Friday, December 23, 2011

Trust in God: Raksmei Church Refuses to Submit to Threats of Disaster

by Leng Thy
Recently, Cambodia has experienced the worst flooding in over a decade due to typhoons and a greater than average rainfall. The Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers are overflowing and 17 of 24 provinces are affected by severe flooding especially those by major river courses. According to government reports, many areas have been submerged in floodwaters which have affected thousands of hectares of rice paddies. More than one million people are affected and at least 100,000 people displaced. The floods have destroyed road networks, dams, and other public utilities.

The catastrophe seems to be so powerful. It can damage everything, but can’t defeat the feeling of compassion in the church people of Raksmei. The village of Raksmei is located in Kampong Thom, one of the provinces affected by this calamity. In the midst of the hunger that set in when much of the harvest was destroyed, there seemed at first to be only trouble. But the people of the Methodist Church of Raksmei have turned it into an opportunity for them to demonstrate their faith and real identity as God's children who’ve claimed self-reliance and a commitment to share love with their neighbor.

Demonstrating their self-reliance, everyone in the village starts out trying their best to find food on their own without waiting for outsider assistance like government or other relief agencies. But, despite the lack of food, they do not simply take care of their own family, but also take care of their neighbors who are unable to afford to get food. They share whatever they have, not the excess left from their need. During my recent visit with Mrs. Sophal, CHAD team member, we heard from Mr. Chok Choung, the lay leader of Raksmei church. He let us know that his church members do not ignore or leave somebody within their community to be hungry without food to eat. Obviously, when they realized that 4 families in their church were facing hunger, they collected rice from everybody and shared 13 kg to each family.

More important than helping the hungry families to deal with the immediate need by sharing food to eat, Mr. Chok Choung said that the church members have also helped each other restore their long term needs. Those whose land size is bigger and possible for dry season rice farming shared some small plots of land for the landless families to grow a dry-season rice crop as well.

As Christian leaders willing to serve their church and in the community, Mr. Chok Choung and his pastor always know the real needs of their people. With God given talent, these leaders do not limit themselves to see resources only within the church, but also see the potential resources from other sources. They have developed the ability to build links with other like-minded institutions and to gain support from them. In response to the need of rice seed for the church they went round to visit those agencies, and eventually the government provided them 600kg of rice seed. To make the visits even more productive, these faithful leaders did not only ask for resource support, but also took some time to communicate with the government agency about how the church works to serve poor people as part of helping the government strategy of poverty alleviation. Resulting from this communication, the church obtained high appreciation and recognition from the government. They then came to the church to see and take pictures of the project group and the rice store.

Mr. Chok Choung and Pastor Ing Roeurn, stated confidently that "We don’t render the disaster, but in combination with prayer we will work as hard as we can to recover our living condition." Though at the moment the rice bank members failed to pay back rice loans due this Dec/Jan because of the lost of rice crop affected by flooding, they firmly determined to pay back by this April when they harvest their dry season rice from their shared paddy-fields.

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