On Friday morning, Allyn, Kiet, and I took the hour and a half journey to Takeo province. Our driver didn’t care to much about the speed limit, at one point topping 80 miles per hour on a small provincial road. Allyn made me laugh as she covered her eyes at points, making wise cracks about the driver. About an hour into the trip, she said to him, “You drive so crazy! Where will you go if you die?”
“I’ve been driving since I was 15! But, if I die, I think I will go to hell,” he replied nonchalantly. He used to be a Buddhist monk, but he left the monastery because he wanted to make money. A good Buddhist aims to become free of all desire, so leaving the monastery because of a desire for money is a serious problem. I hope his desires find rest in Christ!
KYDC Poultry House and Fish Pond
We stayed on the campus of the Khmer Youth Development Center (KYDC), a compound run by Christian staff that tutors high school students, boards 44 high school students who come to study from villages 20+ miles away, and trains the kids in agricultural work. The farm on the compound is well managed and very productive. The crops that the students grow and harvest are used for food at the center and the excess is sold. The profits feed into projects the students develop, such as building up their their library, purchasing a new water tank, and feeding into the scholarship fund for other students. The older students are given positions of leadership to tutor and help the younger children. When students come to the center, they rarely know about Christ, but through the faithful examples of the center staff, nearly 80% of the current students have chosen to serve Christ! Those who have believed in Christ are discipled by the staff and many of them have returned to their home villages and started cell churches! The Lord is working mightily through this program. The Cambodian government actually gave them the land for this center, but in two years, the government has the right to take the land away or renew the contract. Pray that the KYDC will have the favor of the Cambodian government as the staff seek to renew the contract.
In addition to seeing how the KYDC was operated, we traveled by moto to the village of Da Po. In that village, the local Christians served as a catalyst to community development. By partnering with donors from Samaritan’s Purse and a Swedish foundation, they have been able to encourage the villagers to invest in their own development by tackling the problems that they themselves (the villagers) identified within their community. The problems were lack of water, poor nutrition, inadequate sanitation, and low crop yields. Using the community’s own suggestions of fixing these problems, outside donors have provided 70% of the funding. The remaining 30% and all of the physical labor comes from the community. They have dug four community wells, started home gardens, built latrines, and learned how to create compost to fertilize their crops. This community development project has been working wonderfully and is being supervised by a committee of local people that were elected by the villagers. This project was a great example of community development being done right, and I hope what we learned will help Allyn, Kiet, and I as we continue examining, evaluating, and revamping World Hope’s projects here in Cambodia.
In Da Po, I made friends with a 12-year-old down syndrome child named Srey. He knew a few words of English. He was fascinated by the little notebook I was carrying to take notes on the projects, and he would point to my strange English scribbles and wait for me to read the words to him. He taught me a game with some little cardboard playing cards. I’m not sure if I understood the game’s point, but I just copied what he did when he indicated it was my turn. He laughed at me a lot, which was totally ok, because I was laughing at myself too! Allyn was able to ask him if he knew Jesus. He smiled as he told us he did, and pointed to the little building where the local church meets. I really enjoyed that time with my new friend and little brother in Christ.
On Friday evening, I was able to take a walk alone through the fields. Takeo is such a peaceful and beautiful place. I wish you all could have gone with me on my evening walk. We could have talked to the Lord together and watched the sun set over the lush fields of the Kingdom of Cambodia. I was remembering you in prayer as I walked, so, in a way, we were together.
Thank you for your prayers, and please don’t stop praying! God is doing great things here, even in the face of great challenges. Many Christian leaders, even one in Da Po, are threatened with their lives, yet the LORD preserves them for His work. Many other Christian leaders fall prey to corruption, deception, and that demon of pride, and are rendered impotent on the spiritual battlefront. Hard times, challenges, and difficulties are commonplace here. I’m sure many of you know that it takes strong faith to hold on to the LORD when the way ahead is unclear. Yet, like my wise, young friend from the Bible school told me this morning, “I think hard times are important. God sends us difficulties so we can grow. If life was always happy, that would not be good.”
May His presence be your hope and sustenance today.