Monday, August 31, 2015

In Which I Get Back to City Life

It felt kind of like graduation, but yes we're friends.

So this week's email will be significantly shorter than last week's. Compared to last week, not much happened. I'm just trying to get to know this new area just in case we get split apart in two weeks! Real transfer calls come on Sunday night, so we will see what happens. A bunch of new missionaries are coming in, which is good news. For whatever reason, we are all spread very thin between areas now. Usually in our mission elders and sisters have only one area to worry about, but in Battambang and now here in North Zone I've been working in two branches. I have a theory that they might split our wards again and I'll stay in one and Sister Xiong will stay in the other, each of us with new companions. But there might be more places that missionaries are needed. Stay tuned. 

The big news this week was we had two baptisms! So that's a pretty good way to start off an area. One from Toulkork and one from Teuk La'ak. It was a little chaotic because they're doing construction in our building right now, so we ended up having the baptismal service in the chapel; and when it was time for the baptisms, the construction workers stopped pounding in tiles and moved to the side for a second. It's Cambodia. 

The convert from Toulkork Ward is Ming Sovana. Even though it's only been a week, I feel like I've gotten to know their family pretty well. She was a referral from the Elders in the Vietnamese branch. Her husband is a member, and I'm not sure why it took Sovana so long to learn because she is so good and prepared! She understands so much already, so she's really fun to teach because she just wants to learn more and more and eats up everything we have to teach her. We met her a several days this week, to help her get ready for her baptism, and she was so excited. She and her husband have four teenage daughters that we are going to start teaching tonight! It should be interesting... They don't quite have the same attention span or learning level that the mom has, but they are cute girls. And they really like us a lot, haha. So we'll see how it goes. It will be good practice applying what we've learned from Elder Holland about meeting our investigator at the level they are at. Teaching them there, and then bringing them up step by step. 

The second recent convert is Somphoa. She is a seventeen-year-old girl. Her cousin and aunt and maybe some other family members are members in the ward too. She was super excited for her baptism also. So excited, in fact, that she forgot to plug her nose before going under. Both me and the elder baptizing her didn't think to mention it. But now I won't forget because she came up with nose full of water, coughing and choking all over the place. Whoops. I think she still had a good experience overall though. 

Overall I'm starting to get adjusted. Being back at the stake center I see members I knew from before, so that's been fun. And it's surprised me how many people I know/recognize from doing exchanges in these areas and from just sharing a building with them before. Being back in the city isn't all that terrible. I'm getting into the swing of city life again. Traffic is still annoying, but we do live literally around the corner from a delicious bakery. I was so sad to say goodbye to my Green Mango Bakery (with fresh banana bread) from Battambang, but now I can get fresh (okay, semi-fresh) chocolate croissants anytime I want. It's become a dangerous temptation for Sister Xiong and I. 

As far as training goes, it's been interesting. It's been stressful and humbling. Maybe almost as much so as my own training, but not quite. Let's be real, those were very dark days. But being a trainer is changing the way I look at the work. While I've grown to take a lot of ownership over investigators and the work (especially this last transfer in Battambang), I feel it so much more now. I want to give my companion as many opportunities to lead as much as she wants/is willing to take. I keep getting flashbacks to my own training! She's a lot like me. I just really want her to have all the confidence she needs. And I want her to love her mission. But that's a process. Let's be real, I'm not even all the way there yet. But I want her to see that missions can be fun in addition to testimony-building and all those other good things. 

I just get worried I'm not doing all I can sometimes. It's just exhausting because I have to be "on" all the time. No tuning out for a second in a lesson or when you don't know what to say turning to your companion. So I'm learning a lot from this experience. Probably more than she is to be honest. But despite the stress, it's also been very rewarding. It's so nice to feel like I can really build relationships with people. The other day we went to go visit a less active. It was kind of an awkward lesson (mostly just because she's an awkward person, I think). But she hasn't been back to church since pretty much the time she was baptized because she had bad dreams/scary experiences and her family convinced her it was their ancestors. I kept trying to say things and help her realize why church was important, but it was not working. I ended up saying a quick prayer and then ended up testifying of the Atonement and the comforting and enabling effect it can have in our lives. And I could tell she felt the Spirit. It was what was needed at the moment, and I was very grateful for that inspiration. 

But I'm still very much still learning how to do this. Confidence has played a big role. And it's something I've struggled with a lot more on my mission than I think I had for a while. I remember having a conversation with President Moon about it. He taught me that confidence does not come from myself and my own abilities, but it comes from my faith in Christ. So that's what I'm still working on. Putting my faith and trust in Him and His Atonement. And it's funny, even though my stutter is still very much present at times, and it's still hard for me to understand and for people to understand me at times, it works. And I'm grateful that I have the confidence enough, know the culture enough, and I don't know, just feel comfortable enough that now I can make real connections with people. 

Well, I said I'd keep it short this week. That's enough of my musings anyways.

Have a good week!


Sister Fields

View from out my window one morning. 

Ming Sovana and her family (including the four girls we are teaching now).

Ming Sovana.


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

In Which I Become BFFs with Elder Holland

Saying goodbye to Battambang.

Greetings from Phnom Penh.  I just couldn't stay away too long. The city missed me too much. It's giving me all kinds of flashbacks to my months in the city. Now it's feeling like I've been here the whole time and Battambang is some sort of a hazy dream. But I'm excited for this round in the city. It's going to be great. Sister Xiong is so awesome, and we have so much in common already. Training is going to be an exciting challenge, even though let's be real, it's only the last three weeks. She knows a lot already.

Okay but first, let's start at the beginning of the week. Back in Battambang. This week I was reunited with my MTC companion!  We have spent approximately zero time together in the field. We just have never served near each other. But she and Sister J. are "senior sister training leaders" (a new leadership position that equals Sister AP--it's awesome), so they came up and did an exchange with us. Because Battambang is a million miles a way from the rest of the world, they stayed two nights. Sleepover time! It was really great to see them. Sister J. ended her mission yesterday, and it was sad to see her go. It's been really fun getting to know all these sisters. I don't know how closely knit our mission is compared to others, but ours is really great. I think it helps that we don't have very many sisters in our mission. Especially now. We're down to maybe 20! 

Sister S. came with Sister E. and I in branch one, and it was super fun to be with her again. It was fun to hear her speak Khmer and ride our bikes around Cambodia together and do all the things we thought we could never do back in the MTC. This week has been one of a lot of reflection. And being with her was a reminder of how much we've both grown over this past year. Missions are cool. 

It was the definition of a bittersweet week this week. I had to part with my beloved Battambang --the first place I've ever loved on my mission and felt like I could be an effective missionary. And everyone I've met her is so wonderful. I couldn't make anyone any promises, but I told them I really hoped to come back in the future. It's really cool to leave everyone on such a great note. Even though it's only been two and a half months, it feels like the time flew by, I have seen such great progress in so many of these people I love. Like Ming Thida. When I came in May she had just barely learned the first three lessons and was barely coming off the fence about things. Now she's so solid and has literally given us five referrals in two weeks. I told her she's basically a missionary already. And Om Chanda. She's so committed now to that new baptismal date. She's determined to come to church every single week for the rest of her life and "walk down God's path with her family." Hearing her talk about it all almost made me cry. She was my and Sister Al.'s street contact! So cool too see. They are just going to keep moving forward. And those kids are going on missions, I'm determined to see it happen. We also had one last good lesson with Om Jonhan. They were pretty torn up about me leaving. It think it's hard especially because Sister A. only left three weeks ago! Shortest transfer ever. But they love Sister K. and E. already, so it's going to be fine. We shared with Jonhan a simple, simple lesson about eternal families and family history. His wife died several years ago, and I just really wanted him to understand the concept. It takes a while to get to that point, but he gets it. I've seen him progress a lot already. I know he has real faith. When I told him that he can see his wife again and really live with her again he said, "really?" And I could tell by looking in his eyes that he really got it. And wanted it. So that was a cool moment. I'm excited to hear from the other sisters how everyone continues to progress.

Also on Friday, Tin got baptized! It was a very cool experience. Due to factors probably within our control, we got to the church five minutes before it was supposed to start! But also it's Cambodia. There's Mormon standard time and then there's Cambodia standard time, and they're not a great mix. But anyway, we showed up and she comes running out the door with a huge smile on her face and gives us each a big hug. It was cute. It's fun to see how much she's blossomed. She carries a light within her now. She was the only one getting baptized, so it was a sweet and simple program. Elder C. baptized her (he was my desk buddy at the MTC, and it was his first baptism, so that was cool too). Sister K. did something I loved just before she went in. She pulled her aside in the bathroom just before we went into the font, and reminded her again what a special day it was and what she was about to do. She told her not to be scared, but just to pay attention to how she feels. And then she went down in the water. I loved that so much, and I'm going to start doing that with all my investigators. She bore a sweet, simple testimony that she was so happy today. She's lived across from the Branch President's family for a few years and would always watch them pile onto their moto every Sunday morning, and she said she always wanted to join them. And now she's here and so happy. It was a sweet moment. And a perfect way to end my time in Battambang. 

Saturday we headed down to the city (after packing up my stuff again. Sometimes I feel like packing is all I do on my mission). The Elders arranged for us to go down in a van. Somebody remind me not to trust elders to arrange things! You'd think I would have learned my lesson by now. Just kidding (but only kind of). We met in the church parking lot. I rolled in with my two, nicely packed bags and sat them beside the FIVE bags the only Elder transferring out had. Okay, that might have been an exaggeration, but our van rolls up and it is not quite what we pictured. There's nine of us and at least five big suitcases, and we've got a Toyota Sienna. Turns out the original guy they called with a much larger van cancelled the night before. So as we were telling our new van driver that there's no way this was going to work, Then a random neakming pulls up on a moto. She said she was a neighbor and in the middle of drying fish on her roof, when she observed us and realized our predicament. Out of nowhere she pulls a new van off the road. But this is one of those sketchy Cambodian vans that straps all the luggage to the back of the van on a little wooden platform with stretchy cables. We all stared at it for a moment, but seeing no other options, we piled in, along with the two unfortunate other passengers already seated. It was a bit of a miserable trip. It's one of those vans that drives along picks up anyone who needs a ride and takes them as far as they want to go. But it was five dollars a person, so I suppose you get what you pay for. And after a very cramped ride, we did make it to the city. 

Because all the missionaries came in from the khets, they had a lot of missionaries stay with missionaries in the city. We went to the Steungmenchey house, and it was a party. There were nine of us all together. Sis H. came with her comp Sister S. from Kampongcham. And we stayed with Sis A. and Y. with their companions. So it was a good time. Food was a bit scarce, but we made it work. French fries, pancakes, cake and spaghetti. We're basically Khmer! Also, we had an adventure Sunday night. Somehow some of us ended up making brownies in the microwave in the middle of the night. Who knows, it was probably a spiritual prompting, after we realized how everything went down.... we were in the kitchen and all of a sudden we hear water in the bathroom. It sounded like someone was showering, but in order to go in the bathroom they'd have to pass by us. Slightly freaked out, we slowly opened the door and water was squirting out from the wall like a hose. Somehow a pipe randomly broke, and the bathroom filled up with water so fast! After two minutes of trying to bail it with a bucket, we ended up having to call and wake up our land lady next door. Good thing she's kind. But it was an adventure, ankle deep in water, all in our pajamas trying to keep us all from flooding by morning. 

Okay, now for the good part. I MET ELDER HOLLAND!! It really happened. We got to attend two meetings with him.Sunday morning we all headed over to this big venue for a meeting with all the members. I have no idea how big it was, but all the seats were filled. As we drove together in a tuk tuk, we kept seeing members from all different wards ride by. It was pretty exciting. We got there early and were there to see everyone arrive. It was such a cool experience. At the risk of sounding far too sister missionary-esque, it felt like heaven. All these members and missionaries we hadn't seen in so long all in one place. There were so many hugs and pictures. And then you'd turn around and see someone else you hadn't seen in a long time. They cancelled church for all members in the city and provided buses to go to the venue. I saw a ton of members from Pochentong, which helped get me excited to serve in the city again and hopefully see them around again. We share the same stake center. But it was so fun such a joyous reunion. I saw also saw Sister Choek and Sister Khim and a bunch of sisters that ended their missions already. So fun. 

And then we settled in to our seats. The elders and sisters took the back few rows, so the members could be closest. Elder Holland entered and we all stood. He blew kisses out to us. It was so surreal. It's one thing to see apostles in the MTC or the conference center, but to see him here in Cambodia was too cool! After a few words and testimonies by some members and leaders and the Christensens, Elder Holland spoke. One of the Stake Presidents translated for him. (Sidenote: translating for Elder Holland sounds absolutely terrifying, does it not?). 

I won't share a ton of what he said in the member meeting because I want to share everything he said in the missionary meeting, and I want to keep your attention. It's so hard to pick and choose what to share, it was all so good! But the first thing he said was that he has enjoyed Cambodia so much and wanted to stay in PP. He said there would probably be a bulletin in the Church News--"Apostle missing, if found please return to church headquarters". He focused his message to investigators, recent converts, and youth. He shared the reasons why he would join this church if he weren't already a member and why the whole world should. He hit on the restoration, Book of Mormon, temples, and the rising generation. And I'm trying to summarize Elder Holland, and everyone knows that doesn't work. But know that it was beautiful. It was simple and a perfect message for our members. He hit on all the points in lesson 1! As he left he pronounced a blessing on the members of Cambodia. He blessed all those that had righteous desires that they may be fulfilled, that the priesthood holders would respect the priesthood, and that the faith-filled women who keep this church strong will continue on. He blessed the children to go on missions and marry in the temple, and that all the families will always embrace all the blessings of the gospel. He promised that someday Cambodia would have a temple. It will still be a while, but someday, it will come. That was a promise. 

After goodbyes, the missionaries all caravaned over to the South Stake Center. After a quick lunch, we lined up to take a picture. And after strict instructions to be reverent (because turns out, we're capable of acting like twelve-year olds) Elder Holland came in. We took a group picture with him and then we lined up and got an individual handshake. They snapped a picture. It felt a little like graduation. We told him our names and where we were from. When it was my turn he told me "Oh, I know Gig Harbor" (!!!) We're best friends already. We filed in to the chapel and took the front row (obviously). So we were about five feet away from him the whole time. It felt very surreal. (Sidenote: It was actually the second time I shook his hand. The first time was about two years ago in a Barnes & Noble in Orem. Weird life!) 

His remarks had kind of two parts. The first half was about missions in general, and reminded me quite a bit of things he shared in his "The Miracle of a Mission" talk. It was awesome. He started off very friendly, telling us he was happy to meet us all and give us a handshake. He's sad he can't interview all of us, but when he gives us an handshake and looks into our eyes, it's like he's giving us a mini interview. He told us he loved being in Cambodia and being with the Christensens. Then he said what I had so longed to hear for a long time. That we all special because we were missionaries, but by definition we were special because they don't send just anybody to Cambodia. I felt so vindicated. That's probably not how I should have felt. But I felt like he understood all those times I sweated, stuttered and cried. He told us we were right at the edge of the frontier of the Church. Cambodia is hard. And Elder Holland just told me that. But then he got so serious and intense all of a sudden. He told us he wanted us to take our missions more seriously than anything in our whole lives. Pounding the pulpit, he told us to never talk about going back to "real life." This is real life. This is as close to real life as we will ever get. He said his mission meant everything to him. In those 24 months everything changed, and there hasn't been a day in 50 years that he hasn't thought about it. So he committed us to love this work and not miss a minute of it--the rain, mud, sickness, rejection--whatever happens embrace it, love it, and make it a part of who you are. You can go home, but you can never go back to who you were. If you do this right, you will never be the same. He told us we are God's investigators. We are taught, prepared, and advanced in the kingdom just like our investigators. What we want for investigators is what the Lord wants for us: change. He said we must ensure for ourselves at least one convert, that convert being us. Somewhere along the way we may lose sheep (we don't want to, but unfortunately in happens), but we should never lose shepherds. He told us to work first on ourselves, and let the converts fall where they may. 

He then gave us a very practical application for missionary work, which was super cool. He pulled out a whiteboard and had us open our scriptures together. Sharing from John 3, he walked us through the story of Nicodemus who came to ask questions of Christ. Christ talks about baptism as being born again and Nicodemus doesn't get it at all. He took us to verse 8 where Christ compares the Spirit to the wind, and talked about the necessity to make sure we are on the same level as our investigators. There are so many things that hold our investigators back from understanding: vocabulary, ignorance, traditions, a lack of perspective, not recognizing the Spirit, etc. Our role is to create a spiritual experience, to meet them at the level they are on and them bring them up. We can't expect them to know everything. They don't receive a Ph.D in Mormon theology after they pass their baptismal interview. They are all coming out of traditions and apostate worlds. We have to go where they are, share the gospel with them there. At that level, and then we can take them to higher planes--to the Sacred Grove, to Gethsemane. He told us not to get discouraged. That missionary work is hard, but it's designed to be hard. Conversion is difficult because salvation is not a cheap experience. Why would it be easy for an investigator or a missionary if it was never easy for the Savior. It has always been hard. If we want to be a disciple of Christ, we must be willing to walk where He walked and experience just a taste of what He did. We must walk through the corners of Gethsemane because the road to salvation always cuts through the Garden, where we must carry our own little cross. But we must do it for Him. For the Savior of the world. 

He ended his message; and after the closing song and prayer, he got up to leave. We all stood up with him. He was about to walk off the stand and then he stopped. The sister at the piano stopped playing. And we all stood there looking at him. He looked out at all of us and said with a crack in his voice and tears in his eyes that he could blink twice and see himself there. He said someday some of us would be doing this. He never thought it would be him. We all just stood there watching him walk out, wondering what that meant. I've been thinking about it a lot over the past few days. And I've realize how much trust they have in us (the apostles, prophet, ultimately, the Lord). It's scary. But that's why Elder Holland came down so hard on us, because the stakes are so high and so much trust is in our hands.

So it was a beautiful day. And I feel like I should end there. But I'll say a quick note about yesterday because yesterday I transferred! I'm in Toulkork and Teuk L'ak now with Sister Xiong. And I'm training!  My new companion is Hmong-American. She's very tied to her Hmong side, so when I told her my Hmongness she was sooo excited.   Even though I kicked out her old mother, she still loves me. We've decided that I will be her adopted mother. I get a good 25% of her at least. And we're going to have a lot of fun together. She reminds me so much of myself in training, it's kind of freaking me out a little bit, because now I start to see myself acting a little bit like my trainer. And I can't believe how the tables have turned! But I'm really excited to be with her. I feel like because I relate her I can help her open up a little bit and keep progressing in the language. I can't say how weird it is to be the one who knows more Khmer. It just helps me realize how much I really have progressed in a year. It's going to be great, and I'm way excited!

Ahhhhh, that was a long one. But it was a big week! I think that's all though, have a good week everyone!


Sister Fields

Ming Livan

Tin''s baptism. 

Om Jonhan and Bong Sokha.

Me and Sister S. (MTC comp) ride again.

This is what nine people stuffed in a tuk tuk looks like!

Sleepover pancake night and exchanges with Sister J and S.

Flooded bathroom!


At the venue.

Elder Holland's talk notes.

My new companion with both of her mothers.

Monday, August 17, 2015

In Which We Play Duck, Duck, Goose in Relief Society

Post rainstorm.  We were drenched!
Hello friends,

It was another busy week. The whole running two areas thing is a bit crazy, but we're getting it down I'd say. And we finally got all moved in to our house. A truck came up from  PP to load up a bunch of excess furniture to store in the city. But before that, we were sorting through everything, including two extra fridges that sat unplugged for a week and a half. I opened them to figure out which one we should keep and mold had struck. So that was a fun p-day. 

Part of the reason we wanted to get things sorted was because President was coming the next day to interview us. So we cleared out a little pathway through the clutter and debris. It's an interesting experience to get a new president halfway through. This is the first interview I've had with him, and it went very differently than my interviews with President Moon, which actually I think is more a measure of where I'm at on my mission more than anything. But President Moon had watched me ever since that first day. He observed my initial over-confidence in myself, coming in as what I thought was an experienced 23-year-old college grad. And he observed when it all came crashing down around me, only a week later. And then the dark days, and the gradual ascent up to the light. And President Christensen just doesn't have that vision of me, which is both freeing and scary. But the interview was good. I told him things were going well here. 

That is true. They are going quite well. I think we are being blessed for our efforts because even though we still stress about all the people we are forgetting, the time we always seem to be losing, and all there is still to do, all these referrals and new investigators are coming out of nowhere. Also, I just want to say, I just love Ming Thida. She has given us three separate referrals in the past two weeks. These are people she just meets and casually brings up the gospel with them. That's my recent convert! So branch one is just booming with new investigators again!

Also, I have good news about Om Chanta, Davan and Udom. They're back on track! I had been worrying about them a lot. It just felt that every week we were just losing more and more ground with them. They stopped coming to church, they asked if we could only teach once a week, instead of two. As much as Om Chanta loves the gospel, she just kept feeling like life (financial troubles, constantly trying to put together odd jobs to keep a roof over their heads) made it too difficult to make the gospel a priority. I knew we needed to give her a new baptismal goal to work towards, but I was worried how she would take it. But my companions both felt prompted we should. So we taught lesson three on the doctrine of Christ and hit hard on both faith and baptism. The Branch President came and bore a great testimony about baptismal covenants, and the Spirit was really strong. I testified that this was the only path that would bring the true happiness and security. I know that this was the right thing for her and her family. I've seen so much progression in them over the past two/three months, and I don't want to see that stop! Om is the spiritual leader of this family, and the example she sets for her grand kids will literally change the rest of their lives. Then we read Moroni 7:33-34 and extended the commitment to prepare for baptism again. And we waited. And I was nervous, because she had been very quiet while we had been teaching. But after a long pause she said, I know this is right. I know this is what I need to do. And that's when I teared up a little bit because she got it and it actually worked. And now we're helping them prepare again. We're going to get them coming back to church every week and finally get Om to stop smoking once and for all. The baptism is scheduled for the first week in September. 

Also, Tin will be getting baptized this Friday! The new rule in our mission is to have a week between the interview and the baptism, which I think works really well. So she's learned everything and now we just get to focus on helping her prepare spiritually for this special day. She was interviewed last Friday, and I could tell she was nervous. She's a little shy, and she never went to school, so she's self-conscious about not remembering everything. But the interview went well, and she came out of it smiling ear to ear, even glowing. So I'm excited for her. 

Vira and Sina are our really cool investigator family in branch three. If I didn't know them, I would think they were members already. They are just so good. So prepared. We went and taught them about temples this week, and they just got it. We really hit on family sealings; and as soon as they understood, they wanted to know all the logistics of how long they had to wait, how they could save up money, etc. And then the husband ended with a prayer and asked to help prepare the way for them so they could go to the temple. It was perfect. And he wore a white shirt and tie to church yesterday. So they are ready for baptism. 

So it was a good week work wise. We got caught in two rainstorms. We've been lucky this season. I guess Battambang is usually known for flooding, but it hasn't flooded once. But this week it was sooooo hot. It gets scorching hot before it rains. It just so happened that the time we were riding from the far end in branch one all the way to branch three is when it decided to dump. After one minute we were as soaked as if we had just jumped into pool. Sheets and sheets of rain. We couldn't see or bike after a little while. That was one of those moments where I stop and think about my life and my choices and the fact the fact that I am in the middle of  Cambodia, soaked. And so it goes. 

Oh yes, one last story from Relief Society on Sunday. So we walked into branch one Relief Society on Sunday and learned that there was no teacher. And in that case they of course turn to the missionaries, the non-native Khmer speakers to whip out a lesson using a Khmer manual. It's cool. The topic was family home evening. So we started talking about our own experiences and the blessings, the purpose, etc. And things kind of died down with fifteen minutes left to go. So we decided we'd do a role play. Sister K. was the father, Sister E. was the mother, I was the child, and then Ming Bok (our slightly apostate, but has her heart in the right place Sunday school teacher) volunteered to be my older brother. She got way into it. She was making me laugh so much. So we knelt on the floor in front of our "parents." We sang a song, had opening prayer, had a quick lesson on service, and then it was time for the game. Our zero forethought led to duck, duck goose, but when we were explaining the game, we realized none of us knew the word "goose" in Khmer. So of course we played duck, duck, cat. All the Relief Society sisters loved it! We had them all cracking up. So as far as winging lessons go, I'd say it was a success. 

So that's it for the week. Except for an unfortunate bit of news I've saved for the last because I don't like to think about it. I'm transferring next week. They ended up doing a mini transfer in the middle of the transfer because so many missionaries are leaving early to be home in time for school.  So I'm going back to the city.... Back to North Zone actually, same zone as Pochentong, where I was before. I'm in Tuk L'ak and Toul Kok. And I'm finishing up training a sister for her last three weeks, and then she's out of training. Her name is Sister X.. She's from America and she is Hmong-American!  I was not expecting it at all. I knew that only one sister was going home, and I figured they shuffle around sisters in the city for a few weeks, and then when real transfers came I might go. So it's three weeks too soon and I'm not ready! As I wrote all these things in this letter, I thought about the fact that I'm leaving so many people I love and I'm going to miss so much. I'll still be here for Tin's baptism, but then Saturday I'll be going down to the city. So it's sad. But in some ways, I'm glad that it's sad. I'm glad that I've made so many connections with people here (members, investigators, missionaries) that it's hard to leave. It seems like when you start to get used to things on the mission, that's when the change happens again. But that's how the growth keeps coming. So it'll be good. But next week you'll here from me from the city, I suppose. 

Also, yes Elder Holland is coming this weekend! I was super excited for this weekend until I got the call last night. Because now I'm going down, but not coming back up. But it'll still be great. I'm so excited. Of pretty much anyone to come visit the mission, Elder Holland would be the one I'd get most excited about. So it's ALL GOOD. 

Okay, that's all for this week. Big things are happening!

Sister Fields

Jonhan and Sokhaa (I don't wanna goooooooo......)

A member helping Vira (our investigator) tie a tie.

We are the only sisters in our zone so we decided we would go to lunch every Friday.

We ate at an Italian restaurant with a Zen atmosphere. 

This was ricotta, spinach ravioli. It was DELICIOUS!

Monday, August 10, 2015

In Which We Strike Gold

When we went to go pick up the grandma in Branch 3 in the wheelchair, we found this pipe and a giant ditch torn up in her neighborhood. So unfortunately, we couldn't take her to church this week, but the neighborhood kids had fun with us. 

Greetings friends,

And it's been another week already. This one was spent with more hours on a bus. We just can't seem to stay away from the city these days. Actually, it involved very little proselyting until about Saturday. We're still trying to figure out the balancing of the two branches. It's still causing us a bit of stress, but next week we've got a full week. So hopefully we can fit in all the people we hope to see. The nice thing about serving two branches is you never run out of people to see.

But I'll start with the beginning of the week. Just two days of making it home (and only approximately two hours of proselyting later) we hopped on a bus to the city. The six-hour rides are a breeze now. But I can't tell you how sick of Khmer music videos I am! We spent the night at the mission home and while Sister E. was in the meeting the next morning, Sis K. and I went to go visit another sister who's in the hospital with an amoeba(!!). She's out of the hospital now though.

We made it back Tuesday night. We had a bunch of errands and things still to finish up at the other house, so we took care of that this week. Our house is still a bit of a disaster. We're attempting to make sense of things this afternoon. Rearrange the kitchen, get the oven plugged in, and we are hoping to pawn off a couple things to the Elders. I think the plan is that the mission is going to come take some stuff and haul it back to a storage space in PP. Not sure when that's going down though. But President is coming up tomorrow night for interviews at our house. Don't ask me why he's coming to the house and not to the church across the street. But it might be not a bad thing. Then he can see the dire situation in person. Just kidding. It's not that dire. We're slowly chipping away at the mound.

Other monumental news, THURSDAY WAS MY YEAR MARK!! And all around I feel good about it. It's a bit stressful that the time is ticking away and I only have six months left. But in reality, six months is still a long time. I can't really decide if a year feels like it's been a whole lot longer or shorter than it actually is. I feel like both. It feels like forever since I said goodbye at the airport and hopped a plane to Provo like literally years and lifetimes ago. But then I can't believe I've been it Battambang for three months already. So, who knows. Mostly I just feel accomplished. It's been a good year. Lots of changing/growing, but it a good way I'd say.

Just a brief update on investigators. Unfortunately we didn't have much time to meet with people and it's causing us to have to push back some baptism dates, but that's okay.

First Tin. She's the young one woman who lives across from the Branch President's house. She's doing well. She comes to church every week (except yesterday, she was sick). If all goes well she should get baptized this Saturday.
Second Jonhan, our 77-year-old investigator. He got into a moto accident. He went off the road and fell into a hole(?), if I heard that right. Now he's afraid to ride to church on his own. So we're really hoping that we can work to help reactivate his very busy niece. I've seen a lot of progress with Jonhan over the past few months. He's still got a long ways to go, but I'm proud of him. Just the fact that he's willing to give Christianity a try says a lot. Pretty much everyone gets persecution in some sort or another when they convert but especially older people. Others think they are turning their backs on their heritage, culture and ancestors. So they talk behind his back. And when he goes to church he just says he's going to the market. So he's brave. And he just needs continued encouragement.

Then there's Chanda, Davan, and Udom. And they're tricky. It's just hard to feel like we're not losing ground with them. They've stopped coming to church because they're spending all of their time finding odd jobs and things. They still have the house. And they actually got their hose turned back on, so they have water to do laundry (which is one of their bigger sources of income). Also this was super weird. Chanda's daughter came to visit with several large slabs of what we think is fool's gold. It looks kind of like gold, but it's not real. It had a Khmer name. Apparently you can get $5 per kilo so she's selling it. But she insisted on chipping off a little piece and giving us each a little chunk. Something to remember her by. We tried not to accept it. And then we tried to pay her for it. It's so hard. People can be so generous here even when they are literally scraping together everything they can to eat a meal. So I'm not sure how to help them progress. I don't want to scare them off, and I want to go at Om Chanda's pace, but also I feel like their faith is still so weak, and I don't want them to lose it. So we might try and give them another baptismal date. We'll see, we'll see. 

Also, we're teaching a really cool husband and wife in branch three! I mentioned them last week, but we had a great lesson with them and the missionary couple's house this week. It's really cool because the husband is equally as motivated as the wife is, and lots of times that is not the case. We had a great lesson on priesthood yesterday. They'll be baptized at the end of the month!

So that's about all for this week. But we also had a good zone training Friday. One thing President Christensen is emphasizing right now is the importance of councils. So we had a zone counseling session. Our topic was retention because currently our retention rate for new converts staying active is 35%, which is scary low. So a goal of the mission right now is to get that number up higher. We talked all about reasons why people go less active after baptism, and the factors in our control that we can help change. Apparently if a recent convert comes consistently for two months after baptism, the chances of them staying active increases dramatically.
What it really came down to is we need to make sure that we are helping our investigators understand the magnitude of the covenants they are preparing to make. Conversion = change. It has to. Change of lifestyle. Change of heart.

I came across this scripture in my studies this week:

"And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters." (Mosaiah 5:7)
I love this scripture and when I read it I thought of Tin. This week we really need to help her understand the covenant that she will make which allows her to become a child of Christ. To help her understand the change of heart that needs to happen. Will it happen all at once? No. If there's one thing I learned from that summer in Thailand and that 37 page thesis. No. Conversion is a life-long process. But it's a process that needs to be ongoing. A little bit of a change each day when you kneel to pray, open your scriptures, partake of the sacrament, etc. It's a process, but we always have to be moving forward, or else we'll be losing ground.

Well, that's all for now. Have a good week, friends!


Sister Fields

Visiting Sister J. in the hospital. 

Coordinating plans on the cell phone.

The missionary couple took us to lunch after cleaning up stuff from the move.

In our zone of five companionships, four of them have someone from our MTC group! So I made everyone meet us at Swensen's to celebrate on our year mark day. It's been quite the year!

Sis K. tried to do surgery on my gum and it's all better now!

Monday, August 3, 2015

In Which We Become a Tri

At our last district meeting before transfer.

So it's been a CRAZY week. We got maybe a total of six hours of proselyting in. Craziest transfer of my life, and I didn't even transfer! And now we're headed back on a bus to the city for MLC. So good times. It's been super fun so far though. It's going to be a big job serving in two branches, but it's been a lot of fun so far being in a tri-panionship! 

So I'll start with the crazy things. First, on Tuesday afternoon we got a call and learned we would be moving houses for sure and that the move needed to go down before Thursday at 2:00 when we would be hopping on a bus headed to PP. Luckily we have an awesome zone and everyone pitched in. The other sisters came over Wednesday night to help us pack up things, and the missionary couple and the Elders helped us all Thursday (in addition to a moving crew of two members we hired and a giant truck!). It took five loads! Missionaries and senior couples have lived in that house for I think around ten years. It's three stories with lots of rooms so you can imagine how much just random stuff has gotten accumulated over the years. Guess where all that stuff ended up? In our new house! Our front room is piled literally floor to ceiling with things. If there's one of something, chances are there are three more of it in the pile. A couch, and oven three fridges, four desks, ten million bookshelves. It feels a lot like the Room of Requirement where Harry hid the Half Blood Prince book.  Last night I ate dinner on top of a closet. For now it's only temporary. We are going to spread out the stuff between the elders' houses and hopefully find a way to sell it or give it away. But for now making sense of things has been a bit of an adventure. 

We didn't really have time to organize. We mostly just threw stuff inside the house and grabbed bags to head to the bus. So when we got back to Battambang at 9:45 at night we had to navigate Sister E's bags through our narrow passageway and up the three flights of stairs of our new house. Pretty much it feels like I've done more packing and moving and transporting then I've ever done before, and I didn't even change areas! Saturday morning we settled in (set up beds, moved desks, closets, etc) and got moved in. Then Saturday afternoon we did the weekly planning we didn't have time to do on Thursday morning. We only left at 5:00 to go to a baptism. Then we attended both of our branches on Sunday and had time for only one lesson. And now we're headed back down to the city. So we're pretty much not going to proselyte ever, but that's okay. Hopefully on Wednesday we'll get into a groove. 

Serving two branches is proving interesting so far. Weekly planning was a bit stressful. We were both quite busy before we combined. So now we have just as much to do, but have less time to do it in. It's hard because these past two transfers I've seen a lot of growth and exciting work coming along in branch one. And setting out our schedule I realized how it's going to be difficult to keep meeting with people as frequently and help investigators to progress at the same rate. We really have not figured it out yet, especially because we've had such little time to do anything. Yesterday we fasted for inspiration about what we can do to continue to help both branches grow. We're going to do a big push for finding member help, and hope we can get some pretty regular splits going on. So we'll see.

That being said, I'm really excited to be serving in branch three. It was fun to go to their branch and meet members. I know some and recognize even more just from all being in the same building, but now I'm really going to get to know them and that will be good. Branch three has a lot of young adults so hopefully we'll get them to help us. Also they have a young family of investigators (a husband and wife and two small kids) who will be getting baptized in a few weeks, and they seem really awesome. So that will be exciting. It's nice to get a little bit of a change up, but I'm so glad I'm still serving in branch one also.

Also on top of all of this craziness I got sick. It was just a weird bout of digestive system not happy-ness. I was not feeling good for the whole process of moving. Just to add that to the joy. But turns out eating plain rice and bananas for 24 hours really will get you back to normal. Oh Cambodia...

Oh, also. You may remember, we were supposed to have a baptism on Saturday... Soknang, Ming Thida's son. Well on Tuesday we went to go help him prep for the interview. Sis Allen ran through interview questions, and I helped Ming Thida with the paperwork. All was going well, we got it all filled out, Soknang was ready, but we glanced over the paperwork and Sister Allen saw he was born in 2007. We did the math just to double check, and yes, if he was born in 2007 he would turn 8 this year. Then we realized his birthday was in September.... We just kind of looked at each other for a minute and then broke the news. She had no idea he wasn't 8 yet. Age is a weird thing here. And lots of times they just count age according to the new year, not the birthday. So..... we've got him on hold until September, the Saturday after this transfer ends. So we'll see. So turns out the boom of baptisms we were planning on about a transfer and a half ago aren't quite turning out as planned. But that's okay. Planting seeds, planting seeds. 

Well, I think that's about all for this week. I don't even really have a spiritual thought to share. I missed my personal study quite a few times this week, unfortunately. Therefore, I did not finish the Book of Mormon at the end of the transfer as planned. Still in 3 Nephi... But that's okay. It's not a race. I'm enjoying reading about Christ's ministry to the Nephites. This morning I read chapter 19. We learn a lot about prayer in this chapter. I love that Christ commands them to pray and they don't stop praying even after he comes back and checks on them three different times. All the while, He goes of on His own and prays to the Father in their behalf. I love verse 24: " And it came to pass that when Jesus had thus prayed unto the Father, he came unto his disciples, and behold, they did still continue, without ceasing, to pray unto him; and they did not multiply many words, for it was given unto them what they should pray, and they were filled with desire." They prayed without ceasing. This is something I've learned on my mission--that prayer can be an ongoing conversation as we do it frequently and genuinely and that as they prayed they were filled with desire. I love that too. The more I pray, the more I do enjoy praying because I recognize my relationship with my Father in Heaven growing. 

Well, that's all for this week. Hopefully next week I'll have a more normal week to report on. Have a good week!

Sister Fields

On Wednesday night we had an activity night. Each companionship put together a little game and Sister Al. and I made a giant word search game.

"Sisters lunch"
Standing outside our old house with the whole crew. It was sad to say goodbye! I'm gonna miss that place.

This was our moving technique.
Moving furniture in our multi-level house.
Welcome to our humble abode.

This is what transfers look like.

The Christensens (new Mission President and his wife) invited us to breakfast Friday morning in their kitchen. Pancakes!

Transfer day was our Mission President's birthday. So we spent the morning throwing him a surprise party. Sister H. and I were in charge of the cakes. Needless to say they were delicious. Actually, they were a bit of a disaster. We made five and tried to make whip cream frosting. The elders were no help. It turned into the consistency of cottage cheese. But we salvaged it.