Dr Stephen Griffiths of OMF International writes:
I went to buy a school van. ‘By the way,’ said Mr Lak, the salesman, ‘are you a Christian?’ Waiting for the paperwork, we sat on plastic chairs, traffic thundering past just feet away. Waves of dust, heat and diesel fumes gently choked me while Mr Lak, completely at ease, sat back and told me his story of his journey to faith in Jesus through a tiny group of just ten believers in the south of Cambodia – but this exciting story of rapid church growth is a pattern we see repeated over and over again. Anna my wife flies to Siem Reap. A Khmer air stewardess tells that she too believes, and attends her local Christian and Missionary Alliance church.
I go to Tumnup Rolok, a village of 7,000 people perched precariously on the rocky hills overlooking the Gulf of Thailand. Not only is the village nurse a believer, but a church more than a hundred strong meets in her house.
According to the leader of the Evangelical Fellowship of Cambodia, there is anxiety these days among officials in the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Religion about Christian church-growth rates.
They have considered limiting the number of churches that can be officially registered (according to the law all churches must register). More than 1,000 churches are officially registered, and another 1,400 are either seeking registration or have not yet started the process.
The Cambodian church is still small – riven with divisions and often lacking adequate local leadership. Churches have a high turnover of people coming and going. But the fact remains that exciting growth is occurring in the most unexpected places.
God’s great work
From as few as 1,000 believers who survived Pol Pot’s murderous purges in the late 70s, to more than 200,000 known Cambodian Christians today, growth has been spectacular.
They often remain mocked, discriminated against, despised and struggling, but they are God’s own people – redeemed from their sin by the blood of Christ.
OMF missionary Ian Roberts, with decades of experience in the region, was speaking to a conference recently. ‘We keep on praying for God to do something spectacular in Cambodia,’ he said. ‘Why don’t we recognise that he already has – and thank him for it?’