Wayne Hester serves as an Education Technical Adviser with Samaritan’s Purse Cambodia. Wayne and his wife, Tricia, moved to Phnom Penh with their three boys in 2011.
When they were younger there was always a section on my boys’ report cards giving us an idea of how they were doing socially. “Plays Well With Others” was always at the top of that list. For every child, this is one of the most important life skills they need to learn!
Having been involved in Christian ministry for more than 25 years, I have often heard this same principle taught in the church. Playing or working well with others may not be an exact scriptural quotation, but we have all likely heard, “We want to be a Kingdom church,” or, “We want to work with the whole Body of Christ to see our community transformed.”
I’ve always watched for examples of what that looks like. I don’t mean churches or organizations having special events once or twice a year. I mean really unselfishly giving of themselves, working together in order to see real community-building relationships.
This past month I’ve seen some of the greatest examples of churches and organizations working well together to see their community transformed.
Today I was in a village that is likely the greatest example of working together I’ve ever personally encountered.
Two years ago, I made my first visit to this village in Kampong Chhnang. Samaritan’s Purse worked there with the Seeds of Hope project to assist people trying to build a new life for themselves with pig and chicken programs, vegetable gardening, and wells.
This time I was with a Samaritan’s Purse partner organization working with villagers to build household filters to provide everyone with clean drinking water.
I was shocked as the villagers began telling what has happened over the last two years.
We were introduced to five pastors, all of whom had planted churches in the village. Unfortunately, my first reaction was, “Oh no, why would a village need five churches. Why not just one or two?”
I guess I was expecting the pastors to start competing for attention or start trying to one-up each other with stories. Many times my experience in areas where there are multiple churches is that they fight with one another instead of working together.
But this was different. They all helped with the filter construction. They were laughing, probably at us as they watched these white men work with Cambodian tools. They appeared to truly be friends.
What I realized as I watched them is that they were working together with an entire village, not just to plant churches, but to help people start a new life, both spiritually and physically. They were helping the village become a community.
The village was founded by people who were poor and had no land or possessions. If they didn’t work together there would be no future, especially for their children. It made me begin to think, “Is this what Christian ministry should look like?”
As we talked I casually asked how many people in the village were now Christian. One of the pastors said, “Oh, about 60 percent I guess.” The others looked at each other, said a few words to each other, and then everyone agreed that was about right.
How many pastors in your community could say they have worked with four other ministers to see 60 percent of their community come to Christ in the last two to three years?
To put it in a different perspective, think about this. Cambodia has very few Christians—less than 2 percent of the population. These five churches have worked together to see that miraculously changed in their community.
I guess what Henry Ford said is right: “Coming together is a beginning: keeping together is progress; working together is success.”
And oh yeah, I forgot to mention that the household income of the villagers has increased, people’s health has improved and families are stronger than they’ve ever been before!