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How does someone become the founder of a mission organization like Heart for Cambodia? The short answer is God calls them. The long answer is usually more interesting.


After the Killing Fields

Chiv had never planned to return to his native Cambodia. He had barely escaped that country in one piece. Born in Cambodia, Chiv had a fairly normal childhood until the rise to power of the Khmer Rouge in the early 1970’s. His beautiful country was turned into a land of pain and brutality. The lush, historic country was transformed into a world of point-blank executions, mass graves and crippling fear. Chiv narrowly escaped the Khmer Rouge’s Killing Fields and immigrated to America in 1978 while still in his teens. The rest of his siblings were not that lucky. Some thirty years later he found himself the member of a Methodist church in Carrollton, Texas. As a requirement of membership, the missions-conscious church requested that each of its members go on a short-term mission trip. Chiv arrived at the pastor’s office to sign up for a medical mission trip planned for Guatemala. The pastor was impressed by his enthusiasm. Only one problem: the Guatemala mission trip had just been cancelled. The pastor suddenly began to ask Chiv about his native land. Chiv told him the story of the Killing Fields. The pastor asked Chiv how he would feel about organizing a church mission trip to Cambodia. How he answered would change Chiv’s life.

Adventures in Battambang

Three months later, Chiv and two other men from the Carrollton church found themselves getting off a plane in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. The plan was to tour a clinic that an aquaintance of Chiv’s had recently established. Just as quickly as that mission trip to Guatemala had taken a radically different turn, the Lord upended the team’s plans. Relatives that Chiv had not seen in 30 years showed up at the hotel. The news of Chiv began to spread and a full-fledged family reunion began to fall into place in Battambang, a six-hour drive from Cambodia’s capital. Chiv took this opportunity to share the good news of Christ for some 30 or more relatives. Through Chiv’s testimony several of his family members placed their faith in Christ that very day. The church team spent the remaining time documenting their visit with video and still photography. The day they would leave to return to the U.S., Chiv’s sister looked at her long-lost brother and demanded to know when he would return to her village so they could also hear the transforming message of the grace of Jesus Christ.

A Return Engagement

Upon returning home, the Cambodia mission team reported to the church leadership what the Lord had done. It was clear to the church mission committee that God was calling Chiv back to his native soil. Seeing that the Holy Spirit had opened wide this door, the church encouraged Chiv to return as soon as possible. Just months later Chiv was back in Cambodia with a larger short-term mission team, a tent and a copy of the Jesus Film. The night of the presentation the generator died and Chiv was forced to finish the story of Jesus for the attentive crowd. He told of the message of how the one true God had sent his Son to take on the sins and hurts of a lost, dying world. That night, God used Chiv again to reach his the Khmer people with the message of forgiveness and eternal life. At the end Chiv invited all who wanted to be saved to come forward and be baptized. Some 139 people––nearly the entire village––came to Christ.

Churches Planted

Since that night, Chiv has known that God’s hand is on him in a powerful way. As of early 2024, Heart for Cambodia has 7 active churches. Over 1,600 believers have been baptized. Chiv and Emara spend time discipling and training church leaders by phone, FaceTime, and Zoom from their home in Cambodia, as well as spending a significant amount of time in Cambodia each year, baptizing believers, preaching, and finding ways to help the new believers with agricultural and economic relief. 

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