Monday, December 14, 2015

Candidates for Immortality, but Strangers to Truth



Highs and lows characterized this week; and boy, were the highs high and the lows low!

So just a quick recap of last Monday to explain where those wat pics came from. We all hopped in a couple tuk-tuks to go to this wat called Wat Han Jay. One of the elders saw it in some tourist pamphlet book he's got. It was fun. Definitely the most unique wat I've been to. There are so many stairs to get up to it though! It literally looks like a parabola from the bottom.  Then we held district meeting Monday night, which is different than Tuesday morning, when all the other districts in the mission do their district meeting. We do it Monday so we don't have to waste more time coming all the way back to Kampong Cham again on Tuesday.
Elder Smith and I 
At a wat last pday. It's full of fruit statues. Pretty eclectic
View from the top of the wat.  That is the Mekong River in the background
Prey Cho is such a great area. I love it so much. The people here are so welcoming, both members and non-members alike! The active members' faith is so strong. It's incredible serving in such a young group in the church. Not even two years old. The members don't know a ton, but they believe and follow what they do know. Our group is almost entirely composed of neakmings and om srey's (basically a bunch of women from 35-60 years old). In my personal study this week, one thing I studied was President Nelson's talk from this most recent general conference. In his talk he quoted President Kimball's prophecy that “Much of the major growth that is coming to the Church in the last days will come because many of the good women of the world … will be drawn to the Church in large numbers. This will happen to the degree that the women of the Church reflect righteousness and articulateness in their lives and to the degree that the women of the Church are seen as distinct and different—in happy ways—from the women of the world.” I think Cambodia is very indicative of this prophecy in general, but particularly out in Prey Cho. It is a village overwhelming made of females, and the active membership in our group is even more lopsided to the female side. We're trying to find and baptize, or reactivate Melchizedek priesthood holders! 





People in the khets are so welcoming. It seems the more rural you go, the friendlier they get. Everyone we meet invites us to come and sit down on their wooden bed-platform thing outside their home and talk with them. Most of them don't want to learn when we put it to them though. But they certainly are friendly.

Cambodians in general usually freak out when they see an American speak Khmae, but it is multiplied by at least 10 out here in Prey Cho. People go nuts. Like on Saturday we biked out to this village out in the fields and palm trees called “Tall House Village”. We pull into the first house in this little community that we see has people, and they are like “what the heck? What in the world are white people doing here?”  I guarantee no American has ever seen this village except Mormon missionaries. And then we open our mouths and begin speaking with them and they flip, and they call the whole village over. People kept riding their bikes past and then someone would yell "Hey our brothers have come!!". Haha at one point we had like 20 people around us. Way funny. . .




So ya, if I didn't tell y’all last week, this area is basically composed of houses lined along the side of the national road, and then you ride off onto dirt paths off the road into the rice fields and it’s literally rice as far as you can see. And you see just kind of dense patches of palm trees in the distance and that’s a village. And you look in another direction a kilo away and there’s another dense cluster of palm trees and that’s a village. You can see some of the stilted houses roofs poking out of the trees. It is beyond beautiful here . . . Literally beyond words.


Eel Country Village


Out in another village. This is a few kilos to the southeast

It's funny how often on the mission I've had to contemplate the phrase of Elder Holland's about why missionary work is so hard. His answer: “because salvation is not a cheap experience.”  That sentence has prompted me to do a lot of thinking, especially a couple days in the middle of this week. 

Thursday we pulled up to our investigator's house, who was supposed to be baptized this Sunday (yesterday). Well he was just plastered drunk. It hurt, because I knew how close he was to getting this saving ordinance for himself. But I was pleased to not feel any anger inside of myself at him. Earlier in my mission, in similar circumstances, I felt angry, impatient, and frustrated when people did things like that. But I've come to realize that we are all people and we all fall short and we all have weaknesses; and anger and frustration fixes none of it. This time I couldn't help but feel love for Om June, and just smile, knowing that, even though he had gotten drunk, this little 5 foot tall, poor, old, completely toothless Cambodian man would get another chance. And another. And another. Because of the charity and love and patience of the Being who I am privileged to serve. So the least I can do is at least try to have an inkling of those feelings in myself for him.

Here are those three little girls I was talking about last week. The one sitting is a recent convert. She's twelve. Her faith is the strongest I think I've ever seen in a twelve year old. Her name is Daleeh

So that was a low for sure. Other things that bothered me were just a couple days of talking and inviting so many people to come to Christ, so many people who I felt a genuine love and hope for in my heart as we talked, and they rejected it. They say that they're Khmae and their ancestors are Khmae and Khmaes are Buddhist and that’s just how it is. Or that all religions are good and teach people to become better people, so it doesn't matter what path you take... The same old stuff I've heard my whole mission. Sometimes it’s tough not to let that stuff get to you when you love people so much. When all you are doing is pleading with them to try it out. When you know they have the time to learn but they say they don't. It always goes back to being an ordained representative of Jesus Christ. I think Elder Holland is correct when he says that all missionaries will have to go through, in a much, much smaller proportion, those things that Christ had to go through. And certainly He, above everyone else, faced rejection from those He loved. 

So it’s not always dandy on the mission, haha. Sometimes it’s hard not to get discouraged. Sometimes I feel like I'm reeling in feelings of inadequacy, that I'm not good enough, that I could have done more, or tried harder, although I've always felt like I've given it my all. But sometimes I feel like I gave 110% and I think back and I wanted to have given 120%. But those feelings don't come from God. When those come I pray and I pray, and most of the time Heavenly Father responds with feelings of warmth and peace to my soul to let me know what I'm doing is enough. Those feelings never come when I'm out and about; just in those quiet moments, where I reach a gap during language study, or in the morning when I'm eating breakfast. When I head out of the house, my mind clears and I see things in a clear light, as they really are. 

Friday and Saturday made up for whatever troubles were there earlier in the week. We had an opportunity a couple of times to go and help lift rice in baskets up into this members rice storage bins for a couple hours Friday. We also helped an investigator put up a new wall for his house which he is having to rebuild, because his house collapsed because of rotten wood. We were able to teach a lot of people and find some new investigators too!




One of those investigators is this single mom named Jan-Naa. She is in her forties and has a little boy who is 4. She married late, and just 4 or 5 months ago left her husband because he was always drunk. So she is living alone in this house, every day just biking her little kid over to school, and then going and helping people harvest their rice for menial wages. What a difficult life she has. We testified to her of the peace and joy that enters our lives as we learn and follow Jesus Christ, who we explained is our Savior. She said she was free all the time and that we could come back and teach her. She also mentioned that she was friends with Ming Saophoan, who is a very active member (she's the lady we lifted rice for). So a couple days later we came back with Ming Saophoan (who has been friends with Jan-Naa since they were in grade 1, it turns out). We had a really powerful lesson with each other, with a very peaceful feeling throughout as we explained to her God's plan of salvation for His children. Normally that wouldn't be the first lesson we share with people, but we felt that it was what was right for her. She unfortunately wasn't able to make it to church, because she had to go work in other people's rice fields. I can't wait till January, when all the harvesting will be done and everyone will be free!


Rice fields as far as you can see

I love the mission. I love how it is always changing, always moving us out of our comfort zones, always challenging us to do new things and confront old weaknesses. Being way too hard on myself has always been something I've dealt with, and I'm still trying to get over it. I know the Atonement is there for everything though, not just our sins. That's a teaching that has really sunk into my heart as I have taught it to others on my mission. I love our Savior Jesus Christ, and as I continue to serve Him, I feel like I know Him better and better. I love this time of year, to reflect on the joyous birth of Him who came to lift us all.

This week I found a Teachings of Joseph Smith book in my bedroom. It obviously had some really great stuff in there, but let me just share one thing from it. "A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race. This has been your feeling, and caused you to forego the pleasures of home, that you might be a blessing to others, who are candidates for immortality, but strangers to truth."

I cherish this opportunity I have to invite others to come unto Christ, even if most don't accept that invitation. Even if save it be just one soul, I'll keep trying to help all these wonderful candidates for immortality learn, love, and live by eternal truths from a loving Heavenly Father.

Love y’all!

Love Elder Neuberger



Helping a member lift rice up into her rice storage bins around the back of the house 

Aragog, is that you?  Our church building is an arachnophobe's worst nightmare

The stairs at the wat literally look like a parabola from the bottom.
Climbing up all those stairs at the wat means taking a quick nap on the giant pomegranate statue at the top

The Mekong River


Some 1000 year old ruins in the midde of this wat



Some monks' robes drying in the breeze

Cool graffiti. Wish y'all knew Khmae, then it'd be cooler!
This is also pretty funny. It says "place monks drink beverages", but it'd be a lot funnier if y'all would quit being idle and just learn khmae.


dino in the woods

Monk walking at the wat



In Eel Country Village (one of the villages in our area)


Egrets flying across the rice fields
Water buffalo

Buddhist stupa in the middle of the rice fields
Sunset as we're biking back from a far south village









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