Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Feb 23, 2014 "Dude, I'm a Mango."

Wow, so much happened this week and I have so little time to get it all to you so me and my companion are going to have a race. Ready, let's go.

Mango season is in full session. I love mangoes. I don't think I even liked mangoes when I left the United States. I guess it's just one of those things that you just have to eat about 10 times to realize that you can't live without it. Elder Duffy and I are buying 3 kilos of mangoes a week. With 1 kilo priced at approximately 75 cents it's not really a strain on our budget. Plus, members just give us mangoes all the time. Elder Duffy is planning on carrying floss around soon because we eat mangoes and then we get the fibers stuck in our teeth. Email title explanation. Elder Duffy and I were chopping up mangoes and he held one out to me with the little dimple/stem facing at me and said, "Dude, I'm a mango." And he did a little dance. What a guy.

Speaking of things other Elders have said... We have Vietnamese speaking Elders living in my house with me. Frankly, there aren't too many Vietnamese speaking natives out here. At least not too many that speak Vietnamese before Khmer. In any case, the Viet Elders are amazing. In addition to learning Vietnamese, they learn Khmer so they can go find Vietnamese people. I'm always amazed at how much they know. Anyway, Elder Barker of Payson, Utah summed it up like this. "a Vietnamese speaking Elder in Cambodia is much like a Chinese man who learns Spanish, goes to Texas and wanders around trying to convert the Mexicans to Buddhism."

Old Spice deodorant? It's amazing. Also super expensive in Cambodia. Last Thursday we spent nearly a full hour of language study translating the stuff on the back of this random stick of deodorant. It read 'Contains odor-fighting "atomic robots" that "shoot lasers" at your "stench monsters" and replaces them with fresh, clean, masculine "scent elves" '. I really bonded with my dictionary.

Spiritual thought comes from something that Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said. I'm gonna have to summarize it because I couldn't find the quote. He said that life was the only sporting event he knew of where the final outcome was completely certain and yet the players couldn't decide whose team they were playing for yet. Did that make any sense at all? Satan is going to lose. Like a chess match that has already been decided, Heavenly Father's forces need only to carry out the final, fatal moves and then it will be over. Even though all of us know this already, many have not decided whose team they're playing for. I've got an idea. Be a winner. Wear Christ's jersey. Love y'all,  Elder Vore

Monday, February 17, 2014

Feb 16, 2014 Small Miracles

Had a fun Wednesday.. Renewed my belief that God actually works miracles in just the smallest little things we need.

We headed to a bookstore right before English Class to buy whiteboard markers and started a couple of conversations with people about Christ in the aisles. While I was there I got distracted by a row of picture dictionaries. Now, I know that doesn't sound too exciting but regular English-Khmer dictionaries are notoriously inaccurate and pictures of things helps me understand what the noun actually means (ex. a word could be translated into English as 'rice' but in Khmer there are three different words for rice in it's different stages and I would need to know which one it was). Frustratingly I couldn't find an English-Khmer picture dictionary because they were all out (everyone wants to learn English) and the best they had was an English-Khmer-Chinese book that was $1 more. I bought it and we headed to English class.

Getting away from the English Class story, while we were on our way over to the church I saw a spectacular wreck, literally inches away from me. My companion was biking maybe 15 feet in front of me and a motorcycle was right behind me. He passed me a little too quickly and didn't see the college student making her way across the road. T-bone bike accidents are really something. No one was hurt (I didn't even see any blood) which is why I don't feel bad about talking about it like this, but the girl on the bike got thrown up in the air like a rag doll. It looked like something out of an action movie. She was glaring daggers at him even as he picked himself up and rode off. Now that we're back in the city, accidents are once again nearly an everyday occurrence.  The government has been running a campaign for safer roads by showing extremely gory awful commercials starring fatal moto crashes and their sobbing family members. They are horrible.

Once arriving at English Class my companion, the English Class leader, assigned us to help in the basic class and we checked lesson plans with the teacher. About five minutes before class started two Chinese men walked in. One spoke English fluently and the other barely knew his ABCs. I volunteered to teach the man who spoke no English at all off to the side as he would have to learn a completely different lesson than the rest of the group. Teaching was pretty much impossible. With no way to communicate with him other than the 20-30 words he knew in English it was a project just to introduce myself. Then I remembered the dictionary. After 45 minutes of the dictionary, hand signals and a lot of exasperated laughing from both of us, we had a breakthrough and I finally understood the word for accountant in Chinese. I figured out that he is an accountant at an Adidas shoe factory. I helped him learn how to introduce himself in both English and Khmer and he seemed eager to learn.

As we were working on introducing ourselves he asked me what my job was. Obviously he didn't understand when I explained that I was a missionary. It took about the last 10 minutes of class for me to figure out the word for Jesus Christ. And then he taught me how to say it and showed me how to write it. After the class, his friend, the fluent English speaker, and I had a really fun conversation about how amazing it was that I had purchased an English-Chinese dictionary literally 5 minutes before meeting for English Class. Then he bought it and they took pictures of me giving it to him. Fun stuff. They said they'd be here this week too!

Spiritual thought for the day comes from an experience that I shared with y'all in August or so. We shared essentially this very same lesson with a family while on exchange with Elder Lyman, one of the APs (assistant to the Mission President).

The trip from Baku to our house takes about an hour and fifteen minutes to bike (approx 18 kilometers). The beaten stretch of highway between Ta Khmau and Baku is over traveled, has no lines or speed limits and is full of pot holes. The trip is dark and the large trucks are intimidating. Sometimes it's nice to see a car coming because the headlights illuminate our path but as the car comes closer we are blinded and when it passes we are plunged back into darkness.

Saturday night we left Baku after a very fun activity. Our warm hearts quickly cooled as we set out on our long journey back. For the first 5 minutes or so the traffic was normal, which is not a good thing. Riding on that road is scary! However, after a few minutes a very interesting thing happened. A very large, very slow moving semi-truck pulled up behind us and began to follow us. At first I tried to pull off to the side to let him pass but it soon became clear that if anything, he was actually moving slower than us and simultaneously acting as a fantastic flashlight. The road in front of us was bright and the pot hole strewn highway was suddenly very easy to navigate. Even more, oncoming traffic that would usually come to the middle of the road (and uncomfortably close) to avoid the patchy edges of the road stayed far from us, intimidated by the 20 ton truck behind us. The truck traveled with us for over 30 minutes before passing us and moving on.

 I had a lot of time to think about this (there just isn't much to do when you're riding your bike for hours on end) and my thoughts kept turning to our life on Earth. Life is a long, dark, harrowing journey, full of pot holes and oncoming traffic. When we travel down this road alone, it is difficult and even dangerous. However, we have been promised that when we follow the example of Jesus Christ, we will be blessed with His Spirit, who will guide us. The Spirit is the third member of the godhead, whose purpose is to ''testify of [Christ]'' (John 15:26), ''teach'' us and ''bring all things to [our] remembrance'' (John 14:26), and ''guide [us] into all truth''.

At the end of my explanation and Elder Duffy's thoughts Elder Lyman said two things that I thought were really deep. First, he pointed out that all the trials were still there. God's guidance doesn't erase trials, it just makes them easier to beat. He also said that if our eyes are closed (meaning we ignored promptings from the Spirit) it doesn't matter how bright the road is, we will still fall into the pot holes. We ended the lesson by telling them that there were three things you needeed to do to have true guidance from the spirit. You have to be worthy, you should ask, and you have to follow. Keep it in mind! Love y'all.   Elder Vore

Feb 9, 2014 You Put the Lime in the Coconut and You Shake it All Up!

I'm actually not familiar with this song at all. I have vague Elementary School memories of singing it but nothing concrete, anyway... Coconuts are super available around here. Khmers are more interested in the milk than the meat (silly foreigners) and serving guests with coconuts is a fairly common occurrence especially in the provinces. Also, you can buy them anywhere. People drag carts around and sell coconuts for 2500 riel which is about 60 cents, or they are sold at markets and pretty much anywhere.

The other day just as we were finishing our studies and getting ready to go out and teach, we heard the Vietnamese Elders (they teach in Vietnamese instead of Khmer) singing downstairs. When we came downstairs they had coconuts for us. They also happened to have limes on hand and they literally ''put the lime in the coconut and shook it all up. Pretty good actually. I liked it better than normal coconut milk.

Our new area is going pretty well. We have some days that are extremely busy mixed in with the regularly scheduled days. For example. Last Saturday we taught people at 10, 10:45, 12, 1:15, 2 and 3 before one of our lessons fell through and we had a chance to eat lunch (dinner?) around 4. Tuk La'ak is pretty much right in the middle of the city and we have a whole bunch of colleges around here which means people who want to learn English and are generally curious about Christianity.
Had a funny conversation with the husband of a member the other night. He told me that he wanted to learn more about Christ simply for the sake of learning. I suggested that just having knowledge didn't do you a whole lot of good unless you acted on it. He disagreed and we talked about learning and college and stuff for a few minutes before I posed the following examples to him.

-Imagine that you ordered your favorite food from a restaurant and they brought it out in front of you. You could smell that it was delicious but you didn't actually eat it. In that way you got some benefit out of it but it wasn't really what you could have had.

-Imagine if everyone in Cambodia took a driver's education course and knew all the traffic rules here but didn't apply them. We're all a little better educated but the roads are still a mess.
In this way if we simply learn about Christ and His gospel but don't apply what we learn, we just don't get the full benefit. In the words of President Thomas S. Monson ''It’s in the doing, not just the thinking, that we accomplish our goals.''

 I feel like I talk about this a lot in my emails. It's so common! Apathy kills! That's all I've got.
Love y'all!    Elder Vore

                Pictures-recent converts and investigators from Baku. I love these people!!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Feb 2, 2014 Happy New Year!

Introducing Elder Duffy!!! Elder Duffy is from West Valley City Utah.  He is relatively new to Cambodia, pushing on three months now, but knows a lot more about the area than me so I'm going to be relying on him a lot. He is very good at the language for having just been here two transfers and enjoys singing and playing computer games when he is not in Cambodia doing missionary work. Fun fact, Elder Duffy actually graduated from high school in 2012 with me but went to school (University of Utah) for a year before coming out. So we're the same age, even though I feel like I'm older than him because I've been here longer. Funny how that works.

Happy new year! It's the year of the horse! Some thoughts on the ''new year'' celebration. Years repeat. Every 365 1/4 days the Earth passes around the sun and all the seasons and stuff start over. People figured that out thousands and thousands of years ago and they've been celebrating the "new year" ever since. But, it doesn't really matter which day we choose to celebrate the first day of the year so depending on where you're from the new year can be pretty much anytime.

So, in Cambodia everyone got really excited for the 1st of January and now for Chinese New Year and then in two months we have the biggest party of them all, Khmer New Year. It's pretty ridiculous. A lot of people just stop working for days when Chinese New Year comes around and though I haven't yet been here for Khmer New Year I've been told that the city essentially shuts down. Khmer New Year is something like Christmas, Thanksgiving, the Fourth of July, Valentines day, Saint Patrick's day and everyone's birthday all rolled up into one. So be prepared for me to wish you a happy new year in a few months again.

It feels weird to be back in the city. I have spent a long time out in the very undeveloped area near Baku and it's weird to be here and feel almost confined. Pretty much anything other than a major road is really narrow and the apartment buildings stretch straight up four or five stories. Sometimes I feel like I'm biking through valleys, other times I feel like I'm playing Frogger. But hey, being in the city has perks too! It means things like bread and hot water and meeting other missionaries more often than once a week so that's fun.

Last dinner before leaving Baku was memorable. Our super awesome investigator Sovanna was having a Chinese New Year party and they bought an entire pig and then cooked it piece by piece in a huge slow cooker. I haven't eaten large pieces of meat for dinner in so long. It was so delicious! That is definitely something I miss around here. Steaks, pot roasts, ribs, pork chops, barbequed chicken are not to be found on menus here. Meat is expensive and sadly, we just don't eat it like we do in America. I am very excited to eat steak and potatoes on my return.

A good friend of mine here gave a spiritual thought at a meeting recently that I have thought about a great deal. He spoke about obedience and I have since added to his thoughts a bit. Imagine a father with 5 sons that all obey their father, but for different reasons. The first son obeys because he's afraid that his father will hit him, the second because when he obeys his father gives him candy. The third son obeys because he knows he's supposed to obey and the fourth son obeys just because all his other brothers are obeying. The fifth one however, obeys because he loves his father.

Our Heavenly Father has given us commandments and asks for our obedience, but how often do we obey out of love? Some people obey because they are afraid that if they don't, God will judge them and send them to Hell. Others because they know that God bestows blessings to those who follow him. After some reflection I decided I usually fell in the third category, those who obey simply because they know that they are supposed to. And many many people follow parents, friends and family in obeying God without really thinking about it.

When I mentioned this to my companion I had to stop for a minute. Saying it in that way makes it sound like obeying God because you know that he will bless you or that honoring Him because it is your duty is sinful or not complete and that is simply not true. All who obey God's commandments are fulfilling His commandment to obey for whatever reason they may be obeying.
However, pause and reflect. Why do you obey God's commandments?

Have you ever headed off to church thinking, "I need to go to church today because I love God.''? For you missionaries out there, have you ever hurried to get to bed on time because you want to show your love for your Heavenly Father? Is that what was going through your head? Should it be? This is definitely a work in progress for me. I want to obey because I love God and not just because I'm supposed to or because I will get blessings. Props to Elder Brittain for the super thought provoking comparison. Love you guys,  Elder Vore