January 7, 2010

Tin Soldiers and Nixon Coming – Chapter 5

Cry of the Gecko

Chapter Five                   Tin Soldiers and Nixon Coming

1969 –Advent of Pro-Western Lon Nol –Some Missionaries Return

Richard Nixon defeated Hubert Humphrey by a slim margin and became President of the United States, and at the time there were 850 thousand American soldiers in Vietnam.  This increase to close to a million during this year.[1]

On December 10, 1969, Prince Sihanouk publicly declared North Vietnam’s war to be a righteous endeavor and sixty days later has FARK (Forces Army Royal Khmer) forces in major engagements against the North Vietnamese. In 1968, the prince had made deals with Ho Chi Minh about gaining independence and Kampuchea Krom back from the Vietnamese. Ho Chi Minh reportedly made such promises only to die and dash Prince Sihanouk’s hopes. Vietnamese leadership following either, knew nothing about or ignored these promises.  Disgruntled with the Vietnamese and their troops deeply embedded in Cambodia, he began to think about using Mike Force, Cambodians trained by Americans in the Mekong Delta (Kampuchea Krom up to Koki Thom and as close as Kean Svay) and Delta Force Recon, Cambodians trained by Americans in Thailand to dislodge the NVA (40,000) and VC which were dug in deep, especially in the provinces east of the Mekong River. These forces were called the Cambodian Freedom Fighters or Khmer Serei. During one of His Majesty’s many trips to China in 1969, he was apparently advised by Chou En Lai to reject that plan and trust in China rather than to look for help from the United States. When Sihanouk returned, he began to fight against the Khmer Serei in Kampuchea Krom, taking their leaders, Priep In, Sou Ngoy, Lav Tech and others to be assassinated along Route Four in Kompong Speu Province. The father of Sam Rainsey, Sam Sary, accused of being Khmer Serei, was allegedly assassinated in Bangkok

After Lon Nol became Cambodia’s Prime Minister, some American missionaries were allowed to return and they were surprised to find how well the Khmer Christians were doing with out them.[2] Churches in the city had grown especially. The city was becoming a venue for a quick spreading gospel as the communist insurgency was disturbing the normally peaceful life in countryside. The city was filling up with people from 600,000 in 1965, 700,000 in 1969 and then almost 3 million in 1975.[3]

Chuck and Sally Keller got acquainted during the summer of 1969 and double dated a few times near the end of the summer. At the end of the summer course they went to Sally’s folks’ home in northeastern Minnesota where Chuck met her family. He returned to Oregon and, through the provisions of a V.A. rehabilitation program, took further courses in French and did student teaching in that language. During that year Sally taught second grade in Ely, Minnesota. Sally came to visit Chuck in Oregon at Christmas break and he went to Minnesota to visit her at spring break. They returned to North Dakota to attend an SIL course the next summer (1970) as an engaged couple and were married that August. They went to Chiapas, Mexico for Jungle Camp, the field-training course for new Wycliffe members at that time.

1970- On the sixth of January 1970, the Prince travels first to France for medical treatment, knowing full well that his power had slipped into the hands of Sirik Matak and Lon Nol. Instead of returning promptly to Cambodia, Sihanouk had traveled onto Rome, Moscow, and Peking, expressing his neutrality toward the war, but wanting the big players to put diplomatic pressure on Vietnam to pull out of Cambodia. Sihanouk had directed Lon Nol to organize violent anti-Vietnamese riots designed to bring pressure on the Vietnamese to withdraw from Cambodia. While in Rome he was presented with new figures of 60,000 North Vietnamese troops in permanent positions in his country, as well as the fact that Vietnamese communists (Khmer Vietminh) were organizing hundreds of villages and Khmer rebel factions to revolt against him. By the end of January, KVM[4] and NVA[5] build up were at critical mass and Americans were pressing the prince to sanction bombings. Receiving even more disturbing news in March, Prince Sihanouk concluded Cambodia was finished.

Meanwhile, on April 30th, President Richard Nixon announced that US troops have made an incursion into Cambodia, a ‘neutral’ sovereign nation to, as he said: “to attack the nerve center of North Vietnamese operations.” His plan was to dislodge the North Vietnamese from their North Eastern Cambodian sanctuaries in Rattanakiri, Mondulkiri, Stung Treng and Kratie Provinces, from which they fought the war in the lower Central Highlands of Vietnam and re-supplied the Viet Cong.

Nixon explained to the American people: “If when the chips are down, the world’s most powerful nation acts like a pitiful helpless giant, the forces of totalitarianism and anarchy will threaten the free nations and free institutions throughout the world.” His invasion of Cambodia fanned the fires of discontent on America’s campuses which resulted in the Kent State fiasco, demonstrations on college campuses, and demonstrations in Washington, DC.

Nixon’s ‘strategic’ push into Cambodia had been successful in light of in light the disruption of the  NVA’s plans to take over Cambodia as the NVA had to regroup and they were not able to recover and organize themselves as well again in those areas. On one hand, Nixon’s illegal maneuvers in Cambodia foiled a near imminent take over of Cambodia by the North Vietnamese, but, on the other hand, anti-war demonstrations in major US cities and on college campuses in response to this illegal invasion erupted with new fervor, cranking up public opinion against the war.. In light of the effect of these two major events on public opinion, Congress enacted a law on June 30th, 1970, which called for all US troops to be pulled out of Cambodia with the exception of a few advisors. The United States continued to provide air support for Lon Nol’s Republic. The United States, between 1969 and 1973, dumped over 500,000 tons of bombs on Vietnamese positions in Cambodia.

On May 4, at Kent State University in Ohio, National Guardsmen shot and killed four student protesters and wounded nine. In response to these killings, over 400 colleges and universities across America shut down. In Washington, close to 100,000 protesters surround government buildings including the White House and historical monuments.

On June 3, the North Vietnamese Army begins a new offensive toward Phnom Penh in Cambodia. The U.S. provides air strikes to prevent the defeat of Lon Nol’s inexperienced troops, and on June 30, with pressure on Congress from the American people concerning Kent State, U.S. troops withdraw from Cambodia.

Cambodia’s First Crusade

In the midst of all the dynamics between the US and Indochina, in April, preceding the return of American missionaries, World Vision President, Dr. Stan Mooneyham embarked on a hazardous journey to bring medical supplies from Saigon over mined roads. He met up with French Alliance missionaries Reverends Jean Jacques Piaget and George Fune, where they engaged in holistic ministry, sharing the gospel tracts, along with the distribution of medical supplies, food, and clothes to war refugees.

During this time C&MA missionaries were returning to Cambodia only to find a healthy church functioning. The two 1/3 full churches in Phnom Penh they left in 1965 were full and overflowing.  Other Christian mission groups were contemplating the plight of Cambodia as it had been making daily news reports for a few years already. The North Vietnamese not only had over 60,000 troops in Cambodia but 200,000 civilians living as workers. Cambodia was now host to FANK[6] (Soldiers of Lon Nol’s Republic), the Khmer Viet Minh, Khmer Rouge, Vietcong, NVA, ARVN, South Korean Forces, and the US military. On March 18th, the Golden Age of modern Cambodia came to an end with an alleged CIA engineered coup d’état that deposed and exiled Prince Norodom Sihanouk.[7] While evidence points to some American intervention leading up to March 18th, a more accurate understanding would be that the posturing and intrigue behind the scenes by Prince Sirik Matak, Lon Nol’s deputy, was the most probable reason for the National Assembly voting to remove Sihanouk as Chief of State, and having him replaced with the President of the Assembly, Cheng Heng (not the Rev. Heng Cheng).

With the advent of Lon Nol’s Republic, Cambodia looked to the United States for help to remove the NVA from Cambodia-which ironically is what both Sihanouk and America wanted.

American C&MA missionaries began to trickle back into Cambodia through Phnom Penh beginning with Gene and Carol Hall, Merle Gravens, the C&MA Director, and Norman and Marie Ens.[8]

During this time, some of the many new converts were finding the Hammond Bible difficult to understand, especially non-believers, so there was talk among some of the C&MA missionaries of looking into doing a new translation, and this work begin to be discussed at length in 1973.

A youthful Yorng Soth began to attend Bethany International Church where Norman Ens was pastoring. Norm and Marie would turn out to be quite influential in his life. Arun Sok Nhep moved back to Romea in Kompong Chhnang from Rattanakiri, where his father had transferred his allegiance as a soldier from FARK[9] to FANK,[10] now coming under the leadership of Lon Nol.

Some time during this year, the Sereptha Church, now called Tumnop Tek Church, was started through the efforts of Pastor Reach Yea, a former Takhmau Bible School graduate and then president of the KEC (Khmer Evangelical Church).  Reach Yea who is now retired in the US state of Massachusetts, had parents who came up through the KEC. He was sent to live in Kratie during the Pol Pot years.

During the seventies, this area had quite a Christian presence and witness. The parents of Pastor Ngov Vorn had land in the Tumnop Tek area that used to house a church. Pastor San Hay Seng, a regular voice on FEBC in those days, also had bought land there, of which he gave a portion to Yorng Soth’s parents, and also Son Sonne, who was director of the Bible Society (Pastor Lav Hourn was a student of Son Sonne). Former Campus Crusade Director, Taing Vek Houng’s family also lived there. There were 30-40 families in the area during the early seventies that met in the house of a pig farmer by the name of ‘Daroeung’ for worship. Yos Oan, a Takhmau Bible school student, helped out with Sereptha in the beginning. He ended up in the refugee camp with John Ellison in Surin, Thailand, and he was repatriated to the US and now lives in the Rochester-Syracuse area. He visits Cambodia on a regular basis.

Many refugees fleeing from the fighting in Kompong Thom (The Battle of Chenla II in Kompong Thom in 1971) resettled in the Tumnop Tek/Bung Tompuon area during the early seventies and the government allowed them to stake out land and apply to the government for title to that land, which was given to those war refugees, some who were Christians.  Since Reach Yea lived in the area, he was able to claim land for believing refugees. In addition, since Bung Tompuon had existing Christians and with the influx of the refugees, some who were Christian, Reach Yea started a church which they called Sereptha. Bethany and Bethlehem Churches, which had many educated and upper-class Cambodian members, were too far for these new Christians to go, especially since in those days it was difficult to ingress or egress that area without a boat. They were poor as well, and felt more comfortable among themselves in their own geographical area. The group, under the leadership of Pastor Reach Yea, built a church building in late ’72 or early ’73, and at the end of 1973, World Vision built a primary school for orphans on their church land. The church building was destroyed during the Khmer Rouge regime but the foundation survived intact.  When Pastor Soth returned from exile in Kompong Thom in 1979, he sold his land east of the old church and bought land north of the old church. His sister, Sa Heng, was in charge of caring for the land during the Pol Pot years.  In 1979, when no one had any money to rebuild the church, they met in Yorng Kosal’s[11] house for worship until early 1983. They had Bible studies in the evenings in Yorng Soth’s house.

In 1981, Pastor Reach Yea fled to the Thai border. Mr. Keo Soeum a Battambang Bible School graduate was left to carry on the work of the church. Keo Soeum passed away in 1987 and Yorng Soth, Yorng Sath, Khiev Vanlong, Yorng Kosal, and Ban Sam Ol, continued to lead the Tumnop Tek church as a group of elders, meeting in homes as Christians did not yet enjoy freedom of religion until 1990. Soth and Kosal were ‘pastor’s helpers,’ helping Pastor Soeum with visitation and evangelism. Yorng Soth, since he worked for the government, was the church’s liaison to the Peoples Republic of Kampuchea. Kosal rode his bicycle all over Phnom Penh making contact with various underground Christian groups during 80’s and evangelizing during the 90’s. When freedom was granted, they began to take offerings for a church building.

Biography of Mrs. Molly Yos

Molly Yos was born in Prey Veng Province, Cambodia, in 1960.  Molly was the ninth child out of a brood of twelve with only two boys among them.  Her father was an official in the Ministry of Agriculture and supervised three provinces.  The family relocated to Phnom Penh in 1967 when he was promoted to Supervisor of Provincial Agriculture. Molly enrolled in Phnom Penh schools where she made friends with a girl by the name of Young Setha, whom they called ‘Eang,’ from Arey Ksach, the village directly across the river from the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh.  Eang and Molly, as young teenagers in 1973, heard about an English class being offered for free.  Phnom Penh, during the sixties and early seventies, was a hub of Southeast Asia and very in touch with pulse of the region and the world as well.  Molly and Eang wanted to be Cambodian teenagers who would not be referred to as “frogs in wells” [MI1] or   (square), so they were very interested in studying English. The classes were offered at the OMF Youth Center near the Olympic Stadium. Molly and Eang found the place and enrolled to study English in their spare time.  There was a schedule posted and they could choose the topic of study from teachers Don Cormack, Alice Compain, Ruth Patterson, Rose Ellen Chancey, Andrew Way and Andrew Butler.  Mr. Triev Sary was the Cambodian in charge.  Both Eang and Molly first studied English from the gospels with Ruth Patterson, and when Rose Ellen Chancey came later, they studied English from the book of Genesis. They both bought English and Khmer Bibles to ensure they understood clearly.

Meanwhile, while Molly was studying English, Molly’s older brother Antipo had come to faith in Christ and was the only one in the family who was a Christian.   Molly herself was not much interested at the time but sure took notice when her uncle beat him badly after he preached the gospel to the whole family. As Molly was learning English from the Bible, Antipo was leading the youth group in Bethany Church.

Molly found the book of Genesis very relevant because it answered many of the questions of life that she had wondered about since she was a small child.  The Buddhist religion has no creation epic, nor does it have a creator God. Molly found that the concept of a God that created her and knew her before she was even born was very comforting.  As Molly studied Genesis, she began to believe in this creator God and His son Jesus bit by bit. In early 1974, she gave her life to Christ.  She began to attend the Bethany church, led by Chhirc Taing (an officer in the army of Lon Nol’s Republic and the older brother of Rev. Taing Vek Houng, formerly of Campus Crusade) and Mien Thien Voan (at that time the Country Director of World Vision).  Both Chhirc and his cousin Voan were most likely martyred.[12]

Molly continued her study of English and the Khmer Bible at the OMF Youth Centre with Triev Sary on weekdays, and faithfully attended Bethany Church on Sundays. During 1974, Molly began to help out at the OMF Youth Centre, organizing the place and learning how to be a Bible study cell group leader.  On Sundays after church, Molly, Rose Ellen Chancey, and her friends from church went out to share the gospel and hand out gospel tracts in the Tumnop Tek area of Phnom Penh, on the southeast rim of the city.  Molly remembers selling tracts and Christian literature at the Olympic stadium when Dr. Stan Mooneyham preached in a large crusade.

Molly brought her younger sisters Sokun and Sotheavy to church with her, but it wasn’t easy convincing her parents to let them tag along.  The fact that Sokun and Sotheary had become sponsor children of World Vision helped ease the concerns of her Buddhist parents who knew World Vision was a Christian organization.  Through Molly bringing them to church, both Sokun and Sotheavy became Christians and learned to work with the children in the church. Their parents even began to transport them back and forth from church activities. Molly’s younger sister Sokun grew up to become a school teacher in the 80s[MI2] , and worked for FEBC [MI3] (Far East Broadcasting Company) in the 90s. She most recently works for World Vision Cambodia as a manager and has a great Christian witness.

In late 1974, Antipo’s sharing his faith with Molly’s two older sisters, Ms. Yos Im Sithan and Miss Yos Sangkany, began to show some fruit.  As Khmer Rouge artillery began to pound the city, these two older sisters gave their lives to Christ.

Treiv Sary, the director and manager of the OMF Youth Centre, realized that he had evangelized and discipled these young people and other churches were using their gifts but not appreciating all his efforts in the process. Also, churches like Bethany and Bethlehem were already so over crowded as more and more refugees arrived in Phnom Penh on a daily basis, so he decided to organize church services at the Youth Centre on Sundays.  Molly and Antipo stayed on at Bethany and helped out with smaller churches like ‘Noah’s Ark Church’, an old abandoned house boat stuck on the western bank of the Mekong. Noah’s Ark was owned by a new believer from Bethlehem Church, and Takhmau Bible college students preached and ran the services there.

Paul Ellison noted that places to worship were incredibly hard to find as refugees kept pouring into Phnom Penh.  One man was looking for a place for worship in ‘Psa Kap Ko’ or the Butcher’s Market when he realized he was the owner of a river steamer that he could no longer risk running up and down the Mekong and the Tonle Sap due to the deteriorating security. He had his steamer shuttled on the bank of the river in a field near ‘Psa Kap Ko.’ The first Sunday, Ellison recalls, the steamer was full of children who had been dismissed to play in the field so that 200 adults could jam themselves into the steamer and listen to the message from a make shift pulpit. Paul, on a visit from the delta, was asked to preach at ‘Noah’s Ark’ Church but could not make it due to a terrible rain storm that almost washed his car away.

The Khmer Rouge were getting close and there was fighting on the outskirts of the city.  Eang, whose village was directly affected by the fighting between FANK[MI4] [13] and the Khmer Rouge, fled to the city and her family bought a house near the Olympic Market. Eang and Molly did everything together after that.  Antipo, Sithan and Sangkany sold vegetables at Dam Tkeov market near the Tumnop Tek area.  In 1974, Molly joined in a large baptism hosted by the Takhmau Bible College. She remembers being encouraged to pray for the salvation of her parents by her youth pastor, Mr. Ngeth Saman.

When Christmas rolled around, they celebrated the holiday with Rose Ellen Chancey and Alice Compain at their home, and also joined with other local churches around Phnom Penh. All the expatriate missionaries who lived in House # 72 were packing their bags, getting ready to leave as it appeared to be only a matter of time before the Khmer Rouge would overrun the city.  Molly’s missionary friends told her to be extremely careful about the Khmer Rouge catching her with English books or even a Khmer Bible.

On April 17th, 1975, the Khmer Rouge entered Phnom Penh and immediately began to execute Lon Nol’s soldiers and others who were a part of Lon Nol’s Republic. Many soldiers buried their uniforms and joined the mass exodus of the citizens of Phnom Penh as the Khmer Rouge began to empty the city.  The citizens of Phnom Penh who were being evacuated to different provinces around the country were to be known as the ‘new people’.  Many of these city people were to be systematically starved or worked to death, or were simply taken away, never to be seen again.

In this mass exodus of over two million people, Molly and her family tried to make their way back to their home village in Prey Veng. They made it to Neak Luong, across the Mekong, and as far as the town of Kompong Trabaek. Further into the countryside, they built a little house of bamboo and palm fronds.  After arriving in Prey Veng Province, most of the family came down with malaria.  During this time when they were all sick at home, Molly’s parents asked her to lead them to Christ.  Among all the family members, Molly and her mother were the sickest, and were taken to a rudimentary KR health clinic. There was no medicine at the clinic and some patients were even taken away to be killed. After a few months, Molly recovered, but her mother’s health deteriorated. Those running the clinic were about to send Molly’s mother back home to die when she slipped into a three day coma.  In her coma she saw hairy demons chasing her and soon became exhausted trying to flee from them. Two women came alongside her, each grabbing an arm, lifting it up, and supporting her. They encouraged her to keep on going.  In the distance she saw a white church. The two women leading her took her past the white church and told her that it was a religious temple.  She saw another church but this one was red like the color of blood and was on the far side of a big ocean. The demons continued to chase her.  They swam but she was able to walk across on the water.  As she arrived on the shore and set her foot on the steps leading into the church, the demons caught up to her.  At that point, she yelled out, “Jesus, help me!” She saw Jesus coming out of the church saying; “I am Jesus Christ and this is Judgment Day.” Upon hearing this, the demons all fled.  Molly’s mother — in the real world — began moving her toe: a sign that she was still alive.

She returned shortly from the clinic in good health. The family began to read the Bible secretly, but soon the situation became more repressive and they buried the Bible for fear of death from the Khmer Rouge.  Even so, Molly’s mother’s faith really began to blossom, but not without testing:  Sotheary, the youngest in the family, suffered terribly for seven days of dengue fever without any medical care.  She died at the end of that week.

Molly herself was forced to plant rice and build paddy dikes in return for her daily bowl of watery gruel with a few kernels of rice in the bottom[MI5] .  When she saw a dog run by, it made her mouth water as she thought about roasted dog meat.  Because of the lack of food and the intense labor, Molly became ill. She had constant diarrhea and quickly became dehydrated and malnourished.  They[MI6] sent her to rest at another rudimentary clinic.

The Khmer Rouge was getting ready to have a mass marriage in Molly’s village.  Her mother insisted that Molly come back from the clinic and take part in this ceremony, thinking that if Molly married someone from the village, she might end up living close by. Molly was not thrilled with this idea at first, but eventually went along with her mother’s wishes and was married to Phat Sopharong in a group marriage ceremony in 1978.  Her sister Yos Im Sithan was married in the same ceremony.

Ten days later, the Khmer Rouge forced the married couples to relocate to Pursat Province in the northwest of Cambodia.  Her mother, father, and sister decided to go too, and walked west all the way to Neak Luong, then were shipped north by truck to Phnom Penh which was totally devoid of people.  From there they took the train north to Pursat. During those difficult times under the Khmer Rouge, Molly’s husband shared what food he had with her, and he carried her things when they were forced to move.  She had a bad infection in her arm and she is convinced that because of his help, she was kept alive and was able to survive the arduous journey.

Her brother Antipo had been missing since they left Phnom Penh, as he was visiting his girlfriend when the Khmer Rouge entered the city. He had been relocated to Battambang city, Cambodia’s second largest urban center in the northwest, close to the border of Thailand.  Molly remembers him recounting that three times the Khmer Rouge rounded him up for execution but all three times the trucks were so filled to capacity that not even one more emaciated person could fit on the truck.  After his third reprieve, Antipo fled to Thailand and joined the former Prime Minister of the 60’s, Son Sanne, and the KPNLF (Free Khmer) to fight against the Khmer Rouge.  He was the accountant for the KPNLF until he was accused of pilfering funds and was sent to the front where he was shot up badly.  He went to a Thai hospital to recover, and then lived with a Thai family until he fully recuperated from his wounds.

1978 was an extremely difficult year for Cambodians in terms of food security, as the Khmer Rouge exported a large percentage of the country’s rice to China and stored the rest in their mountain hide-outs.  Devastating floods also hit Cambodia’s rice bowl that year, wiping out any rice that poor starving Cambodians might depend on.

On Christmas Day, 1978, Vietnamese forces invaded Cambodia after the Khmer Rouge relentlessly attacked and massacred Vietnamese citizens living in Vietnam-especially near the Kampuchea Krom/Mekong Delta area.  By [MI7] January 7th, 1979, Vietnamese troops victoriously entered Phnom Penh and, in the ensuing fighting, pushed the Khmer Rouge leadership into the mountainous region in the northwest corner of the country along the Thai border, where they were safe in their Thai-protected [MI8] border enclaves.

Vietnamese troops allowed Molly and her family to leave Pursat but did not allow them to return to Phnom Penh. They were forced to return to Prey Veng but were fortunately able to go back to the family plot in their home village of the 60s, [MI9] rather than the village where they lived under the Pol Pot regime. It was the time of year for rice harvest, and the fleeing, wounded, black clad Khmer Rouge fighters had set fire to the rice fields, poisoned wells, and destroyed roads and houses. Molly’s family had very little food, so were forced to beg from their neighbors. They worked out an arrangement under which Molly and her family worked long hours plowing and planting in the neighbor’s rice fields, exchanging labor for rice to eat. For that whole year, they had little means for procuring food of any type. Six hundred thousand people died of starvation during the first year of the Vietnamese occupation. Under [MI10] the K-5 program instituted by the Vietnamese/Cambodian government, any Cambodians suspected of not being supporters of the regime were sent to clear jungle and fortify areas against the DK in mountainous regions of Battambang.[14] They were sent to die of malaria.

The new government, called the PRK (Peoples Republic of Kampuchea), led by Heng Samrin, Chea Sim and Hun Sen (all having close ties with the Vietnamese) called Molly’s father back to his government agricultural position and to further studies.  At the end of their first year back on the old homestead in Prey Veng, they all moved back to Phnom Penh and Molly went to work for the Ministry of Agriculture.  Her husband also went to work there and made a lot of new friends who had a bad influence on him. He was soon squandering what little bit of a salary he had on drinking and gambling.  When they had their first child in 1981, he no longer took much interest in Molly, or helping her raise the family.  Molly tried her best to get him to change his ways but she could not, and resigned to take care of her child without his help, depending on her mother and sisters for food and money to help pay the bills.

In the very early eighties Molly met up again with “Eang” (Yorng Setha). Bong Eang was secretly worshipping at the underground Takhmau church and invited Molly to come and join them but Molly’s father said no because it was too dangerous. Molly had had little or no conscious spiritual activity in her life since 1975, but in 1988, after her father began to succumb to the effects of high blood pressure, she went to seek out Eang. Eang brought Molly to her pastor, Seang Ang, who prayed over Molly’s father and anointed him with oil.  He died months after that and went to be with the Lord.

Since the whole family wanted to bury their father according to Christian tradition rather than cremating him as in the Buddhist tradition, they called Pastor Seang Ang back to lead the funeral in July of 1988. They didn’t get permission from the government but went ahead with the funeral anyway. There was an incredible turnout. All the government friends of her father came, as well as friends of Molly, Sithan and the other children. The underground church came out for the first time at this funeral. They all sang, praised and worshipped God.  Many pre–1975 Christians, many of whom came to Christ at the Stan Mooneyham crusades, came to the funeral ceremony. Some attending were Pastor Im Chhorm, Pastor Muth Bunthy, Miss Yorng Setha, Mrs. Ngeth Sambo, Ban Sam Ol, Miss Srey Hem & Hem’s mother, as well as Molly and her family.  Molly remembers the funeral procession being miles long.

An unexpected problem arose: “Where do we bury him?” A Vietnamese/Cambodian Paul Ba, helped contact the Catholic Church, which allowed Molly’s father to be buried in a Catholic Vietnamese cemetery in Kean Svay District, just over the river toward the southeast, off of Route One.

Through the funeral, Molly became aware of other believers who were meeting in other secret locations around town. In 1989 it was estimated that there were no more than two hundred Christians in Phnom Penh.

Molly recounts: “One day not too long after the first public baptism (although done surreptitiously with about fifty believers) took place in the Kantoeut River, west of Phnom Penh, I saw my sister Sithan hold a paper in her hand and she was asking other key Christians to sign the paper[MI11] . She had about ten signatures on what apparently was a petition of some sort. Molly’s sister, at that time was working in the Ministry of Education and was well respected by her colleagues. She submitted that petition to an important man in the government who sent it through the system; it eventually arriving on the desk of the Minister of Cults and Religion.” Fortunately, Sithan had a friend since secondary school that turned out to be the wife of this minister and was able to arrange an audience with him. Molly and her sister met with the man and implored him: “Under this regime we have no right to worship in the tradition of our faith, no place to bury our dead according to our tradition, no rights at all.  This isn’t right.  What can you do for us?”

The three Yos sisters, Molly, Sithan, and Sokun, road their bicycles to the minister’s house every afternoon for a period of over three [MI12] months.  He wanted to learn more about Christianity in order to make a decent and informed presentation of their case to the government.  Each afternoon they sang hymns, worshipped, taught from the Bible and listened to worship songs on cassette.  The minister even borrowed cassettes to listen in his car going back and forth from work.  He asked many questions and they were answered.

During this time, Molly had dreamt that she and her family were running around the nearby Olympic Stadium, shouting joyfully to everyone in hearing distance:  “Bravo Jesus, Bravo!”  She felt God was telling her that they would be given a decisive victory that would break Satan’s strong grip over her beloved land.

Meanwhile, according to Don Cormack, Molly’s father’s funeral had spurred on local Christian leaders to form a provisional church committee which was headed up by Seang Ang and made up of ten members, four of them women[15]. Molly’s sister Yos Im Sithan was on that council. It was June of 1989, and Christians were hopefully anticipating changes in the new state constitution that would be more tolerant toward the Christian expression of faith. During that time the Council of Ministers still forbade the propagating of the Christian faith but did permit Bibles, material items, and Christian literature through Christian NGOs and humanitarian organizations.

While Yos Sithan, Molly, Sokun, and others continued to meet with the minister, [16]the Cambodian church was invited to attend Lausanne II World Conference in the Philippines.  A Cambodian Christian delegation could not attend but they did send a report about their situation, which mobilized those attending to pray fervently for official freedom of religion [MI13] for the Church in Cambodia.

On the last day the sisters met with the minister, he asked them if Christians got involved in politics. Molly explained from Romans 13 that God ordains leaders of a country and Christians are encouraged to submit to and pray for their leaders.  She reassured him that Christians in Cambodia only wanted freedom to worship, not stir up unrest for an already unstable country.  The next day he called them back, quite shaken up about something one of his superiors might [MI14] have said.  He asked them again to explain to him very clearly about the political part. Molly explained once again that Christianity would not intentionally cause problems for the government and that they only wanted freedom to follow their religious tradition legally.  The minister went back to make his second appeal to the government.  The very next Sunday, this Minister of Religion [MI15] made the first public announcement that allowed Christians to worship legally according to the Christian tradition in Cambodia. This took place in during a worship service in Molly’s house which was also the worship place of the Olympic Church. Don Cormack writes, “ten months later, from the date of the Lausanne II World Conference, on April 7th, 1990, the Cambodian government officially announced the formal recognition of the Christian Church. On April 14th, 1990, in the presence of government representatives, 1500 Christians—Catholic and Evangelical, Cambodian and Vietnamese—came together to celebrate their new freedom in Phnom Penh’s largest auditorium.”[17]

The [MI16] government remained wary of Christians; Molly and Sithan were among those followed by spies. Since Sithan was the primary mover and shaker in obtaining freedom for Christianity, the government [MI17] wanted her to keep a tight lid on things to ensure that the church did not ruin its newfound freedom by stirring up trouble. Of course this was impossible to do after Christianity began to grow rapidly, especially with the new influx of missionaries and denominations from all over the world.  It was a Texas-based evangelist, Mike Evans, who whose actions threatened freedom for Christians to worship in Cambodia in early November of 1994 in his ill-conceived Olympic stadium crusade. Many missionaries in Cambodia had advised him not come and lead a crusade, but he came anyway because he thought God told him to. The crusade was a disaster as the advertising promised that everyone who attended would be healed and when that did not happen[MI18] , the church experienced blatant persecution for the first time since it had gained freedom in 1990.

Yos Molly, Yos Im Sithan, Yos Sokun, Yorng Setha (Eang) and Pastor Seang Ang played   primary roles in obtaining freedom for Christianity under Hun Sen’s State of Cambodia.  That freedom has been enjoyed by the Church, Christian Organizations, Christian NGOs, missionaries, and the Cambodian people up until this day.

In October of 1991, as Molly was applying to World Vision International in Cambodia, her husband continued to gamble.  Molly’s application was accepted at World Vision, so she bore the burden of her husband’s gambling and supported her three children with her own salary. On occasion, her husband would attempt to change, but such changes were short lived. He sometimes didn’t come home at night and even gambled away a motorbike or two which Molly bought with her own earnings.  At World Vision she began as a receptionist and inventory clerk but was soon promoted to assist in the Operations Support Unit, then later Staff Development and Spiritual Nurture, two different entities but both under Human Resources. Under the Spiritual Nurture Department she helped create the WVC Holistic Witness Policy Paper, organized pastor fellowships, translated World Vision’s core values into Khmer, led staff Bible studies, coordinated Friday chapel and Tuesday Bible forum, arranged retreats, and was responsible for the orientation of new staff.  In February of 1998, she was transferred to the Kompong Thom operation.  Kompong Thom is a three hour drive directly north of Phnom Penh. In Kompong Thom, Molly led the Spiritual Nurture and Leadership and Staff Development programs. In February of 1999, Molly was promoted to operations manager.  Recently[MI19] , for the sake of her family, she has decided to return to Phnom Penh and take a less demanding position as an ADP [MI20] capacity builder under the senior operations manager, Area Development Programs[MI21] , which began in February of 2002. Through yet another change, Molly is worked in TDI, (Transformation Development Indicators), and even more recently has been promoted to senior operations manager for WVC South Zone that oversees Kandal, Takeo, and Kompong Speu Operations.


Capps, Walter, The Unfinished War. Boston, Beacon Press, 1982

Cormack, Don, Killing Fields, Living Fields. London. Monarch books, 1997

Del Vechhio, John M.  For the Sake of All Living Things, New York, Bantam Books, 1991.

Ellison, Paul, CCS Conference Notes, San Jose, CA. March 1991

Osborne, Milton, Sihanouk, Prince of Light, Prince of Darkness. 1994. Silkworm Books

Penfold, Helen, Remembering Cambodia. Trent. OMF Books, October, 1979.

Yos, Molly, Personal Interviews, Phnom Penh, 1999.

Website: http://vietnamresearch.com/history/vntimeline.html

Written by: Cambodianchristian.Com

Filed Under: Chapter 5, Cry of the Gecko - By Brian Maher

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