Monday, May 18, 2015

In Which I eat banana bread, mangos, and potstickers!

Sometimes missionary life is a bit starved for entertainment...
Hey there,

It's been a good week in Battambang! It was super fun to Skype last week. It kind of feels like Skyping should become a weekly thing now, except for the fact that technology never works when you want it to. 

Let's see what happened this week. I'm starting to get familiar with the area and with the members. My companion has only been here one transfer. She whitewashed and then she ended up joining a tripanionship and serving in two branches. And for various reasons, they didn't get to proselyte a lot in our branch (branch 1). So she doesn't know a whole lot more than me about the area or the branch. So we're learning together! There are lots of moments (nightly planning for example) where we just look at each other and don't know what to do next, but we're getting some good CBR (convert baptism retention)  hunting in (AKA finding inactive members). 

One thing we've had quite a bit of success with here is investigators! We have progressing investigators!! And we've been finding more. We found three more this week. We have one who is getting close to baptism. She's come to church (all three hours) this week and last week. And her faith is really growing. She had a cool experience last week. She got a moto (for the first time) and was going to ride it to church, but was worried about driving in traffic (sidenote: traffic doesn't exist in Battambang). So before she left she prayed, and then when she got to the busy part (read: two-lane road) there weren't any cars at all! So that was a faith-building experience for her. It's the little things. So hopefully in a couple weeks we'll have a baptism! She's scheduled for the 20th of next month, but if she keeps coming to church we can move it up.

Last week we met with a referral from the Elders. Her name is Bong Mei. She's a young mother with two kids and one on the way. She actually learned with missionaries before in the city. She remembers a lot. She's smart. She's also very poor, which is a struggle. The biggest obstacle preventing members here from coming to church is poverty and not having anything to ride to church (not even a bike) and no money to pay for a moto taxi. So we're hoping some nearby members can take her. We invited her to be baptized last week, which was when she told us she drinks and smokes. A lot. So that's going to be a challenge. But she was very upfront with us. She knew (before we even taught Word of Wisdom) that it was going to be in issue, so she didn't try to hide it. So we're now working with her to break her addiction, which neither my comp or I have much experience with. But we bought her a little notebook to keep track of when she drinks and smokes so she can become aware of it. I really want to help her. She has some issues, but she also has a ton of faith. She told a us a really cool experience. When she was pregnant with her first child she was in a really bad place and was contemplating suicide. But then she had this awesome spiritual experience that stopped her from doing it. I can just see how great she can be if she can make the changes in her life she needs too. It won't happen right away, but I have a feeling I'll be here for a while. 

We're also teaching a grandmother and her grandchildren. We had nothing to do one afternoon last week after an appointment fell through. So we walked down a dirt road along the railroad tracks (much less sketchy than the tracks in Pochentong) and we stopped at the house of the first person who smiled at us. We just said hi and they immediately welcomed us into their house. It's moments like that that I really am so glad I'm serving in Cambodia. Not like that happens every time we go contacting, but people really are very welcoming here. We've only just starting teaching them, but we're going back tomorrow, so I'll keep you posted. 

So the work is coming along here quite well. Despite the fact it is sooo hot. Hotter than the city I think. Everyone is saying it's hotter than the average year. And that the rains should have come by now. Some days it rains, but some days it just stays hot. But regardless, Battambang is beautiful. And I'm enjoying being very much a tourist on P-days. There's a museum here that we're going to go check out today if there's time! And there is so much delicious food. There's an Indian restaurant we've got to try soon. And a Chinese place Sister A. and I have already decided is going to be our weekly Saturday lunch. Fried potstickers. So much oil and garlic, and so good! They also have a really delicious bakery we order bread from every week. Fresh baked white and banana bread! Also, it is full-on mango season here. And so many members have bags they just give away. So we've stopped needing to buy fruit at the market! So lots of good eats here. 

We live upstairs in the same house as the brand new senior couple. It's been really fun getting to know them and helping them get used to Cambodian life (taking them to the psaa [market], translating at church). They come to our district meetings and English class, so we see them a lot. And they invited us over for dinner last night and Sister S. made pot roast! It was delicious! We ate it over rice, because what else do you do in Cambodia? 

So I think that's all for this week. I'll end with an excerpt from our most recent transfer letter from President Moon. It's about priorities and progress. He compares our personal progress to completing a puzzle:

"It's like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. You cannot complete the puzzle if you stop after one piece or a few pieces--each piece is important and required to complete the picture. If you are looking at all the pieces and trying to put them all in their proper place all at once it would be overwhelming--you would not accomplish anything. You have to focus on one piece at a time and add it to the picture. If you have one piece that you can't quite master yet--one part of the puzzle that you still struggle to find how it fits--don't let that keep you from working on other parts of the puzzle that you can make progress on. don't let imperfections keep you from making progress in as many areas as you can and using your strengths to move the work forward. The Lord wants us to keep moving forward in faith, even if there are some things we have not figured out completely yet. Don't get so focused on one specific area where you still have faults or fears that you let that keep you from moving forward n a positive direction in your life." 

This is an important lesson for me. The puzzle piece I'm still really struggling with is the language. I'm realizing it's probably going to be a mission-long struggle for me. And I don't really know why it comes easier for some missionaries than others. But what I'm realizing is that the language really isn't everything. That there's so much else (teaching skills, knowledge of scriptures, testimony, service, real friendship) that I can bring as a missionary. And that I can still be an effective missionary and still struggle with the language. And I am working hard to learn this language. And I am progressing. Sometimes it's hard to see the progress, but when I turn around and look back, there's definitely progress. Faith means continuing to act and moving forward. 

That's all I have! Have a good week!


Sister Fields

View from our investigator's house while waiting for her to show up. It definitely beats Pochentong!

Baby monks! I didn't get a very good picture. But they were so cute. Lots of wats [temples] and lots of monks here.

Sunday dinner at the senior missionaries' home.

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