Cambodia (MNN) — There’s a slice of land in Southeast Asia about the size of Oklahoma. It’s surrounded by Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. While you’ve no doubt heard of Cambodia, you may not know much about the country. Meng Aun Hour of Asian Access says what most people do recognize is the phrase, “killing fields”.
We shared a couple of years ago how God is bringing healing to the nation after the 70s massacre of Cambodians by their four-year leader, Pol Pot. The Gospel is a shining light of hope after such a deep and painful scar that continues to characterize the country.
Aun Hour gave us an update on how the Cambodian Church is doing.
He says, “Most of the Cambodians who are believing in Jesus, they mainly live in the countryside. Most of them, I think, the challenge is they cannot read, cannot write, [and are] uneducated.”
Without literacy, they are not able to read the Bible, or study helpful texts. Because of this, Aun Hour says it’s difficult for them to grow in their knowledge of who God is. Additionally, these communities in rural areas spend most of their time farming. They don’t have time to attend Bible studies and prayer hours.
And there’s another challenge when it comes to church leadership. You see, the pastors of the community usually end up being the first believer. Aun Hour says when someone is saved, they share it with their community. And, the community comes to that first person with questions. And so, without any training, and with the same farming responsibilities as the rest of the community, these young believers find themselves in a challenging new role.
“Most of our Cambodian pastors [did not go] through any training. Some of them, they go to Bible school or some other training.”
But, Aun Hour says he estimates about 80-90 percent of the pastors at least do not start with any sort of training. They just find themselves leading a group of people.
For that reason, he says, “I think the most need for the Church in Cambodia right now is discipleship and also leadership development, training leaders, [and] equipping leaders.”
A ministry helps church leaders find common ground
Though it’s been decades since Pol Pot’s hand of horror ruled the land, the trauma that came from that period had lasting effects. Aun Hour says it was difficult for people to trust each other, especially strangers. This was true even of the Church community.
“But Asian Access has been a big blessing for us, coming to Cambodia,” he says.
The ministry brought senior pastors together to learn — about God, about leadership — and to pray for each other. And the benefits of this gathering continues to this day.
“By spending time together like that, learning together, Asian Access helped to break the barrier of ‘untrust’ so we come to trust one another, [and] get to know each other better in harmony and unity. That, I see, with my eye, [we even] come from different denominations, different churches. Now we start trusting one another and start working with each other for the Kingdom. I feel that that is a big blessing for our nation.”
The nation has been open in recent years to religious freedom, meaning Christians like Aun Hour can freely share their faith. Churches can grow, meet together, and plant new churches. But even though persecution does not come from the government, Aun Hour says, “We have some persecution from our own family.”
He explains that sometimes, a family will have such strong Buddhist beliefs that they will turn their back on a family member who gives his life to Jesus. Not all, Aun Hour assures us, but some. Christians make up a very small percentage of Cambodia — about 1.2 percent (evangelical), while Buddhism makes up 95 percent of the population.
It’s with these things in mind that Asian Access continues to serve Cambodia. They are helping Cambodian Christians work through the unique challenges found here.
Aun Hour says thank you to those who have taken the time to learn more about Cambodia, for those who have been praying, and those who have helped support ministries like Asian Access bring transformation to his nation. If you’d like to continue to help, click here.