Bishop Warner H. Brown, Jr. will lead a California-Nevada Annual Conference leadership delegation in a visit to Cambodia February 20-27. The trip stems from a resolution passed at the last Annual Conference Session to explore a Conference mission emphasis on Cambodia.
The delegation will visit General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) missionaries and Advance projects in Cambodia, and seek to identify needs and priorities that match interests and resources of the Conference. The group will consider, in the words of Dr. James Gulley, senior GBGM Cambodia consultant, three doors to mission: Personnel (GBGM missionaries); Programs (designated by The Advance), and Participation (United Methodist Volunteers in Mission, or UMVIM, trips). Dr. Gulley will be present in Cambodia to assist the delegation during its visit.
Three of the nine GBGM missionaries in Cambodia are from California-Nevada: the Rev. Joseph Chan, Marilyn Chan, and Katherine Parker. Rev. Chan works in church planting, Marilyn Chan in women's empowerment, and Katherine Parker in community health and agricultural development. The Rev. Samuel Vorn, who is the national head of the Cambodian-American caucus, also is from of the California-Nevada Annual Conference.
The delegation has room for a few more people to join. If you're interested in being a part of it, contact Laddie Perez-Galang or Howard Parker, UMVIM co-leaders for the visit. The cost currently is estimated at $1839, double occupancy.
Cambodia Consultation held in Louisiana in September
At a GBGM-sponsored Cambodia Consultation, September 17-19 at St. Matthew's United Methodist Church in Metairie, Louisiana (which Cal-Nev representatives attended), the Rev. Dr. Romeo del Rosario, GBGM's country director for Cambodia, reported that the Cambodian church held its first Annual Conference Session in August. He highlighted statistics which indicate growth and progress toward the church's anticipated autonomy in 2016. By then, it's hoped the church no longer will be a mission conference, and will have its own indigenous bishop.
"Of the 10 district superintendents serving in Cambodia, six are now Khmer (ethnic natives)," he said. There are currently 12 elders and 19 deacons serving the Cambodian church, and a "long line of pastors in training," according to del Rosario, who said that candidates must be at least 18 years old and have finished high school.
"Something's astir in the field. The church in Cambodia has a distinctive witness to bear to the world," Bishop Roy Sano, the United Methodist bishop with responsibility for Cambodia, said during the Cambodia Consultation. "In August, after Cambodia's first annual conference as a mission conference, I kept thinking of the apostles. I imagined them going back to Jerusalem after the first council, celebrating the great things God was doing through them," he added.
"Of the 16 million people in Cambodia, 70 percent are under 30. Worship services are led primarily by young people, and the churches are filled with young people," del Rosario said, lifting up the need for continued leadership development for these passionate United Methodists. He explained that the scarcity of older Cambodians today is due to the practices of the Pol Pot regime during the 1970s, when murder and privation nearly wiped out an entire generation. "Anyone wearing glasses was at risk, because if you had glasses that meant you were educated. Lawyers, doctors, teachers … they were murdered. The regime wanted these people eliminated because they were seen as a threat to those in power," he said.
Restoration began in late 1970s
In 1979, humanitarian efforts began to aid in restoration of the devastated country. "The United Methodist Committee on Relief began reconstruction work in 1980, and the Women's Division began its support of mission work in Cambodia in 1983," del Rosario said.
At the Consultation, the Rev. Jong Sung Kim, director of the Office of Mission Initiatives for GBGM, gave a brief history of GBGM's involvement in Cambodia, explaining the work done through the Evangelism and Church Growth arm of the Office of Mission Initiatives.
"In the 1990s, Global Ministries, through mission initiatives, began the process of being present in countries where no United Methodist ministry existed. The initiatives were designed to be proactive in making disciples of Jesus Christ throughout the world," he said.
To date, there are officially 13 mission initiatives in 18 countries across the globe, and Cambodia is one of them. Kim said it also is among the earliest and the largest of these initiatives, with, currently, 143 United Methodist churches.
Every local church must meet certain criteria, Kim said, noting that there must be at least 30 members to achieve church status.
The next Cambodia Consultation is scheduled for spring 2011. It will be hosted by the California-Nevada Annual Conference.