First Full Day – The Killing Fields

I am writing this BLOG post from the wonderful, beautiful Long Thaily Guest House in humid and rainy Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia
View from the Long Thaily Guest House. Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

It is morning here now, 6:45 AM. Even though I am six stories up, I can here the noises of the busy streets below as if they were right outside of my window. Tuk-Tuk’s, which are Motos (kind of a motorcycle/scooter) attached to a covered wagon with seats, are whisking by and honking at other motos in the streets. Cars are scurrying attempting to avoid the motos as they speed by. Motos here are the main form of transportation. There are literally hundreds of them on the road. At least ten times the amount of cars.

I am writing this post the morning of October 6, although the events happened October 5.

I went to bed late Friday evening. Woke up at 6:30 AM, local time and was met in the lobby of the Long Thaily Guest House by Curtis and Bre at 8:30 AM. Bre asked if I was a big breakfast eater, which I am not, but since it was about dinner time in California, my stomach began to rumble. Since I was in Phnom Penh Cambodia, what better food to eat than… the local Mexican place, Alma. Yep, that’s right, authentic, not Tex-Mex, not even Cali Mex, but real, true Mexican food. Curtis and Bre frequent the place, which is actually a ministry where only the Khmer (pronounced, Kemai) are paid. All other staff are volunteers. Wow, the breakfast burrito, a home-made tortilla filled with eggs, potatoes, sauce, and refried beans, was one of the best that I have had in a long time. To make it better, Curtis told me to ask for bacon next time. Why? Because everything tastes better with bacon, silly.

After eating breakfast, we hooked up with a couple of other missionaries at Curtis and Bre’s home for a Men’s Bible Study. As typical for most ministries, the ladies already had a sweet fellowship that was fruitful in encouraging them in their ministries. I had the awesome privilege of leading worship and we went through Ephesians 4. Each of us had opportunity to discuss a portion of the scripture that seems to jump out at us. A great time that reminded me of “The Discussion” ministry that we had to college students a few years ago in Fort Smith.

Meta-Tauta. Yep, the only Greek I know, which probably isn’t spelled right, anyway, means… well, google it. You have fingers, right?

Anyway, Curtis told me about his bat. Yes, he has a pet bat. He hasn’t named it yet, and it just showed up in the hallway stairs, but it is his. He claimed it, and the bat claims his head every evening when he comes home as it swoops to say hi. Good bat. Nice bat. Wonder if we could teach that bat any other tricks, like how to call a Tuk-Tuk for us? Hmmm. Maybe for another day.

We called a Tuk-Tuk driver and after negotiating a good rate, Curtis, Bre and I were on our way. But this gets serious. We were on our way to the infamous Killing Fields. But before I get too serious. If you have never had the experience of riding in a Tuk-Tuk on the streets of Phnom Penh it is something that you will never forget. Bre described it as organized chaos. Curtis said that while on the road, you are only responsible for what is in front of you. So, cutting people off is commonplace here. They just drive. At least the Tuk-Tuk drivers will honk their horns at intersections. Wow. I’ll have to post some video of that experience next time we are on the Tuk-Tuk’s. It is a holiday here, and I am told that the traffic was light. Yikes! I wondered at times if we would actually make it to our destination.

Human skulls displayed in the memorial in the center of the Killing Fields, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Human skulls displayed in the memorial in the center of the Killing Fields, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Over 3 million people were killed during the reign of infamous Khmer Rouge leader, Pol Pot.

We arrived at the Killing Fields. It was overwhelming that people could be so cruel. I can not do it justice by describing what happened here. Please look it up. It is something that everyone should know about. As many as 300 people a day were killed here by men who were so desensitized that one of the guards made the comment that he used to try to kill the people faster so that he could get off early that night. Revolutionary music played which gave the impression that the Khmer Rouge were having a rally, but it was really used to mask the screams of those being executed for nothing more than dwelling in a city, being educated or being religious. There are mass graves everywhere on the property were as many as 300 people were buried per grave. To this day, bone fragments and clothes rise to the surface after a rain storm or flooding that washes away dirt. At one particular place, there is a mass grave that had mostly women and children buried within. There is a tree next to it and when it was examined by forensic experts, there were found (Warning, Graphic) fragments of the skulls of children and infants.

The Killing Tree
Guards at the Killing Fields would take children out of their mother’s arms and beat them up against this tree until death.

The guards pulled babies out of the hands of their mothers and, by the feet, swung them against the tree until death and then threw them into the massive pit — while their mother’s watched. Then, it is believed, because most of the women were not clothed, that they were raped by the guards and then their throats were slit until death. How can human beings do this to other human beings? This is a kind of evil that is demonic. Only those who are filled with Satanic hatred can be so cruel. I am told that the man who ran The Killing Fields, and S-21, which we will visit today, Duch, became a believer in Jesus. Praise God. He is remorseful for what he did, of which most of the Pol Pot regime is not to this day. Duch will spend the rest of his life in a Cambodian prison for his crimes, but his soul will spend eternity with Jesus.

A painting by a survivor of the infamous S-21 Prison.
A painting by a survivor of the infamous S-21 Prison.

His story reminds me of another murder. Another man who attempted genocide on his own people: Paul the Apostle. Can the grace of God be that marvelous? Can a murder be forgiven? You might ask, where is the justice? The justice was poured out on the cross of Calvary. Jesus took the sin of Duch and washed it away. What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. I pray that Duch is used greatly in prison and that his life is lived in such way to glorify God. In the middle of the killing fields stands a monument to those who died in the killing fields. Their skulls are on display. It is a chilling testament to the wickedness to which human beings can descend.

After the killing fields, we had a much better ride on the Tuk-Tuk back. My heart was heavy there. I pray for the people of Cambodia. There are many who are now adults who lived during the time of the Pol Pot regime, and are still trying to make sense of everything. May the LORD Jesus grant them mercy. You know, God loves the broken-hearted. He cares for the downtrodden and the poor and mistreated. He loves the Cambodian people. I pray that somehow, some way, God makes sense of all of this sorrow.

We rode the Tuk-Tuk to a place for lunch, but it was closed and instead we decided to get a snack at the local American/Cambodian high-end coffee shop. It was good. Then, we headed back to my hotel and I got some rest, while Curtis and Bre had a meeting to attend. After being refreshed, from laying down (I really couldn’t sleep) we went to get something for dinner at the Corner Coffee Shop. I had a chicken sandwich, which wasn’t bad. The fries were good as well. We had a good walk back to the hotel and I was a little tuckered out from the day. I turned in a little early, 8:30 PM. I woke up nice and refreshed – at 1:30 AM! Yep. Ended up getting some study time in and some prayer. Looking forward to what today will bring – Church and Water Of Life Calvary Chapel and then to S-21 later in the afternoon. Pray that the LORD would give me the right words to say the Cambodian pastors tomorrow and this week that I would be able to impart some wisdom from the scriptures that will be spiritual to their hearts and tangible to their teaching. May the LORD richly bless Cambodia, Phnom Penh and all the provinces in the kingdom.

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