This woman is a widow who supports her two young daughters in the Village of Pbaom in Cambodia. She has no rice field and like many in this extremely poor area of subsistence farmers she weaves traditionally patterned Cambodian silk for making sombots (a traditional Cambodian skirt) to earn her “living.” She earns around $25 per month or so from her labors, but $10 of that goes to the company she borrowed money from to buy the silk. (Which seems to charge about 100% interest.) On the remaining $15 a month she must support her family and maintain her house.
She is also a faithful Christian who comes to our church services every Saturday. To see so many hungering and thirsting for God’s Word and coming to hear every week really warms my heart. The plight of God’s people, though, weighs heavily on my heart and along with opening God’s Word to them I desired to ease their hardship in some small but meaningful way. The difficulty is that many “missionaries” have gone about establishing works throughout the area (and indeed the whole world) by offering monetary gain if people will convert. (Something to the effect, “If you convert we’ll help you out of poverty and make your life wonderful because that is what Christianity is all about.”) The resulting “Rice Christians” (for they convert to get bags of rice) often neither know nor care about salvation or the Savior, only mammon. It breaks my heart and limits what I can effectively do.
Having been working in Takeo for almost 6 months, I’ve had opportunity to teach and explain about this many times. When there’s been great need I have done some benevolence giving. (Someone is always sick or out of food in one of the villages in which I am working.) I decided it was time to do more. Since they are paying around 100% interest (which robs them of 40% of their income), I loaned a few of the most faithful and needy the $100 to buy a batch of silk, interest free. This way I can help them without creating a culture of dependence or greed. It’s my prayer that God would bless this effort to help His people and glorify Himself through it.
For more details (stories and pictures) about Pbaom, weaving, and the other work in Takeo province at Prey Pdao, please visit my website: http://baldwin.presbyterianmissions.org. — Rev. Mark Baldwin