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,



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.

Forty Years Ago: Part 6

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.

Newsletter 6, October 1974

After four years of guerrilla warfare, the Khmer have learned to carry on regardless of restrictions, shortages and many basic necessities being unobtainable. The inevitable inconveniences are accepted, life must go on. There has been an increase in political activity recently, and news reports of renewed bombing, but few details to include in this letter. Marshal Lon Nol, President of the Khmer Republic, made a public call for peace on 9th July. No prior conditions before talking together were asked from the Khmer Rouge, the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong from South Vietnam. Mr. Dean, the USA Ambassador in Phnom Penh, is working for a peaceful solution to the war.

The war has had its effects on schooling, as many French teachers and lecturers left the country when bombing increased earlier this year. The building programme has had to be curtailed due to supplies being needed for other projects and a slowing down of materials reaching the capital due to hazards along the Mekong River.

The Lord continues to bless Church growth. One missionary writes that church groups are beginning in many homes, the pattern in Acts is being reproduced, with spontaneous growth of fellowships primarily in the homes of new Christians. These new believers radiate their love for Christ.

Our prayers are requested for the establishing of a Church at Battambang after the meetings held by Ravi Zacharias in July. Many attended, but few have carried on who professed faith in Christ. On this same theme, we as the body of Christ are urged to pray much for the young converts in this land, that they may be kept during a period of confusion for them with numerous groups now coming to Cambodia. With so many Christians being untrained babes in Christ, it is difficult for them to determine who is genuine and who is not. Training sessions are being held and Bible classes taught, but it is difficult to properly instruct all of those who come to Christ before they are contacted by other groups.

Please remember Major Chhirc Taing in Phnom Penh. He has many responsibilities in the Church: Executive Secretary, advisor to other projects, also head of the World Vision child-care programme. His duties as Secretary to the Minister of Defence are also very demanding. Pray that he may soon be reunited with his wife and daughter, who are in Edinburgh.

Thank you for continued prayer for the Khmer people and those who work among them. May peace soon come, and the harvest be brought in while the open-door and opportunity exists.

Forty Years Ago: Part 4

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.

Newsletter 3, March 1974

“The greatest of the Cambodian war’s tragedies is that no one knows how to end it. Militarily and diplomatically, there simply is no end in sight for what surely must be the world’s saddest, least honourable, and most unnecessary war. More than two million of Cambodia’s seven million have been made homeless by it; the casualties are uncounted but estimated in the hundreds of thousands. The Cambodian economy has been destroyed, and, as one diplomat put it: ‘You sense the national spirit has been broken. There are so many beggars in Phnom Penh now, but you pass many other people and you know they are hungry and would like to beg, but it is the only shred of their self-respect they have left.'”

The struggle goes on, and this recent report by a leading British newspaper sums up the awfulness of life in Cambodia today.

Politically, little has changed in Cambodia since our last letter. The Khmer Rouge (Cambodian communists, backed by the Vietcong and North Vietnamese) still hold large areas of the country while the government defends a series of outposts, major cities and the capital, Phnom Penh – about ten to twenty per cent of the land mass. Although over 80 per cent of the country is under insurgent control, 85 per cent of the people live in government controlled areas. The fact is that the large majority of Cambodians remain unconquered.

Day and night artillery and rocket attacks, more intense since Chinese New Year, have left large areas of the capital in ruins. Over two hundred have died in the shelling since Christmas, with hundreds injured, and in January over half the French population of 1,000 left Phnom Penh. All roads out of the city are cut, and the price of a plane ticket to safer cities such as Battambang and Kampong Cham is out of reach of most Cambodians. There is no way out for the poor but to cross the front lines, and no one is contemplating that. Food shortage, looting, inflated prices and student unrest all add to the troubles in Phnom Penh. The Khmer Rouge claim to have 14,000 troops and say they will continue bombarding the capital, attack Mekong River convoys and finally enter the city, but this last claim is not likely unless things rapidly deteriorate. As things are at present, this stalemate could continue indefinitely as neither side has the resources to win an outright victory; it seems that Cambodia is in for a long and wasteful struggle for survival.

Normal life is difficult; most schools have had to shut down, especially those with French teachers. Many shops have been closed too, and a strict curfew has existed for some weeks now. French doctors in Phnom Penh report that as a consequence of the privations of war, cases of night-blindness – induced by vitamin deficiencies – are appearing for the first time in Cambodia since medical records were started by the French in 1861.

Please pray. Humanly speaking little can be done to alleviate the situation, but we must ask God for deliverance and a second chance for a people who need to hear of the One who loves and died for them. The Khmer Christians need and should have our prayers, for grace and strength, wisdom and hope. Even in the most difficult situation, God controls and the Holy Spirit is active. Cambodian believers have ample opportunity to share a living faith, made more real to them perhaps by the nature of their circumstances. When the American bombing was halted in August 1973, the Cambodian church fell on its knees before God in prayer and fasting for their nation. Christians believe that divine intervention has turned a despairing situation to one of hope and rejoicing – the hand of Almighty God, El Shaddai, is overshadowing Cambodia. Let us keep this in mind when we hear of all the negative elements in Cambodia. The National Church continues to be involved in practical ways, and co-operation with the government is good. The missionaries are planning to remain, and although women and children of missionaries had left Phnom Penh, women missionaries have now returned to continue their work. Reverend Merle Graven of the Christian and Missionary Alliance says, “Opportunities abound for an unlimited ministry. We are trusting for a great swell of prayer around the world for further miracles.”

During the week leading up to Christmas Day 1973 the Bible Shop in Phnom Penh put on a special window display of Bibles, portions and selections. Every day crowds of people gathered outside the shop to look at the window; these were mainly young folk and Buddhist monks. Nearly 6,000 copies of the Bible, portions and selections were sold in the week, in Khmer, French, English and Chinese. Many read them and came back for more, and over the whole week including free distribution 75,000 scriptures went out. Every Buddhist priest studying at the University has received a Bible. One Buddhist priest said recently, “You simply cannot read what the Bible says and believe that Jesus Christ was just an ordinary man.”

In a letter from Phnom Penh in January, Taing Chhirc a Cambodian Christian wrote, “I thank the Lord for giving real opportunities to serve Him among our people at this time of harvest. Hungry souls have poured into our 15 churches in the capital each week, and there has been a shortage of Bibles for many months. We are running out of almost everything here, but not of the sweet love of Jesus, our dear Lord and Saviour, who is manifesting Himself mightily in our land.”

Forty Years Ago: Part 2

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.

Newsletter 1, November 1973

“Blessed is the Nation whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33v12)

This letter is an introduction to the work that God is doing in Cambodia. Many Christians in this country have expressed concern for the situation in South East Asia and especially in the war-torn lands of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. The latter has been perhaps the most neglected over the years by Christian Missions and the Church worldwide.

For the past two years, the north-eastern region of Cambodia has slowly come under the control of North Vietnamese and Vietcong guerillas, and a naturally peace loving people have been thrust into a war for national survival. Up until recently, the prospects of holding the capital had not been good, and at one point – when the American bombing stopped – the general opinion was that Phnom Penh would be taken. This, however, did not take place, and news from Cambodia by Western reporters states that the city is functioning fairly normally under the circumstances. Nevertheless, though food is available, prices have rapidly escalated, and with over one million refugees in Phnom Penh the situation is not good as supply routes are continually threatened. There are also increasing numbers of orphans and homeless, the natural result of war.

For Christians in Cambodia, there is an open door of opportunity. The war has brought with it a sense of insecurity to a people who are normally happy with their lot. The Church has a new boldness which is acceptable in the situation and the Asian manner of preliminary introductions before plain talking is slowly disappearing in the face of questions like, ‘what can we do?’, ‘who can help us?’, ‘is there a God?’. By practical means wherever possible, and by showing calm and compassion for the people, the Evangelical Churches and Christianity itself are gradually being seen in a new light, as a positive and distinctly Cambodian way of life, relevant to them today.

The door to Cambodia is wide open – the Gospel must go out while there is time left. A land of seven million (approximately the population of Scotland) needs to know that Christ can give them hope in a future that looks pretty bleak.

Major Taing Chhirc who spent 18 months in Britain was the means of awakening many of us to the urgency and need of prayer for Cambodia. Little has been known about this land closed to the West for many years, and now we realise the situation, prayer would seem to be all the more urgent.

“Prayer is as vast as God because He is behind it. Prayer is as mighty as God because He has committed Himself to answer it.”

May the Lord Jesus Christ be exalted through the testimony and faithfulness of His people worldwide.

Forty Years Ago: Part 1

In 1972, Major Taing Chhirc, a Christian officer in the Khmer National Armed Forces and General Secretary of the Cambodian Evangelical Church, left Cambodia along with his pregnant wife Bophana to study in the UK. In 1973, the pastor of Bethlehem Church, Sem Bun, wrote to Chhirc asking him to return to Cambodia, where the church was growing rapidly and needed his help. Before leaving the UK, Chhirc spoke at the Keswick Convention. He appealed to British Christians to get behind Cambodia in prayer and support. To this end, Chhirc’s British friends Paul and Helen Penfold, formed Cambodia for Christ, now Cambodia Action.

Chhirc left his wife and child in Edinburgh, UK, while he remained in Cambodia until the Khmer Rouge took power in 1975. According to one witness, a few days after the fall of Phnom Penh Chhirc was in the town of Neak Loeung among a group of panicked, bewildered people, offering them the hope of Christ. Suddenly, five or six Khmer Rouge cadres appeared and, without warning, clubbed Chhirc to death while the stunned crowd looked on.

After its formation in autumn 1973, Cambodia for Christ published an occasional newsletter to inform Christians in the West about the situation of the church in Cambodia. These newsletters are fascinating historical documents set against the backdrop of the final months of the Khmer Rouge military campaign against the Khmer Republic.

In 2013, Mr Randolph Parrish of Scottsdale, Arizona, USA, kindly sent to CCC a set of Cambodia for Christ newsletters for the period November 1973 to March 1975, requesting that they be preserved.

With the permission of Cambodia Action, which evolved from Cambodia for Christ, we shall be publishing extracts from these newsletters over the coming months.