STATESBORO, Ga. — Cambodian Southern Baptist leaders believe their recent purchase of a 7-acre former wedding venue, to be used as a conference center, is a miracle given to them by God.
They call it the Blessing Field, an obvious reference to the Killing Fields Cambodians endured during the 1970s as depicted in a 1984 major motion picture of the same name.
“Those who came to the Cambodian Southern Baptist Fellowship’s annual gathering this past June cannot believe that God gave this to us,” Chairman Seang Yiv told The Christian Index. “As they walked across the buildings, they were in tears and kept raising their hands up high, repeatedly giving thanks and praises to the Lord who graciously and lovingly gives them this property. It’s like a little bit of heaven from God himself.”
The Cambodian fellowship, the smallest of the SBC’s dozen formalized ethnic groups, paid $475,000 cash for the shimmering property valued at more than $3 million. Here’s how it happened:
Yiv and his wife Vijila bought some property in 2004 near Macon, Georgia, after they sold their former home for much more than they had paid for it. The following year they gave that 75-acre property to the Cambodian Fellowship for use as a conference center.
“We felt led of the Lord to give it,” Yiv said. “From the pulpit, I looked in the eyes of the attendees, particularly a hundred fifty or so young people, and envisioned that long after this old generation had passed, this property would be for them to inherit.”
Once trees were cut down from a corner of the Macon property and an initial 4,800 square-foot meeting center, a kitchen, and a small storage shed were built by the Cambodians working together on the land zoned agricultural, they were denied additional permits for sleeping structures. Realizing the property was no longer adequate for the growing numbers of people meeting onsite each summer for their annual conclave, the Cambodians sold the property in 2022 for $360,000.
Cambodian Fellowship leaders searched and found three replacement properties over the next seven months and made offers, but “for one reason or another, they all fell through,” Yiv said. Then they heard of a fourth property in a commercial zone, near Statesboro, Georgia, one far better than any of the others.
It was a bank-owned former wedding venue with two buildings, one about 11,000 square feet, with interior carpeting and several chandeliers, and the other 9,000 square feet, suitable for a fellowship hall and sleeping quarters. The 7-acre property also includes expansive landscaping with an oversized fishpond, two large gazebos, and two water fountains.
“We never imagined we would have this kind of facility for this small fellowship,” Yiv said.
The Cambodian Fellowship consists of 35 congregations in 31 states.
The original owner of the Statesboro property, a real estate developer, told one of the Cambodian leaders he had spent $3 million building on and improving the property. The Fellowship had $360,000 from the Macon property sale, another $100,000 in the bank, and a deal-making $15,000 no-interest loan. With cash in hand and within a month, the bank agreed to sell the Statesboro property to the Fellowship for $475,000, despite six larger bids from people who didn’t have cash.
“It was a miracle work of the Lord,” Yiv said. “No one among us can claim we did anything to get that kind of land. It can only be the work of God. In the process, the Lord has validated and enlarged thirtyfold our decision and vision 18 years earlier about donating the land in Macon.”
Some work does need to be done, Yiv acknowledged, including roof and air conditioning repair, construction of a Blessing Field Museum, an entrance gate, ten permanent showers, lodging for attendees, sectioning a part of one building as classrooms, plus painting the bridge and cleaning the pond, so fish can live in the pond and grow to eating size.
Future plans include a museum depicting historical Cambodia, the tragedy of the killing fields, and the increase of Cambodians holding prominent positions across the United States.
In addition to the Cambodian Fellowship’s annual meeting, the property also can be used for outreach activities, retreats, family reunions or similar functions, Yiv said.
“This property is far far beyond what we could do,” the chairman said. “At the rate we were able to save each year, it would have taken the fellowship about 250 years to save $3 million. This place is like a little bit of heaven from God himself. God wanted to make sure we adults — we who understood the recent past, the Khmer Rouge — that we understood this. This is what He intends to give to all His children: this awareness that after our trials and struggles, we will see heaven.
“I think I understand the Lord’s heart,” Yiv continued. “This property was given to us to be passed on to the young people so they can remember what great things He has done to the remnants of the killing fields and see this bit of heaven. I’ve been praying for the young people to embrace this place and find peace here.”