Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | August 10, 2009

Phnom Penh Prison

We left the relative comfort of our hotel early this morning and plunged into the river of morning traffic to travel to Phnom Penh Prison. This local prison is one of twenty-one Cambodian prisons that house fifteen-thousand inmates. A young man invited us to meet with a group of inmates, all of whom have found freedom in Christ since their incarceration. These Christian inmates are allowed to meet for worship every Monday.

Today, I had the special privilege of sharing a message from God’s Word with them. Barnabas served as my interpreter – one of the best I have ever had on any of my travels. We spoke as one. I shared a message of encouragement and reminded these Christ-followers that God will perfect the good work that He has started in them. Afterwards we sang hymns together and then enjoyed a delicious snack.

And now, a little background on how this particular worship and Bible study group was started. In 1998, our host was involved in a kidnapping. He ran from the law for two-years. During that period he lived out of the country and eked out a living as a rickshaw driver in Thailand. However, he constantly looked over his shoulder, fearful that he would be found out and sent back to Cambodia. “I had no peace,” he told us.

In February 1999, he met a Korean missionary who led him to faith in Christ. This young man became a deeply devoted follower of Christ and went to Singapore to study the Scriptures for a year. However, he still could not escape the feelings of guilt for his crime. Finally, he returned to Cambodia and turned himself in to the authorities. He was arrested, tried, and sentenced to fifteen years.

While in prison, an American missionary visited this young man and assured him that he had done the right thing. He encouraged him to cling to the promise of Romans 8:28 — “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

At the time he did not understand how God could use a fifteen-year sentence for good. However, within a short period, the young man received permission to begin a Bible study, the first Bible study ever held in any Cambodian prison. God blessed his initiative as many of his fellow inmates came to faith in Christ.

After seven years, prison officials asked the King of Cambodia to grant the young man a pardon because of his exceptional behavior. They added that he had also contributed to making the prison a better place by leading inmates to follow Christ. The King of Cambodia granted the received.

Today, this young man continues to reach out to prisoners at Phnom Penh Prison. On Mondays the Christian inmates worship together. On Tuesday they have Bible study that focuses on discipleship. On Wednesday, he leads English classes and a computer lab for these inmates. Thursday is music day and Friday is devoted to literacy classes for inmates who cannot read or write.

Several of the men he has worked with have been transferred to other prisons throughout Cambodia. These men have successfully started Bible studies in their respective prisons. God continues to send these young disciples to other prisons with the life-changing good news of Jesus Christ. As a result – these inmates are redefining what it means to do life in prison.


  1. Hi brother
    My name is Ny Sambath. Could I have your email address please so that I can share you more on how God working in life.

    God bless you
    Sambath Ny

  2. Dear Pastor Omar C. Garcia,

    This is Nancy from Cambodia, I am serving in a mission organization, and I was a Co-worker of brother Sambath too, I saw your sharing of this mission experience in Cambodia, I would like to say thank you so much for helping the prison ministry in Cambodia. I would like to talk with you thru email, could you please send me email thru my email address provided. Hope to see your reply.


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