Monday, March 9, 2015

In Which I Meet the Gongs!

Indian food last p-day! We went with a group of sisters. It was fun and SO GOOD!

Hello friends,

It's been quite the week in Pochentong. Some ups and downs. But I'll start with the ups. 

The highlight of this week was the opportunity to meet together and receive training from Elder and Sister Gong. Elder Gong is the President of the Asia Area Presidency. They are both spiritual powerhouses and told lots of great stories! There's nothing like great stories to get me excited about missionary work. It was a good meeting. Here are some of the highlights:

--President Gong talked a lot about the importance of talking to everyone. This is a weakness of mine. I can pretty quickly talk myself out of contacting someone who I initially think I should go up and chat with. But Elder Gong shared a great story about Elder Ballard who came to visit Asia for training. They were checking into a hotel together and Elder Ballard struck up a conversation with the bellman. He asked him about his interests and his family.  Elder Ballard ended up asking if he could give him a book. The next day he left him a copy of Our Search for Happiness and passed on his information to the local missionaries. I don't know why that story struck me so much. Elder Ballard was the head apostle to work on Preach My Gospel. I just think it's cool that he's doing exactly what he preaches. That the apostles don't just hang out in the church office buildings and tell us to do missionary work, they are out sharing the gospel at every opportunity they get. 

--With President Moon (who is a great scriptorian) we read 1 Nephi 1 together and came to realize that all the principles we teach in lesson one are found in this first chapter of the Book of Mormon. I've always thought 1 Nephi 1 was a little weird to have as the first chapter. Lehi's vision is kind of confusing. And I've always found the story of Nephi getting the plates story to be more accessible. But if you look, you'll see evidence that God has a body, that He's our loving Heavenly Father who answers our prayers, that families are important, prophets, a book Lehi is supposed to read. It's all there! We just have to help our investigators make the connections.

--I realized that my testimony of The Book of Mormon didn't come through a once through read and a prayer following the pattern in Moroni 10. Rather, mine has come through diligent study and prayer every day. That's a simple idea, but it struck me hard during the meeting that I need to help investigators understand that (just like conversion!) gaining a testimony of The Book of Mormon is a process not an event. 

--Companionship unity is so important. And so much of it depends on good communication. Good communication is SO HARD when there are language and cultural barriers. But I'm trying.

--We talked a little about gratitude. Sister Gong shared this and I thought it was cool. Did you know that Muslims pray five times a day and that these prayers are exclusively giving thanks to God? They have a different prayer called supplication when they need to ask for blessings. But isn't that cool? 

--Also we (I) arranged a choir for the meeting. I felt very out of place directing us, but it worked out. We sang I'll Go Where You Want Me to Go. We ended up singing in three languages (Vietnamese too) and even added parts! It took us far longer than we intended in our practice session, but we ended up sounding really good! I was proud of us.

So it was a good meeting, and I needed it this week. Pochentong has just been a rough area, and continues to be so. There's some sort of a virus in this ward. The leadership doesn't do or at least doesn't fully understand it's responsibility. The members, with the exclusion of a few REALLY great members, don't care about one another and aren't willing to lend a hand. And as a result, we have a LOT of inactive members, with more and more going inactive. There's definitely a "clique"in the ward; and if you're not it it, you are very much out of it. 

To be honest, we're just at a loss of how to help. I feel very much like the dairy man's daughter, asking "which part is mine?" There's a reference you will only get if you spent Sunday mornings circa 2004-2008 at the Fields' home listening to Michael Mclean. But what is our role as the missionaries to support the members and the leadership and to encourage them to do their jobs? I don't know. At the end of the day, what the members need to understand is that the people don't matter. Yes, it would be awesome if people fulfilled their callings, and didn't talk about you behind your back, and that financial issues were appropriately taken care of. But regardless, you come to church. You just do it. Just come to church. If I've learned one thing on my mission it's that. Just come to church. 

As for what truly is our part, our investigators are somewhere less than progressing. Bong Phaa and Makara ended up leaving for a province this week, and I don't know when their coming back. Bong Oun said she would come to church, but didn't. So we'll keep trying. And we're always on the look out for new people to teach. On the prowl one might say. 

Oh here's a good thing! Om Yuan came to church today. This woman has been a member forever and about ten years ago she used to come to church not only every week, but every Saturday she would go clean the church. And then her son moved to America and for various reasons she became inactive. She lives pretty far out, but we go out there maybe once every two weeks. And guess who rolled into the parking lot on Sunday! Come to church, friends. Just do it. 

I will end this with a quote from Patricia Holland (wife of Elder Holland). I read really great talk by her courtesy of Hermana Davis. She says, "We must have the courage to be imperfect as we are striving for perfection." That's also on my wall above my desk. I need to hear that everyday. As a missionary constantly being told to be more obedient and constantly setting faith-based goals, we often times we do not meet. It's hard. I'm still trying to find balance. I feel like I either work myself up into a ball of stress and give up and shut down (okay, perhaps not quite that dramatically) or I become complacent and I don't set goals, let alone work to achieve them. But we are all works in progress. And we just have to keep on working. 

Hopefully that wasn't too much of a downer email. Things are good. Still sweating, still working. Oh, I learned how to make food! My comp and I decided to do food on our own, so I'm learning to buy my own food at the psaa and cook it Khmer style. I'm not an expert, but so far I haven't died. That's what counts. 

Have a good week!


Sister Fields

From our training meeting. Sister Gong had us all stand up and give a verb to describe what we do in our mission (on the left half) and an adjective to describe the Moons (on the right).

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