Shepherd of My Soul
Updated: May 6
Healing PTSD from Psalm
`The Shepherd of My Soul’
Reviewed by Stephen Scott, USA
This is my review of Sokreaksa S Himm’s new book `Shepherd of my Soul.’ It builds upon the author’s two previous books `The Tears of My Soul: The Story of a Boy Who Survived the Cambodian Killing Fields’ (2003, translated by Jan Greenough) and `After the heavy rain’ (2007) I will comment on these books and their relation to the new book , but I want to begin on a personal note.
I have made several visits to Cambodia. Each time I go I am confronted with how beautiful the people are, but I also feel an atmosphere of deep darkness and brokenness. If you have read the historical accounts of what happened to the Cambodian people at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, you will not be surprised to learn about the lingering atmosphere of darkness and brokenness. As you read expert opinions on what happened during that time you will come across different ways of describing this atmosphere. Some will describe it in spiritual language, talking about territories and spirits. Some will talk about collective psychological trauma, and suggest that the lingering effects of this trauma in the mind and the emotions are called PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.) They will also point out that these effects can be transmitted from one generation to the next.
Reaksa Himm was one of those survivors of the Khmer Rouge. He has written extensively in his two previous books about seeing his family killed by the Khmer Rouge, and his initial vow to honor the memory of his family by tracking down their killers. Those books tell the story of Reaksa’s survival, his going to Canada via a Thai refugee camp, and his eventual conversion to the Christian faith. They also narrate how Reaksa was led by the Holy Spirit to return to Cambodia to find those who killed his family. He was not to `honor his family’ by finding those Khmer rouge soldiers and seeking revenge, however. He was to honor his Christian faith by finding these men and offering them forgiveness. Reaksa continued to bring honor to his faith through educational projects and church planting in Siem Reap, Cambodia
This new book, however, adds new depth to Reaksa’s story. He talks here about a journey, not from South East Asia to Canada. This journey is out of the darkness and brokenness of his own experience with the symptoms of PTSD.
His roadmap for this journey is Psalm 23. We know it as `The Shepherd Psalm’ Reaksa came to know this psalm as a lifeboat and also an anchor as he struggled with the rough waves and the strong winds….and at times, the utter darkness of his experiences with PTSD.
In this new book Reaksa offers a guide to using Psalm 23 as a step-by-step meditation on God as a good, wise, all seeing shepherd who abundantly provides for His sheep. Reaksa is writing as he walks his own path out of the shadows of PTSD. His path is lit by the Holy Spirit illuminating the psalmist words and applying them to Reaksa’s situation. The meditations in this book would provide a useful guide towards serenity, self-acceptance and emotional healing for a wide variety of people in this troubled world. I am not just thinking of people who survive things like prison camps, or cruel regimes like the Khmer rouge. There are others who try to fill the void in their life or try to conquer their own demons with alcohol and drugs. There are others who constantly live in the shadow and under the weight of despair. These people too would find this book a rewarding resource.
Pastors and counsellors who try to help such people should have this book on their shelves. How often have they prayed for resources to offer those who show up seeking help with depression and despair?
As you read this book, you will hear Reaksa’s voice telling you a story not only of his experiences of darkness and brokenness. You will also hear the story of how `the Good Shepherd’ of Psalm 23 led Reaksa to a place of healing, restoration and new life. Anyone that listens to these stories and meditates on these images with an open heart will be richly rewarded as they seek their own peace of mind and newness of life.e.