Our team arrived refreshed and ready to go on Friday afternoon. We flew Eva Air from Houston through Taipei which shaved off over 10 hours from our typical travel route and allowed us to hit the ground in Phnom Penh ready to soak in the sights and sounds of this familiar country. Our team this year is made up of 14 people, seven of which have never been to Cambodia and one is our dear friend Nel from Australia whom we met in Poipet in 2020.
Upon arriving in the capital city of Phnom Penh we dropped our bags at the hotel and made our way to the Genocide Museum otherwise known as S21. This place is a horrifying reminder of a dark time in Cambodia’s history when the Khmer Rouge tortured and killed millions of their own people. S21 was a ordinary school with playground equipment, classrooms and a lovely courtyard for children to play. The Khmer Rouge changed all that in 1975 when they arrested and systematically tortured Cambodians in the very classrooms meant for children to learn. S21 is a grim reminder of just how depraved a mind can be apart from Jesus.
Classrooms now bear the items used for torture and the pictures of those who died needlessly within there walls.
Those of us who had been to Cambodia many times before found ourselves crying fresh tears over the atrocities that happened during the time of the Khmer Rouge. The first time we saw S21 it was more a history lesson. This time, 12 years later, this was what was done to our friends. This was what changed the course of history forever imprinting Cambodia with evil and horror. We stood with our friend Noit as she recounted the day her father was killed and they took her, her mother and her siblings to the work camp where she would barely survive and watch the rest of her family die over the next 3 years. It is almost unspeakable.
We found our way to the exit of S21 and stopped to buy the books of 3 survivors. Three men who lived through all the days, weeks, months and years of torture and miraculously lived were seated at the exit selling books that told their stories.
Leaving this place of horror left us feeling the weight of the country’s darkest days and understanding the importance of sharing the love of Jesus with those we encounter while we are here.
The mood shifted as we arrived at a busy celebration in the center of Phnom Penh. Steve Hyde explained to us that their ministry, Antioch, was part of a celebration of 100 years of the gospel of Jesus in Cambodia.
The current Prime Minister, Hun Sen, is the first leader of Cambodia to allow religious freedom in Cambodia. Christians have been in Cambodia for about 500 years but every time there gets to be a sizable number of believers there was a massacre and all were killed. It has been under the leadership of the current Prime Minister, despite the fact that Cambodia is still a communist country, where the gospel has been allowed and today we got to celebrate with our Cambodian brothers and sisters in Christ.
It was a beautiful reminder of beauty that has come from the ashes of millions of people killed where evil reigned. This day we celebrated that from only a few believing families in 1923 there is now approximately 3% of the Cambodian population who counts themselves as believers. While we celebrate this great day with our Cambodian friends it is a sobering reminder of the work left to be done. We are here for a purpose. We have the privilege of standing alongside the believers who are here doing the hard work of ministering to the poor, the widows, the orphans and those living without hope. Jesus is the only way to live with hope and sharing that hope is the purpose for our trip.
Steve and Noit are running their race well. They live with unbelievable hardships and challenges that they have considered and counted worth it. They persevere because they know that hope in Jesus will bring healing to Cambodia and healing to each person who chooses to believe in Him. They will find at the end of their life Jesus waiting for them and saying well done my good and faithful servants.
The question for today is how is your race? Are you running? Do you know what you are running towards? We each have a unique race that God has set for us. Those who haven chosen to place their faith in Jesus believe that whatever difficulties and hardships we encounter along the way we count as worth it for the sake of the gospel. We believe the price at the end, eternal life, is worth it. And for all those that we get to take with us that we meet along the way – they are worth our time. They are worthy of any sacrifice we are required to give.
The Apostle Paul reminds us to run well. He wrote in Hebrews 12:1-3 – Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
I’m so happy to hear of this team in Cambodia. I have followed Steve
& his ministry ever since he spoke at Kingsland many years ago.
Praying for the Team!!
You are giving them hope through Jesus. What a blessing!! May God open their minds and their hearts to the truth in the Bible, Gods gift to us, our map to guide us in this life.