Vatana was born in Battambang, Cambodia in March 1988. His aunt raised him and his siblings. She told Vatana about Jesus and began to take him to church when he was a young boy. Vatana began to love God in a deep way. He also grew in his love for the lost, music, and soccer. As Vatana grew up he began to have more of a heart for God and for telling others about Him. He became a faithful leader in the youth worship team at his church.
In January 2007 he studied DTS in Battambang, Cambodia. During that time God awakened so much in Vatana about His heart for the nations. Vatana wanted to see the lost evangelized and discipled through tools like music and soccer. He wanted to see churches planted among those who had never heard of Jesus. He was ready to do these things. He had a heart to go and to obey God. On his DTS outreach he was able to be among the first Cambodian missionaries to ever be sent out from his country. God took him to Thailand and Burma on outreach. He was able to help serve and love Cyclone Nargis victims in Burma, work only permitted to a chosen few. He was among that chosen few.
On his very last day of DTS outreach, while in Cambodia, we were waiting for the taxis to arrive and a young man came running with great urgency to the church we were staying at, he had been studying guitar with Vatana all week. He ran up to Vatana and said, “Yesterday, you told me about how I needed Jesus! I had a dream last night and Jesus came to me and said the exact same thing! How can I have Jesus in my life?” Vatana smiling ear to ear, continued to share with him what it meant to follow Jesus. As the taxi pulled up, Vatana and this young man came up to the church where we were all waiting with our bags pack. He said to us, “Hey everyone, put your bags down and tell the taxi to wait, because we need to pray for our new brother in Christ!” So the taxi waited and we all rejoiced with this new believer! This was truly his heart. He never stopped! He was a warrior for the Gospel.
Just two days after his DTS graduation, on July 20, 2008, Vatana was swimming in a local river in Cambodia with some church friends. They began to be swept away by a strong current, but there was still opportunity for some of them to be saved. Vatana sent his friends to safety and sacrificed his own life so that they could live.
Vatana lived for God. He lived to see the lost found and broken healed. He was an influencer, a friend, a kind and compassionate brother. He had a plan to return as YWAM staff and was ready to lay down his life for Jesus. His death was very unexpected, but there has been such testimony and truth shared through the life he lived. Even through his death, many have been led closer to Jesus. May we all live as Vatana did, obedient and ready, always putting others before ourselves.
March 19, 1988 – July 20, 2008
Tell the World
Psalm 103, Isaiah 55