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Exploring Cambodia’s Wonders: Tips For Christian Travelers

As we embark on this journey to explore the wonders of Cambodia, I am reminded of my own experience in this remarkable country. Having ventured there on a mission trip, I witnessed firsthand the profound history etched in its soil—the tragic genocide of the 1970s, the haunting remnants of S21 and the Killing Fields. Yet, amidst the darkness, I also beheld the resilience and beauty that emerged from the ashes. I tasted the flavors of local cuisine, immersed myself in the vibrant culture, and marveled at the breathtaking landscapes. Join me now as we delve into the heart of Cambodia, a land of contrasts where history intertwines with hope, and beauty rises from the depths of despair.


Cambodia Geography

Cambodia, a gem in Southeast Asia, is flanked by Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and the Gulf of Thailand. Its expansive territory, akin to the U.S. states of Oklahoma or Missouri, offers travelers a diverse array of landscapes and experiences. The country's tropical climate brings about distinct wet and dry seasons, with the optimal time for exploration falling between November and April, during the dry season. Cambodia's natural wonders include lush rainforests, the sprawling Mekong River Delta, and the iconic ancient temples of Angkor, each contributing to its enchanting allure. With temperatures ranging from a comfortable 65°F to a balmy 90°F year-round, Cambodia beckons adventurers to immerse themselves in its captivating beauty and rich cultural heritage.


Cambodia Bible Verse

Behold, the LORD has proclaimed to the end of the earth: Say to the daughter of Zion, “Behold, your salvation comes; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.” And they shall be called The Holy People, The Redeemed of the LORD; and you shall be called Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken.
- Isaiah 62:11-12




Reflection Questions

  • Cambodia suffered greatly under the Khmer Rouge genocide. How might the church's experience of persecution and trauma still impact its ministry today? What lessons of resilience and hope might emerge?

  • Missionaries first brought Christianity to Cambodia. Now the churches are led by locals. How might Christianity take root differently when indigenous leaders shape its expression?

  • What questions might Cambodian Christians have about the practice of Christianity in your home country? What could you learn from each other?

  • Buddhism is the dominant religion in Cambodia. How might this shape relations between Buddhists and Christians there?


Faith and Culture in the Cambodia

Language

Khmer is the the official language of Cambodia, but English and French are also widely spoken in tourist areas.


History & Religion

  • 93% Buddhist

    • primarily Theravada Buddhism, others Thammayut Buddhism

  • 7% is a mix of Christian, Muslims, Animists, Bahais, Jews, and Cao Dai adherents


Christians in Cambodia are generally perceived and treated well. The government has generally respected the right to freedom of religion, and there are no reported acts of discrimination or abuse against Christians.


Christianity arrived in Cambodia quite late compared to other Southeast Asian countries. The Christian Missionary Alliance, the first Protestant missionaries, came in 1923. They translated the New Testament in 1933 and the entire Bible in 1953. However, the gospel was not first well-received. By 1970, there were only roughly 700 Christians in Cambodia.


The 70s were an incredibly hard time in Cambodia due to Khmer Rouge regime's attempt to unite the country under communism. They drove people out of cities, attempting to create an agricultural based country that no longer depended on exports from other countries. They also slaughtered approximately 2 million of their own citizens in an attempt to remove educated individuals and others who suggested an "imbalance" in social status. This is now known as the Cambodia Genocide.


Buddhism

History

Buddhism began by Prince Guatama Buddha, who gave up his title, wife, and son to discover inward satisfaction. He wanted to find meaning in life rather than observing others. After training with monks and asceticism and austerities and not finding peace, he realized it must come through wisdom. Having given up the hard works of self-discipline, he sat under the bodhi tree and finally reached peace with an ever changing world (Enlightenment.)


Over the years many denominations have branched from his original teachings, and in many ways it is a way of life unique to each community it is in - though there are four main ones

  • Theravada – original Buddhism, believes that Buddha is more of a state being that can be achieved through self-discipline and training

  • Mahayana – allows people to stay home instead of forsake family, help their neighbor by sharing the message, and their view of Buddha as eternal and immortal wisdom and the Prince was one of his mortal forms

  • Vajrayana

  • Esoteric Buddhism – stresses sensation over intellect, and believes that wisdom can reach a man directly so long as he is in a meditative state


Scriptures

Because Buddha taught different depending on the background and circumstances of his audience, there is no agreed upon canon of Scriptures. However, they’ve been broken down to the Three Baskets:

  • Summary of his teachings

  • Precepts his followers were commanded to keep

  • Commentaries of the other two.


The key teachings of the scriptures can be loosely summarized as:

  • Everything happening around us is dependent on other things.

  • The evil cycle of repeated rebirth can only happen when one reaches nirvana and quenches the fire of karma.


Four Dharma Seals

  • The world is ever changing and transient

  • No single substance is eternally unchanging

  • Everything in the world is suffering

  • Nirvana leads to a peaceful state of mind


Four Noble Truths

  • Four fundamental sufferings: birth, aging, illness, dying

  • Four incidental sufferings: separation form loved ones, association with the unbeloved, not getting what is wanted, life itself

  • The truth of cessation (end of) of suffering

  • The truth of the way that leads to the cessation of suffering



Witnessing to Buddhists:

When it comes to sharing your Christian faith with a Buddhist, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Ones identity is part of the community they belong, the harm of unity of the community is the worst sin

  • Seek to understand the branch of Buddhism they are in

  • Start with the Holy Spirit, one who gives eternal peace – peace even in this life

  • Don’t start with Jesus, it’s seen as a western ideology

  • Also address work, and how work will never truly save them


Cultural Etiquette in Cambodia

  • Cambodians traditionally greet each other with palms together in front of their chest, the higher the hands the more important you are

  • Dress modestly, nothing above the knee

  • Avoid pda

  • Always remove shoes before entering a home or facility

  • If you come across a monk, do not touch them and give them physical space as a sign of respect



Siem Reap and other places to visit in Cambodia


Best Places to Visit in Cambodia

Some of these suggestions come from my trip, while others I have found since then and want to include in my next visit!


Explore the Temples of Angkor

Begin your journey in Siem Reap by exploring the iconic Temples of Angkor, including Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, and Ta Prohm. Witness the architectural marvels, intricate carvings, and the spiritual atmosphere of these ancient structures.


Visit Phnom Penh and the Royal Palace

(Puh.naam.pen)

Travel to Phnom Penh, the capital city, and visit the Royal Palace. Explore the stunning architecture, including the Silver Pagoda, and learn about Cambodia's royal history. Take a moment to reflect at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum for historical insights.


Reflect at the Killing Fields (Choeung Ek)

Pay a somber visit to the Killing Fields at Choeung Ek, where you'll gain a deep understanding of Cambodia's tragic history during the Khmer Rouge regime. The site serves as a memorial to those who lost their lives.


Reflect at S-21 Genocide Museum

Explore S-21, a former high school turned into a prison during the Khmer Rouge era. Gain insights into the country's tragic past and pay respects to those who suffered.


Discover the Ancient City of Battambang

(Buh.tam.bang)

Head to Battambang and discover the charm of this provincial city. Explore the well-preserved French colonial architecture, visit the Bamboo Train, and take a ride through the picturesque countryside.


Experience Floating Villages on Tonle Sap Lake

(Tawn.lay)

Embark on a boat trip to Tonle Sap Lake, Southeast Asia's largest freshwater lake. Explore the floating villages, witness the unique way of life, and understand the challenges and resilience of the communities living on the water.


Relax on Koh Rong Islands

Conclude your journey by unwinding on the pristine beaches of Koh Rong or Koh Rong Samloem. Experience the tranquility of these tropical paradises, indulge in water activities, and enjoy the stunning sunsets.


Grow In Your Faith in Cambodia

Every day and in every country there are opportunities to grow closer to the Lord. Here are some ideas for how you can do that in Cambodia:


  • Provide advice on how listeners can incorporate faith into their travel plans for the Cambodia.

  • Pray for healing of the nation from the Communist party in the 70s, emotional healing, education

  • Worship with the locals


Conclusion

As we draw our journey through Cambodia to a close, I invite you to join us in building a global network of Christian travelers united in faith and exploration. Together, we can redefine Christian travel. Members gain access to exclusive itineraries and tools, and your voice, your experiences, and your faith are invaluable as we strive to create the perfect platform for Christian travelers. Come, let us journey together, guided by His light and fueled by a passion for adventure and discovery.


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