Photo: SSD

Southern Asia-Pacific

Ministry on Two Wheels

Cambodian man’s’ bike-driven tourism business opens doors for sharing the Gospel

Cambodia | Edward Rodriguez

There is a man who lives in the midst of the awe-inspiring grandeur of ancient temples and the vibrant bustle of everyday life. This man’s incredible zeal for mission work resonates well beyond the borders of his home country. An unassuming Adventist layman named Seyha Pen is responsible for weaving a tapestry of faith and compassion that transcends the complex terrain of Cambodia's primarily Buddhist society.

The spiritual journey of Seyha's family is intricately connected to the history of Cambodian refugees who returned home from Thailand in 1992. Seyha is a first-generation Adventist believer in Cambodia. Chenda Pen, his father, is notable for being one of the pioneering Adventists in Cambodia. He was actively involved in spreading the Gospel throughout the country.

At the early age of 12, Seyha made the firm decision to dedicate his life to Jesus through baptism. This marked the beginning of his personal faith journey, which has continued to this day. This defining moment heralded a brand-new chapter in his life. After that, Seyha decided to continue studying the Bible, eventually discovering the life-changing truths that were written within the holy pages.

As he proceeded further in his study of faith, Seyha became aware of the calling that resided within him. This was to devote his life to the mission God started here on Earth. Since that day, a strong yearning has been imprinted in Seyha's heart, driving him to share the limitless love and grace he has received from Jesus with others. This need has only grown stronger with the passage of time and the accumulation of experiences, driving him to have an even more significant influence.

It was 2018 when Edward Rodriguez, representing the Communication Department of the Southern Asia-Pacific Division (SSD), finally got to shake Seyha's hand in person for the first time. After spending many days exploring the old city of Siem Reap, Edward had the opportunity to become more acquainted with Seyha's personality and was able to forge a connection with him that has persisted up until the present day.

Seyha's selfless dedication and example of service struck Edward right away when they first met. His profound spirituality and the strength of character he possessed left an unforgettable effect on everyone with whom he came into contact.

Seyha reflected in a humble manner, "I never thought a simple man like me could make a difference," and his eyes shone with the intent to accomplish anything. His meek demeanor belies a firm determination to face the difficulty of spreading the Gospel in a nation with such a strong Buddhist heritage. He is unflinching in his pursuit of this goal.

Seyha’s commitment is driven by enthusiasm for preaching the message of Jesus Christ to others. He navigates with sincerity and grace across a landscape in which the presence of diverse cultural and religious traditions frequently creates obstacles.

Seyha's family also exemplifies the principles that are held dear. He is married to So Theavy, and they have a daughter, Shulamit. "Our journey isn't without trials,” Theavy remarked, her eyes showing the tenacity that comes from having a shared objective. "Yet Seyha's unwavering passion for mission work continues to serve as a reliable source of motivation."

Theavy continued, "Even though we frequently have to deal with difficult financial circumstances, I am able to count my blessings and feel comfortable in spite of the fact that my husband navigates these problems with unflinching faith and drive. The fact that he is able to maintain his composure in the face of adversity serves as an inspiring model for our child."

Sharing Jesus on Two Wheels

A massive Buddhist temple complex known as Angkor Wat can be seen less than eight kilometers (approx. five miles) away from Seyha’s residence. It was recognized as a UNESCO Globe Heritage Site in 1992, and many people believe it is the largest religious monument in the world. Every year, the temples are visited by approximately 2 million individuals.

"I had the impression that God wanted me to start a tourism business in order to reach out to these visitors," Seyha explained. As a result, he launched a business, Goshen Tours, and that brought together three of his greatest passions: people, bikes, and faith.

The one-of-a-kind ministry Seyha conducts draws its inspiration from his lifelong love of motorcycles and has given rise to a tourist enterprise that acts as a vehicle for his mission. "I've had a fascination with motorcycles and bicycles. The landscape of Siem Reap provides travelers with a unique view of Cambodia," Seyha said with a grin as he imparted his insight.

Because of the nature of Seyha's business, he has had the opportunity to talk about his faith with a large number of customers who come from a wide range of cultural and religious traditions.

"I am reminded of the narrative of Paul, in which he was presented with the opportunity to increase his income while still contributing to the ministry that he was leading by building tents. Paul's objective was not to advance his own interests; rather, he labored out of a genuine desire to make the love of Jesus known to everyone who came under his sphere of influence," Seyha explained.

"My business is a way of reaching out to people who would never enter a church and who don't even like Christians," Seyha said. "My business is a way of sharing the Gospel with people who don't even like Christians."

Those in the local tourism business who retain Seyha's services on a consistent basis hold a high opinion of him and his reputation. However, in order to fulfill their demands, he has a few prerequisites that must first be met.

"Each and every one of my customers is aware of the fact that I am an Adventist," Seyha said. "They are aware that I do not go out drinking and that I lead a very different lifestyle. The observance of the Sabbath is at the forefront of my religious upbringing. Even though the guest will pay $100 per day, I will not work there if they are unable to accommodate my need to observe the Sabbath. Second, I won't take the job if they try to prevent me from talking about my relationship with God with the individuals who are close to me.”

Seyha is a follower of Jesus, and he wants to win more people to his faith through his motorcycle tourism business. Nevertheless, Seyha's ministry encompasses more than just the adrenaline rush of motorcycle rides. Joshua Sagala, a tourist from Indonesia, had this to say about Seyha's attitude toward tourism: "Seyha's approach to tourism exemplifies integrity and respect. Because of his straightforwardness and genuine concern, this was an encounter that will not soon be forgotten.”

More than just an exciting ride through gorgeous scenery, Seyha's guided tours provide a variety of unique experiences. "It's not just a tour; it's a journey of the heart," Joshua additionally commented on the experience. Seyha skillfully incorporates the message of faith into his relationships with his guests by having meaningful dialogues with each of them.

Sovattana, a devoted follower of Buddhism and an avid biker, attests to the transformative potential of Seyha. Reflecting on his experience, Sovattana said, "Riding alongside Seyha taught me that faith could be lived through actions. His steadfast friendship and character invigorate me to seek out deeper truths."

Sovattana continued, "I remember seeing Seyha interacting with a customer. A tour package costs the customer more than US$150 to purchase. Unbelievably, Seyha gave the customer their original payment of $70 back. He added that his charge included services as well as the entry fees for all of the destinations that were visited. The customer, who was taken aback by this, contrasted it to the higher prices charged by others. Seyha's response: 'My God sees me; I give what is right for my guests.’"

Theavy shared about an encounter with a man who asked Seyha to make a reservation for a room in a specific guest house. "He [the tourist guest] was surprised when Seyha informed him that the price had been set at $13. He responded by stating that it was impossible. ‘Other tour guides have quoted me a price of $25 for lodging at that location.’ The man found out that the fee for staying at the guest house had always been $13 after confirming the price with the establishment.

“Later on, the man asked Seyha, ‘Why are you different from other tour guides?’

“‘What do you mean by that?’ Seyha asked.

“The man's response was, ‘You have integrity.’

"‘That's because I'm a believer in Christ,’ Seyha said. ‘That's why.’"

Theavy continued, “After a brief period of silence, the man spoke out and declared, ‘I despise Christians, but I like you!’ He inquired about Seyha's religious beliefs, and in response, Seyha disclosed that he was a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Christian denomination. After the man had returned to his house, he immediately messaged Seyha, telling him, ‘I'm reading my Bible now.’

“He continued by saying, ‘I just want to let you know that in this world, you are the only person who doesn't rip me off. You are the only person who doesn't rip me off. Even members of my own family are only interested in getting money from me.”

Theavy concluded, “This individual is not the only one that Seyha has persuaded to follow Jesus as their Savior. Some of his guests, who professed to be atheists, have said to him, ‘Because of you, I'm reading my Bible.’"

The Butterfly Farm

Seyha's ministry goes well beyond the bounds of the hospitality sector, penetrating the very core of compassion and community. The Butterfly Farm Tourist Spot, which is located in Siem Reap and operated by an Adventist missionary family from Australia who are also good friends with Seyha, is one of the newest attractions in the city that is drawing in tourists. This enchanted location is one of the countless spots in Siem Reap to which Seyha takes his guests to see.

However, the Butterfly Farm is not your typical tourist destination; rather, it serves as a safe haven for children who have been abandoned and are searching for a sense of acceptance and belonging. “Seyha's enormous compassion extends just as generously to these children as it does to his guests,” confirmed Tim Maddocks, the genius of the Butterfly Farm and a treasured friend of Seyha. "He embodies a paternal presence, ceaselessly watching over the next generation and nurturing hope at every turn."

Many of Seyha's guests are profoundly impacted by the unseen aspects of Siem Reap, which in turn sparks a deep-seated desire inside them to actively contribute to the life-changing journey of the young children they meet. As a direct consequence of this, a flame of altruism is kindled within their hearts, which motivates people to act as agents of transformation. According to Seyha, some guests, after heading back to their countries, would contact Seyha and express their desire to help by sharing books and bags for these kids. Some would even come back together with their communities to go on a mission trip and find ways to help the orphanage, either through building more schools and facilities or spending time with children.

This shared dedication has resulted in the establishment of a school that is devoted to the care and empowerment of these children, providing them with the resources and opportunities they will need to develop into remarkable individuals in the years to come. It is a tribute to the deep impact a simple ministry on two wheels, directed by Seyha's unshakable dedication, is capable of making in the lives of people who are fortunate enough to cross paths with him.

A 1,000-Kilometer Ministry

At the beginning 2023, Seyha conceived of an exciting new ministry idea that ignited his enthusiasm. In August, he set off on an incredible journey that would take him a total of 1,291 kilometers (approx. 800 miles) and several days to complete over the course of the entire journey.

Seyha began his extraordinary adventure with the unflinching support of two young Adventist volunteers, Yut and Mengly, who shared his faith and commitment. They embarked on a life-changing journey, cycling from Siem Reap to the isolated, spiritually significant regions of Preah Vihear, Steung Treng, Ratanakiri, Mondulkiri, Kratie, Thbong Khmum, Kompong Cham, and Kompong Thom before returning to Siem Reap.

The road ahead was not simple. The highways connecting Cambodia's provinces were a significant obstacle. The majority of them were unpaved, harsh, and unforgiving, especially during the rainy season, when they turned into muddy quagmires that were practically impassable. Nevertheless, Seyha, along with his two devoted comrades, remained unafraid.

They met not only physical hurdles but also numerous opportunities for spiritual growth and connection as they pedaled their way across the mountainous terrain. Each kilometer they traveled demonstrated their undying faith and devotion to their vocation.

"I found myself deeply inspired by Seyha's tireless journey from one province to another. As a young believer on my own path of exploration into God's love, his unwavering passion for assisting others and sharing the message of Jesus was nothing short of contagious and profoundly genuine," Yut said.

Knowing that a greater purpose was guiding their journey, Seyha and his colleagues relied on their faith to get through the rain and mud. They were united, not just by their common objective, but also by a deep belief that God was looking over them, assuring them that their difficult journey would be spiritually gratifying and wonderfully blessed.

Their journey demonstrated the strength of faith, determination, and an unwavering resolve to convey their message of hope and love in a primarily Buddhist country like Cambodia. Despite the difficult route ahead, Seyha and his two young Adventist volunteers pedaled on, believing their mission was a divine calling that would touch the hearts of many along the path.

Seyha organized the ride despite not having any money available. He prayed that God would use the money that was available to him in a way that would bring about the greatest good. At the outset of the trip, he had only $50, which was adequate for a voyage lasting three days and covering all of the costs associated with it, including food and lodging for each night.

In a series of miraculous occurrences, the hand of God could be seen at work throughout the trip. When Seyha's money was just about to run out, a generous stranger would show up and offer him food or a place to stay for the night. This would happen just as his budget was about to run out. As Seyha retold the story with wonder, "God's provision never wavered in its steadiness or its consistency, and it always came in the most unforeseen and extraordinary ways. By keeping His end of the bargain, God demonstrated that He is unflinchingly dependable."

One testimonial Seyha provided may be seen in one of his posts: "God's faithfulness truly knows no bounds. My daughter Shulamit asked for her mother to give me a call while I was in the middle of moving forward this morning as I was on my bicycle. After our talk, an elderly couple came up to me and generously offered some fruits. I had instantly pulled over to the side of the road in order to answer the call. As I acknowledged their thoughtfulness and received their gift, joy flooded my being.

“It turned out that these fruits, along with water and even two packs of noodles, were a wonderful blessing for the excursion that I took today. This is evidence of both the goodness of God and His ability to work in mysterious ways. If Shulamit had not expressed an interest in having a conversation with her father, I would have continued on, and I would not have been granted this provision. I am grateful to you, Shulamit, for allowing God to work through you to fulfill your father's requirements.”

Seyha traveled with a number of devoted companions who supported the significance of his mission on this historic journey. Together, they distributed Christian material, went to churches located in a variety of provinces, boldly preached the Gospel of Jesus along the bustling streets, and witnessed astonishing miracles that took place throughout their extraordinary voyage.

Seyha said, "We can share that Jesus is a true friend to us. And if you are a true friend to people, they open up everything to you, and when they open up everything to you when they fully trust you, then they trust your God!”

One Province After the Other

Seyha and his determined team set out on their adventure, with Preah Vihear as their first stop. They pedaled their way through rain and searing heat, traversing nearly 200 difficult kilometers (approx. 125 miles) before arriving in the city. Their appearance signaled not only physical accomplishment but also spiritual appeal.

They were instantly absorbed in their task in Preah Vihear. They attended a worship service at the local church—a spiritual connection that would set the tone for their time in the city. Seyha and his crew partnered with church members to share the Gospel of Jesus through the literature they had brought with them.

Throughout their long journey to Preah Vihear, they tirelessly distributed booklets and periodicals, imparting the message of Jesus' love to everyone they met. Their dedication to spreading this message was unshakeable, and Preah Vihear was only the beginning of their journey—a journey packed with both physical and spiritual hardships.

The first trip to Preah Vihear was a watershed moment that set the tone for all of their subsequent journeys. Along the winding roads ahead, Seyha and his team met countless people, forging connections just as Jesus had done via His own example. They interacted with people from all walks of life, including children, families, and individuals who came across their path. It became clear that many of these people were facing a variety of hardships, ranging from financial troubles to physical demands.

One encounter with a small child who had a large lump on his face stood out among the many others. Seyha, in his unwavering commitment to assisting those in need, sought assistance from his internet network of friends. Their combined efforts were intended to provide much-needed medical aid to the child's family while exemplifying the compassion and empathy that inspired their ministry.

The Mission Life of Seyha Pen

Life in mission isn’t easy, yet faithfulness and devotion make the ride worthwhile. Seyha experienced various rejections from the government, communities, other religions, and even people close to him. These instances didn't make him waiver in faith but instead made him more committed to the ministry.

Seyha's commitment to observing the Sabbath became an important aspect of his religious experience from an early age, when he publicly acknowledged his faith in Jesus through baptism. This was a big obstacle, in particular when it came to the process of locating an educational establishment that would respect his religious devotion by granting him permission to skip school on Saturdays. This was a very difficult task.

Seyha did not give up on his commitment; he filed a number of appeals in an effort to obtain this essential component of his religious belief. Despite this, every one of the requests was denied. Even when he was young, Seyha was unmoved in his faith and steadfast in his determination to protect the sanctity of the Sabbath. He was undeterred by the opposition he faced.

Despite the fact that Seyha's official schooling was cut short, that did not hinder him from starting a professional career to support himself and his ministry. He was able to develop a business that was congruent with his beliefs because of his unyielding ambition and work ethic. As a result of his unwavering commitment, he not only discovered solace in the career he had selected, but he also established significant connections with people who were interested in acquiring his tour services. This exemplifies how unwavering faith and consistent effort may pave the way toward success.

"I may not be a David or a Joseph, but in this contemporary era, the Lord seeks modern-day Christians who will stand unwavering in their faith, ready to make a wholehearted commitment to follow Jesus, and resolute in surrendering their future to God," Seyha affirmed.

In his tourism business, Seyha holds on to the promise of Matthew 10: "This passage, for me, captures the core of my own personal spiritual journey from beginning to end. It is the wellspring of inner strength and peace that guides me, and it encapsulates the resolve that propels my goal. When I set out on this journey, just as the disciples relied on the providence of God and the goodwill of complete strangers, so did I rely on the same fundamental idea. It is a demonstration of my faith, an everlasting source of motivation, and a daily reminder that the ageless guidance found in the Bible continues to lead and sustain disciples like myself in the contemporary world."

Seyha Pen is a living example of the transformative impact of living an authentic life in a world that longs for genuine connections. His narrative continues to ripple around Siem Reap, igniting a spark of hope and helping to bridge divides. Seyha's ministry shines a light on a way where faith and compassion can thrive, unrestricted by national boundaries or religious dogma, within the cultural tapestry that is Cambodia.

The original version of this story was posted on the Southern Asia-Pacific Division website.