An Anglican Mission in Cambodia

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We are the Pellonis, a young family with four daughters, living and serving in Cambodia since 2015. Entirely unexpectedly, by God’s providence, we are now worshiping in an Anglican Church, learning all about the church through Anglican Compass, and preparing to serve as Anglican missionaries through SAMS.

Finding the Anglican Church in Cambodia

When we moved to Phnom Penh, Cambodia in 2015 as newlyweds, we started looking for a church to attend while working as teachers at a Christian bilingual school for middle-class Cambodians. What we didn’t realize at the time is that it’s very difficult to find churches to worship at in the English language. We searched for over a year attending different churches with different denominations without feeling like any of them could be a church home for us.

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In May 2016 we gave birth to our first daughter Laurel. While we took some time to adjust to being a family of three, we sat down and prayed for God to provide a church our growing family could find not only to worship at but also one supportive of our daughter being a part of that worship. Surely enough, we discovered CCOP, Church of Christ Our Peace. We instantly fell in love with the worship and community of CCOP.

I especially fell in love with the liturgical character of CCOP. I love how we recite the liturgy together as one body of Christ and I love the significance placed on receiving the sacraments on a weekly basis. Finding CCOP was a springboard for us to grow our ministry focus from just teaching to seeing other needs for people in Cambodia.

After giving birth to our second daughter, my wife Anna began meeting with and supporting newly pregnant mothers who wanted to have their children in Cambodia like us (at the time, the standard was to fly out of Cambodia into Thailand to give birth). I began serving the church on Sundays through the sound team and children’s ministries. The more we served with CCOP, we more we learned about the movement of Anglican missions in Cambodia.

The History of the Anglican Church in Cambodia

Our congregation, CCOP, was established in 1993 as the first Anglican Church in Cambodia, under the Anglican Diocese of Singapore. It consisted of English and Khmer-speaking congregations. Rev Donald Cormack (Killing Fields Living Fields) was its first Vicar and Rev Dr John Benson the first Dean of Cambodia.  Don Cormack has written about the history of Cambodian Christianity in his book: Killing Fields, Living Fields.

In 1996, Rev. Mok Wai Mung and his wife Mee Hwa began pioneering new Khmer-speaking outreaches and churches, mostly in the rural countryside. The Rev. Chai Lip Vui started The Chinese-speaking Church of the Good Shepherd in 1999 to reach out to ethnic Chinese Cambodians in Phnom Penh. In 2000, Deaconess Bessie Lee of St Andrew’s Cathedral initiated Project Khmer Hope (PKH), a training center in Kampong Speu Province, to equip young Cambodians with skills in hospitality and provide healthcare to the rural community. She launched another training center in the remote Aoral district in 2013. In 2019, Wu Win Ben started the Chinese-speaking congregation at CCOP.

To date, the Anglican Church of Cambodia has grown into a communion of ten congregations, each with several preaching points (small daughter churches) in Phnom Penh and six rural provinces, worshiping Jesus in Khmer, English, and Chinese. In addition to the churches, and the work of PKH, the Anglican Church of Cambodia has four dorms that provide a safe place for university students to live and opportunities to come to know the Lord, an English language learning and computer training program in TaKhmau, a full larger English language school in Svay Rieng, and an English tutoring program in an economically depressed, high-risk village. The Anglican Church of Cambodia also partners with a group of non-Anglican churches among the Stieng people group in Kratie.

Learning Through Anglican Compass

As we learned and saw how God had grown the Anglican church in Cambodia, we sought to learn more about Anglicanism and asked ourselves how we fit into the Anglican traditions. At this point, we discovered Anglican Compass. We found many great resources and books to answer questions we have about the parts of the Sunday communion service, about vestments and the different colors over the course of the year, and the significance of baptizing our children, which we did in Cambodia in July 2022.

We saw how throughout the world, Anglican churches are all different, yet still have a strong foundation in Christ, the authority of the Bible, and the Book of Common Prayer to help guide services and worship. We have grown to love Anglicanism as a way for our entire family to worship God together as we seek to follow him in our daily life!

Anglican Church Planting in Cambodia

As we grew year by year in our faith, the Lord placed a strong desire in us to be more involved in CCOP in Cambodia. We faced a major obstacle because we lived in the North part of the city, while CCOP was in the South part of the city. Just as this desire grew within us, our pastor approached us to consider joining the core group for a church planting team as CCOP desired to plant a church in the Northern part of Phnom Penh! We were thrilled that God was giving us a deeper role within our church.

The vision for this church plant is to minister to the needs of Internationals, Cambodians, and Chinese people (the three major people groups in Cambodia). CCOP currently has three congregations in the south part of Phnom Penh and this new church plant will expand CCOP to two locations within Phnom Penh to meet the growing needs of all people living in the city.

We began meeting at the end of 2022 to grow as a team and prayerfully ask the Lord how the church can practically meet the needs of the people who will attend it. Two of the ways the team will seek to meet needs is through dorm ministry for young Cambodians in university and women’s ministry, specifically young and soon-to-be mothers. As a team, we will spend most of 2023 seeking and discerning what other ministries the church can use to meet the needs of future church members with the goal of launching in August 2023.

Seeking Anglican Mission Partners

Over our eight years living in Cambodia, the Lord placed a growing desire to be more deeply involved in CCOP. When Covid hit Cambodia in 2020, the government ordered all churches closed. It was two years before our family could rejoin church services again. In that time, we came to see how important weekly church attendance was, but also how deep a need there was for more church accessibility in Cambodia. As we prayed, we felt God calling us to step out of education and into full-time church ministry.

This led us to SAMS, the Society of Anglican Missionaries & Senders. We reached out and joined SAMS because of the strong emphasis they place on working with the Anglican Church in the country you’re sent to serve in. As we applied and prayed about SAMS, we were further encouraged by the fact that SAMS was already partnered with the Diocese of Singapore and was very eager for us to join CCOP as full-time pastoral interns!

This past December, we stepped away from teaching and fully into roles as pastoral interns with CCOP, specifically with the core church planting team for CCOP North. Before we can fully join SAMS and serve CCOP in Cambodia, we need partners to join us in our ministry in Cambodia. Our family is in the US in the first half of 2023, to raise support for our ministry in Cambodia before CCOP launches in August 2023.

If you have read all the way to this point in the article, God may be asking you to join us! Would you prayerfully consider it? Please visit our family page to connect, pray, and give!

Published on

February 11, 2023

Author

Anthony Pelloni

Anthony is a SAMS missionary who has lived and worked in Cambodia since 2015. He is currently working to plant a new church in the northern part of Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. He and his wife, Anna, have four beautiful daughters.

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