Monday, September 15, 2014

Cambodia is seriously just the greatest place ever!

Cute kids in our area

Heyyyyyyyy! Still alive! Woohoo!

This week was super hard. Pochentong is just tough. Not a ton of investigators or recent converts or really anyone to meet with, and even the people we schedule cancel on us or stand us up 90% of the time. It doesn't help that Cambodian cell service is horrible and that all of our investigators lose their phones all the time. Also, there's this huge holiday, Pchum Ben*, coming up so everybody is going back to their srok. So this next week we'll have even less people to teach (because when I say that everyone is going back to srok, I literally mean EVERY SINGLE PERSON IN PHNOM PENH). Apparently it becomes a ghost town during Pchum Ben (which is an ancestor worship holiday if you're wondering). Everyone here worships their ancestors. It’s actually a really great way to contact people. We talk about eternal families and how we respect and reverence our ancestors in the gospel.

I don't remember whether I told you or not but we were contacted by this one guy and he was like yeah I used to be an investigator over in Tuk Thlaa and now I live in Pochentong and I want to learn here. We were like ok great, and we went over to the church to meet him.

Let me give you some background here. Elder McGavin, just like a week prior, had told about this crazy golden investigator that he had taught, and that Elder Martinson and Elder Vore had taught previously (I think that is who taught him). Anyways he got all the way to the war chapters in Alma in like just 2 weeks, which is INSANE for a Cambodian, mostly because most people can't read very fast (if they can read at all) and the Cambodian edition of the Book of Mormon is also a lot longer than the English edition, mainly because Cambodian is such a descriptive language. But then he snapped after that. Went totally bonkers. He was arrested and put into an insane asylum. Then he got out and went and learned with Elder McGavin. I guess he would come to English class and be really disruptive and he would be really disruptive in sacrament meeting and stuff too, so one day after English class Elder McGavin was like "hey thanks for coming, but we can't let you come back to learn with us anymore. You're disrupting the learning and the Spirit." Then this guy got super mad and sad he was going to shoot Elder McGavin and stuff and then tried to follow him and his companion home (they lost him along the way).

So back to my story, we're meeting with this guy and he says that his name is Minia, which is the name of the guy. And Elder Johnson recognized him the instant he saw him too. He was like "oh no". He was wayyyy nice and kind. I think he was in-between manic stages or something because he was pretty sane when we were meeting with him. So we give the shortest lesson we can possibly give and then leave and then we talked to Elder McGavin and the zone leaders and our ward mission leader that night and they were all like "absolutely 100% do not teach him whatsoever. You don't know when he'll snap again." So we haven't taught him. That’s my story about the time we taught a guy who had threatened to kill the missionaries. Don't worry though, Elder Johnson and I aren't idiots, we were super cautious the whole time. I'm just telling y’all this story cuz it’s kind of funny.

Another story like that is when we contacted the mugger of one of our investigators. Did I tell you how Bong Maac (the guy who had those family members die in the gas explosion right after meeting with us for the first time) was mugged and they stole his phone? Well one day we were thinking about who we could call to meet and we were like "hey why don't we try and talk to whoever has Maac's phone?" So we called it and someone picked up! We played it real cool, we were like is this Maac and he was like "no this is blah blah". And we were like oh, well do you want to learn about Jesus Christ? And he was like "actually I do." So we were like ok sweet! But then we didn't meet with him because he wouldn't pick up the phone again. I don't think we would have met with him anyway, considering the circumstances and what he had done, but it makes for a good story.

Everything in Cambodia that seemed so crazy just a couple months ago is now just completely normal to me. I don't blink an eye whatsoever. Having two huge dump trucks come up on either side of me and almost squish me as I’m barreling down the road doesn't faze me in the slightest now. I used to dread having to go back out on the road the first couple weeks. I would think "Surely this time I am not going to make it. This one’s it. I've been super, super lucky so far but this time is my last." and now I'm just like bring it on! I seriously hate riding my bike on an open road now. It’s boring. It’s only fun when you can weave through traffic and float like a butterfly and sting like a bee and all that good stuff. Super fun, I love riding my bike in traffic. Have I mentioned how any team of like 10 Cambodian missionaries could win the Tour de France hands down, no questions asked? Like granted, there maybe might be like one or two racing teams in the world that are a tiny wee bit faster on the open road. Same thing with endurance, if we had a Cambodian team in the Tour de France based solely off speed and endurance we'd probably be like tied for first or second place. But what will really set us apart when we do the Tour de France is going to be our agility. Literally I feel like we are all more agile on two wheels then on two feet. Weaving, twisting, stopping on a dime, shaking, baking, no problem whatsoever. Cambodian missionaries are the real deal when it comes to biking. Like I don't mean to boast about us, but it’s just how it is. We're products of our environment. Haha, sorry to go off on a tangent. It’s just way fun seeing everybody zooming through the craziest traffic you've ever seen and not even be phased by it one bit.

Oh I went on an exchange with the zone leader and AP this week! And I was leading my area! I had no idea that Elder Satterthwaite (the AP) was going to be coming with Elder Vore (the zone leader) until we showed up at the stake center to swap comps. Then we saw that the AP's were there and they were like "we're supervising the exchanges today!" Kind of scary, especially because it was my first time leading out the area. So we biked back to Pochentong and had dinner and then went to bed then the next morning we went to work! Elder Sat and Elder Vore got to see what it’s like being a missionary in Pochentong! Every single one of our 4 lessons fell through. Every single one of them stood us up. I was like "welcome to Pochentong". And since we have nobody to call as backups, we literally contacted like all day. At one point we went to the store and got poster making materials which we brought back to the church and we got one of the guards there to make this super cool English class sign in this super cool Khmae font. His calligraphy is unreal. So then we went and took those signs and stood at the corner of this busy intersection and contacted people with those signs for like 2 hours. Contacting with signs is super effective. The people weed themselves out for you! All of the interested ones come up to you and are like "yes I want to learn English! When and where?".  I think we got like 40 solid contacts in those two hours, and a ton wanted to learn about the gospel as well (which is the whole point of contacting them about English class). It was awesome. I learned a ton on that exchange from Elder Sat and Elder Vore. They're both amazing missionaries. Elder Sat is the perfect example of Christ-like leadership and is always super happy and optimistic and loves every part of missionary work. He is seriously always smiling. Elder Vore is super intense and passionate and motivated and has this amazing "go-getter" attitude about missionary work. He's full of great ideas. I learned seriously so much that day. At the end of the day they were both like "Man, like we were both fully aware that Pochentong is tough before we came, but like wow, now we REALLY know. Keep up the good work." Super good guys, I love them to death.

Cambodia is seriously just the greatest place ever. Even the people who are rude to us I love. How could anyone ever judge them? As missionaries we say amongst ourselves all the time, come Judgment Day, all of Cambodia is just going to be saved in its entirety. They have been through soooo much, and they still are wallowing in the deep, deep pit Pol Pot dug. No one can understand what they've been through, not even us missionaries, who speak to hundreds of different Cambodians every week and get to know so many on an intimate spiritual basis. But the Savior understands. Everything will be made right at the last day. Everything will be done according to His plan, I have absolute faith in that.

I love being a missionary so much! I hope each of y’all have a fantastic week and that y’all are making tons of amazing memories! Remember the lyrics to the hymn "Have I Done any Good" that "So wake up and do something more than dream of your mansion above. Doing good is a pleasure, a joy beyond measure, a blessing of duty and love."

Keep being anxiously engaged in a good cause! Soom cumriaplia!

*Editors Note:  This is from Wikipedia.  Pchum Ben ("Ancestors' Day") is a 15-day Cambodian religious festival, culminating in celebrations on the 15th day of the tenth month in the Khmer calendar, at the end of the Buddhist lent, Vassa.  The day is a time when many Cambodians pay their respects to deceased relatives of up to 7 generations.  Monks chant the suttas in Pali language overnight (continuously, without sleeping) in prelude to the gates of hell opening, an event that is presumed to occur once a year, and is linked to the cosmology of King Yama originating in the Pali Canon. During the period of the gates of hell being opened, ghosts of the dead (preta) are presumed to be especially active, and thus food-offerings are made to benefit them, some of these ghosts having the opportunity to end their period of purgation, whereas others are imagined to leave hell temporarily, to then return to endure more suffering; without much explanation, relatives who are not in hell (who are in heaven or otherwise reincarnated) are also generally imagined to benefit from the ceremonies.

Pictures of beautiful Cambodian sunsets:

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