Monday, January 26, 2015

Our Duty as Missionaries

Soccer and the Cambodian flag. Two of my favorite things in the world.

Malo e'le'lei! There's a little Tongan for y’all. Elder Uhi gets mad at me whenever I try to say it because I say it wrong every time. Haha, eventually he was just like "forget it! You're ruining my language!" Haha. I guess my brain is hard-wired for Cambodian right now, not for Tongan. I don't think the gift of tongues can be applied in a general manner. Probably just for what you need.

Speaking of Polynesian things, a couple weeks ago we had a way cool experience that I think I forgot to share with y’all. In our district meeting (which Elder Belcher attended), Elder Belcher brought up that in our area there is a less-active from the International Branch. Elder Belcher asked me if I knew of a prosthetics hospital in our area and I said that actually I did. I didn't remember the exact location; I just knew that I had ridden past it a couple times. I remembered that it was way back in the back roads/boondocks part of our area in between Pochentong and Stung Mean Chey, where there isn't a whole lot of anything. Elder Uhi got increasingly excited as Elder Belcher was telling us about it. He was like "There's a poly here in our area?!!" Elder Uhi had just been telling me the day before how he misses being around polys all the time. Elder Uhi got even more excited when Elder Belcher was like "and he doesn't speak any Khmae, just English." So we decided to go try and find it later that day. By some miracle, it had to have been guidance from the Spirit, we were able to find the prosthetics hospital on the first try without having to make any detours or extra turns or anything! We went in and asked the staff whether there was a Polynesian student at their school there. They said that there was and then a couple minutes later he came rolling into the lobby (I say rolling because he is in a wheelchair). Even though he was sitting in a wheelchair he still dwarfed all the Khmaes around him. I forgot just how big Polys are! He was huge! He was super nice. Elder Uhi and I talked to him for about half an hour. He said that he is from American Samoa, and that he was on a scholarship learning at this prosthetics hospital. There are about 30 students at this hospital, coming from the countries of Tanzania, American Samoa, Myanmar, Kiribati, Fiji, and a couple of other countries I forgot. We talked with a girl from Tanzania and a guy from Myanmar. They were both super cool! But yeah anyways, this Samoan guy was super neat. He said that a ton of his friends from back home had served in Texas on their missions and they came back and they had so much Texas pride! I was like "Sounds about right." Elder Uhi loved talking with him. He missed that Polynesian sense of humor. 

This week I had a thought about our duty as missionaries. It is our duty to prepare people to receive the sacred ordinance of baptism. One of the parts of that duty is making sure that people are sufficiently prepared to make that step, to make sure that they have repented and are ready to make the commitment to follow Jesus Christ for the rest of their lives. I remember reading a talk from a general conference which says that bishops have the sacred duty and responsibility to defend the sanctity of the temple by ensuring that nobody is given a temple recommend who is not worthy. For missionaries we have that same duty, but for the ordinance of baptism! It is so important to not baptize people just to baptize people, just so you can say when you finished your mission: "well I baptized THIS many people!" That is completely the wrong way to go about it. That is fulfilling your own prideful ambitions. These are children of God and we as missionaries will be the ones held responsible if we baptize them before they are ready to make such a serious commitment. It is absolutely essential that we do everything we can to help these people repent and make those deep and lasting changes that are essential for their salvation.

Me with Amaraa and Yian, 2 investigators which Elder Kim and I taught all the lessons to. They were both baptized in these last couple weeks! So happy to finally see them making that step! Amaraa is amazing. She is already in Mosiah for the second time! She has already finished the Book of Mormon once! Yian is amazing because he has come to church I think 10 weeks in a row now and he has to ride half an hour on his moto over some of the bumpiest and dustiest roads in the world to get to church! And he always brings his two kids!

Yesterday Elder Uhi and I had kind of an unsettling experience. Last Sunday we went over to the home of a less-active woman who wanted us to give a blessing to her very, very sick niece. So yesterday we went back over to see how she was doing and this girl was even sicker than before. She was manic. She was talking to herself the whole time, saying the same word over and over and over again and her eyes were rolled back in her head and her father had to keep her in a bear hug because she would start swinging at whoever came near. I asked the woman if she had been like this before the illness started and she said no not at all (this woman’s niece is 23 by the way). She said they had gone to the doctor a couple days before to get a brain scan and the scan showed no visible evidence of the illness touching her brain. So that was a pretty scary situation. I have never seen anyone so manically disturbed in real life. We're praying for her to heal, because its obviously taking a big emotional and physical toll on her family.

It's interesting how Heavenly Father helps us learn. Like take Khmae for instance. I'm getting to the point where I feel pretty darn comfortable every day. Like speaking Khmae isn’t something I wake up and worry about now. But as I continue to pray to learn the language, Heavenly Father continues to help me see that I have a longggggg way to go. Like yesterday in Sunday School I read a verse out loud for the class and the teacher asked this grandmother whether she understood what I had read and she was like "I didn't understand what he just said at all. Have a Khmae read it again". Haha so yeah, sometimes Heavenly Father definitely gives us experiences like that to help us smile and realize that we are completely dependent on His help for anything, especially with learning a language as a missionary!

Is there a bread unique to Cambodia, like Indian naan?  Khmaes don't really have their own unique bread. French baguettes is definitely the bread of choice in Khmae cuisine though

Any word on a new mission president?  Nope I don't know anything at all about the new mission president. I'll probably find out who it is from y’all when y’all email me. I'm way out of the loop here.

K love y’all. I love hearing from y’all so much! I'm so glad that life is going good!

Love Elder Burger

Elder Uhi chasing a bird out of the church building

Cambodian igloo

Monday, January 19, 2015

Free donuts on me!

Elder Uhi and I chilling with our nightly dinner:  a fruit smoothie and baay chaa (fried rice).  We're too exhausted to make dinner and there's a smoothie and baay chaa place like 30 seconds away from our house.  So about 4-5 nights a week we stop there on the way home.

Hello everybody! I hope everything is going well on the home-front. 

My past week was amazing! Full of so many opportunities for personal growth and advancement! I love learning! I was talking with another elder the other day and we were just like man, if we somehow won the lottery, we could just go get a million degrees from universities on a million topics. How cool would that be? The mission is so neat. Everybody always calls the mission "the university of life" and that’s so true. So many skills are developed on a mission in such a fast manner. Eight months ago could I have gone up to strangers on the street all day every day and initiate conversations with them? No, let alone do it in Cambodian. 

The Lord helps expand our capacities so much, and in many ways that we don't truly realize. The mission is SO AWESOME! We learn and grow so much every day! The reason that we do so is because it is so hard! Having all your plans fall through at 3 o'clock in the afternoon in the baking sun on a dusty road in Cambodia is not fun, especially when you know that absolutely no one is available to meet for the next 3 or 4 hours, investigators and members alike. It's not easy putting that smile on your face, but the instant you look at your companion, smile, and say "Let's go find the people that the Lord has prepared!" the Spirit INSTANTLY buoys your spirit and makes that smile feel more natural on your face, as if to say "That's the attitude I'm talking about!" Ahhh man! Sometimes it's all I can do to not stand up on my bike and scream "ONWARD!" as we set off to go contact or to go teach a lesson. Missionary work is so hard but so rewarding, so exhausting but so energizing at the same time! Those spiritual highs you get in lessons as you testify about the Savior are the things that carry you through all the low-points. I know that this gospel and this church are true! 

Yesterday Elder Uhi and I were teaching an investigator of ours, Phiarun, who is super good! He comes to church every single week, but it's kind of hard to meet with him because he's only really free on Sundays. He loves Jesus Christ though and he keeps inviting his friends to learn with us. So we teach him and two of his friends now, every Sunday! Yesterday we were teaching him about the gospel of Jesus Christ and as I was testifying about baptism and restored priesthood authority to do sacred ordinances.  I felt the Spirit fill me so completely to the point that I felt that it must have been shooting out of ears and eyes! I was thinking, this is as close as I might ever get to be glowing like Abinadi. I seriously felt like the Spirit was shining forth like a light from Elder Uhi and I. It was so strong I almost couldn't speak. The Spirit really does accompany us as we strive to have the worthiness in our thoughts, words, and actions. We truly can have the constant companionship and upliftment from the Holy Ghost if we live our lives according to the teachings and example of Jesus Christ!

Sitting in a bike shop getting Elder Uhi's bike fixed.  I'm trying to take pictures to help y'all understand just how dusty Stung Mean Chey is, but the pictures can't really capture it.  I hope y'all can kind of see and understand though.

Haha, that's funny that you talked about Cambodian donut shops dad because everyone I talk to here that has a sibling or child in America (it's not super common to have an immediate relative in America, but its definitely not super uncommon either), says that they own a donut shop. I heard that rumor in the MTC too from another missionary. The rumor holds true! I'm super excited to go and talk to them after the mission. Please start keeping a record of all of these people and the addresses of their places! It'll pay off for you in two years when I'm getting free boxes of donuts for y'all! 

Eat anything unusual recently?  Have you eaten dog?  As far as anything unusual I've eaten recently, I can't really remember. Nothing new that I haven't told you about (I don't think). 

Do you ever speak in church? Ya, since I've come I've spoken in church just twice. I spoke a couple weeks ago on how the sacrament will help us to be worthy to go to the temple. Yesterday I didn't speak, but I translated for Elder Belcher when he got up to give a talk on member missionary work. That was fun (but stressful). I hate translating. Me having a conversation in English? No problem. Having a conversation in Khmae? No problem (most of the time). Having to try and take a sentence and translate it to another language that isn't similar at all? Yeah that's hard. It gives me such a head ache.

I feel like some people think that languages just translate directly. Well they don't, especially Asian languages like Khmae. Translating English to Khmae or Khmae to English is like trying to fit a square-shaped block into a circle-shaped hole. Good thing yesterday I was going from English to Khmae though. Khmae to English is so much harder. Every Sunday I go and sit right behind the Belchers and translate sacrament meeting for them and I feel like they must think I'm such a dunce. I keep saying Khmae words when I'm meaning to say them in English, or I'll just be trying to translate fast so I'll just start translating it literally like a computer would, like: "older sister Sophia thanks you all together for having presence in this location today." Haha. Ugh, translating is the worst. 

How often do you do exchanges with your district leader?  We do exchanges with Elder Kim once a transfer. That’s it.

How many people are attending your ward?  The last couple weeks (since we switched hours) we've been getting about 75 people a week. Before that, like last transfer we were getting 95, 96, 97 people out every week. I don't know what happened. I think some people just refuse to go in the morning and just go to the 3 o’clock hour still

How is the family that is neighbors to Thol doing?  That family we were teaching that is a couple rooms down from Thol is doing super good. The daughter came to English class on Wednesday and they came to church on Sunday. The daughter requested that the sisters start teaching them though because she just kind of wants to learn from girls who are about her age. So we gave them over to the sisters. I'll still see them a lot though (I hope! I'd better see them a lot!) 

Ok that's all I have. Sorry if I left out something you were dying to know. I love all of y’all to death! If anyone reading this hasn't emailed me recently, repent and then email me immediately because love hearing from everyone!  Have fun! 

Love Elder Burger!

 I'm sorry.  I had to  It was so easy!

Monday, January 12, 2015

The word is Diligence

Hey! I am so glad that I am not in America right now. Sounds freezing. Haha, I remember that before I got my mission call I was praying I would get sent to a tropical place where I wouldn't have to deal with the cold (while I was waiting for my mission call we were in the middle of winter at BYU). Dreams do come true! Sweating is so much more preferred to shivering. Shivering is miserable, sweating is just a little bit uncomfortable sometimes. But it’s not even a big deal in the rainy season because you'll be sweating buckets but then every afternoon nature gives you a free shower (by shower I mean getting soaked by monsoon rains for like 4 hours). Cambodian weather is the best.

Speaking of me opening my mission call, I just realized yesterday that this upcoming week is a pretty big week for me, as milestones go. On Wednesday is my 8 month mark. It’s insane to think that a third of my mission has already come and gone. Also on Friday is the 1 year mark since I opened my mission call and found out that I would be serving in Cambodia. (that’s the one that really blows my mind. That day seemed like just yesterday!) And on Saturday it’s my 6 month mark since landing in Cambodia. It’s insane how fast time has blown by. But I've come to realize that when you stick your nose to the grindstone it’s definitely pretty hard to look up and see the clock!

This week was so good. We have been working with all our heart, might, mind, and strength to try and further the work of the Lord here in Stung Mean Chey! Watching Elder Uhi this last week makes me laugh, because he reminds me exactly of how I was that first week. I was absolutely dead tired but I didn't want to slow down Elder Johnson at all so I just kind of kept trudging along with this zombie look on my face. That’s how it has been for Elder Uhi this last week. He keeps apologizing that he's so tired and I have to keep telling him "Haha look Elder, it’s ok! I just got out of training, and I vividly remember how tired you get." Especially those first couple weeks it is so hard because the jet lag is still taking a heavy toll on you, and you're not used to the meal schedule (which is typically breakfast 6:30, lunch 12:00 or 1:00 and dinner at 8:30). You're starving all the time because you're used to eating snacks all the time and you're used to the unlimited cafeteria food. On your mission you talk to more people in one day than you ever have before, you walk in the hot sun all day, you teach about complex metaphysical concepts in a simple and concise way, and to top it all off, you're doing all of this in an incredibly complicated language which you have been learning for only 2 months! So yeah, you could say training is pretty rough on the mind, body, and soul. Elder Uhi is taking it like a champ though. At 4 o'clock when our appointment falls through and we have nobody else to meet, I absolutely know with all my heart that he just wants to keel over and take a nap over on the garbage heap across the road. But he always throws aside his tiredness and keeps working hard! He's such a great missionary! I'm learning so much from him. He is so incredibly humble and meek. He is going to be an amazing leader here in our mission!

I love the people we teach so much. One I particularly love is Thol. He's a recent convert that Elder Kim and I baptized a few weeks ago. He is golden as golden gets. Bishop just called him to be the Young Men's president. He goes out and helps us teach investigators all the time. We just confirmed his brother-in-law Vin, last Sunday. They're both so good! They're both going to be receiving the Aaronic priesthood this next Sunday. So will Vichika, who we also confirmed last Sunday. As Elder Khanakhan, the Area Seventy who came to our ward for all three hours yesterday, put it: "This guy is 18 but he looks like he is 8!" I have never felt such an older brother-younger brother relationship with anyone else I've ever met in my entire life than I feel now with Vichika. We go over and teach him probably about 3 times a week. He has changed so much since Elder Kim and I started giving him the lessons. He is so smart. He instantly understands everything we teach him. Oh gosh, I love that guy so much! I can't wait for him to go and serve a mission!

Last night Elder Uhi and I taught this family for the first time. The dad had actually stuck his head in the door a couple times when we were teaching Thol (he lives just a few rooms away) and I invited him and his family to go to church and I took down his number and I called him and reminded him Saturday, and him and his family ended up coming! It was such a great sacrament meeting for them to come to too, because we had the entire Stake presidency speak, as well as an Area Seventy. And then at 6 o’clock that evening we went over and taught them the message of the Restoration. They're so good! I'm excited to keep teaching them! It’s hard to meet with them though (like most people here), so we can only meet them on Sundays. 

Mom, last week you asked me what my word would be for this year. I cycled through quite a few words including loyal, virtuous, steadfast, obedient, charitable, faithful, but the one that I kept coming back to, which I kind of decided would be the theme for my mission way back when I was in the MTC, is the word "diligent". In Chapter 6 of Preach My Gospel we learn that:

Diligence is steady, consistent, earnest, and energetic effort in doing the Lord’s work. The Lord expects you to work diligently—persistently and with great effort and care. A diligent missionary works effectively and efficiently. Diligence in missionary work is an expression of your love for the Lord and His work. When you are diligent, you find joy and satisfaction in your work.

Do many good things of your own free will (see D&C 58:27). Don’t wait for your leaders to tell you what to do. Continue until you have done all you can, even when you are tired. Focus on the most important things and avoid wasting time. Pray for guidance and strength. Plan regularly and effectively. Avoid anything that distracts your thoughts or actions.

"I have often said one of the greatest secrets of missionary work is work! If a missionary works, he will get the Spirit; if he gets the Spirit, he will teach by the Spirit; and if he teaches by the Spirit, he will touch the hearts of the people and he will be happy. There will be no homesickness, no worrying about families, for all time and talents and interests are centered on the work of the ministry. Work, work, work—there is no satisfactory substitute, especially in missionary work." (President Ezra Taft Benson)

Diligence isn't just something that applies to our behavior though. Are we diligent in our thoughts? Do we keep our sacramental covenant by always remembering Christ? Are we diligent in our words? Do we only say things which uplift, and which invite the Spirit? Are we diligent in our prayers and our scripture study? In fulfilling our callings? In our family history work? In our temple attendance? In our family home evening observance? In our member missionary work?

Here's a scripture I want to share with y’all really fast. It’s about member missionary work. It’s D&C 38:40-41:

And again, I say unto you, I give unto you a commandment, that every man, both elder, priest, teacher, and also member, go to with his might, with the labor of his hands, to prepare and accomplish the things which I have commanded.

And let your preaching be the warning voice, every man to his neighbor, in mildness and in meekness.

So there you go... Opening our mouths and sharing the gospel is a commandment not just for missionaries, but for all members! I know we will all realize greater happiness as we seek to follow this sacred commandment. 

Ok I love all of y’all so much! Goodbye!

Love Elder Burger

This is an area we contact in all the time.

The famous BYU-Utah tuk-tuk