Tucked away in the northeast corner of Cambodia near the border of Vietnam, the province of Ratanakiri has become a destination over the last decade for missionaries and Cambodian Christians. Widely considered among the least developed and most impoverished regions in Cambodia, Ratanakiri is home to a diverse group of hill tribes and ethnic groups. Still dealing with the lingering effects of the Vietnam War and the Khmer Rouge, where more than 2 million Cambodians lost their lives, the province has long been an unreached region for the spreading of the Gospel. It is in this setting that we met the twins of Ratanakiri.
Over the last couple of years, missionaries and local Christians began hearing stories about a number of babies in the region being abandoned, trafficked, or killed. One story that caught their attention centered around a local religious belief that involved murdering sets of newborn twins because of their connection to evil spirits. Supposedly a long-standing belief in Ratanakiri, this form of genocide revolved around their fear of curses that would allegedly harm families for years unless the babies were killed.
In response to these tragedies, missionaries and local churches in Cambodia began seeking ways to rescue these children. In the village of Tang Laum, the local church persuaded the parents of twin girls to ignore the religious ritual and to keep the babies. Today, the girls are 16 months old, healthy, and well cared for by their parents. Just as exciting, the parents both received Christ as their personal Savior in March 2013. Through partnership with World Orphans, our in-country partner - Children in Families (CIF), and the care of the local church, the girls will receive proper nutrition and spiritual guidance as they grow up.
Unfortunately, many other crises affect the orphans and vulnerable children of Ratanakiri. False religious beliefs and extreme poverty wreak havoc on the area. For example, it is a common practice within the region to kill newborns in situations where the mother died during the delivery because of the false belief that a curse will infiltrate the family. In other cases, extreme poverty continues to escalate the culture of trafficking, thereby increasing the rate of orphans.
Jesse Blaine, World Orphans Country Director in Cambodia, notes that in spite of the darkness, the local missionaries and small Cambodian church (only 1% of the population) are rising up to respond to the needs of local families. The church is working hard to connect orphans to extended family members, and in some cases reuniting children with their biological parents. The church is playing a key role in follow-up with ongoing visits of encouragement, gospel sharing, and the distribution of resources and supplies. In addition, church members serve families by helping them to develop long-term plans for savings, education, and development. Some church members also serve as emergency caregivers for children while others search for long-term solutions for each child.
Thankfully, as a result of the power of God and the work of His church, many children have been rescued and families have come to the Lord. Although the darkness is real, it continues to amaze us to hear about God’s work in the region of Ratanakiri. We are constantly left in awe at what God is doing there.
Please take time today to pray for our work in Cambodia and for the local missionaries and churches that are rescuing children, strengthening families, and spreading the hope of the Gospel. Pray for Jesse and Sarah Blaine and their two children as they continue to serve World Orphans in hopes of strengthening the local church to care for children in families. And pray that God’s mighty hand will continue to stir up the Gospel in the unreached areas of Ratanakiri and bring more and more families into His loving and caring arms.