Monday, December 28, 2015

In Which We Have a Very, Merry, Muppet, Cambodian Christmas

Caroling to Ming Sovanna! She loved it.

Hello friends,

Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas. We had a good one over here in Cambodia. When there's no classic signs of Christmas going on around you, sometimes you just have to make your own. We're pretty good at pretending 90 degrees is actually 30 degrees. And we did end up doing some Christmassy things after all.

Tuesday, instead of having regular district meeting, we watched the Mormon Tabernacle Christmas special starring the Muppets and Santino Fonana. It was weird. The three did not fit together very seamlessly. Also for whatever reason the TV didn't work, so twenty of us squished around a portable DVD player. The Khmer Elders and Sisters didn't know what to think of Sesame Street. 

Then on Christmas Day we got to caroling in the morning. That was a lot of fun. We got together with the Elders and the Sisters in Toulkork. We put together little bags of fruit and cookies to give to members of the bishopric to show our appreciation for their service. It was fun to go see members in Toukork who I haven't seen in a while. Caroling was a medium success. Most people in Cambodia just leave their front doors open if they're home, so it's difficult to sneak up on them. But at the Bishop's house in Toulkork we were able to sneak up without being seen and started singing, and they thought it was the coolest thing! We even made the Bishop cry, and he's pretty stoic. They said it sounded like angels were singing. So we had a lot of fun riding around on our bikes in Santa hats singing every Christmas song we could think of and dyyyinggg in the heat. It had to have been 95 that day. 

We got together with the zone and a senior couple at the stake center and had a yummy Christmas dinner. We had a talent show and watched a slideshow the office elders had put together for the year. And then we had a testimony meeting. It was simple, but it ended up being a lot of fun. And then the next day, of course we Skyped, which is always such a mixed bag of emotions... Fun to talk to everyone, but hard to refocus after that. But also weird to think that was my last Skype on my mission! Dahhh....

Adding to the fun Christmassy things of the week, we had a really good week work-wise, which was kind of a surprise, because a bunch of unforeseen things came up and we had less time proselyting than usual. But for whatever reason, we are getting blessings over here in Tuk La'ak. The first few weeks of the transfer everything seemed to fall through. And we recycled through our investigators almost completely. And some of the ones that couldn't meet us before are now able to meet us again. Also this past week we got four new investigators and we had six progressing investigators this week ,which beats the 1 or 0 that we've been having the past few weeks in a row. So it was a week of miracles all around.

The first miracle took place on an exchange. Exchanges are weird; they can either go very well or very poorly, but they never seem to be normal days. Sister Soeun came with me in our area, and it was one of those days where everything had fallen through and we were left to contact for hours, until I remembered that we had received a referral that morning. A woman walked into the church and said she wanted to learn, so a member took down her information and passed it on the the appropriate missionaries, which luckily was us! So we decided to give her a call, and she said she could meet us at the church right away and show us her house. So we biked over to the church and waited. She said she'd call again when she got to the church. After a few minutes the phone rang, but we looked around and didn't see anyone but a car pulling into the parking lot. Yes a car. THIS IS SIGNIFICANT. My investigator drives a car! That's not a thing in this country. She hopped out and told us to follow her, so we did, and Sister Soeun and I freaked out together all the way. We pulled up to their very nice house and she and her husband welcome us in. Turns out her son came to English class and brought home some sort of pamphlet or information and she read it and became interested. She has been interested in Christianity lately because she feels like Buddhism isn't working for her anymore. It's not bringing happiness to her and her family. So she (Ming Loen) and her husband (Pu Kheang) are interested in learning. They pummeled us with questions for about an hour and a half, and we ended up covering a lot of ground. They wanted to know what exactly a Christian life would entail for them and how it would help them. We ended by teaching them a little about prayer and leaving a Restoration pamphlet with them. 

Two days later I went back with Sister H. and we taught them lesson one. But before we had even begun to teach, Ming Loen told us she had already made up her mind. She was going to follow Christ, and soon she would get rid of her Buddhist things (I don't know what they are called in English...) in her house. She said she was determined to come to church this week and every week after! Then, we started teaching lesson one and she knew it all because she had read the pamphlet already. And she was soooo excited to get a copy of the Book of Mormon. Then Sunday morning they were there at church. She and her husband were dressed nicely and looked like members already, and sat on the front row! Basically, they're golden. And so prepared to receive the gospel. I've never taught anyone quite like them before. When we teach, they both lean in so close, and their eyes get so big! Sister H. explained that it's like we have a million dollars and we just want to give it to them. And they want it. It's so fun. Whenever I teach someone so prepared like them it always amazes me how easy it is. And it's easy because it's really not us doing the work at all. We're just the instruments, the Spirit does the real work. 

But the miracles don't stop there. There's an investigator we've been trying to meet forever (a referral from the sisters in another area). Her name is Srey Nich. But she's been way busy and it's been hard to schedule with her. But on the first call to her on Saturday she said she could meet us that Saturday afternoon. So we met her and taught her a good lesson one. She is also very prepared. Her aunt is a member already, so she already had scriptures and had learned a little about the church. She likes to compare Christianity to Buddhism to help her understand. And likes to ask me hard questions. Sometime I'm going to learn more about Buddhism. It's interesting because I can see in her mind what she's doing. She's trying to fit her notions of Christianity and the Plan of Salvation into her per-conceived understanding of Buddhism. So it'll be interesting teaching her. I'm excited to see her faith grow and how her view and perspective will start to change. 

Also yesterday we were able to meet our investigator, Ming Sopheap, for the first time in a long time. We committed her to baptism the first week Sis H was here, and then she got sick and disappeared. She's still sick, but she's doing better. And now she's home again. So we went over and started teaching her the commandments. Our meetings with her have been so patchy, but she always impresses me with how much she understands. She's never learned about Christ before, but she seems to be a very naturally spiritual person. Also somehow she's made it all the way to 2 Nephi 12 completely on her own accord! She says she doesn't know why, but when she reads, she cries. Probably because her eyes are old, she said. But we had a powerful lesson with her on prayer. And how sometimes the Lord doesn't give us all the blessings we request right away, not because he doesn't love us, but because we have lessons to learn. She's doing well. Now we just have to get her to church!

Last miracle! After leaving Ming Sopheap's house, Sis H. and I were both feeling way gross (we both came down with post-Christmas colds) and we considered just going in early. But we decided we could hold out for one more appointment. We went a different way because after all our CBR work and looking at maps, Sis H was pretty sure the road connected. So we drove down it and met a less active on the road that we've been trying to get a hold of forever! This is a family that was struggling way bad, who we used to go meet multiple times a week. The mom's name is Om Srey. And the daughter is Bunya. Well, we had been trying unsuccessfully to get a hold of them and try to find their new house for WEEKS, and we weren't sure what to do about it. And then all of a sudden Bunya's little sister Srey Pov was right there on the road. It was dark too, and I never would have seen her if she hadn't called our names. So she just hopped on the back of my bike and we went to their new house! It's much smaller (they moved because they were in debt and couldn't afford the old place). But they all seemed to be happier (maybe we just caught them on a good day). We just shared a quick thought with them. But Sis H and I couldn't get over what a miracle it was! It just goes to show you get blessings for hard work. Even when you don't feel like it. 

Okay this email's already long. But I just wanted to share a couple thoughts that came from a talk I read this week called "Live in Thanksgiving Daily" by Joseph B Wirthlin. It's a great talk all about the blessings that come from gratitude. Grateful people, he says, are more likable, more at peace, less stressed, and brighten everyone around them. He quotes Joseph F. Smith and says, "The grateful man sees so much in the world to be thankful for, and with him the good outweighs the evil. Love overpowers jealousy, and light drives darkness out of his life. But my favorite quote was this: "Gratitude turns a meal into a feast and drudgery into delight. It turns the simple and common into the memorable and transcendent." There's a whole lot in missionary work that is drudgery in missionary work. And it takes a work sometimes to see waking up at 5:30 and getting rejected again and again as a delight. But when we can just take a step back and stop taking things for granted, and look specifically to the blessings we've received, we'll begin to change are perspective. And make us and everyone around us so much happier. 

Well friends, that's all for this week. In fact, that's all for this year! 2015. I won't lie, at the beginning of it, I didn't know if I'd make it through alive. A whole year in Cambodia. But it has been hands down if not the best, then certainly the most memorable year of my life. And at the end of it all, I'm so grateful for all of it. The drudgery and the delight. I really don't know what 2016 will bring. But I'm ready for it! 

Have a good week!


Sister Fields

We watched Mr. Krouger's Christmas together on Christmas Eve.

Buffet dinner!

Waiting to eat.

Sisters at our Christmas dinner.

IBC. We made a stop here to purchase our Santa hats. It's the most Christmassy place I've ever been in my life I think.

Preparing to embark on our caroling journey.

Caroling elves.

Lunch break. Mi chaa (fried noodles) for Christmas lunch.

After dinner.

Christmas Crunch!

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