Faith During Genocide


I’d like to spend July 2020 to focus on my parents’ history as they lived through the horrible genocide of the Cambodian people. History shows that Pol Pot was influenced by Marxism and he gathered a handful of people who would terrorize their own as to rid those who did not fit his checklist. If you were bilingual, intelligent or educated, etc you’d be eliminated. Angka translated to something like “The Organization” wanted to rebuild this new Cambodia by killing men, women, and children (infants to young adults). The tragedy of this genocide cannot be the only brushstroke to this painting of life. Though this was a horrific experience for my parents, my parents are people of faith. Their faith is their victory. My parents had what we can identify as “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.” May the many victims of genocide find mental, emotional, physical and most importantly, spiritual healing. {WARNING: stories can be graphic… make space for prayer and grieving}

Photo by Vicky T on Unsplash

I have spent some time asking my parents for stories of their lives in Cambodia as to record stories for my family’s rich history, I am hopeful this will be a sense of a healing for my parents’ hearts and minds. I believe the world should know through story and history, that although they lived through the worst of times, they had the peace and strength of Jesus.

It was sometime in the fall of 2006, I was about to graduate college the following spring, when the three of us American-born kids wanted to visit our parents’ country. We began encouraging one another to save money and to make travel plans. My sister booked us all tickets and in 2007, we went to Cambodia. During our 12 day visit, we made a visit to the Genocide Museums. In our early 20’s, many years late, we began asking hard, heart-breaking questions. The aches in our hearts and the tears in our eyes poured seeing blood-stained tiles in the cells of Tuol Sleng Museum as well skulls, teeth, bone, and clothes buried in the fields at what is now Choeung Ek Genocidal Centre.

While at the museums, we listened to the descriptions of what went on; the brutal killings were heinous, beyond human comprehension. When we were at Choeung Ek: my parents divulged that these soldiers took speakers and turned on loud music while killing off hundreds of infants and children. Walking by a tree my mom expounded, “These trees here were used to hang up speakers. Khmer Rouge Soldiers turned the speakers away from this area and put on loud music while they beat the infants.” Oh the horror. They drowned out the screaming, the wailing, and the murder taking place. *I cannot write these things without crying.* The thought of music in the jungle now has the underlying of death. To think of the millions killed in those years: Children were lined up like cattle to slaughter.

Walking around the site, we saw evidence of lives lost to such evil for years later, we witnessed the clothes of the men, women, children and babies still preserved in the dirt. Through my parents tears, they explained that you could still find teeth or bones in the ground. Somber we came, somber we left. One cannot enter in story or location where such evil took place.

Tuol Sleng Museum in Phonm Penh
Choeung Ek (former orchard and grave site)

Today: My mom and dad love to sing like they have always. They love church. They love God and their Bible. My parents love their community and others. I am thankful that Lord has preserved them until now and I can ask them hard questions. My dad used to be a pastor and a bold preacher & evangelist. Now aging and working through some health challenges you’ll still see glimpses of his younger self here and there. My mom is spunky as ever. As they near their 80’s they are slowing down. So, as I preserve some of their stories, I hold to capture tragedy and triumph through their words.

To live through years of horror and come out the other side is strength to me. I do not believe one can escape evils of this world because it’s a broken pain machine. One must carry hope and know hope in order to be able to make it through today. Our hope is in God–my prayer is that those who experienced evils of genocide, cancer, or abuse will know that our home isn’t here. Our hope is heaven-ward. In Christ alone, our hope is found. Day 1 of stories: my parents’ tragic experience is in their past and a part of who they are, but glory is in their future. My parents’ hope is Christ alone and one day, heaven will be their forever home.


By MamaDea

Life can be full of hope and abundance; I am certain we can find it because the life we want and desire: Jesus came to give us life and we can have it abundantly! A little about me: I am a wife, first. Next, I am a mama to five children; my husband and I have four daughters and son! I love to connect and talk about things of God and look for beauty in life.

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