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Saved From the Killing Fields
Saved from death, he became an instant evangelist.  Six months later he was preaching to a church of 35,000.

Setan Lee, miraculously saved from death in Cambodia’s Killing Fields, launched a church movement that grew to 35,000 in six months.  He went on to develop Kampuchea for Christ, an indigenous mission that ministers to the spiritually needy people of Cambodia. In May 2008 Lee will visit seven Canadian cities to share his testimony and the story of Kampuchea for Christ.

Setan Lee, leader of Kampuchea for Christ, with his wife, Randa.
Photo courtesy Intercede International.

In the late 1970s Lee was just 17 years old when the Khmer Rouge, led by Pol Pot, seized control of the government in Cambodia and unleashed a reign of terror. Their rule lasted three years, eight months, but seemed like a thousand years for some who lived through it. Quickly cities were evacuated, and many educated people were killed.

Lee, a young medical student, had been planning to go to Paris to continue his studies. Instead, he and his family had to flee their home in an effort to escape to the border of Thailand. 

On the way Lee witnessed people being lined up and shot. He was separated from his family and taken to a youth camp where he and others were forced to work in fields 20 hours a day. Lee saw friends being tortured, and one day was forced to watch a female friend being suffocated by a female Khmer Rouge member. Then Lee was led away and buried in the ground up to his neck and left to be bitten by insects and crabs. Somehow he survived.

Later when the Khmer Rouge found evidence of Lee’s schooling, he was taken blindfolded to be executed. At that critical time says Lee, he believed there had to be someone greater than Communism, so he prayed, “Lord of the universe, whoever you are, please spare my life. One thing I will do is be your witness.”

Suddenly someone asked the killers not kill him, but instead to bring him to his quarters. Because of his education Lee was spared certain death and asked to do agricultural planning work.

In late 1978 the Vietnamese were fighting the Khmer Rouge. Lee again set his sights on Thailand and searched intensely for his scattered family.  Some of them were reunited, but not without grief.  One of his older brothers had been killed. The family decided to escape Cambodia separately.

A mysterious messenger

As Lee crossed the jungle in search of freedom, he faced danger from landmines and had to step on dead bodies to avoid them. Suddenly a man came out of jungle and said, “I want to tell you about the Lord of the universe. His name is Jesus Christ. Jesus can save you and me now. One false step and our lives will be over. All you have to do is pray and accept Jesus now. Do you want that?”

Right on the spot, Lee prayed to accept Jesus into his life.

He recalls, “I was a totally different person. I had a lot of bitterness in my heart. I was a person with a lot of anger, the spirit of revenge in me. All of a sudden it just cleaned up—washed away.”

Amazingly, within a few hours, Lee found his family at Khao I Dang refugee camp across the border in Thailand. He also met a pastor there who encouraged him to share his faith with others in camp.

Lee became an instant missionary and led people to Christ every day. At the camp, Lee and others started a church with a few believers. The congregation grew to 35,000 in only six months.

One day when Lee was preaching, he got an eerie feeling. He then saw in the crowd the woman who had suffocated his friend. “I wanted to get revenge on her,” he recalls. “Right away I was praying in my spirit, ‘Lord take control of me.’ Instantly I felt compassion for that lady.” Instead of killing her, Lee forgave her. “She came, she cried, she prayed, and she disappeared. I have never seen her since.”

In the camp, Lee met and married Randa, another terrorized escapee.

Reflecting on the Killing Fields, Lee observes, “God allowed that to happen so that He could bring out people like myself as a broken person to come to a saving knowledge. Without that kind of experience, I might have never met the Lord. But because of that experience—through miraculous revelation—somehow He let me know that He is the Lord of the universe.”

Setan and Randa Lee immigrated to the U.S.A. in 1979. Twelve years later, when Cambodia’s borders finally opened, Setan returned to proclaim Christ to his own people. He headed up a Bible school in Phnom Penh before starting Kampuchea for Christ in 1995.

Beginning May 2, 2008, Lee will visit seven Canadian cities – Halifax, Moncton, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver – to share his testimony and the story of the ministry at Kampuchea for Christ. His itinerary begins at Gateway Cambodia Conference in Fort Erie May 2 and 3.  The Canada-wide Mission Cafe Evenings in each city will be hosted by Intercede International. For more details, visit the Intercede website:


Kampuchea for Christ is an indigenous Christian ministry based in Cambodia that is assisted by Intercede International.

Alan Doerksen is the publications editor and production manager for Intercede International (formerly Christian Aid Mission), based in Fort Erie, Ontario.

Originally published in Mission Gateway, February 2008. The story has been adapted from the original version.




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