April 24, 2024

Mission trip to Cambodia provides encouragement to all

In January, a group of seven departed from Des Moines International Airport for a 24-hour plus set of plane rides that would deliver them to their final destination - Cambodia, where they spent about a three week mission trip. The group was comprised of Murray Church of Christ pastor Brian McCracken, Osceola First Christian Church pastor Danny McNeal, Murray church member Cindy Hamer and McCracken’s sons: Corey and wife Maria, and Colin and fiancee Emily.

While in Cambodia, they worked with a local missionary and visited different areas, helping with different projects and spreading the word of the Gospel.

Mission trip

For McCracken, McNeal and Hamer, this was not their first mission trip to the Southeast Asian country that has an estimated population of 16.7 million people. McNeal had been twice before, Hamer six times, and McCracken eight or nine, with his first visit in 2006; it was the first trip for McCracken’s children.

While the mission trip had different meanings for each person, the primary focus was to support Cambodian missionary Soeum Dear, who is working on planting churches throughout Cambodia. Dear was sent to a refugee camp near the border of Thailand after his parents were killed during the Khmer Rouge. There, he met his wife, had two children and was saved. He then moved back to the area where he grew up and began planting churches and preaching in rural areas where there weren’t established churches.

“It kind of connects to our heart for rural ministry, like here in Clarke County,” said McCracken.

“Within four kilometers of the Thai border, Jesus’ own words, ‘preach to the furthest regions of the earth,’ and I think this is awful close,” said McNeal.

With a country that is nearly all Buddhist, Christianity is starting to make its impact. McCracken said that the people are excited to learn about Jesus, and finding out why a group of Americans are motivated by the scripture to travel across the world to tell others about it.

In Cambodia, the government regulates that there can be one church and one school in an area, as well as one Buddhist temple. With prior missions of providing clean drinking water, McCracken said this trip really embodied the “one church, one school, one village” idea - where the government allows for one church, one Buddhist pagoda and one school per village - , as they provided support to Dear and his mission of church planting.

A goal of the mission trip is also to share the message of the Bible, God and Jesus.

One day, the group visited a military installation, talking with the commander who desired for his men to know God in their lives. Several of the men were baptized, and the group was overjoyed to see the joy and changes baptism brought to those men.

Why Cambodia

When asked why Cambodia for a place to go for a mission, McCracken replied that he felt that Cambodia had chosen them. Years prior, he’d been invited on an awareness trip to Rapha House in Battambang, which is an organization that helps girls escape the sex trafficking trade. There, he had been approached by a little boy on the street selling books. After talking, McCracken realized the little boy was being trafficked, and shared that the experience “completely shattered my world.”

That encounter inspired McCracken to want to make a difference, and he kept going back to Cambodia, taking others with him.

“It helped me get out of my zone, my comfort zone, and see what is going on in the world,” said McCracken. “Choosing to love in deeds and in action, and so it’s an opportunity for us not only to do that here, but to fill Jesus’ great commission to go into all the world, and I think that’s why Cambodia.”

Over the years, McCracken, McNeal and Hamer have been able to see many things change for the Cambodians who they are helping, as well as experience change within themselves. McCracken was once part of a Christian Christmas service at a time when Christianity was illegal, when the commander of police showed up, and thanked the efforts of Rapha House and the church for making a difference in the human trafficking going on in Cambodia.

With clean driving water missions, they have been able to help dig wells in more rural areas, and are working on getting solar panels to the remote areas so that the wells can be online.** Already the wells and providing clean water have had a massive improvement on life for rural Cambodians, with less sickness and death from contaminated water. They have also begun helping work on road improvements, as sometimes it is quite difficult to get to the more rural areas, especially when it’s the wet season.

It wasn’t just the support of Dear that was done on this mission, either. They group also got to support works at Rapha House, and visiting an orphanage in Seoul, South Korea, where the Murray Church of Christ has sponsored a now nine-year old boy since he was a baby; in fact, Hamer was the one who gave the boy his name.

“Another mission opportunity too…part of that is, we get to pray with them, pray for them, pray over the facilities. It tugs at your heart in a way that you go, things are different there than they are here, culturally for sure, but a part of the reminder is - the gospel message is still the same no matter where you’re at in the whole world. And the response we received was just absolutely amazing,” said McNeal.

Candra Brooks

A native of rural Union County, Candra holds a Bachelor's Degree in English from Simpson College and an Associate's Degree in Accounting from SWCC. She has been at the Osceola newspaper since October 2013, working as office manager before transitioning to the newsroom in spring 2022.