The ELCA Young Adults in Global Mission program will begin placing volunteers in Cambodia in 2015. These young adults will serve in companionship with and at the invitation of the newly established Lutheran Church in Cambodia (LCC), as well as with a long-standing partner development organization, Life With Dignity.
The LCC was founded as a mission start by the Lutheran Church in Singapore in 2010. Thus, this marks the first time that YAGM will be hosted by a church borne out of mission outreach of another global companion. Since its establishment, the LCC has quickly flourished and engages in gospel ministry, social and humanitarian services, and education in the capital city of Phnom Penh and in a regional town, even as it seeks to reach to other communities in the years ahead.
The LCC stands as a response of hope in the wake of years of devastation caused by the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s. Policies of forced relocation and labor, forbidden religion, and food control culminated in a state-sanctioned genocide, lasting from 1975 through 1979 and killing approximately 1.7 million people.
Despite such a calamitous history, the hearts of the people of Cambodia are open and their desire to rebuild and renew their home is strong. Passion for development and thirst for faith is especially fervent amongst the nation’s young people. YAGM will have the opportunity to work side-by-side with these young leaders as they pursue efforts of rehabilitation and faith ministry.
The Young Adults in Global Mission program will also function in partnership with Life With Dignity, a nongovernmental rural development organization. Run entirely under local leadership, Life With Dignity works to empower rural communities to reclaim their rights and engage in sustainable land management. The organization began as a program of the Lutheran World Federation immediately after the fall of the Khmer Rouge and was “localized” in 2011. It seeks to enrich the lives of farmers, landless families, female-headed households, people living with or affected by HIV, and disadvantaged rural children. LWD continues to navigate the changing development context in Cambodia, implementing innovative projects to address many of the nation’s current issues. Amongst these projects are initiatives in alternative farming and energy such as hydroponic gardening: growing vegetables in sacks to save water and capitalize on small farm spaces and various bio-gas programs. The organization has also built the first rural community pre-school in the Trapeang Angkrorng village, providing accessible education to about 40 children in the Kampong Speu district.
Cambodia is located in southern part of the Indochina Peninsula; bordering the Gulf of Thailand. Some YAGM will live in the capital city, Phnom Penh; while others will live in rural communities west of the capital.
Examples of service opportunities include:
Language: Khmer is the official language in Cambodia. French may still be spoken by some Cambodians as it was once the government language of Indochina. YAGM will receive introductory courses in Khmer with opportunities for further study throughout the year.
Religion: As Buddhism is the official religion of Cambodia and is practiced by over 90 percent of the population, service as a YAGM in this country will provide the opportunity to discover what it means to live as a religious minority in a place where Christianity is not widely practiced. The program will challenge volunteers to develop thoughtful and respectful cross-cultural and inter-religious relationships. YAGM volunteers serving in Cambodia will also experience a deepened understanding of lived Christian faith in the context of religious pluralism.