Just as God had his eye on the baby Moses in a floating basket, so God had his eye on a young boy in a floating village.
It’s 1980. Azaria Chamberlain disappears from a campsite at Ayers Rock. John Lennon is assassinated. Mount St Helens erupts, killing over 60 people. And in Cambodia, where over two million people had died under Pol Pot’s barbaric Khmer Rouge regime, now Vietnamese armed forces are invading.
Far from the news headlines, on 15 December 1980, in the Cambodian province of Pursat, Daniel Tina Orn is born into an impoverished family, struggling to survive in a hostile situation. After Daniel’s birth, the family lives in a floating house on Tonlé Sap Lake.
Daniel shares some of his story. ‘There were nine of us in the family. I was the oldest child. My older brother had passed away due to malnutrition when he was only one month old. Later, one of my sisters died. That was at the time after the Pol Pot regime. My parents sent me to school only in 1990, when I was nine years old. My studies were disrupted two years later and I had to work as a fisher boy to help support my family.’
Daniel was able to go back to school again in 1993. He excelled in his studies and was promoted to higher levels. He was a hard-working student and wanted to be a doctor. In high school, a friend shared the gospel with Daniel.
‘He shared with me many things about Jesus, whom he called Lord’, Daniel recalls. ‘One day he gave me a tract called “Life’s Destiny”. The content gripped my heart. I was unsure about my destiny after life on Earth and that made me interested to read and learn more about God.
‘God opened my eyes. I could not deny the declaration about sin in Romans 3:23 and 6:23. I realised I could not do anything to save myself. But, by grace, the sinless Jesus died in my place and rose again three days later.’
On 16 April 1998 Daniel admitted he was a sinner and that Jesus was his Lord and Saviour. He was baptised on 21 August that year.
After he had completed high school, Daniel was challenged by his former pastor to study at the Bible college in Phnom Penh City. Daniel felt the call of God and enrolled in the Cambodia Bible Baptist College.
‘I graduated in 2004 and began ministry in the Kampong Thum province, where I served for three years’, he says. ‘My ambitions and goal to become a doctor were gone.
‘My parents were disappointed with all my decisions.’
In 2005 the Lutheran Church in Singapore (LCS) established ministry in Cambodia, commencing with medical mission clinics. Daniel was invited by LCS pastor and mission team leader, Dr William Chang, to join the ministry as a translator. This ministry and mission continued to grow, and soon a ministry centre was established in Phum Krus. At the beginning of 2010 the Lutheran Church of Cambodia was established. A hostel ministry in Phnom Penh began in 2011, and in 2013 a new building to accommodate up to 60 tertiary students was dedicated.
Daniel continues: ‘The Lutheran Church in Cambodia’s two congregations have many dynamic youth, who are reaching out to people in three provinces. The great many needs of people in Cambodia require an holistic approach to ministry, meeting both physical and spiritual needs of the people.’
As the church grows, these challenges become more acute, and pastors and leaders will need to be continually equipped. Daniel is studying at Phnom Penh Bible College, while at the same time continuing to oversee the ministry program of the Lutheran Church in Cambodia.
As a member of the LCA, you have partnered with Pastor Daniel and the other ministry leaders of the Lutheran Church in Cambodia, and with the Lutheran Church in Singapore, in the next exciting step in God’s mission for the people of Cambodia. This year, through your generous giving, land has been purchased alongside the Rainbow student hostel and City Church in Phnom Penh. There are plans to build a Lutheran pre-school and ministry training rooms on this land. Mission is always the people’s focus.
Pastor Daniel has been there from the beginning, watching God’s mission unfold before his eyes. The baby, born into poverty, who became a fisher boy to feed his family, is now a fisher of men, and feeding God’s family.
‘I am one of the founding staff members of the church’, says Pastor Daniel. ‘I have always considered myself a part of the Lutheran family, and my commitment is to serve the church as long as my service is needed.’
This story was also published in the November 2014 edition of Border Crossings, the magazine of LCA International Mission.
Many of our partner churches are working in new territory for the kingdom of God; therefore, spiritual attack is their everyday reality. As a member of a congregation, school, or family, or a couple or individual, you are invited to commit to praying for our partners in mission. For regular prayer point updates, go to www.lca.org.au/international-mission/act-now/pray
Read more stories about our partner church in Cambodia at www.lcamission.org.au/category/stories/international-partners/cambodia/