The article below was written by a friend of HeartCry, Wesley, who travelled to Cambodia to teach English this summer to Khmer children (ed.).
Over the past three weeks I have had the honor of visiting and laboring with the HeartCry missionary Sophea Phun. To have a full understanding of Sophea, you must first know his family background. His father grew up under the horrible atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge. He was moved from place to place with little food and eventually, he walked roughly 160 km by foot to a UNICEF refugee camp in Thailand. While in Thailand, he met a Khmer pastor who dramatically shifted the course of his life, through sharing the Gospel with him. Thereafter, he believed in Christ and led Sophea’s mother to faith as well. They had seven children, five of which were born there in Thailand.
Upon his family finally returning to Cambodia, Sophea’s father went to a Bible school in Phnom Penh. Then, he planted a church in the town of Bakan, where I am currently staying. His father has been faithfully laboring in Bakan for almost thirty years, evangelizing and discipling a majority of the total congregation of roughly fifty people. His labor has paid off in tremendous ways, as the church now supports itself. Indeed, they are even giving money away to support local missions. Additionally, the people are sacrificial regarding their time as well. The congregation meets four mornings of the week for one hour to study the Word and pray. This is truly an anomaly for Cambodia.
Sophea has been raised in this environment and upholds the faithfulness and integrity as his father. Specifically, he has had large successes in children’s ministry. Everyday, around 50-70 children gather at the Shalom Learning Center to be taught English, along with a biblical message. This is in addition to another large kids club of 30-40 children and teaching at a local primary school, which on occasion provides gospel opportunities. These provide opportunities for children, who may have never heard the Gospel otherwise, to be exposed to it on a daily basis. He and his brother spend large amounts of time with the teenage boys in the village, where the Shalom Learning Center is located. They have developed relationships with these boys through playing soccer on a daily basis and investing deeply in their lives. This provides discipleship opportunities and many of the young men have been led to faith. Also, he facilitates the discipleship of the teenage girls there, which is carried out by one of the young women from the church in Bakan. One would assume that this is more than enough for any one person to handle. Yet, Sophea yearns to see a healthy church, like the one he grew up in, planted in this village and it is not so easy with adults.
Although Sophea has labored for years there may be only five adults that show up on a Sunday morning, with the multitude of children. The ground is hard. Overall, my experiences here have taught me that faithfulness is not always measured in fruit. In spite of having little fruit in this specific area, Sophea continues to wrestle for the conversion of men. He travels 60 km a day going to and from this one village. Despite all the labor he has already committed to the people there, he and his fellow laborers endlessly serve and pour out all that they are into this village. More so, he enlists the help of His fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to help. Just last week, I had the opportunity to go house to house in the village sharing the Gospel with around fifteen other young adults.
Sophea has faithfulness and integrity in trying to plant a church that truly inspires me.
“And let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up”Galatians 6:9
Personally, in light of the motto of the Student Volunteer Movement, I want to see the evangelism of the world in my lifetime. Therefore, I wrestle with God on a daily basis and beg Him to fulfill His promises towards this end. Yet, Sophea is an incredible reminder in the here and now that God is in control of timing and that our job is to remain “faithful unto death”, regardless of the fruit we physically see. Sophea’s commitment to ministry and the Word in the face of adversity has made a profound impact on my life. Irrespective of the past, we are called to strain ahead with every fibre of our being, clinging to God’s promises, believing He will do something. Sophea is engaged in doing just this. Above all, we must hold close to heart that God is so faithful and in His perfect timing, He will fulfill all of His promises.