February 6, 2019
The church in Cambodia is young, and so are its leaders. That’s why Resonate missionaries Gil and Joyce Suh come alongside young, first-generation Christian leaders like Narith* to disciple, train, and mentor them—like a Barnabas to many young Pauls.
Narith is a leader of a ministry in Cambodia called Gatekeepers. Gil describes him as “an extremely gifted young leader”—but he’s also married with children, and it’s difficult in Cambodia to support a family through ministry alone.
Narith has an innovative, entrepreneurial spirit and wanted to be financially independent. With his family’s and the ministry’s best interests at heart, he fell victim to a bad business scheme and almost went to jail.
That scenario is not uncommon in Cambodia. The country is still recovering from the Khmer Rouge era, and there’s a leadership vacuum. Christians in their mid-twenties and early thirties are stepping into leadership positions with little to no support. They are first-generation new believers, and many of them are not part of a denomination that provides guidance and encouragement.
“They’re vulnerable,” Gil said. “The pressures are much on them. Temptations are great. Persecution is also great. It’s almost like a tree without deep roots. When the storm comes, how are we going to withstand? Unless you have that deep root—basically meaning their maturity in Christ, that connectedness—they’re very vulnerable.”
After the business scam, Narith needed someone to confide in. Someone who could offer him guidance. But in Cambodian culture, it is difficult to talk about shameful circumstances, and leaders are discouraged from sharing their weaknesses and struggles. Narith’s friends would no longer speak to him and he became isolated.
God used Gil to restore and mentor Narith.
Just as Barnabas encouraged Paul, Gil got involved the life of Narith. There are few places for leaders in Cambodia to share about their wellbeing, so Gil spent much of the time asking about Narith’s personal life.
“If a leader’s family or personal life is struggling, their ministry is undermined or jeopardized,” said Gil. “I believe the health and development of these young leaders is crucial for the growth of the church.”
Because Gil came alongside Narith, Narith now encourages other Christian leaders through his ministry Gatekeepers. He encourages them to be vulnerable and offer support to one another.
“I see now he is making an impact in the lives of other leaders,” said Gil.
*Name changed for privacy
This story was originally published by The Banner.