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Reaching the Urban Youth of Battambang

Though the genocide and civil wars of the last century have wounded the people and progress of Cambodia, there is hope in the next generation. Battambang, Cambodia’s second-largest city, is a beautiful example of this, with its small-town friendliness and the smiles of its many children.

For the first time in decades, today’s youth in Cambodia have the opportunity to grow up in a country at peace. Cambodia still struggles to regain political stability and rebuild its infrastructure, but the new generation is challenging the corruption of post-war Cambodia and offering hope for a brighter future.

Since 2008, a host of post-war baby boomers has flooded the urban centers to receive university training. The last decade has seen the growth of Battambang into a university town that attracts students from all over Cambodia. The influx of young adults and the already present needs of the urban youth has made it clear to the Encompass team in Cambodia that their ministry needs to focus on reaching the future leaders of the country.

The Grace Center, located in the heart of Battambang, serves as the base for most of Encompass’ Cambodian ministries. The recently renovated building serves as a student dormitory which houses several male and female students. It is also a vocational and theological training center and home to the Grace Church of Battambang. Each week, over 300 people are in and out of the building as young people participate in Bible studies, English language classes, computer lessons, youth gatherings, and Sunday worship. Though the center continues to play an important role in church planting efforts, its main focus is on engaging the children and young adults of the city with Jesus.

The team continues to look for the best ways to reach this goal.

First, the team has committed itself to mentorship. Though the concept of mentoring is common in the U.S., it’s not a big part of Cambodian culture, so emphasizing it has been a very effective innovation. Every ministry partner on the Cambodian team has adopted a group of dorm students into their family. The goal is to mentor these groups, build community, and serve as a home away from home. The team is seeing wonderful results from the initiative.

Another new focus is intentionally building relationships between the adults on the Cambodia team and community youth through sports and games. Many of the kids in Battambang come from broken homes, have no parents, or are regularly ignored by the adults in their lives. When an adult asks them if they want to play soccer, it has an incredible impact. These intentional gestures have brought unbelievable growth to the center.

The Grace Center is in an ideal location to reach the urban youth and college students of Battambang. It has built up an honorable reputation in the family-dense neighborhoods as a place of opportunity and relationship. God willing, it will continue to flourish.

Creative ways to self-fund the center are being developed, but the team could always use more supporters. If you have a heart for the next generation of Christians in Cambodia, please consider joining their effort through prayer, financial gifts, or taking advantage of an internship opportunity.