Stories of Hope

 
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The future looked rather bleak for two little boys, Sokmean and Joseph. Both were the sons of poor Buddhist farmers. Sokmean’s parents abused him and his siblings, both physically and spiritually. When Joseph was five years old, his father died, leaving his mother struggling to raise four children alone. Neither Sokmean nor Joseph were good students. Second graders, both floundered in overcrowded, underfunded rural public schools, barely able to read or write.

But then their parents learned of a new school opening in Battambang City—Salaa Hope. Because of their great need, both boys were accepted. The school included only kindergarten through second grade at first but added a new grade each year to keep pace with the first students’ progress.

For Joseph, whose family lived far from Battambang, attending Salaa Hope required him to leave his family behind and move to live with a relative during the school year.

Both boys started slowly. At first they were lonely, timid, sickly, and lacked self-confidence to socialize with the other children. At their new school, both boys were treated for worms and given medicine and vitamins to cure their illnesses and strengthen their bodies. The school ministered to their physical, spiritual, emotional, and social needs even as they instructed them academically.

Life—and the boys themselves—changed drastically. They grew strong, tall, and healthy. Sokmean has become a particularly cheerful young man with a ready smile. Joseph, too, is happy.

Having never before heard of Jesus, the boys embraced studying the Bible and participated in the school’s times of worship, both coming to know the saving grace of Jesus personally. They have become exemplary witnesses of Christ to their family and friends. Sokmean’s parents have reformed their ways and become good parents. His father has become a health worker in their home village of Sneung. Joseph’s mother is delighted by the good example he sets for his siblings. He has become a pillar of support for her.

Both boys eagerly proved themselves to be excellent students. In August, they were part of Salaa Hope’s very first graduating class. The boys were proud to have the provincial governor attend their ceremony and hand them their hard-won diplomas. In a country where only around 20 percent of the potential students enroll in high school (2011 statistic) and only about 10 percent start post-secondary education, Sokmean and Joseph both dare to dream of going to college.

The young men, along with 15 of their fellow graduates, recently learned that they had passed their national exams and are now eligible to go to college.  Sokmean hopes to major in agriculture at Battambang University, while Joseph hopes to study Information Technology at the Royal University in Phnom Penh. Both graduates are uncertain whether they can afford to go to school, but they have committed their hearts, their lives, and their future schooling to the Lord. With the help of generous friends like you, the Lord has given them hope.

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