June 2011

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War Continues in the Heavenlies over Cambodia

by The Cambodia Prayer Guide

Cambodia: Moving Beyond the Killing Fields

Present day Cambodia boasts a growing population of nearly 15 million people. Life for these people in the last 30 years has been an enormous struggle to overcome multitudes of obstacles. Only in the last 10-15 years has any sense of normalcy been restored. True progress has been painfully slow as Cambodians try to pick their way through new minefields of corruption and exploitation in an effort to move forward.Today Cambodia is moving forward away from the “killing fields” of the 1970s towards a brighter future. But it will take spiritual and social transformation for healthy new bonds of trust to form.
God loves the peoples of Cambodia. He has watched their families and cultures develop for ages. He knows every happy child and every worried parent. He knows every unemployed father and every abused mother. He loves every honest farmer and corrupt government official.

Jesus’ heart was broken with compassion when He saw the wandering masses of society (Matthew 9:36-38). He called His followers to join Him in compassion and in prayer to God for others. The first step of obedience in becoming a blessing to the nations is having a broken heart that prays for the nations. That is the purpose of this prayer guide.

A Brief History of Cambodia

Cambodia’s heritage can be traced back to the rise of the Khmer Empire in the 9th Century. This empire built intricate irrigation systems and constructed gorgeous temples, including the Angkor Wat Temple complex, a finalist in the 2007 “New Seven Wonders of the World” contest.

After this great empire was overthrown in the 14th Century, the Khmers endured a series of weak kings, internal rivalries, and continual warfare with the Thai until succumbing to French colonial rule in the late 1800s. However, in 1953, the French installed Norodom Sihanouk as king, who led Cambodia peacefully to independence.

King Sihanouk was the country’s leader for 17 years before being ousted in a coup d’état led by General Lon Nol. In 1970, following the coup, Cambodia quickly descended into civil war…. During the early part of the civil war (1970-75), Sihanouk entered into an alliance with the Khmer Rouge led by Pol Pot. The Khmer Rouge was a small guerrilla force, but it grew into a large army in just a few weeks. On April 17, 1975, Phnom Penh fell to the Khmer Rouge, and a new phase of Cambodian history was ushered in.

The objective of the Khmer Rouge was to introduce a pure Maoist agrarian society. To “purify” the people they executed all military and public service personnel, the educated, intellectuals, those believed to be loyal to the old government, professional workers, and religious leaders. A conservative estimate of deaths as a direct result of Khmer Rouge actions is slightly over one million, about one in every seven Khmer.

Khmer Rouge forces boldly began fighting with neighboring Vietnam. Responding to these armed incursions, Vietnam invaded Cambodia in 1978 and installed a new government, forcing the Khmer Rouge to flee to the jungles along the Thai border. From the border regions, the Khmer Rouge conducted a guerrilla war against the government throughout the late 1970s and 80s.

Following the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia, individuals who had fled to Thai- land to save their lives from the Khmer Rouge staggered back to their homeland or made haste to refugee camps along the Thai-Cambodian border. This mass migra- tion left the rice harvest unattended. Famine swept across the country in 1979-80.

Vietnam helped Cambodia in the difficult task of rebuilding the country. For a 10-year period Vietnam led Cambodia to institute various reforms. These reforms reestablished Khmer institutions and paved the way for a pattern of future reforms.

In 1990, Cambodia’s fighting parties agreed to form a legitimate authority that could aid Cambodia in forming a new government. In May, 1993, the United Nations-administered elections led to a new constitution and the reinstatement of Sihanouk as king. The result of the 1993 election was an uneasy coalition, and the unified government fell apart violently in July, 1997.

Following two shaky decades and the decimation of the culture, infrastructure, social structure, and government, a new reconstruction has begun.

Pray for Cambodia’s Challenges Today

Poverty—Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the world. Over one- third of the country lives on less than 45 cents a day. Cambodia’s average income is rising, but still well behind other nations in the region. Part of the problem is that the country’s policies and history of instability do not foster trust among businesses and foreign investment.

Health Care—Unsanitary conditions and malnutrition contribute to the poor health of Cambodians. Most children are severely under weight and height. According to a survey authorized by the World Health Organization (WHO), 75 percent of adult Cambodians who lived through the Khmer Rouge era suffer from extreme stress or post-traumatic stress disorder. Chil- dren of that generation do not fare much better.

Families—Families are fractured in Cambodia. It is not uncommon to find families without fathers. Mothers tell familiar stories that their husbands left them for another wife in another village. Gambling and domestic violence often plague families.

Drugs—Cambodia faces narcotics-related corruption. Cambodia is vulnera- ble to money laundering due to its cash-based economy and porous borders. Many young Cambodians turn to street drugs to deal with stress.

Human Trafficking—Women and children are often trafficked to Thailand and Malaysia for forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation. Men are often sent to Thailand for labor exploitation in the construction and fishing industries.

Education—Only 37 percent of Cambodia’s adult population is functionally literate.

Religious Freedom—Buddhism is the national religion of Cambodia. Khmer are not forbidden to convert to other religions; however, at a local level, social pressures are an obstacle to conversion. In some rural settings, villagers blame Christians for bad luck and unfavorable weather conditions. Families often feel rejected when a family member becomes a believer.

Pray for the Church in Cambodia

The first Christian contact with Cambodia was made by Portuguese Domini- cans in 1555. The first Evangelical missionaries didn’t arrive until 1923 when two Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) families were able to enter the country. Response to the gospel was slow, although by 1935 there were Christians ministering in 11 of Cambodia’s 14 provinces. However, new believers were often persecuted. In his book, Killing Fields, Living Fields, Don Cormack writes,

“To be a Christian in Cambodian society was to be a social pariah, misunderstood, and ill-treated, a convenient scapegoat for blame and abuse.”

The church has grown significantly in the last 15 years. From a small rem- nant that survived the Khmer Rouge genocide, it is now estimated by Opera- tion World that there are approximately 471,000 believers, almost three per- cent of the population. The church is young and enthusiastic with a natural flare for evangelism. Although written resources are scarce, there is a wealth of indigenous songs and hymns of worship.

–Such rapid growth presents challenges in the areas of discipleship and lead- ership. The quantity may be increasing, but quality and depth still seem to be lacking. Many of those who profess faith in Christ seem to fall away at the first sign of difficulty. Pray for lifelong commitment to Christ.
Although the church in Cambodia is growing, the challenge of reaching the unreached remains. Most of Cambodia’s cities, towns, and district centers now have a church. But the rural areas where most of the people live still have little Christian witness. There are significant Christian populations among a few of Cambodia’s tribal people such as the Jarai; but many of the other people groups have few or no believers.

Pray for a complete harvest among each of Cambodia’s ethnic groups. Pray that the reached tribes will send out workers to those that remain without the gospel.

–The presence of foreign missions and the funds they bring with them has led to its own set of problems. Inappropriate use of foreign funding has left many churches dependent on outside help, slowing down the move towards self-suf- ficiency and self-governance. Disunity, fragmentation and competitiveness for these funds continue to affect the church. There are current attempts to unite under umbrella groups such as the Evangelical Fellowship of Cambodia.

Pray for further strides towards unity. Pray for the Holy Spirit to direct mission efforts to use funds to extend the Kingdom of God rather than for denominational goals. Pray that the church in Cambodia will unite under the banner of Christ and spread His Kingdom.


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From the Editor

by Keith Carey

Dear Praying Friends,
There are only 28 unreached people groups in all of Cambodia (in contrast to the 43 in Texas). Many of these individual groups are small in size, but God has not forgotten about them. They are precious in His sight. It is impor- tant to pray for the Cambodian
people groups this month because almost all of Cambodia’s 15 million people in this relatively mono-ethnic country are part of an unreached people group. They remain faith- ful to the false gods who have dominated their lives for many centuries. Day after day this month you will be praying for different peoples who appease spirits that they believe will protect them in times of danger. But what will the people who fall into this trap do when the true Lord bares His arm on the final day and the time comes to meet their maker? It’s frightening to consider.
This February as the writers are submitting their stories about the Cambodian people to the Global Prayer Digest (GPD), Cambodian and Thai military forces have begun fighting over their poorly defined border. Please pray for the peoples of Cambodia this month. For those of you who would like to continue to pray for Cambodia, there is an ex- cellent prayer guide called, “Peoples of Cambodia.” Go to: www.newhouseonline.com.
In Christ,
Keith Carey

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