In 2013, Pastor Chamron Phal told me that God had told him I was going to write the story of his survival in the Killing Fields of Cambodia. I laughed. “You’ve made a mistake,” I told him. “I’ve never written a book. I can’t even type!” “Go home and pray about it,” he said. So, I prayed.
Actually, it was more like an argument, with me listing to God all the reasons this was a crazy idea. God was silent in response. He let me argue. I imagine He was smiling. After a few days, when I stopped arguing, I listened. Then I heard Him speak. Do it. So Chamron and I spent the next five years meeting every week. We started each meeting with prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to enable him to remember these traumatic events that happened over forty years ago. It was painful to revisit the torture, sickness, and fear during the three years in the Killing Fields.
Chamron didn’t have the English words to communicate his feelings and details of what had happened. I wanted to tell the story in his words as faithfully as possible. By sharing his story through drawings, pantomime, and the use of his Cambodia – English dictionary, the manuscript took shape, and his miraculous survival was told.
The story begins when the Khmer Rouge soldiers marched into the streets of Chamron’s hometown. His family members were separated and forced to leave Battambang under threat of death. During this time of extreme trial, Chamron called out to God and experienced the gift of repeated miracles. He promised from within the Killing Fields that if he survived, he would serve God all the days of his life. He began his ministry in the refugee camps in Thailand in 1979. He is now serving as Pastor at First Covenant Church in Oakland, Ca.
Right now, Covid-19 has put each of us in unsettling and unprecedented circumstances as we shelter from family and friends. Our “Tiger” is Covid-19. The isolation, loneliness, fears, and loss of our freedoms, mirrors Chamron’s experience in the Killing Fields. Chamron’s determination and his trust in God’s plan for his day-to-day survival as told in this book will inspire us in our struggle today during this worldwide pandemic.
Author of Escaping the Tiger’s Claws, available wherever books are sold.