Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas Day 2013

December 25, 2013
Merry Christmas everyone.  This is Adam's mom.  We did not receive an email from Adam this week because we got to skpe him instead.  We gathered with extended family members on Christmas night and visited  with Elder Vore for about an hour.  He was online in an internet café in Baku, Cambodia with a time difference of 13 hours later.  Grandpa Vore set up the projector and put his image on the big screen, while his brother Joseph added external speakers to the computer so everyone could hear and see him.  It was so wonderful to see and hear our missionary.  He looks happy, healthy, and excited to be a missionary.  I took a few notes from our conversation and will give a short summary of the questions and answers.

Elder Vore said that he loves serving in Baku and will be there for 6 more weeks at least. There are currently no organized stakes in the country of Cambodia, but the mission goal is 2 stakes (maybe this year, but not sure).  The people work very hard in factories all day and then leave the factory to go work in their rice fields.

When asked what he missed most about home he replied "I miss sitting down and relaxing for a while and I miss my family."

What is the best thing about your mission?  "The best is when people change, come to church for the first time,  understand why they are there, and they are happy."

How have you changed? "My knowledge of the scriptures has increased and my testimony has been strengthened."

Do you think in Khmer (Cambodian language)?  "No, I think in English, but sometimes dream in Khmer."

What are some of your needs or wants?  "Hot water!"  Elder Vore does not have any hot water where he is living.  He takes a shower by dumping buckets of cold water on his head.  His little sister asked him if he liked taking a shower like that and he said, "it isn't very fun."

We sent him a package with Christmas presents and found out that the yummy Christmas popcorn goes stale pretty fast.  He also said that he doesn't need any chapstick.  He uses it about as much as he uses mittens.

When asked about mosquitos, he said they are everywhere with lots of standing water.  He usually has between 40-100 mosquito bites at any time.

How do you feel about your mission president?  "He is an awesome spiritual leader who you can talk to about anything.  His wife is the same."

How much does it cost to use the internet café?  "50 cents per hour"

"Missions are fun all the time, but they are exhausting!"

                                                  Chatting with Adam on Christmas Day

Monday, December 16, 2013

Dec 15, 2013 Free to Choose

We had two lessons fall through one day so we decided to go exploring. Today exploring took us out to a neighboring province called kampung speu. We wandered for about an hour and a half talking to anyone who looked at us. After very little success we turned back home but because we were coming from a new area, we didn't really know where we were and were kind of lost. While biking in the general direction of our house, in an area we had not planned to visit and far from our normal routes, a man called out to us. We were well past him but decided to turn back and see what he had to say. He told us, in English no less, that he was a recent convert to the church, that he had converted in Korea but moved back to Cambodia two weeks before and that he wanted to know where the meetinghouse was. Well, for those of you unfamiliar with missionary work or the general state of religion in Cambodia, it is very rare for people to just jump at you and ask things like ''do you think I could go to your church and worship with you? Would that be ok?'' While leaving his house my companion and I decided it was a miracle. So far from the city, in a random, untraveled part of an area we just opened last month there happened to be a recent convert who wanted to go to church. Coincidences just don't go that far.

We had a funny language slip up the other day. Some elementary knowledge on Khmer is necessary so bear with me for a second. The word for wood is chuu (sounds a lot like the vowel in gOOd). The word for cross/crucify is chkang  and the word for dog is chkae. Right, well while teaching about the Atonement, Elder Caine got to the part of the story where Christ is crucified on the cross. Obviously, he has taught this hundreds of times but this time, for whatever reason the sentence didn't come out quite right. Rather than saying ''Christ dies on a chuu chkang'' he said that ''Christ died on a chuu chkae''. Really somewhat similar sounding, however, Christ did not die on a wooden dog for our sins. The person we were teaching is already a member and knows that the foreign Elders sometimes make slip ups and he politely let it slide. I however began laughing. It wasn't the most reverent lesson we've had on the Atonement so we decided to stop and restart it all. Fun story though. Just in case anyone was confused, Christ died on a cross, not a wooden dog.

This week has been a fun one for the language. I've been trying to write down every single word that I hear that I don't know. Obviously, that's a little impossible but I have had some success. It's led to me learning some really random words like: mermaid, wisdom teeth, pleat, MSG, toad, baby shrimp, crude oil and term of office. Some people could tell me that those aren't really useful words but every single one of them came up in conversation this week so we gotta use them sometime right?
I carry a small Book of Mormon with me in my backpack. It's mostly for translating purposes (eg. ''Elder what does this verse mean?'' and I read it in English rather than Khmer) and to use the English index, because looking for stuff with Khmer alphabetizing is awful, but I also study from it when we end up waiting for someone. While reading this particular copy, I have underlined everything that represents divine intervention or help/guidance from God. You might be surprised at how often it comes up.

Yesterday while reading in 2 Nephi chapter 2 I noticed that I wasn't underlining as much as I normally did. Why? Because 2 Nephi chapter 2 is the prophet Lehi's teachings on Adam and Eve, choices, agency and accountability. Many verses in this chapter focus on our own ability to choose good or evil and the fact that God will let us choose evil and the consequences thereof. ''Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man.  And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself (2 Nephi 2:27).''

All of us at one point or another choose to sin, it's a part of life! Because of this, God sent his only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ to suffer and die for our sins so that through repentance, baptism and sanctification by the Holy Ghost we might be saved (3 Nephi 27:19-20). This is the ultimate act of divine intervention. ''For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16).''
Love y'all,  Elder Vore

Dec 8, 2013 I Wouldn't Be Much of a Firefighter

''What makes America great is not democracy, it's Twinkies.'' -Elder Caine

I had ant soup last night. Yeah, really. When a member gave us some soup we kind of had to take it. Once getting home we warmed it up, cooked the rice and served it. Elder Caine looked before taking a bite (not really a good practice to get into around here) and said, ''There sure are a lot of ants in this aren't there?'' As I've mentioned before, having ants in your food is a pretty regular occurrence, though I had to agree with him, there were a lot of ants. I recognized them as ongkrong, large tree ants that the locals eat on purpose (that's the stuff I took pictures of like 6 months ago. Fried ants? Remember?) and told him that they were probably there on purpose. Elder Caine has actually never even heard of people eating ants so he was pretty reluctant about putting anything in his mouth. He gave me a piece of meat covered in ants and told me he'd believe me if I ate it. Well, I couldn't wimp out of that one could I?  Dinner was a little quiet...
Ant Soup
You know how I was saying this place doesn't have a whole lot of infrastructure? Well that includes the trash truck. In most of the city you get a truck that will come by and take your trash away if you put it outside, however, we are very far from the city. Our trash was piling up and we asked our landlady what we were supposed to do about it. She told us we could do whatever we wanted to do with it. Well, that was a downer. I was really hoping she would just call someone and it would disappear. I didn't want to throw it in the river like everyone else because it just makes me feel bad. So we decided to burn it. We piled all of our trash together on our back porch and lit it up. Unfortunately, the wind picked up right as we lit it and blew all the smoke at our house. Most Khmer houses has artfully shaped bricks that make holes in the houses to let breezes through, so even though our doors and everything were closed the smoke came in through the holes in the walls. It got really smoky in our house. Our landlady came around back about 20 minutes after we started. She thought our house was on fire... After most everything was burned we doused the fire and opened all the doors and the same breeze that blew all the smoke into our house blew it all out through the front door. Some of our clothes had a little ash on them but overall, no harm done!

Elder Vore burning trash and Elder Caine before the trash burning (opposite page)

I saw a lady edging the grass as we drove by the airport the other day. She was edging it with a cleaver. Khmers do a lot of things with cleavers (fun fact: the word for cleaver in Khmer is gkambit and the word for a normal knife is gkone gkambit or literally, the child of a cleaver) and seeing someone doing yard work with one is pretty normal. Not like people do a whole lot of yard work around here. I remembered when I was doing yard work with Matthew back in the states, boy that was a piece of cake compared to this stuff!  Shout out to Matthew Speer, are you getting these or what?

Still reading in Isaiah this week. Chapter 55 came and went a few days ago. Verses 1-3 read ''Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.
Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you''.

Imagine there is a man browsing at a store. He stumbles on a small box labeled ''ETERNAL SALVATION''. He picks it up and examines it and then asks the nearby store representative, ''How much does this cost?'' It shouldn't be too hard to figure out the punch line. Salvation is free! All we have to do is come unto Christ and partake of His ''living water'' (John 4:10) and let it change us (Alma 5:13) and He will receive us.

''Behold, he sendeth an invitation unto all men, for the arms of mercy are extended towards them, and he saith: Repent, and I will receive you.
Yea, he saith: Come unto me and ye shall partake of the fruit of the tree of life; yea, ye shall eat and drink of the bread and the waters of life freely;'' (Alma 5:33-34)

Love y'all,  Elder Vore

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Dec 1, 2013 I Have Chicken Poop Between My Toes

''You can party an hour a day or you can go on a mission and party all day everyday!'' -Elder Caine
It's a party in Baku! We decided to check Elder Caine's back tire the other day because it was looking a little bare. While there we started talking to a man named Chok, who said he was willing to learn and had free time at nights. Later that night he called us and asked us to come over. We taught him and his family that night and the next day and then he went to church on Sunday! Chok is an example of someone who really does want to change his life. After just a few minutes of talking with us he decided to stop drinking! Just like that! And he did. What an amazing guy. The miracles are just piling up here in Baku. 20% of our attendance on Sunday was people who are learning with us. The gospel is great!!

Also, we asked Chok if we could help him with anything and he told us that he would be trimming his chickens' beaks the following morning and invited us to help. We eagerly accepted the service project and the following morning we trimmed 2,400 chickens' beaks, and I got chicken poop all over myself. Just bucketloads of fun! :D

We were heading to the closest branch in Ta Khmao the other day when an older man driving a truck called out to us. He told us he was a member of our church and asked where we were going and if we needed a ride. We accepted his offer and rode in the car to the church. It cut like 40 minutes off of our journey but I have rarely been so scared for my life as I was in those few minutes. I learned that when you're driving a car in Cambodia, the horn is more important than the steering wheel.

To make the ride more interesting, this man speaks Khmer as a second language. His native tongue is Vietnamese and though his Khmer was better than mine, we had a little bit of difficulty in communication. Turns out, Vietnamese sounds a lot like Khmer as spoken by people in the provinces around here so when he used Vietnamese words I just thought he was using Khmer words that I didn't know. Many Khmer speakers don't like the letter R. So, rather than say the letter R they skip it and throw a tone in there.  Up tones, down tones, it doesn't really matter, it just has to be really indistinct. For example, an Elder named Elder Price served here back in March or so. They pronounce his name pee'ay'eeh with the ay being said at a lower pitch than the rest of them. Fun right? Also, I picked up like five words in Vietnamese. I'm going to try and use them and see if people actually understand me.

Some ants got into our rice and sugar the other day. I could've dug them out, dumped the rice or put it in the fridge to kill them but I just cooked it anyway, ants and all. When it came time to put some sugar in the stir fry I found that our sugar was also infested. Our lunch had a little extra protein in it that day. I wonder how many ants the average Khmer person eats in a week? It's probably a lot. Cambodians as a whole routinely ignore pests like ants, spiders and other things that don't actually bite you if you leave them alone. I guess it's not a bad thing...

I was reading in Isaiah chapter 50 this morning and was interested by the second half of the first verse which reads, ''Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away,'' however in the New Living Translation it was put slightly differently. I don't remember the exact wording but it went something like, ''No, you have been sold into slavery because of your sins and your mother has been sent away because of your unrighteous actions''.

After reading those two translations side by side I was struck by the fact that in the KJV it says that we sell ourselves while in the NLT it says that we are sold. I thought about the difference for a minute and decided that I really liked the more word for word translation in the KJV. When we sin, God does not punish us, we punish ourselves. When we sin, we act as our own jury, judge and jailer in deciding our punishment. I was reminded of my High School soccer coach who told us that he didn't pick the starting lineup, we did, and in a very real sense this is true. We are free to choose right or wrong, sin or good works (See 2 Nephi 2:27), but we are not free to choose the consequences.  When we choose to sin and not repent we are very literally selling ourselves as slaves to our sins.
So! Don't sin, and then when you do anyway, repent! No sense in reestablishing slavery, we got rid of that years ago.
Love y'all,  Elder Vore

Nov 24, 2013 What's a Khchiew???

Well it's a bat. A word I relearned this week (we learn lots of words that are never used and promptly forgotten) after I tried to explain to our landlord the animal that was flying around our living room. He (how do you check sex for bats anyway?) lives in an abandoned, locked up room on the floor above us but comes down to hang out (see what I did there? Who doesn't love puns?) every other day or so. I'm not even totally sure I want him gone. Bats eat bugs right? Maybe we can train him to eat all the mosquitoes that are living in our house. Our main source of water right now is a large tub of rainwater in the bathroom. Unfortunately, all it does is sit there and mosquitoes just love sitting water. It got even worse when our room randomly flooded between the hours of 5:30 and 7 in the morning and we had to move our bags and break out the towels and mops. I would spray the water with poison but we use that water to shower and stuff and I'm not sure which is worse. Honestly, our living conditions are fine. We having drinking water and stuff to cook and even air conditioning! It does make for funny emails home.

Also, I have essentially no time to write this email today but guess what? I met someone this week who had no idea who Jesus Christ was. Like, I know we're in the middle of nowhere, in a country where 97% of everybody is Buddhist but seriously, I was shocked. We bought a water bottle from him and I was explaining that we were missionaries who preach about Jesus Christ. I explained a little more about our message and then asked him if he had any questions. He said he he liked our ideas about how families were important but was really confused about who this Jesus Christ person was. It was a very interesting conversation. Ironically, we were actually in a different province called Kompung Speu that has a reputation around here for being somewhat undeveloped. I suppose all the provinces are relatively undeveloped. Beats me.
I really wish I had more time but I want to attach this video from
Remember, we are children of God! He wants us to become like him and has given us this life to prepare for that eventuality. Take advantage of your privileges as a son or daughter of God and go to work! Love y'all,  -Elder Vore