Monday, March 17, 2014

Mar 17, 2014 Scarier Than the FBI

So, imagine that you went to answer the door at your house and you were met by two overdressed young men with a beat up piece of paper and a black and white picture. "Do you know this guy?" one of them says. You look closely but it's not very clear. "No, I don't think so," you reply, "Why? Is he in trouble or something?" "No nothing like that," the other one replies, "Actually, do you know the people that you bought this home from?" You think back to 2006 when you moved in. "Kind of? His name was Sam maybe?" He looks at his paper. "Steve actually. Steve Johnson. This guy is his son." Well, at this point you're a little confused and not very interested in getting mixed into whatever this is. You thank them, apologize and begin to close the door. "Wait!" Says one of the young men. "Is there anyone on the block who knows this family better and could tell us where they are maybe?" "I'm not really sure," you say, "Sorry, my cookies are burning." and the door closes.

That's pretty much how things go with us trying to help old members. People get really excited to be new members, Christians, part of the congregation and they do lots of great things and they are changing their lives and then boom. They move. They're now far away from their old branch, don't know the new one or anyone in the new branch and feel uncomfortable. It doesn't help that all of it is so new already. That's where we come in. Me and Elder Duffy wander all over the place with our 15 year old baptismal record and a first name, trying to pick up information, find and re-teach the lost sheep. It makes things hard though when our records are incomplete, old, don't have maps, are copies of previously existing records or are written in horrible handwriting. Sure can be an adventure though!

When I first got to Cambodia here nearly a year ago, I had the awesome privilege of teaching Chhuo, a recent convert in Tuk Thla, my first area. Chhuo is super excited about the gospel and would go out with us to teach and help members all the time. He served in several leadership positions in his branch and decided that he wanted to go on a mission as well. He saved up money for months, filled out all the required paperwork and then started the interview process. Unfortunately, Chhuo has a high blood pressure problem and, according to policy, his application was not sent. Undeterred, Chhuo used some of his saved money to go get a hospital procedure of some sort, that would supposedly help his health. After the procedure, he again filled out the required paperwork but was denied a visa due to his health. --Side note, Chhuo's health is fine. He bikes and runs and plays sports and everything. I actually don't even know why they made a big deal about it all.-- Chhuo decided to appeal to the Mission President. He suggested a 3 week trial period. If he could deal with the rigors of being a 24/7 full-time missionary then they would send his application. Chhuo spent 3 weeks in the Stung Mian Chey area and is now back! His application has been sent to Salt Lake and we are waiting with great anticipation to see where he will be sent. There's nothing cooler than people that really get it!

Transfers were this last Friday. Elder Duffy and I stayed the same but the Viet missionaries in our house got shuffled. Enter Elder Vu. Elder Vu has pretty much the coolest conversion story of all time. In 2003 there was a woman renting a room in their house. She was a staunch Christian in Vietnam, pretty unusual. Elder Vu's family went with her to her revivalist type worship meetings every Sunday. One day, she decided to go to Cambodia to look for religious truth (Elder Vu said that was probably the most ridiculous part of the story) and toured through several churches in the Phnom Penh area. She settled on our church and brought books and other materials back to Vietnam with her. The Vu family was interested in the material and they asked for missionaries to be sent. They were told that missionaries were not allowed in Vietnam. So now what? They jumped the border and went to Cambodia to learn with missionaries for 3 weeks. After learning, they asked to be baptized. The Mission President suggested that they wait until Vietnam opened, and they did. 3 years later, missionaries were allowed into Vietnam and Elder Vu's family was finally able to be baptized. His older sister was actually the very first person to be baptized in Vietnam.

Several weeks ago I shared a verse of scripture that summarizes God's eternal goals. " For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39). After sharing this at a recent lesson, a new member asked us a very important question, "Why doesn't God just make us follow him? Wouldn't that be easier?"

God, in his eternal wisdom has given us agency to choose right or wrong in this earthly life. A Book of Mormon prophet named Lehi summed it up as such, "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" (2Nephi 2:27).

Though God has the power to force us to choose the right, and with it life and liberty, He has our better interests in mind. God wants us to grow and progress by choosing for ourselves to follow him. Lehi continues, "...I would that ye should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life"(2 Nephi 2:28). Choose now! Choose Christ! Choose Eternal Life!
 Love,  Elder Vore

Mar 10, 2014 "Pregnant? Nope, I'm Just Fat"

 I remember many months talking about how blunt Khmers are about things that we really skate around. Examples include salaries, physical attributes, facts that everyone knows but no one will bring up and other such things.

Yeah, well the other day we found a less-active member, let's call her "Martha", who was baptized back in 2007 from a "CBR" record that had her address and a picture. It took about an hour and a half to find her house (Addresses aren't the most reliable way to find people around here) because all of the roads connecting to the main road 271 were also numbered 271, but eventually we found our way to her house where she met us at the door. After talking to Martha for a few minutes we set an appointment and left. As we headed out Elder Duffy commented, "I know I'm not the only one who noticed that she has gained a lot of weight since that picture 7 years ago." It was certainly true. She was considerably heavier than before. We went to meet her later that week with a member, "Jane" for support. Sometime during the conversation, Martha mentioned that she had been unable to have children since her marriage in 2010 and that it was a little worrying. Then the conversation went a little something like this:

Jane: You haven't been able to have children? You mean you're not pregnant right now?

Martha: No, why?

Jane: Well, you kind of look you're pregnant.

Martha: No, I'm not pregnant, I'm just fat. I've gained so much weight since my marriage.

Yeah, I was seriously questioning my choice of Jane to come with us and help "support" Martha, but it went well. I've heard some people are really rough on the sister missionaries and call them fat, especially the foreigners. I guess they just learn to take it in stride as it's not a bad thing in Cambodia.
Another funny language error story. We were teaching a new member the other day and I mentioned President Monson and the fact that his wife died last year. Because President Monson is a older man and a person very much worthy of respect, I was using words that match that status. Well, one respectful word for wife is pireyia and that is the word that was supposed to come out of my mouth. The word that came out of my mouth instead was pireyea(with a glottal stop), which might not mean anything at all, but  yeak means giant or ogre so it kind of sounded like I called President Monson's late wife a giant/ogre thing... Yeah. Actually wasn't as bad as it could have been.

Also, I hate it when people ask me for homework help. First, it's in another dang language! Even if it's calculus I still have to read and understand the problem and I just don't have the time or the vocab for the that! It's a huge pain in the butt. Second, when I learned another language and spent all my time studying the scriptures and teaching manuals and church magazines, I forgot everything else. I seriously can't do any math at all. I almost feel bad. Like I faked out my teachers so I could get a diploma and college credits and stuff and then proved I didn't actually learn any of it by promptly forgetting everything.
Saw a super cool video the other day that was produced by the church that shares a message about loving the little things. You should really watch it. Very artistically done. I was kind of entranced.

Yeah, anyway. I was preparing a lesson this morning about enduring to the end, or continuing in the faith. There is in Matthew 5:48, a very well known statement by the Savior that reveals His eternal plan for us. He said "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." That's a very telling verse. Christ here is commanding us to be perfect, like God? Do you know anyone that is fulfilling that commandment?

Well, in the lesson that I prepared this morning I talked about how we could fulfill that. We become perfect in the long run by our simple every day efforts and good deeds. God probably doesn't expect perfection now, but He does expect progression and that can be our gift to Him. Every day, showing our love for him by doing the simple things the right way. Love y'all  
Elder Vore

Mar 8, 2014 Odessan Experiences life in Cambodia

Odessa American

Odessan experiences life in Cambodia                  
Local church member takes mission trip overseas  

Few get the chance to experience what life is like in other countries and for one missionary from Odessa, it has become a dream come true. Adam Vore, 20, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Odessa, Texas started the process of preparing for the trip last year and is now living the experience he dreamed of. According to Adams father, Chris Vore, the process is quite extensive and includes health examinations, a lot of paperwork and interviews. After the process is completed the leaders within the church decide where help is needed and missionaries are sent out.

Even though Adam would soon be traveling across the globe his mother, Angelique Vore, knew it was a dream come true for her son as said a mission trip has been something he has wanted to take part in from a very young age.

“When we first found out that he was going to Cambodia it was really exciting,” Angelique Vore said. “Of course there was some nervousness but I would say we were more excited because Adam has always had plans to go on a mission trip even when he was little.

Adam said he was called to serve others and that he was inspired to become a missionary because of the scripture he has studied throughout his life.  “The decision to help others is based on the scriptures, Christ taught "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Mark 12:31) and we show that love by serving our fellow men,” Adam Vore said. “I believe it's clear that Christ wants us to spread the good word, and he certainly wants us to help others. Every missionary receives a personal call to serve, I was called to Cambodia. “

The mission trip for Adam began in January 2013 to Cambodia with the goal of teaching the local communities about the word of God and assisting the community in any way he could. However the experience has also taken some time to get used to and few things are similar to the United States.
“It's all different you know? It's like a whole different world,” Adam said about his experience so far. “Culture, food, language, ethnicity, clothing, religion, even things like transportation and sleeping schedules are different. “Basically everything (is different) except Coke, that's like the only constant.”

During his travels Adam has taken on a lot of different responsibilities, however, his main goal has remained consistent. “I really just want to help people; there is nothing more satisfying than really helping other people,” he said.

Chris Vore said his son Adam has been incredibly busy since he arrived in Cambodia with various projects including assisting the restoration of the Killing Fields Monument in Phnom Penh, building homes for the local communities and he has also been helping the people in their rice harvest, all while attempting to reach them through the word of God.

Despite being busy Chris Vore said he is confident the experience will be life changing for his son as he would know from personal experience and it will make Adam better in many facets of his life.

“I actually took a mission trip to France when I was younger and there is not one other experience in my life that has helped me grow as much as that did,” Chris Vore said. “It made me better at a lot of things when I returned and I am confident that Adam will come back and be a better student, a better member of the community and a better at so many things because of the growth he will experience during his time in Cambodia.”

In his journey, Adam has also had the experience of teaching things that some in the United States know very well however; his students have never heard before, being the Old Testament.

“He mentioned the other day that the course of study in Sunday school is the Old Testament,” Chris Vore said about the recent letters and messages he has received. “He said that about three fourths of the congregation didn’t even know what that was.”

Adam is expected to return from his mission trip in January of 2015 and has said that he is excited to return to school, see his family, and begin the next stage of his life.

One way Adam's family and friends have been able to keep up with him is through the use of a blog in which his mother Angelique, takes his letters and posts them for everyone to remain connected with her son along his journey through Cambodia.

“It is really a wonderful feeling to know he is over there helping others,” Angelique Vore said. “With the blog it give us a chance to see things through his eyes.”

If you would like to keep up with Adam and hear about his experience in Cambodia visit his blog at

Monday, March 3, 2014

Mar 2, 2014 The Cliff

Member spotlight for the week! Vanny! Vanny is 30 years old and happily married. He and his wife, Dara, run an internet gaming cafe out of their house. Vanny met missionaries last June or so and after a period of intense prayer and difficulty he wholeheartedly converted to Christianity. He immediately wanted to be a part of missionary teaching efforts and spends a great deal of his free time hanging out with us as we visit those we are teaching. He was just called as the second counselor in our branch presidency and is just doing so much great work with the members. In branch council the other day he told me he was sad that he couldn't serve a mission as a young man but it wasn't a big deal because he only has to wait 10 more years before he can be eligible to go on a mission with his wife! Funny guy. I love him to death.

We wandered into a home goods store the other day. Like a place that sells kitchen supplies and tables/chairs and general home improvement stuff? Anyway, we were talking to someone inside and I got distracted by the non-stick frying pans. They were glorious, and so expensive. 1st world prices in Cambodia are killer. Elder Duffy saw the funny side of it and remarked, "You know you're an adult when you walk into a store, skip the candy and go straight to the frying pans." We didn't buy any of them but I went on a companion exchange in another house where they had one and it was so amazing. I just dump buckets of oil into all of my dishes and it sticks less. Super healthy too I'm sure.

I remember people making remarks about gas station bathrooms back in the day. You know, nobody wants to make a roadside stop because it's just bound to be dirty and smelly or just generally gross right? Well I went to the bathroom at a relatively nice establishment the other day and the state of the bathroom made me think about that. The floor was covered in mud and was just dirty. There was a dead mouse stinking in the corner with ants all over it, and the toilet seat wasn't attached to the actual toilet. I just think it's funny how quickly you get used to things like that. I wonder if I will go back to the states and take for granted all the things like that. One thing immediately comes to mind: hot showers. While I was in Baku I didn't have a hot shower, just a bucket. Trying to stay thankful is hard sometimes. Much easier just to take what you get.

Living with Vietnamese speaking Elders is fun. I want to learn some simple things just for the times I run into people who speak Viet better than Khmer. Word of the week: chica. I thought it was funny because it sounds a lot like the Spanish word. It's the word they use for sister missionary.

We had a really cool lesson the other day about obedience in which we used the following comparison that I heard years ago and I've totally forgotten who first made the comparison. 'There were once three men who applied for a truck driving position. They were the only three that advanced to the interview portion of the application process. During the interview the point was brought up that the driver would be required to drive over mountains and through very difficult terrain. The first man bragged "I'm so good at driving that I can drive on sheer cliffs with my wheels just 2 inches from the edge and never fall off." During the second man's interview, he told the interviewer "I'm such a precise driver that I can drive where the wheels on my car will be half on the road and half dangling in the air and I still won't fall off." During the third man's interview he told the interviewer that when he drove near dangerous cliffs he stayed as far away as possible from the edge. So who gets the job?

The third man does of course! Why? Well, while his peers talked about how close they could get to the edge of this cliff without falling off, he tried to stay as far away from potentially dangerous places as possible. This can relate to us in our lives as we strive to keep our Heavenly Father's commandments. We can choose to follow the commandments as exactly as possible so we avoid potentially dangerous areas or we can skate the line. In skating the line we endanger our lives, whether literally or spiritually. For example, imagine there is a married man in an office with a pretty secretary who likes to flirt. Though he may not be committing adultery in flirting with her, he's skating the line. He's in a dangerous place. When the temptation comes, he's more likely to fall because of how close to the edge he is. It's much safer for us when we stay far away from the edge and out of danger. There is safety in keeping the commandments of the Lord. Love y'all!  Elder Vore