Monday, November 17, 2014

In Which I Become a Farmer

Me and Sister Khut

Hello, yes. It's me again. Another exciting week in Cambodia! 

This week we got to do a couple different service activities. Our branch's area is by far the most city-ish. The sisters in the other branch have a rural area and ride out pretty far into rice fields to visit people. On Tuesday we got a chance to go to their area and help plant jicama. We went barefoot in the dirt and planted row after row after row. One person would stand with a pole creating a million little two-inch holes in the ground, and the rest of us would follow putting one little seed in each hole. It actually made me pretty sore after a few hours of bending over! But it was beautiful, and we took lots of pictures. A lot of missionaries from our zone came, so it was a lot of fun. 

Then on Thursday we joined them for another service project (apparently it's planting season?) This time we planted peanuts. The field was right on the banks of the Mekong River. We dropped them in little rows in ditches that cows pulling a plow would make. We went around and around in circles and the goal was to plant all the seeds before the cows came. It was kind of like a game. 

Also on Tuesday it was Sister E.'s birthday. We met for pizza at lunch, so that was fun. Anything that mixes up the routine a little bit makes it fun. For language study that night we decided to celebrate by pulling out a Monopoly game we found in the closet. It was fun teaching Sister Khut to play, and it turned out to be a good language study for her learning "mortgage" "property" "banker" etc. 

In addition to planting season, it is also wedding season. I can't remember if I've mentioned weddings or not yet. But whenever there's a wedding, they pop up a big tent in the middle of the street and pull out enormous speakers and do karaoke and dance. It's fun to drive around them in the day and see all the people dressed up with crazy make up and clothes (people go all out for weddings here). But when they go on all night it's not as fun. We had one right outside our driveway this week. Even when all the doors were shut we could hear the music perfectly clear. So we opened the door and stood up on our balcony and people watched. 

On Thursday we did another exchange, just with the sisters in the other branch. Sister P. went with Sister Khut, so I got to lead Sister E. in my area! We were both a little nervous because she's only two months ahead of me in the field. But we did well! And I didn't get us lost. Sometimes it's hard to not have anyone in my level/vantage point to compare myself with. It's kind of nice just to be able to get a sense of where I should be. I think I look to other missionaries who have been out much longer and measure myself against them, which is not helpful at all. So I've been working on trying not to compare myself. When I just look at how much I've progressed in this past month, I can see that I'm getting so much better! And exchanges are fun because you get to see how other missionaries interact with people, the questions they ask, the way they teach certain topics, etc. Plus Sister E. and I get along really well, so we had a lot of fun. And got pizza for the second time in a week... It was delicious. 

Also this week we decided to get a little creative. We've started a "reading group" in Phum Tenang (our neighborhood with a lot of less actives and recent converts). The vast majority of these members cannot read, so we decided to get them all together to read The Book of Mormon and those who can read can read and the rest can listen and add their thoughts. A lot of these women have never had formal schooling, and the concept of reading and discussing and sharing thoughts is all very foreign to them. We sat down and read 1 Nephi 3 together and tried to ask questions to get everyone to participate. It was a bit like pulling teeth, but they seemed eager to listen at the very least. But it's okay. It was only the first time. We hold it at Bong Ya Daen's house. Have I talked about her yet? She's awesome! So many people in this neighborhood look so worn down by life and poverty and substance issues and family issues. But she just has this light. You can see it in her eyes. And she's just so alive and outgoing and excited about the gospel. She's a boss. She was more than happy to lead the group. We mentioned that we want to have it every Saturday afternoon. But she said no, that's not enough. These women can't read, but they need to hear the scriptures. So she suggested Tuesday. And the other two women in attendance were eager as well. So now we just have to get the rest of the neighborhood on board! 

Another cool thing we did this week was teach one recent convert about family history. Have you heard of the Church's "My Family" book? It's an easy way to start helping people record information and stories about their close family members. Because of the Khmer Rouge, so many people don't have records or birth certificates or anything. And the older generation are the only people who know about their family members that died during that time and before. So it's actually kind of urgent that we start recording the little information we do have. This woman we met with couldn't read or write, so recording was a little slow-going. But it was cool to see her get excited about talking about her family. Mom, I thought you would think this was cool!

Also, we have a new investigator!! We met with her last night and are meeting her again this evening. She is a referral from a member. She actually started learning ten years ago but then stopped. She has a five young kids. We're hoping that we can get her husband learning and get the whole family involved! It struck me last night that it's cool to think that even all these years later she remembered meeting with the missionaries and wanted to learn more. It made me realize that when we have to let non-progressing investigators go or when contacts don't seem interested that these are all important seeds we are planting. 

Okay, spiritual thought today is about gaining a testimony. Applicable to investigators and to members as well I think. Alma the Younger is a great example of the work it takes to gain a testimony. In Alma 5, Alma is testifying of what he knows to be true. In verse 45 he asks, "how do I know these things?" In verse 46 he answers that it is through fasting and prayer that he has gained his testimony. Dad pointed this out in his letter to me last week that even though Alma had seen an angel and had an incredible conversion experience, it was through fasting and prayer that he came to know that it was true. Later on, in chapter 40, when Alma is talking to his son about the Resurrection, he tells his son that God has many mysteries, and Alma doesn't pretend to know everything. But he shares with his son what he does know about the Resurrection. And he says that he came to know these things through inquiring diligently of God.  

My thought in regards to this is that answers don't come easily. They're not supposed to. It takes a lot of faith. We have to work to receive a confirmation that a certain concept of the gospel is true. After a first lesson, we often end with reading Moroni 10:3-5 and testifying that they can come to know that the Book of Mormon is true if they read and pray. But it's also important to stress that the answer probably won't come right away. And it probably won't come in the way we are expecting. We have to work for the answer and then have faith that it will come. We have to be open to receiving answers and listening for the Spirit in more subtle ways than we might be expecting. But the answers do come. 

Well, that's all for me this week. The good news is next week it should get down to 88 degrees. So I might need to pull out my sweater!


Sister Fields

planting the jicama

the four of us

me and the view

me and my buddy, the bike

peanut field on the river bank

me and the cow

Sister E. and I trying a jumping picture

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