Cambodia, the land of smiles. A beautiful and intriguing world so far from and different than Omaha. In my eyes, a land of stark contrasts as old and new, order and chaos, poverty and wealth, tradition and technology are woven together into this rich picture of God's incredible mercy and grace played out as He relentlessly pursues these people He loves so greatly.
The contrasts are striking as we make our way through the city streets in our Mercedes-built passenger van as motos, tuk tuks, and bicycle carts, seemingly following no certain traffic laws, ebb and flow with and around us in a way that almost seems orderly. We pass brightly colored temples, intricately designed and ornately decorated, surrounded by non-descript concrete buildings and all around them examples of great resourcefulness amidst grinding poverty. The Mekong River hosts boat villages of Vietnamese immigrants floating in the shadows of multi-million dollar hotels and, in a culture marked by respect and a striving for goodness, nighttime brings the glow of colorful neon signs drawing men into open air storefronts filled with women waiting for them in neatly arranged plastic chairs.
The greatest contrast of all, as we toured the grounds of Wat Phnom, an ancient Buddhist temple, is the seeming peacefulness and happiness of the people of Cambodia laid against what must be a constant inner anxiety as they seek to appease the spirits and strive to live a life that earns honor in the next. Their efforts to honor the fickle gods who, they believe, have great power over them are seen throughout the city as incense burns in spirit houses displayed in front of almost every business and home, even the most humble abodes. They have little to no knowledge of a Creator God who loves them so much that He gave His son, Jesus, so that they might have abundant life here on this earth and in the next, free from the chains of false religion.
The Khmer people number more that 16 million and 95% of them follow the tenets of Buddhism mixed with animism and Hinduism. Their lives are focused on earning merit and erasing karma so as to positively affect their life reincarnated. How beautiful the feet of those who carry the Good News to them. The CMA currently has about 18 International Workers in Cambodia sharing the Gospel, discipling believers, training church leaders, planting churches, impacting people spiritually and physically through medical and educational ministries, developing church planters not only for Cambodia but also for the world, and translating the New Testament into multiple languages. The harvest is ripe but the laborers are few. There is so much work to be done and we have an incredible opportunity before us.
Every missionary and pastor we spoke with during our time there expressed great interest in partnering with us; praying, teaching, encouraging, and laboring together for the sake of the Gospel in Cambodia, in Omaha, and throughout the world. Our hope is that we, as a body, will commit to pray for the Khmer people, CMA workers, and church leaders in Cambodia, that many will be led to give financial support to the mission, and that some will be called to go, whether on short term trips or as long term missionaries.
A team is now forming to go to Cambodia July 24 - August 9, 2017 with applications due April 30. Learn more about this upcoming short-term mission opportunity and prayerfully consider being a part of this trip this year!