Phan Phon—Phnom Penh, Cambodia
January 2019

“Phan Phon—Phnom Penh, Cambodia,” Ensign, January 2019

Portraits of Faith

Phan Phon—Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Phan Phon with wife and granddaughter

Phan Phon and his wife make sure they teach the gospel to their grandchildren. The gospel of Jesus Christ helped their family move forward after the tragedy of losing their home in a fire.

When Phan’s home caught on fire, he could only save his three grandchildren. Everything else burned to the ground. Phan was angry at the neighbor who caused the fire. When his anger spread to his family and neighbors, Phan knew he needed to forgive.

Leslie Nilsson, photographer

The first time I heard the explosion, I asked my wife, “What is that sound?”

She said, “Maybe the neighbor is burning something.”

Then I heard a second explosion. Someone next door told me, “There’s a house burning behind your house!”

We went to get some water, but we couldn’t put the fire out. The fire spread to my house. I ran in the house to get my three grandchildren. Smoke was coming through the windows, but I didn’t think about anything besides my grandchildren. They are the most important thing to me. I left everything else inside.

We got out and all we could do was watch the house burn. Firefighters did not arrive in time because the road to our house was too small. My house was old, and it burned quickly. I stood with my wife and grandchildren and watched it burn.

After the house burned down, I felt hopeless. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know what to do to find a new place to live. The day after the fire, we knelt to pray and asked the Lord to show us the way and bless us to be able to find a new home. I was weeping while praying to the Lord, but I trusted that He would help me.

At first, I was mad at the neighbor who caused the fire. I wanted him to pay for what had happened. My family and the neighbors affected by the fire were also mad and wanted to send a letter to the government to make the person who caused the fire legally responsible for what happened. They asked me to sign the letter, but I didn’t want to.

I realized that my neighbor was poor like me. He didn’t intend to start the fire. If I made him pay, he would be in trouble, and I would still feel hatred. I remembered the word of the Lord that we should love our neighbor. I felt that I should forgive.

When I decided to forgive, I felt peace.

I told everyone affected by the fire that I wanted to forgive. Except for one family, everyone decided to do the same thing. They wouldn’t make him accountable for what happened.

My neighbor was happy I forgave him. My family is more happy too. When I see this, I am also happy.

Members and neighbors contributed what they could to help my family. I received a lot of rice and shared it with others. They asked me why I give when I’m in a bad situation. I tell them when I serve others, I serve the Lord. I want to give to Him because He made many miracles happen in my life. We have a beautiful home, better than the one that burned down.

Phan reading scriptures

Phan’s anger toward the neighbor who caused the fire was replaced with peace when he remembered the word of the Lord. Phan is grateful for the guidance he receives from the scriptures.

Phan’s wife and grandchildren

As his home burned down, Phan could only think about his grandchildren. Phan loves his family. “They are the most important thing to me,” he says.