Pastor Samrith sits on a chair swing outside his home, which is also his church. The swing is made from recycled bicycle parts: a wooden plank rests between two worn tires, all suspended from a tree branch by a few rusty bike chains. As he rests, he explains how the water crisis affects rural Cambodians.
Behind him is a vibrant green rice field that should be flooded with water this time of year. Instead, it’s only a bit damp. Lush grass and palm trees surround Samrith’s village; in fact, the foliage is so overgrown that only motorbikes can navigate the dirt road leading to his house.
But the verdant landscape belies the fact that 60 percent of rural Cambodians do not have access to clean water. While the wet season has recently begun, both the people and the land are thirsty. The rain is making a slow start. Water supplies collected during last year’s rains have been exhausted, and levels in nearby rivers and ponds are very low. Due to a lack of sanitation infrastructure, they’re also contaminated.
Adjacent to Samrith’s church is a small pond, only about a quarter full. The water is a muddy green color, and thick algae covers its edges. This pond plays an unlikely dual role: a lifeline for thirsty villagers and an evangelism tool for Samrith. Though this is his only water source, he gives water to anyone who asks. News of this generous pastor has spread, and people walk miles to fill a bucket in his pond.
As Samrith talks about the unique opportunities the pond has given him, he says some villagers ask why he freely shares his water with them when other pond owners refuse. He uses this as a chance to share Jesus with them. Samrith explains that he wants to show them the love that Christ has shown him—even if that means giving of his own limited water supply.
“Because of this pond, people know that Jesus is kind,” he says.
The overwhelming majority of Cambodians are Buddhist, more than 95 percent; Christians make up less than one percent of the population. The message of Jesus’s kindness is one that many people haven’t heard. But with Christians like Samrith who are living out bold faith, Cambodians are experiencing the life-changing love of Jesus.
Samrith is part of a network of Willow church partners in Cambodia empowered by an organization called Kone Kmeng, which in Cambodian means “Little Children.” Kone Kmeng helps these churches dig wells, teach about hygiene and sanitation, provide microloans, and offer free after-school care for families in need in their communities. You can learn more about Willow’s Cambodian partners at this year’s Celebration of Hope, beginning April 22.
Kyle Healy serves as a full-time global field manager for Willow Global, serving in the Middle East and Asia.