Evangelist Franklin Graham reached some 23,700 Cambodians with the gospel message earlier this month in Phnom Penh – marking the largest Christian outreach ever held in the kingdom.
Graham was eager to see what God would do December 7 and 8 at the Love Phnom Penh Festival – in a nation where many have been kept from hearing the gospel.
"We're here to work with the [Cambodian] church, and we hope that when this weekend is finished, the church will be strengthened, encouraged and will continue to grow," Graham said before the festival, according to a recent press release from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA).
Enduring message …
The president of BGEA and Samaritan's Purse anticipates much growth in the Cambodian church in the years to come.
"The Cambodian people are wonderful people, and I believe that God has a great plan for this nation and for the Church in this country," Graham expressed. "At the same time, there's still a great spiritual need in Cambodia, and that is to know God and have a relationship with Him."
It was a particularly powerful testimony that 1,396 made the decision to follow Jesus Christ over the weekend event, especially with 98 percent of those currently living in the Southeast Asian nation being Buddhist – four decades after the Khmer Rouge genocide wiped out all but 200 Christians nationwide in the late 1970s.
"One of the most brutal modern genocides took place in Cambodia 40 years ago [when] the Khmer Rouge murdered one out of three men – one quarter of the population," RomeReports.com informed. "In four years, Pol Pot's madness claimed the lives of 1.7 million people, [as] the dictator established a medieval regime of terror and restlessly hunted Christians."
Pol Pot, a Marxist-Leninist ideolog, governed Cambodia from 1976-1979.
Local Christian leaders anticipate continued church growth following the Phnom Penh event.
"The Holy Spirit has touched our city and entire land, [and] we are thankful that people heard the gospel that Jesus is the Truth, Way and Life," the general chairman of the festival, Pastor Sin Somnang of Fellowship Church of Pochentong, shared. "This will be a blessing for our country and our spiritual legacy to be remembered for the next generation through the festival."
For several years, churches and Christian leaders in Cambodia prayed, prepared and planned for the Love Phnom Penh Festival with Franklin Graham. BGEA and local churches partnered to make the event possible after the Cambodian government gave it their approval and blessing.
Attending the festival were representatives from numerous other Asian nations, where they plan on holding similar evangelistic events in the near future.
Graham held several other multi-day outreaches earlier this year, including ones in Bangkok, Thailand, and in Cúcuta, Colombia, along with multi-city tours in Australia and the United States, with his next crusade – the Decision America Sunshine State Tour – to kick off across six cities in Florida next year in January.
In recent years, both victims and perpetrators of the Khmer Rouge onslaught have come to Christ. One representative of the TransformAsia Orphanage Organization, 52-year-old Yem Sarom, has learned to harbor no resentment toward those involved in the merciless genocide.
"The greatest things about Christianity are love and forgiveness," Sarom explained, according to La Croix International. "We've learned to forgive and we know that nothing can change what happened in the past. The present and the future are all that matters. We have to follow God's advice to do good things, to live with love, and to not hurt anyone."
Im Chaem – who served as district secretary in Preah Net Preah under the Khmer Rouge regime and as a deputy officer in northwest Cambodia decades ago – was responsible for purging "traitorous groups" who didn't meet leadership's virtually unattainable rice quotas because of the limitations of their crude technology and malnourished laborers.
"Chaem [now] believes in God because He offered her the chance to become a new person and to give up her sins," Sarom continued. "God has accepted her, so she could start a new life by doing good things. That kind of forgiveness doesn't happen in Buddhism."