“Be careful because Cambodia is the most dangerous place you will ever visit. You will fall in love with it, and eventually it will break your heart.” This history of Cambodia is horrendous and heartbreaking. In the months leading up to our departure, I read articles and watched videos about the genocide caused by the Khmer Rouge. Yesterday and today, we experienced 2 separate places where torture and murder took place. The S-21 and the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center tell chilling stories that seem too terrible to be true. At S-21 we walked though rooms where Cambodians were chained to concrete floors and we saw photos of hundreds of people who were brought here, many of them young kids. At Choeung Ek, we saw mass graves, clothing arising from the dirt around us, skeletal remains, and tools they used to murder innocent people.
Everything we saw and experienced at these two places was heartbreaking… but Cambodia belongs to the Lord and He hasn’t surrendered to anyone. Although there is a brutal history, with families currently enslaved at brick factories, and parents selling their daughters for profit, our God is on the throne! There is work being done to combat the evil out here and it is glorious! It won’t happen overnight but God is there in the process. Where there is light, darkness cannot exist! I know that Jesus loves these people and desires to be in a relationship with all of them. Glory is just around the corner.
Today we attended our first Church in Svay Pak. The church is currently meeting in the upstairs room of a garment factory while their new building is being completed. It is a blessing to attend a church service on the other side of the world and feel right at home and welcomed by fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
The Pastor preached today on racism. Ironically, Pastor Chuck preached on the same topic just last week. Two different churches in two different parts of the world hearing a similar message.
The pastor shared his own very personal story how he had to overcome his own feelings of hatred towards people. When he was five years old, his pilot father was taken by the Khmer Rouge. He was never seen again.
He was later taken to a relocation camp for children. He recalled being so hungry he would eat lizards or anything else he could find. For years he carried a lot of resentment and hate toward a group of people. It wasn’t until he was introduced to Christ, through AIM, that he was able to forgive those who had caused him and his family so much hurt.
Cambodia is a country still recovering from a terrible period of horrific genocide and mass murder. In the past two days we have visited some of the memorial sites dedicated to remembering the darkness of those days. Millions of men, women and children were murdered in an attempt to create the perfect society on earth.
The memories are still fresh in the minds of many Cambodian people. In the midst of this, Christ is still working to restore his people to him. Not just some people but all people. This is a lesson I learned today at a small church in a poverty stricken neighborhood in Cambodia.
It was a message we can all learn from. No matter where you are from.