Introduction / History Can we reasonably still call the several thousand Khmer people in New Zealand an unreached people group? They have their own church, and at least three home groups. But as of 2006, their church was still led by Dutch missionaries, who say that this church feels "foreign" to these refugees who left Cambodia's Killing Fields in the late 1970s. One web site states, "The majority of Cambodians are Theravada Buddhists, who use their temples as centers of religious and cultural practice." The article goes on to list five other places of worship for Buddhist Cambodians in New Zealand.
The missionaries who are trying to establish a Khmer Church in Christchurch lament that the Cambodians lack the spiritual hunger to attend church regularly. Some go to church if they feel they can get something out of it, but they will also worship at Buddhist temples. The love of money is a spiritual stronghold that is keeping many from Christ. Though some of the Cambodian Khmer do unskilled labor, an increasing number of them are starting businesses and working long hours so they can make lots of money. A 1999 article in the "New Zealand Herald" quoted a Cambodian shop owner as saying, "People tell me I am clever. I am not clever, but I work hard," meaning he gets up at 3:30 am!
As time goes on and the Khmer refugees forget the Killing Fields of Cambodia, what direction will they take? Will their children become so assimilated that they join mainline New Zealand culture? Will they turn from Buddhism to either Christianity of secular humanism? Though the older generation is trying to help those born in New Zealand to embrace the Khmer language and culture, it may be a losing battle as the decades roll by.
Prayer Points * Pray for a spiritual hunger among the Khmer people in New Zealand that will lead them to the cross.
* Pray that the materialism that is slipping in will leave them feeling spiritually empty and ready to turn to the Holy One.
* Pray that as younger Khmer assimilate to New Zealand, that they will turn their hearts to Christ rather than secularism and materialism.