Mission in Cambodia

. 2 min read

Lee missionaries Picture4
The entire UMC missionary team in Cambodia.Back row, left to right: Ken Cruz, Clara Biswas, Samuel Om, Andrew Lee. Front row: Helen Carmarce, Marilyn Chan, Esther Gitobu. Photo: Courtesy Methodist Church in Cambodia

By Christie R. House
May 6, 2019 | Atlanta, Ga.

The Rev. Andrew Lee started off his session by describing his journey from being a pastor in Hawaii to a country coordinator for the Methodist Church in Cambodia. Lee was born and raised in South Korea and immigrated to the United States to attend university in Hawaii. After completing his Master of Divinity, he became a clergy member of the California-Pacific Conference, returning to his Hawaiian home as a pastor. He seemed quite surprised by his leap of faith to become a missionary. “I was a pastor in Paradise. Who would leave that?” he asked. The church he last served in Kaneohe doubled its size during his tenure, but with God’s insistence, Lee, his wife Janice and their two daughters found themselves in Phnom Penh.

“Welcome to the country of wonders and surprises!” was how their missionary colleague, Esther Gitobu, greeted the Lees when they arrived in Cambodia. Lee admitted that, at first, his family felt like they had landed in a 1980s Jackie Chan movie. What struck them at first were things like a motorbike transporting six family members, or the speed and chaos of traffic. But in the two years they have lived there, Lee has discovered deeper truths and made more mindful observances.

“Cambodians are special people,” he explained “They show you respect before you’ve earned it, and they offer forgiveness before you’ve asked for it. That is the DNA of the Cambodian people. Many of them are not Christian, but Buddhist. Yet, they are more forgiving, respectful and embracing than Christians in many ways.”

There is room in the Cambodian culture for Christianity, and there are a lot of things to do, he said, so that people may be filled with the wonderous work and love of Jesus. The Cambodian Mission Initiative is an evangelistic outreach of Global Ministries that began in the 1990s and was established officially in 2003 with four other Methodist communities working in Cambodia: the Swiss-French United Methodist Church, now represented by the mission agency Connexio; the Methodist Church in Korea; the Methodist Church in Singapore and the World Federation of Chinese Methodist Churches. The various missions were working separately in Cambodia with groups of refugees, who had discovered Christianity in exile, returning home after the terror of the Pol Pot regime subsided.