It has been several months since I have responded with an article for the Times Recorder. My wife and I have been in Cambodia for one year – we will be home for Christmas, but who is counting. The time has been flying by. We have so much to do and so little time left to accomplish it.
We have really grown to love the Cambodian people and their kind, humble ways. Our assignment has just been changed to work with the members of the church in Cambodia who are Vietnamese. It has proven to be a special challenge. The immigrant Vietnamese are very poor, even by Cambodian standards. We thought the Khmer people were so poverty stricken, but we are finding the Vietnamese are a level lower.
We are spending most our of our time visiting their homes and teaching them the gospel. They are so receptive and teachable. Those who live the gospel are able to have hope and work towards rising above the poverty they are subjected to. We are seeing the gospel really change lives and families.They give up bad habits that destroy families and lives – alcoholism, drugs and infidelity are real problems throughout this country.
I believe that Cambodia is like no other place in the world. The people have been through so much and still are struggling with corruption in their leadership. There will be an election this summer, but it appears the winners have already been selected. The people seem to not become involved in the electoral process.
The effect of the Khymer Rouge reign is wide ranging. Many of the people do not trust the government. Almost one third of the population was killed by the KR dictatorship in the 1970s. People who were educated, business men, teachers, showed opposition to the Khymer Rouge or even those who wore glasses, were killed. Records, schools, and libraries were eliminated. Almost everyone that we speak with has had a family member that was killed or eliminated during the Khymer Rouge reign. One member we work with had her husband and three children killed by the KR.
The ECCC (Extraordinary Chamber Court of Cambodia) is in the early phase of trying several leaders of the KR. Only time will tell what effect the trials will have on the public. The United Nations is operating the multi-country sponsored trials. The U.S.A. is a large financial supporter of the trials.
We have managed to escape the terrible earthquakes and cyclones that have devastated Myanmar and China, countries just north of us. I can only imagine what the shacks and homes must look like after such disasters. We are experiencing the beginning of the raining season … it is almost like going from fall to winter back home. We have really had a difficult time keeping tract of the seasons. The weather is always between 75 to 90 degrees. The lowest temperature we have experienced this year was 66 degrees at night. That day, the Khmers were wearing their warmest coats and clothing.
Mike and Mary Lee Morgan are on an 18-month assignment in the Cambodia Phnom Penh Mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. They have been assigned to do both proselyting and humanitarian services for the Cambodian people. Dr. Morgan retired from his dental practice in Zanesville, after 41 years of practice. He will periodically write about their adventures.