SOUTHEAST ASIA (BP)–Even before he’s fully awake, Joshua McFadden* knows he’s not in Kentucky anymore.
Roosters crowing, babies crying and his neighbors pumping water from the well outside his bedroom window remind the recent college grad that he’s in Cambodia. So do the thatched-roof homes on stilts he passes as he bikes down the red dirt road to a Cambodian-style outdoor diner. Yet, as he wolfs down breakfast and endures teasing by the older village women, he is thankful God brought him to Southeast Asia.
“I love my job. I love these people. I love Cambodia. I love my life,” McFadden says. “I know it sounds sappy, but it’s true. When I’m riding my bike through a village and say, ‘Hi,’ to all the kids, it’s a daily revival. How often do you go through a village and everyone speaks to you?”
McFadden’s interest in sharing Christ internationally sharpened as a result of trips to Cambodia and China in college, but he can see how God started working on him back in the fourth grade. That year, his Sunday School teacher, a short-term missionary journeyman just back from Kenya, brought carved rhinoceroses and tribal masks to class and helped make sharing Christ come alive. That teacher, Randy Jacobs*, is now McFadden’s team leader in Cambodia.
McFadden has learned a lot since he stepped off the plane in August 2006 – not only about fitting in with a different people group but also the importance of helping them physically as well as spiritually.
“It’s really important for Christian people to do development work in addition to evangelism to catch the vision for really changing a place,” McFadden says. “I just hope I am able to portray to them someone who genuinely cares about their needs. If we totally ignore the dire situation and physical concerns, it’s not responsible on our part as Christians.”
McFadden and his team minister to the Cambodian people first by providing water filters, locating cleaner water sources, providing medical education and creating educational videos. Within his team, McFadden is taking a key role in animal husbandry and agricultural programs. As he helps his neighbors raise healthier goats and pigs and produce better crops, he builds relationships that give him opportunity to share his testimony.
While McFadden loves the work he is doing now, he is excited about plans to move to a more remote village on his own. That village, accessible only by ferry across the Mekong River, has no electricity, running water or concrete buildings. By choosing to live among these isolated Buddhist people, he hopes to show them that happiness in life comes not through rituals or things but through a God they have never heard about.
At the end of his two-year term in Cambodia, McFadden hopes he will have helped change the lives of some Cambodians, but more importantly, his life will have changed.
“It’s one of my biggest hopes that I’ll be different when I go home,” McFadden says. “I love my life in America, but I want to go back and be different so I don’t get pulled back into American culture. I think it would be the way Jesus would live on earth.”
*Names changed for security reasons.