Sunday, December 28, 2014
Thursday, December 25, 2014
|Kampong Cham Zone Conference|
|Baptism of Bong Naid and daughters|
|Our outdoor baptismal font.|
|Our ward mission leader drives a tuk tuk and picks up members to come to church.|
|Sister E. and me on exchanges.|
|Van ride to Phnom Penh for Christmas mission meetings.|
|Sister Khut and me in the van.|
|Gifts for all the local missionaries.|
|Tripanionship from the MTC!|
|Our MTC District.|
|Shot of all the missionaries from above the stake center.|
|Tuk Tuk ride to the bus station to return home on Christmas Day.|
|Hanging out on the side of the road after our bus broke down on Christmas Day (wearing my Christmas outfit).|
|Opening Christmas gifts back home again.|
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
|So Kay, Nii, Si Nate, and then sitting below is Bong Vaid with her cute little girl|
This week was an eventful one, and next week is Christmas! And then I'll only have about two more weeks left of training! I don't know where this month went...
But it's finally starting to feel a bit like Christmas around these parts. Last week Sis E. and Khut came across a store that had some Christmas decorations. So with some tinsel and lights they made quite the impressive tree to hang in our bedroom. (See below)
It's also been fun to participate in the "He is the Gift" initiative. You've probably heard about it already. I think it's supposed to have a big social media presence. But we're supposed to contact ten people a day just using these little pass-a-long cards. It's been interesting. We have to take a little bit of a different approach in a non-Christian country. Or as an Elder put it at district meeting, when you go up to someone in line to see Santa at the mall say "He is the Gift" they get it. But walking up to a person in their rice field and trying the same thing isn't quite as effective. But we're trying.
To finish up the rest of the Christmas news. We just had our branch Christmas party today. We were told it started atand went until it ended. So we decided we could show up at 10:00 am. We came in time to catch the end of a movie about Christ. It took only about a minute to realize this was not a movie put out by the Church, which wasn't a bad thing. But it did look like it was made in the 70s. And the special effects left something to be desired. They played it on a big projector screen in our chapel/cultural hall with GIANT speakers. So every little noise was magnified, and the dubbed Khmer voices were strange. But hopefully the members had a good experience watching it. For some reason we closed the movie by singing "Praise to the Man."
Then came the main event: the food. We had been at Church all day the day before for zone conference, and the Relief Society presidency had been slaving away in the kitchen getting it all ready. We helped a bit too. It was pretty good: thick noodles with a really tasty sauce and veggies and meat with it. That's not very descriptive, but it was good.
We had a great turn out! Turns out quite a few members who aren't able to make it to Churchfound their way just fine for the Christmas party. It was good to see lots of people there. And quite a few of our investigators came as well! They just jumped right in helping us clean the enormous amounts of dishes afterwards.
And then came the dancing. I don't know how traditional this is, but the dancing we participated in involved walking in a line in circles (around a little Christmas tree actually) waving our hands back and forth. You could get carpal tunnel after a couple of dances, I think. But it was fun. And it was good to see a lot of the youth there and having fun together.
Speaking of investigators (kind of) BONG NAID IS GETTING BAPTIZED!! As are her two oldest daughters. And she's just awesome! We've taught her all the lessons and her daughters have just two more to go. The other day we talked a little bit about the baptism and the interview that they will have with our district leader. After the lesson, the mom was quizzing her daughters saying stuff like, okay, what if they ask, why do you believe in Jesus Christ? It was pretty cute. I think they're all really excited. And they've been to church four times already. It just seems like they're already so integrated into the branch. Bong Naid was at the Church yesterday (for an interview) and while she was waiting she just jumped in and helped make food. And then they came for the whole party today and were helping us clean dishes. And her husband came to the party too, which is the first time he's been to the church! So that's a good sign. Also, he told us he would start learning halfway through the month. And guess what time it is...
Bong Vaid and Bong Vanna are doing well. Actually, it's been a little while since we've had a chance to meet with Bong Vanna. Unfortunately he hasn't been able to make it to Church yet because of work. But Bong Vaid is doing well. She and her little girl came to the party today as well. She's so much fun to teach because she asks a lot of questions. And she's super honest and tells us exactly what she's thinking/feeling/where she's at. I'm starting to get sad because their baptismal date is set for the 18th. AKA next transfer.... So who knows who will stay and who will go. But I'm excited for them nonetheless.
We've actually gained three new investigators this week as well. One we met just contacting downtown. One is a friend of Bong Naid and two young women we're teaching (all three of which were at the Christmas party!). And the last one is a neighbor of Bong Vaid's. So now we're trying to balance our time to visit with all our investigators. Which is a good problem to have I would say.
So it's been a good week. And it ended well with zone conference. The Moons came into town. And we had been joking the night before that we should invite them over for dinner. But then afternoon we got a call from Sis Moon asking if she could come proselyte with us while President Moon was in meetings. But she was at the far away Church, and we were already at our lesson, which was sad, because that would have been super fun. But Sis P. asked them if they wanted to come over for dinner! And they said yes. So we tried to get home quickly, but our last lesson was with a very chatty person. So we left with only about 15 minutes to get home. And theennnn. my bike chain (which had been having problems for the past few days and I should have taken it in) broke and I couldn't pedal and we had a long way home still. So I got on the back of Sis P's bike and pulled mine along by the handlebars. It was quite the feat! But we made it home safely.
Then it was a rush to cook/clean in time! I haven't seen the Best Two Years in forever, but apparently there's a part where they find out the mission president is coming over and they are throwing stuff in closets trying to make their apartment look clean. That was us. But it ended up working out fine and it was really fun to have them over. And they brought packages! So now I have my Christmas package!
Zone conference the next day was all about time management/setting goals, etc. It was a good one. President Moon is a really great teacher. He makes topics that don't seem like they would be naturally inspirational or spiritual inspiring. But i think my favorite part of zone conference was something Sister Moon shared at the end. Our focus this month is on charity. We looked at Moroniand analyzed it. And then she shared this great quote from Marvin J. Ashton
"Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don’t judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet. Charity is accepting someone’s differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down; or resisting the impulse to become offended when someone doesn’t handle something the way we might have hoped. Charity is refusing to take advantage of another’s weakness and being willing to forgive someone who has hurt us. Charity is expecting the best of each other."
I just love that. And think that Charity is particularly important to think about during Christmas because Christ is the ultimate example of charity.
Well, that's all for this week. Merry Christmas Everyone!
|Our Christmas tree!|
|My Christmas presents!!!!|
|At the Christmas party. The three girls about our age are three of our investigators (neighbors of Bong Naid and the kids are just some kids in the branch).|
|This is Bong Naid,her husband and two of their five kids.|
|Rocking around the Christmas tree Khmer style!|
|Party clean up, doing the dishes.|
|Our service look.|
|Me and Sister P.|
|Eating lunch together with members after service project.|
Monday, December 8, 2014
|leading the pack|
It was a good week! Our investigators are all progressing. It's been a little breezy these past few days, so I sweat through my clothes slightly less than usual, and I've even spotted a few Christmas trees in the windows of some of the stores downtown!
This week we've had a lot of fun teaching kids. Bong Naid (our super strong investigator who's now been to church three times in a row!) has two kids of baptism age. Since we first started teaching her, we asked if she and her kids all wanted to get baptized the following week; and they are all super excited about it. So we're going to try to get all the lessons in for everyone (working around everyone's schedules) to get the mom and her two daughters baptized on the 21st! Just before Christmas. It will be fun. We're still working on the husband. He tells us that he's going to start coming to church halfway through the month, and we're holding him to that!
Last night we met with our fairly recent convert relief society president (who is awesome!) and her three kids. We taught them the Tree of Life using little cut-outs we found in the Liahona. It was super fun! Teaching kids is a lot of fun. And it's really cool to see mothers who really want their kids to learn to. Generally in homes when we come to visit recent converts and less actives, we always invite the kids to come join us and pray with us; but they always avoid us. But these mothers had their children sit up and pay attention and answer questions. And I think they had fun too.
Speaking of kids. There is a neighborhood that a lot of members live in that we visit often and a house at one end always has a million children at it. We always try and stop by and visit with the mom (who is a less than eager to meet with us, she is less-active). The kids will jump all over us and give us high fives. I made the mistake of doing the 1-2-3 jump thing and then lifting them in the air. Now every time I stop by every kid wants to do it! But they're cute, and I need to pull out my camera with them! But as we were leaving Bong Naid's house, her younger kids (and some of the neighbor kids too) attacked us. And we got some cute pictures of that! Every time we pass through this neighborhood we have to bike fast because the kids try to jump on the back of our bikes. They're monkeys!
Speaking of packs of animals, we ran into a herd of cows on the road the other day. Even though we're technically in the city, it's all still very much farm life around here. Sometimes you have to bike around the cows, goats, chickens, etc. (See picture below).
As for our other investigators, we had a couple great lessons with Bong Vaid and Bong Vanna this week. I can't remember if I've mentioned them. They are a young couple with a little girl. The wife (Vaid) was able to come to church yesterday for the first time with her daughter. I think she had a good experience. Her husband, unfortunately, works on Sundays, but we recently taught about keeping the Sabbath day holy. I think he's committed to trying to work out a way to get a few hours off. They have had a couple really cool experiences they've shared with us. We asked if they had read The Book of Mormon and Bong Vaid told us she had. She was reading in the intro to The Book of Mormon, the testimony of Joseph Smith, and she said all of a sudden she had goosebumps all up and down her arm, but she wasn't scared. She explained over and over that usually that happens to her when she's watching a scary TV show or something, but she wasn't scared at all! We taught her that this is one way she can feel the Spirit. And I think she really understood. Then the next lesson, Bong Vanna (the husband) told us that he had had a dream and in his dream he saw was walking in a shady part of town and it was dark. But then he turned the corner and saw Jesus Christ. And Christ helped him find his way out. How cool is that? I love teaching this family, and I'm so excited for them. They are getting baptized, which I may or may not be here for...
As for our Taiwanese friend, it's hard to tell where she's at. She's only been to church once and she's super busy and doesn't have a whole lot of time to meet with us. But she's so nice. And we just got a copy of The Book of Mormon in Chinese sent up from the mission home! So we're excited about that.we had a long list of less active/recent converts to see in Phum Tenang. One after one were either not home or pretending not to be home or (in the unfortunate case of one) too drunk to function. We were feeling discouraged. So we decided to go see our investigator and get ice cream! Ice cream and a lesson in English all in one. Pretty good afternoon. So we'll see how things go with her.
We tried out another unusual lesson technique this week involving nail polish. At one house in particular we have a bunch of less active young women. In district meeting we were going around the room sharing/asking advice and we asked for suggestions to get these girls wanting to learn. One of the elders suggested we bring nail polish. We thought he was joking, but he wasn't. And it totally worked! We rode up to their house and three were outside. So we sat down next to them, pulled out the nail polish and the scriptures. We got manicures and a lesson all in one. Win, win. (Or as Michael Scott (The Office) would say: win, win, win.)
As I was biking around this week, I also had the interesting experience of seeing an animal head on a grill. I gave it a double take, and as I was looking back Sis P confirmed my suspicions. It was a dog. Which led me to share the story of my first day in Thailand (in which I watched a puppy die). But that led me to think about Thailand, and about my thesis, and about my other life before this. And it had been so long since I had thought about any of those things. And it struck me just how much of an immersive experience this is--much more than just immersive in the language. We are very much restricted in our outside contact with the world. All we really have is the other elders and sisters and the people we associate with here. Our media is limited to old copies of the Liahona and the District (which is constantly playing on repeat in our apartment). At first (particularly in the MTC) I hated being cut off, and I thought I was going to hate it all along. But I've gotten use to it, and I don't mind it now. It's nice to be able to focus so well. I still have stresses and problems, but they only exist in the realm of this mission experience. Everything else doesn't matter. It's nice to be able to focus on serving and becoming better at serving.
My spiritual thought for the week is about receiving answers to prayers. Sometimes answers come later than we would hope for, but it's important to still realize that these are still answers. When I was getting ready to leave the MTC, I started to really stress that I didn't want to do this. I knew I was supposed to go on a mission to Cambodia, but I was quite certain I was less than excited about it. I was never the kid in Primary already counting the years to when she could serve a mission. I was worried how I would feel knocking on people's doors, telling them that they should change their beliefs and their lifestyles. But this week I realized that somewhere along the line there was a change in me.
This week I've gotten particularly frustrated with my lack of language abilities and lack of teaching abilities in general. Explaining totally new, difficult to grasp concepts like the Atonement and family history work is difficult in English. And often I'll stutter through a section and Sister P will have to pick up the pieces. And I get discouraged. I feel like I'm working hard. I'm studying a lot (language and gospel). I'm trying to be as familiar as I can with Preach My Gospel. And I pray and seek inspiration for these people all the time. But it feels like I still have so far to go. But then it hit me. I REALLY want to do this well. I want to be a good missionary. And part of this desire has come from working with my new investigators and seeing the change and the happiness that is already coming into their lives. I believe in the power of the gospel and it's ability to change people in a whole new way. And this is 100 percent an answer to my prayers. So sometimes I think we want to move faster than we can and forget to look back and see how much we've grown and to see the answers we've already received. Heavenly Father's miracles, I'm learning, are usually very subtle. But that doesn't make them any less powerful.
Okay, well that's all for this week! Hope everyone has a good week! Love and miss you all,
|herd of cows|
|professional photo-shopped version of my model shoot|
|me as a Khmer princess|
|when I visited Angkor Wat|
|rebuilt bamboo bridge|
|me and Sister P.|
|attack of the kids|
Monday, December 1, 2014
|On exchanges with Sister Khut. The sunset was beautiful and my camera does not do it justice.|
Monday, November 24, 2014
|Sister E. and I in traditional Khmer clothes|
Happy Thanksgiving week! I can't really wrap my head around that. It's weird to think we're already most of the way through November. It's as hot as ever here. That's not true, it's cooled a bit. Probably low 90s most days. We have plans to eat together as a zone. The lucky ducks in the city get to go to the mission home and eat with the Moons for a real Thanksgiving dinner, turkey included! But we learned we each get subsidized $3.50. The elders just came by and asked for an additional $5.00 from each of us. Apparently, we're going all out. Not sure what that means in relation to the lack of traditional Thanksgiving ingredients we have access to, but stay tuned.
Okay. So last Monday I somehow got roped into thinking it would be a fun idea to do the make-up/dress-up/take pictures of me thing. Let's just say it took 3.5 hours. 3.5 hours is always precious, but as a missionary on a p-day it is especially precious. It was bizarre experience. Sister E. was determined to do it. And she convinced me, and we thought that the other two would do it but they didn't. But after seeing the final result Sister P. wants to do it too! So maybe next week...
It was a singularly unique experience, and I think the only opportunity in life I will have to feel like a model, which is good I think. Once was enough. We had a team of about eight people working on us. Makeup took 75 minutes alone. Powders and powders and powders. And then they teased my hair for about 45 minutes. I wasn't facing a mirror when they did this, but I'd catch glimpses of myself when they weren't working on me. And I freaked myself out every time! It was not me.
And then the costume... It was a bit of a challenge because most of their dresses didn't have sleeves. But we eventually found two that worked. Mine was yellow. And with my hair in a ponytail to the side the sisters decided I looked like Belle. Then we did the photo shoot. We only did a couple pictures professionally, and then they let us take some on our cameras too. We'll go pick up the real pictures today. I'm excited. They will do a background of Angkor Wat. It's gonna be so funny. At the end of the session I was more than excited to have my body back. It was just a lot of touching by a lot of different people who I couldn't communicate well with. We rode home on our bikes with full makeup and hair and got some pretty strange looks. See pictures for full effect.
The farming life continues this week. We planted more jicama and corn this time. Andmorning, we harvested rice! We had sickles and everything. We "thrusted in our sickles with all our might," so to speak. It was dry rice, so we just walked out into the fields, grabbed a bundle and started hacking at the stems. It was pretty fun, and we got some fun pictures. Now I've harvested wet rice (in Laos) and dry rice (in Cambodia)! I'm practically Asian.
Okay, but the real exciting news this week is: WE HAVE INVESTIGATORS! Like real, actual, progressing, church-attending investigators. It's pretty exciting. So I told you last week about Bong Naid (the woman who learned ten years ago and decided to learn again). She's really cool. Her daughter is also learning with us and we just found out she has another kid over 8, so we'll try to get her to learn too. She brought all 5 of her kids to church last week. She asks us every time we visit if we're coming back the next day. She's relatively reserved, but she's very eager to learn. And she just seems so solid already. We sat down with her and her daughter and read the first chapter of 1st Nephi together. And I think she'll keep going.
We're also teaching her neighbors across the street. They are two girls about our age who are living in a rental apartment and going to school. They are both shy, but very nice. We've taught them two lessons so far, and they stayed for all three hours! Both of these families are referrals from our really cool 2nd counselor. He's so solid. He used to drink and smoke; but he totally turned his life around, or so I'm told by other missionaries. He's baptized his whole family and a lot of his extended family and now he's working on his neighbors. He drives a tuk tuk for a living, and so every he loads up his whole family and brings everyone to church. We were so happy to see him pull in with our new investigators stuffed in there along with everyone else.
We met with another family last night. They live across the street from the family we had the FHE with. We met her that night, and asked if we could come back. They are a young couple with a little toddler girl. We didn't have much time last night, so we just taught them about Heavenly Father, and taught them how to pray. We gave them a little sheet to help them remember how to pray; and as we were leaving, the mom was helping the little girl say all the words. It was really cute. I'm really excited to teach them! The more time I spend here the more I realize that getting families to learn and come to church all together is really the key.
Lastlyyyyy. I saved the best for last. We have and English-speaking investigator!!we are teaching the first lesson in ENGLISH!! Okay, so this woman is Taiwanese and moved here six months ago. All the missionaries know her because she owns a little ice cream shop that we go to a lot. She doesn't really know Khmer, but speaks Mandarin and very good English. The elders invited her to come to church this week and she stayed all three hours! Sister P translated for her. I'm not sure how genuinely interested she is or if she's just curious or what. It would be hard for her to attend church not knowing Khmer, but I think she is in the process of learning. Either way, should be really interesting!
So it was a good week! It was a good way to end the transfer. Yep. I am officially in my second transfer as of today. In some ways it feels like I've been here much longer than six weeks! But it's nice to know I have another full six weeks left of training. And then things get real.
And just real quick I wanted to share a scripture that I came across again this week. It's one of my favorites in Moroni 8. About teaching the truth (and correcting errors that were going on in the church at that time) Mormon says, "Behold, I speak with boldness, having authority from God; and I fear not what man can do; for perfect love casteth out all fear." I'm not doing the crazy calling anyone to repentance over here, but I am trying to get out of my comfort zone every day. Sharing my testimony, contacting, teaching in Khmer, alone. It's all still kind of a scary thing to me. But what helps me is to think about Heavenly Father. And His love for these people. I don't really love everyone I meet yet (not even close, actually) but I am trying harder and harder to feel His love for other people. I think I understand a little bit how He feels about me. And when I realize He loves everyone else on this planet just as much as me, it blows my mind a little bit. When I do this, I stop thinking about myself. I stop thinking about what they're thinking about me, and how terribly I am speaking. I think of how I can, hopefully, maybe, help them a little bit. I just got my copy of the Liahona with conference addresses. And there's a good talk called "Which way do you face" I think, by a Seventy, that inspired some of these thoughts as well. It's a good one to read about having courage.
That's all for this week! Hopefully everyone has a good Thanksgiving! Eat a lot of pie and rolls for me.
|After because the before and after are just so scarily stark.|
|They posed every last part of me down to the inch. I'm excited to see the final product.|
|The four of us.|
|If I only got up at I'd look like this everyday.|
|Me and Sister Khut harvesting dry rice.|
|All four of us.|
|"The field is white all ready to harvest."|
|Me and Sister P.|
|Family Home Evening.|