This spring, Musicianaries International, Inc., a Life that uses food, music and evangelism to meet real needs in Cambodia, lost a key figure in their organization when their founder, Christian recording artist Bobby Michaels, passed away while ministering in Cambodia.
Fortunately for the Life, West Palm Beach rapper Proverb Newsome has stepped into the musical space Michaels left open.
“The legacy Bobby Michaels has left in Cambodia is huge – it’s massive,” says Newsome.
Newsome was recently sent to Cambodia with a team from Calvary Chapel Jupiter, including Ryan Gunn, Justine Kaminski, Aaron Mondok, Vicki Sarapad and John and Regina Clark.
Fortunately for the Musicianaries, Newsome was also a hit in Cambodia.
“Doing my music in Cambodia was eye-opening for me because they really gravitate toward the style of music,” he says. “The younger Cambodians were engrossed by the music.”
It was dark when Newsome’s plane landed in Cambodia after a 22-hour flight.
“Once we got through customs and on the way to the hotel, it was clear that I was somewhere else.
I wasn’t afraid, but it was exciting,” said Newsome.
He was a long way from affluent Palm Beach County.
In addition to handing out thousands of 50-pound bags of rice, the team gave out Scriptures and tracts, conducted medical clinics and made sure families had school supplies, uniforms and personal hygiene items. During outreach concerts, team members partnered with Cambodian Bible students and local pastors to minister one-on-one as they circulated through the crowd.
Cambodia is still recovering from the nightmarish genocide launched by Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1979. Up to 3 million people were exterminated in Cambodia’s Killing Fields or tortured in the high-school-turned-hellish-prison Toul Sleng.
Because of these horrific events, Newsome says he was nervous about going to Cambodia.
“How dead is the Khmer Rouge? Are they still out there hiding with guns? Is it really over?” he said.
He was also worried about the “rampant malaria stories.”
Eventually, Newsome said, “You just have to push past what people are telling you and your own personal fears.”
In the end, his visit to the Killing Fields was a memorable rainy day for Newsome.
“The whole place is just a burial ground. And the more it rains, the more devastation it exposes.
Even on the walkway there are bones – bones with clothing attached. It was a very disturbing day,” he recounts.
Other memorable events for Newsome included an appearance on Cambodian television.
Not many rappers include Cambodia on their tours, so Newsome garnered lots of attention, which opened doors for a television appearance on one of Cambodia’s most popular television shows.
“The estimated audience for the TV show, “Boom TV,” was 4.5 million,” said Newsome.
He also performed at multiple concerts.
His smaller concerts drew hundreds of people, but the bigger venues drew thousands. At the smaller events, Newsome and the team were able to personally interact with the people. Newsome sat with children gathered around him, sang them songs, shared the Gospel with them and taught them urban handshakes.
The older Cambodians were also interested and appreciative of Newsome’s music. Newsome was even successful at persuading the older Cambodian women to wave their hands in the air to his Hip Hop rhythms.
“They really got into it,” he says.
Newsome says short-term mission trips are a great way for Americans to be an international blessing to the spiritually and physically hungry.
“If I had to go again and leave the Hip Hop part at home, I would still do it,” he says.
Being a part of the team that handed out rice, eye drops and toothbrushes made the trip more than worth it for Newsome.
“Poverty is poverty no matter where you go. It speaks a different language, sometimes it looks a little different, but, for the most part, poor is poor,” he said. “As a kid, when I visited Georgia with my mom and dad, our relatives lived in houses somewhat like Cambodians. Tin roofs, wooden frame houses, no bathroom. The bathroom was outside. So Cambodian poverty wasn’t a huge shock to me.”
However, he says, “Cambodians take it with gratitude, and they leave with joy. I can’t say that I experience the same thing in the States.”
For more information, visit ProverbNewsome.com.