By Steve and Noit Hyde
After completing the Freedom Walk honoring Noit together we have had many meaningful conversations together since then. Last night as Noit and I talked of how Jesus has transformed our hearts and grew His love in us, then, Noit commented on the condition of her heart immediately after the Khmer Rouge.
Few people, probably, can understand what life under the Khmer Rouge did to a person’s heart. Yes, there was the physical pain during the Khmer Rouge reign as they worked us digging water canals by hand which were miles long; the toil planting and harvesting rice from before dawn and late until the night was excruciating, and all this was done on only a few grains or rice per day. With so little food, we lived at the physical limits of our strength and most people died because of this. Yet, the worst thing of the Khmer Rouge was the fear they burned into us. From moment to moment we didn’t know when we would be killed as a traitor. If we ever stood out, either as weak or hard working, we would be killed. If we ever stole a leaf to eat, we had to confess for fear that someone saw us and take the torture and beatings they gave us as punishment. We never knew who was Khmer Rouge, who was a spy, or who was friend. In fact, there were no friends. We feared everyone. Everyone was alone. Fear was the worst pain in our heart.
Even walking back to Phnom Penh fear was everywhere. We feared the Vietnamese. We feared being raped. We feared they would abuse us and kill us. We didn’t know why they were in our country and assumed they were there to imprison us as well. We feared ambushes and landmines. We feared death every moment. Upon arriving in Phnom Penh the fear in us slowly deadened our hearts. As a new country under the Vietnamese occupation was formed some normalcy returned, though fear was still present. The Vietnamese were not as brutal as the Khmer Rouge, but they still ruled by fear.
My sister was selected as a potential police officer and was sent to Vietnam for training. For three long months I was alone until she returned. She used her connections to get me a job in the police as well. I worked from 1980 until the mid 1990’s as a police officer. However, during this time my heart had grown completely dead.
I don’t know if you can imagine what a dead heart is like. Literally, my body felt nothing. I thought nothing. I was nothing. I only performed my duty like a machine. From the moment I completed my work I went home, ate some food, and laid down in my bed until it was time to go to work the next day. I thought of nothing. I dreamed of nothing. I had no ideas enter my mind. I did not think of pain. I did not think of the Khmer Rouge and my loss. I also did not think of happiness, nor what joyful emotion would be like. My heart was completely dead. The only thing I felt going in and out of my body was air.
This is what the Khmer Rouge did to me. They killed me. Only my heart had not stopped yet. They killed all our people. They killed my nation.
Then the Vietnamese withdrew from Cambodia. It was the early 1990’s. Foreign troops came with blue helmets and lots of money poured into Cambodia. I continued to do my duty like a machine.
Then a miracle happened. I heard about Jesus. I didn’t want this foreign religion nor did I want its rituals. I only wanted to feel again and I could feel Jesus. I believed. That was in 1994. Soon after I believed in Christ I remember crying. It was the first time I could remember crying in my whole life. Under the Khmer Rouge if we cried, we would be killed. I cried for hours and could not stop. My heart came back to life when Jesus came in.
Recently, a missionary asked me, “Noit, you are so gentle and loving; so introverted, yet at the same time you can do anything. You engage with everyone and you have boldness to say or do anything to anyone. How is that possible?”
Noit just smiled and said, “Because Jesus healed my heart. My heart is alive and full of love. I have no fear at all. I have Jesus.” The missionary probably had no idea how profound her comment was.
Noit is not a typical Cambodian and certainly, not a typical Cambodian woman. She will love anyone. Man, woman, child or elderly. I remember when she hugged a young man dying from AIDS. His wounds were dripping with bodily fluids filled with the deadly disease. Yet, Noit showed no discomfort in holding him for hours and she prayed and ministered to him. He gave his life to Christ. He felt the love of Jesus through her.
I have seen her wipe the wounds of severely injured people or massage the legs of elderly who are unable to walk. I have seen her sit on the ground with handicap beggars and clean the dirtiest children. She pours out her love, with no fear or restraint, on anyone she meets. She not only loves the poor, but she confidently shares Jesus with Khmer Rouge soldiers and leaders who directly murdered her family and friends. She helps them understand how God can fix their empty hearts. She knows what it is to have a dead heart. She knows what it is like to not have any thoughts, only performing what is expected. I have seen her, without the slightest hesitation, share Jesus with senior government officials, governors, police and political leaders or wealthy tycoons. She is not intimidated by anyone.
Her very first act as a Christian was to tell her neighbors about Jesus and immediately started a church in her community which she still leads today. It is a church filled with broken people. It is a church of hearts that are still being mended. She pour out her life into others so they too many know what it is like to have a heart which is alive and filled with love.
Noit’s life is an amazing testimony of how God can take a gentle woman and use her to bring healing to a nation. Through her life thousands and tens of thousands of lives have been touched by the love of Jesus. Her heart is alive and what she lives for each day is clear: to love others.