God called Peter Kim out of South Korea to go out and help people with leprosy, both physically and spiritually.
Cambodia had one of the largest, unaddressed Leper populations in the world, with many suffering in lonely isolation.
Peter and his wife Ester moved to Stung Treng, Cambodia… a small town in a remote province with no electricity. They trusted that God would provide and direct them. Together with CRAM, Hope Village was built to house and provide medical care to the Lepers.
Leprosy causes deep, open soars … deformed feet and hands… and dryness in eyes that often leads to blindness. Victims are in constant pain. But you would never know it being in Hope Village
Ester and Peter hug the Lepers and they start glowing. Some have not been hugged in decades. They were forced to leave their villages and families to live alone in the jungle or mountains. When you ask them what the worst part of having the disease has been, they will tell you the loneliness.
Most have horrific stories from Khmer Rouge genocide from the late 1970’s. 25% of the population died as a result of an Agrarian Communist overthrow. Anyone who was educated, owned a business, Christian, Buddhist Monk, ethnic minority and even people who wore glasses were murdered. Survivors were relocated to agricultural work camps riddled with disease and starvation.
The oldest resident at Hope Village has the unusual name, Hym. Hym lost 7 children and her husband to the Khmer Rouge. She fled to the Jungle where tigers were a constant threat. Her Grandfather and others she had known were eaten.
While in the Jungle, she contracted Leprosy. The remainder of her life was lived in isolation and hunger until Peter Kim found her. He brought her to Hope Village where she could get medical help and medication that would stop her disease from spreading and make it less contagious.
She says that she would be dead if it weren’t for Peter finding her. She comes to chapel every morning and has discovered a God who loves her. She is an extreme extrovert who is full of Joy and laughter. The residents share a close bond and love. It’s hard to imagine the pain she must have felt during her years of isolation.
As we were leaving she started tickling Ester then eagerly awaited her hugs. I couldn’t help but wonder what life would be like without human touch.
There are many more Lepers that need saving. Some need temporary care to treat their wounds and open sores, others need a safe place where they can live in community with others. All need the love of Jesus, and after treatment, many have led their families to Christ.
I’ve been an unpaid volunteer for CRAM for the last six years and have loved working with them on several agricultural projects like the Leper Village. These projects serve “forgotten” or “hidden” people, whether its severe birth defects, child hunger or Leprosy. They become a “light on a stand” that shows God’s love to the surrounding communities.
Cambodia has a mixture of Buddhism and Communist influenced atheism. This is common for the countries CRAM serves. The “good works” generated from these projects often grants tolerance from local governments that otherwise may have been hostile. It also draws in the local community who are fascinated by this Jesus, whose love is so powerful that it leads others to serve the needy.
In addition to the Leprosy Village, Peter and Ester have built the most impressive Christian School that I’ve ever seen. It has 250 students from grades 1-12. Half live on campus and have their days meticulously planned from early morning until 10:00 pm at night.
The school has a worship service each morning before breakfast and every evening after supper. All students in middle and high school participate. All learn to play worship music on guitar and all regularly give sermons. Each is fully equipped to lead their own ministry by the time they are in 10th grade. Many students want to be Ministers or Missionaries. Others want to be Doctors, Judges and influential Government officials.
The level of education they receive far exceeds the public school system. It’s the only hope these kids have for being admitted into College. They also learn English and Korean, which can open up even more opportunities.
The Sunday worship service is full of parents, siblings, relatives and neighbors who have been led to Christ by the students. They have a rock solid, unshakable faith that will lead thousands of people to Christ in this community.
The better education level alters their future from making $3-$5 a day like their parents to positions of influence and opportunity. Positions where God can use them for change.
God is working miracles in Stung Treng. He’s ending human suffering, creating hundreds of powerful disciples and spreading the gospel through an entire Province. And he’s doing it on a “shoe string” budget. Peter built the four story school building with the help of the students. Now, some of the earliest Stung Treng students are becoming Teachers.
The Principle is a brilliant 24 year old, former student, named Vanda. He speaks three languages perfectly and can teach any subject. He has a strong faith, which led Patricia to re-name him “Timothy”. I was with Timothy after he consoled a Mother whose husband had just died. Her son was a second grade resident at the school. She asked Timothy not to tell the boy that his father had died. After this, another Mother desperately wanted her child to be accepted into the school. Unfortunately, many students have to be turned away, even though the cost to educate them is extremely low. There just aren’t enough funds.
Please pray along with the Stung Treng staff for Missionaries who will volunteer to teach, and for the additional funding needed to reach more Leprosy victims and to educate more student/disciples.