Hey Happy birthday Dad! and Hello to the rest!
This past week was even better than the first! There’s a super cliché phrase here that everybody uses: "the days feel like weeks and the weeks feel like days" but that phrase is cliché for a reason! It is so true! Its crazy seeing the amazing progress in myself, my companionship with Elder LeNguyen and in our district. We all love each other so much its crazy! The bond created by trying to learn a gibberish language with someone is crazy strong I guess.
On Monday before we went in to teach our investigator Bong Sokhaa I had the impression that we should commit him to be baptized that day instead of on Wednesday like we had planned. We went in to teach him and the Spirit could be felt so well throughout our lesson as we talked to him about the doctrine of Christ. At the end we committed him to be baptized. The instant that we committed him the Spirit could be felt 10x as strong. None of us said anything. We just watched Bong Sokhaa as he pondered our commitment. The Spirit was almost tangible. He then asked an insanely profound question: "haet avei?" or "Why?". Having just explained to him how baptism is the first step we make to get onto the path to follow Christ, I just said that in baptism lies Christ. And in Christ lies eternal happiness. And we want you, Bong Sokhaa, to have eternal happiness along with your family. The Spirit was so strong (I honestly cant emphasize that enough). He later told us that he wanted to learn more about Christ and that he felt like he didn't know enough, but I know that his faith was strengthened by us extending that commitment to him on Monday. Our lessons with him on Wednesday and Thursday went crazy good as well!
This past week we have learned and talked about the doctrine of Christ a TON! Elder Evans of the Seventy came on Sunday and talked to us about how our purpose as missionaries correlates exactly with the doctrine of Christ and how our purpose is to no longer just teach investigators about baptism, which is just 1/5 of the doctrine of Christ, but to teach them about all its parts (faith, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end). We talked about it all the time during class this week too and practiced teaching it over and over.
The Book of Mormon is the greatest! I love how I re-fall-in-love with the Book of Mormon every time I read it. I'm currently in Jacob. I just love it all and how it makes me feel the instant I crack it open! My knowledge that the Book of Mormon is absolutely true and that is the word of God has always been the foundation of my testimony and continues to be.
This week we also weren't allowed to use our English-Khmae preach my gospel phrase books in lessons anymore. It was scary at first as we were preparing to give our lesson but we all loved not using the book in our lessons. It makes you just speak straight from the heart. We all found that speaking straight from the heart in simple broken Khmae brings the Spirit so much stronger than reading perfect Khmae sentences out of a handbook.
My companion tries so hard and is so humble! I strive to be more like him every day. The more humble you are the more the Lord will raise you up!
Sister Christensen went in for surgery on her knee this week and Sister Syndergaard had a severe case of the flu as well. We gave them both blessings during our nightly district discussion that we like to have from 8:15-9:00. I had the opportunity to seal the anointing on sister Christensen and blessing her. I felt prompted to say that she would have no complications from her surgery while on her mission.
We also got a new teacher on Thursday! His name is Lookruu Oleson. He just got married 3 weeks ago and got back from his honeymoon to Cambodia on Wednesday! He is so nice and cool. He was also Lookruu Hill's MTC companion! So that’s cool
Bong Sokhaa came to talk to us as a class on Friday. He spoke to us in English (which was super weird. We aren't used to hearing English anymore) so that he could make sure that his point got across. He talked to us how he felt as we taught him. The Spirit was so strong as he did so. He said a lot of cool stuff but the coolest I think was when he said that we didn't know a lot of khmae, so he couldn't understand us too well, but what he could understand was that we loved God and that God loved him, and that was all he need to know to have us keep coming back to see him. Then Bong Sokhaa went out of fake-investigator mode and told us that his name was Lookruu Stevens (he starting speaking in Khmae again immediately after his testimony). He’s from Burbank California and played on the BYU soccer team! He's actually 25 and was Lookruu Oleson and Hill's lookruu when they were in the MTC! Woah! He's going to be kind of like a tutor for us these next few weeks. I love our investigators so much (even thought they're fake.) Haha its super funny going and pretending that Bong Sokhaa is this poor construction worker/taxi driver who lives in Kong Svaay when he's actually just this super hipster white guy. I feel my love for the Khmae people grow so much every day as I practice teaching them and as I pray for them day and night.
I feel myself maturing so much every single day. I'm making huge strides in the language (I can now write from memory every single consonant. I don't think anyone else has memorized more than the first five consonants. I'm trying to help them all out with the script and with their questions about words and grammar. The lord has blessed me since I've been here to have a very clear mind with regard to the language. I'm so so so grateful to Him for that). I also feel myself making big strides in my teaching skills and my leadership abilities. The two biggest things I've improved on since I came to MTC though is my sensitivity to the Spirit's promptings and my prayers with my Heavenly Father. It's crazy how long my prayers have become since I became district leader. I plead with the Lord all day long that he will guide me to the needs of others so that I can serve them to the best of my abilities. Every night after I'm done praying for our district I'm blown away by how long I was on my knees for. Last night I prayed for 15 minutes as I pleaded with the Lord to help us (because we certainly need all the divine help we can possibly get) and my prayers are only getting longer and more sincere as my love gets deeper and deeper for each of the missionaries in our district and our investigators.
I absolutely love being in a position where I have so many more opportunities to serve my fellow missionaries. I have no idea what I'm going to do with myself in a couple weeks when they release me. I had the opportunity to interview all of the senior comps yesterday. It was so cool getting to hear from them one-on-one about how their companionships are doing and what they think about the district and what we can do to be better. They all had really positive things to say. Our district is the best.
Our district meeting yesterday was absolute dynamite. President Jackson was there which was really scary because President Jackson is a very intimidating, stern, authoritative man. We all went around discussing and bearing our testimonies on the blessings of the gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. You could have cut the Spirit with a knife. We also reviewed goals that we had previously made (we're doing really well with them) and new goals that we wanted to make to push ourselves. It was so great. President Jackson came up to me afterwards and said, "I'm so impressed with this district. Thank you. You're doing a great job." I know that he was prompted by the Spirit to tell me that and to reassure me because I constantly have doubts about my ability to lead a district this huge. My saving grace is that our district doesn't really need to be led. Every missionary in our district is an absolute spiritual all-star. I have learned so much from all of them already. They have already blessed me more than I think I will ever be able to return.
Also so cool about Bishop Seago! He's always been a great example to me and he's going to be such a good bishop in that ward. I'm also glad to hear that the spurs are doing good (the Lord truly blesses his missionaries). I saw Ali Torres here on Wednesday as she was hauling her bags to her room, so that was cool.
Answering your questions:
I did get the package. Thank you so much. Also I love getting “dear elders” and physical letters. We get to check the mail twice a day but we only get to email for an hour on p-days so I love hearing from y'all in the middle of the week!
1. What day do you go to the temple? We go to the temple on Monday morning. Mondays are our pdays.
2. Are Saturday’s a different schedule? Haha. No, Saturdays are exactly the same as any other day. It's really weird. Sundays and Mondays are now our weekends.
3. What are Sundays like? Sundays are super relaxed and spiritual. I have leadership meetings all morning and then in the afternoon we have sacrament and priesthood and go on our temple walk. Then we have a devotional at 7 and then go watch one of the church films that they're showing until 9.
4. What are you playing during rec time? I play volleyball almost everyday. Me and Elder Elieson are always on the same team. We built up a lot of chemistry playing sand volleyball at B9, so we just absolutely wreck people. It’s so much fun.
5. What other languages are in your branch? Are your Church meetings in English or do you speak in your language? Khmae, Hmong, Thai, Lao, Cantonese, and Vietnamese. Meetings are in English
6. Have you gone to speaking only Khmae? Nah. As a district though we have set goals to speak only Khmae for increasingly larger portions of the day.
7. Is everyone in your district going to Cambodia? Elder Yu is going to Long Beach, California. The rest of us are going to the motherland.
8. Has everyone in your district been out of school for a year? Elder Yu and Elder Zierenberg both graduated early. The rest of us are college kids.
9. What are your responsibilities as a district leader? I just lead the district, minister and administer to everyone and do all that that entails. Guide us to make goals and push us to progress to be the best missionaries that we can be. It’s a lot of serving others and I love it. It’s been very humbling
I love being a missionary more than anything! My heart feels like it’s going to burst every second of every day because of how happy I am (which sounds cheesy but I can't think of another way to describe it). I'm happy all the time here. I love y'all and hope y'all are doing great!
Cool Missionary Statue at the MTC
My ratty blanket and sheets (the picture doesn't do it justice). My blanket looks like it came from Jean Valjean's prison cell. My sheets are yellow, even though they are supposed to be white.
Elder LeNguyen and me
"General Authorities Only" sign at the Provo Temple . . . only in Utah!
Wearing Riley's shirt
My weekly schedule.