By Rick Wolcott*
The connection of The United Methodist Church was evident from the moment we stepped foot in Cambodia. We were greeted at Phnom Penh International Airport by the Rev. Dr. Romeo del Rosario and Ester Gitobu, missionaries with UMC Global Ministries.
Our 16-member East Ohio Conference team of clergy and laity spent two weeks immersed in the lives of first-generation Christians. We worshipped in eight churches, visited three schools, conducted leadership breakout sessions, and reached 600 children through Vacation Bible School.
Cambodia continues to recover from the genocide of nearly 3 million people during the 1975-1979 rule of Pol Pot. Today, 70% of the country’s population is 35 years old or younger, and 50% is below the age of 20. The Methodist Church in Cambodia is reaching out to the young people of this predominantly-Buddhist country introducing them to the life-changing power of Jesus Christ.
“I am so proud to be a member of The United Methodist Church. I think what we stand for today brings hope to millions of people around the world,” said North Coast District Superintendent the Rev. Dr. Steve Bailey, who organized the trip.
“To be a Christian in this country is something you have to really want so it was so powerful for me to see people declaring their love of Christ,” said the Rev. Mollie Brown, pastor of Westlake UMC (North Coast District), one of eight EOC churches represented by trip participants.
“This trip has brought scripture to life for me in a new way,” said the Rev. Paige Boyer, pastor of Lakeshore UMC and of Cove UMC (North Coast District).
As our team prepared to return home, Franchesca Bodnar, a member of Lakewood UMC (North Coast District), encouraged us to, “share our stories of this trip because there are lots of people who have never been to Cambodia and there are a lot of people who don’t know God.”
*Rick Wolcott is director of Communications for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.