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Read the First Chapter of My Next Book!
I’m writing a new book!
It’s the true story of a man who miraculously survived a genocide by calling on a God he did not know—and then met that God in a refugee camp. Great Unsearchable Things is the story of Sovath Sim, the father of a missionary friend of mine. His survival story is a beautiful testament to God’s grace in difficult times and the power of family love–both of which were outlawed during Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge. His story also gives some insight into the Buddhist mindset and response to Jesus. I hope to complete the first draft by Spring, 2024.
Want to read the first chapter? You’ll find it at the end of this note!
Want to help bring this book to life? You can head over to my GoFundMe page, which will help cover the costs of traveling to Cambodia for interviews, editing and proofreading, and book design. I want to share Sovath’s story as far and wide as possible, so I’ve also made space in the budget for marketing.
I’d be so grateful if you’d check out the fundraiser, consider helping with this project, and share about it with your circle!
On to the first chapter…
Somewhere Near Sisophon, Cambodia
Rainy Season, 1978
It was night in the Mobile Elite Kids camp—the kind of well-lit night that could get you haunted by one of a thousand recently-deceased ghosts or shot by the pointy guns of the seemingly omniscient Angka. It was humid, the moon bright, with a cool breeze blowing down from the mountains. And it was quieter than usual. Like the cotton fields were holding their breath.
Thirteen-year-old Sovath Sim lay on his side, his bony shoulder bones jutting into the wooden floor beneath him, his back pressed against his companion’s for warmth.
He was not ready to run away.
His companion, who had never even had a chance to share his name, had watched Sovath over the past several months with growing concern. They were close; as close as two boys can be who are not allowed to talk. Instead, they spoke with their eyes.
Work faster. Don’t let them see you stumble. They’ll kick you again, you can’t take that a second time.
In the daytime, their eyes spoke. In the night, when everyone else had dropped off to sleep from sheer exhaustion, they spoke a few actual words. Sovath longed for his family. The boy longed for freedom. They both wanted food.
The boy and Sovath were mirrors of each other: emaciated; shirts and shoes long since worn to tatters and abandoned; dirty, with no way to get clean; sick. The boy was a little taller than Sovath, though, and he had plans. His mind constantly worked on the problem of escape, as though obsessing over a math problem. The solution was there. It just had to be found.
Their prison wasn’t the kind with walls. Walls would have been a welcome addition to the building they had called home for the past year. Without walls, the night made their teeth chatter, and they had no blankets. Each had only a red and white checkered kromah, the multi-purpose Cambodian scarf which can work just as well as a backpack or fishing net as it can a blanket. Theirs were too short for them and too cottony for the cold mountain air. They often slept like this, curled up, skinny knees pulled up to their chins, feet curled under their kromahs, backs touching.
No, their prison was not made of walls, but fear. The children were too tired, too hungry, too intimidated. They were too far from anywhere familiar—and too close to the scary jungle with its animal sounds—to run away.
Sovath was not masterminding an escape. His goal was to stay invisible. Survival by blending in. But even that was difficult. His friend had been watching, and he knew Sovath was weakening. They had to leave now, or he would be leaving alone.
As far as timing for an escape, the boy thought tonight was both terrible and perfect; by the light of the moon, they could see, but they could also be seen. It didn’t matter. He had to save his friend. Perhaps, after months of hearing, “To let you live is no gain, to kill you is no loss,” it was easier to get up the courage to save Sovath than to save himself.
The boy listened hard, past the thumping of his heart, for signs that the camp slept. Finally, the 40 other children who served as Mobile Elite Kids began to breathe in rhythm.
“It’s tonight, Sovath,” he whispered.
“They’ll kill us,” Sovath said. “Shoot us.”
“We’re dying anyway.”
Sovath swallowed. His friend was right. How many times had he rushed to work in the darkness of the early morning, trying not to notice the ones who didn’t stir? They would disappear while he worked in the cotton fields. Perhaps their bodies would fertilize newly planted trees. Sovath shivered, remembering the strange, grave-shaped holes the tree planters dug on the road to his “new home.”
Lots of things could make you disappear at the Mobile Elite Kids camp. Diarrhea, working too slowly, homesickness. Not seeming happy to be working for Angka. Sovath had long since learned to detach from his emotions, to look neutral when terrified or smile when burning with the desire to cry for his parents. In the daytime, anyway.
“Let’s go, Sovath. Otherwise, you’ll disappear. You’ll die.”
For the first time, Sovath considered his friend’s suggestion. His heart, which labored heavily from malnutrition, boomed in his chest like a bomb. Adrenaline surged into his veins, and he was suddenly aware of the terrible emptiness in his stomach. It was hunger, yes, a deep hunger, down to his cells. But it was also a longing for his family. Sovath answered before he could stop himself.
The boys arose. Every movement seemed too loud. Trying not to breathe, they made their way down the ladder of the large shelter and past the giant clay pots that collected rainwater for the Mobile Elite Kids to drink. The boy led down a hill and through a small village.
As they passed the village, fear rose in Sovath’s chest. He could almost feel the ripping pain of a bullet in his back, or the clamping of some animal’s teeth into his neck. Or maybe it would be the slow, hollow death of starvation—he was walking away from food! Those few grains of rice each day, cooked into a clear soup…
The tears came involuntarily. Sovath clamped his hand over his mouth. He tried to steady his breathing. He had to stop crying.
“Come on, Sovath,” the boy said. “Stay close.” He was crying, too.
They exited the village and made their way to a road. The boy turned around. He froze, listening. Sovath heard it, too.
“Truck. Get in the ditch!”
The boys jumped into a flooded ditch beside the road and submerged up to their noses. Only Angka had vehicles. They watched through the reeds as the truck passed. They had not been discovered. Sovath calmed. He daydreamed; tried to picture his mother’s face.
Angka had once said that family didn’t matter; that “family” was bourgeoise, a Western concept, oppressive.
“Angka is your family now,” they’d said. “Angka will take care of you.” Sovath hadn’t understood, not really. He was young then, and there had been no time for his parents to explain.
Sovath swallowed hard. He was not ready to run away, but here he was. No matter what happened, he would use the strength he had left to find his family.
So I won’t be alone when I die, he thought, as his friend dragged him out of the ditch and onto the dirt road.
Notes from Abby:
I hope you enjoyed this sneak peak!
To learn more about Great Unsearchable Things, or to help me tell the rest of the story, check out my GoFundMe page.
Fun fact… the book cover above was created using a Bing’s AI image generator. It’s a placeholder/inspiration image until we can create something better and more culturally accurate.
Thank you so much to those of you who let me know that my website was down! Thankfully, the minimum is back up, and I hope to get my secret subscriber library back up by mid-June as well.
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