By MARK KELLY, Baptist Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) – God has blessed Baptist work in Cambodia – with 304 churches started since 1993 – but partnership is needed for the work to move forward, the president of Cambodia’s Baptist Union said.
Nivath Nhem, who was re-elected in 2010 for a second five-year term as president of the Cambodia Baptist Union, traveled to the United States in August to explore prospects for church-to-church partnerships that would help advance a visionary plan to start 1,621 new congregations in next five years. He was hosted by Albert W. Wardin Jr., emeritus professor of history at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn.
“We want to see every person in Cambodia accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord,” Nhem told Baptist Press in a mid-August interview. “The goal of the Cambodia Baptist Union is to reach Cambodia with the Gospel of Jesus Christ by planting churches throughout Cambodia.”
Nhem led Cambodia’s congregations to set a goal of reaching all 13,871 villages in the country and has challenged each church to reach that goal by starting a new church each year. He also has led them to establish goals of expanding the union’s program of pastor training and starting general education schools for the nation’s children.
“We need partners if the work is going to move forward,” Nhem said. “We know these goals are inspiration from the Lord. There is openness to the Gospel in our country right now. We cannot delay because the door may close at any time. We must take advantage of this openness, but we need partners to do that.”
Like neighboring Vietnam and Laos, Cambodia has a communist government and is traditionally Buddhist, but right now Cambodia is the country that is more open, Nhem said.
“Cambodia is more soft than hard,” Nhem said. “The people are more open to the Gospel. There are some restrictions on our work, but the Baptist union is recognized by the government.”
Thavy Nhem, a believer who is a member of Cambodia’s parliament, helped start Baptist work in the country and still is an adviser to the Baptist union, which was organized in 1995.
The union has had a strong emphasis on church planting since its inception, and now has churches in 17 provinces of the country’s 24 provinces. Its 304 congregations have 13,238 members, and 50 of them have permanent facilities.
The union operates pastor training schools in the capital, Phnom Penh, and two provinces, and wants to expand the training to five provinces in the next five years.
“We want to see the church grow and be established all over Cambodia. We want to see believers and churches be a blessing for Cambodia,” Nhem said. “Our mission is for Cambodia to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God, that He is salvation when people accept Him as their Lord and Savior.
“If anyone feels led by the Spirit of God,” Nhem said, “we invite them to partner with us.”
In the meantime, Nhem requested prayer for the Baptist union’s plans in starting churches and schools, and that they would be able to establish the physical facilities needed for progress. He also requested prayer for adequate finances and for the Lord to lead congregations into five-year church-to-church partnerships.