How Should Easter Be Celebrated in Cambodia?

Just before Easter weekend, Christian Reformed World Missions missionary Gil Suh received a call from Pastor Savouen, a leader of a group of church leaders in Cambodia’s rural Svay Rieng province. The group meets regularly to encourage and learn from one another.

Cambodian church leaders receive training for their roles.

“We want to learn more about ‘the day that Jesus lived again,’” Savouen said.

Although these leaders understand the importance of the resurrection, the church in Cambodia is new and does not have a strong tradition of Easter. They were really asking how Easter should be celebrated in Cambodia.

Sovanna, like many of the group’s participants, is a lay leader of a house church in a small village. She has minimal education and became a leader perhaps because she can read better, has leadership qualities, or grew into the role.

But she is always eager for more. Gil Suh says that when he teaches Sovanna and the other leaders, he feels like he is giving a little rice and a few fish to a hungry group. Instead of eating it all themselves, they take some back to the people in their village churches.

New Life Fellowship Church Phnom Penh Thmei is far larger and more advanced than the rural churches in Svay Rieng province, but its pastor, Sophea, faces similar challenges. His church is composed of first-generation believers, mostly young people who have come from the provinces to further their education.

Sophea has few precedents to follow. What does a Christian wedding look like, especially when the couple’s parents are Buddhist? What about a funeral when family members have different views of the afterlife? What is the best way to run cell groups and Sunday school or to train Sunday school teachers?

Gil Suh coaches Pastor Sophea and other young urban church leaders as they wrestle with these questions. He also trains lay leaders and new believers through workshops, retreats, and Bible studies.

Urban or rural, the church in Cambodia is in some ways similar to the New Testament church. Patterns have not yet been set. The church is vulnerable to error. There are challenges and pressures, even persecution by the community. But there is also the opportunity to do things in a way that is both biblically faithful and uniquely Cambodian.

We are thankful that God has brought us to Cambodia through Christian Reformed World Missions to open Scripture, encourage leaders, and walk beside our Cambodian brothers and sisters.

The temple complex of Angkor Wat casts a long shadow on Cambodia. It is on Cambodia’s flag, and it dominates the land and the psyche of the Cambodian people. But God is building an even more beautiful and magnificent temple of living stones on the foundation of Christ.

About the Author

Gil and Joyce Suh, with David, Isaac, and Mary, have been serving with Christian Reformed World Missions in Cambodia since January 2009.

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