Va Vachna was born and raised in a large Cambodian family, one of five children. “I heard the Good News even before a church was established in my town, but I was not interested in a new religion. I was a committed Buddhist and vowed to die one.” More than 95% of the country’s population adheres to Buddhism; Islam dominates certain minorities and about one percent identifies as Christian.
When Va was in junior high school, he heard the Gospel again. Missionaries from the capital, Phnom Penh, came to share in the city where he lived. He was invited by a Christian friend to join a small group at his house where worship service was held. While there, he found out that the missionary team had started a music class and soccer team. “I was interested in those programs very much, so I kept attending the service. Being young, I was merely interested with the activities, but my heart was not yet stirred by talks of faith.” Va kept hearing the Good News every time the music class and soccer team met. “I did not understand the Scripture clearly, but somehow one time, I heard the Gospel very clearly. The message pierced my heart, and I started meditating and wanting to know more about Jesus. It was a momentous conversion.” Va attended church every weekend where he learned the foundation of the Christian faith. When he was 17 years old, he prayed to receive Jesus as his Savior and was baptized.
“My belief in Christ started from a deep spiritual need, one I didn’t know existed. I was hungry spiritually and so is my country and its people. Thank God that He has given me a vision to become a pastor.” Va started teaching children in Sunday school. “I thought that if I desire to see changes in the spiritual climate of my country, a great fertile starting ground would be young Cambodian children.”
Initially Va wasn’t sure if God called him to be a shepherd to His people, so he started praying. “I believed if anyone from my family came to know Christ, then it would be a great sign that God is indeed calling me. God answered my prayers. Graciously and faithfully, my brothers, one by one, came to know Christ. The greatest moment of confirmation came when my parents finally accepted Christ. From many tears and prayers, the Lord made it certain to me that He is calling me indeed to take up my cross and follow Him.”
Va decided to pursue a biblical education at the Asian Theological Seminary (ATS) in the Philippines. “I had no idea what a Bible school was, but I came to the Philippines to see ATS. After arriving on campus, I was so sure this would be my school and my unique place of learning. I felt very comfortable with the people and felt at peace and in harmony with the environment.” Va is pursuing his Master of Divinity degree to be a pastor. “At ATS, I am continuously learning, not just purely academic information but substantial life lessons that affect my character development.”
Before arriving at ATS, Va committed to work full-time as a pastor in his Cambodian church. When he returns home, he will be teaching at a local seminary as well. “There is a great need for the contextualization of biblical values, principles and issues in my country. With the help of ministry friends and local ministries, I plan to start a training center in my church, just like what ATS is doing in its Center for Continuing Studies program. The purpose is to equip laymen and pastors to acquire biblical interpretation skills and more effectively reach the hearts of the Cambodian people.”
“It is a great honor and privilege to work on the frontlines for God. He has chosen me to be His disciple. He has opened the way for me, and I believe He will sustain me to be a faithful servant of His. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to learn, teach and preach the Good News. To God be the glory.”