Saturday, October 24, 2015

I Walk Among Giants

Greetings from... Chaktomuk! I'll be serving here another transfer with Elder Elieson! I'm super pumped to keep serving with him. He's a blast and I'm learning a ton from him. It’s kind of a dream come true to get to serve with him. All of my companions have been so great to be honest. I can't believe how blessed I've been. Same with my areas: Pochentong, Steung Mean Chey, and Chaktomuk. I love all three with all my heart, although for whatever reason (well there's a lot, first and foremost the people!) my favorite area would have to be dusty, trashy, hot, smelly Steung Mean Chey. That is my own little version of the Promised Land, running with milk and honey and wonderful experiences. I keep telling everyone that whenever I get a new area I'm just going to be sent back there.

Pochentong and Chaktomuk have been so wonderful as well. Chaktomuk I honestly don't know nearly as well as my former two areas, mainly because we really don't have the time that we want to have to spend in it, but it’s still great and I love it. I miss some of the members over in Pochentong so much it makes my heart hurt. I was amazed that some of them remembered me when I saw them at Elder Holland's meeting! I didn't think anybody over there would remember me at all! I was a little baby កូន back then.

Ahhh, the mission is the greatest! Cambodia honestly is my favorite place. The people, both good and bad, make me want to be able to pray for them with the depth and sincerity of Alma as he prays for the Zoramites in Alma 34. If only they would all immediately come unto their loving Heavenly Father and His Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. But I know it can't be like that. Salvation is not a cheap experience. 

My time in Chaktomuk has flown by though! I can't believe I'm going to be serving here for as long as I served in Steung Mean Chey! It was 3 transfers in Pochentong, 4.5 in Steung Mean Chey, and it’s looking like at least 4.5 here in Chaktomuk. Obviously the Lord still has some lessons he would like me to learn from the people I meet in this area.

Transfers this week were super fun. We had 11 people finish their missions though. It’s sad to see them all go, since I know all them pretty well. The weirdest part is that one of the missionaries finishing was Sister Lindley from my MTC group! I can't believe that it is already time for our sisters to be going home. Can a mission really be this fast?! The rest of the sisters in my group will be going home in about a month, and then it will be just us elders.

One of those people whom Elder Elieson and I meet regularly is a man named ហៀង (Hiang, the diphthong  "ia" sounds like the name Mia). He is a recent convert, about 50 years old, and is pretty hard of understanding. Haha, I mean that lovingly. We try and teach him time and time again, through metaphors, stories, straight doctrine, reading, watching films, to help him to understand just the basics: Restoration, Plan of Salvation, the priesthood, and the Atonement. But every time he interrupts us and starts going off on false doctrines. We listen to him though and continuously adjust our teachings accordingly. For example, last night as we go over to his house, which is an apartment on the third floor of this concrete building that is hidden through a couple dark, dank alleys just a couple hundred yards from Phsaa Thmey, we had planned to teach him about purity and holiness in the priesthood. But right after the prayer he goes "Elders, I've begun reading in my scriptures again!" We were of course thrilled, but then he kept going "Yes, I learned today about the two priesthoods, Aaronic and Melchizedek. The Aaronic is the one we use in the family and the Melchizedek is the higher priesthood, and we must leave our families, because we have to devote ourselves full time to the service of God, and so we can't have families if we have that priesthood because where would we find the time to support them.” 

That's a small example of the kind of thing he says every lesson. Haha, I love him. He really does have the strongest testimony of Christ; it’s just the details that he doesn't understand. That will come with time though. He then went off about how man can't be perfect (which we assured him was correct, if man was on his own) and that man can't become perfected or like God, even through the Atonement of Christ, because we will only ever keep falling and sinning. It is always such a powerful and humbling experience to feel the Holy Ghost work through as an ordained minister of the true church of God. Elder Elieson and I bore witness of the infinite power of the Atonement of Christ, and used examples and metaphors that seemingly popped into our heads to explain how, even though in this life sometime we are without hope and feel that true progression and growth and a complete remission of sins is ever beyond our grasp, if we will trust in Heavenly Father and in our Savior, Jesus Christ, we can be lifted out of the pit of despair and sin. Maybe not completely in this life, but certainly in the next. 

Another one of the people we teach is our inactive ward mission leader Reaksmey. Elder Elieson and I have found out that we always can pique his interest if we talk about the priesthood with him. Everything else he kind of ignores and brushes off, but when we talk about the priesthood his eyes open wide and he gets this sparkle in his eyes as he tells us about the old times, when he used to go out with the missionaries to go and teach people all the time and how he has given blessings through the priesthood and seen miracles occur. He told us of a recent miracle he had had during Pchum Ben, when he went up to his home khet of Kampong Thom. His brother had recently broken his leg. They were all sleeping in this wooden house, about 20ft by 10ft square. There were a bunch of people sleeping on the floor, and no one in this community approved of Christians. In fact, Reaksmey said it was an old "magic house" where people used to cast spells and do magic. He said there were lots of dark spirits around and the only way he could sleep was to pray. He did that every night he was there to keep him safe. But one night he got the prompting that he needed to give his brother a blessing. So he silently crawled through the sleeping people (who don't approve of Christianity) and put his hands on his brother's head and gave him a priesthood blessing as he slept. His brother hadn't been able to walk for 20- some odd days already. 3 days later he walked around just fine. I'm excited to keep working with Reaksmey and see his progress (and try to get him out to church!)

This week we were in a threesome for a couple days with Elder Olsen as well, because Elder Bostrom was up in Siem Reap doing his Angkor Wat visit with another elder. Wednesday, while we were in the threesome, we got a call from one of the office elders' long-term investigators in the international branch, who has gone to church every Sunday for years and years but can't be baptized because he isn't married to his wife, and some clauses in Cambodian law that I don't fully understand somehow prohibit him and his wife being married here. He was sick with dengue fever in the hospital (which is a sickness that a good amount of people get this time of year). Even though he is not a member, this man, Don, has the strongest testimony of priesthood power. So the three of us elders, as well as the international branch president Ith Vichet (who actually lives in Singapore but flies back and forth from there and Cambodia every week), gathered around him and gave him a blessing in the middle of that Cambodian hospital. Giving blessings in hospitals in Cambodia, something I've had the opportunity to do many times, is always a special experience, because they aren't like American hospitals where almost every patient has their own room, or if not, they share a room with maybe three other people and they have privacy curtains that they can draw at any time. No not like that at all in Cambodia. Most of the time it’s a big, unairconditioned, stuffy room with anywhere from 10 to hundreds of cheap metal military beds in rows. No privacy in the slightest. But you always feel a special sense of being on the Lord's errand when you go. It’s a cool feeling. President Vichet gave the blessing. Don, who looked super sickly and could hardly sit up to receive the blessing, immediately stood up and shook our hands, saying he felt a ton better and he knew that the only thing that could do that was the priesthood of God.

President Vichet is an amazing man. It’s been so cool to have regular interactions with him since I've entered the office. I don't know if any of you know his story, but he is the man who single-handedly brought the Church to Cambodia back in the 90's. You can read his story here: Bringing the Gospel Home to Cambodia.

It’s amazing serving in a country that is so young in the gospel. The church is just 21 years old here. Imagine if you got transported back to the year 1851 in America. Imagine the spiritual stature of the men and women you would associate with in the Church on a regular basis there. That is how it is here. I am blessed to walk among spiritual giants. I regularly meet with men like Ith Vichet, Leang (our mission realtor and the first missionary to ever leave from Cambodia), Eng Bong Huac (North Stake President), and Uk Sophal (South Stake President), men who have been obviously foreordained and called of God to help establish the Church here in their native land. My mission is the greatest. I am so grateful to God for sending me here, for preparing me to meet this wonderful people.

I love y’all! Have wonderful weeks! Next time I email y’all will be November. How weird is that?

Here's a talk for y’all to go and study/ponder this week (Elder Elieson and I listened to it in companion study while preparing to teach a less-active about the Law of Chastity. Hope it’s not too weird to attach a law of chastity talk to a letter? I hope not. We should love and appreciate all of God's commandments and not feel awkward and apologetic talking about them). It’s called "Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments".

Love Elder Burger

P.S. - I was going through the old mission records and found the record of Sister Goto from 8th ward!! I remember clear as day, when I was like 10 or 11 or 12 her mission call being announced in Sacrament Meeting to Cambodia, and just thinking how foreign and unknown of a place and mission call that was. Well, lo and behold, a decade later here I am. Funny how life happens like that.

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