Saturday, September 5, 2015

from the smallest alleyways in Phnom Penh, to the rice-field villages in Kampong Cham

A compound of people who collect recycling. They are basically the lowest level of society here in Cambodia. A lot of the time they live in collective compounds, where they pool their collections and get a shared wage. I've taught people in quite a few of these compounds over the last year.

Just got in this morning from Kampong Cham. That was a fun drive down because it was early morning so there really wasn't anyone on the road. That road is brand-new too, part of some huge government project, so it was super smooth to ride, which meant we could go fast. We averaged about 100 kph, which isn't really that fast compared to American freeways, but in Phnom Penh we average driving about 20 kph. Phnom Penh traffic is super slow and super aggressive, the exact opposite of America. 

Tuesday we had the opportunity to go and do exchanges in South Zone. I went with Elder Christensen and Elder Kim, who are the zone leaders for south zone. They are both the coolest! Elder Christensen is in my group (he's the one from my mission prep class before the mission) and obviously I was companions with Elder Kim back in Stung Mean Chey, and then we trained in the same ward as each other for another 3 months after that. Their area is doing great. We had the chance to meet with some great investigators. Both of those guys are hilarious and love to work hard and have fun while doing it.

Reunited with Elder Kim on exchange:) He's the South Zone leader

So yeah, we got up to Kampong Cham on Thursday night (by the way, as we were driving out of Phnom Penh there was this enormous rain storm. We basically boated out of the city. It was 2 feet deep everywhere we drove!) and then yesterday Elder Eppley and I did exchanges. Elder Eppley went with Elder Beacco and Slavens in 1st branch, and I went with the zone leaders, Elder Long and Um, in 3rd branch. It was such a blast! It was so cathartic to just go with 2 Khmae elders for 24 hours and do nothing but speak Khmae. Ahhhh, it felt so good. I just realized that it’s been like 9 months since I've served with a Khmae companion. Too long... I was thrilled to see how quickly the rust flaked off once I just got back into complete immersion. Those two elders are great. I've served around both of them at different times and was really excited to go and conduct an exchange with them. At the beginning of our exchange they were just like, get ready cuz tomorrow we're going to our far area, អណ្ដូងស្វាយ (Mango Well)! 

On exchange with the Kampong Cham Zone leaders, Elder Long and Elder Um

In that area there is like 40 less-active members because it’s an hour away from the church building and they are all dirt poor so they don't have anything to ride to church, and before members would arrange to bring them to church but since that has stopped these people kind of refuse to go. So there is a ton of work for missionaries to do out there, encouraging and helping lift these members back to the faith that they once had. There are just so many out there! So we rode out bikes out after lunch that day and stayed there until dark, going around with our member help teaching people, some up one hill, and others down on the other side of the hill, and then others still down little roads into the brush. Proselyting in the khets is a lot less stressful than in the city, that’s for sure. For most appointments in the city you need to have back-ups out the wazoo, because people will stand you up, or because their schedules are so inconsistent here that they're there one day and gone for the next week. But out in the khets, people are basically home all day, every day, so you can just show up and it’s almost a guarantee that they'll be there. The only trick with far areas like Andong Svaay is that you have to arrange for a member help to go with you out there! We had some amazing lessons with members out there. Each one was full of the Spirit as we taught and testified about faith or prayer or as we read in the Book of Mormon with them. 

Homes in Andong Svaay

We had one great experience where we had taught our last lesson in Andong Svaay and we were riding up this last dirt hill to get back to the main road and our member help stopped us and was like "Hey, there’s another member who lives just like 20 feet back that way. Do you think we should go visit them?" and of course Elder Long and Elder Um were like heck yes! So we turned around and turned off the dirt road to this stilted house (well all houses in Kampong Cham are stilted) where we talked with her for like 20 minutes. Haha, it was funny, because for the first 5 minutes we were just talking about eyeglass prescriptions and near-sightedness vs far-sightedness, but then after we talk-played (Khmae for chat) we got down into the heart of it. After asking a few questions trying to determine why she wasn't coming to church she was just like ":Look it’s because I'm lazy. That’s all there is to it! I have a moto, I don't work on Sunday, but I just don't go to church or accept the missionaries into my home because I'm lazy!" Then she went on to tell us that all those other less-actives who we had taught earlier that day were lying when they told us that this week they would make the effort to go out to church (which everyone who we had met sincerely told us).

Those sort of words always come out as daggers when a less-active says them. The only thing that we could do (because obviously this woman had already consigned herself to apathy, and reason doesn't usually work for resigned apathy) was to bear testimony. Elder Long and Elder Um just leapt into it so lovingly, but boldly as well, just teaching her about the love and patience the Savior has for her, and how faith unapplied is basically faith that doesn't exist. Even the biggest journeys start with one step, and God eagerly wants to help us make that first small step, and then the next one, and then the next one... It was amazing. One of those moments where I felt like the Spirit must have been glowing out of our eyes and mouths. One of those moments where you can feel the power and authority of our calling as humble servants sent from a loving Heavenly Father to minister to each of His children as individuals. I couldn't help but remember that verse in Alma, as we were riding away from there, that says, "seeing no way that [we] might reclaim them save it were in bearing down in pure testimony against them." I was just glad that I got to be there on that exchange so we could enjoy that moment together. Hopefully that woman's heart will be softened one day and she will return to the diligence she once had. 

A less-active we talked to yesterday shared some Khmer Rouge stories with us. It still amazes me every time hearing about them because I honestly kind of forget that it happened sometimes, because Cambodians kind of try to forget to. It’s just not openly talked about too often. But this woman was telling us how the Khmae Rouge force-marched her and her family out of her village when she was just a little girl, and they had to walk 80 kilos along the road. She said they would put whatever they could find on their feet for protection, since many of them didn't have shoes. If they stopped walking the soldiers would shoot them.

She also told us of her older brother, who tried to escape to Thailand via boat. The Khmer Rouge shot down the boat and all 70 people inside died, except for her brother. A car tire floated up through the wreckage and he grabbed onto it and then wave after wave after wave pounded him, all the way until he drifted near the Thai shore, where a boat picked him up. Now he works at an airport in Texas. I'm not sure which one, although I assume it’s the Houston one, since that’s where all the Khmae people in Texas live. Amazing story though. 

Well transfer calls are going to be going out tomorrow! This will be a big one, because we'll have 20 trainers! Super exciting ហ្មង់!

I love my mission so much! I love Cambodia! I love serving the Lord and I love seeing the marvelous work and a wonder that He is performing through His servants here, both missionary and member alike. This work is really spreading, both to the smallest alleyways in Phnom Penh, to rice-field villages in Kampong Cham. God truly knows all of His children.
អ៊ែលឌើរ បើុហ្គើរ

On exchange in Tuoltumpong. I thought the wooden boards were going to collapse and send us into the foot of trash underneath because they were so rotten. But we survived.

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