Monday, April 27, 2015

In Which I Have Investigators Again!

Me and Sister Phon.


I'm writing this on a very rainy Monday morning. Whether the rainy season has begun, who's to say; but we had a VERY wet trip to the psaa (market) this morning. Because it doesn't just rain in Cambodia, It RAINS. So I had to throw my clothes in the dryer when I got home. Jokes. By that I mean hang them on the line and blow the fans at them. You can't really avoid the wet here, you just learn to deal with it. So I'm ready for it. Bring on the rainy season!

Okay, not a lot happened this week. Things have gone back to normal since the big holiday last week. But the big news this week is WE HAVE A NEW INVESTIGATOR. Hallelujah. Her name is Ming Chan. She is a member referral from a member in another branch. The other sisters passed her along to us when they learned she was in our area. Good news first: She has come to church twice already with her sister and she came to general conference. She was member of a Christian church before, but felt it left something to be desired. The not as happy part of it is she has a rough life. She's very poor and she is crippled. Her legs don't work. She has been sick this past week and unable to meet with us again. And now she's had to sell her phone because it cost too much. But regardless, I think there's still very much hope. Even though it took us 45 minutes to track down her house, she was willing to give us directions over the phone.  Every five minutes we would call her (one of 1000 reasons I never want to be the companion who knows more Khmer. Interpreting directions in Khmer would be fatal). We had a great first lesson with her and then set an appointment for another. Even though we ended up not being able to meet because she went to the doctor, SHE CALLED US THAT MORNING AND TOLD US. You have no idea how rare that is. So we'll keep working with her and keep her in our prayers. Heavenly Father prepares the way. That's one of the great things I've learned on my mission thus far, and the reason we don't have to stress. We still have to work hard and do everything in our ability, but in the end we just "be still and know that He is God" (D&C 101:16).

Speaking of investigators.... Bong Phaa and Bong Makara came back! Remember them? They were a young family I met with Sister Choek. Then Sister Khim and I also taught them together. They went to a province for over a month, but now they're back. We ended up just meeting with the wife for a few minutes the other day and I was surprised by how sincere she seemed to be about how sad she was to not have the chance to go to church when they were away. They weren't really progressing when they left so I just figured we had planted some seeds and moved on. But who knows. Maybe they are ready to learn again. We said a prayer with her and invited her to say it. She said a beautiful prayer and remembered the way to pray no problem, which surprised me a little bit because she is a bit forgetful. So we'll be trying to meet with their family this week and we'll see how it goes!
As for the rest of the week, we spent the time visiting our less actives and recent converts. We had a helpful meeting with the bishop Sunday afternoon, and were able to go out visiting less actives with a bunch of members in the evening. It's becoming a Sunday tradition. It's a lot of fun, and more importantly, I can see the fellow-shipping really does make such a big difference. And then the members feel good for having helped. So it's a win, win, win in the words of Michael Scott. 

I actually went on two exchanges this week. Thursday Sis Phon and I went to Sister E's area to help her and her koon (trainee) who's unfortunately sick and can't proselyte. So my comp went out with Sister E. so they could get some work done. And I stayed at home with Sister L.  I intended to help her with CBRs, but we ended up chatting the whole time, and it made me realize how far I've come on my mission. I can definitely relate to the stress and anxiety that she feels in traininghood (magnified for her because she's sick), but I also hadn't realized how much I really have adjusted to life here in Cambodia as a missionary. It's just normal now. And it's weird to think about going back some day. It's starting to seem less and less appealing. 

Thursday night we did an exchange with sister training leaders and I went with Sister Khut in her area. It was a lot of fun, because it was just the two of us in her house. She made me delicious food and we talked a lot about mission life. I love Sister Khut. I've been with her for my whole mission (in the same house in Kampongcham, and in the same zone in Pochentong). This coming transfer is her last transfer, along with Sister Choek, Sister Khim and a lot of the Khmer sisters. After that big group leaves at the end of next transfer, we'll only have SIX Khmer sisters in the whole mission! That's insane. We'll probably get some new ones coming in in the next few transfers, but still. The ratio will definitely shift to more American sisters I think, which should be interesting. Also the Moons leave officially July 1st. So this mission is going to have quite a few changes over the next few months! 

So things are going well. I feel like our area is progressing, and I feel like I'm growing too. Growing spiritually, growing in the language, and just learning to let go of the things I can't control and enjoy my life more. I think those last two things are definitely related. And I've got a great companion. I realize I haven't really talked about her much. I think sometimes when things are good in my companionship I take it for granted and forget that sometimes that's not how companionships are. She's great. She's 20, and even though she's still new on her mission, she's served as a BM leader and has helped the missionaries a ton before she served. She's also probably one of the most selfless people I know. She is always going out of her way to help the members and help me. I always try and find little things to do for her, because she is just always serving other people. Also she's funny and sassy. I'm telling you, there is no shortage of sass in this country. 

I'll end with a spiritual thought. I've been working my way through Paul's works and really enjoying it. Yes, occasionally I'll run into some views on marriage and women that I can only hope got muddled in translation, but overall I'm really loving his take on the gospel and the doctrine of Christ and missionary work. This thought comes from 1 Cor 3. He's talking about missionary work, and he tells the members of Corinth not to focus so much on having "their missionary." This is something I see sometimes here. Members who are more attached to the missionary that taught them then they are to the gospel itself. And then he goes on to say, 

“Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos [the name of another missionary], but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?”  And then the verse I love is verse 6.  Paul say, “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.”

 Isn't that such a great perspective on missionary work! We're all in this together. And you can see this when you look at the teaching records. One companionship will find an investigator and then transfers happen and new missionaries come along, but someone is always working with these people. Someone else might be there when they get baptized, and as they become new converts, someone else comes along. But what doesn't change is the Lord. The Lord has been working with these people, preparing them long before we came along, and He will continue to work with them long after we're gone. And ultimately it's His increase. We are just lucky to be a gardener at some point along in the process. Planting seeds or watering.

Well, that's all for this week! Next Sunday night is transfer calls, so next week we'll learn if my stay in Pochentong will be four transfers, or if it's time for me to move on. I can honestly say I would be good either way. Have a good week!


Sister Fields

Working on CBRs (convert baptism records) with the elders. These are our lost sheep we will find. 

 Sometimes personal study looks like this

And sometimes it looks like this....

Monday, April 20, 2015

In Which I Celebrate Khmer New Year


First things first. IT'S SOOOO HOTTTTTTTTT. I don't actually know how hot it is because there are no thermometers or anything to check around here. It's just hot. Apparently it's over 100 degrees these days. So I'm praying for the rainy season to come quickly because at this point, I'm drenched in sweat all day, every day so it doesn't really matter.

Second. Happy Khmer New Year! It definitely slowed down the work this week, but that's okay. We had a lot of fun. On Monday the other set of sisters came over to our house and we ate together. I'm learning every type of social gathering in Cambodia is centered around food. But I guess that's probably true anywhere you go. There were eight of us crowded around our tiny kitchen table eating fried fish. It was delicious! And then the first of many water fights broke out this week. Water fights (and baby powder/flour flights) are a central part Khmer New Year. And seeing as it is the hot, dry season, it's perfect timing. The house was a disaster after we were finished, but that's okay...

Tuesday we ended up moving dirt at two more members'  houses! They wanted to get it done before they left town for the holiday, so we enlisted a ton of missionaries to come help. We ended up having three sets of sisters and two sets of elders! So it was a lot of fun, and we got a lot done. And then we had a party! They roasted corn on the cob and put these delicious spices on it. It was super good. And we played the game we played at our ward party. It's basically a pinata game with a clay pot. And then we played another game with water. It's basically hot potato. You stand in the circle and pass an object as someone with a blindfold says sdaam (right) or chveeng (left). And then when you say chop! (stop) whoever is holding it gets water dumped on them. It didn't take long before it was a free-for-all water fight. This was about seven at night and completely dark already, but the water still felt way nice. This country is so hot!

Cool Chnam is three days long: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. And I'm not joking when I say the city literally clears out. Driving around on those days was so strange. All the markets were closed and there was no traffic anywhere!  On Wednesday President didn't have us proselyte, because we would have had no one to meet. So we spent the day deep cleaning the house and then met up with the elders at the church to go over CBRs. And then in the evening we met at the stake center and we watched the movie Meet the Mormons! It was so fun! Have you seen it? It takes the lives of six different members from around the world and just kind of talks about their lives. It was pretty interesting. Granted, the only movies I've seen in the last eight months has been Legacy, the Testaments, and the District, but I still recommend it. The first few minutes of the movie take a look at how Mormons are depicted in media, and they had little clips from 30 Rock, and South Park. It was the weirdest thing! I forgot who I was for a second there. And then we had refreshments. And I'm so into food these days, so that was exciting for me. And because we met at the stake center on the other side of the city, we biked back to our home in a huge mob of missionaries and someone pulled out the baby powder . . . .  So we had one last water/baby powder fight as we biked across the city. It was a mess.

As for the rest of the week, proselyting was slow.  But by now everyone should be home. And we have a good list of referals we've received that we're hoping to contact this week. With everyone back in town and schedules getting back to normal, we're hoping to get some investigators moving this week!  The focus for this month and the next is to work on strengthening the members. Before we watched the movie on Wednesday, President gave us a pump-up speech about "re-kindling Cambodia." I say pump-up speech because the office elders made this cool video to go with it featuring a candle. So now we're all going to focus on rescuing less-actives and strengthening our recent converts, which actually works out quite well for my companion and I. We've been doing this already (mostly because we have no investigators, but still!).

One of our focuses right now is strengthening the youth. We have a lot of strong young men, but a lot of less active young women. So we've started attending young women's meetings, It has been a lot of fun. And Sister Phon had the great idea to sing a musical number. Somehow we got a hold of that "The Family is of God" song in Khmer! So we spent an hour learning that yesterday after church. I can't say that it sounds good yet, but hey we're trying. It's the thought that counts after all, right?

Then yesterday evening we went out with Ming Samay and the Bishop's wife to go visit some less-active members. It was really fun going with the Bishop's wife. She's young and she has a lot of energy and she's good with people. The four of us made a good team. We met with one old man who used to be super active and has gone to the temple already, but now is sick and in a wheelchair. He has a hard time communicating, but I think he could understand us just fine. But it was really sad, because every time we mentioned church he started to cry. The bishop and his wife have a car. So they told him they would go pick him up next week and bring him to church. I think he was happy about that.

So that was the my week. Kind of a strange one, but next week things will go back to normal. Between conference, service and Cool Chnam, it will felt so good to get back to proselyting again!

I'll end with a spiritual thought. I've been working my way through the New Testament and I'm now in Romans and really enjoying it.  I am really coming to love Paul. I'm such a language person. I love powerful, beautiful language. I've mentioned this before, but Paul reminds me of Elder Holland. They're both such powerful writers and  speakers too. Today I was reading in chapter 4 where Paul is talking about faith and works and uses the example of Abraham. When Abraham was told that he would be the father of many nations he (I love this) "He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God"  Even though Abraham knew logically that it was difficult, if not impossible for him and his wife to have children at such an old age, he didn't let this dampen his faith or stifle his hope. He hoped against hope. And this faith and hope led him to believe with a surety that allowed him to be able to perform what the Lord would have him do. Faith and hope precede the miracle. I've been thinking a lot about faith and belief as an action and as a choice lately. And I love the example of Abraham  that Paul so eloquently describes. For me, I need to continue to have this faith and hope that we will help the work to progress here in Pochentong so we can find those the Lord is preparing.  And faith that I will get this language down and not let stuttering and my fears get in the way because I have been blessed on multiple occasions that I will be able to do this. I just need to keep my hopes up and keep the faith; faith in the blessings, faith in myself, but most importantly faith in Christ and His ability to strengthen me.

Well that's all for this week! Happy New Year!


 Sister Fields

Moving dirt.  The Khmers cover up with scarves, sweaters and gloves when it turns hot outside.

Moving dirt that will become mud.

Barbecuing corn for us.

Birthday celebration.

Movie night for Khmer New Year.

Biking at night.
You can see the baby powder in the upper left.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

In Which I Find Out My Brother is Coming to Asia!

The BYU tuk tuk! It's famous. It belongs to a member who goes to church at the stake center. I see it there all the time, but finally took a picture with it!
Hey Hey!
First of all. Weekly shout out! Should I start doing weekly shout outs? Like my word of the week for English class? Probs not. But Mason got his mission call to Hong Kong!! Woo-hoo! Now we will only be one time zone away instead of 13. ASIA. ASIA. ASIA.
So that's exciting. And it's been a good week. Conference was super good. But I'll start at the front of the week. People are prepping for the rainy season. So that means lots of service projects hauling dirt so that houses don't turn into swamps. We hauled dirt MondayTuesday, and Wednesday this week for three different members. But the cool thing was we had a ton of members show up to help. The more time I spend in this ward, the more I really start to appreciate it. It's got it's quirks and it's issues, but I've gotten to know a lot of the members quite well lately, and it will be sad when I do have to leave eventually. Initially, I was not super excited to stay another transfer here. In retrospect, I'm really glad things worked out the way they did. Heavenly Father knows what He's doing.
Another highlight of the week was a great interview with President Moon. I ended up asking him for a blessing to help me with learning the language and having confidence and a few other things I've felt I've really been struggling with this transfer. Sometimes I feel like President is my personal counselor. Like I can spill all my problems to him and he makes sense of all the scattered pieces and hands it back to me. Nothing really changes, but now I can feel like I can handle it. He told me that so much of communication doesn't actually have to do with the language itself that a lot of it goes beyond words. That my service, my example, my sacrifices communicate a lot to the people. He told me about Levi Savage (who you will know if you've ever seen the movie 17 Miracles). He served a mission in Siam (aka Thailand) in the 1850s (I think). He couldn't speak the language, and never learned it even after 2.5 years , which honestly, doesn't give me a ton of hope. He didn't baptize anyone or establish the Church at all. But on the boat ride home he met up with the Willy Martin Handcart company and ended up playing an integral part in their survival. The lesson here is that our service--the reason I'm here--has more implications than I think I realize now or might ever realize. I just hope at some point I will be able to look back and see some of the good I've done here. I know I'm growing and learning so much, but I also want to help others as well.
As for the language, he promised me that my ability or inability to learn the language will never get in the way of someone receiving the gospel. That's a pretty big promise. He told me to place my confidence not in myself, but in Christ. Through the strength of the Lord I can do all things. It was a beautiful blessing. Now I just need to believe all the things he promised me. Sometimes I think I expect miraculous results to take place immediately. Like right after the blessing I would not have any more issues with stuttering. But that's not really how the Lord works, at least not in my life. I forget how subtly He works sometimes. He works slowly at first, like Elder Bednar's example of how the Spirit works. It's typically not a light switch, but a sunrise. The light and spiritual growth comes so imperceptibly until you look around and see how far you've come. So I'm maintaining my faith with hope towards the future that as I continue open my mouth and turn out towards others that the language will come, and that I will fulfill my purpose that I will learn the lessons I'm supposed to learn at this point in my life.
On a less spiritual note, we had our ward Cool Chnam Happy New Year party on Friday! It was sooo fun and we had a really great turn out!  We played a bunch of traditional Khmer games that pretty much looked like American party games with a twist. They played this pinata-like game where they strung up clay pots outside filled with paper money and candy. Then a blindfolded person hit it with a broom handle until it broke open and kids were flying everywhere. We played musical chairs and some sort of a tag game with a tree branch. The young women put on a fashion show, which was unexpected but fun and made me laugh a lot. But my personal favorite was a variation of the doughnut on the string game. But they played with a jicama, which is much harder than a doughnut. I know from experience because I was chosen to compete! But I had some good helpers who would put it in my mouth when no one was looking and somehow I was declared winner! Whoops...
Also, the less active family that I mentioned visiting last week with Ming Samay came! We ended up going over to her house before the party to help them get to the church (because she has one daughter whose legs don't work) and the mom (Bong Pich) only has a bike to get them around. I could tell she was a bit nervous about going back and what people would think. But my comp and I helped them with their hair and makeup (whatever works) and Bong Pich was feeling confident. And I was so happy with how people received them. It almost made me tear up. The Bishop picked up the little girl who couldn't walk and got her in a spot in the shade to watch. And the Bishop's wife hugged Bong Pich and then immediately others followed and fellowshipped them. Since sisters have a 7:30 curfew, we had to leave while everyone was still dancing. But I could tell it was going to go long into the evening with everyone enjoying each other's company. It made me happy.
And then, of course, to end a great week we had general conference. Sister Sheffield and I became companions for the weekend because we are the Americans. We got to watch it in a special room with all the missionaries where we can eat all the snacks we want and nobody will judge us. So we ate a lotttt of food. And I made some good progress on my cross stitch project, which will still probably never be finished by the time I die. And not die as in finish a mission, but die as in just die.
But conference was great. I haven't had a chance to read back over my notes yet, so I don't really have any particular insights yet. I'm really excited for the Liahona to come out so I can read them all. But the ones I liked this year actually weren't by the apostles. Well that's not true, I loved Elder Holland's and Uchtdorf's.  But that is to be expected. Elder Eyring's was really good too, I thought. But my favorite was by Elder Clayton about belief and the fact that belief is a choice that takes action. We must awake and arise our own faculties. That sometimes along the path we won't see the light, but we must choose to keep going, keep fanning the flame of our belief anyways. I also liked Sister Wixom's talk about the woman who was dealing with doubts. I thought it was such a beautiful story. And that there are lots of lessons to learn both from the perspective of the woman going through the crisis of faith and those around her who supported her. Okay last one, I loved the talk about Shiblon! I read the blessing to Shiblon in Alma this morning, and it's so good! I'm officially team Shiblon. I also related a lot to the story he told about the missionary who struggled with the language that it didn't matter if he ever had leadership position or accolades or what because Heavenly Father knew he was a successful missionary. What else matters?
Okay, I think that's all for this week. It's officially Khmer New Years this week! (But lets be real, it basically lasts for a month). So we're having a bit of a party today with the sisters in our zone. So Happy New Year! Have a good week!
Sister Fields

This is how we serve in Pochentong! We realized while we were waiting for the wheelbarrow, it was much more effective to make a chain and carry the loads together than it was to each take a basket individually. There's some type of ward council metaphor here I won't make... But our Bishop is the one on the left end and the girl is Samnang an an awesome recent convert of ours!

This is Bong Pich. She is all ready to go to the party. She wouldn't smile for the camera. She's too cool for that.

Pinata-esque game at our Cool Chnam Party

Me devouring a jicama.

In between sessions we went to the other sisters house because it's much closer to the stake center. This is Sister S., her companion Sister Vin and Sister Nyaem all working on our cross stitch projects. Sister S. is particularly eager.

Meal between sessions. I still can't cook it well, but I do love Khmer food these days!

Missionary conference room!

The Khmer sisters watched the women's session Sunday night, so Sister S. and I (who watched it already) went contacting for a bit in her area and found a beautiful view.

Monday, April 6, 2015

In Which I am Persuaded that Nothing Shall Separate Us from the Love of God

Helping move bricks to build a wall.
Hey there, 

Happy Easter! And Happy conference weekend! There was no sign of Easter celebrations here. One person mentioned it at church, but otherwise no one would have ever known. Everyone is much too caught up in preparations for Cool Chnam Khmer (Khmer New Year). It's pretty much Christmas to Cambodians and everyone in the city is getting ready to clear out this week. It's the 14th-16th and I've heard we can't even proselyte in Phenom Penh those days because everyone goes to their hometowns in the khetes. So we'll see about that. We have our Cool Chnam ward party on Friday, so that should be super fun.

It's SOOOOOOOOOOOO hot. April is the hottest month everyone says. And I don't know if I can survive it. The rains will come in May. But for right now, it's just hot and humid and so sticky. I'm soaked with sweat after five minutes of biking.

So I heard the news that a temple is coming to Bangkok! President Gong alluded to the fact when he was here a few months ago.  So rumors had been going around. That is SO exciting. It is really going to help people here. Thailand is so much closer than Hong Kong. And it's going to give members here increased hope that a temple of their own is not so far off. Super exciting. 

We will be watching conference this coming weekend. The American missionaries are fortunate enough to get to watch it in English. And this past Saturday, the American sisters (in the city) got together at the mission home and watched the women's broadcast. It was good time. Sister Moon even made cookies for us! She is the best. I thought it was pretty good. I think it's interesting that they always have such a pointed theme for the women's conference. The lip-syncing music video was a bit too much for me, but the talks were good. My note-taking took a very teaching-centered focus this time around. I liked how simply they talked about the family. If there's one thing I'm learning on this mission to Cambodia, it is understanding the gospel at it's simplest essence. I'm not Bible bashing anyone over here like I know other missionaries deal with. I'm just trying to help people understand the concept of a loving Heavenly Father. 

As we turned in our numbers last night, it was another disappointing string of zeroes as far as investigators are concerned. It's not about the numbers. But the numbers reflect a crucial part of our work here that is lacking in Pochentong. But we continue on. Continue to have hope that even though we're not teaching new people, that we are helping this ward to progress. 

Saturday afternoon we had an official sit down meeting with the bishop for the first time since I have been here! There's progress! We identified several less active families that we want to work with together this week. I'm  not exactly sure what is spurring this new-found desire to work with the missionaries, but it's making a big difference! With the bishop on our team, I'm hoping our efforts will be even more effective. 

This week we ended up doing a lot of service activities, which is a little strange because usually we don't have a whole lot of opportunities here in Pochentong. But twice this week we helped Ming Naeng (a recent convert) and her family. They both live and work on a construction site. And her husband is working on building the walls. So we bring the bricks from around the outskirts of the site to him to use. It is exhausting work. But they are trying to save up as much money as they can for Cool Chnam. We had the elders come as well, and she was so grateful for our service. She kept telling us to stop and take breaks in the shade every time we'd bring a load. 

We also helped move dirt at our Relief Society President's house Saturday morning. She had a whole army working at her house: the Bishop, Elder's Quorum President, a couple young men, the elders and sisters.  It was awesome! We moved wheel barrow after wheel barrow of dirt from the front of her house, through her house, to the back so that her back yard doesn't turn into a swamp once the rain comes. One nice thing about having a dirt floor house is that you don't have to worry about dirt getting on the floor when you're wheeling it through the house! And then she made is lunch! And I'm all about the food these days. 

I won't lie. It's been really discouraging not seeing outward results for the hard work we've been putting in week after week. It's been spiritually, emotionally, and certainly physically exhausting. But working and serving side-by-side with these members has been a really cool experience.  I've really developed a love for a lot of them. 

I know I talk about Ming Samay pretty much every week, but she is such a great example to me of what a member of this Church and a disciple of Christ is supposed to be. Sunday night she went to with us to meet a less active woman. I had met with this woman a lot of times the past few months. She has a hard life, and she's had a hard time with a lot of the members and even the missionaries. I didn't know how to continue to help her. But when we came into her home last night, we brought hope and light. We talked and laughed with her. My companion gave her a massage. I held her hand (this woman is very much a physical-touch-love-language person) and Ming Samay told her "coh mian seckdeisungkhum coh!" (have hope!) and then invited her to come spend Cool Chnam Khmer at her house with her family.   By the time we left her house, she was a different person than she was when we came. She's not fixed forever. She'll still have problems. I don't even know if she'll really come back to Church this time or not. But for a moment we (and by we I mostly mean Ming Samay) helped her feel God's love. 

Speaking of God's love, I just want to end with one scripture. The last two verses of a fantastic chapter of scripture. Romans 8. I love Paul. I always imagine him to be kind of like Elder Holland. They are both such powerful writers. I've written this one on a sticky-note and posted it on my wall and I'm memorizing it. And whenever I read it, I hear it in Elder Holland's voice in my head. It goes:

 38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
 39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

A thought appropriate for Easter Sunday because at the end of the day, that's the message of Easter and Christmas and the gospel and everything else. Heavenly Father loves us so much and He shows us that love through his Son. That's all that matters.
Sister Fields