Monday, January 25, 2016

In Which We Live the Trio Life

 Wat Phnom
Hello friends,

We reversed our P-day today, so we went to the Killing Fields in the morning, and we're emailing in the afternoon; and now we're crunching on time, so this might be a bit short. I'm really glad we went though. It was sad, but also important. I kind of wish I went earlier in my mission just because it helps fill in more context. But then at the same time, I have more context for the experience after being in Cambodia so long, so it goes both ways. Unlike many museums and places in Cambodia, the Killing Fields actually had a lot of information. We paid for the audio tour, and it was worth it. The Killing Fields is the site of most of the slaughter that happened during Pol Pot's reign. After the Khmer Rouge was in power, they evacuated the city, sent everyone up to the khets to be worked to death, and took all educated or otherwise "enemies of the regime" to be imprisoned, tortured, and executed. Much of the torturing happened at Toulsleng (the prison-turned-museum I went to last transfer), and they were afterward brought to the Killing Fields to die. Like so many other places in Cambodia, it was very real and raw. They have bones and teeth of the victims on display outside in cases that visitors can touch, and rows and rows and rows of skulls. Listening to the audio tour was interesting though because it had lots of personal accounts. By the end of the morning, we just felt overwhelmed by it all. 

I'm trying to fit in all my need-to-see Cambodian stops before I go. Next week I'm finally going to Angkor Wat! So, super pumped for that. And last week we went to Wat Phnom, The place from which Phnom Penh gets it's name. The best thing is we have our own little tour guide. Sister Thoun worked as a tour guide before her mission, so she knows everything there is to know about everything and tries to bargain down the higher prices for foreigners every where we go! I tell her as soon as she comes to American we will switch, and I'll be her tour guide. Her visa is in the process of coming, so it's possible she could come over on the flight with me next month!

Hmm. What happened this week? We've been adjusting to the trio life over here. It always takes a bit more time and a bit more patience to get into a groove, but it's always more fun too. I'm really loving training this time around. I've been in an interesting position, training the last six months of my mission. I won't lie, it's been exhausting; but I've also really loved it. I've come to learn that one of the most rewarding parts of missionary work comes from helping my companions out. I feel like the best work I can give at this point is to help build Sister H. and Sister Thoun into powerful missionaries, which they're both pretty great already, so it's not a hard job. But it's so cool to be at this point where I really can see that I am being an effective missionary. And it's taken a loooong time to get to this point. I remember something Pres. Moon told me a long time ago in my third transfer when I told him I felt like I was never going to be able to do it. He told me missions are like parenthood and like probably so many other things in life. That you never feel like you get the hang of it until the end of it, which is kind of a depressing thought. But it just shows that missions are about a whole lot more than just getting baptisms. Not that that's not important, but one of the biggest reasons for missions is creating powerful missionaries. More on that in the future....

As for Tuk La'ak, things are moving along. We had two long-time less actives at church on Sunday! I can't tell you how fun it is to come in to the chapel and see a less-active unexpectedly sitting on a pew. It takes a second to recognize them because you've never seen them at church before! Sister Thoun has been a great help at getting less actives to come back to church. She just ends every lesson by asking, so we'll see you at church this week, right? And nobody can say no to her!

We had a cool experience with a long-time less active member we found this week. We had an old CBR, but using the map we were able to track her down pretty easily. The house had a big locked gate in front, the bell didn't work and neither did her phone number. We stood outside for a few minutes until a moto pulled up next to us. We asked the man on the moto if he knew the girl in the picture (taken seven years ago when she joined the church) and turns out it was his wife. He let us in the house and his wife was there. At first it was very awkward. It was clear they didn't really want to let us in. But they're Khmer, so of course they did. We chatted with her a little bit and Sister Thoun (our people person) got her to warm up a little bit. Sister Thoun shared her story about when she went inactive and how she came back, and that really helped this less active to open up. All of a sudden she was telling us about how she and her husband wanted to have a child, but haven't yet, and how hard that's been, and she let us share a scripture about trusting in the Lord with her and she's gonna let us come back! So that's just the beginning.

Well, not too much else from this week. I'll close with a quick spiritual thought. I've been reading about Christ's ministry among the Nephites this week. And this time around I've been struck by Christ's personableness. What I mean is that Christ is not an aloof God. He loves us so personally and individually invites us to come unto him. This is so apparent in 3 Nephi. For example, the first thing Christ does as He descends to visit the Nephites is He invites them to come unto Him, to feel the scars of the Atonement, and understand the magnitude and the reality of His sacrifice. 

"And it came to pass that the multitude went forth, and thrust their hands into his side, and did feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet; and this they did do, going forth one by one until they had all gone forth, and did see with their eyes and did feel with their hands, and did know of a surety and did bear record, that it was he, of whom it was written by the prophets, that should come."

They went forth "one by one" because this is the way of the gospel. We are all children of God, but He knows us and loves us individually. And Christ's sacrifice for us was equally as individual. As is God's plan for our futures. Pretty cool.

Okay, that's it friends. Next week I'll be riding an elephant. Love you!

Sister Fields

The twins. They're famous here. Both have mission calls. One to Salt Lake City, one to Portland, Oregon.

Monday, January 18, 2016

In Which I Pick Up My Koon Pov (the baby of the family)

Our trio!

Well friends, we've have reached that point. It's the FINAL TRANSFEEERRRR (cue music: doo doo doo dooo do dodoo doodo). Yes, that is where we're at. How did we get here? I don't know. It's a weird place. I don't like to think about it too much. But I've already decided this transfer is gonna be a good one. A party, one might say. Thanks to my new koon

Yes, this week we picked up Sister H's little sister. Sister Thoun (kinda sounds like town), and it has been an interesting ride so far. Trying to train two missionaries at different spots in their training has proved to be interesting. But luckily for me, they are both very capable. For real though, if it were just the two of them running this area, they could do it. They make my job easy. So I've decided this transfer I'm not going to stress. Not even once. It's not worth it. "Let it go" is my new anthem. 

Speaking of Sister Thoun, we got to go pick her up from the mission home Friday morning. She is from Phnom Penh and has a mission call to Idaho Nampa Mission. She is serving what they call a mini-mission here in Cambodia while she waits for her visa. She's a great missionary already. She's very passionate. When I met her at the mission home, she gave me a huge, long hug, and then grabbed my two hands and looked into my eyes and said, "Why you go home in six weeks, my trainer?" I can't escape everyone acknowledging the fact I'm cit slap hauy! or in other words, "almost dead". Regardless, Sister Thoun is way funny, and I need to start a quote book for the words that come out of her mouth. Her English is pretty good, and we're speaking a lot of English to help get her ready for Idaho! She asked me this morning on the way to the psaar if we have markets like that in Idaho. I told her the Smiths and Wal-marts are a bit different. 

Other news. This week we spent a lot of time CBR hunting. Sister H. is becoming quite the adept hunter. CBR hunting can actually be way fun. It's the closest thing I will ever feel to being a detective. We bike around with a picture of a less active from 2001 and a very poorly hand-drawn map, trying to figure out street signs and asking everyone on the street if they skoal (know) the person or not. Then when we find the correct house, we sneakily take a picture of it and try and get the very less active member to warm up to us. We've had mild success. A few days ago we were after one with a wrong address. So went up and down the street a couple of times. One woman doing her laundry eyed us suspiciously. We asked her neighbor if she knew the woman in the picture and she half glances over to her next door neighbor (with the suspicious eyes) and the woman screams ot tee, ot tee! (no, no!) and runs into her house. Sister H. and I did not know what to do about that one. But I think we found her....

We had a mini-miracle this week. A woman from the Vietnamese branch called us with a referral she wanted us to meet. Sounds simple enough, but it was the most difficult process in the world to first figure out who she was and second figure out where she lives. She kept saying Borey Keilaa which is an apartment complex with people that sell things on the ground floor. So we went there and called her again. She said she had a restaurant, but I could not for the life of me figure out where. We walked around the whole complex asking everyone if they knew her or her place. Turns out there's actually a separate psaar with the same name. We finally found someone who took pity on us poor white girls who can't really speak Khmer all that well (this was before Sister Thoun came) and she gave us directions that we were remarkably able to follow. That was definitely a miracle. I was sure this woman didn't actually exist, but after walking for about 20 minutes, which feels like ages when you're used to the bike life, we found her! Did I mention her Khmer is way hard to understand because she's actually Vietnamese? In the event, the referral did not really want to learn, which turned into quite the awkward few minutes as the member pressured us to pressure the referral into learning. But it's okay. All in a day's work. 

That was kind of the week. Not much else is new. Kim Sia is still doing awesome. Even when we have awkward lessons, she still eats it up and wants to learn everything she can. Here's an example of an awkward lesson. This email is full of awkward situations (welcome to missionary life). We (read: Sister H.) have started teaching a piano lesson. A few members and nonmembers attend. Two who came to the class wanted to learn about the gospel, so Sister Thoun invited them to learn with us and Kim Sia right after class. Which is great. But we were teaching about the temple. The other two members of the class wanted to join in. In addition to the member we had invited to be at the lesson and meet us at the church. So there were nine of us in the lesson. We tried to give the newbies a bit of background, so they didn't think we were totally crazy and baptize dead people. It ended up working out okay. Sisters H. and Thoun planned and taught the lesson primarily on their own (thought of that one in comp study--best idea I've ever had, I do nothing! jkjkjk) and it went well. Then all of them joined us for the elders' baptism right after. So it all worked out well. 

So things are going well over here in Tuk La'ak. It's been nice to be here so long because I feel like I'm really starting to love and get to know people here. The ward can be a little rough around the edges, but I feel like things are really going well now. Less actives are coming back, our members are all doing well, and we've got some investigators that are moving along. All is well. 

I didn't prepare a spiritual thought this week. But I'm a missionary, so I have lots of spiritual thoughts running through my head at all times obviously.  Something I've really been thinking a lot about lately is service and selflessness. The key to happiness is to turn out. Not just happiness, but confidence, less stress, more personal fulfillment. When I learned to stop thinking about myself so much is when I started to really like my mission. Now let's be real, I still think of myself all the time. Like 95% of the time. But I hope that it's a little bit better than the 99% of time I might have been at at the beginning of my mission. When you lose yourself, you find yourself. That's one thing I've learned.

Okay that's all for this week. Love you all!

Sister Fields

P-day. This is a classic hang baay or little, sketchy Khmer food place at the side of the road. 

This is one of my favorite Khmer dishes. Lok Lak. Sister Souen taught me how to make it. 

 Fried bananas. My favorite street food. 

We did face masks last night. This is Sister Y. She's Sister Souen's new comp.

New kitchen.

New living room.

Another view.

Monday, January 11, 2016

In Which I Get Another Koon (what. more?)

Sis H. and I found a black burger place. We don't know why the burgers were black, but they were good!

Well friends, we have some news. Ti muay: Vietnam is leaving us and making it's own mission! Super exciting. I did not see this coming. But I'm not really in the loop. The mission right now is very low on Vietnamese speakers, but I know we have more coming this next transfer. They'll form their own mission March 1st  (Five days after I leave.)  A senior couple serving there now will be the Mission President. Pretty exciting. 

Second news. I'm expecting, yet again. My last transfer call came last night; and when I saw President's name come up on my phone screen, I knew something was up. (He only calls when there's an assignment.) We'll have another koon join with me and Sister H. and we'll be a trio! I'm actually really excited. Trios are way fun. She's Khmer. I'm not sure about the spelling of her name, so we'll wait til next week. She's a visa-waiter with a call to go to Idaho. Basically things can never be easy or stay the same on a mission. Not even your last transfer. It'll be good though, I'm excited. 

We had a good week this week, full of meetings and exchanges, which means basically zero proselyting going on in our own area. But not for long. I won't be a sister training leader next transfer, which will be nice. They thought it was a bit much with two koons I guess. 

Super fun bit: I got to go on an exchange with Sister H. [MTC buddy]. I've never been on an exchange with her before so we were way pumped. She ordered pizza for us and made me passion fruit juice. And we talked about how weird life was with one transfer left. 

I also went on an exchange with Sister Um. She's awesome. She's only been out of month, but she's a super good missionary already and a lot of fun. We had a really powerful lesson with one of our less actives. We've actually been seeing a lot of success with our less actives lately. You know the family we found who changed houses and we found them by a miracle a few weeks ago? Well we've been working hard to get them back on track. They are struggling financially and health-wise. The Om used to be super solid and active and would go around visiting the less actives. But now she's upset that when she fell upon hard times and stopped going to church, no one came to see her. And I wasn't even going to focus on going back to church in this lesson because we've done it so many times and it's not been successful. This time we taught about the love of God and about commandments. We talked about what the Lord has commanded us to do and Sister Um mentioned church. The Om shared again how hurt she was when no one came to see her. It's only ever been the missionaries who visit, and all of a sudden this idea clicked in my head. I testified to her that as missionaries, we have been called of God to be His servants. And in essence, going to her house inviting her to come back to church, was Heavenly Father inviting her to come back. And He loves her so much. And it's through obedience that she will continue to feel His love and receive His blessings. Then Sister Um shared a really touching personal story, and the Spirit was so strong. We committed her to come, and she said she'd pray about it. We asked her daughters if they would come. And they said if their mom went, they'd follow. 

It was a cool experience. In the event, they didn't end up being able to come to church because they couldn't get a ride. But the desire was there! We just have to make sure we keep that desire up. Then they'll be back next week. We have a new tactic with our less actives. Ever since the new year, church changed to 3:00 pm, which at first we thought was a bit unfortunate. But then we devised a new plan. In the morning we run around and invite all our less actives to come to church. Sometimes it takes just asking the question again. We had two of them at church yesterday. I don't know what it was about Sacrament meeting yesterday, but everyone kept trickling in throughout the hour. And a ton of investigators/potential investigators/less actives were there. It was like we'd turn around and see another surprise every few minutes. It was quite exciting. 

One was an actual miracle. Om Dali. She's been totally less active for as long as I've been here and as long as the companionship before me was here too. She's old, hardened, wants the church to help her, her son's in rehab, she doesn't have any money, she's sick, etc. But when we went to see her Sunday morning, she was like a different person. She cut her hair! And her son is better, and coming back to live with her today! The best part though was we invited her to church and she said yes. I didn't ask how she'd get there (because she was pretty determined and as far as I know she can't afford a moto dope). But I turned around halfway through Sacrament and there she was a few rows back. It's fun and really heartening to see how much the members fellowship the less actives when they come to church. It's way hard to actually get them out visiting each other in this ward (we're working on it) but once they're there they show a lot of love. 

Quick Kim Sia update. She's awesome. She's on track to be baptized Jan 30, which is sooner than I typically do baptisms, but I think she's ready. We're really stressing change and a testimony of the Book of Mormon with her, and she's really coming along well. 

Okay, I think that's all for today. We have a lot of end-of-transfer chores to do today. But I want to end with a quick spiritual thought. This one comes from a BYU devotional Sis H. gave me called "That Ye May Be Filled with Love" by Hartman Rector. It's really good. And it gave me the idea to teach Om Srey about love. One point he made is that God loves us perfectly. And He loves us not because we are good or because we do anything to deserve His love, but because HE is good. It's our challenge/duty/opportunity to develop this love. How? We do it by following His commandments. His commandments are calculated to make us good. And love follows goodness.
That's all for today. Have a good week!


Sister Fields

Sister H. and black burgers.

Me and Sister Um.

I stayed home with a sick sister this week (perks of being STL). Guess what her predicament was, just based on the ingredients in this picture.

Monday, January 4, 2016

In Which I Go Back to Pochentong

Us and our investigator Ming Liang, her granddaughter May Kim, and another girl in the ward. 

Happy 2016! I still can't believe it's a new year already. This time last year I thought 2016 would never actually come. Yet, here it is. Success story. 

We started off the new year right by moving into our new apartment! We had been told we would probably be moving on Tuesday or Wednesday, but didn't know any details. Then Tuesday morning someone called and they were outside with a tuk tuk ready to move us! I freaked out because we hadn't packed anything up! Apparently they thought someone had warned us they were coming. So they ended up coming the next day. But moving turned out to be quite the challenge because we lived on the fourth floor. Four very tall floors! Four lookpus were hired to move us, and four sisters helped. And far too much stuff. They eventually rigged a pulley system from the patio and started bringing stuff down via rope. It was very sketchy business (see pics to follow). But our stuff made it all in one piece, but it took far more than one tuk tuk. Try a large flatbed truck. Thankfully our new apartment has an elevator! I'll include pics next week, but so far it is working out well. It smells of new plastic. And has hot water from the tap, which I realized this morning I haven't been using because I'm just still not accustomed to it. 

I spent New Year's Eve on an exchange. I was sad to leave our new place, but I was excited because I got to go back to Pochentong! I was with Sister C. We stopped by a food mart next to her house and got little snack cakes and drinks to celebrate. And then proceeded to fall asleep like the obedient missionaries we are. More like the exhausted missionaries we are. Ever since I got sick last week I feel like I haven't been able to catch up on sleep. I can't remember not waking up exhausted, but I also feel like that just comes with the territory of being an old missionary.

It was a lot of fun being back in PCT. We got to see a couple members whom I love and hadn't seen in lots of months. Also, remember Srey Khuat? The pregnant investigator we baptized my second week in PCT? Well, we went to see her again. She's been less active for a long time, pretty much almost immediately after she got baptized. She got sick, and then she had the baby and she and her baby have both been sick. But I've always felt bad about the situation. We'd still go try and see her and strengthen her every week, but I always felt like there was more I should have done. I asked Sister C. about her and she said she had never met her. They tried, but the neighbors are super unfriendly and told them Srey Khuat didn't want to see her and that her husband had a knife. So what did we do? Go back, of course (come on, her husband's like 15 years old). We parked our bikes and cumriapsuaed the om srey who lives there. I asked her if she remembered me and she said, "Where have you been? We haven't seen you in a long time!" And then Srey Khuat turned the corner with a huge smile on her face and a huge baby in her arms! No for real, her baby is so old! I remember going there the day after she was born. So we had a good chat with her. I asked her if she still prayed, and she said no. We testified to her about how much prayer could help her and I told her we'd pray for her. "Right now?" She asked. And I said, "Okay, we can pray now." So we went in her tiny little rental room and knelt and prayed together on her mattress on the floor. And then she prayed. And I could tell she felt the Spirit. She said she didn't know where the new church building moved too, but Sis C. said she could definitely help with that. So it was a cool experience, and I was grateful to have had the chance to go back and meet her again. We never know the influence we have. I was surprised to realize how many people were so excited to see me again. I always thought that I hadn't done much in PCT. I learned a lot, and I grew, but I felt like because my language skills were so minimal at the time and I was always with a Khmer companion, I felt like I hadn't really done much to help anyone out. But looking back, I don't think that's true. If we have a heart and a willing mind (D&C 64, Dad), that's all we need. And the Lord will use us. Even when we don't think we're doing much, the Lord can use us as an instrument for good. 

I'm learning a lot about being used as an instrument even when we don't think we are doing much this week. It seems like we blow through our investigators so fast and for a week they progress, and then they stop meeting us. Or they move. Or they just stop answering the phone. We're learning a lot about patience over here. But we do have one new investigator who is doing very well. Her name is Kim Sia and she is 18. She goes to the university across from the church. We started teaching her last Sunday, and have met her nearly every day since then. She's super smart and she asks great questions. She even takes notes when we teach! We taught her the Plan of Salvation this week and committed her to baptism and she said yes. And then asked, "Sister, what can I do every day to prepare myself to get baptized?" Could there be a better question? We have her scheduled for Feb 13, but we told her we might move it up depending. The only problem is she might live in a different area. Stay tuned on that one...

Srey Nich had plans to meet us, but her plans or our plans kept falling through day after day. Ming Sopheap (our other investigator committed to baptism) and she doesn't know where yet, but now is living with neighbors and says it's too chaotic to learn now. Ming Loan and Pu Kheang (the super awesome potentials) couldn't meet with us this week and said they'd be at church, but they weren't. Ming Liang (another investigator of ours who comes to church every week) still won't commit to a baptismal date, but her 10-year-old granddaughter really wants to get baptized, so we'll see what happens. Agencyyyyyyyyyyy..... 

Another issue is the church here has changed the policy about the church building use. It used to be they were open to the public all the time with a guard there all day to watch the parking lot. Members would come and go and use the wifi. Kids would play basketball in the parking lot. It was great. But now they have decided to make the church a more holy place.  It will no longer be open to the public. They've had problems with keeping the buildings clean for a long time. So now the buildings are locked. And we don't have a key! The zone leaders will have a key eventually, but we have no place to meet our investigators except at their houses, which often doesn't work. So that's another challenge we'll have to figure out this week. But it's okay. It's teaching us patience. 

I've been learning a lot about patience this transfer. I used to think I was a naturally patient person. And that I had patience down. But for Christmas last month we took the Christ-like attribute quiz in PMG to figure out what we needed to work on and what attribute we could develop as a gift to the Savior. And this time patience came up. It surprised me, but as I thought more about it it made sense. 

Impatience is a lack of trust in the Lord and His timing. Patience, on the other hand, is the ability to put our desires on hold for a time, and recognizing that the Lord has a purpose in requiring His children to wait. As my mission begins to wind down, I've subconsciously begun compiling in my head everything I want to accomplish and see happen on my mission. For example, I want to see this Neakming and Lookpu get baptized with their family, yet when I call them they can't seem to make time. I was fasting about this yesterday and thinking about it during the sacrament when a thought hit me hard. Trusting in the Lord and His will means my mission might not go the way I planned. However, it will turn out the way He planned, which ultimately is infinitely more important, and much wiser. He knows what He is doing. My mission has not gone how I imagined it thus far, but it's been exactly what it needed to be to help me grow. And that's the way these next two months will go and beyond, if I just trust in Him. 

Well, that's all for this week. Love you all!

Sister Fields

The pulley system. Welcome to Cambodia.

Moving out

Our new apartment building from the outside. 

We stopped to pick up Dominoes as a splurge the night before Fast Sunday.

I told them my name was Sister. I even spelled it for them in English. The result was "Miss Sisgea."

Traffic. That's me in the white. Trying to get home on time is sometimes a struggle.