Monday, October 28, 2013

Oct 27, 2013 Not Quite White Shirts

Some recent converts in Baku invited the 6 Elders in our district to their house Saturday night for a Family Home Evening. This was the first time going to Baku for two of the Elders and we spent quite some time taking pictures in the rice fields on the way up. So pretty. It was a busy day in Baku. Seven back to back lessons and two baptismal interviews! Whoo! I love this place. Anyway, once we got to their house they started putting out the food. There was a lot of food. Our hosts encouraged us to eat until we were stuffed and we reluctantly obliged. The activity was a rousing success and all the Elders agreed that Baku was the happiest place on Earth (even happier than Disney World??).

We went home a little late in a big group, giving rides to several members who didn't want to make the trip the next morning. It wasn't until Sunday night when Elder Decker and Elder Mok were talking about different foods that I realized one of the dishes we had eaten the night before was filled with dog meat (Fun fact: dog meat in Khmer is sike piseh, which means 'special meat'). Some people in Cambodia are a little uneasy eating dog meat (that might come as a shock but it's true) and it's really expensive so it was kind of weird that we ate it accidentally. Apparently they did kind of announce it but 4 of us missed that little detail.

What do y'all think about substituting bleach for water when I wash my whites? Is that extreme? I'll tell you one thing that is extreme, our conditions in Cambodia are extreme. If you lined up 10 missionaries and then guessed how long they had been out in the country based only on the whiteness of their shirts, you might be pretty close. It's fairly safe to say that I am currently serving in one of the dustier areas in my mission. The big fields, road construction, long distances and relative lack of infrastructure combine to send clouds of dust in the air. Unless it's raining. Then it's just mud. Dust, sweat, mud, my blood (bike accidents), fish blood (don't ask) and other such things get on our shirts, and though I wash them every week, they are progressively getting less and less white. More of a cream color now. I've been told cream is in now. Or at least it is in Cambodia. Off white is all the rage in Southeast Asia. The rest of the world needs to catch up!

I'm still on a high from General Conference last week. Pretty awesome. President Monson spoke of rising over our trials. He said, ''Brothers and sisters, it may be safely assumed that no person has ever lived entirely free of suffering and sorrow, nor has there ever been a period in human history that did not have its full share of turmoil and misery. When the pathway of life takes a cruel turn, there is the temptation to ask the question “Why me?” At times there appears to be no light at the end of the tunnel, no sunrise to end the night’s darkness. We feel encompassed by the disappointment of shattered dreams and the despair of vanished hopes. We join in uttering the biblical plea, “Is there no balm in Gilead?” We feel abandoned, heartbroken, alone. We are inclined to view our own personal misfortunes through the distorted prism of pessimism. We become impatient for a solution to our problems, forgetting that frequently the heavenly virtue of patience is required.''

President Eyring spoke on this subject several years ago in a talk entitled 'Mountains to Climb''. It has since been made into short inspirational ''Mormon Message''. Watch it and be warned, it is a tear jerker.
All of us have trials. One of the great difficulties of life is dealing with the fact that not even our trials are fair! Christ taught that His Heavenly Father bestows rain on the righteous and the sinners alike (That one is in Matthew in the Sermon on the Mount somewhere) and Job admitted that sometimes the wicked prosper in this life. Fortunately for us, all that is unfair about this life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

President Monson finished his remarks by sharing a poem by Douglas Malloch
Good timber does not grow with ease,
The stronger wind, the stronger trees.
The further sky, the greater length.
The more the storm, the more the strength.
By sun and cold, by rain and snow,
In trees and men good timbers grow.
He then continued, sharing these comforting thoughts:  
'Only the Master knows the depths of our trials, our pain, and our suffering. He alone offers us eternal peace in times of adversity. He alone touches our tortured souls with His comforting words:
“Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
Whether it is the best of times or the worst of times, He is with us. He has promised that this will never change.'
I testify that these things are true. Thomas S. Monson is an inspired man. When the going gets tough, the tough turn to Christ.
Love you guys,   Elder Vore

Oct 13, 2013 I Wish I Could Teleport

My area is big. I feel like we've been over this several times but it's like, really big. It doesn't really have southern or western boundaries. If we had people who REALLY wanted to listen to us we could bike for hours to go teach them. I don't really mind biking, but sometimes it really eats time. For example, on Thursdays we leave for Baku at 1:30 and bike for a little over an hour. We teach from 2:45 to 5:15 or so and then I teach English from 5:30 to 7. Then we leave so we can be back in our apartment before curfew. What if I could teleport?? We could be to Baku in seconds and teaching for hours rather than riding for hours and then teaching for well, longer than we are right now! So next time someone sends me an email and asks ''is there anything you need that we can send in a package?'' that's it. A teleporter. Also, someone needs to fix spell check so it recognizes the word teleport.

The big thing this week is the pictures I sent but I do want to tell one story. I don't know how food always manages to get into these emails but my companion and our district leader were on an exchange and they saw a snake. This one was a little bigger than most snakes we see out here and so they stopped to take pictures and look at it. After looking at it for a while they killed it with a stick, brought it home, fried it and ate It. I was actually going to try it too but I decided to go to bed before they were done so I don't have any pictures of anyone actually eating the snake. Sorry! Enjoy the other pictures?

I was talking to a young man in our branch the other day. He hasn't been to church in a month or so and keeps somewhat unsavory company. He expressed his desire to serve a mission when he got older (he's like 16 right now) and told me that he had seen that all the returned missionaries in our branch had lots of success in their lives.  I suggested that if he wanted to serve a mission later, he needed to prepare for it now.

 He thought about what I had to say and then completely dismissed it. He said he would return to activity in the church when he graduated from high school and then would prepare to serve a mission. I was reminded of some of my friends and acquaintances from high school who wanted to become doctors but had no desire to study or even go to class. ''I'll wait until college, then I'll really apply myself and get a degree'' they would say. Goals are important. We need to decide today what we want in the future. Whether it be a mission, a job, a marriage in the temple, or next week's math quiz, we have to prepare today for what will come tomorrow. We do this by applying what we know to be true (eg. going to school with help me prepare for the test, which will help me get into college which will help me get a job) and not putting off or ignoring things that will not help us or can even slow us down in the long run. Enjoy the pictures! -Elder Vore

Elder Vore before a baptism

                                                               Flooded, muddy river of Baku                                                                              

Oct 13, 2013 Pictures

Our investigator fishing with his bamboo pole in a rice field

Elder Vore and Elder Mok in Baku

Inside the home of some Cambodian members in Baku

                                                        Adam's companion, Elder Mok


 The artist (on the following page) in our branch won $1,000 dollars for this painting. That's a lot in Cambodia. She's going to wait and take her apprenticeship with some Japanese artist in 2 years because she's going to serve a mission!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Oct 7, 2013 When it Rains, it Pours

Well, we've technically been in rainy season for like 4 months now and the volume of rain has consistently, though slowly, increased throughout this whole period. We're now supposed to be in the very middle of rainy season and I just assumed that we were probably near the peak of the rain. Well, I was wrong. It feels like God just flipped a switch out here and sent the rain all at once. It has rained every day, many times a day, for hours and hours at a time for this entire week. The streets are flooded, everything goes really slowly and I can't enter some of my areas because I'm not allowed to go swimming. Mostly we just keep going. It would be kind of a pain if we just shut down missionary work for a couple of months while it rained so we don't do that. It is however, somewhat difficult to persuade our investigators to come to church and other activities when the water is so high. It certainly is an adventure. It rained when we went to the market this morning. It rained when we got back. It rained when we left the house and it hasn't stopped raining since we got to the Internet cafe.

This last week was also a holiday here in Cambodia. The holiday is called Pyum Bun, which doesn't really have a meaning other than the fact that it is the name of this celebration. They start the holiday 15 days earlier by going to a wat and throwing handfuls of rice at ghosts. After the first 10 days have passed everybody gets off work and goes to their birth province (essentially everyone was either born or had family that was born out in the country and they go there) outside the city and then make a whole lot of food. Especially they make this thing that's called noom som that is a mixture of pork, beans, corn or bananas and coconut that is wrapped in rice and cooked inside banana leaves. It's basically like a tamale but with Khmer ingredients (eg rice instead of corn meal, banana leaves instead of corn stalks). I don't really understand the significance of the holiday other than the fact that those who are Buddhist (98% of everyone) go the a wat and ask for luck from their ancestors. We mostly just ate a lot of stuff.

So I was making copies at a copy center that was not the one I usually go to (closed for the holidays) and I asked a question in Khmer. A little girl right in front of me answered my question... in English. I talked to her for about 2 minutes and shoot, this little kid speaks English! I talked to her parents for a minute and learned that they had sent her to a school when she was 4 to learn and now she's 6 and speaks English just like that! I still get freaked out a little bit when people speak to me in intelligible English. Ironically, I am also floored every time I meet a foreigner who speaks Khmer. We're not racist or anything but I have certainly done some racial profiling. White people, as a rule, do not speak Khmer. I guess that's why people are so shocked when I open my mouth. I forget sometimes that I'm 5 inches taller than everybody else and have white skin and a pointy nose (Khmer noses are kind of smushed and they think pointy noses are really attractive, go figure).

Most people who are reading this right now are familiar with my great grandpa. In fact, most of you are related to him. Today I learned that this past week he was struck and killed in a hit and run accident. Obviously this news was a little shocking to me, but I'm very thankful for all the family members who sent me information about his life, his poems and his stories that were shared at his funeral this week. I love my Papa. He was a great example to me and to all of our extended family. I have had the great opportunity in the past several years to get to know him more so than I did when I was younger. He was a very kind man. I feel like the loving grandfather archetype could have been patterned after him. 

He had a very powerful testimony of the truth of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Those who knew him knew that all the way up into his 90s he accepted responsibilities in our church. For most of the time I knew him, Papa was a teacher. He taught the Gospel Essentials class for new members in our congregation. He went house to house to teach members in the 'home teaching' program. He went out with the full-time 20 year old missionaries every week and testified of Christ. He was a very happy man, and he knew that his happiness came from God. He spent a great deal of his time doing his very best to spread that happiness. He taught his grandchildren, his great-grandchildren and his great-great-grandchildren to love and follow the example of Jesus Christ.

 I recently read a favorite story in the Book of Mormon. It is set in a time of war. 2,000 young sons of a peaceful people volunteered to take up arms and defend their land and the land of their allies. A man by the name of Heleman took charge of these young men. Of them he said, ''And they were all young men, and they were exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity; but behold, this was not all—they were men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted.Yea, they were men of truth and soberness, for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him (Alma 53:20-21).''

When they were put into a battle situation Heleman said, ''Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them. And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it.(Alma 56:47-48)'' Because of their faith in God, all 2,000 were spared. Not one died in the ensuing battle. They were taught by their mothers. 

There are many lessons we can learn from this story but the one I want to highlight today is about teaching. For us to know, we must be taught. We have to learn from somewhere and then pattern our lives after that knowledge. Christ himself was primarily a teacher. Through his teachings we ''have the words of eternal life'' (John 6:68). I encourage all of those who read this to make an effort to teach someone this week. Help them understand about what is important. Follow the example of Jesus Christ so that you will have joy (D&C 18:10,15-16). And to all of the children, grandchildren (etc.) of Hal Fanning do not doubt that he knew it. He knew it was true. Love you guys.  -Elder Vore

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Sept 30, 2013 On Clotheslines and Taxi Drivers‏

So it's football season again. At least I assume it's football season. The outside world does move on without me right? It didn't just stop right before the Super Bowl in January? Football season means highlights and highlights means one handed catches, crazy moves and big hits. I especially remember the big hits that they call ''clothesline tackles''. The idea is that the guy with the football gets taken down unawares by a an arm or some other outstretched body part that hits him above the shoulders and takes him to the ground.

 I now have some personal insight to the origin of that name. I was riding around in Baku and talking to a member who was showing us around a different area. As I biked I ran into a clothesline (with clothes on it too, I really should have seen it) that pulled me backward off the seat of my bike and onto the seat above my back tire (which is there in case we need to give someone a ride) before breaking and sending to clothes into the dirt. Fortunately we knew the people whose clothes had fallen and they thought it was hilarious. I thought it was pretty funny too but the line cut my lip up a little. Football injuries, they're intense. Fun fact, football is called ball aub in Khmer which means ''hug ball''. Languages are fun.

We were heading to Baku the other day when a motorcycle driven wagon (a lomock in Khmer) stopped in front of us. The driver indicated that he was going to an area a little past Baku and if we wanted a ride we could hop on for 2000 riel (a little less than 50 cents). Well that sounded great so we got on and started talking to the other passengers. There was a twinge of concern when he turned south rather than continuing west but I knew there was another road that headed to Baku off that way and just assumed that he knew a better way. I even asked one of the passengers and he confirmed that we would be turning west again after a while. We kept going south for way too long, driving nearly 30 minutes. We finally stopped and the driver told us he was going to continue going south to his house and if we wanted to bike to Baku we should ask for directions. Ouch. We were far away from anywhere we were familiar with, our phone was not going through and the road we were on was dirt and very deserted. It was pretty crazy. We just started biking and kept going and going. We asked for directions occasionally and talked to a few people about learning with us (because hey, why not right?). After about another hour of riding, in addition to the 20 minutes before the lomock and the 30 minutes riding the lomock, we finally got to Baku. It was quite the adventure. Got to know the area a little better.

I'm reading over General Conference from April in preparation for General Conference coming up this next week. This morning over breakfast I read Elder David A. Bednar's address on chastity which included the statement, ''The precise nature of the test of mortality, then, can be summarized in the following question: Will I respond to the inclinations of the natural man, or will I yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit and put off the natural man and become a saint through the Atonement of Christ the Lord (see Mosiah 3:19)?

That is the test. Every appetite, desire, propensity, and impulse of the natural man may be overcome by and through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We are here on the earth to develop godlike qualities and to bridle all of the passions of the flesh.'' Elder Bednar was speaking about chastity, but that statement is applicable to each of us in nearly every aspect of our lives. Today, am I going to do what's easy or am I going to do what's right? I believe that as we put that question at the forefront of our thoughts, it will be easier to make the choices that will lead us to ''happiness in this life, and eternal life in the world to come'' (The Living Christ). I challenge y'all, when you wake up and say your personal prayer tomorrow, ask for strength to choose the right and keep that question in mind as you start your day. Today, am I going to do what's easy, or am I going to choose the right?
Love y'all. Elder Vore