The Journey from Past to Present

Beginning in 2000 Wes Lindquist and Rick Warren took a medical team into CC1 prison. As they built a relationship with the prison Chief he opened up and told of the awful conditions and asked for some classes that would help bring about moral improvement.

Wes and a small team adapted a serious of pamphlets to fall in line with the directive of not to preach the Gospel. Recruiting teachers from a local outreach center; Chuk Phol, So Vuthy, Ek lean, 2 women pastors and a couple of Christian school teachers began the first two morality classes behind prison walls in Cambodia.

Wes’s drive and compassion for Cambodian prisoners became the DNA that PFC still caries today. In serving the needs of these prisoners, they were often asked why they wanted to help the prisoners, this lead to an opportunity to share their faith that compelled their actions.

In 2001 Wes returned to the USA and Linda Chisholm began leading this team of dedicated volunteers. In the same year the team became a Prison Fellowship International affiliate and Prison Fellowship Cambodia was born. This small team continued their service as they began caring for the dying prisoners, cleaning the infirmary and taking food to the most in need; reinforcing PFC’s DNA  of compassion and living out your faith in tangible ways,

Soon after, Blue Gate House was designed and developed by Nicola Day and Lisa Cescon to provide care and post release services to prisoners and their families. It is here that in 2003 with the help of an Australian volunteer social worker the first team of social workers was established. There were no social work training programs in Cambodia at that time, so Prison Fellowship trained their own staff in the skills to provide holistic care for each prisoner. As Prison Fellowship Cambodia’s services grew, a focus on holistic restoration for released prisoners was established. These services included addressing vocational, counseling, personal and spiritual development needs.

In 2005 an attempted breakout and intense standoff occurred between authorities and prisoners at Kompong Cham prison. Prison Fellowship was called on to provide food, water and care for the wounded. The actions of these volunteers communicated more than words could ever express. As a result, the prisoners and staff became curious as to why someone would show such love for others. This curiosity opened the door for Prison Fellowship to begin teaching motor bike repairs. In addition, when there was malnutrition in CC3 they provided food in partnership with a local church on a regular basis, helping the prison chief to begin to open up to the gospel. In subsequent years bible studies and mentoring programs were established, leading to 657 prisoners being baptised in that prison alone. The change in the prisoners and their environment gained much attention, leading other prison officials to open their doors to Prison Fellowship and their restorative services.

From this point there was rapid growth in Prison Fellowship’s work, establishing ongoing vocational programs such as motor mechanic courses, literacy, English, high school, sewing, weaving, school education programs, food, health and clothing programs, all rolling out into many prisons throughout Cambodia.

In 2010, under the new directorship of Adam Hutchinson, the scale of the ministry multiplied as the local church network was expanded. The local church partnership program was designed to equip and build the local church’s ability to minister and care for the prisoners in their region. Twenty two local church partners, sixty Prison Fellowship staff and over one hundred volunteers were able to establish ministries and provide services in twenty two of Cambodia’s twenty four prisons.

By the year 2011, as a result of staff members travelling to Canada to undertake studies in Restorative Justice, Prison Fellowship Cambodia became committed to holistic restoration. The focus of each of its services sought to ensure the holistic needs of each prisoner including the heart and emotions; physical wellbeing; spiritual life; and seeking to help each person rebuild their life to what God had originally intended.

Prison Fellowship Cambodia celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2012. The Director General of the Department of Prisons, His Excellency, Mr Kuy Bunsorn addressed the assembly and asked that God bless Prison Fellowship and its work.  By 2013, 7244 prisoners are being served annually in 24 of the 27 prisons in Cambodia. Classes were taught by local church partners with over 150 prisoner teachers and prison officers; and by volunteers, as well as Prison Fellowship staff.

In 2014 Prison Fellowship Cambodia signed another Memorandum of Understanding (M.O.U) with Cambodia’s General Department of Prisons. This allows Prison Fellowship access to all prisons across the country for the next 3 years, securing the future of services and care to Cambodia prisoners.

Looking forward, Prison Fellowship continues to serve Cambodian prisoners, seeking to provide opportunities for restoration in every aspect of each prisoner’s life.