Lead Us to Jesus

Souls—and memories—are redeemed at Three Rivers


Toward the end of the Khmer Rouge regime, while escaping from war zones to the protection of refugee camps, many Cambodians (my husband, Soeuth, and I included) had passed a village called O Bey Cheon (“Three Rivers”) along the Thailand–Cambodia border. While we were there (me in October 1979 and Soeuth in September 1981), we faced many dangers—from murderous robbers to soldiers armed with machine guns to buried land mines. The thought that one day we would return to this village had never crossed our minds! But God, in His sovereignty, redirected this course.

In July 2003, in response to a call for help, our team of four international workers along with Khmer staff drove three pick-up trucks across the bumpy roads to O Bey Cheon. There we discovered nine dead land mine victims (eight were related to one another). The horror became worse a few hours later when we dropped off the bodies at Soriya, the nearby village where the family lived. Many small children came running to greet us in our trucks and started screaming at the site of their dead parents, aunts and uncles. Still a haunting nightmare, that tragic day is associated in our minds with our experience as refugees in O Bey Cheon.

Three years later, in Soriya, a large family of 12 (two parents, nine children and a grandmother) accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior through the evangelistic message of relatives visiting from Philadelphia. Before these visitors returned to America, however, they asked if we could do follow-up with this family.

Because of hardship and ongoing persecution from their community, the parents and the elderly grandmother abandoned their faith, but the nine children remained steadfast! The two older siblings, Pheap and Phear, devotedly took turns leading daily Bible studies at their home while coming to us for weekly discipleship and theology classes. (In time, the mother and grandmother returned to the family of God.)

In March 2012, while working for another nonprofit organization, Pheap shared the gospel with a group of people in O Bey Cheon—and one of his listeners was Mr. San, an elementary school principal. After more times of discussion and sharing, the principal began to show interest in Jesus. Pheap grabbed the opportunity to present Mr. San with a Khmer Bible and directed him where to begin reading.

Pheap and his team went back to O Bey Cheon from time to time, but since that first encounter, they never stayed long enough to offer the school official any words beyond simple greetings. “When are you going to come and talk to me more about this God of yours?” Mr. San often asked. Pheap promised that he would find a time, soon.

In October 2012, that time finally came! Pheap had a day off work, so he and his wife, Laa Lynn, invited Soeuth to accompany them to O Bey Cheon. Knowing that visitors were coming, Mr. San instructed his wife, Thavari, to kill two of their best chickens so she could have their favorite Cambodian dishes prepared for the guests ahead of time. But before the meal was served, the most urgent need was addressed by the man of the house: “Would you lead us to Jesus?”

Immediately, Laa Lynn, being very passionate about evangelism, asked this family two important questions: Are you sure that, if you should die today, you will go to heaven? If God should ask you for what reason you should be allowed into heaven, what would you answer Him?

Right then and there, Mr. San and his wife gave their lives to Jesus! But before Soeuth led them in prayer, he asked, “Do you still have any spirit strings around your bodies?” (See sidebar.) Immediately, Mr. San joyfully shouted, “Oh, we cut them off two months ago!” They had even removed all the high places from within and around the house!

Since the time he first received the Bible from Pheap, Mr. San has been reading God’s Word faithfully. He started in the Book of Matthew and at the time of Soeuth’s visit was at the beginning of the Book of Romans.

Joy was abundant in the village that had formerly been the site of such sorrow for us. What better way to celebrate than to enjoy fellowship over a two-course homemade meal!

Cutting Loose

Most Cambodian people wear spirit strings around their waists (adults) or necks (small children). For a price, these strings are put in place by a local krue Khmer (witch doctor), who promises that the strings will protect the wearer from evil, bring prosperity or act as a good luck charm. The people wear these strings their entire life. Because this superstition is so widespread, it is very important for new believers to realize that in order to come to Christ, they must be willing to cut any attachment to the spirits they had formerly worshiped.

Many Khmer people come to Christ for different motives. Some come for rice, while others come for medicine or jobs. To us, a sure sign the conversion is sincere is when the person agrees to cut off the spirit string. There is great risk involved, especially for a youth or young wife. If the family discovers that the strings have been cut, the new believer might be rejected, divorced, cast out of the family circle—or severely beaten.

A person who is willing to cut off the strings is fully committed to Jesus. Whenever we go out to the villages for evangelism or follow-up visits, we bring along not only the Bible but a pair of scissors as well!

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