Cambodia WMU
Missions Discipleship

Cambodia WMU: Love in Action

In 2018, the president of the Asia Baptist Women’s Union posed a question to a group of missionaries: “Where are the women in Cambodia?” From that moment, a seed was planted and began to bloom in the heart of missionary Mayette Arana.

Mayette, her husband, Erick, and their two children had moved to Cambodia from the Philippines as missionaries with a heart to serve and evangelize. They prayed, “Lord, we are open for wherever You want us to minister.” As Mayette prayed about where the believing women were and how to begin a ministry to disciple and commission them, God said to her, “Mayette, I will do it.”

Believing Cambodian women began to gather together in the province of Kampong Thom, and Cambodia WMU sprouted. Shortly after, Mayette was asked whether any of the women in the group would be willing to join in on an assembly held every five years in Malaysia. Mayette asked her good friend Sokly Chi (who is now the president of Cambodia WMU) whether she would like to join Mayette and attend the assembly. Sokly said she did not have a visa, and Mayette replied, “But we have God.”

Through a scholarship, God opened the door for Mayette and Sokly to attend the assembly in Malaysia, and they were amazed and overwhelmed by the number of women coming together from the surrounding nations. Sharing how even highly persecuted countries had many women represented there, Sokly said, “In Cambodia, we can worship, and for [believers in other nations], they are highly persecuted, yet … there are so many [believers from those nations present].”

Both Mayette and Sokly were emotional as they sat in the room of believers. Bolstered and encouraged, they had a dream that one day they would return for another WMU event with more Cambodian believers represented. Sokly had an opportunity to go on the stage and share about Cambodia. As she closed her speech, she asked, “Will you please pray for Cambodia?”

Back home, Cambodia WMU participated in its first World Day of Prayer in 2018. Mayette and Sokly showed the women of Cambodia WMU videos of all the women at the assembly worshipping together in different languages. They wanted to encourage the women of their country with images of Christian community.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Mayette felt led to connect the women of Cambodia WMU during a time of fear. The women created a group chat to communicate and share needs and prayers, and they met in different houses when able. Through this group chat, the women learned for the first time how to reach out; with this new perspective, they experienced what ministering to one another meant in action. Each time they heard someone was sick with COVID-19, they would pray and bring noodles and vegetables (a special dish in Cambodia) straight to the doorstep to encourage those who were sick and their families. Mayette explained, “Cambodians easily minister when they are together. When they are [a] community, they become stronger.”

Cambodia WMU in Kampong Thom consists of women from different churches who come together to serve in the neighboring villages. Through the online group chat, the women choose which villages they are going to serve, disciple, and evangelize in on the weekend and coordinate rides so they can carpool together. Most of these women work during the weekdays and use the weekends to share the gospel.

Since Buddhism is the primary religion in Cambodia, Mayette shared, “It really takes time [in Cambodia] — it’s different because of the concept of Jesus they don’t have.” Women gather in the markets to pray, teach children the gospel, and share short stories of the biblical narrative from creation to Christ.

The unity of the body of Christ is growing through Cambodia WMU. Revival is spreading in the church as women pray together. “At first [the women] were more ‘me first,’ but now they’re … sharing. They’re learning a lot. They started to learn to listen more,” Mayette said. The women used to hear a need and not know how they could help, but now they are learning to ask questions to understand the needs in the community around them. Counseling women and reaching out has become “automatic.”

In August 2022, Cambodia WMU in Kampong Thom held a large training for the women. “The Lord brought up many leaders after that training,” said Mayette.

Additionally, in fall 2022, a group of women attended a regional WMU meeting in Thailand, an answer to Mayette’s and Sokly’s prayers five years prior. More women were encouraged by what God is doing throughout the world and through WMU. Sophia, one of the women who attended, said, “I’m so happy that I’m here in Thailand and learning about God and knowing all these women. Now I have a lot of friends from other countries, and they can teach me. At the same time, I learned a lot about God here.”

Because of Mayette’s choice to say yes, to step out in faith and begin to bring the women of Cambodia together, more women are coming to faith, learning to disciple, and reaching their neighbors for Christ. Cambodia WMU is love in action, with believers truly being the hands and feet of Jesus to their neighbors, to nearby villages, and to one another. Mayette thinks of Psalm 34:8, “Taste and see that the Lord is good,” when she thinks of what God is doing through Cambodia WMU. “I’m tasting it with them,” she said.

Abi Khavari has lived and spent time in the Middle East and West Africa and has written articles about missions and following Christ for the last decade. Most days she can be found caring for her three children and a rambunctious puppy.