by William Singleton
[Editor’s note: Follows is Bill’s December 2007 report received earlier this month on the occasion of his return to Cambodia. He has worked for a number of years in the country.]
I have been back in Cambodia about a week now and am trying to understand and assess the tremendous amount of change I am witnessing.
When I returned to America our nationwide radio program with “World Radio” was just beginning while the “World Radio” Kampong Cham program was entering its second year. We salaried some good people and gave them the job of improving the program quality.
Soon “Key to the Kingdom” began helping with production salaries and we stressed the placement of trained teachers in key locations across the nation as church planters. We had just started a bi-monthly training program for the new located ministers, asking them to travel to Kampong Cham every other month.
Those that chose to do as we asked were taught in the Word and came to know and love one another. Since I was going to be in America for an extended time, almost everything was dependent upon Cambodian workers. Herman Alexander helped one month, but the rest of the time the Bible classes were taught by Cambodians.
Cambodia is a nation just beginning to learn about Jesus. The last census listed Cambodia as 85% Buddhist, 10% Moslem and 5% everything else, including a few denominationals. Today our circuit riders around Kampong Cham are reporting 20-50% of the people are saying they believe in God and Jesus (much different than just a year ago). Most of them are not attending any congregational worship, but would like to.
Kampong Cham is one of Cambodia’s largest population centers. The number of churches of Christ have doubled in this area during the nine months of my absence. More requests for help in establishing new congregations are coming in regularly. Young people are walking into the Kampong Cham church of Christ compound, staying a few days to a week, and encouraging their home villages to become Christian. One even walked in from half-way across the nation and is now training to preach the gospel.
While I was in America I had heard that there were 24 people living at the Kampong Cham facility. That had concerned me. The Kampong Cham church facility was purchased just before I returned to the U.S., and had only one poor bathroom and two bedrooms. The Kampong Cham church started this year, but had at its core some motivated Christians from the Koh Dach church, the oldest congregation in this area. When I returned I found the Kampong Cham facility has seven bedrooms and three bathrooms. The new construction is much better than the old. There are 24 people living there, but there is a constant turnover as representatives of different villages come and go.
There remains the core of circuit-riding preachers and devout Cambodian Bible teachers. On Sunday 40-50 members of the Kampong Cham community came in for worship services as about ten circuit riders left to help hold services in multiple outlying villages. The need for more motorcycles is obvious as some new congregations are not getting the help they have requested.
On Sunday, after worshiping with the Kampong Cham church, I traveled out and spent the afternoon worshiping with Chan-un-Dach and visiting a village group that is considering establishing a new congregation. At the end of January, when we left Cambodia, we had purchased some land for the Chan-un-Dach church to meet on. In our absence they had built a meeting place. It was crude, too small for the group in attendance, but made of the same materials and in the same way they build their homes. The village group considering establishing a new congregation if we can help get things started, had had a young lady spend about a week living in the Kampong Cham facility. She had then reported to her extended family in the village. All went well, but there are not enough motorcycles at Kampong Cham to provide the extra help.
On Monday I visited another village that made a similar request for help in establishing a congregation. During our visit on Monday Pauley baptized 12 of them into Christ. I have participated in fifteen baptisms during my first week in Cambodia, but I know there were some baptized by our group that I was not present for. Pauley has now baptized over 1200 in 3 and a half years, more than Walter Scott baptized in 35 years of productive ministry. If you can help, please do so. Pray God that we do not mess up this great opportunity.
Pray God for the increase and that we manage to accomplish our part in this great national awakening to Christ.
Randal and his wife Vicki have lived and worked in Brazil since Nov. 1984. They have three children, two daughters-in-law, and five grandchildren. He likes to read novels in his back-porch hammock. http://randal.us