God heard one woman’s prayers for what seemed like an impossible situation with her husband.
The border of Cambodia has known decades of conflict as French colonialists, the kingdom of Siam and the Khmer Rouge swept the whole region like a deadly blaze.
Throughout it all, many people clung to their traditional religion as the last bastion of their culture: Buddhism mixed with ancestor worship and animistic spirits.
The Khmer Rouge drove out many Christians during its reign of terror until only a miniscule number remained. Even today, 85 percent of Cambodians are Buddhist, and 31 of the country’s 43 people groups are still unreached by the gospel.
Nevertheless, Christianity is growing three times faster in Cambodia than the global rate. People are hungry for hope.
Haunted by Sorrow and Suffering
Phhoung believed in the great Buddha. She tried to console herself that her “dukkha”—suffering—was just caused by fleshly cravings. If she could reverse her karma, things would get better for her family.
She tried to follow the Noble Eightfold Path and paid fortune tellers to let her know which spirits to appease. She tried to bear her pain with composure like the monks said everyone should, but it was so hard. She’d often come home and find her children feverish and crying that they’d thrown up or been sick.
When he came home, her husband was almost always drunk. Sometimes he yelled or tried to slap her and the children.
Because of his alcohol addiction, people around their village wouldn’t hire him for work, or worse, he just wouldn’t go to work even when he had a job. Phhoung tried to keep the children’s education going steady at least, but some weeks, the money was short and they couldn’t afford to pay for school.
“I used to spend much money for traditional treatment,” Phhoung explained, “that we had to sell our home to pay for the fortune tellers and witchcraft.”
All her mantras, money spent, sacrifices—nothing seemed able to shake their bad karma.
A Family Turned Against Itself
One day, Phhoung’s neighbor began telling her about this man named Jesus Christ who died to free them from the fear of spirits and give them a relationship with the Father who made all people.
These were not two gods, though, just one. It was so strange.
She listened for a little while then decided she didn’t like the sound of this Jesus. This worship sounded nothing like what she had grown up with, and she’d heard about some Christians being treated poorly. The last thing her family needed was more troubles.
Although Phhoung chased her neighbor off, the woman returned to visit and bring little gifts and baskets of food. She knew how bad the family’s situation was, and she offered to pray with Phhoung about her husband’s abuse and addictions.
Day by day, Phhoung’s heart became softer as she considered how kind this neighbor was due to her belief in this God’s love and goodness.
Eventually, she accepted Jesus’ sacrifice on her behalf. Even though the nearest church was quite far away, she traveled there every Sunday to pray for her husband. Every day, she became more worried about him. His drunken rages seemed to grow worse, and he was upset about her new religion.
While her work as a food vender in the local marketplace wasn’t really enough to support the family alone, the issue that bothered Phhoung most was the unhappiness of her children and disharmony between her and her husband.
Finding the Spirit of Unity
The most urgent subject of Phhoung’s prayers was her husband, but she knew he would never make the trip all the way to the church.
The situation often seemed hopeless. His addictions weren’t going to simply vanish like smoke, and he was stubbornly determined to resist any efforts she made to introduce him to Jesus.
At times, anxiety and depression fell over her about their relationship and his health both physically and spiritually.
“But one day, God sent a pastor to share the good news with my village,” she explained with a smile. “And he planted a church much closer my village. The children and I decided to start going to this church, and he always encouraged me and my whole family.”
Even better, the pastor befriended her husband and began explaining the gospel to him. He had been trained by World Challenge partners, and he insisted that God’s message was not just empty religion.
Trusting this God of the Bible was meant to change people’s lives here and now.
Phhoung’s husband finally offered himself to Jesus. “He came home one day and suddenly apologized me and kids. Now his heart has changed to serve the family, and we are attending trainings with our pastor for disease prevention, home gardens, chicken and duck raising, as well as counseling.”
“God really provides wisdom and skill to us. Now my family is filled with happiness and harmony.”