Born about 30 years ago in the province of Siem Reap, Chamroeun grew up with five siblings around rice fields, cows and water buffaloes. His parents were farmers at first, then worked on construction and at the market after they had sold their land. More than anything, they were survival artists. Within his many relatives, there are stories of human trafficking and such despair that one relative even was left for adoption into France and just recently “found” again – thanks to prayer and Facebook.
I know Chamroeun as an especially loyal, enduring person. From working in my team – a long time ago – he has become my brother who has an outstanding gift of empathy. He knows me well, somehow he always knows where I’m at. Often, he sends me short encouraging text messages at the perfect time. Sometimes I wonder how that farming child turned into a highly successful caseworker.
“I stopped school in grade 9 (from 12) just like many others. We needed money, as the only son, I didn’t have another choice than to work and support my family. The very first salary was 30 USD, I worked seven days a week, making and serving coffee at a restaurant. I had many jobs with similar working conditions until I got a gardening job at a small boutique in the town of Siem Reap in 2010.
It sounded promising, free food and accommodation and a nice place to work. However, quick enough I had to realize that it also meant to be available 24/7 for any requests. Some nights per week I had to be a security guard at my boss’ house. Sleep wasn’t a regular thing anymore. My colleagues and I always had to be on alert. They would raise my salary from USD 60/month gradually to about USD 100 while our customers paid USD 250 per night – abstract, isn’t it. The owner was frightening and asked a lot from us.
Two years later, a family from Switzerland started to rent the house. It was said they were Christians and it made me wonder what that was about. I said in my heart, if there is something like a God, then I want them to take me as their staff. They did pick me and I was happy and excited to be working for a kind family. I learned a lot of new things in the garden as well as how to drive a car. Even when I once crashed, my new boss’s reaction was so different to what I experienced before. Generosity and kindness were flowing out from them. I felt maybe there is a God working in my life. My life situation improved, I got regular days off, had free time in the evening, felt a love like never before. They would also share about God every now and then.
2013 the tiny church plant of ICF Cambodia started to have regular gatherings in the living room. I joined their first Christmas experience and got to know more and more about that Christian God. Not even a year later, the church had grown a lot and the family moved out to commit the house and the property fully to the church. Therefore the church took over my contract, and I had lots of different leaders, mostly foreigners that would come to serve for a period of time in Cambodia. Sometimes I felt very challenged with that many changes. However, I often reminded myself about where I was from and that kept me going. Life has become easier, now I just stood in front of new obstacles which were still smaller than those bad working conditions from before.
Years went by. In 2017 I asked the father of the family to baptize me. I had decided to give my life fully to Jesus and wanted to seal this decision. I started fully trusting God and prayed for a leader who fully supported me and – submitting myself to God’s will – asked for a new job where I could learn new skills. I was hungry for more than working in the garden, doing the same tasks like years ago. I told God whatever job he wanted me to do in any part of the church, I would do it.
His answer turned out to be rather surprising. Within ICF I had been serving at kids church for two years. I slowly discovered a passion for children. At some point, I realized God’s plan was to become a caseworker in the Kids Sponsorship Program. Though I knew nothing about social work I wanted to give it a try. I sure was open to learning new skills. I applied, and didn’t get the job. It seemed like the timing wasn’t right yet. Not giving up so easily, I pursued my new dream. I somehow understood that God wasn’t done yet with me. The miracle was still on the way. I just needed to be patient and expecting. Trust and confidence in God and his faithfulness were motivation enough to continue in the garden. Also, I taught a cousin in order to prepare him to take over my job once my second application would get approved.
About a year later, I got employed as caseworker. I had to learn a lot. But I also knew this was God’s plan and He was on my side. The team welcomed me warmly. I am very grateful towards them, they are such a great team, loving, smart and good at sharing about social work. I love this new job. Being part of a great team is a big difference to working alone. I can help children and their families in the villages. Daily, I encourage them to believe there is a better future. We teach about the importance of education, find ways to empower them to improve their life situation. It’s beautiful to see how whole families change. There is not only hope growing – many times I teach them practical things, for example how to plant and maintain a vegetable garden.
Looking back a lot of things have changed. Miracles in my life? Yes a lot. God is good!
My mom got healed by God after I prayed for her. I grew a lot in self-confidence and see much more value in my life than ever before. At ICF, I made good friends.
Just crazy … crazy, crazy … ” He says, shaking his head in disbelief and wonder. “I’ve had a job for so many years now, not even one gap.” Not a very typical thing for a Cambodian like him.
A career that shows an enduring character that has put his whole trust in God and saw God being faithful throughout all these years. His own faith is strong and he has encouraged me many times not to give up. I remember one specific time when I had had a difficult meeting and was at my end. To be honest with you, I simply went to cry at his shoulder. As empathetic as he is, not many words were needed and after I calmed down a bit, he said: “Vv, you have to do three simple things, tell God, forgive and love them.”
“I want to see revival in the whole world. I want people to learn that God is the one true God just like I have. He is generous, faithful. He provides what we need; when we trust, he will answer. As for my life, I want to serve God forever. I am happy to learn new skills. It’s all up to God.”