PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (February 10, 2015) — He survived the perils of life in the worst slum in Phnom Penh only to see his home – and thousands of other shanty dwellers’ homes — ravaged by an arson fire. But through it all, God had a plan to bring calm to a troubled young soul.
“My parents moved to the city to find work,” says Makaram Lim, now a youth leader and worship pastor at Church of Cambodia in Pnomh Penh. Makaram stayed with his grandmother a few hours east of the capital city as his parents tried to make their way in the bustling city – his mother selling vegetables and his father driving a taxi.
His parents lived on a mattress outside the front gate of a relative’s home.
Makaram’s grandmother was a strict Buddhist who prayed at dawn and dusk each day to her God — at least an hour of prayer and worship in each session.
Due to the rigors of his parents’ long work hours, with little time to rest, Makram’s father contracted typhoid. Sadly, he succumbed to the disease in only three months.
So at nine-years-old, Makaram and his two sisters moved into a slum area with their mother near the Russian embassy in Phnom Penh. “It was full of taxis, vegetable sellers, drug addicts, prostitutes, robbers, and all the bad people lived there,” he recounts.
A blackened river ran near the slum known as “Hundred Directions Water” because it became the drainage channel for every form of human waste and debris. “The water had a very bad smell,” Makaram says.
Makaram’s mother began to get sick from a mysterious ailment that no doctor could explain. “First they thought it was her stomach, then her lungs, then her liver,” he recalls. “She was getting weaker and weaker, losing her will to live.”
“The doctors gave up hope and told her to go home. They said they had no way to help her.” Makaram’s mother asked her sister if she would care for her three children when she died.
One Saturday night a Christian woman came to visit the family and spoke very directly to Makaram’s mother: “Sister, Jesus is God,” she declared. “He is the Savior of the world and the Savior of sinners. If you come to know the Lord Jesus – even if you die today — you go to heaven.”