We’re excited to welcome Vanek as our new National Director of Cambodia. He spent more than ten years with various local and international NGOs in Cambodia in the field of education, human rights, and development. He desires to see the lives of Cambodians fully restored both physically and spiritually so they can take part in building up the Kingdom of God in Cambodia. Below is his story in his own words.
My name is Lem Vanek and I was born in a rooted Buddhist family in South-Vietnam that was known as lower Cambodia (Kampuchea Krom which is occupied by Vietnamese government since 1949) in 1984. My father was a Khmer and Vietnam professor who taught lay people and monk in difference pagodas. Because of political insecurity, my family fled from Kampuchea Krom to Cambodia when I was four years old.
In Cambodia, my family lived in a very remote area of Sihanoukville and I went to a wooden primary school when I was five years old. One year later, due to the very poor living conditions in the remote area, my family moved to Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia. Though my family is poor, my parents still sent me and my older sister to school, leaving my oldest sister to help them to work at home.
In 2001, I finished high school and went to Cambodian University in early of 2003 to pursue for Bachelor Degree of Art in English Literature. In order to support my studies I worked as a part-time English teacher. Soon after, I got a full-time job as an Advocacy Officer for a local Human Rights NGO. Through this work, I was able to support myself to finish my Bachelors Degree in February 2007.
I met my wife, Mol Marady, at our church called Cell Church of Christ when we were serving the Lord together as youth pastors. We fell in love and married on 18th Dec 2008 and we have a daughter namely Lem Puri Raksa.
How I came to know Jesus?
I heard about Jesus when I was in high school. I was a school footballer and I played every time I free. One day, a youth pastor came to me and said, “Brother, would you like to come and play football with my team?” I was very surprised as I heard he calls me “brother” because all of my classmates used very bad words and curse one another. I decided to play on his team since I heard his polite words and his good manner. About three weeks after, he invited me to his church. No single word of reject, I visited his church at his invitation. At the church, I met many smile-full face people. They were very gentle and greeted me very well. I was attracted by their good character and love. So, I went to church every Sunday. Soon, my parents found out about this news and they treated my very badly. My parents said that they have only one son and they could not allow me to believe foreigner God (they call Jesus a foreigner God), because foreigner God does not allow followers to respect parents. They stopped me from going to church for months.
However, I still visited a cell group near my house. In late 2000, I offered myself and accepted Jesus as my savior and I go to Cell Church of Christ where I met my wife very regular. My wife and I regard ourselves as a local missionary and we support and help the local church.