Feature

Nothing by Chance

How Srey Moum just happened to find Jesus

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Every Thursday, my husband, Soeuth; fellow worker Kandi Lay and I brave the five-hour round-trip to Boeng Beng in the Malay district on one of the worst roads in Cambodia. During rainy season, when the roads are at their worst, we try to ask the taxi drivers about travel conditions on Wednesday nights. If the roads are bad, we then have to decide whether to cancel the classes and disappoint our students, or take the trip and risk getting stuck in deep mud along the way.

Despite the loathsome road conditions, one of the many rewards for teaching discipleship classes in that district is that we get to hear all the wonderful news of God working in the students’ lives.

We met Srey Moum, the mother of eight children (ages 14 to 28), a financially secure and well-respected woman in her community, one Thursday morning after we made it safely through the muddy roads to Boeng Beng. As we were being cheerfully greeted by everyone, we noticed one new smiling face. The middle-aged woman bravely introduced herself and asked to join our fellowship. We invited her to tell us about herself and how she came about finding us here.

Last summer, feeling overwhelmed by the struggle of being a single mom dealing with several rebellious children, Srey Moum, 49, decided to become a Buddhist nun. But before she could enter the local monastery, there was some business she had to take care of in order to make life a bit easier for her other children.

As part of her plan, Srey Moum went to Phnom Penh to get some money back from a relative who had borrowed a large part of her savings. It just happened that a Khmer-American lady, an old childhood friend, was visiting the city that week and staying in a nearby guesthouse. Srey Moum rushed to meet her, thrilled at the chance of being reunited. Both ladies soon began telling each other about their life journeys apart. Srey Moum even spent the night in her friend’s room.

The next day was Sunday. Srey Moum’s friend told her she was going to church and would be back later that morning. It just happened that Srey Mom didn’t have any other plan for the day.

“What is a church?” she asked. “Can I go?”

Not knowing what to expect, Srey Moum sat quietly near her friend during the service, afraid to ask any question that would draw attention to herself. At the same time, she was curious about everything she saw and heard. She watched with great interest and heard new music being sung by individuals and groups, all praising this unknown Person, Preah Yeasue Kris (Jesus Christ). And then . . .

“A man came up to the front and spoke more about this God, Jesus. He said that this Jesus could calm any storm of life! And as soon as I heard that, I sat up straight and listened carefully to everything he had to say. He said that everyone has all kinds of problems in life, some from our doing and others caused by someone close to us. I know the trouble my children have been giving me. And when that man described these other problems, I felt that he was talking about me!”

Srey Moum was fascinated. She thought, How can this be happening? For sure, I have never met this man before! How can he know so much about me?

The pastor then emphasized that people often tried to find answers to problems through religious acts, giving to charities or doing other good deeds. Worse, others turned to drugs or alcohol, gambling or other kinds of evil. “But,” the man said, “the only way to find peace is through believing in Jesus and trusting all our problems to Him.”

Can I truly find peace in Jesus? Srey Moum asked herself. Can this Lord Jesus truly calm my very own storm of life? If He can, I want to believe in Him as well.”

After the service, Srey Moum asked her friend if she could be part of Jesus’ family. The woman took her to the pastor. “And I thwai kloun [gave my life] to Jesus to Christ on that Sunday morning!”

Her friend went back to America, but Srey Moum remained at her relative’s home in Phnom Penh for the next four months, attending church every week and joining its small groups and weekly women’s Bible studies. She learned more about God each day and was baptized.

Now that she had found peace in Jesus, Srey Moum felt led to return to Malay to share this good news with her children. After being absent from her home and community for so long, however, her neighbors and friends were curious. “Where have you been?” they asked. “Why were you there for so long? And what made you come back?”

Srey Moum, the owner of small money-exchange shop beside the Malay Market, took these questions as great opportunities to share about her life journey during the four months that she was away. Most of all, she found great joy in telling people about her new faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Word spread quickly, and soon everyone in the Malay Market had heard about Srey Moum’s amazing discovery. They noticed the dramatic changes in her face (more smiles), her attitude (very pleasant to talk to) and the way she related to others (accepting everyone). She was different! And no matter what problems some of her children continued to give her, Srey Moum remained calm and was not easily angered.

After sharing her story with others, Srey Moum began to ask around to try to find a body of believers nearby. A motorbike driver listening to her story knew about the “Jesus people” meeting weekly in Beong Beng and was gladly willing to take her to the group. Thus began our first encounter with Srey Moum.

True to her word about joining the fellowship, Srey Moum immediately enrolled in one of the discipleship classes, Abundant Life, that just happened to be starting on the Thursday she introduced herself to us. This class is a 19-week course with step-by-step lesson plans designed to strengthen new believers in their spiritual journeys. Each week, students are required to complete a lesson, answer quiz questions and memorize one Bible verse. But in her excitement for studying the Word, Srey Moum had completed all 19 lessons and had all the Bible verses memorized by the sixth week! She continues to lead others to Christ, including six of her eight children, four grandchildren and a number of friends and neighbors. She even witnesses to the many customers who come to her shop.

Although the Beong Beng house church is ready for a Sunday service, because of our lack of personnel we could not send a leader to help. Instead, we decided to have all-day discipleship classes followed by a church service late in the evening. We encouraged the believers to worship together on Thursday. Srey Mom, however, insisted on worshiping God on Sundays as well. When she learned that we have regular Sunday services at the Poipet Alliance church, she asked if she could come. We urged her to visit, thinking that she might not continue coming since the trip is a long one, in addition to the extra expense for the taxi. But she makes the journey faithfully each week, even bringing her children, grandchildren, friends and neighbors.

Seeing the need, she started a small group that meets at her house every day. We often chuckle when we receive evening phone calls from Srey Moum asking one of us to sing her a song from the Khmer hymnal. As we sing the requested song into the phone, she repeats the same tune to her eagerly waiting small group.
During the Christmas Eve service, at the request of the church leaders, Srey Moum gave her personal testimony to a crowd of more than 600 people. Many were deeply moved and inspired by God’s amazing work through her life. Srey Moum continues to passionately share Christ with those who come to her. At her shop, she often encounters people facing the same struggles she was—and is—experiencing. But she is quick to refer them to the source of her hope—Jesus. God is using Srey Moum tremendously, drawing many to Him, especially those with life experiences similar to Srey Moum’s.

Last summer Srey Moum went to Phnom Penh for financial help but found the greatest treasure instead—the gift of life. In the midst of trouble she found the peace of Jesus that soothes all of her life problems. Srey Moum still has many struggles, but she is learning to cast all her cares upon Jesus and to trust in the promised words of Scripture that she has memorized.

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