by Adam Jenkins, Individual Volunteer in Mission
During my stay in Cambodia working for the CHAD program of the Methodist Mission in Cambodia, I learned a great deal under the supervision of GBGM missionary Katherine Parker.
We went out to the field to monitor rice banks, cow and chicken raising, credit groups, and other development projects of this nature. Also, we did water-testing and leadership-building workshops with pastors and members of local church communities. These programs are designed to enable pastors and church members alike through the development of important critical thinking skills.
With the coming and going of the Pol Pot regime at the end of the 1970s, the educational system suffered a great blow, completely stripping Cambodia of its intellectual base. As a result, the social environment of Cambodia can be compared to that of the earlier years during which America was blossoming. While this means that poverty is rampant and creature comforts are sparse, it also means that there is great potential for growth.
While completing my internship, I had the opportunity to study the economy, as well as take in-depth looks into Hinduism and Buddhism. Stiff competition takes place in the markets, where price slashing is very common and bargaining for the lowest price is nothing out of the ordinary.
Hinduism is an old belief system, which still lingers in the predominantly Buddhist culture. These, as well as some folk religions, pervade the ethics in all aspects of life. The Buddhist teaching tells one to renounce material desires and focus on inner virtues, to be open and complacent to change for that is the way of life, and to treat all others as you yourself wish to be treated. The culture is rich and warm and anywhere I walked I rarely failed to catch a smile from the passers-by.
Folks back home were worried that I would be laden with the quality of living in a developing nation. While there were times when strain was definitely asserted, I told them, "Have no worries. I am learning so much here I don’t have time to concern myself with what I don’t have!" From here, I eagerly look foreword to returning home and completing my senior year at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia. After this, I plan to attend Illiff seminary with thought s of environmental ethics in mind. Being in Cambodia has inspired me to continue my study into ecumenism, arguing for the consideration of concepts that I believe are widely taught, from Buddhism and Hinduism. I feel that the ancient wisdom of these traditions has been overlooked.