STSM HIGHLIGHTS (Part 1 of 7)
Today we launch a brand new seven-part series called STSM Highlights! We’ll be sharing new mission testimonies every week from each of our STSM 2K18 teams as we prepare for our new STSM 2K19 season.
First up is the Cambodia team, featuring Matt Park and Josh Kim! If you want to access the rest of 2K18 Cambodia Team’s testimonies, click here.
Matt Park (Junior, UCI)
God has graciously brought me to and from Cambodia and I cannot thank my supporters enough for helping me see and witness what God was and is and will continue to do in Cambodia.
The day we left, I could not help but feel empty for some reason. I went in to this mission trip with so many questions for God. I left wondering what God was going to do, what I would see, and before I knew it, we were in Phnom Penh.
Cambodia is a beautiful place. Its people are hardworking, intentional, and generous. Sadly, there is also much poverty and brokenness among the land and its people. We saw streets cluttered with trash, KTVs (Karaoke Bars where sex is sold) everywhere, and children working jobs for a daily wage. Cambodia also has a recent dark history. The Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot were responsible for the death of 3 million Cambodians and their goal of eliminating intellectuals drastically set back the country in terms of its education system, government, and general society. While this tragedy occurred in the late 1970’s, its repercussions are still felt to this day. Our team had the chance to go to the Killing Fields in Phnom Penh, and S-21, a school that was turned into a prison for the sake of interrogation purposes. Taking in all that I saw with my own eyes that a photo or fact could never convey, I was left silent and at a loss for words.
The ministries that we worked with are devoted to the Cambodian people caught in these setbacks. We met a missionary contact named Mala who is a pastor of New Life Church, a church with a vision of seeing a church plant in every major city in Cambodia. Him and his staff were selflessly committed to sharing the gospel and making an impact in the areas around the church plants. A handful of people confessed Jesus as their Lord and Savior during our time with them. We also worked with an organization called Precious Women, where we had the amazing privilege of going to these KTV’s and Beer Gardens (restaurants where sex is also sold) to interact with girls working in the industry. Some of these girls were actually working there by choice, simply because of the fact that these women see these jobs as easier money compared to other work that they could find. Our team went with translators and met with girls at different restaurants to buy these girls food. These girls sell themselves mainly for their families, typically the only ones that are working in their families, acting as the sole source of income. To be frank, their situations and stories are heartbreaking and the environments that they are working in are terrible. We were able to do what is out of the norm for them and simply talk to them as regular valued people. The ironic part is that these girls are just normal people, but they are treated and devalued by society. We got to invite them out to a fellowship hosted by Precious Women where they had an orientation of what the ministry offers, such as better resources and chances that encourage them not to turn to these kinds of jobs for money and support.
The second half of the month, we met with missionaries who are focused on the children of Cambodia. Missionary Stanley and his wife Grace are located in Siem Reap and they run TIM, a primary school where kids have the chance to go to a school with the gospel integrated into the curriculum. Children from the nearby village come here, learn English, and learn more about the gospel. Missionary Stanley and his team are dedicated to serving these children with Christ–like love and it is their desire for more of these children to come to know Jesus. Back in Phnom Penh, we worked with ITCS, a seminary with students who strive to learn more about the gospel. They reach out to the nearby villages building relationships with the children and community that have now lasted for over 10 years.
In the midst of all the brokenness and hurt that was visible on the faces of the people we met and the condition of the country, it was easy to question God. To ask him where His love is, where His hope is, what His plan is, or how He is sovereign in this. But God reminded me that in Revelation 7:9-10 it says, “…behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” I went to Cambodia, in response to His call for us in the Great Commission. But I forgot about this truth that is in the Word that one day all nations will come and declare God as Lord.
The fact is that Cambodia has a 2% Christianity rate. The fact is that so many girls are caught in the sex trafficking industry. The fact is that the education system is inadequate and the country is as physically broken as its people are. But the difference between a fact and a truth is this: facts can change, but truth is everlasting. God is sovereign—Lord over everything—and loves these people. He sent His only Son to die on the cross for these people. If anything, the facts in Cambodia will change through the firm belief and execution of these truths. That is what I believe. There is hope in the hopeless. There is love amongst the broken. There is faith that God is stirring up. God’s eyes are on Cambodia and His perfect plan has been unfolding ever since Christ’s death and resurrection.
While I might not have seen the fruit, nor seen any change, nor seen any significant changes through our team being there, God continues to remind me of His truth in His Word. Our team verse, Habakkuk 3:18 states, “…yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” The gospel of salvation reminds me to have joy, reminds me to take heart, and know that God has finished everything 2000 years ago. It reminds me that He has chosen a broken sinner like me to witness the advancement of His gospel and I want to commit to help sending, praying, and mobilizing people to go and witness what God is doing for His people overseas.
Joshua Kim (Junior, UCR)
My initial reason for going on missions was my own selfish ambition. I wanted the mission experience for others to see that I was going to a country overseas to serve God. To share the Gospel to people while in discomfort was the image that I wanted to create for myself and for others to see. In hindsight, to glorify God and serve Him was one of my more insignificant concerns. I was blind to the fact that one of the real problems in Cambodia was the darkness that lingers over the country. Upon arriving to Cambodia, while I did struggle with things such as the humid climate and harsh living conditions, God quickly exposed me to the brokenness—the evil. He showed me how incredibly skewed my heart was towards missions and towards Himself.
During the second week of our trip, our team visited a prison camp (S-21) and the Killing Fields. This was one of the most horrifying and depressing experiences I had in my entire life. Over the course of this period, we learned about the Khmer Rouge, a coup d’état organization that overthrew the existing government and aimed to bring the country back into a peaceful yet primitive state. In order to do so, this organization murdered any intellectual or religious person. At this prison camp and killing field, I witnessed the aftermath of such an event. To look at the photos of the innocent people who lost their lives and have their eyes stare back at my own was something I cannot explain in words. To see different methods and machineries used to torture and kill these people left me in tears and destroyed my heart.
At the end of this portion of the trip, I read one of the Khmer Rouge’s core executioners Kaing Guek Eav (a.k.a Duch) confession to his war crimes. To my surprise, this former leader expressed his guilt and gained a heart of repentance, ultimately turning to Christ for salvation. I started to feel angry towards God. How could He allow such a thing to occur? Considering Cambodia was and still is to this day a heavily Buddhist country, how could God let so many people die and most likely be condemned for eternity but allow one of the most brutal killers in history to earn a seat with Him for eternity? I was confused. I could not see any justice or fairness in such a situation or in God. For the first time since being saved, I questioned my faith. Did I really believe God was good? Did I really believe what He was doing was right? Was my relationship with Christ all that I outwardly said it was?
I wrestled with these questions and with God’s character. After a few days, God responded to all my questions during my quiet times and devotionals. I started to read the book of Habakkuk after it was brought up during team time. As I was reading, I came to the verse which says, “Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told” (Habakkuk 1:5). I was also reminded of Matthew 18:12-13 from sermons back home which says, “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray.”
I was utterly humbled during these moments. How could I challenge God and tell Him—the creator of the universe—what He is doing throughout time is wrong? How could I say that His ways are unfair? During these times, God reminded me that we are all sinners and no matter how small we think our sins are they are still crimes committed against an eternal being and can only be paid through death. It is this very punishment that Christ took on himself. To see that such an evil man, able to return to the Father’s arms in repentance and hope, was enough for the Heavens to rejoice in is something that could only be done by God Himself.
I was reminded of how often I harden my heart towards the severity of my sins against God. I realized how numbed I was to my own darkness. With these realizations, I was able to appreciate the Gospel so much more. I was able to see what sin was through a clearer lens. I could see the immense brokenness that remains in this country. To this day, the people in Cambodia, and the rest of the world, continue to sin, worship false gods, and reject God.
This summer, I signed up thinking that in order to glorify God I had to physically struggle, but I was fortunate enough to realize that I was struggling in my own walk with Christ and with my desire to truly glorify God. Through this mission trip, I have been blessed to find a newly solidified trust in God and a conviction for sanctification. Through this trip I have been blessed to be able to develop a genuine heart for those who have not heard the name of Jesus Christ and do not yet know Him.
Applications for STSM 2K19 will go live on February 17th! #GO