Friday, May 30, 2014

May 25, 2014 All over the Place

Hello everybody! I don't have much time for my email this week so hopefully it's not too all over the place!
You know how we have phone plans in America? We don't have that here. I guess there might be companies who do it but mostly people, whether they have trackphones or iPhones, buy little cards that kind of remind me of iTunes gift cards. You buy it, punch in the code and then your phone has $5. As missionaries we get a stipend on our phone, ($10 a month, or $20 if you hold a position where you have to make nightly call-ins to other missionaries) and if we go over we pay for it.  I'm not very good at staying on budget with our phone. Recently I have set aside food budget so I can spend it on the phone. I think they over pay us on food anyway... In any case, I feel like I'm always on the phone. When we get home, we call the people we didn't meet that day and reschedule. Then we call those we're meeting the next day. Later I make calls to missionaries and then wait to get a call so I can send questions and numbers up the line. Basically the only reason I even bring this up is because the other day I was finishing up my calls as Elder Quirante got out of the shower. Because Elder Quirante is still pretty new and can't understand things on the phone very well yet, once I get on the phone he gets other things done. He remarked, "I don't know even know how you ever get things done. Everything that I do gets done while you're on the phone!" I kind of feel like it was more like one of those you have to be there moments but I was feeling a little tired and giggly and laughed for like 5 minutes straight.

Probably most of you know what "Preach My Gospel" is. For anyone who isn't familiar with it, "Preach My Gospel" is a manual for missionary work. Basically it outlines the "How", "What" and "Why" of missionary work for us and anyone else who wants to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. Last Friday, we met a new investigator at the church that we contacted through our English class. He was really excited about meeting us and very interested in learning more about Christianity in general. We usually have members in lessons with us to help friendship and teach new people. Two members came with us to this particular lesson: Mey and Mian, twins. As we got into the lesson I noticed that the twins had been studying "Preach My Gospel" and now had it out and were essentially following along with us as we taught a lesson that is outlined in chapter 3. I thought it was funny and asked one of them a question that I knew was near the chapter heading of that particular lesson. I then watched her reread the question in the book, mouthing the words as she went and look down where the question was answered in great detail. So she just read it.  Boy things are a lot easier when you can just teach out of the book.

Writing that made me think about the scriptures. Life is like a test, but it's an open book test. We have all the answers and they are contained in the scriptures. If we study and apply the teachings in God's holy scriptures we will be strengthened throughout all of life's trials. That's it for me! Love y'all
More funny faces with Vanny and Dara
Recent converts Darin, Ryna, and their family as Elder Duffy is leaving the area.
Do y'all remember my first baptism in Cambodia about a year ago? Well, I'm back now and the young man next to me is Sau Ly, who we baptized 1 year ago. He now is a Melchizedek Priesthood holder and a teacher in Elder's Quorum. Also, the girl in front is the one who asked, "What if we're already short?" at YMYW from the email last week.

May 18, 2014 Cream is the New White

Sorry I couldn't get this out last week due to some weird problems with computers around here. But here is my email update from last week.

One of the many great things about Cambodia is that you can get cheap, relatively nice, fitted clothes pretty much anywhere. After a few weeks here, Elder Quirante wanted to get his shirts cut so they would fit him better. We talked to a member who cuts clothes and she measured him and all that stuff. I took some of my shirts in as well and we got our stuff cut. Well, a week later we went back and got our stuff and were checking it out in the mirror and two of the girls there started making fun of me! After a few months of wearing the same 6 shirts in the rain and dust and mud and everything, shirts get pretty yellow. I guess when we stand side by side, my shirt looks a little ridiculous compared to his new stuff straight from America. I just told them I was being fashionable and that plain white wouldn't match with my skin.

We finally have had a little success with establishing a weekly youth activity. One of the youth leaders was giving a spiritual thought at our activity and he decided to share about the importance of humility. It was a very well prepared thought and very enjoyable. The word for 'to humble yourself' is bontiab kluen, or literally to make yourself short. During the discussion a question was posed, "Who all needs to humble themselves?" One of the young men suggested that we all needed to humble ourselves but a short young woman next to him had a quick retort, "What if we're already short?" I think I've been over this like 5 times but average height around here is really, really short. The girl who made that remark is probably about 4'11", if even that.

Something about Asian faces just makes them wrinkle resistant. You know, when we smile our faces crinkle up and stuff right? Well, some people think that's really funny around here. We were
at the church waiting for one of our investigators to come meet us when several of the younger kids that hang out at the church came over and made me smile and then took pictures and stuff.
Weird but true, Khmer faces don't really wrinkle up when they smile! At least 13­-15 year olds don't. But white people smile and we are just wrinkly all over! Then they laughed and called me loke ta or grandpa.

We had a fun lesson that we were teaching last week where we likened the church to an umbrella. We drew a storm with lots of rain and wind and even hail and a poor little stick figure
weathering the storm. Most Khmers can relate fairly well to being caught in a storm. We told them that the storm represented life's trials and that when could find safety under the umbrella of the church.

We taught the lesson two or three times when one of our members unexpected disagreed with me. In fact, because he stated his opinion in English rather than Khmer, it came across as if he
was almost mad at me. Somewhat startled, I asked him why he disagreed. "Why is the church not an umbrella?" He said, "An umbrella is too small, it's weak." Well, I went with that and we redrew our umbrella as a large building with many many people underneath. The storm raged outside but those under the roof of the church were safe. I know that God has prepared a plan for us and that we can find safety from the storms of life in the church. That's it for me, love y'all!      -Elder Vore
Me, Vanny, and Elder Quirante at the creation of the first stake in Cambodia!
Me, Om Daly (the lady with the crazy Pol Pot story) and her son. If you look in the background you can see the rice powder we were helping her prepare and sell.

Vanny, his wife Dara, and myself making stupid faces at Vanny's internet shop.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

May 5, 2014 Dirty Water

It has been quite the week around here. I have rarely been so exhausted in my life and feeling like I had so little to show for it. It seems like right around the time that Elder Quirante got here, everybody who we had been teaching disappeared. So we hit the streets and, right now, we're kind of feeling like no one wants to listen to a word we say, even if we're white and speak their language. It's been a little frustrating, especially here where we know there are hundreds if not thousands of people who would accept us and the message we bear if we could just meet them.
Hmm, that was a pretty negative introduction. Let's go for some lighter stuff here. I love names here. In America very few of our names have actual meaning. You can look in a name dictionary for the "meaning" of your name based on its ancient roots and stuff but rarely can we actually use our names as normal words. In Cambodia, almost all names have meanings. I could give a bunch of peoples' names as examples but the ones that are funny to me are the names of places. I started my mission in Tuk Thla, or clear/clean water. Then I moved to Ta Khmao which means Black Grandpa. There's a big statue there of an old dark skinned man there, I guess that probably relates to the name. Baku, my next area, is a level for monks and now I'm back near my birth area in Tuk La'ak, or Dirty Water. Isn't it fun? Phnom Penh, the city we live in, means the mountain of fulfillment and Batdombang, a city in the north, means Lost Stick but we like to call it I Lost My Stick because it's more fun. Can we come up with some more interesting names in English? I vote we change Odessa to "Ugly Desert". All in favor please manifest by the raising of the right hand. Those opposed if any?
Had a long talk with an older member named Om Daly the other day. She recently lost a son and we spent a long time trying to help her through her difficulties. During this she shared the story of her family during the Khmer Rouge regime under Pol Pot. She was born the ninth of eleven children in a province up north, actually not in Cambodia's borders. They spoke both Khmer and Laotian in the home. During the Khmer Rough regime she and her family were moved to Kampong Cham, where they were put to work in the rice fields for up to 20 hours a day. Daly was in her teens at the time and was one of the strong ones, but they were being worked to death and it was certainly taking it's toll. One day, Daly was randomly picked to go with a group out to a work site that was very far away. It took all of the morning to walk there and was already dark when they started heading back. When she arrived home late that night she was greeted by a completely empty home. Her family had been taken by the government and bundled into a truck with hundreds of others that were sent to be executed. Daly went to live with an uncle in the same camp and manged to survive the experience. After telling us this story she sighed and began numbering all of her loved ones who had passed on, ending with her son. Then she said, "Will I really see my family again?"
It was kind of a heart wrenching thing. We opened with her in the Book of Mormon to Alma 40:11-12 which reads, "Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection—Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life.
 And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow."
Here we explained the meaning of Easter to her. That because Christ rose from the dead, all of us will as well. We are recipients of the greatest gift that could ever be imagined.
I know that this is true. It is a miracle and it is just for us. Love you guys,
Elder Vore

Apr 28, 2014 Strengthen Thy Stakes and Enlarge Thy Borders Forever

Yesterday, after the sacrament was blessed and passed I got up to count attendance and our branch presidency came to the pulpit. I started to count as he read a "special announcement" from the Mission Presidency. It went a little something like this: "Approval has been given to hold special district conferences on May 24-25 2014, for the purpose of establishing the Phnom Penh North Stake and the Phnom Penh South Stake. Separate conferences will be held to organize the two stakes, but on the same weekend.  This is an important milestone in the ongoing growth and progress of the Church here in Cambodia, and exciting news for all of our members and missionaries!" I about dropped my notepad. I was tearing up. There was so much adrenaline pumping, I felt like I just scored the game winning goal and wanted to scream and pump my fists but we were in sacrament meeting and it was so cool! It was so hard to stay chill and count heads. My trainee just got here 2 days before the announcement. They're going to have Patriarchs! They will be split from the Mission!! I bet Elder Holland will come down to do it too! Stakes!!! It's such a big step for the leadership here. Since missionaries were allowed in 1994 all leaders have reported directly to the Mission President. Now, the stake presidencies will be independent of the Mission! It's such an amazing thing!

OK, now for more personal updating. Introducing... Elder Quirante! Elder Quirante hails from Vidor, Texas, the fourth of six children. His father is Filipino, a convert to the church who moved the America when he was five. Elder Quirante is the fourth missionary from his family when you count his dad, and he is super excited to be here! We are going to get a lot of stuff done. I kind of get the feeling that he is somewhat of a legend in his hometown. He was the star quarterback and MLB for his high school football team that went 9-1 his senior year and several deep in the 4A playoffs. And you couldn't find a more humble guy. Also, his arms are literally larger than my thighs. I'm not even joking. I don't even have to measure. It's ridiculous. Hopefully he can teach me how to workout while we're here.

Shout out to my siblings. It's really cool to hear about all the amazing things you guys are doing in all of your activities. I've got tons of reports on your various athletic events lately and I feel really confident in saying that we're going to look back and say, "Yeah Adam... He was really the only one who wasn't particularly good at his sport. But that's ok. The rest of us are All-Stars!" But really though, it's super fun to get y'alls updates. And especially Erin, who took 14th All-Around in the Texas All State Gymnastics meet! I miss y'all!

Apr 21, 2014 Mormon Monk

Transfer calls are in! I'm staying here and training a new Elder! Among the missionaries, new Elders are sometimes affectionately called, gkones, which is Khmer for child. Those that train are thus called fathers. And, because the area you train in is called your birth area, I am bongkaut gkone, or giving birth! I feel like this is all a little bit weirder when you say it in English.

More adventure stories from the CBR member records of Tuk La'ak. Went out to find a member named Ole based on a 5 year old address. We found the address without too much difficulty but Ole was long gone. No one at the house even recognized him. After trying the 4 homes closest to the address we got nothing but blank stares. Walking aimlessly back to our bikes we showed the picture to some guy who was walking by and he said, "Him? He just got married. Moved one street over like 3 years ago." It wasn't much, but given that, we went one street over and stopped. We didn't have any info at all so we just started biking really slowly down the street. I'm not sure what we were thinking exactly but suddenly I saw Ole's family name on one of the shops. It was a pretty decent lead even though the name is super common so we tried it out. No luck. We were starting to feel like we were wasting our time so we got ready to head out but showed a couple of other people the picture anyway. Miraculously we ran into his uncle who had an up to date phone number!

Rejuvenated, we called Ole and he was home and invited us over! His house is out of our area so after permission was granted we biked to an area called Stoeng Mean Chey. As we got closer I called to confirm the directions to his house but couldn't understand anything. Ole was shouting at someone and breathing hard and the background noise was incredible. Just then, who should happen to drive by on his motorcycle but the Stoeng Mean Chey branch president (Yes he really just happened to drive by right then, that actually happened).  He kind of knew where the place was and offered to show us the way. Maybe the craziest thing about the whole experience was when we showed up to their house. The house next door was in flames! Actually, it was pretty much just gone. We came just in time to watch them finish putting it out. The house burned completely to the ground after a telephone wire snapped and sparked. No serious injuries, but as we introduced Ole to the branch president (still can't believe that actually happened) he was bleeding, not wearing a shirt and carrying and smokey damp towel. Pretty intense stuff.

You know how sometimes people try and give us Khmer girls to take back to America and marry? Well, I finally figured out how to beat them off correctly. If you tell them that you have rules like a monk they understand immediately. I don't have time for women! I'm Elder Vore, a Mormon Monk!
Each of us has likely given a gift at some point in our life.  Most of us give gifts on birthdays or at Christmastime, and everyone wants to give that gift that the receiver will love right? When we give gifts, we love to see people use our gifts. It's just as good of a feeling to see others use your gift as it is to receive such a gift for yourself. How would you feel however, if you gave someone a gift and they just threw it out? Yesterday was Easter, the day that all Christendom celebrates the miracle of the Resurrection and the incredible gift that Christ gave to each and every one of us. What are we doing with that gift? Are we remembering His great sacrifice everyday or are we figuratively throwing it out with the trash? Are we actively working to be better people day to day or are we passive, partial recipients of the greatest gift of all time?

I hope each of us takes this time that is set aside to remember this incredible gift and really thinks about what we are doing to apply it in our life. Ask yourself, what have I done to remember the Atonement of Jesus Christ today? Have I loved? Have I prayed? Have I served God and my fellow man? Have I been thankful? As you think about this you can ask an even more important question; what will I do tomorrow? I promise that as you remember the Atonement and apply the gospel of Jesus Christ in your everyday life, your life will be blessed. Love y'all,
Elder Vore