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Dareth Ly and his wife, Thida, are Assembly of God missionaries to their native Cambodia. From left are Dareth, Thida, Sophie, 15, Sabrina, 11, and Saidah, 4. Dareth will speak at Crossroads Church Sunday, Nov. 22. Submitted Photo

Missionary to speak on Khmer Rouge experiences

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Dareth Ly spent his childhood in Cambodia under the deadly 1975-1979 rule of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge.

His father was among the 1.5 to 2.5 million people who died directly on the Killings Fields or from starvation and disease.

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His mother survived, but they were separated when he was 7 in 1975. He was sent to a child labor camp, and she was sent to an adult labor camp.

When the Vietnamese army liberated the camps in 1979, he walked to Thailand and was put in a refugee camp.

"They didn't know what to do with us, so they asked different countries to take us," Ly said in a telephone interview from his Eagan, Minn., home.

He was sent to St. Paul when he was 11 and grew up in a foster home.

"I didn't speak a word of English," he said.

He said he had no idea where he was going at the time, but he knew it had to be better than where he was.

Now, with his wife, Thida, he is an Assembly of God missionary to Cambodia. Ly will be the featured speaker Sunday, Nov. 22, at Crossroads Church. Ly will share his story during both the morning worship service at 10:30 a.m. and the Missions Banquet at 5:30 p.m. The Missions Banquet will also feature a potluck, ethnic dinner and a question-and-answer time with Ly. Crossroads Pastor John Hubert and the congregation invite the public to attend.

Ly said he returned to Cambodia and found his mother in 1992. He said she is still living in her home country. He then returned to Cambodia as a missionary in 1996 and began working in an orphanage and starting churches and schools in rural Cambodia. He and his wife have built schools, provided school meals for students, as well as school supplies and uniforms.

"We basically go back and offer the people in that country - who have suffered so much - hope," Ly said.

He said the Assembly of God as a denomination focuses on mission outreach and is a fast-growing church worldwide. He said he and his wife and daughters, Thida, Saidah and Sabrina, plan to return to Cambodia next summer. Meanwhile, he travels to churches to present the message of what God is doing and raise funds for the mission.

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