Feature

A Legacy of Missions

In The Presence of Light

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During a short-term missions trip to the Eastern province of Cambodia in 2003, I had the joy of meeting several older Christians of the Bunong tribe in Mondulkiri. “When did you become Christian?” I asked. “Where and through whom?” Each one gave me the same answer: in the early 1970s in Banmethout, Vietnam, through the ministry of Rev. Richard Phillips, a C&MA international worker serving with his wife, Lillian, among the Bunong (Mnong) tribe.

During the final stages of the Vietnam War, hundreds of Bunong people living in the Mondulkiri province crossed into Vietnam to avoid U.S. bombings along the Ho Chi Minh Trail between Cambodia and Vietnam. Across the border, they sought refuge among their own Bunong tribe in Banmethout. Shortly after they got settled, they received the gospel through Rev. Phillips, who spoke the Bunong language fluently. Banmethout was overrun by North Vietnamese soldiers in 1975, and seven C&MA missionaries were captured, among them Richard and Lillian Phillips. The Phillipses never knew the fate of the Bunong Christians, especially those who came from Cambodia [see alife, September 1, 2011].

In 1980, after fighting in Vietnam and Cambodia ceased, the Bunong believers returned to their homeland in Mondulkiri and rebuilt their lives. In addition, they began to cut trees in the forest to construct a church building in which to worship God. At the same time they began to spread the gospel among their tribe, which had not heard about Jesus, the Savior of the world. When the Bunong people become Christians, they are no longer afraid of the spirits their fellow tribespeople have worshipped for centuries. Not only do they leave animism, but also they change the way they live and dress, for most of them did not wear clothes when they lived in the jungle.

Because the road between Phnom Penh and Mondulkiri (nearly 220 miles) was not secure, the national C&MA Church (KEC) and the C&MA mission did not have access to the Bunong believers until the early 1990s. After the initial contact, the Bunong believers were excited about joining KEC and the C&MA mission as part of the national church Body.

Through this connection, KEC and Alliance international workers have assisted the Bunong churches to train workers for children and youth ministry and to develop leaders and church planters among the 60,000 Bunong in Mondulkiri. Because the culture of the Bunong tribe is different from that of the dominant Khmer, the KEC has appointed Rev. and Mrs. Sothea Prom, a Khmer couple, to train Bunong pastors, church leaders and youth and children’s workers for further growth of the Bunong churches. The Proms studied the Bunong language and culture for two years in order to train the Bunong with resources that are available only in the Khmer language.

Thus far, the KEC Bunong believers have planted 15 churches that serve nearly a thousand believers. A combined baptism service is held several times a year.

In June 2011, Rev. Srem Sear, a Bunong pastor, took his wife to Phnom Penh for medical treatment. During the Sunday service at an Alliance church there, Rev. and Mrs. Sear sang a duet in the Bunong language. As I introduced the couple to Rev. Richard Herring, director for the C&MA’s Asia and Pacific Region, Rev. Sear held in his hands the hymnal that Rev. Phillips translated into the Bunong language, along with the Bunong Bible. Pastor Sear was among those who came to know Christ through the Phillipses when he and his family crossed into Vietnam for safety. Rev. Sear has planted five Bunong congregations in Mondulkiri.

When Richard Phillips sowed the gospel among the Bunong people in Banmethout, he did it by faith, believing that the Holy Spirit would grow and multiply the seed. Today, the Bu Sra congregation in Mondulkiri province is perhaps the largest congregation of the KEC, with 300 worshippers each Sunday. What a legacy in missions!

Forty more tribes in Cambodia need the gospel. Please pray that the KEC National Church Committee, whose leaders come from the dominant culture, will be sensitive to the needs of the minority cultures so that all tribes in Cambodia will have opportunity to hear the gospel before the glorious coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2011 Be Light Christmas Offereing


The Great Commission Fund enables our team to be here for the long haul to bring the light of the gospel to the peoples of Cambodia. Your investment in prayer and sacrificial giving is making an eternal impact for Christ in this land. We cannot do this without you. Bringing the gospel to the unreached of the earth truly requires a partnership between the sent ones and the ones who send.

Your support for the Great Commission Fund can be given through your local Alliance church, online at www.cmalliance.org/give or by using the envelope in the center of this magazine. Thank you for your ongoing partnership.

—David Manfred

Past Alliance Life Issues

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