Church Planter among Cham people in Cambodia
As a Muslim minority group in a Buddhist majority nation, few missionaries have come to engage with the Cham people group in the past.
The Cham originate from the Chamba empire in Southern Vietnam around the 1400s.
The 252,000 Western Cham in Cambodia live mostly in the cities of Siem Reap, Takéo, and the capital Phnom Penh or along the River Mekong.
They have proved resistant to the Gospel over decades, and there are currently no known churches among them, but the Cham New Testament is available to use in ministry among them.
Come over and help us to establish a thriving church among them.
Qualities & Gifts Sought
You already have cross-cultural evangelistic ministry experience and a knowledge of Islamic teaching, and ideally are an Arabic speaker.
You are eager to break hard spiritual ground with a love for Muslim people, have Bible college training, and are willing to give considerable time to learning the Cham language and culture.
Our ref 345
Cambodia is a sovereign state located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by Thailand to the northwest, Laos to the northeast, Vietnam to the east, and the Gulf of Thailand to the southwest.
Cambodia has a population of over 16 million. The official religion is Buddhism, practiced by approximately 95 percent of the population. The country's minority groups include Vietnamese, Chinese, Chams, and 30 hill tribes.
The capital and largest city is Phnom Penh, the political, economic, and cultural centre of Cambodia. The kingdom is an elective constitutional monarchy with Norodom Sihamoni, a monarch chosen by the Royal Throne Council, as head of state. The head of government is Hun Sen, who is currently Prime minister and the longest serving non-royal leader in Southeast Asia and has ruled Cambodia for over 30 years.
During the Cambodian Civil War (1970-75), tens of thousands of people were killed during the US bombing of Cambodia between 1970 and 1973.
The Killing Fields (1975-1978)
The Khmer Rouge led by Pol Pot reached Phnom Penh and took power in 1975. They changed the official name of the country to Democratic Kampuchea. The regime modelled itself on Maoist China and evacuated the cities, and sent the entire population on forced marches to rural work projects. Pol Pot attempted to rebuild the country's agriculture on an medieval-model, discarded Western medicine and destroyed temples, libraries, and anything considered Western.
Estimates as to how many people were killed by the Khmer Rouge regime range from one to three million. The most commonly cited figure is two million (about a quarter of the population). This era gave rise to the term ‘Killing Fields’, and the prison Tuol Sleng became notorious for its history of mass killing. Hundreds of thousands fled across the border into neighbouring Thailand. The regime disproportionately targeted ethnic minority groups. The Cham Muslims suffered serious purges with as much as half of their population exterminated.
Landscape, climate and industry
Cambodia's landscape is characterised by a low-lying central plain that is surrounded by uplands and low mountains and includes the Mekong River delta. Extending outward from this central region are transitional plains, thinly forested and rising to elevations of about 650 feet (200 metres) above sea level.
Cambodia's climate, like that of the rest of Southeast Asia, is dominated by monsoons, which are known as tropical wet and dry because of the distinctly marked seasonal differences. Temperatures range from 21-35 degrees celsius.
The garment industry represents the largest portion of Cambodia's manufacturing sector, accounting for 80% of the country's exports. Tourism is the country's second-greatest source of revenue.
Culture, arts and food
Various factors contribute to the Khmai culture including Theravada Buddhism, Hinduism, French colonialism, and modern globalisation. Rural Khmai people wear a krama scarf which is a unique aspect of Khmer clothing.
The sampeah is a traditional Khmer greeting or a way of showing respect to others. While performing the sampeah, the person places his palms together in a prayer-like fashion while bowing slightly. Local dance traditions can be divided into three main categories: Khmer classical dance, folk dance, and social dances.
Rice is the staple grain, as in other Southeast Asian countries. Fish is also an important part of the diet. The cuisine of Cambodia also contains tropical fruits, soups and noodles. Key ingredients are lime, lemon grass, garlic, fish sauce, soy sauce, curry, tamarind, ginger, oyster sauce, coconut milk and black pepper. Khmai people drink plenty of tea. Coffee beans are imported from Vietnam and Laos.
[Source: Wikipedia. Read more about Cambodia here].
Cambodia has 43 people groups and 31 or 70%, are considered unreached with the gospel. According to Joshua Project the largest religion is Buddhism at 85%. Professing Christians number 3.2%, and of these 1.6% are evangelical.
[Source: Joshua Project]
Pray with us for this land. Pray for:
- the scars of the terrible genocide that remain;
- for justice to be seen;
- for healing of deep psychological wounds;
- for a government that seeks the good of all;
- for children at risk (child labourers, sex trade victims, trafficking, and street children), and those caught up in drug abuse;
- the Cambodian Church (growth and mission vision):
- effective discipling of young people;
- mature Christian leaders;
- the enormous social needs (health, rehabilitation,orphanages, education, poverty);
- the least reached groups (Buddhists, the Cham and tribal peoples).
[Source: Operation World, 2010 print edition]
Use Operation World online.
We long to see Cambodia honouring God, transformed through his love, Word and power.
- we are committed to holistic ministry, by reaching out to the heart, the soul, the mind and the body of the people we meet;
- we show integrity and accountability to team members and Khmer authorities through an NGO, and a missional business framework;
- we equip and empower Khmai people for leadership, and ownership of mission vision;
- we equip workers to be effective members of WEC in the Khmai context.
WEC Cambodia's current ministries include:
Discipleship among Khmer Christians
Business and apprenticeship
1. Discipleship is done in the context of walking alongside Khmer Christians doing life with them and encourageing our brothers and sisters in their walk with Christ. Cambodians love their smart phones and one WEC team is developing a mobile App as a discipleship tool.
2. Good Neighbours is a vision is to plant a biblically-sound indigenous church in the countryside where a community has become self-sustaining, and its local church leaders are spiritually mature to be able to disciple other Christians, and then start new churches.
3. Children's work:
Currently, a group of 10–15 adults and about 40–50 children gather at the community centre every Sunday for worship service. A pre-school class was established in partnership with a local primary school in Tria Leu village. In addition, young people meet weekly for a drawing and painting class, English classes, and guitar lessons.
4. Business and apprenticeships:
Vocational training provides a combination of theoretical, and reality training (apprenticeships). This gives the trainer and trainees awareness of customer and marketplace requirements. Our training gives graduates a head start for securing better job prospects after graduation. Five workshops and businesses have been started by WEC in partnership with Khmer entrepreneurs.
We plan to:
- create a network of Christian businesses which supports one another;
- support Christian entrepreneurs as they start new businesses;
- inspire the businesses to train interns and apprentices at their workplace.
Watch Hangsuk's story
Read more about WEC in Southeast Asia
WEC Cambodia welcomes short-term mission. We need you!