Monday, February 22, 2016

In Which I Close One Chapter...

Kim Sia's baptism!

As we exited the church parking lot after my last church meeting, Sister H. quoted the immortal words from Princess Diaries, "The eagle is flying. For the last time..." This is it, folks. 18 months and 3 weeks and here we are. I've been dreaming about this blog post my whole mission, and then this week came. This week has quite possibly been the craziest of my mission. Some quick highlights include:
  • We sang at an engagement ceremony on a Wednesday morning (because when else would you get engaged?)
  • 4 days at the hospital--but we made it we all made it out alive, don't worry. Sister Thoun is getting released and resting for the time being. 
  • We learned last night none of the members of our tri-panionship will be staying in Tuk La'ak, and as of Wednesday morning our area will be whitewashed. In other words, today and tomorrow will be crazy, stressed preparation. 
  • Kim Sia got baptized and it was SO good. Because she is SO good. 
  • I had my last English class, district meeting, church, and baptism of my mission.
So it's been a bit of a crazy week. I haven't really had time to process all the emotions that are happening right now. Sometimes, this past week, I've imagined the moment of landing in the airport as I'm biking and I get so excited I just have to make noise. And sometimes, like sitting next to my 10-year-old investigator belting out the lyrics to "I Am A Child of God," I just get choked and think, I can't really be leaving this place, right? 

But today during personal study I was reading Mormon's sermon on faith, hope and charity in Moroni 7. Verse 2 reads:

 "And now I, Mormon, speak unto you, my beloved brethren; and it is by the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, and his holy will, because of the gift of his calling unto me, that I am permitted to speak unto you at this time."

I don't know if it is by the grace of God that I'm permitted to write to you today (probably, let's be real) but as I read this verse the line "gift of his calling unto me" hit me hard. I was sitting in the hospital and thinking about how my mission was ending, and not quite in the way I had expected--the past few days have been full of surprises. But ultimately the thought that keeps coming back is overwhelming gratitude for this calling, and for these past 18 months. It has meant so much more than I ever even thought it could. And I don't know how to talk about it without it just coming out as a bunch of cheesy cliches. So I'll just try it in list form:

What I've Learned from My 18 Months in Kampuchea...: 

  • How to speak Khmer (sort of)
  • How to step up to the plate and take charge because often there is no one there to do it for you. And going along with that, get the scary/hard things out of the way first because procrastinating only makes things worse. 
  • That I love fried bananas. (Unfortunately I did not learn how to cook them. It's cool, I still have 4 days.) 
  • How to feel the Spirit teaching me. The way that the Lord often speaks to me and the way I learn/receive revelation is through writing and talking about my ideas. As I actively think through it, inspiration comes. 
  • That I will never hit my kids.
  • How to be led by the Spirit. Sometimes we distinctly feel it's presence, but often it requires faith on our part to go forward without a crystal-clear assurance. But when we step into the darkness, the light will come. If we are being good and being worthy, we will be following the Lord's will. And we must move forward in faith.
  • How to cook rice without measuring. 
  • The importance of agency. It is quite possibly the most important gift we've been given. Only through exercising it can we progress #beadeliberatedisciple
  • That building on the rock means making the doctrine of Christ a part of our daily lives.
  • How to skip over the median on a bicycle. 
  • How to repent. In a practical, daily, applicable format.
  • How to wear a sweater when it's 90 degrees with 90 percent humidity.
  • What grace is. Grace = Enabling power of the Atonement. And the closer we come to Christ, the more blatant our weaknesses become, and our dependence on Christ's grace becomes more apparent. 
  • The importance of a vision. Looking forward to the future with an eye of faith. 
  • That the gospel is simple. It's us humans that try and over complicate it sometimes. 
  • How to love more purely. I certainly don't have it down yet, but I know it starts with not thinking about myself so much. When we stop thinking about ourselves and we start thinking about others, our own self-consciousness and fears go away, allowing charity (Christ's form of love) to take its place. 
  • Conversion is a process not an event. It is a gradual turning of the heart. And it's a process we must all be actively involved in daily. Namely through prayer, scripture study, and repentance. Just do these things. That's it. And that's how you'll be happy. 
  • God loves us. More than we can understand. 
This list will never be complete. But it's a pretty good start. In my mind this last blog post was far more eloquent, but what it comes down to is gratitude. I'm so grateful that I was called to serve in this crazy little country on the other side of the world. I'm so grateful that the Lord could use me to be a very imperfect instrument in His hands. I'm mostly grateful for the testimony that He has given me. We are God's children. He loves us. He sent His Son to help us as evidence of His love. Only through this gospel can we find true happiness in this life, and eternal life in the world to come. That's all it comes down to: love. 

Well, it's been quite the journey, friends. Until next time. 

See you on the other side!

Sister Fields

Just looking at these pictures makes me miss Cambodia already. How am I supposed to leave this?

The engaged couple.

Our choir for the engagement.

Ramen party in the hospital.

Sister Thoun is a trooper!

FHE at Ming Sovanna's!

Getting ready to float away to the homeland...

Srey Leak, our little investigator.

More baptism pictures.

The whole group.

Kim Sia gave me a Valentine!
May Kim! She has asked me maybe twenty times if I can wait to go home until after her baptism in two weeks. Ultimately she said it was okay because some day when she goes to the temple in America, she'll come see me. 

Our Valentine's outfits

Monday, February 15, 2016

In Which I Contemplate My Death

Sorry no pics. My memory cards (both) have been wiped. From my whole mission. I'm going to try and get them back. Stay tuned. Pray for me... Just kidding. But not really.  This one is from Angor Wat.

Cumriabsua friends,

Happy Valentine's Day! It is Feb 14th, and my days are very numbered in this country. I can't escape the questions: "How do you feel?" "What are you most excited for/are going to miss the most?" Or the scariest one: "What are your plans for when you get home?" Check back with me on that one in about a month. Eh, maybe longer.

I reached a big milestone in my mission today. This morning I made my "death card." For those of you who don't know (I have no idea if this is a normal mission thing or just a Cambodia mission thing), but a death card is a picture of a missionary with Facebook and email information that they give to members and investigators just before they end their mission. So it means I'm on my deathbed over here. But it's okay, because it's been a good life.

Missions are so strange. In most big things in life (graduating, getting married, etc), there are lots of little preparation things leading up to the big event. But as a missionary, you just keep doing the same schedule and living the same life up until one day you wake up and they put you on a plane. Have I mentioned yet that missions are weird? I'm not really sure how this whole transition thing is going to go down, but for now, I'm trying to go along just like normal. And it is just like normal until I realize that next week I'll be landing in SeaTac Airport? What the what. Sooo.... I'm doing my best not to get too distracted during my last week as a full-time missionary. AHH.

I'll give you an investigator update. That'll get me focused again. Kim Sia's getting baptized on Sunday! My last Sunday in Cambodia I'll have a baptism! She had her interview this week and she's so ready. She's so excited. Our Relief Society lesson on Sunday was all about baptismal covenants and it was perfect for her. I kept looking over at her and she just kept beaming.

Less active update: we had a really powerful lesson with Srey Keo, a less active we've been working with for a while. We've met her on and off (because she's super busy) and whenever she meets the lessons always go awry. She always wants to know about how the gospel fits in to Buddhism, and she admitted to us last week that she thinks she wants to go back to Buddhism. And at some level, I can understand why she feels that way. Her parents and all her siblings are all very Buddhist. They go to the wat and do the ancestral worship thing in her home and pressure her to join. But the biggest issue is her own lack of faith. We've come to realize that she understands very little about the gospel and when she was baptized, she didn't really believe. So she quickly went less active. So we went back this week and taught lesson one. We taught through the first few points and she was listening, but not super engaged until we talked about the Apostasy. We asked her if she ever wondered why there were so many churches, or what she could do to know which church was true--between Buddhism and all the different Christian sects in Cambodia. She said, "Yes, Sister, this is my question!" To which we helped her see how she was in a similar situation as Joseph Smith. We re-taught his story and we shared the First Vision and showed her the picture and we paused. Then I asked, "Srey Keo, do you believe that Joseph truly met Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ?" After a minute of staring at the picture she looked back and said, "I don't know." To which we testified to her that she could know. She could know that this experience really happened and that like Joseph Smith she could know what was the right path for her. And the way that she could know was through the Book of Mormon. The Spirit was really strong and I could tell that she actually got it. We committed her to read and pray about the Book of Mormon again, but this time, she had to do it with real intent! And she agreed. Then on Sunday, she walked into the chapel with a tithing envelope in her hand! She's doing it. She knows what she needs to do and she has the motivation to get to that point. She told us later at church that before she used to lie to the missionaries and say she was reading and praying. But now she was really doing it, because she really needs to know if it's true or not. So, stay tuned on her!

Ooh, another way cool experience happened this week! There's a family I worked with a lot here in Tuk La'ak. The mom, son and daughter are recent converts. Hiang Li got baptized last November while I was here. And we started teaching the older daughter and her husband. About a month ago they moved back to Kampongcham. It was kind of a rushed thing, so we didn't get a good idea of what part of KC they were moving to. We passed along the mom's number to the sisters there. We followed up a couple times, but heard they hadn't been able to get a hold of them yet. We worried because we knew they were a ways from the church. A few nights ago I get a call from the Elders in KC. They had tried to call the neakming 10 or 15 times and it didn't work. Then one day they went out contacting in the middle of nowhere (nothing but rice fields around). They talked to a couple people and asked if they had ever heard of Jesus Christ before. They said they weren't interested, but there was a house a little ways of off Christians. They show the elders over to this house (in the middle of nowhere) and all of a sudden a family comes running out calling, "Elders, Elders, how did you find us?!" And it's my recent convert family!! They invite them in and show them pics of me and Sister L. with their family! The best part is Neakming Yeen (the mom) had been praying everyday for the Lord to show her a way to find the church. And then the Elders show up. How cool is that? The family is all together now. I feel like it's finally their time for them all to join the church as a family. So cool!

So those are my cool experiences of the week. I also went on my last exchange of my mission this week, with Sister L. It was the perfect last exchange. We did service in the morning. We cleaned a house that nobody had been living in from floor to ceiling. It took about four hours, and at the end of it we had a bag of dirt we swept up weighing about 15 lbs! But it gave us lots of time to chat about our lives and our missions. She's getting close in hers too, just six months left.

And then there was our Valentine's party at church yesterday. Our ward is the fun ward; they take any holiday as an excuse to party. After church got out (keep in mind, church ends at 6 pm at night and it gets dark at about 6:15 in this country), we had a BBQ , a legit Khmer bbq. They pulled out the grill and they started making some fish that we ate over brown rice (???--the first time I've ever seen it in this country!) with vegetables and this tangy sauce. It was delicious. It breaks my heart a little bit when I think about leaving this country means leaving this food!

Oh, one more funny moment of the week. Actually this was last week. I was just coming down with a cold and still getting over my lack of sleep hangover from my Siem Reap trip. We were coming home from a 6:00 appointment far out and I was so dead. I was lagging behind my companions and Sister Thoun slows down and bikes next to be and grabs on my bike and stops pushing me and commands me to "stop peddling!" She continues to push me along the road at full speed and says, "Mom, we still need you for two more weeks!" So, I can't die just yet! My koons still need me I suppose. I was lucky. I've got some pretty good koons.

Okay, spiritual thought and I'm out. This one comes from a study on repentance. It's been something that President Christensen has been addressing a lot, going along with his focus on retention. It also was a big focus in the World Wide Missionary Training that we finally watched this week. Ten years after the rest of the world... Cambodia. I've been studying in Alma 5. This is verse 14:

And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?

I love sharing this with investigators getting ready for baptism because spiritual re-birth is so key. It means becoming a new creature, progressing from the natural man or woman to a changed person. One who no doubt still makes mistakes and falls into temptation, but their intentions have changed. I'm learning on my mission that it is our intentions, far more than anything else, that matters the most. Because our intentions = our heart. And this is the mighty change of heart that Alma discusses. This change of heart doesn't happen once and is done. Rather, it begins before baptism as faith inspires us to begin changing, and aligning our will closer to the Lord's. It is the conversion path that we continue down for the rest of our lives, and renew daily through our scripture study and sincere prayer.

Did that make any sense? Sometimes I don't know anymore. One of these days I'll catch up on 18 months lack of sleep... But for now, I've got two weeks left!!

And it's gonna be a good two weeks.

Cool. I'm out.

Sister Fields

Monday, February 8, 2016

In Which I Celebrate Groundhog's Day 2016!!

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

So you know that moment when you forget you live in Asia and then you leave you house on a Sunday morning and everyone's out in the street burning paper money, monks are chanting, and the smell of incense is enough to block out any other aroma? Happy Chinese New Year! And you've been to three different less-actives' homes to no avail (all doors are padlocked and they've gone to their homelands to party), you're biking against the unseasonably strong winds, and nobody wants to talk to you because their too busy worshiping their ancestors. That's when I was tempted to pull out a picture of the temple and use the line: "Do you want to know the real way to help your ancestors?" But alas, I did not. Cultural sensitivity, I suppose. In those moments I stop and remember I've got less than three weeks. LESS THAN THREE WEEKS? How did that happen? As our English class students would say, "I don't too" (I should teach them the word "either"). I kind of expected this transfer to go slow, anticipating the end of everything, but it's been flying by. So here's to making the most of the last few weeks!

And this transfer has been quite the party so far. The highlight of which has been Siem Reap! You need to know, this was a long-awaited occurrence. During the dark days and rough transfer, the image of riding elephants with my MTC buddies was a beacon in the darkness. I'm happy to tell you, dreams do come true. 

We went up last Monday at about noon. It's about a seven-hour bus ride from the city to Siem Reap, so we had plenty of chat time. Between the rest stop pit toilets and Khmer music videos they play on the bus, I'm really going to miss those bus rides. So many fond memories going between the city and Battambang. And unlike in America, no one cares how you sit in a bus. So we squished three on one bench, took off the head rests of the bench in front, so all five of us could sit comfortably and chat about our lives. 

We pulled into Siem Reap at about 7:00 pm, and the sisters there were very accommodating.  We ordered pizza and laid out mattresses on the floor and had a sleepover. The next morning our tuk tuk driver (the district president in Siem Reap--also very accommodating and he knew exactly where to go) picked us up at 4:30 am so that we could see the sunrise over Angkor Wat. We paid a whopping $20 for a one-day park pass and we got to the classic Ancient Angkor temple just as the sky started to turn pink. It was beautiful! 

It didn't quite look like the pictures because it did have any water in front. It's the dry season and typically tourist season is rainy season. But that didn't stop anyone; the place was still packed! I sometimes got distracted from the temple sites because I was people watching. So many tourists from all around the world. And for the first time on my whole mission I got recognized as a missionary! A guy from Florida on business in Thailand said, "Sisters? I didn't know we had sisters in Cambodia!" So fun. 

Because we were only there for a morning, we opted not to get a tour guide. The downside was we didn't really know what we were looking at. I can't tell you much more about the place now than I could before. But the upside was we got to go wherever we wanted. And unlike ruins or museums anyplace I've ever been before, there were pretty much no rules. And we could walk and climb anywhere we wanted. That's not totally true, but there was a lot of freedom. It felt kind of like I was in line for the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland. 

After the big temple, we got some breakfast and then rode an elephant. You don't want to know how much money all five of us paid to get on an elephant, so I won't tell you. I also won't tell you if it was worth it or not... But it was way cool. And we got such fun pictures. And we walked through an ancient archway on an elephant. And the other sister's mahout whistled "Jingle Bells" and "On the Floor" using a leaf the elephant handed him with his trunk. So that was cool. Then we contacted the mahouts and got their numbers to give the Elders there, so you tell me if it wasn't worth $20....a person...

We hit up two more temples after that. One was super old and it had trees growing out of it. I can't explain it. Just scroll to the pictures below. It was beautiful. Someday I'll go back and spend more time, but after about six hours, we felt like we had seen a good chunk of it. We went the the Old Market and spent more money (I got a couple really cute skirts), I got a fruit shake, the other sisters got their feet eaten by fish, and we hopped back in the tuk tuk and got back just in time to catch the bus home. It was a craazy trip. And after traffic, I didn't get home until 10:00 pm! Which is crazy late in this mission. Good thing we had the office elders to pick us up. So it was definitely an adventure. If you're in the area, check it out. Best Groundhog's Day I've ever spent! We decided we should make it a tradition. Every Groundhog's Day we'll meet back up at Angkor Wat. 

So that happened this week. And then the rest of the week flew by! Investigator update: Things are going well. People are progressing fairly well and then they have friends who also want to learn. Whoever's here in March will have a ton of baptisms on their hands (you're welcome). 

I'll just share one investigator experience from this week. Remember Ming Pov? She's the one who sells sugarcane juice from last week. Well, while I was gone the sisters went to go see her, but she wasn't at her usual corner selling. The next day she called us, and it takes me about five minutes to figure out who she is. But the important thing is, she called us! Investigators never call, especially when we've never even called her. I'm not sure how she got our number. No, I do; it was on the back of the pamphlet we gave her, but still. She said that she was at the hospital with her granddaughter when we came last. We went the next day to meet her, and we could tell she was really worried about her granddaughter. She's only two months old, and I guess has been having digestive problems and has been constipated for over a week. It was the perfect opportunity for us to teach her about prayer again. And even though she had learned it with us before, I could tell it took on whole new meaning for her. She really wanted to learn how to pray. We taught her "Dear Heavenly Father" and "In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen" for 15 minutes straight. She kept messing up a little part of it over and over, but she kept re-correcting herself and was determined to say it right. Ultimately, she did pray, and we committed her to keep praying whenever she felt worried or sad. And I really think she will too. I think this could be a perfect faith building experience for her. So, stay tuned!

Okay, one more random anecdote. We were contacting the other day and I pulled up next to two Oms and started telling them about our English class, when one of them says in perfect English, "Good for you, teaching about Christ." Turns out this woman is from South Dakota and on vacation in Cambodia to visit family. She starts telling me how her husband says it's all frozen over in South Dakota and she's so glad she's here. We get talking and she tells me she used to go to a Christian church in America, but then they told her she couldn't be saved or something like that. So I got to tell her a little about the Restoration in English! We got interrupted and then she got busy, but I gave her our website. So basically between getting recognized as Mormons and contacting in English, I got a taste of being a state-side missionary this week. 

Okay, to wrap up I want to share something I learned in Zone Conference this week. It was cool because going into it, I thought I would learn good things; but it would probably only be applicable for the next three weeks of my life. But turns out I was wrong. We spent the whole morning talking about personal gospel study and how we need to make it a habit for our whole lives. The Christensens have been teaching about what it means to be a deliberate disciple, and they taught that it is through a deliberate study of the scriptures that we learn what it means to be a true disciple. Daily scripture study opens the door to revelation and daily revelation ensures daily re-conversion. Why do we need daily re-conversion? Because conversion is not a one-time event; it is a process (#hmong). It got me pumped to have a good personal study now, and when I go home too. Just maybe not at seven in the morning...

Okay, that's all for this week. My days as a full-time missionary are dwindling. So here's to making the most of it! 

Have a good week everyone!


Sister Fields

Sunrise at the Ancient Temple.

This is to show the masses of tourists.

 Breakfast!  Baay Sac Churu--It's pork and egg on rice. It's the classic Khmer breakfast. Does it look yummy?

This is my Where's Waldo picture.

And this is my friend I found. We are matching.

Monday, February 1, 2016

In Which We Perfect the Art of Street Contacting

Making angka lin to sell at the market.

Greetings Friends,

This keyboard is the worst, so this might be a bit rough. Good news is, I'm headed off to Siem Reap after this! It is an eight-hour bus ride, which is always fun times. And then we get to spend Tuesday morning at Angkor Wat, and then we turn around and come back. So it'll be quick, but I'm excited. Sister Thoun has been prepping me--telling me all that I need to know and where I need to go, so I'm all set. Pictures next week!

This week was good. We got a couple new investigators. The first is Srey Muay, Kim Sea's good friend. Of course she's Kim Sea's friend, Kim Sea is awesome! She's the kind of investigator who comes early to lessons; and when we show up at the church, she's already there reading her Book of Mormon. Or after a lesson as we're waiting for our next appointment to show, she joins us on the curb in front of the church holding signs and passing out fliers for English class. So last week she invited Srey Muay to our ward FHE and then to church as well. This week we met her and taught lesson one, and she's gonna be super solid too, you can just tell. She has a lot of really great questions that drive the lesson. She was really curious about Christ and His life and what He did; and so when we met her again on Saturday, we watched "Finding Faith in Christ" together. It's a good one (also one of only two church videos that have been translated into Khmer...). And we had a good discussion on the role that Christ can play in our lives. As we discussed, it hit me again just how all encompassing the Atonement is. I go through phases in my mission where I want to teach everyone--investigators, less actives, active members--about the Book of Mormon or the importance of the Sacrament. Now I'm on an Atonement streak. There's just so much there that members here still don't understand--so much enabling power going untapped. We've been practicing teaching it in companion study and have been learning a lot. The Atonement covers so much more than sin and death. It helps us fight fear, have hope, and change our weaknesses into strengths. And every time you study it, you learn something more. It's way cool. 

Our other new investigator was a street contact. She sells sugarcane juice (which is actually very good) on the street corner all day, every day. It was one of those contacts where the other sisters had stopped to talk to someone nearby, so I decided to go chat with the neakming on the corner. She was friendly enough, and we found out I'm born in the year of the pig (I thought I was the year of the goat, I swear it changes every time). But she agreed to let us mook leeng (come back and chat with her) in the future. We went back a few days later and planned to do a little "how to begin teaching" and talk about Heavenly Father and prayer. We got there and I knew from the get-go she was going to be a tricky one. She sells all day, everyday just to make enough money for her and her daughter to eat. We sat down with her and started chatting, and people would come by and buy from her every few minutes. It was distracting, and she seemed relatively uninterested in the idea of learning about Jesus. She can't read and didn't really ever get a formal education (because Pol Pot) so she (like many other Khmer people in her situation) thinks that she won't know how to learn with us. That morning Sister H. taught a good lesson on asking inspired questions, and a thought popped into my head to ask her: "Neakming, what do you want in your life?" She looked at me and laughed, and I had to tell her "Ming, I'm serious, what do you want?" So she stopped and thought. And I could tell she was really thinking. After a pause, she said she wanted peace, happiness, she wanted to not to have to work so hard, and she wanted a house of her own. Now we're getting somewhere! We told her that her Heavenly Father loved her; and because He loves her, He wants her to have a good life and to be happy. Sometimes this life is hard and it's supposed to be, and there's a reason for it; but we know one day we will rest from everything, if we prepare now and do the things we must do today. Yet, God doesn't want us to struggle everyday. He still wants us to be happy. And He's provided a way that we can have that now. Cue "the gospel blesses families." We caught her attention, committed her to pray, and got a return appointment. Thanks to the Spirit. One of my favorite things about being a missionary is feeling the Spirit work through me and my companions and then seeing that affect our investigators in ways we would not have preconceived. It's way cool. 

Hmm, what else happened this week? We had a good district meeting about contacting (shout out to Elder S.), and it got us pumped to go out and contact. One day this week we had a few minutes before we had to be at the church, so we tried to get in a few contacts at a pssar next to our last appointment. I try to make it a point not to contact people selling food, because I always feel bad not buying their stuff. But we didn't have much time so I chatted up a neakming selling mii chaa (fried noodles). I asked her if she had been selling for a long time, to which she responded "if you want to know it's delicious, you have to try it!), which was not an answer to my question, but that's okay. So I ended up buying mii chaa off a food cart (which is technically against the rules, whoops), but you do what you can do get your contacts, am I right? She did not want to learn about Jesus, but her noodles where actually quite delicious. They mix in little green vegetables and spicy stuff and fry an egg on top. Ahh, it's so good, now I'm hungry.

Om Dali came to church this week, which makes three times in the past month! Which makes three times since I first came here six months ago. Whoohoo! We now go help her every Sunday morning so that she can have time to come to church. Her neighbors have a little machine that makes what they call "angka lin", which is a powder that comes from grinding rice. They use it for cooking, and they sell it at the psaar. So it's Om Dali's job to put the little bags of rice into a bigger bag to be sold at the psaar, fifteen in each plastic bag. It's very tedious work, but strangely relaxing. We go over to help her because the four of us together can do it much quicker than she can on her own, and then she has it done by 3:00 pm church. Does that mean we're working on the Sabbath? I just thought of that...Probably. Whoops. It's for the better cause of getting Om to church, right? It's a Nephi chopping of Laban's head situation i think...

Okay I can't take this keyboard any more. It's taking me twice as long to type this email. But for spiritual thought this week I want to share something I've been preparing for zone conference. Zone conference is Wednesday, and we're supposed to prepare a talk on what it means to be a "deliberate disciple." This morning I re-read Pres. Uchtdorf's talk from last conference. I think I've shared this before in an email. But he asks the question, "Is my experience in the church working for me?" Or you can alter the question to "Is my experience on my mission working for me? Is it drawing me closer to Christ? Is it blessing me with peace and joy promised in the gospel?" If not, than we can change because "the power is in us" (D&C 58:28). That is the blessing of agency. We are not mere objects to be acted upon, but we are the actors! We get to decide what kind  of an experience we have on our missions, in the church, and in our lives. Yes, there are obstacles and choices of others that we can't control. But we can control how we respond to them. And when we actively choose to seek after Christ, to follow His example, we begin to change. And our missions and experiences in the gospel affect us because are hearts have changed. More on this idea in the future. For now I'm about ready to kill this keyboard. 

Okay that's all. I'm off to ride an elephant now. 

Love you!

Sister Fields

Monday, January 25, 2016

In Which We Live the Trio Life

 Wat Phnom
Hello friends,

We reversed our P-day today, so we went to the Killing Fields in the morning, and we're emailing in the afternoon; and now we're crunching on time, so this might be a bit short. I'm really glad we went though. It was sad, but also important. I kind of wish I went earlier in my mission just because it helps fill in more context. But then at the same time, I have more context for the experience after being in Cambodia so long, so it goes both ways. Unlike many museums and places in Cambodia, the Killing Fields actually had a lot of information. We paid for the audio tour, and it was worth it. The Killing Fields is the site of most of the slaughter that happened during Pol Pot's reign. After the Khmer Rouge was in power, they evacuated the city, sent everyone up to the khets to be worked to death, and took all educated or otherwise "enemies of the regime" to be imprisoned, tortured, and executed. Much of the torturing happened at Toulsleng (the prison-turned-museum I went to last transfer), and they were afterward brought to the Killing Fields to die. Like so many other places in Cambodia, it was very real and raw. They have bones and teeth of the victims on display outside in cases that visitors can touch, and rows and rows and rows of skulls. Listening to the audio tour was interesting though because it had lots of personal accounts. By the end of the morning, we just felt overwhelmed by it all. 

I'm trying to fit in all my need-to-see Cambodian stops before I go. Next week I'm finally going to Angkor Wat! So, super pumped for that. And last week we went to Wat Phnom, The place from which Phnom Penh gets it's name. The best thing is we have our own little tour guide. Sister Thoun worked as a tour guide before her mission, so she knows everything there is to know about everything and tries to bargain down the higher prices for foreigners every where we go! I tell her as soon as she comes to American we will switch, and I'll be her tour guide. Her visa is in the process of coming, so it's possible she could come over on the flight with me next month!

Hmm. What happened this week? We've been adjusting to the trio life over here. It always takes a bit more time and a bit more patience to get into a groove, but it's always more fun too. I'm really loving training this time around. I've been in an interesting position, training the last six months of my mission. I won't lie, it's been exhausting; but I've also really loved it. I've come to learn that one of the most rewarding parts of missionary work comes from helping my companions out. I feel like the best work I can give at this point is to help build Sister H. and Sister Thoun into powerful missionaries, which they're both pretty great already, so it's not a hard job. But it's so cool to be at this point where I really can see that I am being an effective missionary. And it's taken a loooong time to get to this point. I remember something Pres. Moon told me a long time ago in my third transfer when I told him I felt like I was never going to be able to do it. He told me missions are like parenthood and like probably so many other things in life. That you never feel like you get the hang of it until the end of it, which is kind of a depressing thought. But it just shows that missions are about a whole lot more than just getting baptisms. Not that that's not important, but one of the biggest reasons for missions is creating powerful missionaries. More on that in the future....

As for Tuk La'ak, things are moving along. We had two long-time less actives at church on Sunday! I can't tell you how fun it is to come in to the chapel and see a less-active unexpectedly sitting on a pew. It takes a second to recognize them because you've never seen them at church before! Sister Thoun has been a great help at getting less actives to come back to church. She just ends every lesson by asking, so we'll see you at church this week, right? And nobody can say no to her!

We had a cool experience with a long-time less active member we found this week. We had an old CBR, but using the map we were able to track her down pretty easily. The house had a big locked gate in front, the bell didn't work and neither did her phone number. We stood outside for a few minutes until a moto pulled up next to us. We asked the man on the moto if he knew the girl in the picture (taken seven years ago when she joined the church) and turns out it was his wife. He let us in the house and his wife was there. At first it was very awkward. It was clear they didn't really want to let us in. But they're Khmer, so of course they did. We chatted with her a little bit and Sister Thoun (our people person) got her to warm up a little bit. Sister Thoun shared her story about when she went inactive and how she came back, and that really helped this less active to open up. All of a sudden she was telling us about how she and her husband wanted to have a child, but haven't yet, and how hard that's been, and she let us share a scripture about trusting in the Lord with her and she's gonna let us come back! So that's just the beginning.

Well, not too much else from this week. I'll close with a quick spiritual thought. I've been reading about Christ's ministry among the Nephites this week. And this time around I've been struck by Christ's personableness. What I mean is that Christ is not an aloof God. He loves us so personally and individually invites us to come unto him. This is so apparent in 3 Nephi. For example, the first thing Christ does as He descends to visit the Nephites is He invites them to come unto Him, to feel the scars of the Atonement, and understand the magnitude and the reality of His sacrifice. 

"And it came to pass that the multitude went forth, and thrust their hands into his side, and did feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet; and this they did do, going forth one by one until they had all gone forth, and did see with their eyes and did feel with their hands, and did know of a surety and did bear record, that it was he, of whom it was written by the prophets, that should come."

They went forth "one by one" because this is the way of the gospel. We are all children of God, but He knows us and loves us individually. And Christ's sacrifice for us was equally as individual. As is God's plan for our futures. Pretty cool.

Okay, that's it friends. Next week I'll be riding an elephant. Love you!

Sister Fields

The twins. They're famous here. Both have mission calls. One to Salt Lake City, one to Portland, Oregon.

Monday, January 18, 2016

In Which I Pick Up My Koon Pov (the baby of the family)

Our trio!

Well friends, we've have reached that point. It's the FINAL TRANSFEEERRRR (cue music: doo doo doo dooo do dodoo doodo). Yes, that is where we're at. How did we get here? I don't know. It's a weird place. I don't like to think about it too much. But I've already decided this transfer is gonna be a good one. A party, one might say. Thanks to my new koon

Yes, this week we picked up Sister H's little sister. Sister Thoun (kinda sounds like town), and it has been an interesting ride so far. Trying to train two missionaries at different spots in their training has proved to be interesting. But luckily for me, they are both very capable. For real though, if it were just the two of them running this area, they could do it. They make my job easy. So I've decided this transfer I'm not going to stress. Not even once. It's not worth it. "Let it go" is my new anthem. 

Speaking of Sister Thoun, we got to go pick her up from the mission home Friday morning. She is from Phnom Penh and has a mission call to Idaho Nampa Mission. She is serving what they call a mini-mission here in Cambodia while she waits for her visa. She's a great missionary already. She's very passionate. When I met her at the mission home, she gave me a huge, long hug, and then grabbed my two hands and looked into my eyes and said, "Why you go home in six weeks, my trainer?" I can't escape everyone acknowledging the fact I'm cit slap hauy! or in other words, "almost dead". Regardless, Sister Thoun is way funny, and I need to start a quote book for the words that come out of her mouth. Her English is pretty good, and we're speaking a lot of English to help get her ready for Idaho! She asked me this morning on the way to the psaar if we have markets like that in Idaho. I told her the Smiths and Wal-marts are a bit different. 

Other news. This week we spent a lot of time CBR hunting. Sister H. is becoming quite the adept hunter. CBR hunting can actually be way fun. It's the closest thing I will ever feel to being a detective. We bike around with a picture of a less active from 2001 and a very poorly hand-drawn map, trying to figure out street signs and asking everyone on the street if they skoal (know) the person or not. Then when we find the correct house, we sneakily take a picture of it and try and get the very less active member to warm up to us. We've had mild success. A few days ago we were after one with a wrong address. So went up and down the street a couple of times. One woman doing her laundry eyed us suspiciously. We asked her neighbor if she knew the woman in the picture and she half glances over to her next door neighbor (with the suspicious eyes) and the woman screams ot tee, ot tee! (no, no!) and runs into her house. Sister H. and I did not know what to do about that one. But I think we found her....

We had a mini-miracle this week. A woman from the Vietnamese branch called us with a referral she wanted us to meet. Sounds simple enough, but it was the most difficult process in the world to first figure out who she was and second figure out where she lives. She kept saying Borey Keilaa which is an apartment complex with people that sell things on the ground floor. So we went there and called her again. She said she had a restaurant, but I could not for the life of me figure out where. We walked around the whole complex asking everyone if they knew her or her place. Turns out there's actually a separate psaar with the same name. We finally found someone who took pity on us poor white girls who can't really speak Khmer all that well (this was before Sister Thoun came) and she gave us directions that we were remarkably able to follow. That was definitely a miracle. I was sure this woman didn't actually exist, but after walking for about 20 minutes, which feels like ages when you're used to the bike life, we found her! Did I mention her Khmer is way hard to understand because she's actually Vietnamese? In the event, the referral did not really want to learn, which turned into quite the awkward few minutes as the member pressured us to pressure the referral into learning. But it's okay. All in a day's work. 

That was kind of the week. Not much else is new. Kim Sia is still doing awesome. Even when we have awkward lessons, she still eats it up and wants to learn everything she can. Here's an example of an awkward lesson. This email is full of awkward situations (welcome to missionary life). We (read: Sister H.) have started teaching a piano lesson. A few members and nonmembers attend. Two who came to the class wanted to learn about the gospel, so Sister Thoun invited them to learn with us and Kim Sia right after class. Which is great. But we were teaching about the temple. The other two members of the class wanted to join in. In addition to the member we had invited to be at the lesson and meet us at the church. So there were nine of us in the lesson. We tried to give the newbies a bit of background, so they didn't think we were totally crazy and baptize dead people. It ended up working out okay. Sisters H. and Thoun planned and taught the lesson primarily on their own (thought of that one in comp study--best idea I've ever had, I do nothing! jkjkjk) and it went well. Then all of them joined us for the elders' baptism right after. So it all worked out well. 

So things are going well over here in Tuk La'ak. It's been nice to be here so long because I feel like I'm really starting to love and get to know people here. The ward can be a little rough around the edges, but I feel like things are really going well now. Less actives are coming back, our members are all doing well, and we've got some investigators that are moving along. All is well. 

I didn't prepare a spiritual thought this week. But I'm a missionary, so I have lots of spiritual thoughts running through my head at all times obviously.  Something I've really been thinking a lot about lately is service and selflessness. The key to happiness is to turn out. Not just happiness, but confidence, less stress, more personal fulfillment. When I learned to stop thinking about myself so much is when I started to really like my mission. Now let's be real, I still think of myself all the time. Like 95% of the time. But I hope that it's a little bit better than the 99% of time I might have been at at the beginning of my mission. When you lose yourself, you find yourself. That's one thing I've learned.

Okay that's all for this week. Love you all!

Sister Fields

P-day. This is a classic hang baay or little, sketchy Khmer food place at the side of the road. 

This is one of my favorite Khmer dishes. Lok Lak. Sister Souen taught me how to make it. 

 Fried bananas. My favorite street food. 

We did face masks last night. This is Sister Y. She's Sister Souen's new comp.

New kitchen.

New living room.

Another view.

Monday, January 11, 2016

In Which I Get Another Koon (what. more?)

Sis H. and I found a black burger place. We don't know why the burgers were black, but they were good!

Well friends, we have some news. Ti muay: Vietnam is leaving us and making it's own mission! Super exciting. I did not see this coming. But I'm not really in the loop. The mission right now is very low on Vietnamese speakers, but I know we have more coming this next transfer. They'll form their own mission March 1st  (Five days after I leave.)  A senior couple serving there now will be the Mission President. Pretty exciting. 

Second news. I'm expecting, yet again. My last transfer call came last night; and when I saw President's name come up on my phone screen, I knew something was up. (He only calls when there's an assignment.) We'll have another koon join with me and Sister H. and we'll be a trio! I'm actually really excited. Trios are way fun. She's Khmer. I'm not sure about the spelling of her name, so we'll wait til next week. She's a visa-waiter with a call to go to Idaho. Basically things can never be easy or stay the same on a mission. Not even your last transfer. It'll be good though, I'm excited. 

We had a good week this week, full of meetings and exchanges, which means basically zero proselyting going on in our own area. But not for long. I won't be a sister training leader next transfer, which will be nice. They thought it was a bit much with two koons I guess. 

Super fun bit: I got to go on an exchange with Sister H. [MTC buddy]. I've never been on an exchange with her before so we were way pumped. She ordered pizza for us and made me passion fruit juice. And we talked about how weird life was with one transfer left. 

I also went on an exchange with Sister Um. She's awesome. She's only been out of month, but she's a super good missionary already and a lot of fun. We had a really powerful lesson with one of our less actives. We've actually been seeing a lot of success with our less actives lately. You know the family we found who changed houses and we found them by a miracle a few weeks ago? Well we've been working hard to get them back on track. They are struggling financially and health-wise. The Om used to be super solid and active and would go around visiting the less actives. But now she's upset that when she fell upon hard times and stopped going to church, no one came to see her. And I wasn't even going to focus on going back to church in this lesson because we've done it so many times and it's not been successful. This time we taught about the love of God and about commandments. We talked about what the Lord has commanded us to do and Sister Um mentioned church. The Om shared again how hurt she was when no one came to see her. It's only ever been the missionaries who visit, and all of a sudden this idea clicked in my head. I testified to her that as missionaries, we have been called of God to be His servants. And in essence, going to her house inviting her to come back to church, was Heavenly Father inviting her to come back. And He loves her so much. And it's through obedience that she will continue to feel His love and receive His blessings. Then Sister Um shared a really touching personal story, and the Spirit was so strong. We committed her to come, and she said she'd pray about it. We asked her daughters if they would come. And they said if their mom went, they'd follow. 

It was a cool experience. In the event, they didn't end up being able to come to church because they couldn't get a ride. But the desire was there! We just have to make sure we keep that desire up. Then they'll be back next week. We have a new tactic with our less actives. Ever since the new year, church changed to 3:00 pm, which at first we thought was a bit unfortunate. But then we devised a new plan. In the morning we run around and invite all our less actives to come to church. Sometimes it takes just asking the question again. We had two of them at church yesterday. I don't know what it was about Sacrament meeting yesterday, but everyone kept trickling in throughout the hour. And a ton of investigators/potential investigators/less actives were there. It was like we'd turn around and see another surprise every few minutes. It was quite exciting. 

One was an actual miracle. Om Dali. She's been totally less active for as long as I've been here and as long as the companionship before me was here too. She's old, hardened, wants the church to help her, her son's in rehab, she doesn't have any money, she's sick, etc. But when we went to see her Sunday morning, she was like a different person. She cut her hair! And her son is better, and coming back to live with her today! The best part though was we invited her to church and she said yes. I didn't ask how she'd get there (because she was pretty determined and as far as I know she can't afford a moto dope). But I turned around halfway through Sacrament and there she was a few rows back. It's fun and really heartening to see how much the members fellowship the less actives when they come to church. It's way hard to actually get them out visiting each other in this ward (we're working on it) but once they're there they show a lot of love. 

Quick Kim Sia update. She's awesome. She's on track to be baptized Jan 30, which is sooner than I typically do baptisms, but I think she's ready. We're really stressing change and a testimony of the Book of Mormon with her, and she's really coming along well. 

Okay, I think that's all for today. We have a lot of end-of-transfer chores to do today. But I want to end with a quick spiritual thought. This one comes from a BYU devotional Sis H. gave me called "That Ye May Be Filled with Love" by Hartman Rector. It's really good. And it gave me the idea to teach Om Srey about love. One point he made is that God loves us perfectly. And He loves us not because we are good or because we do anything to deserve His love, but because HE is good. It's our challenge/duty/opportunity to develop this love. How? We do it by following His commandments. His commandments are calculated to make us good. And love follows goodness.
That's all for today. Have a good week!


Sister Fields

Sister H. and black burgers.

Me and Sister Um.

I stayed home with a sick sister this week (perks of being STL). Guess what her predicament was, just based on the ingredients in this picture.