Petrus and Yuliana Handoyo have served with Mennonite Mission Network since 2001, first in Mongolia and now in the Kingdom of Cambodia. Petrus is a university professor of ethics and literature. Yuliana works with educational ministries, including the Moriah Learning Center. The Handoyos are also involved in local congregational leadership. They are jointly supported by GKMI Semarang, Muria Christian Church of Indonesia.
The village of Tropeang Chan is located in the Kampong Chhnang province of central Cambodia. The phrase Kampong Chhnang means "Port of Pottery." The village is one of multiple floating villages on Tonlé Sap Lake. Many families live and work along this freshwater lake, where markets, small Buddhist shrines, gas stations, government offices, schools, clinics, churches and other businesses are all on the waters. Our family visited the lake with several Khmer friends during the rainy season in September. The Khmer people are the majority ethnic group in Cambodia.
We took a boat and visited a Khmer Christian church on the surrounding waters. The local people call it a "floating church." The Khmer pastor said that all congregations travel to the church using their own boats. He and his family have served this local church for several years, and it was lovely to learn about their pastoral plans for building the presence of God's kingdom among the predominantly Buddhist communities.
Bun and Ly are a Khmer couple. They have five daughters, one son and four grandchildren. Bun and Ly are farmers, who have their own fields. Each year, they plant rice and various vegetables. They raise chickens, cows and ducks. They are also a Christian family. This is the first time that we have met a Khmer family of which all the members are believers, while still living in a predominantly Buddhist village. The family is a witness to Jesus Christ among their Buddhist neighbors.
Our family had a splendid time as we visited and stayed several days with them in their region. In the afternoons, under the mango trees, we had some blessed conversations with Bun and Ly about how their whole family became followers of Jesus Christ amid the strong Buddhist communities.
"My husband and I were faithful Buddhists," Ly explained. "All children went to a local temple for worship, prayers and giving offerings. But our life was so hard."
Each year, their fields yielded crops, but the family always had difficulties. Financial challenges, family issues, housing problems and other struggles. They visited the temples for more luck and happiness. Yet, life was not easy for them.
One day, Ly heard about the Christian faith from her friend who lived in a different area. This friend told Ly that there was a small church in Ly's village, one that Ly did not know about. Then, a woman pastor visited her home. The Khmer pastor began to share the gospel of salvation with Ly. Ly became interested in Christianity but knew that her family members were still Buddhists.
The gospel of Jesus Christ indeed brings salvation and life transformation to those who openly receive him. At the time, what Ly needed was a transformed life in Jesus Christ alone. With no doubts, she bravely made the choice to become a follower of Jesus Christ. Later, so did her two daughters, Lik and Saolis.
However, this did not go over well with her whole family. Her husband, Bun, was unhappy to see the three of them going to church. For him, Christianity was a foreign faith, as he had been raised a Buddhist from his childhood. He opposed his wife and two daughters when they got involved with the church, and he became mad as the three women sought to evangelize the other family members.
Ly's faith in Jesus Christ guided her to pray for her husband. She faithfully prayed for Bun for five years. Ly and her two girls believed that a simple act of faith might produce a miracle if they truly trusted the Lord Jesus. For them, each miracle, whether small or big, would begin with the act of obedience. Their fellow believers at church also prayed for their family members' salvation.
At last, Bun opened himself to Jesus Christ and a new life. With his own freedom, he decided to follow Jesus Christ. God gives us this freedom, so that we may choose the best among other choices in life. This is a unique gift that God has given to us, as human beings.
Bun had the courage to choose Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior on his spiritual journey. For Ly and her two daughters, it was the most valuable blessing for the entire family. This brings to mind Joshua 24:15 (NIV), which says, "But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. ... But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."
Since then, Bun has brought all his children to the church for Sunday worship, as well as church programs. He believes that God is present in his family and provides life-changing transformation. Jesus Christ is their strength to face the hardships and struggles in life.
God blessed Bun and Ly's entire family with surprises that year. The harvests were very good. They sold crops to the surrounding markets for good profits. This past year, in the midst of uncertain situations, due to the pandemic, their hearts were filled with songs of joy and praise.
In December 2018, their second daughter, Saolis, graduated from the School of Theology at Life University, in Sihanoukville, where Petrus has taught theological courses, as a volunteer lecturer, for the last four years. Saolis was the first in her family to go to the theological school. She also got married to a fellow seminary graduate in March 2019. Their oldest daughter was born in April 2020. Both Saolis and her husband are now involved in educational services in the Kampong Thom province in Cambodia.
Bun and Ly's family now shares about their transformed lives in Jesus Christ with relatives and friends in their local community and beyond.
Bun and Ly's last names have been withheld due to concerns by the writers.