Global Ministries

The United Methodist Church

Connecting the Church in Mission

Cambodia—Passion to Praise and Zeal to Learn

By Andrew Lee*

Cambodia! If you had told me early this year that I’d be serving in Cambodia as the country coordinator for the Global Ministries office, I’d have said you were out of your mind. But here I am, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, with my wife of 13 years and our two daughters, ages eight and six. We arrived on June 25, 2017, and we have been adjusting to living as foreigners in a foreign country.

I served as a short-term missionary in Bangladesh for a year when I was in college. It was then that I felt called to serve God’s people and thought I’d serve as a missionary right away. But God had a different plan. I went to seminary and started serving local churches in Hawaii. After seven years of serving at a wonderful church located in Kaneohe, I had nothing more to ask for. I was happy, the church was growing, and I had bigger plans to do more wonderful things with the great people there. But God called. And I—I simply answered, “Yes.”

IMG_0029 copy.jpgAndrew and his wife Janice and their two daughters settle into life in their adopted country, Cambodia.

Establishing the MCC

In Cambodia, one of my main job descriptions is to work with the six other great missionaries who have been serving in Cambodia. Some of our missional works here include CHAD (Community Health & Agricultural Development), women’s ministry, street children’s ministry, and assisting with the Methodist Church of Cambodia (MCC). In fact, I am currently working with four other Methodist agencies from four different countries to help establish the autonomous MCC Methodist denomination of Cambodia. It is historically a unique project in the mission world where Methodist agencies (United Methodist Church, Connexio-Switzerland, Korean Methodist Church, Methodist Mission of Singapore, World Federation of Chinese Methodist Churches) are working cooperatively to establish one denomination in a nation they have been serving together. There are about 140 MCC churches (including small house churches), and we are very excited about completing this project in the near future.

IMG_0010 copy.jpgAndrew (center, at mike) speaks at the Cambodian youth camp, summer 2017. ALL PHOTOS: COURTESY THE LEE FAMILY

In a country where people have suffered so much in modern history, I cannot help but praise God for the good works God has started to help the people of Cambodia rise up and stand on their own as a denomination. There is still much work to be done to reach out to the nation with the good news, where only 2 percent are Christian, but I look forward to seeing more Cambodians complete this holy task, without needing foreigners, as they become more autonomous.

Cambodian Christians

In the few weeks that I have been serving in Cambodia, I have met many Cambodians who are in love with Jesus. I’ve recently participated in a youth camp, sponsored by Connexio–Switzerland (a United Methodist network for mission and service), in which 200 youth gathered from various provinces of Cambodia in Siem Reap for a week to worship and learn more deeply about God. Seeing their passion to praise God and their zeal to learn more about God has moved my heart to realize that God is truly present
and working in this country. There are still too many people stricken with poverty that need to find hope in Jesus and I look forward to spreading this good news with them.

IMG_0026 copy.jpgThe Lee family learns some new cultural traditions from their Cambodian congregations.

I'm looking forward to doing more wonderful works in Cambodia, I cannot help but thank my family for being brave enough to join me in this endeavor. The culture shock seems to have finally settled in, though both my wife and I know that our children have much yet to experience. But this is an adventure that we are willing to take with joy as God’s instruments to serve God and God’s people!

The Rev. Andrew Soon Lee (Advance #3022316) is an ordained elder of the California-Pacific Annual Conference, where he has served pastorates in Hawaii. He was born in South Korea and lived there through high school before emigrating to the United States.

Copyright New World Outlook magazine, Fall 2017 issue. Used by permission. Email the New World Outlook editor for more information.