|Cambodia Consultation 2009|
By Betty Backstrom
New York, NY, October 5, 2009--Bishop Roy Sano believes that God is moving through the people of the United Methodist Church in Cambodia.
"Something's astir in the field. The church in Cambodia has a distinctive witness to bear to the world," said Bishop Sano during the Cambodian Consultation held September 17-19 at St. Matthew's United Methodist Church in Metairie, Louisiana.
The vibrant and successful inter-Methodist mission in Cambodia was the focus of the consultation, which featured presentations from Bishop Sano, Episcopal leader of the United Methodist Church in Cambodia; Rev. Dr. Romeo del Rosario, country director of the United Methodist Mission in Cambodia; and Rev. Jong Sung Kim, director of the Office of Mission Initiatives for the General Board of Global Ministries.
Volunteers in Mission (VIM) representatives from a total of 11 states, plus Puerto Rico, were in attendance. Participants in the consultation were able to network with Global Ministries missionaries currently serving in Cambodia. Roundtables on Christian education, ministry with children and families, community health, agricultural development, youth ministry, and church partnerships were held on Friday afternoon.
Archie Corder, who has served in a Louisiana VIM team in Cambodia and who is a member of St. Matthew's UMC, was excited to see so many conferences represented at the consultation. "This is a wonderful opportunity to promote sharing among volunteers and to strengthen our dedication to service in Cambodia," said Corder, who mentioned that the Louisiana Conference has three teams headed for Cambodia in 2010.
Bishop Sano applauded the conferences for the teams that have gone and those that are forming for future missions. "Another way to encourage participation is by inviting conference units such as United Methodist Men, United Methodist Women, and United Methodist Youth to form teams," he added.
Rev. Larry Norman, director of Louisiana Volunteers in Mission, announced that one of the 2010 teams from Louisiana is a group of United Methodist Men who hope to work with Cambodian men on leadership development and parenting.
Rev. del Rosario announced that the Cambodian church held its first annual conference in August and highlighted several statistics that indicate growth and progress toward the church's autonomy. "Of the 10 district superintendents serving in Cambodia, six are Khmer (ethnic natives). By 2016, it is hoped that the conference will be fully autonomous, with a native Cambodian bishop," he added.
There are currently 12 elders and 19 deacons serving the Cambodian church and a "long line of pastors in training," according to the country director, who explained that candidates must be 18 years or older and must have finished high school.
"Of the 16 million people in Cambodia, 70 percent of them are 30 years old or younger," said Rev. del Rosario. "Worship services are led primarily by young people, and the churches are filled with young people," he said, lifting up the need for continued leadership development for these passionate United Methodists.
The low numbers of older Cambodians today is due to the murderous practices of the Khmer Rouge during the 1970s, when widespread genocide wiped out a whole generation of people in the country. "Anyone wearing glasses was killed, because if you had glasses that meant you were educated. Lawyers, doctors, teachers…they were all murdered. The Khmer Rouge wanted these people eliminated because they were seen as a threat to their power," said Rev. del Rosario.
In 1979 humanitarian efforts began the restoration of the devastated country. "The United Methodist Committee on Relief began reconstruction work in 1980, and the Women's Division began their support of mission work in Cambodia in 1983," he added.
Rev. Kim gave a brief history of the General Board of Global Ministries' involvement in Cambodia by explaining the work done through the Evangelism and Church Growth area of the Office of Mission Initiatives. "In the 1990s, Global Ministries, through mission initiatives, began the process of being present in countries where no United Methodist ministry existed. The initiative was the path to take a proactive stand to fill the church's mandate of making disciples for Jesus Christ throughout the world."
To date, there are officially 13 mission initiatives in 18 countries across the globe. "Cambodia is one of them, and is among the earliest and the largest of these initiatives," said Rev. Kim.
Rev. Kim pointed out that there are currently 143 United Methodist churches in Cambodia. "Every local church must meet certain criteria," said Rev. Kim, pointing out that there must be at least 30 members to achieve that status.
As the United Methodist Church grows in this Southeast Asian country, missionaries and church leaders are keenly aware of their role in local communities. "Everything we do is ultimately for the people around us. Children's ministries, job training, outreach…these things are not just for those within the church. We always seek to improve the community at large," said Rev. Kim.
Bishop Sano echoed these sentiments by referencing the early church in its efforts to spread the gospel and to change as many lives as possible. "In August, after Cambodia's first annual conference as a mission conference, I kept thinking of the apostles. I imagined them going back to Jerusalem after the first council, celebrating the great things God was doing through them."
Betty Backstrom is the Communications Specialist of the Louisiana Conference.
Date posted: Oct 05, 2009