Transforming lives in Cambodia

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Today is Wednesday, July 10th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Megan Basham.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. The headlines this past June 10th were about an immigration agreement with Mexico, a tech merger, the Tony Awards, and the shooting of a baseball celebrity.

What didn’t make the headlines on the same day in a small village in Cambodia? People whose lives were changed forever. WORLD Radio’s Myrna Brown has the story.

AMBI: SINGING I need thee every hour in Khmer Language

MYRNA BROWN, REPORTER: Near Cambodia’s MeKong River and underneath a canopy of trees, a beloved melody rises beyond the barriers of language. With hands folded and eyes closed, a group of pastors stand shoulder to shoulder leading an old hymn in their native tongue. A small congregation of deeply tanned, dark-headed men and women sing along. They sit in white plastic chairs. Behind them, wide-eyed children, with legs criss crossed, relax on a large piece of blue tarp covering the ground.  

AMBI: Engine from fishing boat

As the morning church service continues, two fishermen just yards away, buzz by in their boat. Krang Yov is a small fishing village of about 350 families. It’s about an hour from Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. Between 1975 and 1979, the communist-led regime executed 2 million people across the country. Some descendants of those murdered live here. 

AMBI: Pastor San Sor speaking in Khmer 

San Sor was born in Krang Yov. Just over a year ago he started a Christian church along the river. Through an interpreter, he talks about finding Jesus in his native language, Khmer.

PASTOR SAN SOR VIA TRANSLATOR: I try Jesus in 2004. And that time really inspired me, so much that I get the Bible. 

PASTOR SAN SOR IN NATIVE TONGUE: I try Jesus in 2004. And that time really inspired me, so much that I get the Bible.

San Sor was eager to learn more about the Bible and wanted to enroll in a two-year training program.

SAN SOR VIA TRANSLATOR: But my wife not allow me to. And then I decided to come… with all my tears. 


Because of his new faith, San Sor’s wife, Yawn, and other family members rejected him. But he pressed on anyway, pursued the training, and became a pastor.

SAN SOR VIA TRANSLATOR:  My life was transformed and I humbled to my family… I always praying and praying for my wife.


God answered his prayers. His wife came to faith and is now also in training. They serve together in Krang Yov, a village that is predominantly Buddhist and leary of Jesus followers.

SAN SOR VIA TRANSLATOR: When I spread the Good News to the people in my village, a challenge is difficulty with them quickly to believe in Jesus. 


Their neighbors view San Sor and his wife with suspicion. The villagers are hesitant to embrace the faith of outsiders. 

SAN SOR VIA TRANSLATOR: But I try to make friends and relationship first…And I pray to God to give me power and open their eyes to see His wonderful Word.  


Rejection and dishonor are often the costs of following Jesus here. Even so, the small church is growing. 

AMBI ONE OF THE PASTORS: How many of you be baptized today? Raise your hand? (Applause)


As the morning service ends, Pastor San Sor leads 15 people from his village down a steep hill. 


The fully clothed pastor wades into a waist-high, murky brown pond. The contaminated water smells awful. But San Sor smiles and invites the new converts to join him. 

One by one they make their way to his side. The first is a man in a collared, long-sleeve shirt and dark pants. Cautiously walking behind him, a woman wearing an orange blouse, with gold hoop earrings that glisten against the rays of the scorching sun. 


Once the singing begins, the man covers his mouth with his hand as Pastor San Sor firmly and swiftly leads him backwards into the water. 

Over the next few minutes, Pastor San Sor repeats this process with 11 more women and two more men. Each one emerges with smiles and soft hallelujahs. Now they are ready to share their own redemption stories.

AMBI: People simultaneously responding to the baptisms

Pastor San Sor, his wife, and his growing church are praying that the killing fields of Cambodia will become fields, white unto harvest. 

For WORLD Radio, I’m Myrna Brown reporting from Krang Yov, Cambodia.

Pastor San Sor baptizes a woman from Krang Rov. (Myrna Brown)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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