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Cambodian Christians in US Seek to Build 'Blessing Field'

A group of Cambodian Christians living in the southern US have begun a plan to build a "blessing field," saying their survival of the killing fields of Cambodia in the 1970s was the work of Jesus Christ.

The field will actually be a community center, and could cost as much as $2.5 million. And while some of that has been raised, organizers say they still have much more to collect.

"In five years, 10 years, 100 years, 200 years, if we have a place like this, people will know how we left the killing field and entered the blessing fields," said Seang Yiv, chair of the Cambodian Southern Baptist Fellowship, which is building the center, and owner of the land where it will sit. "In the future any individual of the young generation will come here and see our museum, and they will know, 'Oh, here is my dad, grandparent, ancestor, those who suffered, and [here is] their history, which allowed me to come to the US and to know this land full of freedom.'

The center will house a conference hall, living space and museum for documents, Seang Yiv said. "Those documents can be movies, video, film and documents remaining from the past in Cambodia and life in the Khmer Rouge, what it was about then and what was going on and then how Christ changed life and how this new life in Christ is," he said. "It's a history of all those who left the killing fields for the blessing fields, every step."

The blessing fields right now are all land and earth and trees, with no buildings. Organizers say they hope to complete a structure in the near future.

Pastor Chear Torn of the First Cambodian Arlington Baptist Church said his flock offered about $2,000 this year to develop the site.

Samuel Nuon, a former pastor of the Derbyshire Cambodia Church in Richmond, Va., claimed that his church members offered money "for the blessing field" too. No official statistics of Cambodian Christians exists in the US, but in Cambodia they comprise only 5 percent of the population.