Monday, November 10, 2014

In Which I Go to the City

Me with Sis L. and Sis F. my companions for a day
Hello, Hello!

It was a good week! I'll start from the top:

Monday night we got to go to the letter opening of two young adults in our branch! The branch hasn't had anyone leave for a long time, so it was pretty exciting. There was a guy and a girl. The guy opened his call and is joining our Cambodia, Phnom Penh mission next month! He reports at the beginning of December! The young woman opened her call next. And she is headed to Hawaii to work in the Visitors Center at the temple! It was really pretty exciting. Most everyone from Cambodia gets called to serve here. The funny thing was that the first time she read it, she read it as the Taiwan visitor center! I think she was just shocked, and must have gotten the A's, I's and W's mixed up? She didn't realize it was the wrong place until like five minutes later. I think she's nervous about learning English, but she's actually not bad at it already. She's gone out with us once before. She'll be a great missionary!

On Tuesday we proselyted in the morning and then headed to the city right after lunch! Because my companion is a sister training leader, we both got to go down for a big leadership meeting at the mission home in Phnom Penh. We took a van down, and it only took us about two hours. The road has a lot of potholes, so it was a very bumpy ride, but we made it in one piece. 

We had some time after we got to the city to hang out, so we went to a big market and went shopping. I officially have Cambodian pants now! And then we went to dinner at a burger place. And I realized how different it feels to be a tourist. I'm really quite adept at being a tourist. I've never come to a different place like this to live. Even when I was in Thailand doing research, we were still very much tourists--visiting wats, going out to eat, shopping. So even though it's not my purpose here, it was still fun to pretend to be a tourist for the afternoon. 

Our trip to the city coincided with one of the biggest holidays, the Water Festival. We didn't have the opportunity to go down to the waterfront and be a part of any of it, but we still saw lots of signs of the festival. The city was packed, and it had a lot of people from around the world. We met people from Japan, Germany, and Australia just in passing. I don't know very much about the holiday, but the biggest feature is the boat races. These enormous boats with like ten people on each side paddling in perfect synchronization as a leader at the end of the boat yells the directions. When we were coming into the city, we saw one race going on. And when I went out proselyting the next day the races were playing on everyone's TVs. 

It was really fun to be able to see my old friends again! Sister K. came down from Battambong with her trainer and shared a room with us in the mission home. It was a two-night sleepover! And the next morning I saw Sister H. and Sister Y. (we were only missing my comp, Sister S.!). We only got to see those two briefly in the morning and then in the evening when we all came back, but it was so good to be together. Even though it has only been a month, it had felt like so long! It was nice to be able to talk to people who were in the same boat as me. And to be assured that we were all struggling together.

On Wednesday I went out with two sisters who were serving in the city. We had a lot of fun together! We studied at their apartment, and then went out and met with a couple recent converts and less actives and did some contacting. I realized that I can understand people in the city much more clearly. That's not to say I could understand everything (not even close actually) but they just don't have the lazy drawl to their speech that the Kampongcham accent has. My language all around went very well that day. And everyone we met with was super nice and welcoming. For lunch we got pizza and cheesecake! It was a dream come true. And they took me to see the new stake center in their area. There are two stakes in Phnom Penh. This is the North Stake building below. It's beautiful! It's the first real church building I've been in in Cambodia. All in all, I think I would like serving in the city (which is good, because at some point I probably will.) I was a bit nervous about the biking situation, but it wasn't too bad. I'm glad I got to get used to biking in a province, though. 

The trip to the city was just rejuvenating. It was nice to see people, take a hot shower, eat Western food. But it also felt good to get back to Kampongcham and back to our routine again. It's starting to feel more like home here. Our apartment, my bed, my bike, and our area. It's all becoming more familiar. I officially moved here a month ago today. We start week five of our transfer this week. That means transfer calls come this Sunday! That doesn't mean much for me, because I'm still training, so me and my trainer will stay here for sure. But it's crazy to think my first transfer is almost done! Time is a strange thing.

Thursday evening the Sisters from Kampongtom came down for our zone training meeting on Friday morning, which meant more sleepovers. We really had no time to proselyte this week! But it was a good meeting. Our zone leaders and sister training leader (aka my valiant trainer) taught us well. 

Friday afternoon, Saturday, and Sunday life went back to normal. We tried to go around and meet with a lot of our less actives in the past few days and invite them to come to church. We had a bit higher attendance at sacrament meeting on Sunday

Sometimes I get hit by a sense of futility when meeting with less actives here. We go to visit and sometimes they pretend they're not home until they realize that we know they're not and they can't escape us. One woman the other day was napping in a hammock, peeked her eyes open, made eye contact with us, then pretended like she was still sleeping. It didn't work. 

For example, on Saturday we met with a woman who has a drinking problem. We had a really good lesson with her last week about faith and committed her to try to stop drinking. We came back this week and shared (what I thought) was a powerful lesson on the enabling power of the Atonement and we asked her to close with prayer and she said she forgot how. We had to re-teach her how to pray. Sometimes it just feels like everything is going in one ear and out the other. I think before I served my mission I would have thought, well okay, they don't really care about this, so what's the point in my teaching them? But these people are members. They've already been baptized, and they've already made covenants. There are 600 people in Kampongcham who have stopped going to church. 

I was talking with Sister P. about this, and she told me that it helps her to take a step back. To think how far the church has come in the past ten years alone. The church is still just so new here. Twenty years ago, most of these people probably didn't even know about God. Ultimately, all we can do is just try to share this message of hope. Just offer it as a way they might receive more comfort and hope in their lives. 

This month I've been studying a lot about grace. I've come to understand grace as the enabling power of the Atonement. I never really understood that before, but knowing that has given me greater insight into a lot more scriptures. I wanted to share Ether 12:27And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
I love the phrase "my grace is sufficient." I talked a little bit about this a few weeks ago, but I think that as we draw closer to Christ we become more self-aware. We realize our weaknesses more, and we become more humble about them. Here, it's easy to get discouraged, because we realize how much we have to work on and how far we have to go. But immediately after Christ says this, He tells us that through His grace, through the enabling power of the Atonement, we can become strong. Because He experienced our struggles and trials and fears and insecurities, He knows exactly the way to help us.

Second thought: But this doesn't come immediately. Making weak things become strong is a lengthy process. D&C 67:13 says:   Ye are not able to abide the presence of God now, neither the ministering of angels; wherefore, continue in patience until ye are perfected.   We are not expected to be perfect now. It takes work and it takes a lot of patience. I read a talk this morning by President Uchtdorf about patience. He defines it as a "process of perfection". Sometimes we think patience just means waiting, but it requires more action than that, at least in a spiritual sense. Patience means we must actively be working to reach goals. We must have hope that we can improve and faith that through our own abilities with Christ's help we will be able to achieve what we hope to do. Mormon talks frequently about his weakness when it comes to writing. Perhaps he was just being humble, but it seems like it was something that he really felt inadequate about. Both Moses and Enoch felt they could not be leaders because they were slow of speech. I think it's interesting that not only does the Lord take these weaknesses and makes them strengths, He makes them their single greatest strengths for which they are tools in His hands. Mormon compiled and wrote the Book of Mormon. His greatest weakness became his greatest strength. 

Ultimately, this work just takes patience. Patience in ourselves and patience for others. Patience to endure and to never give up. Because it's worth it. Or so I'm told. 

Okay. Enough deep thoughts for this week. Hopefully that made some semblance of sense. Here's to another good week! Be nice to the missionaries! Don't avoid them like I did up until I became one...


Sister Fields

I was tempted to buy this for a second. I love that it's not, "I love Cambodia, but just "I survived in Cambodia." Sounds more like my experience of the last month. 

Three elders from my zone. We all squeezed into a tuk tuk with all of our luggage and shopping bags after our trip to the market in Phnom Penh.

Brand new stake center in Phnom Penh.

Terrible selfie,but we were so excited to be reunited! 

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