Missionary travels to Cambodia with one rusty press to spread the Word

By Anna Flagg

One man is spreading Christianity as he travels the globe, however, Tim Comer isn’t your average missionary.

Inspired by printing press inventor Johannes Gutenberg, Comer spent the last two weeks of November in Cambodia, helping to install the first web printing press in the country to be used for printing Bibles. Comer says he hopes to share the Gospel with those who have never experienced it.

Comer married his wife, Sharon, at age 20 and went into the printing business soon after, starting in Waco. The couple has since traveled to Ghana, Africa, Kurdistan, Iraq and Sri Lanka doing missionary work.

Toward the end of the Comers’ most recent four-year stint in Sri Lanka, they were contacted by John Dupree of Bethany Press, a company that partners with Christian publishers. Dupree contacted Comer to discuss the installation of a printing press in Cambodia and Comer accepted.

After locating, buying and inspecting the press, Comer spent two weeks overseeing its installation in a print shop that is little more than an open barn with no air conditioning

Luckily for Comer, due to the amount of rust on the machine, the import duty to get it into Cambodia was low.

“The press is pretty simple, and electronically it is not very sophisticated,” Comer said. “It’s perfect for a Third World country.”

The press, he said, will be used primarily to print Bibles. In charge of the project will be a team of Cambodian workers that has been printing books for 15 years.

The team is hoping to get the necessary text and begin printing today.

So far, only two editions of the Bible have been available in Cambodia, first in 1920 and then in 1953. Many of these were not distributed, and the translations were difficult to understand. The Cambodian government does not allow Bibles to be imported, mainly for economic reasons. However, the government does allow the use of the printing press. Comer says that a terrible event in Cambodia’s history led to the resurgence of Christianity in the country.

Under the leadership of Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge took control of the country in 1975 in a bloody revolution that resulted in the deaths of more than 3,000,000 Cambodians. The Communistic Khmer Rouge did not allow religious freedom. The revolution, and its ghastly death toll, continues to haunt the country. From this, Comer said, Christianity got a second chance.

“They are getting saved through a spiritual hunger,” he said. “The country was so desolate and desperate that a spiritual hunger rose up.”

But the Khmer Rouge passed, and though a prime minister now rules the country, which now includes more than 500,000 Christians in the population, only 10 percent of the citizens own a Bible.

American missionary Steve Hyde is responsible for starting dozens of churches in Cambodia, and the people consider him one of their own. Hyde has a network of churches and pastors, and he plans to help distribute the Bibles printed on the new press.

The Comers said they witnessed the power of the gospel in northern Iraq in 2005. The couple met a man named Saman, a former terrorist who converted to Christianity after finding a small booklet, “The Book of Luke,” in the clothing of a man he had shot.
Comer said he remembered Saman asking, “How could anyone say to love your enemies? Only God could say to love your enemies.”

The Comers believe the story of Saman shows the transformative power of Christian Scripture.

The couple currently reside in Waco as the directors of the local Samaritan Foundation. Their current project is a series of books called “The Life of Jesus,” a compilation of the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in chronological order, to allow people to read Jesus’ story in a clear format.

So far, the “Life of Jesus” books have been translated into Arabic, Spanish and Hindi. Their mission is to spread the gospel by handing them out to indigenous people who may not have access to the Bible in their native language.

To find out more about the Samaritan Foundation, visit the website.