March 2, 2015

A sweet influence

Written by  EMM staff
EMM worker Debbie Coats examines a patient in Cambodia. EMM worker Debbie Coats examines a patient in Cambodia. Photo by Jenni Wagler.

This article appears in the March/April 2015 issue of Missionary Messenger; sign up to read more articles like this one.
An after-school program for seven- to fourteen-year-old children in very rural Cambodia expanded into two new villages in 2014. Parents signed up 120 children, more than EMM workers John and Debbie Coats expected.

In rural Cambodia, a large percentage of parents must live and work far away in another city or country, leaving their children at home with relatives.

Many are attracted to the one hour of basic Khmer language and math tutoring provided each day. The rural schools are not providing quality education, so it is common for a child who has just entered the after-school program to not yet be able to read their Khmer alphabet letters.

But tutoring is not the main focus of the program. John says, “We want to introduce the children to Jesus. We hope that the children will come to know Him and the way of life He taught and be a sweet influence within their families and communities as they grow up.”

Committed local Khmer Christians who love kids serve as the teachers for the program. They focus on teaching Christian character values, such as honesty, respect for others, honoring parents, and more. They also teach through the Bible in one year — starting with introducing the children to God the Creator all the way through to the resurrection of Jesus — through story-telling, skits, and pictures.

Parents and relatives raising children understand that their children will be learning about Jesus, singing songs about Jesus, and learning from the Bible. They sign a statement indicating that they understand what the children will be learning and agreeing to reinforce the values taught in the program in their homes.

Although few parents are eager for their children to become Christians, they do want the children to learn the good moral values taught in the program. The parents also attend a session on good ways to parent.

After the tutoring and the character lesson or Bible lesson, the teachers play games with the children for an element of fun. John says that some of the teachers act like kids themselves! 

This article appears in the March/April 2015 issue of Missionary Messenger; sign up to read more articles like this one.