 2 lanes became 4-5 lanes with big trucks, cars, motor bikes, and many other modes of transportation along with pedestrians.
The Pastor on the right was a Buddhist monk from ages 12 to 20. Isa 9:2, “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined”.
Many of the believers we met were the first in their family to come to know the Lord. One pastor shared how he was the 1st Christian in his family. He heard the gospel at 13 years old and began to attend a small church in his village. Whenever his father found out he would beat him. Soon his brother began to attend with him and one by one all his family of 5 siblings, father and mother all became Christians. We heard similar stories from several of the pastors. One child would become converted and the others would follow.
Another pastor was a monk from age 12 – 20 years old. He took an English class and his teacher taught him the gospel. When he was converted, he went to his authorities and said he could no longer be a monk because he was a follower of Jesus. The joy of the Lord radiated from this brother’s face.
One morning we visited an orphanage where one of the conference attendees was a pastor/ house parent at Shelter of Love Children’s home. They care for 60 children with the aid of 3 families. As soon as we arrived, a small crowd of children gathered around our van and soon we were hand in hand taking a tour of their facility. We enjoyed singing songs to each other in English and Merle shared a story with them.
On Sunday we planned to attend a small church in a poor village and was anticipating arriving at 1:30 in time for services, however, our driver had difficulty with the directions and we were 45 minutes late. We found them joyfully singing when we arrived. Bro. Merle taught on “Seeing our Value in Christ”.
When we arrived at our hotel that evening we noticed a horrible smell in the hallway next to our rooms. We quickly closed our doors hoping the odor would not creep into our rooms. However, we all awoke during the night with the horrible odor getting stronger, but nothing we could do at the early hour. Early the next morning, Merle was able to get us different rooms in the next level up. Later we found out that there was a dead rat in the ceiling.
Brother Allen Helmuth with ALAM, passing out literature.
This last stop left us in the northwest corner of Cambodia and we then traveled about 9 hours back on a treacherous narrow 2 lane road with a lot of traffic to Phnom Penh. The last two days in Cambodia were spent in a meeting with Kone Kmeng staff as Merle gave a presentation on the work of MTM in S.E. Asia, and visiting some AIDS victims who were sewing crafts for sale for a Christian young lady.
At two of our three conferences, the ALAM staff from Siem Reap very generously provided the native pastors and church leader with Christian literature. We were touched to see how precious these gifts were esteemed by the locals.
We were impressed with the passion and faith of these new Cambodian Christians and the sacrifice they make to share the gospel in a culture that is steeped in idolatry (Buddhism). While they may lack knowledge and experience in doctrinal teaching, they do not lack in zeal and effort to share the truth they have been given. There is so much we can learn from them.
The above article was written by Sam and Danielle Wray from Bonners Ferry, Idaho. Brother Sam faithfully taught these dear Pastors day after day on the Godly Home. Thank you, Sam and Danielle, for your sacrifice and example of Christ to both the MTM team and churches throughout Cambodia. May God richly bless you.