Seeing God's Light in Cambodia's Darkness

Dwell recently sent a short-term missions team to Cambodia, to encourage and support our friends at Fountain of Hope. Katie Wollard was a part of the trip, and shares first-hand about her experience. At the end, you'll learn about a special opportunity to support the work in Cambodia:

In the 1970s the Khmer Rouge tortured and killed anywhere from 1.5 to 3 million Cambodians. From genocide to poverty to idol worship, Cambodians consistently see humanity at its worst. Despite the poverty and lingering effects of the Khmer Rouge (an oppressive regime that took over the country), God is working in amazing ways in and through Cambodian people.

Last month, our team of 23 traveled to Cambodia to help the organization Fountain of Hope run a conference for believers in the country. Before the conference started we spent some time traveling around and learning about the culture. First, we visited Buddhist temples in Siem Reap. Although these temples were spectacular, it was frustrating to try to appreciate them knowing that they were built to honor false gods and idols. The next day, we went on a boat tour. The poverty and idol worship was obvious. Almost every building had little houses built to hold local spirits outside and shrines to Buddha and various other gods inside. Our tour guide explained to us that belief in the spirits leads to a fearful life and people are trying to appease the spirits to prevent bad things from happening.

After traveling back to Phnom Penh, we discussed Buddhism and Cambodian poverty. Feeling heartbroken by the difficulties we witnessed, we visited a local church. God was obviously present. We sang worship songs with our brothers and sisters in Christ and got to spend time with them after the meeting. One of our team members also gave a short sermon to the congregation. It was encouraging to spend time with these believers and see the joy they have in following God, setting us up to go to Tuol Sleng and the Killing Fields. We saw the depth of human depravity and tragedy that this country had been through, cultivating a burden for Cambodia in our team.

All of this brought us into the work week, where we helped run a conference for Christians who attend Fountain of Hope programs. Although they live in the provinces, they traveled from all over to Phnom Penh to learn about God. Our team was divided up into smaller teams. Some of us taught, some did arts and crafts, and some ran sports and board games. The theme was God’s Plan for Salvation. We had a few large teachings on how God has been weaving the plan for salvation since the beginning of time. Then from these larger teachings, we taught five passages where God’s plan for salvation was evident in the Old Testament. Each teaching had two teachers and a translator. The arts and crafts, board games, and sports team provided an awesome opportunity to sit and relate with the Khmer people through different strategies to breach the language barrier. The Khmer people were so appreciative of us taking the time to sit and hangout with them. This was truly an example of what a grateful heart looks like.

Teaching was truly a privilege. After asking the first group I taught why they were at the conference, each of them responded that they were excited to learn about their faith or grow in their faith. Watching their eagerness to learn and recreate (through skits) what we had taught was truly incredible. It was a testament to the power of the Spirit (superseding the language barrier). The Cambodian believers wanted to learn about God and to get equipped purely because God sent His Son to die for them. Their joy in simply being saved by God was convicting for many of us. How often do we get caught up with what we are doing or not doing and forget what God has already done for us. They seemed to understand the idea of being content in every situation (Philippians 4). Despite all of the hardships they see, the persecution they go through and poverty they experience, they are some of the most joyful people I have ever met. 

Another lesson God taught us on this trip was reliance. Time and time again, the Cambodian believers turned to God in prayer for any need they had. They asked God for healing and physical needs. They prayed for us at the end of the week. This was a moment so powerful that it brought many of us to tears. In America, we have every material item they could ever need, but they still prayed for us. Although unable to speak the language, you could sense God’s love pouring out from them into us. This moment is best described by one friend I met, Lika, who told me “my family is all of God’s big family.” The unity we felt between us and the Khmer people was astounding and it’s all from God. All of this is possible because of the work Fountain of Hope is doing.

After the work week we went out to the provinces and saw some programs in action. The first program was Joy of Our Children. It teaches kids about Jesus and different health skills such as disease prevention, drug and alcohol abuse, and other various life skills. We also saw several support groups for people who have been through things such as domestic abuse or personal loss. There were also seed and cow banks where people can get materials to provide food for themselves and even programs teaching communities how to save money. It’s clear God is behind the work that Fountain of Hope is doing when you see pure joy and excitement to share the gospel in the lives’ of the Cambodian believers. Fountain of Hope has seen so much success and its employees are more than happy to be there. Seeing these programs in action helped the team comprehend the importance of praying for them and giving financial aid to them. Giving only $10 has the purchasing power of $50 in Cambodia. God has provided us with an opportunity to make a huge impact in Cambodia. God has answered our prayers and used our financial aid powerfully, let us continue to be part of this good work.


You can support our Global Partner Fountain of Hope by donating at this link, and this month, your dollars will go even farther. During the month of September, Above and Beyond Ministries will match all one-time gifts to Fountain of Hope, up to $50,000.