In 1995, Uon Seila, Harry Zuberhuler, and Brian Maher founded the Youth Commission under the Evangelical Fellowship of Cambodia. In 2011, after sixteen years of working with young adults, Uon Seila, decided to form his own local Christian NGO to develop emerging Christian leaders in 2011.  Seila left the EFC and set up DOVE in the Bung Tumpon area of Phnom Penh and continued doing ministry similar to what it had done under the EFC Youth Commission; the training of emerging Christian leaders and leadership development with teens in language and drop in centers in PP and 3 provincial satellites (Kompong Cham, Kompong Thom, and Kompong Chhnang). DOVE also ran an active Sports Ministry in Phnom Penh, and with the help of New Zealander, Todd Smith, launched the first artificial turf football fields in Cambodia, which were used for sports activities and income generation.  


Under the EFC Youth Commission, New Zealander Todd Smith developed the Diamond Project Level 1 with help of Brian Maher and Uon Seila. The Diamond Program, launched in 2004 was a training program for young people with leadership potential to help them be proficient leading various church ministries. Some lessons are still used some in our satellites offices today. It ran for ten straight successful years. In 2007, Brian Maher launched Diamond Project Level 2 with a more in-depth focus Spiritual Formation for emerging leaders who had gone through the Diamond Program.


When DOVE was formed we continued to use the Diamond Program Level 1 in the provinces and Diamond Program Level 2 in Phnom Penh. In 2013, DOVE staff and advisors with the help of Rev. Raju Sbagwat’s training in Facilitation and Curriculum design, designed a new training program that the director Seila named, the ONYX Program. The methodology of training is based on participation, facilitation, self-discovery, dialogue education, dynamic reflection and building a safe learning community of love and trust. It utilizers personal mentors and peer groups.


The purpose of ONYX is to facilitate the emergence of a group that would engage in the process of healing from their emotional pain and trauma by spending a year together in close community with the aim that they would become wounded healers, and bring encouragement and empowerment to all those they served in all their contexts, rather than transfer their pain like so many other church leaders have done and continue to do. 

Our premises are: (Most Cambodians are in pain)

  • If you don’t transform the pain, you will transfer your pain.

  • True spirituality is how we deal with our emotional pain

  • If you don’t grow emotionally, you won’t grow spiritually.  


It is foremost about helping emerging leaders begin a journey that engages dealing and healing from their pain, and therefore about becoming more fully human. It is about becoming awake and aware of who one really is, and all that they are in God. We help them detach from an over-identification with their thinking, feelings, and past baggage. It is about freedom, about the Gospel.

An outline of the program looks like: an adventure retreat followed by a 4-5 week teaching block with sessions every Saturday morning for a year. Each block is followed by fieldwork or a field trip. Blocks include 5 Love Languages, Leadership Time Line, Personal Spiritual Formation, Leadership, Missional Church, Mediation /Reconciliation, Critical Thinking in the Gospels, Men/Women Issues, and Cambodian Church History.

The ONYX Program, Dove’s Coffee House ministry, Language School/Drop-In Center, and Leadership Club in Phnom Penh are intentionally cross-pollinated in order to expose emerging non-churched leaders with emerging Christian leaders of the last 5 ONYX cohorts. 


In November of 2018, the Founder and Director, Pastor Uon Seila resigned because of health reasons but will remain as the Founding Director, assisting when requested. Seila will pursue writing and the development of Christian wedding practices in the Cambodian context.


In 2019, After 5 years of running ONYX and training our partners and staff in facilitation and lesson design, we are producing a curriculum, as requested by partners, colleagues, and students. We are in the process of phasing out 2 DOVE satellites and encouraging a more grass roots approach by training ONYX alumni to run the ONYX program in their contexts. If funding is available we will open work in new provinces with a clear exit strategy for turning over our leadership training to ONYX alumni. 


DOVE partners closely with Friends Evangelical Church, Resonate, Mennonite Central Committee and Peace Bridges and is a member of the Evangelical Fellowship of Cambodia. DOVE’s partners abroad are Belpres, Westminster Chapel, Calvin Pres, and Tenth Avenue in the Seattle area and Vancouver, BC.


 by Brian Maher Dec 2018