Cambodia (MNN) — After years of living in refugee camps, many Cambodians who now are free are unsure of how to handle life on their own. Vietnam occupied Cambodia from the 1950's until the 1990's and held many of its people in camps for at least that long.
"[Cambodia] is probably one of the more difficult areas I've seen in the world: the skills, the background, and the history of most Cambodians revolves around being refugees. Now they're being relocated back into their own country without the history that's normally there with a people like this," says FARMS International's Joseph Richter. "I think one of the big challenges is the dependent mentality, which is just the result of living in a camp for 20 or 30 years."
Years ago, FARMS took notice of the need in Cambodia, especially as it related to native Christians, and they began to seek out ways to start a program there. FARMS plans to help people on their way to financial and vocational independence.
"The whole idea of self-help is new to people," Richter explains. On Richter's most recent trips to the area, however, Christians have seemed receptive. "People there were very encouraged, I think, about the FARMS idea of helping people locally so that they could help their own churches."
FARMS is currently raising funds in preparation to officially launch a program in Cambodia alongside two or three other organizations within the next few months. The program will be run through local churches and will provide micro-loans, as well as help with technical and managerial skills, in order to get people on their feet again. Distribution of aid in these forms also provides a platform to share the Gospel.
"FARMS believes that the church is the center for development in any community," says Richter. "It's a very natural thing that people can share what God has done in their lives through the program and through their belief in Jesus. This is the way FARMS really accomplishes evangelism: through the changed lives of the people involved in the churches."
While FARMS is preparing to launch the program, Richter asks for prayer that native believers' hearts will be open to a new way of living, and there will be progress made toward independence.
If you would like to help begin this important new ministry in Cambodia, click here.