I was only ten years old in 1985 when children from Cambodia arrived at my school in Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A. One of the boys knew a few words of English. With the help of pictures, he began to tell me horrific stories of torture, killings, and escapes. I would cry at night as I thought of these children. I wanted to tell them about the hope of Paradise and the resurrection, but they did not understand my language. Although I was only a boy, I decided to learn Cambodian so that I could tell my schoolmates about Jehovah. Little did I realize then how this choice would shape my future.
Learning Cambodian was difficult. Twice I decided to give up, but Jehovah encouraged me through my parents. In time, my schoolteachers and fellow students began urging me to pursue a lucrative career. But I wanted to become a pioneer, and I chose high school courses that would help me to find part-time secular work so that I could achieve my goal. After school, I used to meet some pioneers and work with them in the ministry. I also volunteered to tutor students who were learning English as a second language—a choice that greatly benefited me later.
When I was 16, I heard about a Cambodian group in Long Beach, California, U.S.A. I visited there and learned to read Cambodian. As soon as I graduated from school, I became a pioneer and continued preaching to the Cambodian people near my home. By the time I was 18, I was thinking about moving to Cambodia. It was still a dangerous place, but I knew that few of the ten million people living in Cambodia had heard the good news of the Kingdom. At that time, there was just one congregation of 13 publishers in the whole country. I first visited Cambodia when I was 19. Two years later, I chose to go and live there. I found part-time work translating and teaching English to support me in my ministry. In time, I found a wife who shared my goals in life. Together, we have enjoyed helping many Cambodian people to dedicate their lives to God.
Jehovah has granted me ‘the desires of my heart.’ (Ps. 37:4) Making disciples is the most satisfying of all professions. During the 16 years I have been in Cambodia, that little gathering of 13 servants of Jehovah has grown into 12 congregations and 4 isolated groups!—As told by Jason Blackwell.