Monday, December 1, 2014

In Which I have Thanksgiving in a Bar

Bamboo bridge jumping with Sister P.

Hello everyone!

Happy Thanksgiving Week! I missed America a bit this week, but that's okay. We had our own little bit of a Thanksgiving celebration this week. 

After long debates of who would make what food, how we would find it, where we would eat, etc. We decided to just  have Thanksgiving at a restaurant. We ended up choosing one none of us had ever been to before, but we had heard was good. It's technically a restaurant/bar, so we felt a little funny going in as missionaries; but we got our own little room and a big long table and it was pretty good. I had pork and potatoes, which was the most Thanksgiving-like meal on the menu; and it was pretty good! We spent the time waiting for our food dreaming about homemade rolls and pumpkin pie and all the food we weren't going to be eating. So  hopefully you guys enjoyed all of those on our behalf.

Last P-day after emailing, we went to go check out a bamboo bridge. It's one of the tourist spots in Kampong Cham. There's a little island on the Mekong (that's actually in our area, and someday we want to go out and meet the members there). They build a new bridge out of bamboo every year that sits just above the water. Every rainy season it floods and washes away, and then it is rebuilt again. It's not all the way built yet, but we still went out and took pictures on it. It feels very creaky and unstable, but they drive cars across it! Because it's made of bamboo, it's strong and flexible.

Other highlights... I got to teach in English this week! Just after our Thanksgiving meal we went next door to the drink shop our new Taiwanese friend runs. Turns out all the other missionaries wanted to get ice cream there, so they followed us there. She has soft-serve ice cream for about 12 cents a cone. So all the missionaries come by quite often. She ended up not having much time, so we just taught her a quick lesson on Heavenly Father and prayer. I can't explain how exciting it was to have a thought come to my mind to share with her and not have to figure out how to translate it before saying it, and to be able to understand her questions and respond to them. It just all seemed to come so naturally. So I'm excited to be able to teach her more. We meet her again tomorrow morning. She's very honest with us. She still isn't sure if she believes in God, but she's very willing to give it a shot. 

As for our other investigators, things are going well. Bong Naid, the investigator with five children who learned with missionaries originally ten years ago, is awesome. She came to church again with all her kids yesterday. And when we pass her house to go visit other people, she'll be sitting on the step to her house reading her Book of Mormon. She just already seems to understand so much of what we share with her. We're dropping by her house tonight to read with her. All we have to do next is get her husband to join in!

Even while our investigators are progressing, working with the less actives and recent converts this week has been discouraging. A little less than a year ago we had a whole wave of converts baptized in Phum Tenang (the very poor neighborhood I've mentioned before). While several continue to come to church and one in particular has a lot of faith, many, unfortunately, come for money. It's really too bad, but some people come, meet with branch presidency, and when they get some money, they don't come back. At least until they need money again. It's something the leadership in our branch is struggling to figure out what to do about. And so we visit people and we try to teach why we go to church and the blessings that come from it. But often it feels like we are building faith from scratch. 

On a happier note, however, Friday I had the opportunity to go on exchanges again (being the companion of a sister training leader has it's benefits). This time I went with Sister Khut in her area. It's beautiful! It's much more rural than our area. It's where we've been doing all these service projects that you've seen pictures from. They have to ride bikes farther than we do; but with rice fields on both sides, it's worth the ride. Easy for me to say (I don't have to do it every day). But I had a lot of fun with Sister Khut. I think she was a little apprehensive about it because she hasn't been out that long either, and she hasn't trained other missionaries yet. But I think we worked out a good balance in lessons. It's so valuable for me to be able to see how other missionaries operate. Not just in lessons, but in interacting with members, contacting. etc. It struck me as I was out with her on Friday that the Lord needs all kinds of people to be missionaries because there are all kinds of people that are wanting to hear the gospel and all kinds of different learning styles. 

Saturday afternoon while proselyting we got a call asking us to speak in church... the next day.... I was less than thrilled. So I wrote my talk (on the topic of service) Saturday night during language study so that I would be ready to go for 8:00 am church the next morning. And I didn't too bad at all. Much better than it went last time! I realized that my last talk was 6 weeks ago, or exactly one transfer. It was exciting to see that improvement is actually happening. It was only about 3 or 4 minutes long, but I read a scripture! In learning this language, I'm learning to appreciate the little victories. It's funny how in some days/lessons I can speak quite fluently (for me, at least), and I can understand well and I'm just on the ball and I think that in just a few more months I'll have this down. And then the very next lesson or even moment it all comes crashing down. And it hits me that I really don't know what I'm doing and just how far I have to go. But the key, I've found, is just to keep going. To keep speaking and keep trying even when it gets rough. And not to undervalue the ground I've already gained in this language. 

Okay, spiritual thought of the week comes to you from Ether 12:4. I don't remember reading this scripture before, but I love it now. In the verse just before it explains that Ether was a prophet called to cry repentance to a wicked people. He cried repentance all day, every day, morning to night. In verse 4 he shares:  Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.  

Every month President Moon gives us a topic to focus on. This month's topic was hope. I love the example of Ether because even when it probably felt like he wasn't doing any good, he always got up the next day, went out, and went to work because he believed that the gospel could bring a better world. He knew that the gospel changes lives--individually and the whole world! It's just a cool verse. And a cool guy.

Okay, well that's all for this week! Happy December! 


Sister Fields

Thanksgiving feast!
Pork and potatoes
Harvesting more rice for service project

 Funny story. So Sister Khut has decided (long ago) that I look like a rabbit. Something about my big glasses and my teeth... We went to this woman's house (the grandma) and she so funny. She thought that I was beautiful and wanted to take a picture of me. Everybody loves white skin here. They will always compliment me, and I never know what to say.... But she kept telling me that I look like an Elder who served here. She went and got a picture and Sister Khut started laughing because that Elder used to have the nickname of Elder Bonsai (the Khmer word for rabbit)! She died laughing.
On exchanges with Sister Khut. The sunset was beautiful and my camera does not do it justice.

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