One memory I will never forget. It is of a ten or eleven-year-old Cambodian boy in a shelter the United Nations had erected. He didn’t speak a word. He didn’t smile.
Other children, orphaned or separated from their parents were so lonely that they came up to me, took my hand and led me to see the scenes they’d drawn or painted with materials left by an AID group. But he just stood there with two paintings clutched in his hand.
I was an Agricultural Missionary who, with my wife, Dee was working among the Mountain Tribes of northern Thailand. In 1980 great masses of starving, traumatized Cambodian refugees fled across the border into Thailand. They were running from the radical regime of the Khmer Rouge. Nearly a quarter of the Cambodian population were killed or starved to death during that time.
I had come that day to bring seeds for fast growing vegetables to the refugees. They’d been given some basic foodstuffs but wanted to stay with us and plant their own gardens. As I saw their plight, I couldn’t help but remember the starving peoples I’d seen when I served in the Korean War and had felt called to, somehow, help to feed the hungry of the world.
Most of the lost children had painted idyllic views of villages and Buddhist temples, most likely from their former homes. There was a picture of the Lord Buddha and one of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments. But, two pictures were different. That little boy who stood away from the other children made them. I cringed inside when I saw them. They were graphic scenes of villagers being executed by Khmer Rouge soldiers. Heads, smashed with a heavy hoe, and a beheading with a sword, complete with spurting blood. Other prisoners were waiting in line for the executioner. Maybe some of them were the boy’s family!
He stood silently watching me as I viewed his work and snapped some photos. Obviously, he had seen these scenes himself. I thought of the peace and justice he had not known, and the comfort he so desperately needed. I moved on to return to our work to help the Thai people- but I have never forgotten that little boy.
– Rupert Nelson
As I saw their plight, I couldn't help but remember the starving peoples I'd seen when I served in the Korean War and had felt called to, somehow, help to feed the hungry of the world
Rupert Nelson and his wife, Dee, served in Thailand from 1963 to 1996 under the auspices of the American Baptist Church. He was the first to introduce animals from Heifer Project, International. Earlier, he served as Montana Agriculture Extension Agent on Fort Peck Indian Reservation, Montana.
Education included: B.S. Agronomy: S. Dakota State University
& M. S. Agricultural Extension Education: University of Wisconsin
He has authored three books.