Ep. 25 | Discover: Cambodia – ‘Loyalty, Community, and God’s church’

In the third episode of the Discover series, we learn more about the wonderful country of Cambodia. From its difficult recent past, to its deep sense of community, and the people’s friendliness, Cambodia is full of interesting stories! But what are some practical ways we can share God’s love with Cambodian people? And how can we be praying for the Cambodian church?
One exciting way to join in with what God is doing in the world is to learn more about his heart for the nations. This is exactly what the Discover series is all about. We would love for you to come and join us as we learn more about Cambodia.

If you’ve got any comments and questions do get in touch we’d love to hear from you

This episode transcription has been lightly edited to improve readability.

Wat Ho 

“As much as we treasure our traditional values like family, friends, relationship and loyalty, that can be a barrier or stumbling block for a lot of people coming to faith.”

 

Freddie Barker 

Hello, and welcome back to the Serve Asia podcast and the new discover series. Today we’re learning about a gem of a country in Southeast Asia, home to 15 million people and the World Heritage Site of Angkor Wat. It’s unique for having the only river in the world that changes flow during the year, the Tonle Sap, and it has the only national flag which features a building. It is of course, Cambodia, and today to learn all about Cambodia and how we can share the good news of Jesus with Cambodian people we have Susanna, thank you for joining us, Susanna, how are you today?

 

Susanna Greening 

Yeah, I’m fine thank you Freddie.

 

Freddie Barker 

Good, good. Let’s get to know Susanna a bit as our student for this episode, why don’t you tell us what you do and where you’re from?

 

Susanna Greening 

I live in Rochester in Kent, in the southeast of England, and I’m a part time primary school teacher.

 

Freddie Barker 

Wonderful, wonderful. And how have you been involved in the past in cross cultural ministry sharing the good news of Jesus, with people from perhaps a different cultural background?

 

Susanna Greening 

Well, ever since I was a teenager, I went on a gap year and visited Africa, and spent some time with two missionary families. So that was probably my first individual experience of cross cultural mission. And that’s when my love of mission was ignited. And then I went on to be a student and was involved in missions work while at university. That’s when I first came across OMF. But then I got married and I’ve been living in England. I am now at my church, I’m missions coordinator. And two years ago, oh I visited some churches in France with my church as like a quick weekend mission thing. And two years ago I went on Serve Asia trip to Japan with OMF.

 

Freddie Barker 

Oh, that’s wonderful. Yeah, a long history of serving in missions. Great. And Susanna, finally, what’s your favourite food?

 

Susanna Greening 

I think I’ll have to say chocolate.

 

Freddie Barker 

Chocolate!

 

Susanna Greening 

Because I’ve eaten so much of it recently.

 

Freddie Barker 

I think we all have with lockdown, and Christmas just passed.

 

Susanna Greening 

Yeah.

 

Freddie Barker 

Great. Well, today, we’re here to learn all about Cambodia. So Susanna, why are you interested in learning about Cambodia?

 

Susanna Greening 

Well, back to my student days again. When I was a student there was a book that everybody was reading called Killing Fields Living Fields. And it was a book that all Christians were supposed to read. But I never read it because I was worried it might be really horrific and upsetting. And so I guess it’s to address the balance of that today. And I feel like I should find out about Christians in Cambodia.

 

Freddie Barker 

Okay, catch up with your with your Christian peers. That’s a good reason. That’s a good reason. I know very little about Cambodia. So that’s the reason that I’m interested in learning about it. It’s a country that is kind of mysterious to me.

 

Susanna Greening 

Yeah. I mean, I know there was an awful time in the past to do with the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot. And I think that’s the killing fields bit. But I don’t really know.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah, I think that’s a lot of people’s impression of Cambodia in the West. And yeah, I’m sure the country as we’ll find out is a lot richer, a lot more diverse, has a lot more about it, than that tragic recent past. So yeah, let’s see what our teacher for this episode has to say. So today, we’re joined by Ho, who’s going to teach us all about Cambodia. We’re excited to hear what you have to say, Ho, before we get going, why don’t you tell us who you are and what you do.

 

Wat Ho 

Hello to everyone who are listening to this podcast programme. And thank you to OMF, especially to Frederick for hosting me today. And I really appreciate that. Yes, my name is Wat Ho Meas. And normally people call me Ho for short. And I grew up in Cambodia. And yeah, then I spent about 13 years in Japan serving the Lord with OMF there, and recently, we just come back. Now we are based in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah, I certainly hear a mixture of accents in your voice. You certainly have a really interesting background.

 

Wat Ho 

Yes. Yeah. credit to my wife. So you can tell the fact that I’m married to an Northern Irish lady, though. Yes, my wife. She’s from Northern Ireland. And, yes, pick up a bit of twang in accents. And yeah, we have two sons. Joseph and Yoshia, Joseph is 11 and Yoshia is five, both of them were born in Japan. So, yeah, but now, we are based in Belfast.

 

Freddie Barker 

Great. And what do you do in Belfast?

 

Wat Ho 

We thought that we were going back to Japan before the lockdown, before the pandemic. But things have changed. And we were not able to return to Japan, with the lockdown and with the entry bans from Japan and combined with a number of things with our family. So we decided to remain here and to serve from Belfast. So we are now with the OMF field called diaspora and returning ministry. So we are part of this global team and serving team members across the globe based in 18 different countries, and seeking to reach out to East Asian people living in Belfast and Ireland. So yeah, that would be our job, both global and local, serving missionaries, as well as reaching out and discipling East Asian people.

 

Freddie Barker 

That’s wonderful. So you’ve been on quite a journey this year. So now let’s dive into learning all about Cambodia. You clearly have a heart for Japan and Japanese people, but your roots are Cambodian. So that makes you the ideal person to tell us all about the country. So to start off, Ho, what should Christians, perhaps outsiders, Westerners, like myself know about Cambodian history?

 

Wat Ho 

So Cambodia has such a long history, a lot of people probably associate Cambodia with the recent history. But actually, if we take time properly to look at it, we have a very, very long and ancient history go back to thousands of years ago. And yeah, we used to be known Khmer Empire, although obviously it had fallen. And so we became a smaller nation now compared to what we used to be. So yes, we have a long history in terms of religions and cultures and people. So we exist before Shan people, which is later known as Thai, now his country of Thailand, so we exist before them. So it’s interesting to see the connections that we have as people not just as Cambodia as a nation.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah, so you mentioned Cambodia’s recent history. I wonder if you could tell us a little bit more what what should Christians be aware of in the recent Cambodian history? When we’re looking to share God’s love with Cambodians?

 

Wat Ho 

Yes, interesting. Suppose maybe it’s always boil down to the disobedience of man and the consequences of sins, that we had a lot of rebellions and wars among ourselves and the, the nations, the Empire, one was known as the Khmer Empire became smaller and smaller because of internal conflict and the power struggles among the royal families and peoples in power. And that’s connected to the recent history. And when Cambodia, Cambodia was under French colony for about 100 years. And after we receive independence in 1953, we had a period of a golden era, back in the 60s, late 50s. And 60s, Cambodia was prosperous and was peaceful. And yes, people, especially older generations remember those good old days and that Cambodia was under peace and prosperity. But things changed when the the spillover of the Vietnam War in the 70s, the war that spread to Cambodia, and then you will see the rise of the communism in the region. And so we saw the conflict between the American and the communist people. So the fall of South Vietnam, which was supported by the US, then led to the fall of Phnom Penh in 1975. And Cambodia was captured by the Khmer Rouge and, and the Pol Pot regime was installed and ruled the nations for just a little over four years. And as a result, yeah, people were, were killed and died of starvation or forced labour and execution. So that’s the dark period of our history and that’s a lot of people probably associate Cambodia to the most because of the killing field. And, yeah, as a result, there are still a lot of pains and sufferings and, and people who went through there emotionally and mentally, psychologically? Yeah.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah, that’s such a dark part of, of history, in general. And as Christians, it’s, it’s really important that we’re aware of this, because this still has lived experience in people’s memories. And for a lot of people, there’ll be scarring memories. People might even remember the 50s and 60s in the prosperous time, the golden age of Cambodia, and then being hit by such a big tragedy must be really hard. So yeah, we need to be mindful of this, we need to be prepared to act gently and be empathetic when talking about Cambodia’s past.

 

Wat Ho 

Yes, certainly. Appreciate you mentioning that. Yeah. And the sad thing is that a lot of younger people don’t seem to understand our history very well. So as much as we want people from outside Cambodia to know our history, and it’s important for our younger generations to know our history, both good times and bad times. And that is part of who we are. And we, as we relate to people who’re coming into nations, we’re able to understand each other and able to share what we’ve been through and also learn from people from the outside as well.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah, sure. And I’m sure as Cambodians, you have a lot to teach us as well, about resilience, going through adversity, strength in community, those kind of things. And it’s important that it’s not just one sided.

 

Wat Ho 

It is yes.

 

Freddie Barker 

So yeah, there really has been a dramatic recent past, which has shaped Cambodia as a country. And I wonder Ho if you could tell us a bit more about what traditional Cambodian values are, and what it means to be Cambodian, a little bit about Cambodian identity.

 

Wat Ho 

Certainly for Cambodian people, we value family and friends and relationship, and loyalty, which may sound strange to a lot of people. But in Cambodia, as well as in Asia, we will find that those factors are important for our values. And, and certainly, that we will share later and that has its pros and cons, because compared to the Western values, you’re individualism and when children are 18 years old, you are expected to be independent, although Cambodia is changing as well, but we still feel part of the big family, and, and friends and the community. And I grew up in a big family. So I have my my own families I have my grandparents live beside beside us, and I have my aunts and my cousins, and then I have the neighbours, and then my distant relatives. So it’s like a little village ground. So we had all these extended families and friends. So it can be a culture shock for people from outside to see why we’re so close to each other. So for me, when I talk about family, it just goes beyond my own immediate family. So that’s a value that’s still treasured by a lot of people in Cambodia, and loyalty, loyalty to our family, and our friendship, and our nation. So we can see that deeply rooted in both social systems and political system, especially once you have that relationship formed and you have that loyalty. And it’s difficult if you broke loyalty, it will be very difficult to restart it. And you may be outcast, for political terms you may be accused as being traitors, because you broke your loyalty. So we must understand how that play in our values from both family and society. So yes. So for me, when I first learned English, the word honesty, it seemed to be important for a lot of Western people, but for, for us Cambodian loyalty. And when we talk about, we thought, honesty and loyalty were the same, but actually as I understood now, it’s two different terms and two different meanings. So we value loyalty, but maybe for people from the west, maybe honesty is more important.

 

Freddie Barker 

Ah that’s, that’s very interesting. It’s very distinctive from the perhaps individualistic Western worldview. I absolutely love that sense of family and close knit community. That seems like a really beautiful picture of society to me. However, I wonder if you could tell us a little bit about diversity in Cambodia. Is there perhaps a difference between urban and rural communities. What’s, what’s the mixture of ethnicities like? Just tell us a little bit about the diversity please.

 

Wat Ho 

Yes. In Cambodia, we probably have a strong monoculture, although and we have a mixture of Chinese blood, you know, in our Cambodian population. So, like, for me, I have a mixture of Cambodian and Chinese blood, my great, great grand father came from China. So we see that kind of mixed blood Cambodian people between Cambodia and Chinese people. And then we see a small minority group like Vietnamese people, and Thai, and Laos, people live in other parts of Cambodia, because we border with Thailand, and Laos, and Vietnam. So we have those three ethnic groups live with us. And then we have a tribal people live in, in the more eastern part of, of Cambodia, more in the mountainous area. But by and large, we are more monoculture. And Khmer people Khmer ethnic group, that we are the major, the dominant population, probably over 90%. Yeah. So we’re not really like a multiracial, like, other countries like Singapore, for example. So we are very different in that aspect. But we speak one language, Khmer language is our national language. So, so compared to Singapore, with like national language of four different languages. And so we speak Khmer that’s our national language, although now because of, because of our country, we are developing and trying to catch up with the rest of the world and encourage young people to learn English and other foreign languages as well. So just Chinese, Japanese, and French, so that we can, you know, get a better job and able to interact with people and outside world. Yeah.

 

Freddie Barker 

So it’s almost as if that sense of community that you were talking about earlier, extends to the whole country, with the majority people, national language, you almost get that sense of people being loyal to Cambodia itself.

 

Wat Ho 

Yes.

 

Freddie Barker 

So moving on. I feel like what we’ve learnt about Cambodian history, and values, which are quite distinctive. That as an outsider, I might make mistakes, perhaps even be disrespectful in some of the things I say, and some of the actions I do, even if I don’t necessarily mean it. And especially as a Christian, I want to avoid these things so I can give a good witness to Cambodian people. So I wonder, Ho, if you could tell us, what, in your experience are some of the common cultural mistakes that people make? So that we can learn to avoid them.

 

Wat Ho 

Thank thank you for raising that questions. But before answering your questions, and I hope, foreign friends not offended, especially Caucasian friends, coming to Cambodia. Because of our history, we were under French colony for nearly 100 years. So all white people are known as French to Cambodian eyes. So we use the word Barang. Barang means everything big or foreign, or the French, the word for French, so

 

Freddie Barker 

I could be French. I quite like the idea of being French.

 

Wat Ho 

Yes! That’s right. So all white people are French in Cambodia. So especially when you go to the countryside, it’s a bit like in Japan all white people are American because of the American influence. So, so don’t be surprised when they call you barang or, or French, but not necessarily they’re trying to be offensive, but it’s a word that pretty much can mean anything. Especially when you’re non Cambodian. Yeah, white people. Yeah. So, so that can be offensive to some foreign friends from a mistake, but the things to be avoided when you go to Cambodia? Yeah, we are a culture that we don’t shake hand. Of course, once you get to know people and close friends and close in age, we shake hands, but especially when you greet people who are older than you, and people, especially opposite sex, like male female relationships, so you don’t you don’t shake hands with, with a female friend, or shake hands with the people older. So you put your hand together and sort of a bow. Slight bow. Yeah, and show modesty. And yeah, when talking about modesty, especially in terms of dress code. I know people are very free here and Cambodia is very hot country. So just keep your dress modest, especially for female. So that can be a bit offensive to some people in Cambodia. Yeah, so just keep modest. Then I think something that’s really offensive to a lot of Cambodian people, don’t touch the head. Even though you’re very close to them and friends, whether you get permission,

 

Freddie Barker 

Is that other people’s heads or your own head?

 

Wat Ho 

Yeah, other people’s head, other people’s head. Yeah. If you’re very close friends probably okay. But still, you have to be aware that people don’t like being touched. The head it is very insulting if you put your hand on the head and touch them. And certainly people older than you will be. Yeah, very, very offensive things to do. And also, take off your hat. When you’re in a public building, like a library, or temple, or church, or in people’s house. As soon as you, you know see people, especially when you greet people who are older than you, take off your hat right away. And bow and yeah, so, so that’s also the no no things in Cambodia. Now we are in a digital world and social media takes over and you know, people like taking picture things probably has changed a bit in Cambodia, but still in people’s mind taking picture without permission is offensive as well. So, so if you want to take a picture with people make sure that, you know, ask them, have you got permission. So a lot of people may not like you to take picture with them, you know, without permission. So, so those are some of the things that just to be mindful of. And normally people are very friendly, and especially to foreigners and they’re very excited and they want to practice their English and they want to make friends and yeah, and people smile a lot and laugh a lot. And yeah, and cry a lot. So on one hand yes, it’s fairly easy and going kind of people and culture. Yeah, we don’t really, we’re not very strict to time. So please don’t feel offended if you make an appointment with Cambodian friends and they turn up late. And so time really, doesn’t really dictate people’s lives. And people sort of dictate time. Five o’clock, so they may turn up at six o’clock. So you may got frustrated. So, yeah. So that kind of things that we are very laid back kind of people.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah, it’s, it’s great to hear how easygoing and friendly Cambodian people are. But also, it’s good to hear how there are a number of really practical things that we can do to help us to build relationships with Cambodian people. And these may seem small to us, but they speak volumes to people in the country. And as Christians, if we follow these rules, and we’re good at following these rules, that can be a really distinctive witness, as we seek to share God’s love with Cambodians, we can do that by being respectful and following these guidelines.

 

Wat Ho 

Yes, that’s right. I think that’s important for, for both Cambodian people and non Cambodian people, especially people from the west that because particularly people from Cambodia, or from the east, view Western people, especially white people, associated like a Hollywood world. So that’s a culture that people grew up, there’s misperceptions from our side, you know, see that all white people, they are very liberal, very open, very like a Hollywood movie. And so I think that’s something for us to, to show the distinctions and the difference. Especially, we are Christian, we are different. We did not grew up in the Hollywood culture. And we are different from that. And we’re not immoral, we’re not liberal. And so we follow God’s standard. And I think that that will be a good surprise for Cambodian people to discover that, “Oh actually, you don’t live the lifestyle of Hollywood people, and you don’t show immodesty or liberal kind of behaviour and that kind of thing. So, so that’s, that is a good advantage for Christian’s who come to Cambodia and show the different value and standard, according to the Bible.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah, that’s, that’s really important to know. So I wonder now if we could talk about Christianity in Cambodia, Ho. Could you please tell us about the current state of the Cambodian church, and perhaps mention any barriers people might have to becoming Christian?

 

Wat Ho 

For Christian faith. We have shorter histories compared to Hinduism and Buddhism, that came way, way earlier, to Cambodia, from India. So Hindu religion came first to Cambodia thousands of years ago and then Buddhist religion. And for Christian faith, I think through a Catholic priest, in about 1655, a Portuguese priest came to Cambodia and brought Christian faith for the first time. And then the evangelical Christian missionary came to Cambodia for the first time in 1923. So we have less than 100 years of history of evangelical Christian belief. And the church started to grow since then. And although we had the period of the killing field in the 70s, for about five years, and then civil war, and so a period of nearly 20 years of war, so Christians were persecuted, and we were underground. Then, since the early 90s, the country reopened again to the world and a lot of missionaries were allowed to come to Cambodia, come back to Cambodia. So a lot of new churches being planted and people came to faith. Like myself, I came to faith back in 1998, through missionaries from the Philippines. So we see the work among students, university students, work among farmers in the far flung areas of Cambodia. Like food for the hungry international organisation, came to Cambodia to reach out to farmers, to poor people, to children in the countryside. As well as the Campus Crusade for Christ, reaching out to university students in the city. And then we had OMF missionaries, came first in 1974, and then came back again, as a result of the country, reopening to the world in the early 90s. So we see the number of Christian people coming to believe in the Christian faith and being baptised growing numerically. So, so we have more freedom we’ve been given by the government, freedom to choose whatever religion we believe. But at the same time, you know, all sorts of other religions came in as well, like Christian cult groups, and so on and so forth. So as a young Christians in Cambodia, so we, a lot of Christians, need to be educated, need to be trained especially from the Bible, to understand the truth in God and what it means to follow Christ. Yeah, evangelism, we see people respond to evangelism, but at the same time, the discipleship for people to grow in faith still needed for for Cambodian churches. And we are still young, Christian, in a sense, you know, but it’s encouraging to see that a lot of people coming to follow Christ, and we see a new generation of Christian believers. And we’ve been able to access more resources, although still limited in the sense that we don’t have a lot of resources written by Cambodian theologians, or translated into Cambodian language. So we need good resources that was written by Cambodian believers as much as learning from non Cambodian theologians or writers. In terms of a barrier for people coming to faith, as I said earlier, as much as we treasure our traditional values like family, friends, relationship, and loyalty. That can be a barrier or stumbling block for a lot of people coming to faith, because strong objections from family and being critical by friends, you know, sometimes persecuted. So that can put people off coming to faith and to committed and following Christ. So I have seen and I have had some friends who came to church and came to faith for a while sort of grow in faith, but then certainly the strong objections from the family and family pressure because a lot of us young people still financially depending on our families, to support us in our study. So like, yeah, they’re threatening to cut off their financial support or you know, kick you out of the home and things like that. So, so can be very difficult for a lot of Cambodian people to come to faith because of that pressure from family, from friends and in another sense people see it as you break away from the loyalty to your community and friends. So it’s important that as Christians we, we understand that we are not individually believing in Christ, or following Christ, but we are part of the new community as well. So that we may be viewed as a break away from loyalty, loyalty from from friends or families, or culture. But we belong to a new community of believers. And we, we have new friends, new relationship and friendship. And so that, that we have a new community there to support and to embrace and to love those believers who are struggling, and especially when they feel cut off from their own community, or family.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So in our evangelism, making community, an important part of that can go a long way in sharing God’s love with Cambodians. We can invite them into God’s community and show them that community is at the heart of our faith in Jesus.

 

Wat Ho 

It is.

 

Freddie Barker 

And it’s super encouraging to hear that there’s lots of opportunities to share Christianity with Cambodian people, with the church in the country of being relatively young, and it growing and people clearly eager to hear the good news.

 

Wat Ho 

There is a great opportunity and great attractions, in terms of sharing and presenting the good news of Jesus, and especially people misunderstood Christian faith. When we present a Christian faith or Christianity to people, and they view it as a Western religion and culture, and nothing related to you. But actually, when people began to realise that there is a great love in that, because God loves us, and God embraces and we belong to God. And a Christian faith doesn’t belong to a particular nation or culture. But God loves us all. And I think that, for me, personally, the point of attraction to Christian faith was to see the love being demonstrated by missionaries by Christians. And that surprised a lot of people because people thought, wow, I thought that was just a foreign thing, you know, but when they see love and actions through sharing the gospel, as well as meeting people, practically, and, and helping each other. And they see that witness of Christian believers in church, and that’s really changed the mindset and misunderstanding among Cambodian people, and so that people will be able to, to make it as their own, you know, and oh, yeah, actually, it is part of our culture, too. It is part of our history as well, you know, it is it is a God who loves us. And it’s, it’s God, for all of us, you know, and it’s not just a Western God or foreign God. So I think people need to see that and need to understand and be cleared from their misunderstanding of viewing Jesus as a Westerner or Western God. And we have that job when we present the gospel that, that actually Christ is for all, and he loves us all. Yeah.

 

Freddie Barker 

Absolutely. God loves all people. And it’s really important that we communicate that when we present the gospel. So before we finish, Ho, I want to ask you, if you could share with us what the greatest needs of Cambodia are at the moment, and how we can be praying for Cambodia as a country, and for Cambodian people?

 

Wat Ho 

Thank you for asking these questions. And we appreciate that. And certainly, Cambodia needs a lot of prayers. And the Lord has heard prayers of people for Cambodia in the past, and he answered, and we believe that the Lord loves this nation so much. And He has a wonderful plan for the people of Cambodia and the nation of Cambodia. Particularly the younger generations as they grow up, and we don’t know much about our own history and our own identity, we need to be confident in who we are as Cambodian and who we are, as Christian followers, and Christ followers, and for a nation we still developing, we still growing. So we are so easily influenced by foreign cultures, and especially among young people, pray that we will be wise in taking in what’s good and what’s not good to form part of who we are as a people. Also, for Cambodian churches pray as we see churches are growing in numbers, but the teaching needs to be sound and people need to understand the Bible properly. And that’s partly affected by people’s ability to read and to write as well, especially those who are growing up in the countryside and didn’t have opportunity to have a higher education. So, we need a good discipleship programme. We need good Bible teaching, for people to really understand the Bible fully and to be able to follow God obediently and faithfully because there are a lot of false teachings coming in to Cambodia as well. So pray that Christian believers will be protected and church will be protected. But pray that we will be a nation that in the future, if you dare to dream big that they’ll send out missionaries, you know, they’ll send out missionaries. So we may be as small as Gideon, but pray that the Lord will raise us up like Gideon, that we can be used to minister to people of other nations, both inside Cambodia and outside Cambodia, we can be a sending country in terms of seeing many more missionaries or Christian workers, not only on the receiving end, but giving them as well.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah, what a, what a glorious vision to have. And wouldn’t it be wonderful to see Cambodian Christians acting as ambassadors for Christ throughout the world!

 

Wat Ho 

Thank you.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah. And we have a great God who can make that happen.

 

Wat Ho 

Yes. So it requires our faith and obedience to Him.

 

Freddie Barker 

Absolutely.

 

Wat Ho 

Thank you very much for giving this opportunity to share about Cambodia and Christian faith there. And so may the Lord bless whoever is listening to this podcast programme. And may the Lord use all of you and bless you.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah. Thank you so much. So now we’re back with Susanna, our student who has been interested in learning all about Cambodia, and Ho I think shared some really insightful things with us. I certainly learnt a lot from what he had to say. And let’s just dive straight into it. What kind of stood out to you from what Ho was talking about, Susanna?

 

Susanna Greening 

Well, thank you to Ho. He was brilliant. Great to hear from him. I think the thing that probably shocked me the most was how young the church in Cambodia is, so that he said that evangelical Christians only arrived there in 1923, which is less than 100 years ago, and you kind of think of Christianity as being a 2000 year old faith, but actually not for Cambodians. But that really struck me and then how much he was saying that because they’re a young church. They don’t have kind of indigenous theologians, and they really need Bible teaching. And, like mature Christians, really.

 

Freddie Barker 

Absolutely. 100 years old is not very old at all in kind of the history of Christianity. We, we take it for granted that in this country, we have a long history of religion, and our government, our schools, most everything is seeped in religion, even if it isn’t so religious today, we have a history of Christianity and people know Jesus’ name. So imagine growing up in a country where people don’t know Jesus. That is striking. But also, I think, a great opportunity, as the church is growing and maturing, and learning. People will respond to the gospel with hunger and thirst like they did I think in the days of acts and the apostles. And yeah, there’s, there’s a wonderful opportunity there to see many Cambodian people come to know Christ. Did anything else stand out for you, Susanna?

 

Susanna Greening 

Oh there were a few things. One was how community loyalty is so important. And how the church has to learn to show that they are a community too. And then that loyalty almost could be transferred if people are rejected from their family and friends. That was obviously really important to Cambodians.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah, really interesting how that kind of feature of loyalty and honesty, kind of the same word for him and kind of runs deep in society. Obviously, you have the familial loyalty and loyalty to your community. But because Cambodia, almost the majority people are Khmer, that loyalty almost extends to the whole nation. So if your seen as different, which I suppose Christians are because they’ve only been there for 100 years, breaking that loyalty can be a big thing for a Cambodian. So yeah, as he said, I think you’re absolutely right, we need to be welcoming them into a new community, as part of our efforts to show them God’s love. What did you also make of the kind of practical advice for Christians who go to Cambodia, such as kind of knowing not to shake hands or touch people’s heads, or just to dress modestly.

 

Susanna Greening 

Yeah, I mean, it was so useful if you were to go to Cambodia to know those things. And some of them reminded me of my time in Japan, things like you know, greeting each other with a bow. And then there are other things that I thought Japanese people would be horrified by like they’re very relaxed with time. When you go to Japan, everything runs exactly on time. You know, you can see similarities. So the relaxedness is really like African culture, and then the bowing, and the politeness, and the thing with the hats, also is it in our politeness and the respect for your elders, that kind of thing reminds me of Japan. But there are other things that are very different. So I suppose that idea that if you’ve been to other cultures, you have an awareness that there will be different cultural norms, but you can’t just say, oh, they’re the same as that culture, or that culture, there’s, you know, take Cambodians for themselves, and learn about that culture before you go so you don’t make silly mistakes.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah, absolutely. I think if we’re, if we’re serious about wanting Cambodians to come to know Jesus, there are things that we can learn and put into practice that will go a long way in showing that we’re different from other outsiders, different from, what was the word? barang? I think, calling all other people French that made me laugh.

 

Susanna Greening 

Some British and American people would not like to be called French! Yeah, and that idea that Westerners are immoral because they’re like people in Hollywood films as well I think, that, that’s quite common in the Middle East as well isn’t it, and North Africa. And then, you know, how Christians, it’s really important that they are considerate of modesty, and those things to show God’s love.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah, absolutely. So it’s great that we, we seem to have learnt a lot from what Ho has said to us. But how might that change the way, Susanna, that you pray for Cambodia or interact with Cambodians, you might come across in your, in your day to day life?

 

Susanna Greening 

Well it’s given me a taste to learn more, I think. So if I met someone from Cambodia I’d have lots of questions to ask them, but hopefully, they would be more sensible questions, because I’ve learned a little bit now. And praying, I mean, so much more intentional Ho had loads of things that we could pray for didn’t he. But that idea of it being a relatively young church and praying for that depth of insight and the purity and also for strong Cambodian leaders and theologians so that they can have sort of indigenous Christianity.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah, yeah. It’s so wonderful that you want to carry on learning, because that’s exactly what we want to inspire with these kind of episodes is showing people that when you learn about the culture, that’s a great way to become passionate about it. And you see the value in learning, Yeah you understand the people group better, you understand how you might be friends with them better. And ultimately, we can have a better idea of how they might come to know Jesus. Thank you, Susanna. It’s been wonderful to chat to you and to learn about Cambodia with you.

 

Susanna Greening 

Thank you for the opportunity.

 

Freddie Barker 

Thanks again to Wat Ho for teaching us all about Cambodia. If you’d like to continue learning, we have some really helpful resources to highlight to help you on that journey. Firstly, feel free to visit the OMF prayer website, where you’ll find five by five by five prayer leaflets, infographics, and really helpful prayer updates. Also, the January 2021 edition of billions is worth a look. It’s all about Cambodia with interesting articles from people who live and serve in the country full time. Also, there are some really interesting books, which Wat Ho has recommended himself. Killing Fields Living Fields, by Don Cormack. After the Heavy Rain by S. Himm. And Cry of the Gecko by Uon Seila, and Brian Maher. I hope that gives you enough resources to get started, and to dig a little bit deeper into Cambodia, and what God is doing there. Thank you for listening to this episode of the Serve Asia podcast. We hope you’ve learned more about sharing Jesus with people from East Asia. You can find more episodes of the Discover series by searching for the Serve Asia podcast in your favourite podcast app, or by visiting our website omf.org/uk/podcast. As always, we’d love to hear your feedback, comments, questions, or episode ideas. You can get in touch on Instagram, @ServeAsiaPodcast or by email, uk.podcast@omfmail.com. Do check out the show notes for more details and links and we’ll see you next episode. Goodbye.

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