|President and Sister Moon and President and Sister Gong|
(Khmer is frustrating! There are lots of words I want to write, but I don't know how to spell them in English. Or really, in Khmer either. It's very much only an oral language for me right now. But because there is no legitimized Romanization, reading Khmer written in English is a lot like playing mad gabs).
When I was with my trainer, she had only two transfers left in her mission. Because I was so fresh into the mission field, I was eager to ask her about her future plans and how she felt about going back home. I remember she told me it was strange to think about, and that this world felt much more real to her than the other. At the time that answer kind of annoyed me. But I'm starting to understand it now. Every day the other world seems more like a dream and less like reality. This world of psaars, tuk tuks, sitting cross-legged, sweating, smelling incense, and yelling to hear one another over the wat music is my reality. Which is not to say I don't think about home. I do. As I'm biking in the sun or as I've lost track of someone's Sacrament meeting talk, I like to dream of sitting on a real couch in sweatpants eating cookies and watching Netflix. But it's starting to feel very far away. Someday I'll return, but right now, this Cambodia mission life is my reality.
That being said, it is still quite often a rough life, particularly in Pochentong. It just feels like the work here is not progressing, and I'm not really sure what we can do to help it. We had no investigator lessons this week. We currently have one investigator, who we hope to meet with tonight. And we have a referral. who we haven't gotten a hold of yet, but hopefully this week.... It's hard not to get discouraged sometimes. But when we get discouraged we lower our expectations. That's what PMG teaches (whoami?). But what's the key to not getting discouraged? Let's turn to PMG.... PMG says when we work hard and do everything we can, we might not always have outward measures of success, and millions of investigators (I'm paraphrasing here), but we can be at peace because we know that we have done our all and everything we could. So I'm working on this mindset. Sometimes I struggle with the "do all that you can do" mentality, because I think, well I can always do more. What exactly is my "all?" But that's where the concept of grace comes in. And I've written about that a bit before...
Though we've been putting in extra time and energy into our contacting and finding efforts, so far no luck. Everyone is just so busy all the time here. Everyone works in factories all day, seven days a week. So even just talking to people on the streets is harder. It's quite different here than it was in Kampongcham. Oh Kampongcham... So, for the most part right now, we're working on strengthening the ward, which, like I've talked a little bit about before, could use a bit of strengthening. And by a bit I mean more than a bit. The frustrating thing is that for the most part I feel like the people I meet are not helping themselves. I can come over to their house every week, or multiple times a week (and in fact, I do) and talk and testify of the importance of keeping covenants, and repentance, and applying the Atonement, and scriptures and prayer, but until they start applying these things and start making changes for themselves, It won't do any good. It's like Paul says. Everyone must work out their own salvation (Philippians 2:15, yes I had to Google it to check).
But even in the midst of the discouragement and frustration, Heavenly Father's hand is still there if you look for it. If there's one thing I'm learning on my mission, it is that though often the Spirit works in small ways, it is never insignificant. We have to search for God's hand to find it, it takes work and it takes faith, but it's always there.
With that being said, I had a little miracle last Monday. Monday night we had plans to meet with an investigator, but it fell through. My comp suggested we go visit a member who lives far away who we had talked to on Sunday. I had visited their home twice before, but it was about a 45-minute bike ride, with about 10 or 15 different unmarked turns to make on various confusing roads. I was very much doubting my ability to find it, but because things were a bit patchy with my companion, I agreed with her suggestion, and only added jokingly, hopefully I'll remember the way. In our prayer before we left, she asked Heavenly Father to help us find the house. And I led off. And as we went along, I knew exactly which road to take and where I needed to turn, even though all the roads looked the same. On the whole ride, I only missed one turn and realized I was mistaken as soon as I passed it. Now this might not seem like a miracle. But I know my terrible memory and lack of a sense of direction. I definitely didn't do that on my own. And it didn't change anyone's life. It didn't have miraculous results. We just met with this member and went back home. But it made a difference to me. And it gave me more confidence in my ability to recognize the Spirit.
Another cool thing happened this week. While we were chatting with a less active member outside her home, we ended up contacting her neighbor. Well, he contacted us really. He told us he was learning about Christianity. So I gave him a Restoration pamphlet and started sharing a little bit about it. I told him a little about prophets, and how we had prophets before and how we have one today. And he said, a prophet, that's like a servant of God, right? You have no idea how rare that is! Ask any given bishop or branch president and you don't know what kind of answer you'll get. Just kidding, that's not true. But this man had some serious background in Christianity and he was interested in our message and I gave him a Book of Mormon. Ultimately, I ended up passing him to the elders who met with him. And though he was very thoughtful and had lots of good questions, he decided he would keep meeting with the missionaries from the other Christian sect. But hey, planting seeds. That's another antidote to discouragement. Realizing that planting seeds is as necessary as harvesting, though often not as exciting.
And then there's humor, which is my antidote to everything. Yesterday we had lunch at a member's house. It was delicious! A spicy hot-pot style soup thing and then a salad thing. I'm going to be such a good Khmer cook when I come home, I know so much.... The member is a returned missionary and knows a ton of English. We ended up talking a lot about the Khmer Rouge. This paragraph started out about humor.... This is not the humorous part. His now inactive mom lost her husband and two children to the Pol Pot regime. Her husband was killed because he was educated and her kids starved to death. Only after it was all over did she remarry, have him and his siblings, and then joined the church. Sometimes I forget about this country's tragic history. I think it does come up; but because my vocabulary on the topic (war is songriam and that's about it) is so limited, I miss it. But also I think people just want to forget it. He told me his mom doesn't like to talk about it for obvious reasons.
His mom is very funny though. She's in her late 50s, probably, and walks with a bad limp from a biking accident. She's very sassy. She asked me what I thought about Cambodia and then immediately asked if it has made me lazy. I didn't know how to respond to it. She had us all laughing with stories she told of when her kids were little. She would make their pockets extra long in their clothes longer than the length of the shorts themselves. And then when they went to weddings or other parties, she would stuff their pockets full of food. But the best part is for some reason some earlier missionaries had giver her the name Lady Gaga. And that is what she introduced herself as! I can't explain how funny it is to hear Om Srey, this 60-year-old Khmer woman introduce herself as Lady Gaga. We were all dying.
In other news, I think I have tuberculosis. Isn't that the disease people would get when they were overworked in the factories in the industrial revolution, when all the dirt and debris would get in their lungs? Well that's what's happening to me or else it's just a cold. But either way, I'm resorting to wearing a mask. Now I've officially become Asian. I still don't believe it works, but I'm willing to give it a try if it helps me not feel like I'm going to die every time I bike anywhere.
Spiritual thought this week is unrelated, but something I came across last week in my readings in the New Testament. Matthew 19:16-22. A young man, eager to be a disciple of Christ, asks Him what else he can do. He's already keeping the ten commandments, what else could he be lacking? Christ tells him to go and sell all his possessions, to follow him. He basically asks him to give up all his time and energy and talents to following Christ. But that's too much for this guy. He's too attached to his life and his material comforts. So he doesn't do it. Sometimes I worry I'm like this guy. That I'm eager to tell the Lord I'm ready to go, I'm ready to serve, but when it comes to making real sacrifices, do I do it? Just something to think about. I'm really enjoying reading the New Testament.
And that's all for this week. Transfer calls come Sunday, so by next week I'll know if I get another transfer in Pochentong. Stay tuned! Have a good week!