We are passionate about being deeply engaged with our brothers and sisters in Christ who live in poverty. We are motivated by the disconnection between the Australian church and the church overseas and the desire to see the church in Australia have a deep care, concern, involvement and advocacy for Christians everywhere.
Our desire is to develop and continue a mutually beneficial partnership with a local church network and its communities in Cambodia. We are committed to finding ways to empower, bless and grow our communities in Cambodia and Australia. We want to help with the physical and spiritual needs of these communities but also allow the Khmer people to teach, correct and assist us.
Andong Village, Oddar Meanchey Province
Our connection to these communities is through Pastor Abraham Hang and the communities he supports at Andong Village and in Oddar Meanchey Province (Northern Cambodia).
Andong is a village of about 6000 people about 30km from the CBD of Phnom Penh. The village is predominantly a group of people who were squatting in the city centre before being forcibly removed by the government. They are desperately poor, too far from the city to travel for work. Through our support and the support of other churches in Kangaroo Island and elsewhere Pastor Abraham and the village community have raised enough funds to purchase the land Andong is built on; this means that they are secure from future government expansion and no longer rely on an unreliable renting process. Unfortunately they do not own the land for the school/church and if that money is not raised by November 2019 they will lose the rent agreement to land investors in Phnom Penh. There has also been a development of waste water pipes, clean water and the beginning of stable housing to replace the old slum buildings. All of these projects are still in development.
Abraham is a Khmer Christian who has been ministering to his people for many years now. Abraham has an amazing testimony which would take many pages to tell, but in brief he was born in to a Buddhist family in the time of the Khmer Rouge and was expected to become the next ‘high priest’ (effectively the temple business manager with religious duties) of the local temple. Instead God took him on a long and varied path to eventually becoming a Christian. He then trained with the Evangelical Fellowship of Cambodia (EFC, governing body over 80% of evangelical churches) in their diamond key project. After this training he felt called to minister to the Andong Resettlement Village, and later to widen his ministry to include the northern province of Oddar Meanchey and elsewhere.
Over the years the church has grown and continues to grow as Abraham shares his life with the people and is equipping them to be the people of God in their community. Much of the day to day work in Andong has now been passed on to local leaders whom Abraham has trained up, enabling Abraham to spend his time where he is needed most and has given him the liberty to spend more time with his family. Initially treated with extreme suspicion, Abraham and the Christians are now loved by the people because of the love of Jesus they have shown. Including the almost unwavering support of the Governor and police chief in Oddar Meanchey.
Abraham models a holistic ministry, loving in actions and words, caring for people's spiritual and physical needs, Christian and non-Christian alike. The church members are learning to do the same. They use the church's giving directly back into supporting the Andong community. They frequently take sick people to hospital, paying for their medical expenses and caring from them on their return. In this way they are bringing the gospel to the people in a way which is compelling and tangible.
Schooling in Cambodia
One of the ministries initiated by the church at the beginning of 2008 was a primary school in both ministry centres. This has government accreditation to teach years 1-3. The staff are all from Andong village and the surrounding area and Oddar Meanchey whom Abraham has selected and trained throughout the years in both education and the Bible. Abraham himself used to work for the Ministry of Education. Education, particularly English, is one of the greatest needs in Cambodia and is probably the most significant factor for people to gain sustainable employment. The cost of public schools, let alone private, is beyond the means of the poor in Cambodia, so the primary school is a strategic way for the church to serve the community. We began our partnership with Abraham by supporting the three staff members US$50 each per month, which enabled them to support their family. There are now 37 staff members in Andong and Oddar Meanchey who we continue to support. The teachers in both Andong and Oddar Meanchey are highly committed, often turning down other, higher paying, jobs to serve in the school and some have volunteered their time for 6 months before they were able to be supported. There are a over 1000 students that attend school in Andong and Oddar Meanchey from years 1-12 and over 200 of these are currently in high school.
At the completion of their high schooling, the students have a variety of choices available to them they would never have had if the schools were not there. Some go onto work in various fields such as hospitality and technology and others pursue a tertiary education at universities. Some also hear God’s calling to become pastors at the local churches and go onto Phnom Penh Bible College to complete their chosen ministry courses!