Updated: Jun 26, 2019
Four months after I arrived (May 2001) to serve in Cambodia for “long term” with Asian Outreach Cambodia (AOC), I began to feel very discouraged by the constant encounters with extreme poverty of the street kids and beggars, the labourers pulling heavy cartloads of boxes across the Poipet border and the very rich officials who acquired their wealth through corruption. I felt helpless and did not know how I could make any difference. I felt like going home to Singapore.
I received a revelation for my new BOSS – the Jewish Carpenter – when I visited the ruins of Angkor Wat for the first time in September 2001. Ann-Marie and I were eager to watch the sun rise over Angkor Wat so we got out of bed at 5am to make our journey in to the Angkor Wat Complex. That morning the sky was overcast and dark clouds loomed over the whole of Angkor Wat. Thus, we did not catch the sunrise as expected.
Slightly disappointed, we left to look for breakfast. I turned and took another look and saw a glimmer of brightness, where the sun rose. Yet that whole area was still very much in darkness. I felt that God was giving me an impression that the overcast sky over Angkor Wat was a symbolic version of Cambodia being under darkness. That glimmer of brightness is the “Light of Jesus” being brought in by every Christian missionary. This “Light” is piercing the darkness over Cambodia. The rays of light that streamed through the tall trees appeared glorious. Thus God’s glory, too, will shine in Cambodia soon. After this encounter, I was very much encouraged to remain in Cambodia to serve Him.
My presence in Cambodia is a small part of the “Light” which had pierced the darkness over Cambodia. I felt that I must stay here to pray as well as facilitate the “Community Health Evangelism (CHE).” The strategy of CHE is to educate the Cambodians to increase their love for their neighbours, and at the same time inspire them to desire development for self and country.
A few years after this visit to Angkor Wat, a Singaporean friend who is very interested in the history of Angkor Wat and understood the glamour and glory of this ancient wonder of the world paid me a visit here. I felt as if he was giving me history lessons when he described the artefacts and discussed how the stories and traditions of the Khmer era impacted the Cambodians for many generations. I realized that “Angkor Wat,” religion, tradition and culture have a very strong hold over the Cambodian mindset.
Therefore this “Light” is also changing the mindset of the people towards understanding that God has a purpose in each and every one’s life. There is a need to impart the new idea of the TRUTH that God wants a personal relationship with them, in contrast to a religious belief in God. Besides praying for the Holy Spirit to convict them, we also need to be present in Cambodia to point the way to Jesus Christ and train the local Christians to do likewise.
In February 2005, I went home to assist Serene, my daughter, and to care for her at the birth of her second child (a grandma’s national service). Serene wanted me to live in better accommodations. When I first started looking for a place to live in Phnom Penh, I needed to keep within my budget and chose to stay at the cheapest accommodation I could find. It was a $40 per month room on the roof top (pent house?) of a row of 4 houses in June 2002. It had only a bedroom and a kitchen with attached bathroom (this is a luxury when I found other places without bathroom attached), so it was sufficient for me. However, the weather got worse as months passed and the heat was intolerable.
I decided to pray for a new place. My request was to find a $100 per month accommodation (Serene offered to help with the difference). It ought to, at least, have one room with air-conditioning. And if God answered this prayer request I would know that He wants me to stay in Cambodia for at least another 2 years. My contract with AOC would be coming to a close in February 2006.
News was passed to the local staff who helped me look for a new place. As I was on my way to the AOC office, I thought that it would be wonderful if I could rent the house my colleague, Alta, was staying in. But I could not possibly ask her to give it up to me. However, one week later I was told that Alta planned to move into a larger place and her house was now available. But Alta had been paying $110 per month. I asked Veasna to negotiate with the landlady to lower the rent to $100 so that I could clearly know that God has answered my prayer and stay on in Cambodia for a longer period. The landlady reluctantly agreed after Veasna persuaded her. I renewed my contract with AOC for another year till December 2006.
Hallelujah! I know for sure that He wants me to stay on in Cambodia. He also impressed upon my heart how He wants me to continue serving Him in 2007 after my contract with AOC has ended. Praise the Lord! I know He wants me to stay for another 3 to 5 years to obey and do His Will (to train the locals using CHE).
Adapted from “Journey Jumbles – Real Stories...Real People...A Real God,” a JMM publication for Bartley Christian Church July Mission Month 2008