Last week I had the incredible privilege of visiting Cambodia with our ministry partner Priority One Missions. Priority One supports the development of transformed leaders worldwide through schools, ministry training centers and seminaries.
Cambodia is a country of incredible beauty. On Wednesday we visited the Angkor Wat Temples. This temple complex is one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and is still today the largest religious monument in the world. It was first a Hindu and later a Buddhist temple built by the Khmer King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century.
Cambodia is also a country with a terribly troubled history. The Vietnam War extended into Cambodia with the US bombing of Cambodia from 1969 until 1973. Following the war the Khmer Rouge emerged as a major power, taking Phnom Penh in 1975 and later carrying out the Cambodian Genocide from 1975 until 1979, when they were finally ousted by Vietnam.
The Khmer Rouge had planned to create a form of agrarian socialism which was founded on the ideals of Stalinism and Maoism. The KR policies of forced relocation of the population from urban centres, torture, mass executions, use of forced labor, and malnutrition led to the deaths of an estimated of over 2 million people (25 percent of the total population). Up to 20,000 mass graves, known as the Killing Fields, have been uncovered.
Today the country continues to face numerous challenges including widespread poverty, pervasive corruption, lack of political freedoms, low human development, and a high rate of hunger. Cambodia has been described by Human Rights Watch's Southeast Asian Director, David Roberts, as a "vaguely communist free-market state with a relatively authoritarian coalition ruling over a superficial democracy."
The official religion of Cambodia is Theravada Buddhism, practiced by approximately 95 percent of the population (15 million).
During the trip we connected with missionary Dareth Ly. Dareth and his wife Tida are both survivors of the genocidal reign of the Khmer Rouge, which came to be known as "The Killing Fields." You can watch Dareth's unbelievable story of survival below.
In 1996 Dareth returned to Cambodia to bring the gospel to the broken and lost people of that country. Dareth dreams of changing "The Killing Fields" of Cambodia to fields of souls living for God's glory. For almost 20 years Dareth and Tida have invested themselves in Cambodia's future by helping to build orphanages, schools and Bible schools training a new generation of leaders who will live ethically, judiciously and honestly.
On Sunday, September 20th Dareth will be with us at The Gateway Church. Together we will have an opportunity to invest in his ministry in Cambodia through a special offering for a new elementary school in Kampong Thom.