Our Missionaries, the Whitakers

 The Whitakers are working in Cambodia with the missions agency SAMS (Society of Anglican Missionaries and Senders). While the Whitakers had considered working in Nepal, SAMS matched their gifts with the very young church in Cambodia. As Fr. Gregory heard the sole Anglican Cambodia priest, Rev. Hieng, share his testimony, he began to weep. He felt as though God was telling him, “I’m sending you to a people you didn’t choose, but I have chosen.”

The Cambodia Anglican Church

Since the overthrow of the Communist government, the constitutional monarchy observed that the NGOs doing good work in other countries were Christian. Christian organizations were invited to work within the country. The Anglican presence in the country began in the 1990s under the auspices of the Anglican Church in Singapore.

Fr. Gregory is a priest of the International congregation of Church of Christ Our Peace, serving under Rev. Hieng who acts as head pastor to the Cambodian congregation. Yes, he will be able to speak English! In addition to internationals from all over the globe, there are actually Cambodian non-believers who attend the service in order to improve their English. The Anglican Church of Cambodia also has a priest who is planting Chinese-Cambodian congregations.

The church runs various ministries, branching out into medicine and micro-enterprise. Currently the church runs vocational programs in small engine repair and hospitality, and is able to offer Bible studies in conjunction with those ministries. They also offer ESL classes (a great place for short-term missionaries to get plugged in!) and the church as a whole has a desire to grow in the arts and Worship Arts in particular.

The Whitakers are connected to Light of Christ in a couple of ways. First, Fr. Gregory was ordained to the priesthood at Church of the Resurrection (our mother congregation and diocesan cathedral) in April of 2013. He served on staff there for several years as the Compassion pastor, overseeing Resurrection’s ministries in human trafficking, sanctity of life and other local efforts to minister to the poor. Dr. Heidi is a pediatrician and worked at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Joliet. Aside from the obvious connection through Church of the Resurrection, the Whitakers share some Israeli connections with our congregation via the Engstrom family. They lived in Israel while Heidi was in medical school at Ben Gurion University in BeerSheva, where they started and led a house fellowship. When in Jerusalem, they worshiped at the church where Steve Engstrom served. The Whitakers have three daughters, Saeeda, Ella, Aubrey and Ivy.

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