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How I Met Jesus in the Jungle

Updated: Apr 27, 2021

Chased by the Khmer Rouge and starving in the jungle, Albert beheld a "Man in White"

God saved Albert from the murderous Khmer Rouge in Cambodia many years ago. Now, Albert is a leader whose sights are set on multiplying disciples—in the US and Cambodia.

Albert is a disciple-maker, husband, father of four, and pastor of a Cambodian church in Richardson, Texas. Last year, Albert joined the Fall CDM University class and the CDM Coached Team.

A Man in White Led Me Through the Jungle

In 1975, the Khmer Rouge seized control of Cambodia. At that time, I was attending the only college in Cambodia. My life was in grave danger because the Khmer Rouge began their Communist regime by killing anyone who was educated, including primary school children, because they wanted to brainwash the people.

I fled and lived on the run, alone. I knew nothing about the True God, only Buddha. Ultimately, I was captured and imprisoned in a camp, tortured and starved for three years. Eventually, fighting broke out in the area and I escaped into the jungle. I crossed several minefields littered with dead bodies.

For months, I stumbled through the jungle, directionless. Many times I fell, exhausted and starved. Each time, a voice spoke clearly to me and said, “Get up! Leave, now!” At the time, I assumed it was a ghost or the spirits of my ancestors.

However, several times in the darkest nights, a Man in White appeared and led me through the jungle. Finally, I escaped from the war zone to Texas. The abrupt transition was very difficult and I experienced extreme culture shock.

Saved From Suicide

In Texas, I tried to find peace in Buddhist temples and practices. However, the trauma from my past plagued me with anguish and nightmares, and left me feeling completely lost. Unable to speak the language, hopeless, without food and with nowhere to go, I decided to commit suicide.

However, at my lowest point, the Man in White appeared to me again. This time I knew He was Jesus. At that moment, my life turned around completely. I hungered and thirsted for the Bible—of which I knew nothing.

So, I asked people, “What is the Bible?” I obtained a Bible and read it night and day. I didn’t understand everything, but read from Genesis to Revelation. I saw myself and my journey in the stories I read.

All I Need is God’s Word, Not Seminary or Denominations

After encountering the Lord, I walked into a Presbyterian church and asked, “Can I be baptized?”

They said I had to go through all the theology classes and meet with elders before being baptized. “Can’t you just make it simple?” I questioned, “Throw a bucket of water on me or something?”

They said 'No.' So, I did what they said and became a Presbyterian. Not long after, I led a mission trip back to Cambodia. All the while, my hunger for scripture grew and burned in my heart like a constant flame.

My church leaders sent me to seminary. I told them that all I needed was the Word of God, but in seminary they taught me more about the different denominations and theologians than they did the Bible. I used to say, “When I was on the run in the minefields and jungles of Cambodia, I met Jesus. But when I came to the States, all I saw were denominations. Where was Jesus?”

Starting Discovery Bible Studies on Facebook

God broke my heart for the people of Cambodia. But I wanted a practical way to make disciples that didn’t pull families out of their culture or just scare people with the threat of hell. Then I met my friend Varita, who showed me the CDM book,Conversation Quadrants, and Discovery Bible Study. I liked what I heard, and because I’m a doer, I put it into practice right away.

I started with friendly, casual conversations with people on Facebook. I listened and looked for a man who was open, a person of peace. I met a Cambodian man named Dee who had heard about the gospel but was still into Buddhism. I moved into meaningful and spiritual conversations and, eventually, invited him into a Discovery Study.

We started a month ago, and continue to meet to this day! Dee is sharing the Bible stories with his village. Soon, I know we will form a Discovery Group, because Dee said the teaching of the Bible is exactly what he and his village was looking for!

When I retire, I am going to take what I’ve learned back to Cambodia and teach all the villages how to make disciples and multiply!


Lessons Learned From Albert's Story

Albert's testimony shows us how we often complicate the gospel and the simple act of following Jesus. Albert wanted to get baptized, but found he had to jump through hoops before he could do it. He wanted to open the Word of God and discover Jesus in seminary, but all he got was church history.

Have we lost Jesus when we focus so much on denominations and theology?

Albert powerfully encountered Jesus in the jungles of Cambodia and in his darkest moments. But he struggled to find Jesus in the American church. What are we missing? When making disciples of Jesus, only a few things are necessary: the Word of God, faithful obedience, and a commitment to teach others to do the same.


Podcast: Why Denominations Can't Fulfill the Great Commission

It's all about multiplication, not replication. It's easy to assume that our particular church will appeal to everyone and work in every culture. That's just not the case. For Albert, denominational traditions only served to confuse his faith journey. In order to reproduce the Gospel, we have to get out of our denominational box.

David Watson joins us in this podcast to talk about how to know if a church is planted right. It doesn't have to do with our preferred flavor of church, but rather obedience.

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