Witnessing to Christ among children orphaned by AIDS in Cambodia
by Santosh Digal
This is the missionary choice made by a Filipino lay woman, who has been living in Khmer territory since 2003. The woman has organized group therapy and recreational activities for the children, marked by death, suffering, privation. The Cambodian community is also participating in the missionary's work on behalf of the orphans.

Manila (AsiaNews) - Witnessing to Christ among orphan children of Cambodia, whose parents died from AIDS. This is the mission of a Filipino Catholic lay woman, who has been working in Khmer territory since 2003 to bring "hope" back to abandoned children, and guarantee them a basic education.

Marian Matutina began her missionary journey in Siem Reap, in northern Cambodia, in a Khmer family made up of a husband and wife with four children, in order to learn the local language. "From this Buddhist family, I truly felt the presence of Jesus Christ in the love and acceptance I received from them."

She says that in the beginning, she "surrendered everything to God," taking her inspiration for her mission from the first communities of disciples. Together with two other Filipino lay missionaries, she joined the project "Little Folks," founded by the American missionary institute Maryknoll, and dedicated to children orphaned by AIDS. Looking at the history of the Cambodian people, as glorious as it was tragic during the years of massacres perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge, Marian asked, "How shall I encounter Christ among the Khmer people . . . How shall I recognize the face of Jesus amongst the predominantly Buddhists Khmers? How shall I communicate and share with those orphans the love of God?"

The orphans were marked by terrible experiences of death, desperation, constant movement and uprooting from their family atmosphere; but the sufferings they had endured had not deprived them of "hope" in a better future, and many of them wanted to become doctors, nurses, or teachers. Working with the children and comparing her missionary experience with that of her companions, Marian realized that the first step to take in order to help them was to "love them without reservation," and gratuitously.

After learning the Khmer language, the Filipino missionary organized group therapy in order to come to grips with suffering, during which the children could compare and recount their experiences, followed by games and other recreational activities. "In awe and wonder, I saw things slowly took place, with much help from the Khmer people of Cambodia I worked with. After some effort, we able to organize our own older youth members to constitute a core team of 'bong Thoas' (older siblings)."

"I have witnessed their continuing transformation," Marian Matutina concludes, "from being one who receives to being one who gives. I can only praise, give glory, honor and thanks to God who truly makes all things new and whose Spirit truly alive in Cambodia."