Monday, April 12, 2010

Insurance In Cambodia

I read an interesting article last week in The Cambodia Daily. The headline was “Insurance Industry Still in Its Infancy in Cambodia”. It didn’t come as a surprise to me to learn that there are only six operating insurers in all of Cambodia. Actually, that’s more than I expected. Basically nobody here has insurance of any kind even though several kinds of insurance are available (motor vehicle, fire, etc). But I did discover a piece of information of which I had not previously been aware. Even if a person wanted it, life insurance is not available in Cambodia at all! Here is an excerpt from the article:
Although companies can theoretically apply to the Ministry of Finance to acquire a license for life insurance no companies have yet decided that it is a product they want to offer Cambodian customers. (The Cambodia Daily, April 8th, 2010)
As I continued to read the article, I saw that there were a couple of underlying reasons which kept the six insurance providers from wanting to offer life insurance. Both of their reasons struck a chord in my heart. Their first reason bears a stunning resemblance to the difficulties that Gospel-preaching churches face here in Cambodia. But their second reason is exactly the opposite of our situation! Let me share the two reasons with you.

Reason #1 why insurance companies don’t offer life insurance in Cambodia: It’s too difficult to persuade someone that they need something that is abstract.
They…said that there are difficulties in persuading people to pay for coverage for something abstract, nonmaterial such as life insurance. Charles Cheo, deputy managing director for Forte Insurance, said that life insurance is mainly driven by the middle-income families who still need a lot of convincing that life insurance is actually worth it. “It takes some time for the consumer market to have a belief in (life) insurance. Life takes a lot of convincing,” he said. (The Cambodia Daily, April 8th, 2010)
Wow! Did you catch some of the words in that excerpt? “Persuading people, nonmaterial, life, convincing, belief…” Sounds like words you would hear at a soulwinning conference. And they are right! It IS difficult to get people to show interest in nonmaterial (spiritual) things. It IS difficult to catch someone’s attention when you get outside of the realm of the “here and now”. It DOES take a lot of persuading to convince someone that they need Christ. It DOES take some time for the “consumer market” (all lost men) to have a belief in eternal life. On one hand, my heart goes out to these poor insurance salesmen who have a tough row to hoe, so to speak. On the other hand, when I read this portion of the article, I just gave a wry chuckle and thought to myself, “Join the club, bub!”

Of course, we the Gospel preachers do have two secret weapons that the insurance salesmen don’t have: the Holy Spirit’s enablement, and the knowledge that our work, while vaguely similar in some regards, is infinitely more important. Interestingly, a day or two before reading this “it’s-too-hard-to-convince-people-that-they-need-it” excuse, I was reading a powerful sermon by Charles Spurgeon called “The Ploughman”. Here’s a brief excerpt.
I would beg all the members of our churches to keep their hands on the gospel plough, and their eyes straight before them. “Doth the ploughman plough all day?” let Christians do the same. Start close to the hedge, and go right down to the bottom of the field. Plough as close to the ditch as you can, and leave small headlands. What though there are fallen women, thieves, and drunkards in the slums around, do not neglect any of them; for if you leave a stretch of land to the weeds they will soon spread amongst the wheat. When you have gone right to the end of the field once, what shall you do next? Why, just turn round, and make for the place you started from. And when you have thus been up and down, what next? Why, up and down again. And what next? Why, up and down again. You have visited that district with tracts; do it again, fifty-two times in the year – multiply your furrows. We must learn how to continue in well doing. Your eternal destiny is to go on doing good for ever and ever, and it is well to go through a rehearsal here. So just plough on, plough on, and look for results as the reward of continued perseverance. Ploughing is not done with a skip and a jump: the ploughman ploughs all day. Dash and flash are all very fine in some things, but not in ploughing: there the work must be steady, persistent, regular. Certain persons soon give it up, it wears out their gloves, blisters their soft hands, tires their bones, and makes them eat their bread rather more in the sweat of their face than they care for. Those whom the Lord fills with his grace will keep to their ploughing year after year, and verily I say unto you they shall have their reward. “Doth the ploughman plough all day?” Then let us do the same, being assured that one day every hill and valley shall be tilled and sown, and every desert and wilderness shall yield a harvest for our Lord, and the angel reapers shall descend, and the shouts of the harvest-home shall fill both earth and heaven. (Farm Sermons, C.H. Spurgeon)
Reason #2 why insurance companies don’t offer life insurance in Cambodia: There are excessive levels of physical risk in Cambodia.
One insurance broker who requested anonymity said that reinsurance companies abroad are simply not interested in Cambodia when it comes to life insurance due to excessive levels of risk in the country. Road accidents and poor health services in Cambodia, to name but a few, all act as severe deterrents. Customers that would be able to gain life insurance here are mainly expatriates leading low risk livelihoods, the broker said. (The Cambodia Daily, April 8th, 2010)
Okay, so let’s see if I’ve got this right. The insurance companies won’t offer life insurance because someone might actually die? That’s kind of like hanging a big sign on the front of a hospital that says “NO SICK PEOPLE”. Or like a towing company that says, “If your car is slightly broken, we’ll tow you, but if it’s anything major, don’t call us”. Now, I know I am oversimplifying the issue and being facetious. I realize that in the interest of good business and keeping their company afloat there are certain risk factors which will cause a company to deny a person coverage. It just seems odd to me that the people who need it the most are often the people who can’t get it.

As I read this portion of the article, I began to meditate, not on the similarities between us and the insurance salesmen, but on the big difference. What is the big difference? God never denies anyone due to “excessive levels of risk”. Instead He says, “He that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.” Praise the Lord! To borrow another term from the jargon of the insurance industry, a “pre-existing condition” will often exclude a person from health coverage. Well, sin is the mother of all pre-existing conditions! And yet God never says, “Turn in your application for salvation and we’ll see if you qualify.” To the contrary, He says “whosoever will” may come!

I love preaching the Gospel! Yes, it is hard to convince people to set aside the temporal to think about the spiritual. Yes, it takes patience and hard work and oftentimes many years of ploughing and sowing in the same area. And yet, our message just can’t be beat! To the rich and to the poor, salvation is available to all! To the thief, the murderer, the idolater, the drunkard, the gossip, the cheater, or the liar…no risk level will exclude you from the benefits of God’s grace. God doesn’t shrink away from the “hard cases”. He’s not looking for a reason to say no. He’s already said yes! His grace is sufficient, and the fountain of His cleansing blood is deep and wide. But I doubt you’ll see the phrase “whosoever will” on an insurance policy any time soon.


  1. Thanks for the challenging excerpt from Spurgeon. This entire post is awesome, but Spurgeon's words were a blessing as our minstry is in it's beginning stages.
    Praying for your ministry!

  2. What a great article Bro. Benefield. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

  3. Hello Bro Benefield, another interesting similarity between life insurance and salvation is the fact that a small monthly premium can end in a big payout when the insured dies. For example, a 40 year old male could start a $1,000,000 ten year term life insurance policy for about $980 per month. Lets say this man pays 5 months of premium payments and then dies, the contract would pay out $1,000,000 to his beneficiary and he only paid $4,900. Small premium, big payout. So with salvation, just a moment of faith in Jesus Christ has a huge payout of eternal life in heaven!