Monday, April 14, 2014

Apr 14, 2014 Happy Khmer New Year!!!

WHOO! It's the biggest party of the year here in Cambodia! Pretty much the party is everywhere but here. Everyone in Cambodia goes off to the province of their birth and has a party! But it means that here in Phnom Penh nobody is out on the streets. It's a little eerie actually. I'm used to trafffic and stuff and now it's all of a sudden down to pretty much nothing. It's actually a really hard time for us because we want to stay productive and doing things but essentially NO ONE IS HERE.

Today the Vietnamese speaking Elders and we are going to be doing an interesting companionship exchange so that we can help them find people who speak Vietnamese. It's a little hard for them because they don't really speak Khmer well. And we will do necessary paperwork and deep clean the house so we don't end up just wandering around looking for things to do.
One thing that did happen this week was General Conference! WHOO! Before my mission I never appreciated fully the opportunity we have twice a year to have this spiritual feast! I especially loved Elder Holland's talk "The Cost--and Blessings--of Discipleship". He talked about the world today where a devoted religious life is increasingly ridiculed. He said,

' It is as the Lord Himself lamented to the prophet Isaiah:
“[These] children … will not hear the law of the Lord:
“[They] say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits:
“Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.” (Isaiah 30:9-11)
Sadly enough, my young friends, it is a characteristic of our age that if people want any gods at all, they want them to be gods who do not demand much, comfortable gods, smooth gods who not only don’t rock the boat but don’t even row it, gods who pat us on the head, make us giggle, then tell us to run along and pick marigolds.
Talk about man creating God in his own image! Sometimes—and this seems the greatest irony of all—these folks invoke the name of Jesus as one who was this kind of “comfortable” God. Really? He who said not only should we not break commandments, but we should not even think about breaking them. And if we do think about breaking them, we have already broken them in our heart. Does that sound like “comfortable” doctrine, easy on the ear and popular down at the village love-in?'
Boy, he is fiery. Isn't it so true though? Students of the New Testament, can we really tell ourselves that God will accept us as who we are and use that excuse to not proactively "Come, [and] follow [the Savior]?" I really thought his talk was insightful.

I don't have much to write this week. Thanks for the package family! It was super great and I especially loved all the things that were not food. The little frying pan literally left me laughing so hard I had to sit down. Love you guys!
-Elder Vore

Our awesome roommates, Elders Barker and Workman (from a month ago)
                                            A baptismal picture from Sophol's baptism  (opposite page)          

                                       Hilarious Cambodian advertising near our house
                                               Us and some members after soccer!

Apr 7, 2014 A Shady Business Deal

We're teaching this guy named Joo. He works at a nice little coffee shop type place that gets a lot of foreigners. He actually lives upstairs and runs the place after everyone else has gone home. The other day we were at his place a little later than normal and the owner came back and gave him her dog to watch for the night. He told us a little bit about the dog. It's a purebred something or other (names of dogs in Khmer are a little beyond my vocabulary) and was bought as a baby for $400. :O In Cambodia... He says they take it on vacations and to restaurants and grooming places all the time. Then he said, "I don't know whether I love or hate this dog. On one hand, she's so nice and calm and playful but on the other, sometimes I feel like I'm worth less than her. They take her shopping and hug her and love her and give her gifts but all they do to me is make fun of me." Rich people can be jerks. Or just self centered. Doesn't help that it's so cheap to hire servants here...

We passed a girl on the way to church. She was wearing a really moderate dress and kind of looked like one of the Khmer sister missionaries. Elder Duffy said to me, "Hey, maybe she's going to church!" I told him that I doubted it and that there were many thousands of Cambodians on the street at that time and an extremely small percentage of them are heading to our church building right now. That was that, until 5 minutes later when we were greeting people at the door and who should walk in but the very girl we had just passed on the way here! She had learned some with the Sister missionaries and yesterday was her first time at church.

Also, we were talking to this guy trying to find information on an old member when suddenly we saw a really sketchy money exchange. Drugs or gangs or something. Anyway, this guy pulled up on his moto, stepped off, took a large wad of neatly rubber banded cash out of his pocket, dropped it into a cement bucket that was hanging from some construction thing on the third or fourth floor, got back on his moto and was gone. At the exact instant he dropped the money the bucket was pulled up to an ancient looking grandma at the top. She gave us a toothy grin and disappeared. We just looked at each other and blinked.

James 1:17 reads "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning."  Look for gifts from God! They are all around us! So often we take for granted great blessings of divine origin. Don't do it! Recognize that God blesses you and everyone! Love y'all :)
Elder Vore

Mar 30, 2014 Locked In!

Roommates can be loads of fun. Sometimes they can be a real pain too. Last Thursday Elder Duffy and I were in the middle of our 3 hour weekly planning session as we watched our Vietnamese speaking counterparts, Elder Barker and Elder Vu, head out early, presumably to go catch an appointment. About 30 minutes later our work was done, we made lunch, ate and put our shoes on. After a quick prayer we opened the door and stopped. The outside padlock was locked. Oops. I called Elder Vu and learned that those two had set off on a journey to look for Vietnamese people around the area where they were planning on making an English class north of the city. Very north. They were over a 45 minute bike ride away. Darn...

We told them we would call them back and then started looking for a way out of our house. A couple of problems with that. People around here are very worried about thieves so all of our windows have bars on them. Very pretty, flowery bars but not bars that we were going to get out of. We don't have a car so the only thing we use the garage for is drying laundry and no one knows where the key is. Back door leads to our own personal concrete block with more bars on the windows. After more looking around I found a window facing our front fence that I could get my arm out of. If someone was on the other side (we could have called a member who lived nearby) and I could throw the keys under the tree but over the barbed wire fence then they could use our keys to get into our house.  After judging it for a minute or two we decided to go for it and called someone to come help us, but just as they answered who should show up but our landlord! I just dropped him the keys and he let us out. I actually wish it had ended a little more adventurously. 

Really wanted to share about one of the sisters in my district here. Her name is Sister Chuong and she is from Sen Sok, a very poor very undeveloped area north of the city that is mostly full of displaced persons that have been given very cheap land by the government to placate them (that's hearsay but it sounds about right). She's three years older than me but no one would ever guess it because she is about five feet tall and has a voice like she had a freak helium accident that she never recovered from. That sounded a little negative but it's not. Sister Chuong is the nicest person ever and is always the first person to jump up and help when something needs to be done. My trainer was trained in Sen Sok several years ago and had mentioned that she always helped the Elders and showed them people who needed help and helped teach and was generally awesome. Sisters get escorts after dark, so we were taking them home after a meeting at the church and I asked her what her church calling was before the mission. She answered matter-of-factly, "Oh, I was the Young Women's President, and the institute teacher and the 1st Counselor in the Relief Society Presidency". No further commentary necessary.

Elder and Sister Johnson, a senior missionary couple who have been serving here are headed home this month. In her farewell address, Sister Johnson shared from a story that I know from this video on
Like Hugh Brown in the story, most all of us have our times where we want to argue with our maker. Isaiah wrote "Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands? (Isaiah 45:9) We are the clay in our Maker's hands. We are so small in comparison and yet there are those that say to him, "What are you even making out of me?" Much better then, when we swallow our pride and tell our loving Father, "But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand. (Isaiah 64:8)"
Have a great week. Love y'all!
Elder Vore

Mar 24, 2014 Sunday Morning Rain is Falling

 A few days ago I had a very interesting breakfast. Not so much what we were eating or even what we were talking about. All three of us at the table were bilingual: one spoke English and Vietnamese, the other spoke Vietnamese and Khmer and I speak Khmer and English. Not a problem right? I can speak with either of them, but the moment we started having a discussion about the upcoming District Conference things got a little hard. If you want to say something you have to say it to one of them or the other because we don't have any languages in common. For example, if I asked who would be speaking at the Sunday session in English then only one would understand. Then he would translate into Viet because the other guy's Khmer wasn't super good anyway. Everyone should speak a couple of languages or we should all learn one. And that one should not be English. It was a funny little conversation that was a little hard to follow sometimes because we had to continually be repeating things and backtracking and such. Funny though. Just a funny little situation really.

From approximately November to March the monsoon winds in Southeast Asia switch direction and it completely stops raining in Cambodia. We probably get about as much rain as y'all do in Odessa. Ok, that might be a little bit of an exaggeration but it gets cool and sunny and it's great. Then in late January early February it starts getting hot again. March isn't blistering but it's pretty warm. Warm enough that when it started raining for the first time in months this last Sunday we were relieved. The heat will continue to build for another month and a half or so before the rain really starts drowning the heat out, but hey, that means that mango season is coming into full swing!!

We went looking for a lost member the other day. His name was Vichet and his house is in a really messy and rundown area near an old hospital.  The map to his house was pretty good except that it got really vague as we got close. Houses around that area don't really have house numbers and things like that so all we got was "it's near the end of the little alleyway on the right". So in we go with a 10 year old black and white picture and a name just asking people if they know this guy and no one does. After asking pretty much everyone in sight about this guy we were getting a little discouraged. However, we recently set a goal to be super thorough in our searching for old members so we somewhat halfheartedly were continuing to finish out the alleyway.

We showed the paper to one guy and he was looking through it disinterestedly and asked, "Is there a phone number?" Of course I had already called the phone number (it wasn't in the system) but I pointed it out to him anyway. He looked at it for a second and then his forehead furrowed. He started mouthing the numbers and then looked across the alley to a door covered in rust and spray paint. He pointed to phone number on the door and said, "Oh nevermind, I thought it was this one but I was wrong." The phone number painted on the old door was one digit off from our phone number on the sheet. So, I called it and almost immediately our lost member answered and told us he had moved and gave us directions to his new house. That was a bit of a miracle.
Sorry guys, my computer is being weird. I'm outta here.

Love, Elder Vore