SOUTHEAST ASIA HAS A TEMPLE!!! Wow, words cannot describe the joy I feel as I think about the glorious gift which the Lord has chosen to give to His children here in Southeast Asia: a temple in Bangkok, Thailand! Do any of y'all realize what this means?! I don't think y’all understand just how close Bangkok is to Cambodia! Quick! Go and look at a map!
|Phnom Penh and Bangkok marked with stars. Between them are Battambang and Siem Reap (Angkor).|
Ohhhh, man what a wonderful time to be a missionary of the Lord in Cambodia! Our next-door neighbor will soon have a dedicated house of the Lord! To help y’all understand how close Bangkok is -- it is the same distance from Bangkok to Battambang or Siam Reap as it is from Battambang/Siam Reap to Phnom Penh! Before our members had to save years and years and years to go to the temple! In just a few short years they will be able to take a 10-hour bus ride there! How wonderful! Ah yes!!! Just last night I was talking to a lookpuu on the street about the importance of families for fifteen minutes. Ancestors and family are the single most important element in Khmae culture! Think about the thousands and thousands of years of Khmae civilization there have been. That's so many people who will now have more opportunities to receive those saving ordinances from their descendants! Just alone, think of how many family members all the members of the church lost just 35 years ago in the Khmae genocide. Although Pol Pot destroyed most of the records, which can make family history extremely difficult, I know that the Lord will provide a means for these members to do the work for their parents, sibling, grandparents, and children whom they lost to the Khmae Rouge. Now they it will be so much easier for the faithful Khmae members to be sealed to their families for time and all eternity!
One of the faithful members on my mind right now is a recent convert in our ward named Om Phuang. The sisters used to teach her but since the sisters have been removed from our area we get to teach her now. We went over to her house on Saturday. She is about 55 years old and lives in this little tin and plywood shack. For a living she pulls a cart around and collects recycling she finds on the side of the road. We pulled up outside the sheet of tin metal she uses as her gate. She pulled it open and we stepped inside this little, almost-courtyard-like 10 by 10 open space. It was small and had several chickens running around. Although it was basically just mud and chickens it seemed really homey because there was a table and a couple potted plants off to the side. At the back of this little 10 by 10 foot space was the shack she lived in. It is about five feet tall and partially sunk into the ground. No room in there really except for the bed that she slept on.
The instant she saw it was us she said, "God bless! Praise the Lord. I am so blessed today because two of His servants have come to teach me!" I just looked at Elder Osborne and smiled. We walked in and she welcomed us to her home. She said "I know it's not a lot by some people's standards, but the Lord has been good enough to bless me with shelter. Thank you God!" I just wanted to cry right there. She is such a great example of the Khmae people. As they accept and apply the Gospel in their lives they truly become like the people of Ammon in the Book of Mormon: so humble and grateful in any circumstances. She then said, "Before we start lets sing a hymn and praise our God. How about How Firm a Foundation?" Again, all I could do was look at Elder Osborne and smile. People like Om Phuang are the people that make serving missions truly the best two years.
So ចូលឆ្នាំខ្មែរ aka Khmae New Year is almost upon us, which means many, many people are about to return home to their homelands for a few days/weeks. One of the things people do all the time this time of year is throw water balloons and buckets of water at each other. Saturday was a super, super hot day and we took the full brunt of the heat for a lot of the day so, as you could probably guess, several gallons of sweat coated our bodies. We were teaching an investigator in Bong Thol's house for our last lesson of the day and outside all of the young people (they're all Thol's age basically. Like 25 year olds) were outside throwing water balloons and pan-fulls and bucket-fulls of water at each other. When we finished our lesson (which was on fasting) we walked out of the room to go home. We are really popular in Thol's housing complex thing just because we are there all the time teaching Thol or Viin or our investigator Srei Niat. Everyone was like Elders! This guy I've talked to several times was holding a bucket full of water. He was like "you playing?" At this point it was 7:45, and though I was feeling great spiritually, I was pretty physically exhausted from proselyting in the Cambodian sun all day. I was like uhhh... and I took out my phone and my daily planner and put them in my bike basket and then I took a couple big steps away from my bike and was like 'ok go ahead." Haha, next thing I know he dumps the whole thing of water on me and when every sees one guy dumping water on a frenchie all of them want to do it. So instantly like four more buckets of water got thrown on me and then they see Elder Osborne like fifteen feet away who was trying to escape without getting wet. So of course they tossed a ton of water on him too. Within the 10 seconds that all of this happened I was completely soaked from head to toe. It felt so good. It was almost like being in rainy season again. (Almost, but not completely. Words do not describe the level of wetness we achieve while proselyting in rainy season.) Haha, everyone thought it was hilarious and we thanked them and they thanked us and then we biked home feeling a lot more refreshed than we did just 5 minutes earlier. Sometimes being a missionary just means putting smiles on other faces!
Well needless to say, we are SO EXCITED about conference this weekend! I can't wait to watch and learn from our leaders! I like that joke that General Conference is the equivalent of the Super Bowl for missionaries. Truth! Oh man I am so excited for the temple! Shoutout to my boy Elder Curtis who is serving the Lord over there in Bangkok right now! And also to my other boy Elder Wakefield in Bangalore. This temple is for all of our people!!
"And thus we see the great call of diligence of men to labor in the vineyards of the Lord" (Alma 28:14). What a wonderful time to labor in this corner of the vineyard!
Why should we mourn or think our lot is hard?
'Tis not so; all is right.
Why should we think to earn a great reward
If we now shun the fight?
Gird up your loins; fresh courage take.
Our God will never us forsake;
And soon we'll have this tale to tell--
All is well! All is well!
Hope all is well in America! Because things are going great over here in the Kingdom of Cambodia.
Love Elder Neuberger