Loving the enemy

Hoeun Lao was enslaved in one of the labor camps that would later be known as the Killing Fields. Here, Khmer Rouge guards savagely murdered thousands of prisoners, ordered to dig their own graves.

When the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia in 1979, the Khmer Rouge fled north to continue a resistance movement from the jungles. It lasted until 1999, when the remaining leaders surrendered. Today most of the surviving leaders, hated by society, are hiding in jungle regions.

In early 1979, Hoeun, along with 1 million others, returned to Phnom Penh hoping to find work and food. The Vietnamese outlawed Christianity, so Hoeun remained quiet about his faith, not even telling his wife, when he married in 1980.

Hoeun knew of underground churches in existence throughout the country, but chose to remain silent about his faith because of his job-until 1990, when the government made Christianity legal, if only on paper.

Christians immediately announced their presence. Hoeun began openly preaching to everyone he encountered. His family and all the drivers in the Ministry of Commerce accepted Christ as Savior.

The many Christian organizations that appeared in 1990 from outside the country, engaged only in humanitarian activity, as proselytizing was strictly forbidden. But that year, Hoeun learned of a new missionary who planned to return to the country to preach Christ.

This new missionary was Setan Lee, a native Cambodian. He had been enslaved in a slave labor camp, but managed to escape. Now he was back.

In 1995 Setan started Kampuchea for Christ. Hoeun was one of a small handful to join him.

The group had no funding, and only a small unfurnished room given them by another ministry. Setan, who slept on the floor of the room, paid his staff a meager monthly stipend.

Meanwhile, Setan was discovered by Christian Aid, which began sending support. Within a few months, the staff was able to rent a larger facility and establish their ministry training center in Battambang, the second largest city in Cambodia. Hoeun became director. In two years KFC had 38 missionary graduates, who planted 48 churches.

And despite all odds, seven of these churches were planted among former Khmer Rouge soldiers hiding in the jungles of Anlong Veng, rife with disease, bandits and landmines. In 2001 Setan bravely approached a former Khmer Rouge general and led him to Christ. In return, the general ushered Setan through the infamous jungles, calling out the names of children, who crawled out from behind the dense tangle of leaves. They were the orphans of deceased Khmer Rouge soldiers. Approximately 300 of them were left to fend for themselves in this hostile environment.

The Future of KFC

With help from Christian Aid, the ministry continues to provide poor communities with medical attention, food and water. Each well carries a plaque identifying it as a gift from Jesus to the local community.

A trade school was founded in Battambang in 2000 to provide youth with computer and business skills.

KFC covets the prayers and support of Christians overseas. They continue to act in faith, trusting that the God who empowered them to love their enemies will also complete the work He has started in Cambodia.