News Release

Building Foundations of Faith in Cambodia

Relocated Church members receive help to build permanent homes, laying foundations of faith and hope in Run Ta Aek, Siem Reap province, Cambodia.

ដើម្បីអានជាភាសាខ្មែរ សូមចុច នៅទីនេះ

Since November 2022, a huge relocation has taken place in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Thousands of residents, including members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, living near the prominent Angkor Wat temple agreed to leave their dwellings and move to a new development 20 to 30 kilometers away. Leaving their homes and current means of employment, they took a leap of faith that they could make a new start with their lives in Run Ta Aek, a new village in the Banteay Srei district.

Uncertainty, doubt, and loss were some emotions affected Church members experienced when they first heard of plans that would necessitate the resettlement of Angkor Archaeological Park residents to the Run Ta Aek development. Each Church member at Run Ta Aek has a story of struggles and challenges, but they recounted that God became their pillar of support and blessed their lives in ways they had never imagined. The results of the move ultimately provided experiences that would not only help them build their homes but also establish their testimonies and cement their faith in Jesus Christ.

Materials were provided for members to build permanent homes made from cement, brick, and rebar in the Run Ta Aek development, near Siem Reap, in Cambodia. May 2023.© 2023 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

By the end of May 2023, approximately 40 families from the two Siem Reap branches will have relocated to Run Ta Aek. Additional families are also expected to receive notice that they will soon be requested to move. The government provided a plot of land, some materials, and assistance, and helped them transport their existing structures and belongings to the new development. The move left most of the Church members with little shelter to protect themselves from the elements.

In February 2023, humanitarian service missionaries of the Church, Elder Rod, and Sister Patricia Smith, under the direction of Cambodia Phnom Penh Mission President Veasna Kuonno Neang, helped organize a council from the Siem Reap branches which included the District President, District Project Coordinator, and Elders Quorum and Relief Society Presidents. The council worked together to identify displaced Church members in the Run Ta Aek area to help provide support and assist members to fulfill their great need for permanent shelter.

The Run Ta Aek project is the first Area-funded member-focused humanitarian project in Asia. This project provides Church members, who received land from the government, with the necessary materials to build a permanent shelter. The shelters are constructed from cement, brick, rebar, and PVC roofing. The disbursement also included windows, doors, and electrical wiring. Members were required to live on the site and commit to building the home or arranging for construction to qualify for the materials.

66-year-old Srin Mon (middle) at the building site of her first permanent home. Srin is pictured with humanitarian missionary Sister Patricia Smith (left) and Church communication missionary Sister McKette Allred (right) in Run Ta Aek, Cambodia in May 2023.© 2023 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

Church members in Run Ta Aek are not only building homes but are also laying foundations of faith. 66-year-old Srin Mon has never owned a home of her own. Years ago, as a single mother, she was selling bread to help pay for her three sons to go to school. Srin described a hard life coming to Siem Reap without any money, living in someone’s yard. While in Siem Reap she was injured in a motorcycle accident and began drinking and living a self-destructive lifestyle. She was introduced to the gospel by a friend. Missionaries started teaching her and told her that if she would pray to God, she could be healed. Srin said she prayed and was healed. After being taught by the missionaries, she quit drinking and was baptized.

Sitting under a makeshift shelter of tin and tarps next to her partially constructed home, Srin’s face lit up as she described her experiences joining the Church and going to the temple in 2016. She shared her love for the gospel, where she has built a strong foundation and love for the Savior. Srin cried as she expressed her appreciation for the missionaries and the opportunity to have her own home, thanking God for her many blessings.

45-year-old Chombey Ouk moved from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap with her husband, 54-year-old Sothy Tep. After the move, they stopped attending church and their progress in building their testimonies came to a standstill. Over the next six years, whenever Chombey would pass by the Church or see missionaries on the street near her husband’s bicycle repair stand, she would cry because she knew she should attend church. “One day,” Chombey said, “I saw that one of the missionaries had bike problems near my husband’s repair stand. I told the missionaries to bring the bike over and my husband would repair the bike.”

Chombey revealed to the missionaries that she was a member and confessed she needed to go back to church. As Chombey recounted the experience, she was overcome with emotion and said, “God never leaves us alone, He is always there for us. God has given me a great blessing by helping me return to church. Now he has blessed me with a way to have my own home.” Chombey shared how her testimony has been strengthened. She continues to show her gratitude by helping neighbors and is always found serving others with a smile.

Sreang Chhea, 34, joined the church in Siem Reap shortly before he and his wife SreyPib Lay, 29, learned they and their two children would be relocating to the new development in Run Ta Aek. Sreang said, “I was inspired by my wife’s faith and her example of living the gospel. She was so good to help others and our family. I met with the missionaries and learned the truth." Sreang shared a tear-filled testimony of how God has blessed their lives and how grateful he was for a wonderful wife who loves him even though he has a difficult time supporting their family financially. The gospel, he said, “gave us hope”.

SreyPib expressed her concern about how they were going to support themselves and their two young children at the new location. She said, “I had been praying for help because Sreang lost sight in his eye and was unable to continue his work as a contractor.” After moving to the new area, SreyPib said, “We met the humanitarian missionaries from the Church who shared with us a way we could qualify to receive materials to build a house.” Despite struggling with his sight, Sreang has nearly completed building a home for his family where they could sell goods from a shop in front of their home. They were able to build their shop from materials salvaged from their former accommodation at Siem Reap. Sreang and SreyPib are preparing to attend the temple and are excited to start enjoying their own heaven on earth as construction on their home nears completion. 

These three accounts reflect how Church members in Run Ta Aek each have their own story of the challenges they have faced and the trials they have overcome as they try to rebuild their lives and new homes. Ultimately, Church members did not view the relocation as a bad experience and expressed how the move and the gospel has blessed their lives. After feelings of doubt, uncertainty, and loss from leaving their dwellings in Siem Reap, they shared their overwhelming gratitude to God for the blessings they received through the gospel of Jesus Christ. As a result of the faithfulness of the members, a Church group has now been organized in Run Ta Aek.

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