When serving as an LDS missionary in Cambodian, a young boy approached my companion and me during a church meeting, asking us to teach the gospel to his mother. I had no idea of the relationship that was about to form. This boy had recently been baptized a member of the LDS church and felt the excitement and happiness that the gospel brings to those who abide by its teachings. He wanted to share his joy with his family, especially his mother who had played such a supportive role in his life.
His mom was an outgoing and bubbly lady. She was always happy to have visitors in her home, especially the missionaries. Being raised a practicing Buddhist, she was hesitant at first to accept what my companion and I were teaching but soon she became interested and–––like her son–––was baptized. Getting to know her was a tremendous blessing for me. For months, we would meet at her house and chat and exchange stories. To this day I still call her mother and she calls me her son. But even after all those meetings there were some things about her past that I didn’t know because they never came up in our conversations. It wasn’t until I joined the Cambodian Oral History Project that I was able to hear stories about her childhood that gave me and even deeper understanding of this great friend of mine.
I learned about her experiences in the Pol Pot regime with her family and how lucky she is to be alive right now. I learned about her inclination towards Christianity as a young girl but also how her parents wouldn’t allow her to associate with Christians. I learned about her wedding, which occurred at the same time as 20 other couples as they all lined up and grasped the hand of a person they had only met seconds before. Knowing this information changed my view dramatically of a woman I deeply cared about.
The history recorded by this project will surely give the world a better broad understanding of Cambodia. But for me, what I am most grateful for about this project is the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the lives of the people I loved so much while serving them for two years.
*Sam Osborne is a former Cambodia LDS missionary and COHP assistant.