Today’s post is written by Adriaan Overbeeke.
While teaching a marriage seminar at Living Waters Church in Poipet, Cambodia, I was introduced to a distinguished older Cambodian man, Mr. Sary, referred to as the “CAMA man.”
Back in 1979, Mr. Sary had been part of the Khmer Rouge—a political party that systematically killed thousands of Cambodians in what became known as “the killing fields.” When he came down with malaria and several other tropical diseases, fellow Khmer Rouge soldiers took him to the Sakeov Refugee Camp, where CAMA personnel worked.
He was in critical condition, requiring three blood transfusions. Patients on either side of him died, but he held on. During his time at the hospital, he was amazed at the unconditional love shown to him, despite his Khmer Rouge background.
For years, Sary treasured that experience and hoped that one day he might reconnect with CAMA workers. One day, his daughter returned from work and told Sary she heard there were CAMA workers in Battambang. Encouraged by this, he travelled to Battambang to try and find these CAMA people. Unfortunately, the worker was back in the United States for that year. Knowing Sary was disappointed, the overseer tried to refer Sary to other Christian organizations, but Sary was only interested in CAMA because they had loved and helped him decades earlier.
As it happened, he met old Khmer Rouge friends on his trip who told Sary that CAMA was active in the Poipet and Malay areas. They didn’t stop there. They also told him about the God the CAMA people serve. Sary was convinced he had finally found what he had been seeking for so long.
So in 2006, an invitation was extended for Alliance workers, Soeuth and Syna Lao, to come to his village. The Laos, along with 30 people from Living Waters Church, made a three-hour ride over dusty, backbreaking roads to reach the Sampeov Loon village. On that day, Mr. Sary, his wife, and three of their six children became Christ-followers. The love of Christ, shown more than 27 years earlier by CAMA staff in a refugee camp, had produced eternal fruit.
Fast-forward nine years to Poipet in July 2015. Sary had chosen to take a Saturday and spend it with us at Living Waters Church, learning how to build a stronger, deeper marriage in Christ. After the seminar he was on his way to receive a prestigious award for excellence in education within his region. When he learned that I served on the CAMA Board, he was especially excited. Sary still remains deeply committed to the work of CAMA in Cambodia.
He is a “CAMA man” to the core. I came away grateful for the deep love of the Sovereign Lord who used the mercy and compassion of CAMA staff decades earlier, to prepare Mr. Sary to receive Jesus as Savior. May there be many more “CAMA men” and “CAMA women” as we continue to reach out to the lost and the hurting with Christ’s compassionate love.
(Details of Sary’s story are drawn from an April 2007 Alliance Life article written by Syna Lao.)