– An Interview with Kimsang, the Director of Pleroma Home for Girls
by Heather Hui, Missionary (Assistant Field Director) | April 13, 2020
How can a woman in Cambodia hold fast to her faith in a society where Christians make up only 1% of the population, and in a family that does not believe in God? How can a village girl find her place and find work in a society that is male-dominated and has always trampled on the dignity and basic rights of women? It is the hardest ministry to change lives; more often than not, disappointment outweighs satisfaction. How has a girl persevered with this ministry, for nine years?
This is why I interviewed Kimsang, a social worker who joined the Pleroma Home for Girls (PHG) nine years ago, a wounded healer and the Director of Pleroma Home for Girls.
Kimsang's husband – like all Cambodian men – thought himself superior to his wife, could do whatever his heart desired and enjoyed and did not think marriage should be exclusive or that he should apologise for his mistakes. In the early days of their marriage, Kimsang suffered greatly and often cried about this. But she prayed to God for wisdom and courage, as well as His guidance in their marriage.
Gradually, Kimsang started sharing her thoughts with her husband, and even confronted him. Bit by bit, her husband started to understand and respect her and even promised that he would not be with any other woman and she would be his only wife in this lifetime.
Even though her husband was not a Christian, she shared with him biblical teachings about family. Praise the Lord that her husband was willing to listen to her. She even told her husband, "If I did not do as the Bible has said, please remind me." Sometimes, when Kimsang fell short, her husband would be the person to remind her of what the Bible said. In the process, her husband has gradually learnt to express himself and started helping out with housework. He would give most of his time to his family, treat it as his priority and even apologise to Kimsang when he did something wrong.
Christians in Cambodia are lonely, and at times, they have to pay a heavy price for their faith. I once met a young family who were living with their parents and they were kicked out because of their faith. As none of the family members of Kimsangs' husband were Christians, she faced a lot of pressure every time she visited them. For example, during Pchum Ben in September, all families had to pay respect to their ancestors at temples; however, Kimsang insisted on following the teachings of the Bible. The stress and tension she faced were indescribable.
A few years after they got married, Kimsang had not been able to have a baby. Her husband's family was worried, because it was embarrassing in Cambodia to have no children after marriage. Her parents-in-law had offered many times to bring Kimsang to temples to ask for blessings for a child. But Kimsang did not listen to them, which made them very unhappy. Nevertheless, Kimsang stood firm and prayed to God, surrendering it all to Him. At last, God blessed the couple with a son, so that she could be a proof of God's grace for her in-laws and proclaim that: I have triumphed with the grace of God. In remembrance of this, she named her son Victory.
After giving birth, Kimsang did not stay home to take care of her son as a traditional Cambodian woman would. In the beginning, she was worried that her husband's family might not be happy with her decision. Besides psychological stress and the change in role, she was thoroughly exhausted as she also had to work. But she discovered that, through working, the couple could take better care of her in-laws and provide for them. At the same time, her in-laws began to see that, although Christians did not worship at temples, the couple still cared for them and stayed by their side. They have now changed a lot and are starting to agree with the couple. They even support their decisions and their lifestyle and have gradually accepted Kimsang's Christian faith.
How could she keep on doing life-changing work for 9 years? Kimsang said it was because of the passion and indignation from God. Every time she learns of a rape case, she is deeply saddened and angered. Her anger and pain can only be calmed and comforted through walking with the girls and getting them out of their predicament. When her friends learnt that Kimsang was still working at our organization, they often joked and asked if she planned to work here for her lifetime. But Kimsang knows in her heart that this is a mission from God and this is where God wants her to be. She will stay until God leads her elsewhere. To her, it is the greatest satisfaction to be able to serve the girls in Cambodia. She said, "It is the same to serve in any organization. Also, Pleroma takes good care of me and my bosses are kind to me. Although the person-in-charge of Pleroma is mainly based in the United States, she is filled with love – love for Cambodia, love for the women and girls in Cambodia. With her vision and leadership, we have gradually turned such visions into concrete actions. I experience a deep sense of satisfaction in the process."
However, when it comes to work that changes lives, passion does not guarantee success. There will always be disappointment, dejection and helplessness. How did Kimsang persist in it?
She said, "Prayer and reliance on God are my greatest sources of strength. Through prayer, I know that I am not alone in this work and God is with us. He is the lord of life, of all living beings. He loves the girls more than I do, He will be responsible for them till the end. Also, I believe that God has His own timing and I need to learn to wait. The girls may not listen to some of my teachings now, but one day they will understand. So, I know that I have to wait and I have to let the girls know that we will never give up on them; we will always welcome them with open arms whenever they decide to come back."
It is Kimsang's wish and hope that, one day, the girls and women in Cambodia can be free, free from the cage and exploitation of sexual crimes. She hopes that there will be chances for girls to receive education, to understand their worth, to have hope about future, to have the ability to choose how they want to live their life. More importantly, she hopes that they will get to know God, and know that God also loves them. They will know that even though some people may hurt them, exploit them, but God loves them and will never forsake them. They can live their life with their heads held high, triumphing over what happened in their past.
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