All posts by Luke Smith

Panel Discussion with Journalists from the Khmer Rouge Era

100_0312On Thursday, April, 22, the Overseas Press Club of Cambodia hosted a panel discussion with journalists who covered the Vietnam and Cambodia conflicts in the 1960s and 1970s. It was very well attended with about 1,000 people in attendance. Most of the people in attendance were foreigners making it the largest gathering of foreigners that I have observed since I have been here. The room was set up to maybe handle a crowd of 300 people, so it was crowded and difficult to hear well. The panel was very emotional as they recalled their time covering the conflicts. Thirty seven journalists were killed or went missing during the time of the Khmer Rouge take over. Below are some pictures from the event.

Cambodia Field Team Members’ Biographies

Updated – February 18, 2010


Melkie and Flor Boniao

  • Village Ministry
  • Mentoring/ Training House Church Leaders
  • Flor will be involved in Education Ministries

Melkie and Flor are both natives of the Philippines. Melkie has served in various capacities in the local church in the Philippines, preaching, teaching, and counseling. He has degrees from FEBIAS College of the Bible and the Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Philippines. He has also spent several years counseling seminary students and teaching English. His wife Flor has a background in administration and education. She has served several years at the Presbyterian Theological Seminary helping develop their education program.

The Boniaos arrived in Cambodia in the summer of 2009. Currently they are learning the Khmer language in the Chuuk villages and will be involved in mentoring village pastors and education ministries. They have three children 1) Ira Lael – 15 years old;  2) Kirk Andre – 13 years old; 3) Jabes Melki  –  9 years old.

Esther Cho

  • Village Ministry
  • Evangelizing and Discipling Students
  • Teaching English, Korean, Nursing

Esther Cho was born and raised in South Korea. She and her family immigrated to the United States when she was in her 20’s. She completed a nursing degree while in the United States. After working briefly in the US, she served her first term in Kalimantan, Indonesia. The Lord then led her to change fields to Cambodia. She arrived in country in 2006, devoted a year for language studies and then moved out to serve in the villages.

She is currently involved in operating a dormitory for students whose family cannot support them for further education (for high school). These are the students she disciples. Esther also operates an after school program (teaching English) for local students (from elementary to High school). She also teaches Bible to the students who learn English at this center and evangelizes local neighborhoods with gospel and deeds. In addition, Esther grows animals for student’s training and to provide support for the project in the future.

Her birthday is November 28th.

Darryl and Kara Dedert

  • Bible Teacher at Logos International School
  • Training City Church Leaders
  • Training Village Church leaders

Darryl grew up in Canada and belongs to the Heritage Reformed Church. His wife Kara is from Michigan and belongs to the same denomination. Darryl graduated from Kuyper College, formerly Reformed Bible College in Grand Rapids with his Bible degree and from Cornerstone University with his teaching degree.  Kara is hoping to soon finish her degree in International Relations.  The Dederts came to Cambodia in 2005. Darryl teaches Bible at Logos International School which is comprised of orphan Cambodian children, missionary kids, and upper middle class Cambodian kids.

Darryl and Kara are active in helping with our city church partner as well as teaching and training rural pastors. They have four children: Sophie (1/21/04), Noah (11/07/06), Evie (4/07/08), Calvin (11/24/09), all under the age of 6.

Lloyd and Eda Kim

  • Mentoring/ Training City Church Leaders
  • Serving local theological institutions
  • Eda is involved in training/ mentoring medical students and conducting village medical outreaches.

In 2004 Lloyd and Eda began their missions career with MTW in Manila, Philippines. Lloyd worked as the country director of a South East Asian nation in which he has helped facilitate the planting of several churches. In addition, Lloyd was able to teach and provide teaching resources for several different theological institutions, as the director of theological education for Asia-Pacific.

As a physician, Eda was involved in regional short-term medical missions and caring for the girls in one of MTW’s street kid homes in Manila. She was also homeschooling and caring for the physical needs of our MTW team.

In 2007, the Kims moved to Cambodia to initiate a new church-planting work. Lloyd is continuing his regional responsibilities while also leading the field team in Cambodia. Eda is working part time at a Christian clinic in Phnom Penh, which treats those connected to their church-planting work.

Lloyd received his M.Div from Westminster Seminary in California; and his Ph.D from Fuller Theological Seminary. Eda received her B.S. from the University of California, Berkeley and her M.D. from the University of California, San Diego, where she also did her family practice residency.

Kaelyn (6/3/00), Christian (2/27/02), Katy (11/26/05)

Dale and Nancy Knutson

  • Medical ministry
  • Mentoring/training medical students
  • Leadership training in the city
  • Conducting village medical outreaches

Nancy, a Covenant college graduate, came to Christ in her youth. Dale also trusted Christ at an early age. While attending Trinity College, Dale served as a summer missionary in Hong Kong. The experience increased his desire to serve in missions as a medical doctor. The Knutsons were married during his sophomore year at the Medical College of Georgia. The last 10 weeks of medical school were spent participating in direct patient care in Ecuador at two missions hospitals.

Since 1985, they have been active members at Covenant Presbyterian Church, Fayetteville, Georgia. As a family, they have visited missionaries around the world and served on several short-term mission trips. Since 2003, they have served with MTW as career missionaries in the Philippines, taking intermittent medical mission trips to several other countries in Asia.

Sensing the physical and spiritual needs of the people of Cambodia, in 2008 they moved to Phnom Penh and now serve with the new MTW team in Cambodia. They will mentor medical students, participate in gospel-focused medical outreaches, and train and disciple leaders in the church. They will continue to take the gospel to other parts of Asia through medical missions.

The Knutsons have three grown children: Nathan, Joel, and Amy

Bill and Akemi Rhea

  • Assistant Executive Director for Transform Asia
  • Training City Church Leaders
  • Evangelism

Bill and Akemi Rhea are from the Dallas, TX area. Bill served as a civil court judge in Dallas for several years. He and his wife Akemi have adopted nine children: three from Cambodia, one from China, and the rest from the United States. They moved to Cambodia in April 2009 and are serving both Transform Asia and MTW.

Their call to the mission field came as they buried Akemi’s adult son, Adrain, after he was murdered in his apartment. The Rheas felt a strong call to honor their son Adrain’s wish to start an orphanage in Cambodia. Bill and Akemi are involved in our city church plant and helping us to connect with other ministry opportunities.

Their children’s names are: John, Elizabeth, Maly, Maggie, Serah, Catherine, Monichea, Frances, and Jada.

Luke Smith

  • Village Ministry
  • Mentoring/ Training House Church Leaders
  • Creating income generating and development projects in the villages

Luke grew up on a farm in west central Illinois. He went to college planning to pursue a career in agriculture. Through a couple of short-term missions trips with a campus ministry while in college Western Illinois University he started thinking about missions. Towards the end of graduate school at the University of Missouri, he was impacted by the missionary biography Through Gates of Splendor and his burden to be a missionary continued to grow. After completion of graduate school, he went to Dallas Theological Seminary to further prepare for the mission field. While in seminary, he began to have a vision to go somewhere that was unreached and poor. He continued to prepare by working with refugees in Dallas and serving in his church, New St. Peter’s Presbyterian. He was ordained as a teaching elder in the fall of 2009. Luke has been called to work in rural Cambodia with the church and training pastors. He arrived on the field in October of 2009.

Christina Thomas

  • Short Term Missions Team Director
  • Evangelizing/ Discipling Medical Students
  • Conducting village medical outreaches

Christina grew up in Talladega, Alabama. She went to university where she became a Christian and was involved in Campus Outreach – a college ministry started by Briarwood Presbyterian Church, AL (PCA). Christina went on to finish a degree in nursing and has been on several short term medical mission trips to South East Asia.

In 2008, she moved to Cambodia as a long term missionary. Currently she is serving as our short term missions director, while also mentoring and discipling Cambodian medical students. Christina is also involved in medical outreaches and teaching village health workers courses.


Damon and Young-Mi Cha

  • Mentoring/ Training City Church Leaders
  • Training Village Church Leaders
  • Serving local theological institutions
  • Young-mi will be involved with discipling women

Damon and Young-Mi’s mission experience include teaching in northeast China at Yanbian University of Science and Technology (YUST). Young-Mi served there for two and a half years while Damon served for one year. Young-Mi’s undergraduate training is in fine art, which she has used extensively as the Director of Website and Internal Design at Westminster Seminary California. She also has a Master of Arts from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in the New Testament. Damon completed his Master of Divinity at Westminster Seminary California and is finishing his PhD in Old Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary. He has spent the last several years serving as pastor of education at New Life Mission Church, Fullerton (PCA).

Damon will use his theological training to teach Bible students and equip church leaders in Cambodia. Young-Mi, in addition to caring for Damon and Aliya, will be involved in women’s ministries. They hope to get to the field early 2011.

They have one daughter Aliya (born 4/28/09).

Tim and Moonsook Lim

  • Mentoring/ Training City Church Leaders
  • Training Village Church Leaders
  • Serving local theological institutions

While ministering in Korea, Tim and Moon Sook developed a heart to serve the Church in Asia and received a call to Cambodia. With 50 percent of Cambodians under 21, workers are needed to teach, train, and mentor them to become Christian leaders.

Tim immigrated to the U.S. when his father accepted a pastorate in San Francisco. As a youth he was rebellious but came to faith in Christ during college. After receiving his B.A. at UC Berkeley and M. Div. at Westminster Theological Seminary, Tim was ordained a PCA teaching elder. In 2003, he went to Calvin Seminary in South Korea to teach and establish a theological education program.

Moon Sook was the first to attend church in her family, often gathering friends to join her. She graduated from Young Nam University (South Korea) and became a teacher. Tim met Moon Sook in Korea and they married in 2005.

Tim and Moon Sook decided to follow Christ to Cambodia and serve in the area of theological education by producing theological curriculum for Asian contexts, teaching in Bible schools, discipling leaders, and supporting national churches. They also hope to develop vocational outreach ministries through Korean or English teaching.

Irene (03/10/08)

Paul and Susan Lee

  • Mentoring/ Training City Church Leaders
  • Training Village Church Leaders
  • Serving local theological institutions

Paul and Susan Lee are from the New York/ New Jersey area. Paul has both undergraduate and graduate degrees in engineering. While working as an engineer, Paul also has been actively involved in a Presbyterian Church plant in New Jersey. He recently finished his Masters of Divinity from Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia and plans on getting ordained in the Korean American Presbyterian Church this fall. Susan graduated from Columbia University with a degree in Mathematics.

Paul will be involved in training church leaders and discipleship. He will also be involved in teaching Bible students. In addition to supporting husband and caring for her two children, Susan will be involved in various support roles for the ministry.

The Lees have two young children.

Alex and Jeany Jun

  • Professor of Education at Azusa Pacific University
  • Mentoring/ Training City Church Leaders
  • Jeany will be involved in Medical Ministry

Alex and Jeany have extensive short term missions experience. Jeany spent a year in Russia during her college years and Alex spent a year in China after finishing his master’s degree in education. Alex had since finished his Ph.D in education and taught for several years at the University of Southern California. He has recently taken a post as professor at Azusa Pacific University in the higher education department. His wife Jeany is a professor of pharmacy at Western University in Southern California. Alex serves as a ruling elder at New Life Mission Church, Fullerton (PCA).

The Jun family plans on moving to Cambodia in the late summer of 2010. Alex will still be employed by Azusa Pacific as a professor and will seek to establish ties with local Cambodian Universities. He will be actively involved in our city church planting efforts, training leaders, and evangelizing his various contacts in Cambodia. Jeany, in addition to caring for her three children will be involved in both university teaching and medical ministry of our team.

The Juns have three children: Natalia (3/3/01), Isaiah (11/28/04), and Jeremiah (5/1/06).

Another New Year and Language Study

Greetings from Cambodia,

The Cambodian New Year started yesterday. It is a three day celebration where most people return to their hometowns to celebrate with their families. The first day of the celebration is used to welcome new angels who will come for one year periods of time to take care of the earth. People often go to the temple to get blessed or mediate at home in hopes that an angel will stay with their family throughout the new year. The second day is a time when gifts are exchanged and donations are given to the poor. The third day is filled with more ceremonies at the temple centered around forgiveness for misdeeds against the elderly and blessing for the new year. Many businesses are closed and the city looks a bit like a ghost town, since most people return to their hometowns in the countryside. I am enjoying a few days without language school and trying to keep cool as we are now in the midst of the hot season.

Speaking of language, last week I started my second class at the Institute of Foreign Linguistics. Here is the course description of the class I am currently taking: “Students review consonants, vowels and consonant feet, and construct sentences. Topics include shopping, going to the restaurant, going to the post-office, family, school, housework, and seeing a doctor.” I have learned much in the past six months, but still feel like I have just begun the process.

Thanks for your prayers and support,


Cremation and Buddhism

100_0370The traditional practice of Theravada Buddhism, which is the majority religion in Cambodia, is to cremate the dead body. In an article on burial practices in Cambodia, Rosemary Shewry writes, “After death the body is kept in the home in a closed coffin for three days, on a block of ice and with copious tea leaves (frequently replaced) to freshen the atmosphere. Lucky paper is burnt at the foot of the coffin. The coffin is opened (so the spirit can listen) when monks visit to chant but the face remains covered with a white cloth. On the third day the body is removed to the temple (pagoda) for cremation, the body is exposed for a farewell look and the cloth covering the face is retained for good fortune. A white flag is displayed outside the house during this period and children of the deceased shave their heads and dress in white. Cremation is usually carried out in the temple and the ashes placed in an urn. The urn is placed in a stupa (also called achedi) in the pagoda grounds or within the pagoda itself” (Aspects of Burial and Cremation in Vietnam and Cambodia).

Here is a thoughtful blog post by R. Scott Clark about cremation and burial and the Christian implications to think about: To Bury or Cremate.

Supernatural sightings…

Greetings from Cambodia,

The following story comes from a local newspaper:

Supernatural sightings are being blamed by some for a rash of high school girls falling faint and writhing uncontrollably at two schools in Kratie province, local officials said. Dr. Cheam Sa Em, provincial director of the Kratie health department, said nine students from Prek Prasap district’s Chambok High School became faint and writhed on the ground while 10 other female students displayed the same symptoms in Kratie City in incidents that occurred on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Though the principal at one of the schools affected believes the convulsions were brought on by the appearance of a ghost, Dr. Sa Em offered a less spooky explanation for the girls’ strange behavior: bad diets. “The affected students were the same. They are on diets to be slim and only eating two times a day. They are lacking glucose,” he said. Dr. Sa Em said that the military police and doctors are investigating the incidents, closely monitoring what the girls are eating and drinking and have ordered the schools’ grounds to be cleaned thoroughly. He added that drugs or poison could also be a possible explanation for the students’ symptoms. However, Vin Sokheng, principal of Kratie City’s Preah Mohaksatany Kossamak High School, said that he believed the reason for his students falling ill was supernatural. “When they entered the classroom, they were scared, shouting and then some of them became faint and were writhing on the ground,” Mr Sokheng said of the possession-like symptoms of the teenaged girls studying in 10th through 12th grades. Teachers at the high school and parents of the students were not taking any chances either and invited local Buddhist monks and pagoda laymen to hold a prayer ceremony at the school on Thursday. However, two students showed the same symptoms on Friday and the religious figures were invited back to continue their efforts to bring to continue their efforts to bring an end to the problem. – Chansy, Chhorn. “Girls’ Convulsion Enigma: Ghosts or Crash Diets?” The Cambodian Daily

I would say that the above article provides a fairly fitting description of the spiritual mindset in Cambodia. Obviously, it is much different than what most of us are used to in the States. The Cambodian Daily is daily mainstream newspaper that is mostly written in English. I think that before I came here the only time I saw a headline like the one above was probably on the cover of a National Enquirer in a supermarket checkout line. Most Cambodians believe in a very rich supernatural realm. The religion here is usually described as a type of Folk Buddhism that is Buddhism mixed with a belief in guardian spirits, ancestral spirits, ghosts, and Brahman deities.

Back towards the end of October, I was walking around the Buddhist temple that is close to my house. A monk greeted me in English and invited me to sit at a table with him and talk. I spent about an hour with him. I did not really think that I would see him again when I left that day. But after about 5 months, I have been able to see him 2 or 3 times per month. He is in his early twenties and studying English literature. It has provided a good opportunity for me to practice speaking Khmer and to learn some about Buddhism, and he enjoys practicing his English. His main duty as a monk is to pray for people that come to the temple with health or other problems. Many of the prayers that are recited are in the Pali language, so the average person often does not understand the content of the prayer.

Language learning continues to plod along. I am getting more comfortable using what I know in talking with Khmer people. It is always a bit of an adventure talking to people when your vocabulary is so limited. It is a random of assortment of questions that I know how to ask now ranging from: “What is your favorite color?” to “Does your family have ducks?” so many of my conversations are not very cohesive. Please pray that my ability to speak Khmer progresses, and that I would find my strength and comfort in Christ as I continue to adjust and learn to function in this culture.

In Christ,


The Harvest Fields…

Greetings from Cambodia,

Well, here in Cambodia we are in the midst of the cold season. That is if you can consider a low of 72 degrees at night to be cold. Nonetheless, I am really enjoying this weather compared to the weather when I first arrived. But I hear the hottest weather will come in April. While the weather here hasn’t reminded me that Christmas is only a few days away, the “consumerism” spirit of the season seems to be alive and well here in malls and other businesses. Hopefully, someday soon more people here will hear about and embrace a distinctive Christian understanding of Christmas as the incarnation of our Redeemer. Learning the Khmer language is progressing, but learning a new language is much more like a long distance race than a sprint.  I am not for sure that I am all that fast at running this race, but it seems like if one runs long enough that fluency will eventually come. For most of you, I am sure that some days your jobs are enjoyable and other days they seem somewhat monotonous and at times boring. I feel the someway with language learning.

As you will see from a couple of the pictures, I recently had the chance to see firsthand what rice harvest in the countryside is like. The couple that lives next door invited me to come along for the day to her family’s village. Although I have seen some modern machinery being used, most of the field work in Cambodia is still done by hand and with animals. The family in the village is representative of about 80% of Cambodia’s population who are subsistence rice farmers. While I grew up on a farm and spent several years studying agriculture in college, practices here are much different. The field that the family spent most of the day harvesting would have taken about 5 minutes to harvest with a combine. The process of hand harvesting involves several steps. First, the seed head and upper part of the stalk are cut off with a hand sickle and tied together in small bundles. The bundles are left to dry on top of the stubble for several days and then hauled to the threshing floor. Threshing is often done by beating the bundles against pieces of slatted wood. The final step before bagging is cleaning the grain. This can be done by winnowing which involves tossing the seeds in the air and allowing the wind to blow away the lighter chaff and weed seeds. But often machines are used for this last step. I was reminded of the many Bible stories about harvesting as I worked. I thought about Gideon who was threshing wheat in a winepress to hide from the Midianites. But ironically the Lord calls him a mighty man of valor and tells him that he will be with him as he delivers Israel. And such are you and I – ones that are weak and timid, but are used by God because his grace in Christ is sufficient in our weakness.

Thanks for your prayers and encouragement over the past few weeks. I am feeling much more settled in than when I last wrote. I pray that you know the love of our God to us, his undeserving children, as you celebrate the incarnation of our Savior during the Christmas Season.

In Christ,


First few weeks…

Greetings from Cambodia,

Last night was the three week anniversary of my arrival in Cambodia. I arrived on a Wednesday evening. The next morning I left with the MTW team for our annual retreat which was along the coast. It was nice to spend a few days getting to know the team to start my time here. After we arrived back in Phnom Penh, I started unpacking and getting things for my house. I have started to feel more settled in this week. My time is spent meeting with a language tutor four or five days a week, studying the language, and spending time with a few Cambodians that I have met and some of the team. I have been eating most of my meals with a Cambodian Christian couple that live across the street from me. We sit on the floor to eat and we have had rice with every meal but one. Life here has been about as different as I expected. But it is much different to hear and read about these differences than to actually live in the midst of them. I am reminded of a David Powlison quote where he says, “Love of comfort and ease leads to every sort of evil…love of pleasure, love of excitement, the desire to never be bored…love of good health, love of control, love of adoration, love of good looks, love of getting your own way, love of what people give me, love of self-righteousness…these are profound idolatries.” I probably didn’t realize how much I loved my relative life of ease and comfort in the US until I stepped off of an airplane a few weeks ago and it was gone.

Prayer: You can pray for my cultural adjustment. I guess being a white guy in Asia has its limitation to fitting in, but you can pray that I fit in appropriately. Also, pray for my language learning and that I am disciplined in my study. Finally, pray for me as I am in the midst of many adjustments and frustrations at times that I would take comfort in Christ’s gospel.


The entry to my house
The view from the back of my house

Leaving for Cambodia…


I don’t think that it has fully sunk in for me, but I am leaving for Cambodia on Tuesday morning. I remember just a few months ago having lunch with a  friend after church and telling him that I was at a loss for what to do next in the support raising process. Yet, even in all my doubts, God was faithful to answer our prayers and bring in the needed support. It is easy now to look back on this initial support raising process and think that it was much easier than it was. There were many joys along the way from seeing ways God provided and from many encouraging friends, but some days were filled with disappointment and frustration. You have prayed with me during this time, and now you can offer thanksgiving to God with me for answering our prayers and his faithfulness during this time. I’ll write more in a few days to give more details about moving to Cambodia.