My Understanding Increased
Starting November 2001 to Late October 2003, I lived in Cambodia and you guessed it–I was serving my LDS mission there. Unlike many stories on the bloggernacle (or the blabbernacle for podcasts) I had an exceptionally positive mission experience. My mission president was a nuclear engineer in another life and was a caring and understanding leader for the missionaries. I had no problems with AP’s and we didn’t have kiddie baptisms (at least while I was there). I had the experience of living in a whole new culture, being challenged to learn an extremely difficult language, and most importantly got to know some of the best human beings I have ever met. When I returned home I went to Weber State University to figure out how to start college. While sitting on a bench waiting for a friend, I was struck and sickened by the extravagance all around me. The extravagance I saw was the well-kept lawns, the concrete walking paths and the “fancy” buildings. Anyone who has visited the Weber State Campus knows it is anything but extravagant in comparison to most any other state school with 30,000 students (especially at the time I was there, which was before some major renovations had been started).
You see, living in Cambodia put me among some of the most poor people in the world. A country once leading southeast Asia in progress of all kinds was devastated by Pol Pot’s Democide, which was responsible for the murder of 2,400,000 people (in particular those identified as educated). The country has slowly been recovering from this horrific regime’s awful machinations and brutality; and it still struggles with corruption and the ability to properly protect and care for its people. For most, a well-kept lawn is reserved only for the elite, refrigerators are for the privileged, and for the rest–a struggle to provide a roof for the rain and rice for the stomach is a daily struggle. The disparity between the quality of life for middle class Americans and that of my Cambodian brothers and sisters was and is appalling.
Like many do, I acclimated to the inherited wealth that my birth in the world undeservedly bestowed on me, and I carried on with my current needs of gaining an education and my desire to start a family. Over the years I would remember my time in Cambodia and my heart would be drawn there and a desire to help would well up but often the business of life would prevent me from acting. Last year for Christmas was one such time when I read a book given to me titled “The Rent Collector,” which though it is a fictional book still accurately describes the abject poverty suffered by so many in Cambodia. Reading The Rent Collector along with Elder Holland’s Are We All Not Beggars? and Tracy M’s Poignant The Handbasket is Empty have finally got through my skull that now is the time to act. Waiting for a better or more convenient time will not bring anybody relief, including myself.
The Rational Faiths folks have joined forces to help those who can’t help themselves and we’d like you to join with us to do as much good as we can. The Liahona Children’s Foundation is a 501 (c)3 non-profit organization that was founded in 2008 and seeks to “nurture the potential of children to lead healthy and productive lives by eliminating malnutrition and providing educational opportunities among LDS children and their friends.” The Liahona Children’s Foundation has an Adopt a Stake program where “an individual or a group of individuals adopts a Stake in the developing world and commits to raise and provide $6000/year to its support.”
Some may consider RationalFaiths too apologetic and not critical enough, and others might not find faith in the questions often posed here. The banter that goes around the truth claims and culture of the LDS church is really quite fun to be a part of but if we miss out on our opportunity to help others what will all the talk about angels and modesty really amount to? I invite you, reader, to join with us in an effort to support the downtrodden and heavy laden around the world. Wonderful people at the Liahona Children’s Foundation have helped us in setting up an excellent means to provide aid to those who desperately need it.
If you want to join with us please read the donation details here.
 Rudolph J. Rummel, Statistics of Democide: Genocide and Mass Murder since 1900, (LIT Verlag, 1998), p. 48
Great post, Brian Dillman. A little more background on Cambodia. The malnutrition levels of the people Liahona Children’s Foundation has screened so far are around 75%. It is also worth noting that many children, including LDS children, are unable to go to elementary school. As I understand it, there is a free education system, but teachers and others will often turn kids away unless they are given a bribe to attend. Liahona also provides school scholarships for children in cases such as this where funds are available.
The Liahona Children’s Foundation is a wonderful enterprise, pooling our collective resources to do something much greater than we could do on our own in the fight against poverty and malnutrition. Just imagine the good that could be done if the church got on board with this noble cause. At a minimum, the church should match the LCF funds, IMHO.
Count me in. Anyone else who wants to join us is welcome.