Rev Tuch Keov Sreyleak’s life is part of the story of the Lutheran Church in Cambodia. Rev Sreyleak comes from the village of Phum Krus in Cambodia. She is one of four children and was only eight years old when tragedy struck – her father died, and her mother left the family in the village. […]
Rev Tuch Keov Sreyleak’s life is part of the story of the Lutheran Church in Cambodia.
Rev Sreyleak comes from the village of Phum Krus in Cambodia. She is one of four children and was only eight years old when tragedy struck – her father died, and her mother left the family in the village. As the eldest, Rev Sreyleak became responsible for the care of her siblings, including finding food and education, as well as caring for their grandmother, Who Met. Life became very tough for her, as there was no work in the village. Rev Sreyleak spiralled into depression, even considering suicide.
The Lutheran Church in Singapore had been working in the village of Phum Krus. Rev Sreyleak was invited to the Life Centre in Phum Krus, where the good news of Jesus Christ was being shared, in word and action.
She came to know Jesus and in 2010 was baptised into the Lutheran family. She began working as an intern in ministry at the Life Centre. Then in 2012 Rev Sreyleak moved to the capital, Phnom Penh, to begin studies at the Phnom Penh Bible School. During this time, she lived at the Rainbow student Hostel.
Rev Sreyleak wanted very much for her family to know Jesus also. Today, every one of them have been baptised into the Lutheran Church in Cambodia, including her mother and grandmother. Rev Sreyleak’s family are now our brothers and sisters in Christ.
On 22 July 2016, Rev Sreyleak received her Bachelor of Theology, with her grandmother present at the graduation. Since then, Rev Sreyleak has been appointed chairman of the Lutheran Church in Cambodia, a task that has brought out her strengths and has increased her love and trust in Jesus.
Earlier this year, LCA International Mission spoke to Rev Sreyleak. This was at a time when COVID-19 had prevented, for almost a year, visits and face to face support from partner churches. When we spoke, it was clear that Rev Sreyleak’s life experience has impacted her ministry. She could recall the helplessness of her family being looked down on, as members of a poor community. Rev Sreyleak reminds herself, on a daily basis, “we may be a poor family and from a poor community but still we have salvation with Jesus’ love.”
This love and hope continue to offer Rev Sreyleak joy and ‘happiness’ as she shares the Good News of Jesus with her church and with the people in her village.
Education, including learning English, is a pathway out of poverty for people in Cambodia. Children in Rev Sreyleak’s home village of Phum Krus are provided a basic education for the first years of their school life. Extra help is available at the government school but at a cost which many families cannot afford.
The support of partner churches provides village students the opportunity to attend the church school, which they can go to after the government school day has ended at 2pm. In the church school, students have access to computers and English classes. Additionally, twenty scholarships are currently offered to students from the village in years 10 to 12, regardless of their faith. The scholarships are vital. Some of the students are then able to go on to attend university in Phnom Penh. While there, they have accommodation and support at the Rainbow Hostel.
Rev Sreyleak’s leadership role enables her to see growth in her people as the church helps them understand that they are valued. In 2010 Rev Sreyleak saw hope in life again, “I find that, even when we don’t have the money to support others, we can encourage them, care for them, value them and teach them not to look down on themselves. With Jesus, they have the power to achieve their goals. With Jesus they have hope.” Her daily prayer is that the Cambodian people come to see Jesus, finding hope and learning to value themselves as his children.
Rev Sreyleak’s first dream for her church is not based on what we would expect to hear from Western Churches – numbers, buildings or theological unity. Instead, her dream is to see rich and poor, value each other and grow together in the love of Jesus.
“Being a lady pastor in Cambodia is not easy. It’s a change for them. Maybe this is Cambodian culture, maybe they think women should stay at home and do housework and that they can’t do leadership.”
“It’s not easy, but I’m encouraged because I ask Jesus that if he doesn’t need me in the role any more, just send me (elsewhere). I still know that I trust the Lord and I trust the will of the people. If they don’t need me, they can let me go.”
Rev Sreyleak has also developed good relationships with other Christian churches in the community, and they often meet together to talk about how they might best serve their communities. Many Cambodians, especially in the older generations, think of Christianity as a foreign religion and do not believe in their God. “In my community”, says Rev Sreyleak, “we still have a good relationship with non-Christians, but at first they are always afraid we will talk about Jesus with them!”
Rev Sreyleak’s favourite Bible verse is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that whoever believes in him will not die but have everlasting life.” It is no surprise that she adds, “a lot of people try to divide the poor from the rich, but in Jesus’ eyes we are all valued.”
Rev Sreyleak looks forward to the day when international borders are reopened and the LCA can, once again, walk alongside the Lutheran Church in Cambodia, in person, “Overseas partnerships are important because we can’t walk alone. We need other people walking with us.” Visitors and volunteers working with the Lutheran Church in Cambodia over the years have been a wonderful blessing and it is one she looks forward to seeing again as we continue our partnership.
The life-changing gift which God gave to Rev Sreyleak, over a decade ago, in the invitation to attend church in Phum Krus, is reflected in the work she is doing amongst the people in the Lutheran Church in Cambodia. Hope filled and surrounded by God’s love – always!
The prayerful and financial support which the Lutheran Women of Australia have provided to the Lutheran Church in Cambodia has changed lives and helped the church introduce people – rich and poor – to Jesus. Just like us, the struggles are many and the people God chooses to use are surprising. Thank God for his love and grace and, as Rev Sreyleak would add, HOPE!
Many of our partner churches are working in new territory for the kingdom of God; therefore, spiritual attack is their everyday reality. As a member of a congregation, school, or family, or a couple or individual, you are invited to commit to praying for our partners in mission. For regular prayer point updates, go to www.lca.org.au/international-mission/act-now/pray
Read more stories about our partner church in Cambodia at www.lcamission.org.au/category/stories/international-partners/cambodia/