Sorry no pics. My memory cards (both) have been wiped. From my whole mission. I'm going to try and get them back. Stay tuned. Pray for me... Just kidding. But not really. This one is from Angor Wat.
Happy Valentine's Day! It is Feb 14th, and my days are very numbered in this country. I can't escape the questions: "How do you feel?" "What are you most excited for/are going to miss the most?" Or the scariest one: "What are your plans for when you get home?" Check back with me on that one in about a month. Eh, maybe longer.
I reached a big milestone in my mission today. This morning I made my "death card." For those of you who don't know (I have no idea if this is a normal mission thing or just a Cambodia mission thing), but a death card is a picture of a missionary with Facebook and email information that they give to members and investigators just before they end their mission. So it means I'm on my deathbed over here. But it's okay, because it's been a good life.
Missions are so strange. In most big things in life (graduating, getting married, etc), there are lots of little preparation things leading up to the big event. But as a missionary, you just keep doing the same schedule and living the same life up until one day you wake up and they put you on a plane. Have I mentioned yet that missions are weird? I'm not really sure how this whole transition thing is going to go down, but for now, I'm trying to go along just like normal. And it is just like normal until I realize that next week I'll be landing in SeaTac Airport? What the what. Sooo.... I'm doing my best not to get too distracted during my last week as a full-time missionary. AHH.
I'll give you an investigator update. That'll get me focused again. Kim Sia's getting baptized on Sunday! My last Sunday in Cambodia I'll have a baptism! She had her interview this week and she's so ready. She's so excited. Our Relief Society lesson on Sunday was all about baptismal covenants and it was perfect for her. I kept looking over at her and she just kept beaming.
Less active update: we had a really powerful lesson with Srey Keo, a less active we've been working with for a while. We've met her on and off (because she's super busy) and whenever she meets the lessons always go awry. She always wants to know about how the gospel fits in to Buddhism, and she admitted to us last week that she thinks she wants to go back to Buddhism. And at some level, I can understand why she feels that way. Her parents and all her siblings are all very Buddhist. They go to the wat and do the ancestral worship thing in her home and pressure her to join. But the biggest issue is her own lack of faith. We've come to realize that she understands very little about the gospel and when she was baptized, she didn't really believe. So she quickly went less active. So we went back this week and taught lesson one. We taught through the first few points and she was listening, but not super engaged until we talked about the Apostasy. We asked her if she ever wondered why there were so many churches, or what she could do to know which church was true--between Buddhism and all the different Christian sects in Cambodia. She said, "Yes, Sister, this is my question!" To which we helped her see how she was in a similar situation as Joseph Smith. We re-taught his story and we shared the First Vision and showed her the picture and we paused. Then I asked, "Srey Keo, do you believe that Joseph truly met Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ?" After a minute of staring at the picture she looked back and said, "I don't know." To which we testified to her that she could know. She could know that this experience really happened and that like Joseph Smith she could know what was the right path for her. And the way that she could know was through the Book of Mormon. The Spirit was really strong and I could tell that she actually got it. We committed her to read and pray about the Book of Mormon again, but this time, she had to do it with real intent! And she agreed. Then on Sunday, she walked into the chapel with a tithing envelope in her hand! She's doing it. She knows what she needs to do and she has the motivation to get to that point. She told us later at church that before she used to lie to the missionaries and say she was reading and praying. But now she was really doing it, because she really needs to know if it's true or not. So, stay tuned on her!
Ooh, another way cool experience happened this week! There's a family I worked with a lot here in Tuk La'ak. The mom, son and daughter are recent converts. Hiang Li got baptized last November while I was here. And we started teaching the older daughter and her husband. About a month ago they moved back to Kampongcham. It was kind of a rushed thing, so we didn't get a good idea of what part of KC they were moving to. We passed along the mom's number to the sisters there. We followed up a couple times, but heard they hadn't been able to get a hold of them yet. We worried because we knew they were a ways from the church. A few nights ago I get a call from the Elders in KC. They had tried to call the neakming 10 or 15 times and it didn't work. Then one day they went out contacting in the middle of nowhere (nothing but rice fields around). They talked to a couple people and asked if they had ever heard of Jesus Christ before. They said they weren't interested, but there was a house a little ways of off Christians. They show the elders over to this house (in the middle of nowhere) and all of a sudden a family comes running out calling, "Elders, Elders, how did you find us?!" And it's my recent convert family!! They invite them in and show them pics of me and Sister L. with their family! The best part is Neakming Yeen (the mom) had been praying everyday for the Lord to show her a way to find the church. And then the Elders show up. How cool is that? The family is all together now. I feel like it's finally their time for them all to join the church as a family. So cool!
So those are my cool experiences of the week. I also went on my last exchange of my mission this week, with Sister L. It was the perfect last exchange. We did service in the morning. We cleaned a house that nobody had been living in from floor to ceiling. It took about four hours, and at the end of it we had a bag of dirt we swept up weighing about 15 lbs! But it gave us lots of time to chat about our lives and our missions. She's getting close in hers too, just six months left.
And then there was our Valentine's party at church yesterday. Our ward is the fun ward; they take any holiday as an excuse to party. After church got out (keep in mind, church ends at 6 pm at night and it gets dark at about 6:15 in this country), we had a BBQ , a legit Khmer bbq. They pulled out the grill and they started making some fish that we ate over brown rice (???--the first time I've ever seen it in this country!) with vegetables and this tangy sauce. It was delicious. It breaks my heart a little bit when I think about leaving this country means leaving this food!
Oh, one more funny moment of the week. Actually this was last week. I was just coming down with a cold and still getting over my lack of sleep hangover from my Siem Reap trip. We were coming home from a 6:00 appointment far out and I was so dead. I was lagging behind my companions and Sister Thoun slows down and bikes next to be and grabs on my bike and stops pushing me and commands me to "stop peddling!" She continues to push me along the road at full speed and says, "Mom, we still need you for two more weeks!" So, I can't die just yet! My koons still need me I suppose. I was lucky. I've got some pretty good koons.
Okay, spiritual thought and I'm out. This one comes from a study on repentance. It's been something that President Christensen has been addressing a lot, going along with his focus on retention. It also was a big focus in the World Wide Missionary Training that we finally watched this week. Ten years after the rest of the world... Cambodia. I've been studying in Alma 5. This is verse 14:
And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?
I love sharing this with investigators getting ready for baptism because spiritual re-birth is so key. It means becoming a new creature, progressing from the natural man or woman to a changed person. One who no doubt still makes mistakes and falls into temptation, but their intentions have changed. I'm learning on my mission that it is our intentions, far more than anything else, that matters the most. Because our intentions = our heart. And this is the mighty change of heart that Alma discusses. This change of heart doesn't happen once and is done. Rather, it begins before baptism as faith inspires us to begin changing, and aligning our will closer to the Lord's. It is the conversion path that we continue down for the rest of our lives, and renew daily through our scripture study and sincere prayer.
Did that make any sense? Sometimes I don't know anymore. One of these days I'll catch up on 18 months lack of sleep... But for now, I've got two weeks left!!
And it's gonna be a good two weeks.
Cool. I'm out.