Dawn eases out across the slumbering city of Siem Reap, my first morning to witness in this land known as Cambodia. The nation’s most commonly used name comes from the French cambodge, but some maps refer to it as Kampuchea, which is closer to its Khmer name. In fact, Cambodia has been renamed six times since gaining independence from France in 1953, a reflection on the diminutive nation’s turbulent past. In the 1960’s, war clouds gathered across its border in Vietnam, and conflict inevitably spilled across into the former French colony. Things worsened when the country fell to the Khmer Rouge communists in 1975. The Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot devastated the country’s infrastructure and economy, destroyed its agriculture, and murdered millions of its citizens. Though Pol Pot died in 1998, aspects of his tyranny remain harder to remove than the man himself.
Cambodia is working hard to get over itself, but change comes as slowly here as the dawning of this new day. After touring Angkor Wat, monument to Kampuchea’s golden age in the 9th to the 13th centuries, my companions and I will leave Siem Reap and head to Poipet and Sisophon, where we will encounter up close and personal the harsh realities that brought Samaritan’s Purse to this region in the first place. Samaritan’s Purse is an international Christian relief and evangelism organization that helps people in crisis situations with the goal of sharing the love of Jesus Christ. Life is more than difficult for the vast majority of Cambodians, reflected by SP’s efforts here: Human trafficking awareness and prevention, Improving household nutrition and economic stability, Restoring and strengthening family values and parenting knowledge, Providing access to clean water in primary schools, and Reducing the number of deaths during childbirth.
I count multiple Buddhist structures as I scan the horizon from my hotel room. Strikingly absent from the panoramic view is any evidence of Christ’s presence, yet I know He is here and that He is drawing the wonderful people of this land to Himself. Join me in praying that the influence of the Gospel will spread as evenly and thoroughly in Cambodia as the morning light in Siem Reap.
“All the nations you have made shall come and bow down before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name. For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God” (Psalm 86:9-10, NRSV).
(Written from Siem Reap, Cambodia)