Taing Chhirc

Forty Years Ago: Part 9

In the year leading up to the fortieth anniversary of the fall of Phnom Penh to the Khmer Rouge on 17 April 1975 we are publishing extracts from the newsletters produced by Cambodia for Christ.

This is the final newsletter in our possession, and it is probably the last to be issued before the fall of Phnom Penh.

Newsletter 9, March 1975

“So take courage! For I believe God!” Acts 27: 25 (Living Bible)

As news comes through about the continuing ravaging of Cambodia, we need to set our hope on God, recognising that He reigns all-powerful over the nations of this world. No one knows how the suffering of the Khmer people will end, but we know that God has a plan for His people there. They have been through many trials over the past years and now the threat of renewed persecution and suffering looms near again. We encourage you to keep on praying,  all is not lost, God has been at work in a wonderful way during these war years, and the Khmer believers continue to have many opportunities to share their faith and hope in the living Lord Jesus.

Only a handful of medical missionaries remain in Phnom Penh, please remember them, praying for strength of body and mind, for opportunities to witness, and for adequate supplies of medicine and food to be available for them to continue their work.

Taped message received from AW, missionary now in Bangkok, recorded Friday, 28 February 1975

I and the four other … missionaries who have been working in Phnom Penh, the capital of the Khmer Republic, were evacuated this week from Phnom Penh to Bangkok by the United States Embassy, so that means that AB and REC from the United States, AC, A and A from England, and DC from Canada, have all been evacuated, along with 15 missionaries of the … and three small children.

Why were we evacuated?

Last week the head of the … was here in Bangkok, and, in consultation with Embassy officials, he deemed it necessary to send a strongly worded telegram to the … missionaries in Phnom Penh, telling them to evacuate within five days without any options. You can imagine that this was a big job, to say goodbye, to make over powers of attorney for mission vehicles and properties to the Khmer Evangelical Church, but this has been done and all the missionaries have come out, though there are many other expatriate people still living in Phnom Penh. The decision was an easy one to make because it had been made by somebody outside the country. There was no decision for us to make, but it has been a very difficult decision to take to leave the Church behind, leave behind those that we remember, their names, their faces, their voices.

We do want to thank many of you that you have been praying for the Khmer Republic and its people at this time and I would ask you to continue to pray for them even though the missionaries have come out. Our plans are to rest for a few days then to meet together in conference and then, if the situation looks promising, we shall continue to do language study in Bangkok, or somewhere outside the country, until we can return. Nobody really knows what the future is but we do look to God to do a miracle to save this country, but we wait to see what God will do, so please continue to pray.

What is the situation like?

All the roads into Phnom Penh have been blocked for some time, and earlier this year the river became impassable because many of the banks were in the hands of those opposed to the Government. The river had been mined and some vessels had been sunk, so that, at the moment, it is impossible for ships to bring supplies up the river. The price of rice has continued to rise and is now four times the price it was when I first went into the Khmer Republic eleven months ago. There is a fuel shortage, electricity been reduced to a few hours every other day. There are many new refugees, there is malnutrition, particularly amongst the children in the refugee areas. There has arisen an anti-Chinese feeling and in Battambang, which I visited last August, near the Thai border in the northeast, some Khmer went into the Chinese stores and brought out their possessions and burnt them including money. They said it was tainted. We do need to pray particularly for the Chinese Christians that they will be protected. The Khmer killed many Vietnamese in 1970 and we do not want to see this sort of thing happening again.

Letter from Taing Chhirc

AW concludes his message…

Finally, the following letter was written by Major Chhirc Taing and given to us as we left on the aeroplane during the evacuation this week. He is a young Cambodian who came to study in Britain, but when he arrived in Britain he read. these words: “He that saveth his life shall lose it, but he that loseth his life for My sake shall save it.” This was a verse which so spoke to him that he knew that he must return to his own country. It was through him that Cambodia for Christ was formed, which has helped many of us to see the situation in that country.

To my dear missionary friends,

“Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” he, Elisha, cried out, and the waters parted and Elisha went across. 2 Kings 2: 14 (Living Bible).

This verse tells how hard it was for the young man Elisha to be left behind, while the old and powerful prophet of the Lord, Elijah, is taken away. Where is the Lord God of Elijah? This is also the cry of the young Khmer Church leaders at the moment. Elijah had been sent by God to the Israeli nation during the dark reign of its evil King Ahab. Despite the mighty miracles Elijah had performed the people had not changed their heart from sins when the time came for Elljah to be taken to heaven and the young Elisha had to carry on the mission during the dark days in Israel, but Elisha’s special request of God’s power was granted. The spirit of Elijah arrests upon Elisha, and they went to meet him and greeted him respectfully, v 15.

Dear Friends, do remember us in your prayers as we Khmer Christians are left behind to continue the task in the difficult days ahead. We do need God’s greater power and wisdom as Elisha did. Please pray for us and ask God to give us the right words as we boldly tell our agonising people about the Lord, and as we explain to them that this salvation is for them now. May God add many more souls to His young Church in the Khmer Republic and let it grow stronger until the day of His return.

Your servant in the Lord,

(Signed) Chhirc.

A further letter from Taing Chhirc

12 March 1975

The prayer letters ‘Cambodia for Christ’ have been a blessing to many Christians in many countries since they have started praying and interceding for us. We are grateful to them. Kindly send our grateful thoughts to dear friends who have been praying for us in these days of troubles and suffering. The Church here is very active giving God’s message through the official radio stations asking people to fast and pray. The response has been good.

Our land has become a desolate wasteland. Our streets and our homes lie in silent darkness each night from 7 pm. At daytime there is fear of danger. Rockets fall right at the city centre killing people and destroying shops and houses almost every day. Many people have deserted us.

This is the situation of Phnom Penh in March 1975. It reminds me of Jeremiah 9: 1-2 ‘Oh, that my eyes were a fountain of tears; I would weep forever; I would sob day and night for the slain of my people! Oh, that I could go away and forget them and live in some wayside shack in the desert, for they are all adulterous, treacherous men.’ (Living Bible)

However there is the only hope for our future as in Jeremiah 31: 3-5 ‘For long ago the Lord had said to Israel: I have loved you, O my people, with an everlasting love; with loving kindness I have drawn you to me. I will rebuild your nation, O virgin of Israel. You will again be happy and dance merrily with the timbrels. Again you will plant your vineyards upon the mountains of Samaria and eat from your own gardens there.’

We appreciate your prayer and intercession for us in these days of troubles and suffering in Phnom Penh.

With our warmest greetings,

Chhirc.

Postscipt

As noted in the introduction to this series, a month after writing this letter Taing Chhirc was beaten to death by Khmer Rouge soldiers. His widow and daughter were still in Edinburgh, Scotland.

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