Many of us probably have shelves groaning under the weight of Christian books that can help us understand the Bible and apply it to our daily lives. For many years Christians in Cambodia, however, had few accessible books to help them follow Jesus.
In 2004 Stephen Westergren, a Christian & Missionary Alliance (C&MA) worker in Cambodia, helped start the non-denominational Fount of Wisdom publishing house to provide high quality, accessible books for pastors and their congregations. At first this was with translated books, but now the books are increasingly by, and for, Cambodian Christians.
Fount of Wisdom’s first title – and all-time bestseller – was the Bridge Bible Commentary, an easy-to-read, and easy-to-understand resource covering the whole Bible. It translates well for Cambodian readers since it was developed by Australian missionary Don Fleming when he served in Thailand. The translation was edited by Alice Compain, one of the first OMF workers in Cambodia. This was followed by a Bible handbook, What the Bible Is All About by Dr Henrietta C Mears, and JI Packer’s Concise Theology. These three books have served the Cambodian Church well and helped many Cambodian pastors understand and preach God’s Word more effectively. From these initial three, Fount of Wisdom’s catalogue has grown to over 150 titles with around 15 new works coming out every year.
Resourcing the church
These books range from theology, leadership and preaching, to discipleship, family life and children’s titles. New books are discussed by a book selection committee aiming to resource the Cambodian Church. The committee, which represents different denominations and missionaries from OMF, C&MA, YWAM (Youth with a Mission), CRCNA (Christian Reformed Church)/RCA (Reformed Church in America) and Langham Partners, looks at the best way to meet these needs. Sometimes this means translating a Western book, but this doesn’t mean just a word-for-word translation. Fount of Wisdom works with the original publisher to adapt the book for Cambodian readers, swapping Western illustrations and cultural references for Cambodian ones. In this way, several classic Western books have helped Cambodian pastors grow in their leadership, for example, former OMF General Director JO Sanders’ Spiritual Leadership and Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest, which has recently been translated into Khmer.
However, the best books for the Cambodian Church will come from local Christians such as Savy Dith. Savy lost many family members in the Khmer Rouge years, but her book You are Beautiful now brings Jesus’ hope and healing to many women who have faced similar struggles. She says it teaches women that ‘beauty is inside, not outside, and that God protects his people for the glory of his work.’1 Working as an editor at Fount of Wisdom, Savy and the team have also enabled Cambodian authors to produce commentaries on Ephesians and Revelation, and titles for married couples, young people, and women, highlighting key issues for local Christians that Western books may miss.
Executive Director, Chim Titmakara, explains the current need for a mix of translations and local books: ‘Our ultimate aim is to publish Cambodian authors. But at the same time, we need to be resourcing the Cambodian Church, in order to answer the real need in the current situation for pastors or Bible college students. We don’t want to always be translating books, but it’s part of the process. At the same time, we want to promote reading, promote writing, promote Christian books.’
The children’s books show this growth. Fount of Wisdom no longer needs to translate Western children’s titles as they’ve been working with local authors to produce stories that connect better with Cambodian families. Nhoemvan Soknal’s children’s book Wait for Me is one of the exciting results of Fount of Wisdom’s writing and editing workshops. These have run since 2012 as part of Fount of Wisdom’s commitment to equip and publish Cambodian authors. The sessions are led by four Cambodian trainers, who are coached by an American writer and trainer. The workshops mean that several more books from local authors are due to be released in the next few years.
Please pray for
- Fount of Wisdom to be able to keep publishing and distributing biblical and socially relevant literature to strengthen church leaders and help believers be more like Jesus.
- Pray for Fount of Wisdom to have enough human and financial resources to keep publishing and distributing books.