Monday, February 23, 2015

In Which I Celebrate Chinese New Year, Khmer Style

Selfie in internet cafe because we still haven't taken a picture together!


It's Mondaaayyy again. It was kind of a hard week meeting-people wise, with Chinese New Year going on, but it's been really fun being comps with Sister Khim. So it's been good!

Monday we went lunch to celebrate Sis H's birthday with Sister S. and H and their comps at a place called Sunrise Taco. It was the first Mexican food I've had in over four months! Super good! And then Tuesday after district meeting we went to Burger King. The nicest Burger King I've ever seen in my life. I almost wanted to take a picture. I would define it as "burger chic." So still loving the American food life here in the city. 

So Chinese New Year interrupted our proselyting a little bit this week. I guess the holiday went from Wednesday to Friday, and a lot of people get work off. There were lots of red lantern decorations hung up all over the city. Wednesday is the day they burn offerings (I don't actually know what they call it). But Wednesday morning when a recent convert we were meeting at the church didn't show up, we went out contacting. Everyone was out in front of their houses burning fake money and different things over charcoal fires. The whole city smelled like it. They burn different things out of paper. They've been selling them at the markets for weeks. Three-story houses made of paper that look like doll houses. Motos, jewelry, appliances. Name any thing that costs money and they were burning the paper version. As it turns out, people who are in the midst of celebrating their Buddhist holidays aren't super interested in  the idea of learning about Jesus. So it made for some rough, hot few hours walking around.

But not having people to meet turned out to be kind of a blessing because we were able to track down some less actives. Like I said last week, Sister Khim served here for a few weeks at the beginning of her mission, a year ago. And that's been really helpful because some of the less actives they were meeting with a year ago, I haven't met. So we've been visiting those people. And then we found a map that some sisters had made a while ago with a bunch of people and houses marked on it. One unanticipated skill I'm picking up here is how to read and make hand-drawn maps with just the key elements listed. 

On Friday morning we ended up finding a recent convert neither me nor my comp before me had ever met. The map was bad. Just a couple of streets listed and then an "x" where she was supposed to live. We ended up finding the street we thought she was on; but when we asked a couple people about her, they didn't know her. We were about to leave, but then we decided to ask the man at the end of the street washing his moto. Turns out he was her dad, and she was at home. She goes to school from early in the morning to late at night all day every day. But she just happened to be home for the holiday. So that worked out well!

It's been kind of funny meeting people that we don't know. It feels a bit like whitewashing. We go up to someone's house and all we have is a name not even a picture or anything. And we ask if they're home. The longer I am in Cambodia, the more I realize this is a pretty good place to serve a mission. When we show up at someone's door asking if "Bong Palika," for example, is at home, they kindly let us in, give us a seat and chat with us. No questions asked. Also another thing. Awkward silences aren't a thing. Sometimes when nobody has anything to say we just sit there. And it's perfectly normal as far as I can tell. 

As far as investigators go, we are still meeting with the young couple Bong Paa and Bong Makara. I'm not sure about them. They didn't come to church yesterday even though they said they would. It's just hard to tell how they actually feel about things. Which led me to study about conversion this week in personal study. I've been reading in chapter 4 of Preach My Gospel what true conversion feels like for investigators and what it requires on the behalf of the missionaries and so on. I've been reading good accounts in 2 Nephi 4, Mosiah 18, Alma 5. I think we can define conversion as aligning our will with the Lord's, making His desires, our desires, and thus overwriting our desires of the "natural man/woman." 

I've been thinking about this in terms of Bong Phaa and Bong Makara.  I'm trying to help them catch this spark of conversion. I love in Mosiah 18 when the people at the Waters of Mormon clapped their hands because they were so excited to get baptized. That's how I want my them to feel! I want them to feel the power of this message and then feel that power work within them. But in reality, lessons can be chaotic with their kids running around, and the husband still hasn't come to church yet.

I think sometimes I expect conversion to happen all at once. That they will pray about the Book of Mormon and know that everything is true and that knowledge will change their lives. And while answers can come in powerful ways, that's not really how conversion works. Why? Because I wrote a spent 2.5 months observing conversions in Thailand and wrote 37 pages on this subject. For real. Lindsey, what were you expecting?

We see this in 2 Nephi 4, "Nephi's Psalm." Even Nephi, our scriptural example of amazing faith, still is working on his own conversion. He laments that he is not as good as he knows he should be, and that he still has desires to sin from time to time. His will isn't completely aligned with the Lord's yet. He's still a work in progress as are my investigators. And as I definitely am. The important thing is that we are all moving forward.

Just some thoughts. Also, I've started reading the New Testament this transfer, and I'm really enjoying that. So if you're looking for something to read, give it a try. And pay attention to the details. I feel like we learn a lot about Christ in the details of what he does and says and how the apostles describe him. More on that to follow in the coming weeks.

Working with Sister Khim has been so fun. She makes me laugh all the time. I'm starting to discover the humor of Khmenglish. It's a good time. She also teaches me a lot. Like when we're laying in bed she will point to items in the room with her flashlight and tells me the names. And then quizzes me. While I'm trying to sleep. Haha. 

Okay. I think that's about it for this week. We are meeting a new investigator (a referral from a member) tonight! So that should be good! And we're moving church buildings, from one rental to another rental (still no real church for us). So, should be an interesting week. Those are my exciting things to look forward to for the week. Moving church buildings. Missionary life is weird...


Sister Fields

My new "other half"

Sister S. (MTC companion) and Sister H.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

In Which I Celebrate a Wedding, a Funeral, and Another Funeral

Sister Choek and I in a tuk tuk on the way to the mission home for transfers.

Cumriabsua friends!

It's been a strange week, but a good one! I'm officially in my fourth transfer now. AKA I'm getting old. 

This week (because of various reasons) we didn't have a whole lot of proselyting time. Sister Choek got sick and we spent a few days at home. Unfortunately these days coincided with every life event to occur in the neighborhood. In Cambodia when there's a wedding or a funeral, people put up a giant tent in the street in front of their house and have a party. At the beginning of the week it was a wedding, blasting music through the whole house. It made going to sleep at 9:30 pm a laughable idea. Tuesday we had President and Sister Moon come to do a cleaning check, so Monday night we cleaned the house. With the music blasting, it reminded me of those late-night cleaning parties I would have with my roommates before cleaning checks.

And then on Tuesday someone died. I don't know who, but it must have been someone important because the funeral lasted for FIVE DAYS. And then they took the tent down, only to put up another one yesterday... My comp told me that they usually have another funeral seven days after the person died. So we've had Buddhist monks chanting all day every day this week. Cambodians LOVE speakers. I've been in little, run-down houses, where the speakers take up a quarter of the house, no joke. Disturbance of the peace is not a thing here. So we'll be happy when sleeping and study time returns to normal. 

So I've had a lot of downtime this week. And you can only read The Book of Mormon in Khmer with your fingers in your ears for so many hours. Luckily on Monday Sister Choek and I bought some projects at the market! Sister Choek is always crocheting something at night before bed. But one really popular thing in Cambodia is cross stitch. My investigator in Kampongcham (Bong Naid) would always be working on one. Lot's of times they have lots of colors and glitter and are a bit over the top for my tastes. But I found one that's really pretty. It's of the countryside with Angkhor Wat in the background. It has monks and school children in uniforms and coconut trees, and it's a very familiar scene. I figure it'll be a cool souvenir and easy to bring home. The only problem is I did not realize how enormous it was. It's soo huge. It's like 3 feet by 2 feet. Soooo good thing I have a whole year left. And I will probably be working on it after that too. 

On Tuesday we had our last district meeting with our district leader (he finished his mission this week). To celebrate we went to a place called Shabu Shabu. It's one of those hot pot type places where the food comes by on a conveyer belt. SO FUN. You just sit there and you can grab whatever you want. We went with a lot of missionaries and we all sat in a line. I feel like you can do other things with this conveyer belt idea. Also I ate sushi! I had been missing sushi.

Saturday was Valentines Day. And for Valentines Day this year, I got a new companion. I think I mentioned this last week, but Sis Choek transferred to Battambong. I think she will like it a lot there. She was ready to go. And my new comp is Sister Khim! And she's so awesome! She actually served here before. She started her mission here, but ended up only serving here for three weeks. But she's always wanted to come back. So she's super excited to be here. Even though it was a year ago when she served here, she remembers a lot of the members and she even know some less actives that I don't. She probably knows the area better than me! 

But I'm really excited to serve with her. She's got a really good attitude and she's excited to work. I feel like we're going to get lots of good work done here and I'm excited about it. And never you fear, I am still speaking Khmer all the time. Maybe one of these days it'll get easier...

Not a whole lot of news from the week, but things are going well here in Pochentong. I'll end with a cool experience from a member this week. Well it didn't happen this week, but she shared it this week. This comes from Ming Samay. I've talked about her a little bit. She's so good. She's a counselor in the relief society right not, but she practically runs the ward from behind the scenes. If you don't know where a member who's been inactive for ten years lives, she does. And she'll drop everything she's currently doing to lead you to their house. I knew that she and her husband were the first people from Cambodia to get sealed, but I didn't know the story. Shortly after the church came to Cambodia, President Hinckley visited.  He spent time with the local leaders, and at the time Ming Samay's husband was a branch president. He told him specifically that he and his family needed to start doing everything they could to go to the temple together. So they did. And then several years later, he unexpectedly passed away when he was only in his 40s. But how cool is that? That revelation came directly from a prophet. And their family is so solid even though they've had a rough time. Ming Samay and her five kids hold the ward together. We had ward conference yesterday and we sustained the ward leaders. Two of her sons are the Teachers and Deacons' Quorum presidents. And her oldest son is our ward mission leader!

Speaking of ward conference. It was great! I had never met the Stake President before, but he's great! They taught for both second and third hour. Third hour was really cool. President Ang taught about wards working together in unity. He likened the ward to a boat (one of those racing boats they have in Cambodia with the million paddlers). And he said if the Bishop had to do it alone it wouldn't work. But then he had someone from each auxiliary of the ward come up and he said if they all paddle together, then we will get to where we need to go. He even had a powerpoint!! It was pretty high tech. 

So anyways. Good week. With at least 6 more good ones to come!


Sister Fields

Our district, not a great picture, but Sister Choek and I look cute!
Exchange day at the mission home.

Eating at Shabu Shabu.

Monday, February 9, 2015

In Which I'm 6 Months Old!

Eating at Sisters Cafe
Hello my friends!

Yes! I'm growing up! I turned six months old on Friday, which is really kind of crazy. I can't decide if it feels like shorter or longer than six months. But the craziest part is, I only have a year left. Which, yes, is still a really long time, but I'm officially one-third of the way done. I still feel like a baby, and like I have so much to learn. I used to look at the elders and think, okay 18 months sounds preferable to 24. But I'm starting to worry I won't have enough time! By the time I actually learn this language and actually become an effective missionary I feel like I'll be on the plane headed home. But that's kind of just how life goes....

In other exciting news, transfer calls came last night! I'm staying in Pochentong, but my companion, Sister Choek, is transferring. I will have a new companion, Sister Khum. Transfers are on Friday, so it should be exciting! I'm a little nervous about leading my area, but it will also be a good opportunity for me to have more responsibility. Pochentong is pretty big, and I'm not confident that we won't get lost once in a while; but overall, it should be good. The past six weeks went by super fast. I feel like time will just keep going faster and faster.

I'm glad I'm sticking around here. I'm starting to make good friends with the members here. A lot of what we've been doing in this ward is just visiting and strengthening the members. Everyone is just still so new here. Our bishop, for example, is super young. He's probably late 20s. We have yet to have had a meeting with him... So yes, Mom, hearing about ward council made me jealous! That's a weird thing to say... But yeah, home teaching, visiting teaching, even having someone to teach Relief Society would be nice. Sometimes it feels like the missionaries run the church in this country. But that's why local returned missionaries are so valuable. Coming home from missions (whether here in Cambodia or elsewhere), they just understand how things are supposed to be done and have a vision of how the church can be. Last night we went over to the home of a less active member to teach her, but she was having a party. We tried to sneak away but she saw us and insisted we come in and eat. We ended up eating with two returned sister missionaries (one served in England and the other here in Cambodia). And it was fun to chat with them about their missions. I could tell they missed their missions. 

This week we got to do a lot of service. We always love opportunities to serve because 1. it's usually pretty fun and 2. it helps build good relationships and shows the members that we love them. This week I perfected my bead-working skills, which is still very far from perfect. I've also been teaching this same member English. Usually we go over, sit on her mattress on the floor, share a lesson, and then practice English for twenty minutes or so, all the while her 4-year-old daughter is singing "Let it Go" at the top of her lungs. It can be tricky sometimes because Bong Pich (the member) is a VERY impatient student, but she's funny. And when she gets something right she gets super excited.Yesterday I brought over an English copy of The Book of Mormon and started teaching her to read. She's getting the hang of it! And she told me that even though she's had various missionaries to try to teach her English, that she's never really learned much until I started teaching her. So that meant a lot to me. Especially because this past week I had been worried a little bit about my less than adept ability to make relationships with people here. Sometimes I get frustrated because it just seems so easy and natural for my comp to win everyone's love and affection as she chats them up. My small talk skills in Khmer are still VERY small, so to speak. But that's where service comes in. 

This week we also spent over an hour at a less active member's house helping her pull leaves off plants. That's my best description. She had an enormous bag of some sort of leafy food and we were separating leaves and stems for cooking. But while we worked, we chatted. And we showed that we cared about her. And we gave our time. I think that's the key. At least in my mind. Quality time is my love language, after all. And she showed up to church on Sunday! That isn't the moral of this story...  You should serve people no matter what. But it was still a happy thing. We had quite a few people at church on Sunday. We sat in a row with Om San (the less active), Bong Pich (who has recently been coming to church much more regularly than before, Srei Khuat (our recent convert), and Bong Phaa (our investigator)!

Speaking of investigators... So I think I mentioned last week we are teaching a family! Bong Phaa and Bong Makara. They had learned a little bit before with other elders, but never got baptized. At first they both seemed pretty eager, but now they're getting hard to meet with. And even though Bong Phaa came to church, she left quickly after sacrament. We're not really sure what to do about them. But hopefully we can get into a regular pattern of meeting them a few days a week. 

Oh, this was a kind of cool thing! So remember Ming Cen Thi I mentioned last week? How she lost her job and we had a cool spiritual experience teaching her. Well, we have a recent convert who was looking for a live-in nanny to watch her kids. And Sister Choek mentioned it to Ming Cen Thi and it worked out! Ming Cen Thi is working for her! And this recent convert (her name is Bong Kim Hon) is suuuper strong. She has a ton of faith. The only problem is her husband hates Christianity and doesn't approve of her involvement in the church and is abusive... We meet her at the church. So.... we don't really feel good about trying to meet Ming Cen Thi at their house. So we'll see how things go. But either way, Bong Kim Hon will be a good influence on her. 

Hmmm. What else happened this week? We had zone training. Which is always fun. And a couple people in our zone are ending their missions this week! So that's pretty exciting for them. Like Sister Chan, who I live with, ends this week. I still can't even picture how that would feel. It's still way too far away! After zone training all the sisters went to lunch together at a cafe we found called Sisters! It was too perfect. 

Sorry, this email is not very exciting this week. But I have a spiritual thought, and that'll make up for it.... So something I've been thinking about a lot as of I've been on my mission is receiving inspiration from the Spirit. Sometimes I feel like I'm doing all the right things, but I don't really feel like I get promptings. I hear all these amazing stories of missionaries in the Liahona that knew exactly which door to knock on to find an amazing investigator. And I have not had any experiences like that. But I was reading in Alma chapter 8 about his experience preaching to the people in Ammonihah. He preaches to them, but they won't listen. So he leaves the city. But after he's left an angel comes to him and tells him that he is supposed to go back and preach repentence to the people. So he "speedily" returns to the city. And in verse 19 as he's entering the city, he's hungry and he asks a man for some food. This man turns out to be Amulek, his future mission companion. What I love about this is that it doesn't seem to be anything out of the ordinary. He's just hungry. He probably didn't receive any particular inspiration to talk to Amulek, but because he was exactly obedient in obeying the Lord, the Lord led him to where he needed to go. Sometimes we do have the big spiritual experiences (like Alma seeing the angel) and sometimes we don't. But either way the Lord's hand is in all things. 

Anyways, that's all for this week! Keep doing good things, everyone. As Hermana Davis shared in her email to me, "it's about progress, not perfection."

Love you!

Sister Fields

Lunch at the Sisters Cafe.

Zone Conference.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

In Which I Become a Seamstress

Beading.  (The fish cracker box in the background was used to mail something from the US here.  You cannot buy fishies here!)
Cumriabsua, friends!

Yet another week has come and gone. Today I start my fifth week of the transfer., which means on Sunday we get transfer calls and the following Friday is exchange day! So that's pretty crazy. Sister Choek thinks she's getting transferred, but we'll see. This is only her second transfer here. Around this time every transfer everyone gets into predicting where people will go. Certain sisters have even been known to make brackets. It's like March Madness around here. So stay tuned!

Also. This Friday is officially my six month mark. Six months as a missionary. One year left. So that is QUITE INSANE. 

This week was a good week. We worked really hard. Our district leader gave us a goal to hit as a whole district for number of contacts and number of member-present lessons this week, with the promise of a reward. Turns out if I might get a present out of it, I actually shoot for my goals. We contacted a lot this week. I still hate it, but not as much as I did before. If I lead the conversation, I can navigate the language pretty well. Though very quickly we can delve into non-get to know you and non-gospel related topics and then it's really uncharted territory. I feel like I haven't learned a whole lot of vocab this transfer, but I do feel my fluency has improved a lot. Speaking all day every day will do that for you. 

Our other goal this week was to get member-present lessons with our investigators. Currently we have two sets of investigators. One is an older lady who has raised her family already and is recently divorced. Ming Cen Thi. She is a referral from the elders. She learned a little bit with them and with her husband, but then she and her husband got a divorce. Since then her life has gone downhill. She just recently lost her job and is struggling a lot right now. We met her last week, but didn't get a chance to teach her. We met her again Friday night. We had the intention of teaching lesson 1, but when we got there she was pretty distressed. We were lucky to have a really awesome member present (Ming Samay!) who was able to relate to her and help her feel listened to and loved. But after a while some neighbors came in and chatted and soon an hour went by. Eventually we felt like a lesson just wasn't going to happen. When we talked to her about the gospel, she said she didn't remember anything and wasn't very smart.

My comp was about ready to call it and just leave, but I felt like we should try to share something one more time, even if we didn't get the whole lesson 1 in. So I asked and she agreed. We prayed, and then I began to talk about the Atonement. I shared with her Alma 7:11 and told her that all the pain and worry and struggles she was having right now in her life had been felt by Jesus Christ. And because He had experienced them all before her, she can know that she's not alone. And that she can receive comfort and help through Him who knows exactly how to help her. As we shared, you could see her whole countenance change. And then she said something really cool. She told me that even though she didn't really sdap baan (understand) what I was talking about, that she felt good and happy when I was talking. And that she didn't think about her troubles as much. We reviewed the way to pray with her and told her she can have those same feelings with her when she prays. It was a pretty cool experience! The Spirit was strong. She will be a challenge, but I really hope we get to teach her more. She's out of town for the weekend, but we'll try again this week. 

As for our other investigators, they are a married couple who have learned a little bit in the past but for various reasons didn't get baptized. We've been trying to meet them all week without success, but they still seemed like they had desires to learn regardless. Sometimes it feels like pulling teeth to get them to sit down and learn about this gospel that will change their life. Agency is the worst. Jk. Their names are Bong Makara and Bong Phaa. They are a young couple with two young kids. We had a good lesson 1 with them. They're going to be a bit of a challenge to meet with. Scheduling with people doesn't really seem to be a thing here. I feel like we pin one of them down and then the other goes to the market. And then when we've got the other one back home, the first one is helping the neighbor build his house. But I have high hopes for them. 

Other highlights of the week:

Oh, here's something cool. Some dentists from Utah came and did free dental work at our stake center for members and non-members alike. I think an RM who served in Cambodia arranged it. But that was a pretty cool thing for the members. Lots of missionaries went and translated. As I do not even know the word for teeth, I was not invited. Haha. But that's okay. I heard some pretty gruesome stories of watching people get teeth pulled!

I became a seamstress this week! One woman in our ward makes dresses for a living (really fancy, prom-ish looking dresses are a big thing here in Cambodia). And we did some service for her and did some beading for the dresses. It was kind of fun. Picture to follow. 

I started a beginner class for English this week. Last week we had a really good turnout for us, about 12 people! But this week it was 6:05, and then 6:10, and then 6:15 and still no one had showed up. Then all of a sudden everyone came at once! We weren't prepared for it. So we pulled up chairs as usual. I told them that I would be teaching the alphabet and very beginner stuff in the other room, and then everyone got up to follow me! So I had about ten in my class, and then we ended up getting five or so in the advanced class. So we're pretty excited about that! I think that having two classes will be really helpful.

Oh, I almost called home this week! Hahaa. So we went over to Ming Samay's house this week. I've talked about her a little bit, but she is awesome and helps us out a lot. Also, I learned that she and her husband were the first people to get sealed in Cambodia! (Well, not in Cambodia, technically, because there's not a temple here, but they were the first converts in Cambodia to get sealed). Her husband has since passed away, and she is raising her four kids. Her oldest is working on his mission papers now. He's serving as the ward mission leader right now, so he helps us a lot too. Anyways, we were over at her house and she pulls out a little electric oven that you plug into the wall. And then she turns to me and asks me how to use it. It has a rotisserie thing on which you can cook meat. But it comes with no instruction manual. Apparently the American elder in our ward told her I would know how to use it...  And then my companion said that I should know how to use it because I'm American and a girl... ... Regardless, cooking rotisserie chicken is not in my skills. We needed to know how long to cook it for and at what temperature. I told them that in such a situation I would usually just call my mom. So you almost got a call from me at about midnight asking how to cook a chicken!

Anyways, that's about it for this week. I feel like, despite my lack of cooking skills, I'm becoming a real missionary over here. The more I become familiar with my area, contact and build relationships with the members, and get comfortable talking in Khmer on the phone, the better I feel about possibly leading my area with a new companion in the next two weeks! Also, the harder I work, the better I feel at the end of the day. Even if things don't work out the way I would like them too, when I put in my full effort, I feel good. 

Well, that's all the news for this side of the world. Just learned about the Superbowl. And by that I mean I just learned that the Superbowl was today and also that the Seahawks were playing, and also that they lost. But let's be real, even when I lived in America I probably wouldn't have been that informed. 

Have a good week, kids!

Sister Fields

Hard at work. People in this country do not like their picture taken. Or else they don't smile and it seems like they're not having a good time. I promise we were all enjoying ourselves...

SWENSONS. I'm obsessed. This is reason enough to serve in the city. It's delicious.