Even before the first brick was laid, the Lord had His hands on the Essential Life Center, an urban center of influence (UCI) in Battambang, Cambodia’s third largest city. A man named Phon was hired to do welding by Gary Rogers, the superintendent of the building project. Gary is the Global Mission director for the Cambodia Mission and also an Adventist missionary. Phon liked having a day and a half off each week to relax rather than the demanding seven-day weeks he had to put in at other companies. He also enjoyed the morning worships led by Gary.

One day as Phon sat down to take a break, he overheard Gary talking on the phone about not taking on a particular job on an upcoming Saturday. Phon knew Gary wanted to get the project done quickly, but he couldn’t figure out why he wouldn’t budge about that one particular day. “Why is Saturday so important?” he asked Gary pointedly. “I’ve been going to church for more than ten years, and no one has told me not to work on Saturdays.” Gary seized the moment and gave Phon a brief Bible study on the Sabbath day. He also invited Phon to engage with him in a more in-depth study.

Phon believed the Bible to be the Word of God, so when Gary opened the Scripture and showed him about the Sabbath, tithe, the health message, and the true meaning of baptism, he accepted its teachings. He began keeping the Sabbath day holy from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown. He also decided to be baptized and become a member of the Adventist Church.

Around this time, the UCI nearly came to completion, and Phon became one of the first batch of students at its language center. Although in his 60s, he didn’t shy away from learning in a classroom with teenagers. He also enrolled in the music school at the center to learn to play the piano. On Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday nights, he actively participated in the evening Bible studies and joined young people at church to do door-to-door Bible work.

Phon’s baptism, October 7, 2017
Phon and his family at their baptism on December 19, 2020. From left: Pastor M. C. Chin, director of the Essential Life Center; Phon’s son, Kor; his wife, Chea Lomang; daughter, Kuy Vannak; and son-in-law, Rem Minuth, with their two children; and Phon
The Essential Life Center in Battambang, Cambodia

However, this was not enough for Phon. “I wanted to bring my whole family to this newly discovered, wonderful truth!” he said. A few months after Phon’s baptism, he brought his wife to church. She clearly didn’t enjoy it, yet over time, something inside her began to change.

When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down all churches and schools in Cambodia, Phon spent more time with his family and gave them Bible studies. They, too, have accepted the Sabbath and dedicated their lives to Christ through baptism. 

Many others have come to know Jesus through the UCI’s ministries, and the Battambang Central Church is very thankful for the work the center is doing to connect seekers like Phon to its church family. People of all different backgrounds who wouldn’t otherwise enter a church walk into the UCI and Battambang Central Church looking to better their lives. Whether through the language class, music classes, or the vegetarian restaurant, the UCI offers a perfect meeting place for people from different walks of life. Before the pandemic, more than 100 people were coming to the center each day, and trained members from the Battambang Central Church welcomed them with open arms and shared about Jesus. Some 20 people have already given their lives to Jesus through the joint ministry of the UCI and Battambang Central Church, and many more children and young people are studying the Bible.

Please continue to pray for this ministry in Battambang. Due to the stereotype of Christian churches being a place where beggars get free rice, wealthy people or those who wish to associate with the rich social class often avoid church events. The UCI provides a comfortable meeting ground for all social classes and particularly attracts the upper economic class. Its vegetarian restaurant is known as the trendy place that sells the best vege-burger in town, and the language school attracts young people from nearby elite private schools wanting to better their foreign language skills by conversing with native speakers. The UCI’s music school is the only school in the whole province that teaches classical music, and wealthy parents boast on social media by posting pictures and videos of their kids playing on the center’s grand piano.

It is written that before the close of probation, the rocks will cry out. The building rocks of the Essential Life Center have brought Phon and many others to Jesus. Musical instruments, vegetarian foods, and merely speaking in English have helped bring souls to Jesus. What is in your hand that you can use for Jesus?


Urban Centers of Influence 

Global Mission supports urban centers of influence in providing long-term, on-the-ground ministry that helps meet people’s needs and start new groups of believers. To learn more visit 

Please support urban centers of influence (Fund # 9730) by scanning this QR code with your phone’s camera or visiting 

Abigail Koo is director of the Battambang Music School at the Essential Life Center in Battambang, Cambodia.