Dr. Samuel Nuon established the Khmer Baptist Mission in 1982 and served as pastor until the spring of 2005. On April 17, 1975 the Khmer Rouge forcefully took over the nation of Cambodia. Dr. Nuon and his family escaped to a refugee camp in Thailand and lived there for three months before migrating to America. The congregation of Derbyshire Baptist Church sponsored their journey to America. After a mass resettlement of Cambodians in the Richmond area, Dr. Nuon recognized the need for a Cambodian ministry and founded the Khmer Baptist Mission with assistance from Derbyshire Baptists, who offered the new ministry a place to meet. The Khmer Baptist Mission is an independent congregation whose leadership has the future objective of establishing its own place of worship, although no formal plans have yet been developed. Both the Khmer Baptist Mission and Derbyshire Baptist Church are affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. This church is also a member of the Cambodian Southern Baptist Fellowship, a network of eighty churches nationwide.

The Khmer Baptist Mission meets on Sunday mornings at 9:45 for their weekly worship service. This service is conducted in Khmer with no translation into English. A youth worship service is held on Sundays from 11-12, and this service is conducted in English. During this time, hymns, prayer, offering, scripture readings, and a sermon are the typical program for the day. In addition to songs that have been translated into English, the members of the church often sing one of 300 indigenous Cambodian worship songs. Communion is taken on the first Sunday of the month. A church-wide picnic with home-cooked meals made by the members also is held on the first Sunday of the month. The pastor views these gatherings as way to build a sense of community and preserve Cambodian culture. Additional activities are planned throughout the week, including:

Youth meeting, Fridays at 7:00 p.m.
Bible Study, Saturdays at 5:30 p.m.

Due the small membership size and its close relationship with Derbyshire Baptist Church, the congregation has not developed any associated units but rather shares its resources with Derbyshire Baptist. The Khmer Baptist Mission has developed many outreach services for Cambodians in the Richmond Metropolitan Area. These outreach services primarily facilitate assimilation by helping new residents with transportation; housing; food, clothing, and furniture; employment; school enrollment; banking; automobile licensing; and language translation (in schools, hospitals, job interviews, etc).

The congregants of the Khmer Baptist Mission celebrate the traditional Christian holidays of Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. At the same time, the congregation tries to preserve its unique cultural heritage — language, food and Cambodian identity. During their Easter and Thanksgiving holiday celebrations, the members of the church wear traditional clothing to represent their heritage and pass it on to the younger generation. The sermons delivered to the congregation are often centered around the life experiences of the members. They emphasize the great suffering that members have endured and the role that their faith and spiritual lives have played in dealing with this suffering.

Each summer the Cambodian Southern Baptist Fellowship sponsors a conference for Cambodian Baptists from across the U.S. This annual meeting has previously been held in a variety of locations, but now will be held each year at “Blessed Field,” an estate south of Atlanta owned by two Cambodians. The estate was named “Blessed Field” in response to the well-known “Killing Fields” of Cambodia, an experience that many members of the Khmer Baptist Mission fled to escape.

The average attendance for Sunday worship (both the English and Khmer services) ranges from 60-65. The majority of members are Cambodian, although there are some Cambodian-Americans (biracial youth with American and Cambodian parents). Within the congregation there also exists a sense of family based on community and deep friendships.

Proflie prepared by Rachel Everly
August, 2005