Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Sokreaksa Himm - Preserved by God

It never ceases to amaze me how God has a way of orchestrating our lives to meet with people who inspire us to higher heights on our Christian journey. One such person is Reaksa Himm. It was about 2 or 3 years ago when one of my friends mentioned to a lady at my church about my interest in Cambodia. This precious lady Marg gave me a book to read called ‘Tears of My Soul’ written by a young Cambodian man called Sokreaksa Himm. I would later discover that Reaksa was partnering with OMF, a Christian Missionary organization that I have ties to. What was even more inspiring was to meet this man in person and here his story. His life reminds me that when God has chosen you it does not matter what the enemy may do to try to destroy or crush your soul, God will never forsake you and He will protect you in ways that are unimaginable. Today, Reaksa is one of our partners at The Ratanak Foundation. Below is an excerpt or Reaksa’s journey written by someone at ChristianWeek

A Cambodian refugee who returned to his war-torn country and forgave his family's killers received a standing ovation as he accepted an honorary doctorate at the Providence College and Seminary graduation exercises, April 22, 2007. Sokreaska Himm's search for forgiveness and his prescription for Cambodian societal renewal has featured on CBC and caught the attention of more than just evangelical enclaves. Yet Providence College and Seminary president Gus Konkel describes the story of Himm's search for forgiveness After the Heavy Rain as "required reading" which "reveals the essence of the gospel." "Cambodians have suffered so much pain," says Himm. "Nothing will ever make them whole again, except the healing message of hope, love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ."

After two years of near starvation and forced labour at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, Himm's eleven siblings and their parents were taken by soldiers to an open grave. As his family members were clubbed and beaten to death one by one, 13- year-old Sokreaska watched the killers in silence as he lay on his dying father in the grave. At nightfall, Himm regained consciousness and struggled to pull himself out from underneath his family. Left with deep emotional trauma, Himm faced a life of bitterness and anger. Thirteen years later, his conversion to Christianity set him on a pursuit for the meaning of forgiveness. "Depression pursued me like a shadow," says Himm. "Hopelessness was the greatest enemy of my life. Why had I survived?"

Cultural confusion
In Canada, Himm attended Tyndale University College and then Providence Seminary. As he juggled East and West worldviews during his time in North America, he remembers hearing whole sermons on forgiveness but asking the pastor how it was possible. "Didn't you listen to my sermon?" came the reply. Himm hopes that survivors of any kind will find his story an encouragement to face the greatest decision of their life: whether or not to forgive. After the Heavy Rain follows an earlier memoir, Tears of My Soul, both published by Monarch books in England. The book is not only a personal story of the triumph of love over hatred, but also a missiological document with a far-reaching message for the Cambodian people. In Cambodia, says Himm, Buddhist survivors are told to suppress their emotions for the com mon good. At the same time, revenge is considered honorable and just among men.
Himm gives a brief history of Cambodia's trials in the vacuum of French colonial power leading up to the gripping silence of today's regime. Years of communist "street justice" and retribution further scarred the population. Himm describes the country as morally exhausted. No Khmer Rouge leaders have publicly apologized in 32 years. The only solution, he says, is the grace of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

"Few Cambodians who suffered during the Khmer Rouge regime have ever discussed forgiveness," says Himm in his memoir. In a CBC interview in 1998 at the death of Pol Pot, Himm was asked how he felt. He said he wished Pol Pot would have asked forgiveness of the Cambodian people. His admission led to the much more difficult journey of forgiving his family's killers—in person. It was only much later that Himm returned to their village and gave them scarves and Bibles as a sign of his own forgiveness. The killers, who continued to live under changing and repressive regimes themselves, could not understand his motive. But after years of suffering, Himm says he is finally at peace. "Now I cry with tears of joy," he concludes in his memoir, After the Heavy Rain. For three years, Sokreaska Himm taught at Phnom Penh Bible College and is now planting churches around his hometown in Cambodia.

1 comment:

Roger said...

I have seen the healing that takes place when we forgive those who have hurt us. Sokreaska's forgiveness is spectacular, in that his hurts were so deep. But much lesser hurts scar the souls of people. Often they do not even realize that they have unforgiveness in their lives. But that unforgiveness yields all kind of ill effects.

A video of Sokreaska's testimony is available at http://deimos3.apple.com/WebObjects/Core.woa/Browse/spu-public.1480146308?i=1364541835