Monday, June 29, 2015

In Which We Go to the Mountains (well, mountain)

The view from the mountain.
Hello friends,

I always feel like nothing new happened in the week and then I look back through my planner and remember all the little things that happen. It's weird because we do the same things every week and every day, so what's left to share are the weird random details. So that's what this week will be. 

First of all, Phnom Sampov. Last Monday we took a trip up to the "mountains." This country is incredibly flat, so it was really just more like hills. Our whole zone plus the missionary couple decided to go, so we got to tuk tuks to take us up. Despite speaking the language, they still made us pay the entrance fee. We are, after all, not actually Khmer. The mountain was super pretty. There's a big wat at the top and a bunch of really great lookouts. And it was really cloudy and misty, so it was the perfect day to go hiking. A bunch of kids hang out at the base, hoping to be tour guides for the tourists who come along. And when they realized we spoke Khmer we had about four or five kids trailing after us. It was actually pretty interesting though. Phnom Sampov was the site of a whole lot of killings during Pol Pot's reign. They have these big caves called the Killing Caves. There are these pits you can stand above and look down into, and we learned that they would take the victims (the educated, people who lived in the city, and pretty much whoever they wanted) up to to the top, hit them in the back of the head and push them in. They wouldn't even waste a bullet on them. They killed men, women (many of whom were pregnant), and kids each at separate caves. The craziest thing is that the caves still have so many of their bones in them. We went into one cave that had a big cage just full of skulls. And next to it on a ledge was a bunch of human teeth. Not even in a case or next to a sign or anything. That was one of the strangest things to me. There's no monument or sign or anything recognizing the crazy atrocities that went down there. That's one of the reasons it put me on edge so much. It just feels so real and raw still. It also makes me sad that these sites of such cultural and religious significance (wats) became places of such terrible history. I wish I knew more about Pol Pot. People don't talk about it. I feel like it would give me more of a context for everything. I felt very reverent there. I don't know if that's the word for it. But it reminded me again of why I'm here. The Atonement is the answer. It can bring more healing than anything I know. 

As far as teaching goes, it was kind of a weird week. We had so many appointments fall through. On Saturday we had two separate people call and cancel before we had made it to our first appointment. So we were stuck for a bit. But then things turned around and we were able to meet with a couple recent converts who are hard to meet with. On Saturdays we go out to a far area and stay until 2:00, and then we come back into the city, get lunch at our favorite Chinese place and then go to the church at 3:00 for a meeting. But as we were riding back in, happy that the day had turned around, Sister Allen's tire popped with no bike fixing places in sight. So we ended up walking to get lunch to go, and then to make copies for our meeting, and then walked across the river to find a bike shop. Long story short, it took forever.  We were late to our meeting and had an appointment at 4:00 before we had to be back to the church at 5:00 for a baptism. So we ended up eating our lunch for dinner after our crazy day. 

My companion and I have gotten steadily more lazy with making food. Sometimes putting rice in the rice cooker and pressing the on button just seems like too much work. So Sunday at lunch we came home and had the great idea to make an entire box of Bisquick pancakes. We stuck them in the freezer, and we have food for a week!

We had an interesting experience yesterday with an investigator. We contacted her a couple weeks ago doing service outside her house. She's super nice and always invites us in. She's having a hard time financially now (but who's not) and with her family. She needs the gospel, but she hasn't really realized it yet. She says she's too old to learn, that she won't remember anything and that she never went to school and is not smart enough. (We get that a lot). But we found out on our first visit that there are Japanese missionaries visiting her once a week. We had a great Lesson 1 with her, helping her realize that there are a lot of churches on this Earth, and she needs to find truth for herself. But yesterday as we were trying to teach her about faith the Japanese missionaries showed up. Things were about to get fun. Jk. But it was a little awkward. These two girls walk in (probably about our age) and they're wearing skirts and crocs, just like us! They start talking in halting Khmer. And we scoot over and invite them to sit on the wooden bed with us. I was super excited. I wanted to hear their whole spiel and hear them speak Khmer and what there message was. They ended up wanting to meet with her daughter and show her a little video. She was about to go back to Japan for a few months. She pulls out an iPad (they're iPad missionaries!) and this video goes on to tell (in Khmer) about how life is hard, and we can find answers in the Bible. And then she sort of bore testimony of it. It was fascinating! I felt like I was watching the Japanese, Jehovah's Witnesses (maybe?) version of myself! The only difference is they ride a moto...

Hmmm. What else. Cambodia continues to be a bundle of fun. This place is so strange sometimes. Whenever there is a wedding or a funeral or anything, they throw up a tent in the road and have a party complete with monks who chant for hours on end. They have this music that they have to play in order to guide the spirit to where it's supposed to go. It's like a series of gong sounds in different  pitches. It's so terrible and eerie sounding. If you're rich, you can pay for other music to play on top of it, but it you're poor, it's just the familiar funeral music blasting for all the neighborhood. I don't know if a lot of people in Battambang die or what, but we hear it all the time! On Friday we went to Ming Thida's house to teach her son. We were hoping to watch the Restoration video with them, but their neighbors were having a funeral and so it was pointless. We had to yell to talk. Thida told us that the neighbors were currently digging a hole to bury the body right here! This is literally right off the side of her house! She said it smelled bad! I thought they cremated people in Buddhism. Cambodia is a strange place, I'm telling you. There are so many things that happen here that I think, I'm pretty sure that should be against the law...

But it's not all bad. They have cute, cheap clothes. With all our appointments falling through this week, Sister Allen and I have gotten into something we call "dress contacting." AKA if we have nothing to do and we drive around and see a place with cute dresses, we stop and contact the people and buy dresses. I've bought two so far this week... Whoops. 

So I won't give you the whole investigator update this week. There's not too much to tell. There were a couple people who couldn't make it to church this week for various reasons, but other than that, things are moving along and progressing well. And after our mass less-active house visiting activity last Sunday with the youth, we had a couple less actives come who hadn't come in a while! So that was exciting. There are two sisters (one's 22 the other is 16) who used to be really good and help the sisters a lot and then they got busy and stopped coming. I think they started to feel awkward about it after a while because it had been so long. We've been trying to meet them for a while with no success, but after they came to church we went over with them later in the afternoon and had a really good lesson! And we made friends with them, and I think they are going to try to start making time for church again. 

We've been teaching about the sacrament to pretty much everyone this week. Sharing in D&C 59:9. It's way good. We have a couple of recent converts that have stopped coming to church (most of our recent converts, actually). Two in particular are hard to meet. They are handicapped and play on a handicapped basketball team. For some reason there are so many handicapped people in Battambang. But somehow it's their job (aka they get paid for it) and work on Sundays. And it's really hard for them to get out of it. Also when they come to church they bike the whole way (maybe 5 miles) with a hand bike. There are actually a couple other members on the team. One in particular is a recent convert in another branch. And she has a ton of faith. And she's made the sacrifice to skip out every Sunday for church. The senior couple told us about her, as we were sharing about our struggles with our recent converts in district meeting one time. We knew it would be great to get her in a lesson with us, but she lives in another branch, and we didn't think it was very practical. But on Saturday we ended up meeting our recent convert at the center where she plays basketball. And we walk in and the person she's sitting with is the elder's recent convert! It was a miracle! As we taught about the sacrament, she was right there to testify that it was worth it. That sacrifices bring blessings. She was an incredible example for her friend. Even though she didn't come to church the next day, I think it sunk in for her. It was a bit of a reality check for her. That she couldn't just get baptized and it wasn't a big deal, but that she had made covenants already. So hopefully she'll start coming back! We're doing a FHE with her and our other recent convert and a couple other members in the neighborhood this week. 

So that was the week. I'll end with a spiritual thought that kind of ties in to where I started this letter. So I'm working my way through The Book of Mormon pretty quickly to finish in a transfer. And it's been really fun so far. Also I just made it out alive of the Isaiah chapters this morning, so it's all downhill from here. But I want to share a scripture from 1 Nephi 13. This is after Nephi has this crazy vision of pretty much all of history. He sees Christ, the Apostasy, the exploration/colonization of America, and then the beginnings of the Restoration. The angel tells Nephi that a record (the Book of Mormon) will come forth and make known the plain and precious things that had been lost, and then "shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world"  He goes on to learn that there is but one fold and one shepherd over all the others. And the time will come that he shall manifest himself "unto all nations." I read this the morning after I went to Phnom Sampov and I was still caught up thinking about Pol Pot and the situation Cambodia still finds itself in, even 40 years later. It's still dealing with so many repercussions, due in part to the fact that 25% of the population was killed. And I see this on a daily basis. Maybe not directly related to everything that went down in the 70s, but so many people are still broken here. Still trying to make sense of everything as they try to just make a living every day. And I can't give them money. I can't give them employment. I can't repair families that were torn about 40 years ago. But what I can offer them is this message of hope. The message of Jesus Christ that is now filling the world reaching all kindred, tongues, and peoples. Because the gospel knows no cultural boundaries. We are all children of God.

Wooh. Okay, sorry. I'll get off my soapbox. Here's to another good week!


Sister Fields  

Tuk tuk ride to the mountain.

The mountain.

The sisters at Phnom sampov.

Phnom sampov.

Me and my comp.

The wat.

This monkey stole one of the Elder's drinks.

The look down from the caves.

The skulls.

This is inside one of the caves.

The tuk tuk.

Our boy band shot. 

Sister A. and Sister F.

Fixing power lines Cambodia-style.


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