A few Sundays each year, members of New Life Fellowship Church in Cambodia head to the nearby pool. One by one, up to 30 young believers enter the pool and are baptized while onlookers sing and cheer.
Although Buddhism and traditional beliefs permeate Cambodian culture, celebrations like this demonstrate the gospel transformation taking place among Cambodian youth.
“From the world’s perspective, the Cambodian church might be counted as small and Cambodian believers as insignificant,” said Gil Suh, who serves with Christian Reformed World Missions in Cambodia. “But there is a saying in Khmer, toj tai klum, which translates to ‘small but sufficient.’”
Since Suh began serving in Cambodia at the end of 2008, he has focused on developing younger leaders in the city of Phnom Penh. Tep Samnang is one such leader.
Among the many people who were displaced and orphaned during Cambodia’s bloody oppression under the Khmer Rouge, Samnang became a Christian while living in a refugee camp in Thailand. When he returned to Cambodia after the Khmer Rouge lost power, he joined other first-generation Christians at the Phnom Penh Bible School.
Samnang later became the Bible school’s principal. He recognized the many challenges that came with this role as a young leader, so he sought a mentor.
“I tried to find a mentor because when I do my work, I have many things that I struggle with as a leader,” said Samnang.
Seeing the impact that Suh made on pastors he mentored, Samnang asked Suh to mentor him. Suh began coaching him and helping him with common leadership challenges.
“Mentoring usually means telling what to do,” says Samnang, “but Gil’s methods really help me to grow by myself.”
As a sign that Samnang’s leadership skills have been growing, he recently became the youngest executive director of the largest Christian organization in Cambodia.
As Samnang adjusts to this new position, pray that Gil Suh may find effective ways to continue mentoring Samnang and other young leaders in Cambodia.