Between 1975-1979, an estimated 1.5 million Cambodians were killed during the Khmer Rouge regime, led by dictator Pol Pot. This mass slaughter capped a bloody decade during which the nation lost more than half its 1970 population (of about 7 million people) to war, rebellion, man-made famine, and genocide. The country still suffers from the effects of its national catastrophe more than three decades ago.
In Poipet, a city of about 90,000 people on Cambodia’s northwest border with Thailand, one can experience a culture that has known for so long the brutal effects of devalued humanity. Abject poverty drives parents to sell one child in order to feed their other children. Desperation drives other parents to surrender their children to orphanages in the hope that they at least will be fed and educated. Even legitimate employment may take a mother away from her family for days or weeks at a time, leaving children exposed and vulnerable.
Cambodia’s proximity to Thailand—and its porous border—make the region a virtual marketplace for human traffickers. Want an able-bodied man to work in a factory? How about young women who can sew clothing labels on garments headed for the United States? Maybe your sexual tastes run to the prepubescent…well, there’s no shortage of defenseless girls in Poipet.
It is here, in the midst of great darkness and suffering, where hope can yet be found. The Hope Center, led by a friend and partner of LIFE International, has been established as a bastion of God’s love in a region desperate to experience its transformational effects. Hope Center staff don’t wait for people to come to them; they seek out the poor and the vulnerable in local villages, and bring the hope of Jesus Christ to them.
This hope often comes in the form of basic health care, nutritional guidance, educational classes, and the testimony of God’s love made known in His Word. Trust and dignity are extended, and relationships are formed, and through this vital care, life is enriched…and lives are saved. People are coming to Christ, and preborn children are being offered a chance to live after their mothers are offered the hope that comes from the knowledge of their—and their children’s—immeasurable, God-given value.
Our friends at the Hope Center demonstrate that the impossible—bringing to life a people imprisoned by so much death—can be made possible through the transformative power of God’s Holy Spirit. When Jesus spoke of bringing “abundant life” (John 10:10), He meant it…and He won’t be thwarted!
What is true for Cambodia can be true for any nation: when the infinite value of God’s image is proclaimed in all people, life will prevail. Darkness will recede as light floods into the farthest reaches, into the back rooms of the tin-roofed, dirt-floor shanties of the remotest villages of the never-God-forsaken corners of the world He so deeply loves.