" Sitting in a circle on the blue tarp directly on the ground reminded me of life in the refugee camp. This is nothing strange to us. We used to live this kind of life, and this is where God had found us in the time of despair and suffering"
After escaping from Cambodia 25 years ago, Pastor Sophat Sorn was back in his home country, this time with a mission for radio ministry. Many changes had taken place, both in his life and in Cambodia. He had spent eight years as a refugee along the Thai-Cambodian border, before the Lord opened a way for him to settle in the United States. At the border camp, Sorn had worked as a district pastor in the Site 2 camp, and in 1989 he became the first Cambodian Adventist to be ordained.
His family was finally resettled with him in Stockton, California, two years later and was warmly welcomed by Stockton Central SDA Church. With the help of Judy Aitken, of the then Frontier Mission, he gathered baptized members from the refugee camp and started a group of Cambodian Adventists. He began working with AWR to produce programs in the Khmer language in 2003. He collaborates with other pastors in the United States and Cambodia, and Pastor Sereivudh Ly of Canada, to produce “Samleng Metreipheap” (“The Voice of Love”).
Sorn and his family had dreamed for years of undertaking a mission trip to Cambodia. With the support of their fellow church members, which included a benefit concert to raise funds for the journey, they were able to embark on a nearly month-long itinerary. They had numerous goals for the trip, including strengthening the radio ministry, meeting listeners from remote areas, and recording their testimonies.
Pastor Sorn was thrilled when the president and secretary of the Cambodia Mission gave him an opportunity to spend time with a group of 82 pastors and church planters from all over Cambodia and discuss ways that “The Voice of Love” could support their work. He says, “I praise the Lord for such a wonderful opportunity, that we could exceed our plan to share our radio ministry with those who work directly with our listeners in Cambodia. We all can witness the power of God’s spoken Word in this ministry. I was able to see the excitement and willingness of those workers, who are joining us hand-in-hand in the ‘big harvest.’”
Sorn gave the leaders 1,000 promotional postcards, which they are using to spread the word about the radio broadcasts. Khmer-speakers anywhere in the world can also listen to the programs through Internet audio, which is available at the web site voiceoflove.us. Sorn says, “Our postcards contain enough information for people to tune in to our radio program and go to our web site to listen to the broadcast messages, contact us, make requests, and give feedback.”
He also gave a presentation on small group evangelism, and encouraged the pastors and church planters to incorporate radio ministry into their small groups. Finally, Sorn conducted a survey on the radio program to learn about airtime preferences, reception quality, and more. AWR currently broadcasts “The Voice of Love” for half an hour twice a week, but most of the survey respondents asked that the airtime be increased to one hour, he reports.
An important component of the trip was giving handson training in radio production to staff at the Cambodia Mission in Phnom Penh. Pastor Nhean Thonsovan is in charge of media at the Mission, and he was given a room in the back of the Mission church to set up a studio.
One Sabbath, a testimony-sharing session was held, and people lined up patiently to give life-changing testimonies. “There was a great turnout,” Sorn says. “Amongst them were some listeners of ‘The Voice of Love’ from Takeo province and from Preah Vihear province. A women’s lay ministry group from Phnom Penh also was present. We encouraged them to use the radio for small group outreach and evangelism. They can prerecord programs via the Internet and play them at any of their meetings, or they can listen directly at the computer. We invited them to join hands with us and to utilize the radio program as a tool for local ministry. Overall, 28 radios were given out.”
The Sorn family encountered many moving testimonies as they met with local Adventists, such as during their visit to the Tuol Toting house church. Sorn describes the morning: “It was raining hard when our van turned in a small grassy road and stopped in front of a masonry house, with a house of worship behind. This small house church was crowded with about 35 people, and a dozen more stayed underneath listening to the worship service. At first, they did not have a place to worship God, so a widow member opened her house as a place of worship.
Amongst them was a district leader who had become an Adventist through listening to ‘The Voice of Love.’ He now is a Bible teacher leading the worship service in his group. Pastor Thonsovan and Sao Saruth, a church planter, have been in contact with him, and before leaving, we gave him a new AWR self-powered radio and hands-on instruction on the digital frequency.”
One of the many highlights of the trip was recording music of Khmer hymns. “We worked straight through without air conditioning, and recorded with our young guitarists and lead singers,” Sorn says. “Despite my portable mixer getting short-circuited and burned, we continued using laptop direct-recording methods. The four singers sang so beautifully. My heart rejoiced to have them sing untiringly for our ‘Voice of Love’ program.”
Sorn also recorded testimonies from church members, and his daughter, Sofia, was touched by their faith. She says, “They have all been through so much, all in a different way. Even so, they all have one thing in common. They found Jesus, their personal Savior. God is powerful, and I witnessed it firsthand while listening to these testimonies.”
“Of the 16 million people in Cambodia, only 6,000 are Adventists,” Sorn concludes. “Though we do not have big numbers of baptisms yet, with AWR we have planted the seeds in their hearts and have inspired their interest in finding out the truth from God.”
Shelley Nolan Freesland is the Director of AWR Communication.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT AWR
HOW CAN I HEAR AWR PROGRAMS?
Adventist World Radio is the mission radio arm of the Adventist church. Our mandate is to enter the hardest-to-reach places on earth, and we focus on broadcasting to people groups that are difficult to reach in other ways. There are countries where mission workers cannot be sent because of political, religious, or geographic barriers.
North America does not have those restrictions, and many Adventist media ministries are already active here, so we concentrate on broadcasting to other areas. However, if you have a shortwave radio, you occasionally may be able to pick up an AWR signal. Also, more and more of our programs are accessible through Internet podcast at www.awr.org.
WHY DO YOU USE SHORTWAVE? ISN’T IT OBSOLETE?
AWR broadcasts many hours on shortwave radio because it is the most widely-heard broadcast vehicle in the world. As well, the signals can travel for thousands of miles, unlike AM or FM radio waves, enabling our programs to reach into countries that are closed to religious broadcasts in local media. More than 2.5 billion people, using 1.5 billion shortwave radio receivers, tune in somewhere in the world on a regular basis. Research shows that shortwave listeners are growing globally, with shortwave penetration at its highest level in developing countries. For example, 98 percent of households in Zimbabwe have shortwave radios. People in North America don’t listen as much to shortwave because of the widespread availability of local AM and FM stations.
In addition to shortwave, AWR also broadcasts programs via AM and FM stations, direct-to-home satellite, and the Internet.
HOW MANY LANGUAGES DO YOU BROADCAST IN, AND HOW MANY COUNTRIES DO YOU COVER?
We currently produce programs in 75 languages, such as Amharic for people in Ethiopia, Kirghiz for residents of Kyrgyzstan, and Malayalam for listeners in India. Our non-Internet broadcasts cover more than two thirds of the world, through shortwave, AM and FM stations, and satellite. It is a challenge to calculate the exact number of countries we reach, since signals fluctuate and radio stations access our downlinks throughout the year.
HOW ARE GIFTS TO AWR USED?
All gifts made directly to AWR go to advance our broadcast ministry. For example, AWR uses direct gifts to cover the cost of air time and add new languages in areas such as the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. Operating expenses are covered by appropriations from the General Conference and other sources of income, such as investments, endowments, and estate gifts.