Many team members have traveled with us to Cambodia through the years. Most have never heard of the atrocities that happened here 40 years ago; they become heartbroken as they learn of it. Virtually all of what they see and experience is new to their knowledge basis, and even their senses. For one team member, this is not new information. It is not a new cultural experience. Rather, it is something he lived through.
Wills Vanray remembers many things about surviving the Killing Fields. As a little boy, he and his mom were the only people in their family who managed to live and escape the horrors of the holocaust here. His stories of sickness, death, loss, violence, grief and survival are riveting to hear. Our team sat in silence as he recounted his childhood in Cambodia. We were equally amazed to learn how he and his mom made it to a refugee camp and then found their way to the United States as refugees of war. Once in America, Wills was enrolled in an American school and found great success in academics, leading him to become an eye doctor as an adult. Wisely, Wills’ mom continued to speak Khmer (Cambodian) to him and taught him of his Cambodian culture throughout his growing up years, even as he was fully immersed in American culture and learned English at school.
Wills became a Christian after he met his lovely to-be wife, Melissa, several years ago. That story is truly amazing…you’ll have to ask them to share it sometime! Wills and Melissa became a part of our church a few years ago and were pleasantly surprised to learn of our work in Cambodia. It didn’t take them long to join us for their first mission trip last year where they began making plans to conduct an eye clinic in our village. Both eye doctors, Wills and Melissa have spent this past year preparing for the clinic, collecting used eye glasses, and gathering the supplies needed to begin the work of caring for our sweet villagers.
Fast forward to this past two weeks when our little village on the edge of Cambodia had its first-ever eye clinic hosted by Wills and Melissa. To see these two in action is truly something to behold! Their plan was to examine the children in our LightBridge school primarily, and only a few adults. But, the lines of adults that formed each day in front of the eye clinic compelled the Vanrays to change their plans and welcome the couple hundred adults who were so hopeful to have eye exams. I just can’t fully express in words the beauty of the smiles of those who walked out the eye exam room with brand new (to them) glasses. Villagers who had never had their eyes examined were now wearing perfectly matched prescription glasses and seeing clearly for the first time. Even as I write about it several days later, I have to stop and just marvel at what God did to bring the gift of clear sight to so many villagers.
The story is even better when I think about how Wills, as a young boy, left his war-torn country so many years ago and has now decided to return, bringing the gift of clear eye sight…and the love of His Savior. The day we left the village, Wills was the guest speaker at the village church. It was a packed house as villagers came to hear the story of one of their own countrymen tell of his escape from Cambodia, and the even better story of how he gave his life to Jesus. Wills was able to share how he chose to return to his country because he wants his people to understand the love of their Creator. I just can’t tell you how incredible it was to see him share his testimony in his native language with people who desperately need Jesus.
I’m amazed at the full circle ways of God! Bringing Wills back to his home country to share about Jesus. It just doesn’t get much better than that!
Thanks for praying over us during this team! We sent the team back to the states a few days ago and are now working with our interns at our orphanages in Thailand and Burma. We’d appreciate your ongoing prayers as we work here and then welcome the next team to Cambodia in just a few days. God is so good and we are just so amazed to be able to see His work firsthand!