Standing in the shadows of Angkor Wat, I am reminded of what once was a great empire in this side of the world. Reaching its peak in the 12th century, the temples are a sight to behold, holding secrets to Cambodia’s glorious past, enticing in its beauty with history carved in stone to be viewed by someone like me.
I am in awe. I feel small in this vast area of space and time.
A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.—Psalm 90:4
Centuries later, Cambodia found itself trapped in the darkest of days. In 1975, under Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime, this once proud people found itself under leaders that pitted Khmer against Khmer. It is estimated that about a quarter of its eight million population died from 1975-1979—from mass executions, overwork, disease and starvation.
How could a nation with such an admirable past find itself in a nightmare in my generation? In such a short span of time, so many loved ones were lost. Almost an entire generation was wiped out.
Where was the rest of the world when this was happening? Where was I?
Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!—Isaiah 49:14-16
With all this sorrow, the Cambodia of 2012 is different. Visitors are able to glimpse into the past. Beyond the temples and the misery that has gripped the country, I find myself living here—and I am continually amazed by the resilience of a nation and their capacity to forgive and move forward.
This past weekend, the Phnom Penh church celebrated its 20th anniversary. From faithful beginnings in 1992, the church has provided a way for Cambodians to overcome. Amid the bitterness, guilt and shame of its past, I walk among brothers and sisters who have taken hold of God’s promises. There are hundreds of them!
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
The glory of Angkor Wat pales in comparison.
I have a sister here who lost all her family members before she reached the age of 10 to the Khmer Rouge. She and her husband now faithfully serve God and His church. Their children are disciples.
I know a brother who was orphaned at six, caught in a crossfire that saw him lose his mother, his last living relative. Raised by the kindness of strangers—he now gives back to his community through education, mirroring the same opportunities given to him.
There is a social worker, a brother working with HIV+ widows and orphans, who has forsaken better opportunities overseas and has chosen to serve those who do not have a voice in his homeland.
Practically everyone I have met over the last two years has lost someone in his or her family during those dark days.
All of them have found hope in the message of the cross.
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. –Hebrews 6:19
I still feel small.
But that’s because I walk among some of my biggest heroes in the faith.
This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.
Who is it that overcomes the world.
Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.—1 John 5:4-5
Happy 20th anniversary Phnom Penh Church of Christ!
May the reflection of God’s glory in your lives continue to bring healing and change to your country.
For another article on the Phnom Penh anniversary, click here.