In 1957, Norman & Marie Ens pastored a small church in rural Saskatchewan, Canada. They were open to serving anywhere and it was in 1960 when they were called to serve in Cambodia. It has been 60 years since that ship brought the Ens family to Vietnam after a 7-week voyage and then overland to Cambodia. Arriving in February of 1961 to a country that would capture their hearts.
Norman & Marie along with their four children served with the Christian & Missionary Alliance in Cambodia until the country fell to the Khmer Rouge in 1975. After a brief stint pastoring a church in Canada, the Ens relocated to France where they worked with refugees and pastored a Cambodian church in Paris. This continued until Norman’s sudden death in 1991.
Marie now a widow, struggled to find her place in ministry without her partner of 35 years by her side. But God was faithful and in 1994, Marie followed her heart back to Cambodia when the country reopened to the West.
Pastor David Binh, a group of Cambodian Christians, and Marie Ens, at that time a missionary with the Christian & Missionary Alliance, visited Preah Khet Melea military hospital weekly. In the beginning, the soldiers had many diseases, and then, as fighting continued in border areas, many were admitted with limbs torn off by land mines. The hospital visitors distributed “goodies” such as fruit and filled some prescriptions at doctor’s requests. Everyone visited was prayed for and there was also a weekly Christian meeting on the hospital grounds. By the end of the ’90s, a new malady was in evidence. More and more patients were being admitted with HIV/AIDS.
With no anti–retroviral drugs available, they knew their lives were drawing to a close. The visitors led many young men to understand salvation in Jesus and held many funerals at bedsides or in the little makeshift morgue at the hospital. It was then that the dream of an AIDS Centre where families living with AIDS could come find shelter and loving care and come to know Jesus before they died. In 2000 after Marie retired from her work with the Christian and Missionary Alliance, the dream began to take place.
16 small thatch and brick homes were built in 2002 and quickly filled up. As the parents died from AIDS, their precious children were left in our care and we knew we had to provide for them.
In 2003 Sokhan Lao, Sokhan Men, and Khim Kong along with Marie Ens, a retired Canadian missionary widow, formed a non-governmental organization (NGO) called “Songkrua Chun Aus Songkum”, meaning "Rescuing those without hope". With the help of Touch a Life in the US, Samaritan’s Purse, and Ratanak Foundation in Canada, a Rescue Centre comprised of 10 houses, each built as a home for 10 children. Various other buildings, offices, a clinic, staff homes, and spacious open-air meeting halls were soon in operation. Realizing that Cambodia did not have only orphan children but also orphan elderly women, a “Granny House” was soon added. And just like that, NGO Rescue Cambodia was born.
Blaine Sylvester began to work in a fundraising capacity in Canada in 2007. Plans were made to form a charitable Foundation and in 2008 Place of Rescue Foundation was officially recognized by the Canadian government and this continued until 2017 when donations were receipted through the Great Commission Foundation. As people heard the story of Rescue Cambodia support for the ministry continued to grow. Rescue welcomed groups from Canada and other parts of the world who came to see the good things God was doing. Starting in 2011 young people from Rescue began to tour across Canada. Through colorful dance & stories, they painted a vivid picture of not only the amazing Cambodian culture but also the deep impact Rescue Cambodia has had on the lives of anyone who have called Rescue home.
Hearing of a group of local Christians who were striving to care for 70 orphan children, Rescue was delighted to come alongside these believers, and another Rescue Centre was added in Mongkol Borey, just an hour away from the Thai border.
As young people graduated from high school, Rescue wanted to help them pursue further studies at university. To make that a reality, university dorms were constructed. The first House of New Dreams was built in Phnom Penh in 2010 with two others added in subsequent years.
In 2011 a third Rescue Centre was added in the town of Pailin on the border of Thailand in western Cambodia following the same model as the previous two centres.
Over the past ten years, in response to the growth at Rescue, donors have stepped up and enabled us to add many new buildings to Rescue 1. These include an elementary school, a learning centre, ten more orphan homes, another granny house, and a youth centre. Most recently a high school has been built and will be in use as soon as staffing is secured.