Foreword

The population of Cambodia in 1975 was approximately seven million. In 1979, it was estimated at four million. The Khmer Rouge, through starvation, deprivation, torture and execution had cut Cambodia?s population almost in half.

As I reflect back on my four years with the Khmer Rouge, I am amazed that Samoeun, Wiphousana and I are still alive. Pol Pot?s regime put us through sufferings of every kind, and it was beyond our human capacity to have stood firm in the face of it all.

Many times I still think back on the innumerable sufferings ? hunger, for example. How often I witnessed the agony of those dying by starvation, knowing that it is one of the worst ways for a human being to die. Even death by the gun was more welcome than starvation.

I often remember the deviously strategic use of hunger by the Khmer Rouge to insure their safety from the peoples? insurrection. I remember often being so hungry that I would secretly boil leaves of trees or long blades of grass to try to fill my stomach. And more than once I heard the last words of someone dying form starvation, ?If I have rice, I will not die! Just give me one bowl and I will live!? The drying?s last thoughts were not of family and friends ? only of the wish for one life-saving bowl of rice.

I often think back, too, on the never-ending fear which was characteristic of Khmer Rouge existence. We worked hard day and night, and yet we could never please the Khmer Rouge. For us to live from day to fly free. We never had a guarantee that any given day wouldn?t bring death by execution. There was never a rest from wariness.

Samoeun and I, of all the people, were most qualified to have been killed. We could have been put to death for any one of six reasons. We were Christians. We were college graduated. We had worked for an American organization. We were from a large urban area. We had travelled out of the country before the fall. My brother, Chhirc, was a major in the deposed Lon Nol army. But we are alive today against all odds, and we feel this is our ?second life.?

During our four years in Cambodia, we learned many lessons. Some of these things we learned intellectually in the Campus Crusade training centre in Manila, Philippines a year before the Khmer Rouge took over in Cambodia. But during the Khmer Rouge?s rule, we learned these lessons in our experience. Six lessons among many stand out from this time.

Most dramatically I learned of the value of life and possessions on April 17, 1975, when the Khmer Rouge invaded Phnom Penh, and within 48 hours Samoeun and I owned nothing but the clothes on our backs and the few possessions we had stuffed in our car. Eventually, of course, we lost the car and its contents, and later on my watch and wedding band. Rarely, during our four years did Samoeun and I even have shoes for our feet. Money became useless. As Cambodia?s factories and industries were laid to waste by the Khmer Rouge, and shops and markets were snuffed out of existence, currency lost its value, bringing to a halt, within a few days, an entire nation?s economy.

Life itself became meaningless to Pol Pot?s communist ? April 17 also bearing proof of this when thousands of hospital patients perished along the roads leading out of Phnom Penh as the Khmer Rouge?s mad scheme for ushering in a new society was mercilessly put into effect.

Our lives were considered ever lower than animal life; sometimes Khmer Rouge soldiers would tell us than, when a cow died, they were very sorry, because it could no longer work the land. But if one of us died, in their eyes it was neither a gain nor a loss.

For many people under the vise of Khmer Rouge control, life eventually lost its value personally, and suicide became their only escape route. It was difficult in that environment to keep caring about oneself. Self-esteem was lost because of the total lack of provisions for maintaining personal bodily cleanliness and because of the pressures of accusations and fears of death.

I also learned through my four years with the Khmer Rouge to live by faith. I learned that I must let God lead me step by step, placing my complete trust in His character of unspeakable love and goodness. Time and again, He proved to me that He is motivated in all things by love for me and is able to turn every situation into something that will glorify His name and help me become more like His Son, Jesus Christ.

I learned not to place pride or full confidence in my abilities to figure out solutions to the many problems we encountered. As God led us from village to village, there was no way I could have known the prefect timing of each move and of each circumstance surrounding those moves.

I learned not to worry about food and clothes. I remember reading Christ?s words in Matthew 6, ?Do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on. Is not life more than food and the body clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?? During my time in jungles of Cambodia, I experienced the truth of these words.

God provided new clothes for us when we needed them, through Kheang?s family in Norea, for instance. And though I did not have proper vitamins during the four years with Khmer Rouge, not did I once have meat ? and vegetables only rarely ? God gave me enough nutrients to generally keep mi in good heath and maintain my physical strength.

Finally, I learned simply to rest in God?s plan. Many of the sufferings and obstacles I encountered, both physical and spiritual, caused me much fear. When I met those hard things, I often prayed, ?Oh, Lord, I decided to live in Cambodia to serve You. I suffer much for the communists but not for You. Why do You want me to have it like this? Why, God, why??

Then God would restore peace to my heart as I remembered that my life is in His hands. He promised He would let me know His plan for my life step by step. As I look back and realize how He brought me into a place of liberty and freedom, I know that He never once lost control of my life or circumstances.

Finally, I am painfully aware of the explosive state of the world today, and that the time may be drawing short for people to consider spiritual things. Had I not known Christ, and had I not been focused on spiritual values, I would have been left without hope or purpose during the four years I wandered in the jungles of Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge.

Samoeun and I have decided that we are fully committed to doing God?s will in the future, even if it should entail further suffering. Anywhere He wants to send us we will go. We are ready to return to Cambodia to serve our Lord Jesus if the doors are opened once again for us to share our faith in Christ there. Now, as we reside in the United States, we want to continue carrying the message of Christ?s love to others, especially to the thousands of Southeast Asian refugees like us being resettled here.

There is a song we learned from our Campus Crusade training time in Manila. Samoeun and I often sang it softly to ourselves as we worked in the fields. The first line says, ?This world is not my home...?I pray that I will not forget the things God taught me through the Khmer Rouge?s Cambodia, especially that His eternal values are all that will last in this life.