We went out to rural Prey Veng province Thursday afternoon through Sunday afternoon. The purpose was field visits to three rural primary schools that MCC supports but we stayed through Sunday to attend church.
This is the church that I attended most often when I lived in Cambodia. It has a new building built by Singaporean missionaries but attendance is significantly down from ten years ago. They say that a lot of people have moved to Phnom Penh or gone to work in Thailand. My friend Barbara Soung – a long term English midwife/missionary – attends here and organizes the children’s ministry.
The older Pastor did not recognize me at first – he looked puzzled when I greeted him – but then the younger Pastor told everyone I had come back after ten years. (The younger Pastor didn’t recognize me the first time either but he’s married to MCC’s Rural Education Partner Adviser so we’ve met a few times since I’ve been back already.)
The sermon was on people believing that all religions are equally valuable. It’s common for new Cambodian churchgoers to simply add Christian practices to their existing Buddhist, Animist, and Ancestor Worship beliefs. He talked a bit – I think – about divine grace and Christ needing to be the foundation of belief not just an add-on. I say ‘I think’ because my Khmer theological vocabulary is very rusty.
The Prey Veng Christian Center has some historical roots to MCC. Ruth told me that one of it’s founding members was a housekeeper who worked with MCC in the early days. I’m planning to look into this and will share more as I uncover it. Christianity was illegal in Cambodia until 1990 and I’m hoping I can learn more about the underground church.