The story of Sokvary Chiv. How she suffered under the Khmer Rough for four and one half years. Her escape to Thailand. Her transfer to a refugee camp in the Philippine Islands. How she heard of Christ for the first time and her journey to America AND service for the Lord Jesus Christ.
My name is Sokvary Fort and I am from Cambodia. I was born Sokvary Chiv in 1962 to my Chinese dad and Thai mom. We lived in Cambodia I speak no Chinese. You probably wonder why I speak no Chinese. It is because my granddaddy had too much money and too many wives. My granny was one of his wives. She left granddaddy when my dad and aunt were 2 and 3 years old. You would too if your husband had about 15 other wives. So the Chinese language in our family was cut off . Now my dad only had one wife and that WAS my mom and it was because he didn't like the lifestyle of his dad. My Dad and Mom had 7 children, 4 girls and 3 boys. One of my sisters died because of the witch doctor when she was about 2 years old. Witchcraft in our country is second to Buddhism in religious practice. A lot of children and innocent people were being hurt by gun accidents so they said it was good for the people not to have guns so they wouldn't kill each other, but it really left them without a way to defend themselves from the attacks of the Communists and anyone else who had a weapon, such as thieves. Only the Police and Government soldiers had guns and they used them to control people and do what they want to the people. Of course, Thieves also had guns!
My dad was the school principal in our town. We were pretty well off during this time. I was raised as a Buddhist and would get up early every morning with my Granny to prepare food as an offering for at least 5 Buddhist monks. They would pray for us so that when we died we would have enough food to eat after we were dead (Today as a born-again Christian I realize that this is foolishness yet it was all I knew and it was what I believed and practiced). My Granny meditated a lot and would have Dragons come up from the pit and talk to her. They would tell her to give more of her life to be holy by sitting down and consecrating to god. (BUT which god, since Buddha never said that he was god, as he was trying to become a god himself.) I was the love of my Granny and I would sleep with her at night and see all kinds of evil faces come up to me and screaming at me and they made all kinds of scary music. I would scream and try to wake up my Granny, but, she wouldn't wake up like she was in deep meditation. My dad would hear my screams and come and take me with him. I would go and see how the people would call up the devils for the sick person in the family and participate as they tied spirit strings to our hands and ankles. (In America today you call them FRIENDSHIP STRINGS) but they are still nothing more than the multi-colored spirit strings that I have seen tied to the hands of the people many times. Each color represented a certain devil. RED meant to protect from sickness and WHITE for peace, etc... The witch doctors would kill chickens and hogs with knives and eat raw meat and boil the blood and eat it. They would eat China plates, eat fire and burn their stomachs with fire but it wouldn't hurt them. These things are real in my country. I'm not just making up some stories.
When my neighbor became deathly sick, 5 witch doctors came to help her and she cried out, "Somebody help me, I'm on fire and burning." The witch doctors sprinkled their water and medicine on her to cast out the evil spirits, they say. They crushed hot peppers and rubbed it into her eyes while she was screaming and kicking. They had to hold her down to do this and then she died. The night after she was cremated, her spirit came back to her house and would weep and cry so that her husband and children were afraid to stay in the house. After that the husband had to pay the witch doctors to come and sprinkle the house and tell his wife's spirit to go back and leave them alone and go find another place to be born. White dots were put in every corner of the house and they prayed, offering her clothes and food to satisfy her spirit.
As a born-again Christian we know that this wasn't the woman but devils impersonating the woman to hold her family in satanic bondage.
(Matthew 15:14) Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.
(2 Corinthians 2:11) Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.
"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:" 1 Peter 5:8.
Can't you see how the bible talks about the scribes and Pharisees and it's true in the life of the Buddhist monks also. The Buddhist Monks are wonderful, helpful and caring.
(Mark 12:38-40) And he said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces, And the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts: Which devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation.
(2 Corinthians 11:1-153) For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.
As far as I know the Gospel has never been preached or heard of in our town or cities. The capital city of Cambodia did have some missionary work in it from 1970-1975 but it was all ecumenical and not real clear Gospel presentations. I never heard any of this until I came to the U.S.A., as I was from an area near the 2nd city of Cambodia. I went to live in the 2nd city with my aunt to continue my education. There I saw a big Catholic Church which they said was the French Religion. On Buddhist Holidays I would see them burning candles in the streets and praying like the Buddhists do and parade their idols throughout the streets in town, and I never questioned what it was because I thought it was the same as Buddhism. That was all I heard about other religions except for the Jews and Moslem Cham people, but they kept to themselves and we never knew what it was all about.
In late 1974 school was on and off . The college students were demonstrating and rioting in the streets, breaking the windows in the stores and looting their goods. One of my teachers owned the studio shop and he had to leave school and go to his store because of the rioting. They took him and beat him up. They were mad because the rich were getting richer and poor were getting poorer. The police used their power to beat up the people and they wanted change.
In 1975 the Communists took over the country. They told all the people in the city to leave the city and to get only enough supplies for a few days. They would then bring everyone back they said and distribute the wealth equally to everyone. They would take the jewelry off of the arms of the people and beat them or kill them if they wouldn't give it to them. I don't want to remember but they would take men and tie their hands to the back of chairs and beat them with gun stocks and you could hear the cracking of the skulls and hear them screaming and crying out in pain. They would wet their pants and the blood would run down. They would repeat this cruel death over and over until it struck fear into the hearts of everyone. People would justify it by saying that they must have been rich people who were trying to cause trouble and that they deserved to die. (You'll justify anything when you're trying to just simply stay alive.) After we got to the river we could see the bodies of the dead people floating down the river. They would take people and put them in sacks and tie the tops and throw them into the river to drown. They would take women and tie one hand and foot to a bamboo pole and the other side to another and throw them into the river face down. They'd drown and then they floated down the river. The rivers became so greasy that you couldn't even drink from them. The people would dig wells by the river to get water to drink. Many people got shot at the city gates because they wouldn't let them take many things that they wanted to take with them. My aunt and I went back to the city to get some more pots and pans to cook with. We disguised ourselves as the wife and child of soldiers but as we returned to the city the dogs and cats were howling because they were hungry and they chased us trying to eat us. We would run from the dogs and throw stones at them to keep them away from us as we went back. Everywhere we went we saw dead people lying.
My daddy came to get us later as he got permission from the communist leader of the city to get the families together. They wanted to get all of the information on as many people as possible from my dad. As we went with dad back to the city, we saw fresh blood running down the streets as they were constantly killing people. They would question my dad and yell at him at every checkpoint, even questioning his papers if it was okay for him to pass.
The soldiers by this time were trying to save their bullets so they got big sticks and were beating and killing people with them. They would hit people on the backs of their necks and break them. When we got back in town, there were a lot of people living in our home and using our water. Later we were organized and moved out of town. They would dig great big holes in the ground in the cities. They took many of the students first telling them that they would educate them to help run the country. They then took all of the people who had worked in government positions back to their jobs so they could get prepared to have their families to follow them (supposedly), "At least that is what they were told."
When the trucks stopped in the cities they were next to the big holes and these people were shot or either put in the holes alive and then buried. Some escaped to tell what was happening in the cities but walls had ears so you didn't say much and you never heard anything. You were just a zombie and couldn't even cry when someone was killed or died or you'd be the next one to die. It's like your soul dried up inside you and you just moved around. No emotions, no thoughts, just routine to keep living. When the Communists came in they told the monks to die or join them. One Buddhist monk that we had fed every morning became a Communist and he became a real bad one. He reported everybody and then killed them. There was one very old man in my home town that was unable to get out of the house. The monk went into the house and carried him out to the fields and then he killed the old man. Many of the people that killed so many would get real RED eyes and they looked so scary as if they were devil possessed or something. Death became a daily routine for everyone. I witnessed all of this as a 12 to 16 year old girl.
Thank God that I was little (in size) and didn't suffer like so many of the older girls did. The communists would take little boys 12 years old or so and would give them guns and tell them to kill their parents or they'd be killed. We had a boy come to church with us in Chicago that before in Cambodia had killed his parents under the communist rule. These kids could have all they wanted to eat if they killed. They loved the power and they'd soon forget their parents and would be the most savage killers. We would be moved from place to place to place to plant rice or potatoes or whatever. We'd go to a farm area for 2-3 months and then they'd move us to another place and then another. We'd have a handful of rice and a spoon of rock salt for 10 people. We'd have to scrounge whatever weeds, rats, grasshoppers or whatever we could get our hands on to eat. We didn't dare to steal any of their grain or whatever they were planting. One man was caught stealing corn that he was supposed to be planting. He was taken to the camp and everyone had to watch him eat corn until he got so full that he choked on the corn because he ate too much, and he died. We'd eat snails, honey, fish with human hair inside their stomachs, but if your hungry you'll eat anything. We ate crickets, lizards, just anything that we could catch and eat.
Once a year we could eat all the rice and salt that we wanted. Many people would die because they would eat too much and their stomachs wouldn't work to digest the food. Almost all of my hair had fallen out and water was coming through the skin in my swolen legs because I didn't have any salt to eat. There was so much food too, but nobody could eat it. It was bad being hungry but being hungry and having tons of food around but not being able to eat it almost drives you crazy. For the harvest we'd have to dig holes to save the water for summer time. I was so sick by this time. You couldn't talk to anyone because you didn't know who was an informant for the communists, but certainly no one was your friend. It was dog eat dog, every person for themselves. If you died no one would cry for you, miss you or even bury you. Everyone was too weak to do anything. In 1979 the Vietnamese Communists invaded Cambodia and they began fighting the Cambodian Communists. We were in the middle because we could be shot by either group. The Vietnamese couldn't know who was who and the Cambodian communists would shoot us because they feared that we'd run away.
We were already arrested by this time as they had found out who we were and they knew that we knew how to write and that our dad was a principal. You see, everyone that could read or write, had been to college, knew a foreign language, had traveled, or had any profession besides farming was to be killed. My mom was in the back of a truck being carried to where they kill people when the Vietnamese came. The Cambodian Communists left the truck and ran away. My mom had escaped death by just minutes. We all met back at the house but my daddy never came home. The Vietnamese told my mom that we should not stay in CAMBODIA. We must go back to Thailand where my mom came from, because the Vietnamese Communists is not better than the CAMBODIAN Communists. So we wanted to see if maybe my Daddy would return home. There was no sight of Daddy and because of our health and the Wars were still going on, we waited to go to Thailand. My mom dug out the gold and silver that she had hidden in our home. She used this to buy medicines from the Vietnamese soldier so that we may live and not die. The paper money then was no good at all. The Wars were still going on. At nighttime the Vietnamese soldiers went back to their fort which was about 3 miles away. From our home we could see the Cambodian communists as they came back to town at night to take captive the people and food as well. As the night came in our town, so came the Communists and death. The people ran for their lives. My big brother grabbed my two little brothers and ran for the hiding place and so did my mom and my other two sisters. I came to the conclusion, no where could a "skin and bones" run to and I didn't want to die on the street, but I couldn't even walk but 4 ft. and I had to stop and catch my breath, believe it or not I did try. I told my mom and sister to go ahead. As we were standing there in the blackness of night weeping, mom said, "Let's die together, let's go home!" We went home and hid there until we noticed that no more guns were shooting anywhere. Then we heard the footsteps of 5 men walking toward our house. With fear and shaking mom let out a scream, and said, "Whoever you are, you can't have my life's food! She had a big long machete in her hand and was ready. The footsteps stopped and he answered mom, "Peace, Lady." It was our neighbor, thank God! They came to steal our food but at least it wasn't the Communists, otherwise I would have returned to dust over 19 years ago.
You ask where did we get the food from? Well, when the Wars broke so did the COMMUNIST storehouse. Then there was a space of peace in our town, as the Vietnamese Soldiers ran out the enemy . We then ate our heart out. We were so sick, because our stomach couldn't take it. A lot of people died from it, except this time they buried each other. So then as these times passed we saved the food that we had for later. Our country was in a mess. The Thai Soldiers at the border, the Cambodian Communists in the middle and the Vietnamese Soldiers were all trying to capture enemies. Between these three were the people trying to get to the border to buy food from the Thai People. The forest was real thick and full of briar, mosquitoes, swarms of flies, snakes, wild animals, Land Mines, etc. Khmer Rouge took bamboo and sharpened it to a point so that when someone stepped down at that place it would go through the foot, become infected and they'd die. They had put mines all over the border. When the Vietnamese first took over, people swarmed to the border of Thailand to get food, they were over all of the roads to Thailand. The Khmer Rouge were still fighting from the jungles so they put mines on all on those roads to kill anyone who tired to pass. The Cambodians made paths through the thick jungle to Thailand, and when the Khmer Rouge would discover one of these paths, they'd set mines and traps on them. We decided to leave and when we started to Thailand we went through one of these paths. There were about 200 people that started the journey with us. We all walked single file through the thick underbrush and only about 30 people survived the trip to Thailand. When we left Cambodia it was about midnight. We didn't want to draw attention to ourselves and bring the gold seekers. It had been raining, as the rainy season had already begun, and the water was up to our knees in some places, and to my waist in others. because it was raining so much, we didn't have as many mosquitoes biting us although they still almost carried us away. The leeches would cling to us and we'd have to pull them off and then the spots would bleed and hurt. After we got into the forest the mosquitoes were so bad we'd beat at them with rags. By morning we went deeper into the jungle and we stopped to cook food. The smoke was spotted by the communists and they came after us. We all ran and hid wherever we could, leaving our possessions. My family somehow stayed together and we hid in a pond of water there in the jungle. The communists went through the food and clothes and things left there and then went away. Later we traveled for a time and we heard voices coming from the other direction and fearing that it was the communists again, we fled though the jungle with briars and sticks tearing at us. A man called out, I don't know whether it was English or French, but they said, "It's O.K. to come out!" Someone could understand what they said and yelled at us to stop running. It was a red- headed man with a camera and some Thai soldiers with him. They safely led us to the border of Thailand. When we came to the border it was already night and lots of people made tents and the soldiers and Americans watched us and we could finally rest.
By morning the Thai people came to the border to sell food to us. My mom met our aunt and uncle at the selling place. We cried and told our story to them. The Thai soldiers were so thick there and they wouldn't let any people go into the towns, but my mom could pass through with no problem because she was Thai and could speak perfect Thai. The Thais sold food to the Cambodians because they bought it with gold. My mom stayed with a lady that night and went with my uncles and aunts to their home. The next day they came back and dyed our hair black because it had turned a kind of reddish color, and we could be spotted easily. After that they took us one by one, and we went different ways through the forest the whole day. We were told to say nothing and act like we were deaf and dumb when we met Thai soldiers while crossing the fields. We couldn't go through towns or in cars because the solders were everywhere, and they would question everyone in a car and would know immediately we weren't Thai. We had never learned Thai in Cambodia and were just starting to learn some. When we got to their house, we stayed there a few days and the police inspected the house and found me. They had to pay the police off. The policemen told our friends that all of the police would come and demand money, so my mom and aunts said, "What is the use, we can't stay here." They heard of a refugee camp and we went to the camp and gave the soldiers a lot of money to let us into the camp, and they did, and then they put us in jail there! They finally let us out and didn't hurt us because my mom gave them lots of money. A lot of people would get hurt because they didn't have money to give them. All the American protection would leave during the night and go to the motels in Bangkok or somewhere. The Thai people were very brave at night, and did many bad things to the people. The reason that no one talks about it is because most people still have relatives in the camps in Thailand. You just zip your mouth and hope to leave quickly. At least we did have some food to eat. We had it a better than a lot of people because our uncles and aunts would help us by bringing food to us. Two or three months later my sisters and I had a chance to go to Canada being sponsored by some Canadians. They didn't want to sponsor my mom or brothers, only us three girls. We didn't want to go through another separation again and we said, "Sorry, we don't want to go with you."
The people next door to us were Chinese Cambodian and they invited us to go to church, and I asked what kind of church. They said, "Oh, it's the French religion." I remembered the French religion in my home area, and they would pray on the streets like the Buddhists, and light candles in public, praying for the dead just like the Buddhists, so I said, "No, I have my own religion." Why would I want to learn about other peoples religion?
When the Vietnamese had come into our area, and were fighting the Khmer Rouge, we were hiding in the cellar or bomb shelter. It had already been hit, and a big hole was blown into it. We had crawled into it to hide from the bombs that were falling everywhere. When a bomb would hit near us and dirt would fly into the hole, one lady would cry and put dirt on her head and say, "The God of earth and heaven help us." I thought that was interesting because I had never heard of the God of heaven, nor had I thought of Him before because I didn't know who He was. This lady cried out to the God of heaven to help her. As I sat there, I looked up into the sky and said, "There must be God that made all of this". At that time the Vietnamese soldiers pointed guns in our hole and said, "Are you communists or what?" We said, "We're nothing. We're only trying to live in this place." They told us to come out with our hands on our heads and they took us to the school. It was just walls only. Vietnamese soldiers told my mom that the Vietnamese communists were no better than the Cambodian Communists, and that it would be good for us to go to Thailand, so we did.
When these girls invited us to church, we didn't want to go because we had our own religion. They were kind and lived next to us. They'd witness to each other on the other side of the curtain and say, "Would you like to hear a story?" The other one would say "Yes" and they'd talk about the God of Heaven and how He made the Heaven and the Earth, and how He made everything, even the people, and how Adam and Eve fell into sin and they had children, and that's how we got here. They talked about how people were going to die and go to hell, and how Jesus came to die for our sins. I just listened, as you can't stop from hearing them because there was only a curtain between us and them. I couldn't believe my ears, and was amazed at hearing about this God of Heaven. He was different than any god I'd ever heard about. I had been praying to Buddha three times a day, asking for money, beauty and long live.... now I'm hearing about a real God. They got sponsored to Canada and they left their books for us. I went in when they left and found the book called "The Living Water." I thought it was another superstition book because when I read it I couldn't understand what it said. (A lost person cannot understand spiritual things, and this book was full of words that I had never heard before.) I took it and hid it from everyone after I had read it. From Thailand we were transferred to the refugee camp in Bataan, Philippines. we were to be shipped on a business ship. There was one American on the ship, and the crew, and about 700 families. They told us it would take 4 to 7 days to get there. We stayed in a hotel in Bangkok for one night, then we boarded the ship. The Thai pirates heard that there was a ship loaded with Cambodians going to the Philippines, and they had lots of gold. The ship tried to get away from the pirates and got lost. The American radioed American ships, and two came to escort us to the Philippines. It took us two weeks to get there, and everyone was sick and throwing up and messing on themselves. It was like the pits of hell. We got fresh water one time a day for baths sometimes. The toilets were just metal plates hanging out over the waters. If a little kid wasn't held, they'd fall into the ocean. You could be seen by anybody that was up on the deck of the ship. We were so embarrassed, and some ladies tied some rags around it, but they could still see our heads, so we'd duck our heads down.
One Filipino ship guy liked me and allowed our family to come up out of the miry pits of hell, and sleep in front of his room. He liked me very much, but couldn't talk to me and I couldn't talk to him. He taught me three words, "I love you." So that's all we knew in English when we arrived in the Philippines. The chicken houses (American-like ones) were built for us to stay in - not real chicken houses. When we got there it was only floor boards with the roof. There were no walls yet. The Filipino guy came looking for me, but he couldn't do anything, so he just sat there and looked at us for a while and cried, and taught us another word.... "Good-by."
On the next Saturday, people came to teach us about Jesus. One Cambodian lady was married to a Filipino guy. They brought a preacher and he'd preach in Tagalog and she'd translate into Cambodian. They gave the people that came to the meeting a Bible. My friend went to that meeting and told me about the meeting and the Bible. I hadn't read Cambodian for a long time and I asked her if she'd get me one. When she went back they told her that I would have to go myself to get one. I wanted to get the Cambodian book so bad that I went to the meeting. They told me the same story about how God created the heaven and the earth, and that Adam and Eve sinned, and that all people have sinned on the earth. Buddha never had said that we had sin, and that my sin would take me to hell. It was like the people were talking directly to me. I cried as I realized that this God cared enough for me that He sent His Son, The Lord Jesus Christ to die for me, and that He loved me and wanted me to go to heaven, and that I didn't have to do anything but repent and trust in Him. I asked Him to come into my heart and life after they had read John 3:16..... For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:36...."He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." Revelation 3:20 .....”Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me."
Then I attended church every time the doors were open. I volunteered to work with World Relief to help me learn English. There was a Catholic Nun with them who came by giving everybody the New American Bible in English, and she asked me, "Are you going to church?" I told her yes, and she said, "Oh, don't go to church. I'll teach you at my home." I told her, "NO! I can't because I loved this God so much because he died for me. He told me to go to church so I must go! Hebrew 10:25" She was real sad.
Evangelist Dara-Pen, a Cambodian pastor from New York, came to teach us and I asked him what is a Catholic and he said that she believed just like us except they worship Mary which is not bible teaching. IF they believe just like us then why did she tell me not to go to church? He said they were a false religion and that they worshipped Mary instead of Jesus Himself and that Mary didn't die on the cross for us but Jesus did. She came back the next day and I told her what I learned at the church. I asked her, "Why do you worship Mary?" She said she wanted to come and study with me every day. I told her no and she got my Chinese friend to study with her and later she became involved in Catholicism. In two or three months time the Chinese and Vietnamese had built a Buddhist temple up on the hill there. As we walked in the evening we walked by the Temple and the people with us went in to bow down to the Buddha. There were even American Monks with them there. When it came to my turn to go in and bow down, they had all bowed down but I wouldn't bow down. They all got mad at me and scolded me. They said, "What's wrong with you? Are you crazy or something? Are you one of those Jesus people?" I got to witness to them but they wouldn't listen. A lot of people began to come into the camp and a lot of them were professing Christians.
The church at the camp grew real big and I got to sing in the choir and I went soul-winning every Saturday with the Cambodian lady that was married to the Filipino man. I really enjoyed being a Christian and knowing that God had called me to be a servant for him. While we were in the Philippine camp still, none of us were very healthy at all. Mom, my sisters, and I were the worst ones. We were so skinny and our skin was very yellow and pale. At that time the Red Cross doctor and nurse, and Christians (I didn't know what kind they were) needed a volunteer who spoke Cambodian language. I volunteered although I didn't know but a little English at all but I wanted to learn. Guess what? When the doctor and nurse saw their volunteer and came to meet our family, they put us right in the hospital, and gave Mom two pints of blood, my sister one pint and gave me plenty of shots and lots of vitamins and plenty of food to eat for everyone.
Two weeks later we turned red and yellow and lovable, all except Mom, her blood didn't go together. There was lots of blood clots, also, she just hurt all over and she couldn't sit or sleep or eat. She could only stand on her feet and for one week they gave her some pain killer until they could send her and I to Manila Hospital. I went to help hold mom while she tried to get some sleep standing. I made a lot of friends with the patients' relatives there (and we spoke sign languages to each other). They helped me with Mom a lot, thanks to God. I didn't get to go to church for two weeks. God knew I would rather be in His church. We met a Thai doctor in the hospital and my mom talked with him. They found in all of the x-rays blood clots in her head and they were going to have to operate on her. I asked the church to pray for my mom and they did. When the doctor got ready to operate they x-rayed her head again, and the clots were gone. The Thai doctor said it was a miracle. After we got back to the camp, Dara Pen asked a Filipino Baptist pastor to come and baptize his converts and we were baptized by that Baptist pastor. I went back to work with that doctor and nurse and we met some missionaries from Wheaton, Ill. They were missionaries in Cambodia before the communists took over and they had been in the capital city of Phnom Penh .
They could speak perfect Cambodian and they told us how beautiful America was. They told us the grass is green, the people are nice, and how beautiful the snow is and even showed us movies of people skiing and other things. We had a beautiful picture in our heads. I studied the Bible. I read about different peoples in the Bible and languages and in my heart I thought I'd like to know and meet these peoples. I don't know how long it was, I guess about eight months later, we were sponsored by a man from the Cambodian association in Chicago. Before we left the older ladies of the church laid hands on me and prayed for me and told me that I ought to pray for a husband. I was shocked for in our culture there is no choice about picking your husband. Your dad and mom pick one for you and you just accept it! They told me that when you become a Christian you leave all of that and you don't follow culture but you follow God! So I did. I started praying for a good husband, although I had no desire for a husband yet. They told us to pray to God for a good church because there are all kinds of false churches and I need to ask God for direction. I only knew God could work a miracle as with mom. I asked God for a miracle. When we got off the plane it was winter and it had already snowed. December 22, 1980 was the date of my arrival. We were taken to the ghetto in uptown Chicago and dumped into buildings with a lot of black people and some Spanish people nearby. We sure thought the missionaries had certainly made a mistake, because the snow was all muddy black and it was gloomy and freezing cold. The neighbors were always fighting and drinking. One man that lived under us was so kind to us but he got shot in the head and killed in his bathtub. So was the life in beautiful America. How beautiful is Mud America!!! I thought that God had left me by putting us in this place. I was kind of jealous because some of my friends had been sponsored by nice Americans out in the country and it was so different. I remembered that I had wanted to meet many kinds of different people and I thanked God that at least we were in America. I had prayed that God would send somebody that would talk to me personally and I would know "by that", that this person was the one God had sent. For one week we slept all day and woke up at night because of the time change. It was kind of hard to get used to. Every different kind of church came by to try to get us in their church: Seventh Day Adventist, Church of God, Evangelical Free, Uptown Baptist Church (S.B.C. - they were not even Baptist much less southern - husband's comment), Covenant Church, Christ Church. (The Cambodian group later became Christian and Missionary Alliance after using S.B.C. money to start.) When they came I was always sleeping and they talked to my mom. My sponsor told us to go to all kinds of churches and get food, clothes, and furniture from them, just anything you can get out of them. I told my sponsor that I'm a Christian and that I wouldn't go to church for these things, because I loved God and God knows our need. He said, "Well, I'm a Christian too but every time I go to church they want money out of me." I told him that, "That's up to you. If you want to give to God then fine, because no one forces you to give." He came back with 100 lbs. of rice, 2 chickens, and a gallon of milk. That's what he gave seven people for a month plus $25.00. I told him, I thank God for the food, and he said, "What? Thank God for the food? ...I'm the one who bought it!" He was mad because I thanked God and not him. He was the one who wanted to marry me and I thought, "Yeah, you wolf, I'm not going to marry you!" The only reason he sponsored us was because of all of the girls in our family. He thought he could pick one of the girls in the family. I told my mom that I'd like to go to school before I got married. Mom agreed because our family was an educated family, not just a mom and family. We wanted to be something. I had always wanted to be a nurse myself. This guy thought that he could buy us real cheap and get away with it before we found out how much a girl would cost. (See we had bridal dowry prices in our country. That's still practiced very widely in America by most foreign cultures.) Thank God that he didn't get me for there are a lot of "nice Christians" that are in it for what they can get out of it, not because they are truly born-again.
One week after our arrival we went over to a friend's apartment to cook because the gas wasn't turned on in our apartment yet. The lady told us that there was an American man, who comes here every Saturday visiting these kids and takes them all to church. I said, "What church?" She said, "I don't know, I never went myself, only my little boy." She said, "He'll be here in about 30 minutes to ask me about letting my boy go to church." I asked her if she could speak to him and she said, "No, only hello and good-by." In a little while he came in and talked to him. He asked me if I wanted to go to church with him tomorrow. I said yes without knowing what kind of church. I knew right away that it was the Lord that answered my prayers. I didn't know he was single, just that he cared for people and that he was the teacher. He talked by paper and pencil to communicate with us. The next day he came in a big bus with all kinds of people in it: Americans, Blacks, Spanish, Koreans, Indians, Lao, Vietnamese, Hmong, Chinese, Assyrians, Filipinos. There was hardly any place to sit in there. The little kids were throwing up everywhere and I saw that man get a mop and a bucket and clean up the messes. He was always singing and tried to make us happy. He never missed one Saturday asking us to go to church. He would always come and teach us some Bible and some English. He was always on time on Sunday and if we were late he would leave us. I'd always find a way to get to the church somehow. He got a group of us to start visiting all kinds of people with him and we'd witness to these people and try to get them to church. I knew for sure that this was the place God wanted me to be. Then the liberal Cambodian tried to stop me from going to his church. They told me I needed to quit going that church and come to the Cambodian church and become their children's Sunday School teacher. I thought that was nice but they were only trying to help and tell Cambodians about God and this man was trying to reach out to all kinds of people. I knew that the Bible said, "For God so loved the world"...not just "God loved the Cambodians." How could you pass up so many people to just reach out to a few of your own kind of people? One Saturday this man came to our house and marked a Bible verse (Deuteronomy 22:5).
We had been given pants to wear when we came here and I didn't know much of the Bible but I was studying and he was teaching us. I picked up my Bible after he left and had a Bible study and found the marked verse in Cambodian. I don't know how he knew what verse to find in Cambodian, but he did. I read that verse and it said it was an abomination for a woman to wear a man's clothing. I was so frightened and said what can I do because I only have three skirts and it was in the middle of winter. I knew that I had to trust God so I took all of my pants and threw them into the garbage can. My mom said, "What are you doing? Are you crazy? You'll freeze to death." I told my mom that I must obey God. The next day I asked the man about the verse and I told him that I threw all of my pants away. He told me that he put the marker in the Bible. I didn't know it at that time, but he told some ladies in the church about it and gave one some money to buy me some tights to wear so my legs wouldn't freeze. She bought them and gave them to me and another one gave me a lot of very nice skirts and shirts. My mom noticed that I was going to church three times a week and on Saturday visitation and she said that was too much and that I should go to the Cambodian church because they only went to church on Sunday mornings. One day my sister came from school and she was laughing so hard. In gym when they changed their clothes to wear those gym clothes. Her friends laughed at her and said, "those are boys' underwear." When the churches gave us some clothes we were so happy to get those nice thick underwear, and we didn't know it was for boys. We just thought they were nice. I had to throw mine away and I thought, "Well, what else will I have to throw away? ...Tee shirts, socks, shoes ...they were all boys' stuff. We kept going with the man to church.
Brother Ko Yang is now a preacher to his people, the Hmong. My sisters are serving the Lord today and if you haven't guessed by now the man with the bus was Edward Fort and he's now my HUSBAND. Well, now, isn't God just WONDERFUL!!! So many people claim to be Christians but their lives never change and it seems that God is not very important to them. They never have any convictions. They don't change. They don't have any love for God, and He's certainly not first in their lives. I wonder if they have met the God that I have met. When God saved me, I changed and He is most important in my life. When God saved me, I knew that He was the one and only true living God.
I told you part of my life story not boasting of myself but Boasting on the Lord Jesus Christ who loved me and died for me. (Ephesians 2:12-13) That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
Of course this is just a small part of the story of my escape from Cambodia and Buddhism to America and the God of Heaven.
Thank you so much for letting me share my life with you. I want to give all the glory to the one and only true Living God ... The Lord Jesus Christ my Saviour who has delivered me out of the mouth of the dragon and has placed me into His loving arms to spend it with Him for eternity. Amen.
Sokvary has eight children. Her husband Edward Fort is an Independent Baptist Missionary Church Planter to the greater Chicago area that has a heart for people of all nationalities.