Redemption. It is a theme which has particular meaning for us at Christmas time. The birth of the Christ-child ushering in a new covenant with humanity. It is a time for the church of joy and celebration, ‘For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption’ (Psalm 130:7).
In a small rural village in Cambodia there is a man who understands first-hand the power of redemption. Thanks to the generosity of Australian Baptists, he was able to take part in an aid and development program which has changed not just his world – but that of his long-suffering wife and children.
“In the past, my family had better living conditions but then I started gambling,” Heng admits softly. “I was very depressed and then I started using illegal drugs… and I stole alcohol. I was tired and angry and it was hard to control myself.”
Life had reached rock bottom for Heng and his young family. His wife was forced to pull the children out of school to help her sell rice cakes beside the road simply to get enough money for food. As her husband descended further into his life of anger and addiction, the family became shunned by the community. The future seemed without hope.
Then, as with that very first Christmas morning, a day of hope arrived when a worker from one of Baptist World Aid’s Christian partners in Cambodia, Ponleu Ney Kdey Sangkhum (or ‘Light of Hope’), approached Heng with a chance to change his life.
“I was able to attend a ‘peace’ course for three days where I learned I could control myself,” Heng recalls. “I stopped using drugs and, with ‘Light of Hope’ support, decided to grow vegetables and farm animals instead. With the agriculture skills that I was taught, we are able to raise chickens, pigs and grow fruit and rice. Before, I knew nothing about those skills.
“In the beginning I fed only three pigs and six chickens but then each month I could raise more chickens. Now I am planning to enlarge my business and raise ten more pigs!”
“I am thankful. ‘Light of Hope’ has changed my husband to be a better person,” Heng’s wife, Da cuts in. “Life is not difficult like before.
“We were helped when we were very poor. No one wanted to make friends or lend us money. Since ‘Light of Hope’ got involved, we have managed to save to buy land which I keep for my son to open a small mechanic repair shop. My younger daughter can afford to study at school and my older daughter can learn a skill in a hair salon. My children now feel confident in public and they are not afraid of anything anymore. Now they are very strong.
“Although our house is small, we are happy. I am happy Heng has stopped drinking and gambling and has stopped all bad habits. I’ve never know any organisation to do what ‘Light of Hope’ has done. Our life now gets better and better!”
Heng and Da look towards each other and smile. It is a truly touching moment that speaks louder than any words could of the true power of forgiveness and redemption. ‘For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption’ (Psalm 130:7).
The ‘Light of Hope’ workers who helped to facilitate this change for the family work tirelessly to bring the love of Jesus in the form of good practice aid and development programs into some of the poorest and most disadvantaged regions of Cambodia. Work that is only possible thanks to the prayers and financial support of Christians here in Australia.
Baptist World Aid uses your generous gifts to work with local Christian partners all across the region bringing hope and transformation to many other children and families like Heng and Da’s. It is the Christmas morning story of redemption and hope repeated day after day in village after village. It is the Church at work in some of the darkest places on earth. It is the true spirit of Christmas.
This Christmas, join with Baptist World Aid to give thanks for the many moments of redemption that together we can make happen. Please continue to pray for this work and be encouraged that your generosity at Christmas to our appeal is bringing hope not just on one day each year but every single day of the year.
To give to Baptist World Aid Australia’s Christmas appeal, please call 1300 789 991 or visit baptistworldaid.org.auFiona Russell Baptist World Aid Australia