A COURAGEOUS YOUNG WOMAN with a tenacious hope for her future needed someone to come alongside her and help make a way where her community and even her parents believed there was none. For decades, the people of Cambodia suffered greatly as the result of political instability, volatile occupations, continuous upheaval, and most recently, a horrifying genocide. The weight of this trauma proved that darkness didn’t need the immediate activity of war to continue to frighten and stifle a nation. The darkness could move on, leaving the knowledge and horror of war in the hearts of those who lived. What a cruel way to survive, having seen the hands and feet of evil at work before your very eyes.
Chan Leap’s parents experienced this personally. They were teenagers when the Khmer Rouge took over. Chan Leap explains, “My parents were separated from their families. They were given work assignments. The option was work or be killed.” Chan Leap’s mother adds, “We weren’t treated as human beings. They taught us to mistrust. They made sure we stayed hungry and afraid.” As the Khmer Rouge exercised harsh control over the nation of Cambodia, people became disconnected from their own stories. Chan Leap’s father shares, “I watched as one of my best friends was killed by the Khmer Rouge. I had to sneak back in the middle of the night to bury his body. This was how we lived.” Chan Leap, the sixth of 10 children, saw the financial burden facing her family. She watched as her parents sent each of her older siblings to Thailand to work as soon as they reached their early teens.
The truth was, there was no money to pay for their education or long-term needs. Chan Leap’s parents needed their children to find work to help support the family. But Chan Leap had other plans. She started attending a church near her village, where she met an unexpected advocate. Pastor Purim cared about protecting Cambodian youth from the dangers of trafficking. And along with teaching her about Jesus, Pastor Purim invited Chan Leap to attend a school 15 kilometers from her home, where she could stay with other students in a dorm run by the Kone Kmeng Dormitory Assistance Program. “It felt like a dream come true,” she says. “I could pursue an education that would open up doors to real work for me in the future.” Her Buddhist parents were upset, not that she had accepted Christ, but that she insisted on staying in school.
Chan Leap, only 15 years old, stood strong. She got a scholarship that relieved her parents of the cost of the school, moved into the dorm, and went on to graduate from high school. Now, Chan Leap works to support herself as she studies business management and marketing in a college in Cambodia’s capital of Phnom Penh. The same dormitory program, supported by Kone Kmeng, made the reality of college possible. Chan Leap knows she is very fortunate to have this chance and dreams about using her education for the good of others. Specifically, she wants to support her family financially, be an example to other young women growing up in difficult circumstances, and more than anything, she wants to share with others the love that God has shown her.