MARIE ENS - Songkrua (Rescue) Founder & Advisor
The sun rises slowly over a vast watery field covered in the haze of early morning. Shadowy figures, their heads swathed in checkered kramas, move along raised dikes carrying baskets of rice shoots ready for planting. A lone cyclist rides slowly across the scene and dismounts. Under these images, we hear the ancient chants of Buddhist monks and the sounds of birds at dawn. This is Cambodia.
Marie Ens left the Canadian prairies in the Fall of 1960 and along with her husband Norman and their two small children, boarded a ship in New York City bound for SE Asia. Weeks later, they arrived in Cambodia excited to begin their missionary career. It was the start of a love affair with Cambodia which carries on to this day over a half century later. The Ens family (with two more children added )remained in Cambodia in their missionary role until 1975 when they were forced to evacuate just weeks before the Khmer Rouge army captured the capital city of Phnom Penh.
Due to the war, the Ens family had returned to Canada, but not for long. Their love for Cambodia took them to France where they worked with Cambodian refugees who had fled the conflict in their homeland. During their many years in France, they still held hope that one day Cambodia would reopen to missionaries and they would return there together to serve in the land they loved. But the Lord had other plans. Norman passed away suddenly in 1991. Now a widow, Marie had to decide what to do next as she faced the future without her life partner of 35 years. Whatever the future would bring, she just knew that the call to missions she received as a little girl growing up on the prairies was still strong!
To her absolute delight, in 1994 Marie was able to return to Cambodia as a missionary since the country had stabilized after the long years of war. Now single and with her kids all grown, she jumped into ministry and served the Cambodian church in any way she could. She spoke the language fluently and possessed an acute awareness of what the people had been through. At this time she also began to visit the military hospital in Phnom Penh where she encountered more and more patients fighting a losing battle with a disease that was now ravaging Cambodia. It was called AIDS. Parents were dying in great numbers and leaving many behind many orphaned children.
When Marie turned 66 years of age a few years later, she planned to just carry on in her missionary role in her adopted homeland of Cambodia. However, to her surprise she was ‘invited to retire’ by the mission and so once again returned home to Canada. She was discouraged and disappointed. Once again she was in a position where she needed to decide what to do with her future. And once again she knew her call to serve in Cambodia was still strong. And so she returned once more, not even knowing what the Lord had in mind but confident that He would guide her.
Living simply on her pension and savings and now independent of any organization, Marie began working alongside some dedicated and capable Cambodian friends. She continued to have an effective ministry at the military hospital. Watching up close the aftermath of AIDS and the orphans it was leaving in its wake, she knew she had to do something. So a decision was made to purchase some land outside of the city where some missionary friends had already built some simple brick and thatch houses where families living and dying with AIDS could come to stay. When these other missionaries decided to move on to tackle other challenges in the country, Marie and her Cambodian colleagues took up the challenge and a short time later, Songkrua (Rescue) was born!
That was many years ago. Since 2003, under the guidance of a faithful leadership team of capable Cambodians, (with Marie in an advisory role) Songkrua has now expanded to include 3 Rescue Centres scattered about the country with over 100 Cambodians serving on staff. They care for hundreds of orphaned children, many families living with AIDS and elderly women in dire need of assistance.
God has been faithful to Marie all along her journey. And He will be faithful as she continues to serve Him long into the future. Marie has no plans to retire anytime soon. She will stay right there serving and loving the Cambodian people she has come to know and love.
Thank you for your part in praying for her, encouraging her and supporting the work of Songkrua. Marie looks forward to many more years of partnering with you as she carries on in the beautiful land of Cambodia!