Persevering in Rural Cambodia

OMF work in our rural district began in seed form in 2002, when a German missionary began literacy visits to seven villages with Khmer believers from Kratie. They surveyed the district and were surprised that they could not find among its 38 Khmer villages a Christian presence.

Following a time of prayer and discernment, the German family and then two single missionaries moved to the district capital in 2006. From the beginning the team worked alongside the Ministry of Education in supporting rural schools. This also brought the opportunity to share stories about Jesus Christ.

2006-10: Laying Foundations

In the beginning the team focused on the market and one nearby rubber plantation village. The team did a lot of children’s ministry in this village and the first year they had a big Christmas outreach in the district market with the help of others from OMF outside the district. The first team formed a youth group, an English group, and guitar group.

Help arrived with the addition of another missionary couple in 2008-09 but by then church attendance had dropped from as many as 20 to one family. They tried hard to invite people to worship, but the Khmer would no longer come and a key family moved to Phnom Penh (where they still worship).

For various reasons, the original team members had to move on, but another couple was called to carry on the work, and they persisted for the following decade. For a time, a children’s outreach of 40-50 kids met, but after hearing that the Khmer had an impression Jesus stories were just for kids the team began to spread out and widely visit the other villages of this district that hadn’t had a chance to hear about Jesus yet.

Over the years the team continued working with the Ministry of Education supporting rural teachers. They also started a library project in district’s two least reached communes. The commune leaders invited the OMF team to help with libraries and after a couple years of trust was built and the commune leaders allowed Christian books to be put in the libraries. Later these stories about Jesus became the most borrowed books.

2011- Present: Persevering

In a village near the market, the team also discovered the remnants of a church that had disbanded. They began discipling two believers who had been praying for 10 years for someone to come and teach them the Bible. After a time, a house church was formed again. A young American couple joined the team in 2012, along with their six-month-old baby.

They began discipling two believers who had been praying for 10 years for someone to come and teach them the Bible.

Our part in the journey has been following up with discipleship relationships, and continuing to visit other villages. However, during our first home assignment, the leader of the church completely left the Lord for over a year. He has since come back to Jesus, but the house church hasn’t really started again.

Still we have seen God move, the father and later the sister of one of the church members believed, and later a lady with a disability believed. For a time we worshipped again under a tarpaulin in a field where she lived (she passed away this past year).

In the rubber plantation where the first team had done outreach we have continued (although not as much the last few years). We had the chance to disciple a Christian lady who moved to the area and then her neighbor for a time (she has since moved again). The people of the village have been friendly, but overall still not open to Jesus.

In another village there was another house church that formed in 2014 and the team saw some fruit when another family came to put their faith in Jesus. However, the leader of this group had significant discipleship issues that were compromising his faith and we decided to stop the group for the time.

In several other villages, we have continued to visit, with the goal to share something about Jesus. In many places, people have received resources and shown interest, and then have also cooled off. But in a village the team has visited off and on for over 10 years, a group of men has been meeting. They met last year for a seven-part gospel overview before the Swiss missionary that started the group went on home assignment. They have continued to meet and we have read portions of the gospel of Mark. Most weeks there are visitors who have never heard anything about the Good News of Jesus.

In another village the sister of the believer from the house church near the market has come to put her faith in Jesus, and a small group is meeting in her home. She is the first to believe in her village and is often asked about her faith. What she says in response is simply, “This I know. Jesus, is the God who saves.” We are still seeking to widely spread the seeds of the gospel looking for people of peace, for groups who are interested to hear more. We are also actively seeking partnerships with local Christians to help us in the work here.

15 Years of Labor

15 years ago, when OMF first came to survey this rural district, it had a population of around 45,000 and no visible Christian presence among the Khmer. Today that number is closer to 80,000, a handful of believers, and several scattered house churches. We have had a small part to play but we are certainly not the only ones God is using in this district. The task remains largely unfinished, but we have seen many answers to prayer and God confirming the gospel in amazing ways.

The history is long and in some ways messy, but we are believing and praying that God’s time is coming for rural Cambodia.

Will you pray for Cambodia?

  • Give thanks for how God has been at work in this district over the long-term.
  • Pray for God to make the gospel seeds, which have been planted over many years in this rural district and others across Cambodia, grow.
  • Pray for local and foreign workers to go to other unreached villages and districts and start churches where there are currently none.

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