KBAL TAOL, Cambodia — David* never imagined he’d use ghosts
as a way to share the gospel.
A Christian worker in Cambodia, David was surveying
Vietnamese floating villages on Tonle Sap Lake, the largest freshwater lake in
Southeast Asia, and needed a boat and driver. Andrew,* whom David had led to
Christ 18 months earlier, agreed to take the job.
It was on one of these survey trips to the village of Kbal
Taol that David met Tim.* The two began to talk of spiritual things, and David
gave Tim a Bible. After several more visits, Tim invited David and Andrew to
dinner in his home. Before they arrived, Andrew gave David some advice.
“The way you talk about God is good, but it would be better
to start differently,” Andrew said.
“How should I start?” David asked.
“You need to talk about ghosts,” he replied.
“Ghosts? Why ghosts?”
“Because,” Andrew explained, “the people here are afraid of
ghosts. They need to know that this Creator God is more powerful than ghosts.”
The close-knit community of Kbal Taol is home to
approximately 350 Vietnamese families and 450 Khmer (Cambodian) families. It is
two hours by boat from the nearest town — Siem Reap in northern Cambodia.
Although some residents may claim Buddhism as the predominant religion, most
live in fear of spirits who they believe can cause them harm.
It is difficult for Vietnamese to get land rights in
Cambodia, so most choose to live on the water.
Since the majority of the men are fishermen, living on the
water means they are closer to their work.
They go out at night to drop their nets and collect them
early the next morning. The women spend their days harvesting fish from the
The fish then are taken to Siem Reap to sell.
“The Vietnamese who live on the water are different from
those who live on the land,” David explained. “They are more community and
family oriented. If a mother dies in childbirth, the entire community will take
care of the baby. They will share their food with each other when food is
The children attend school, which Tim teaches, or help with
fishing during peak season. Instead of riding their bicycle to visit a
neighborhood friend, children as young as 6 or 7 hop in a boat and paddle next
door or down the “street” to see their friends.
Until 2008, no one in this village had ever heard the story
But that changed the night David and Andrew arrived at Tim’s
house for dinner.
Tim had invited a few neighbors to join them, including
Andrew’s father, who lived next door.
After dinner, the talk turned to spiritual things. Tim had
begun reading the Bible David gave him and had many questions.
“Tim and I had been talking for about three hours, and the
other men were falling asleep,” David said. “Then about 9 o’clock Andrew pulled
“Now is the time to talk about ghosts,” Andrew told him.
So David began a discussion about ghosts by sharing the
story of the rich man and Lazarus from Luke 16. He explained that ghosts are
not spirits of the dead but rather fallen angels and evil spirits sent out from
“The men woke up,” David laughed. “(Now) they were paying
At midnight, however, the visitors left to get some sleep
before their early morning fishing trip. But Tim still had questions.
Finally, Tim asked David, “Now, tell me how someone can
become a child of God.”
David explained the gospel, and Tim prayed to receive
Christ. It was 3 a.m.
“That is the longest visitation I’ve ever had,” David said
with a smile.
Tim says life is better since he trusted in Christ.
“I (still) teach children … (but now) every day I pray and
ask God to help me. …”
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Rivers is a writer for IMB. Every penny
given to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is used to support more than 5,600
Southern Baptist missionaries as they share the gospel overseas. This year’s
offering goal is $175 million. The 2009 Lottie Moon offering theme is “Who’s
Missing, Whose Mission?”)