KBAL TAOL, Cambodia (BP)–Song Phu* is a healthy 2-year-old Vietnamese boy who entertains visitors to his floating home with giggles and gurgles common to toddlers around the world.
Born with the name Mong, his grandfather changed it to Song — which means “live” — after he was miraculously healed from a rare blood disease nearly a year ago.
Residents in this floating village of Kbal Taol come often to see the boy who, they believe, was healed by the Creator God.
To the 800 Vietnamese and Khmer families in Kbal Taol on Cambodia’s Tonle Sap Lake, Song is nothing short of a miracle. Only one person in the village professes to follow Jesus, yet many believe that the Creator God saved Song.
Sadly, though, Song’s miraculous recovery has not spurred the villagers, including his own mother and father, to worship the God who healed him.
“I believe the Creator God healed my son,” Song’s mother, Hoa Phu*, says. “We prayed to my ancestors and to Buddha but he did not get better. Doctors told us they couldn’t help. It was only the Creator God who healed him.”
The 27-year-old mother explains that when the boy was three months old, his belly swelled and he suffered from constipation and fever. The family knew the baby needed medical attention. They made the two-hour boat ride across the lake to Siem Reap. At the hospital, doctors ordered a blood transfusion and prescribed medication. They told Hoa and her husband Thoah, 27, that the boy had a rare blood disorder. Without monthly transfusions, he would die.
The family returned home with Mong. They prayed and offered sacrifices to Buddha and their ancestors. When the boy’s condition deteriorated, they returned to the hospital in Siem Reap where he again received a blood transfusion and medication. His condition improved. The doctors sent him home. Over the next few months, this cycle repeated.
“We took him to the hospital at least five times,” Hoa recounts. “Each time, they told us he wouldn’t live.”
Desperate to save the child’s life, his parents gave Mong to other families on the lake, thinking that conflicting birth dates within the family may have angered the spirits. But the boy’s condition did not improve and the adoptive families always returned him.
Then, David Dau*, a Christian worker, came to visit with a team of medical volunteers from the United States. They sought medical care for the child and confirmed from doctors in Siem Reap that the boy was beyond hope. Without monthly transfusions, he would die.
Dau explained to Hoa and Thoah that neither he nor medical science could save the boy’s life. He offered to help them pray to the Creator God for healing. The parents agreed.
Soon after, Mong improved. He gained weight. He remained healthy.
When it became obvious that the boy was well, his grandfather changed his name from Mong to Song, saying, “This boy was given new life.”
One year later, Song is healthy and happy. He has no recurring problems.
“It was a miracle that healed that baby,” Dau says. “Everybody in the community knows it.”
Still, none of the villagers has come to faith in Christ as a result. Even Hoa and Thoah, who acknowledge that they worshipped the Creator God for a while, returned to their lifelong practices of Buddhism and ancestor worship a few months after Song was healed. Today, they rely on the traditions of the past — rather than the Creator God — to protect them from the spirits.
“I pray to my dad most often,” Hoa explains, “I was taught that he helps me.”
This is frustrating for Dau who has worked since 2005 to share the Gospel with the people on the lake. From his days as a boy growing up in Vietnam, the Vietnamese-American understands the fear enveloping the villagers. He compares the spiritual situation of those on the lake to the dirty water surrounding them — infested with trash, bacteria and filth. But, he also understands that faith in Christ can overcome every fear and the truth of the Gospel can cleanse their souls.
“The only way to pump out the dirty water is to blow in the truth of the Gospel one breath at a time,” Dau says.
For this reason, Dau looks for every opportunity to find ways to share the Gospel with the people on the lake. He makes personal visits, trains the handful of local believers from a neighboring village and brings teams of volunteers from the United States to conduct medical and dental clinics, evangelism and Vacation Bible Schools.
He also prays for miracles, though he admits that the experience with Song taught him many things.
“Miracles just aren’t enough,” Dau says. “Miracles won’t save these people. Only the Gospel can save them.”
Song’s story is living proof.
*Names changed. Tess Rivers is a writer for the International Mission Board based in Southeast Asia. For more stories about, “Reaching Cambodia’s Lake Dwellers,” visit www.asiastories.com.