“I am like Job,” says Pastor Vin. A former philosophy teacher in Cambodia’s capital city of Phnom Penh, Vin lost his family and everything he had under the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s.
Like thousands of others, he was forced from his home and sent to the countryside, condemned to harsh labor on communal farms. But now he testifies how the Lord has given him back a family, a home, and so much more.
“A few years ago Pastor Vin became a Christian,” says Gil Suh, who works for Christian Reformed World Missions in Cambodia. “Though he does not have formal theological training, he is now serving a rural church as a pastor.”
Suh met Pastor Vin through a Timothy Leadership Training (TLT) seminar, a course designed for church leaders who have never received seminary training.
The TLT program highlights the different parts of effective, biblical leadership through courses such as “Stewardship” and “Caring for God’s People.” At the end of each course, participants make action plans for their ministries and report back on their progress at another session held six months later.
This kind of leadership development is greatly needed in Cambodia, which was ravaged by the Khmer Rouge. By some estimates, the Khmer Rouge killed nearly one-fifth of the people in their country. Leaders and potential leaders, with years of knowledge and experience, were lost forever. Today the average Cambodian is just 22 years old. The Christian church, while growing, is also very young.
Gil and Joyce Suh walk alongside Cambodian churches and leaders, helping them mature into strong, healthy communities. As part of his work, Suh follows up with leaders like Pastor Vin to encourage and stretch them in their roles. Joyce works primarily with the Evangelical Fellowship of Cambodia’s Women’s Commission, creating training materials and other resources.
“The more I get to see the faith of people at a grassroots level and hear people’s stories and testimonies, the more I am simply in awe,” Joyce says. “Although there may be a lack of training and biblical foundation, there is a very deep and real faith. There is maturity that grows out of persecution, through exile from family and through living their faith in spite of hardships every day.”