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Thai culture impresses Greencastle teen

August 13, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

GREENCASTLE, Pa. -- Before Andrew Mowen left on his first trip outside the country, the 17-year-old from Greencastle wasn't sure whether he'd enjoy traveling.

Despite more than 20 hours on a plane, he now wants to explore more and maybe even study at a Buddhist temple. He was impressed by Thailand's monks and the country's culture on a recent 10-day excursion through Summer Global Experience.

"It was just nice to be there, somewhere different," he said.

Andrew participated in a weeklong Leadership Academy through Lancaster (Pa.) Theological Seminary in 2008. Through that, he was offered an opportunity to apply for participation in Summer Global Experience by submitting essays, paperwork and recommendations.

The program educates young adults about other cultures.

"Andrew is a questioning young man. ... It was a very easy recommendation," said the Rev. Susan D'heedene, pastor of Waynesboro's Trinity United Church of Christ.

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D'heedene graduated from Lancaster Theological Seminary and her own children participated in the Leadership Academy.

"They do a lot of ongoing education," she said.

Andrew, who will be a senior at Greencastle-Antrim High School, traveled with a dozen other young adults to Chiang Mai in Thailand last month. They stayed at a university and took classes about Buddhism, Islam, human trafficking, the sex industry and HIV/AIDS.

"I always wanted to know more about cultures outside America," Andrew said.

He said the experience strengthened his own faith.

Summer Global Experience participants climbed 310 steps to reach a temple, where they learned more about the life of Buddha.

"His life was a lot like Jesus Christ, so that made me think," said Andrew, the son of Nick and Carol Mowen.

At the Leadership Academy, Andrew studied Job questioning his faith and sinners. He said the young adults talked respectfully with Thai people about their religions.

"We listened with open ears and open eyes," he said.

Carol Mowen spoke highly about how Leadership Academy forms "covenant groups" to nurture participants, "kind of like a little family," she said.

Andrew counted prayer beads as instructed in an effort to stay focused. He found the practice relaxing and compared it to yoga.

Andrew said Thailand's culture had less consumerism, which taught him to be smarter about what he buys and why.

"I'm going to try to live a little bit more simply. I'm going to try to be a smarter consumer and less wasteful," he said.

Andrew, who wants to be a math teacher or actuarial scientist, plans to present information about the trip to his church later in August. He'll also host a special event for the "shareholders" who "bought stock" in him by making donations.

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