Monday, June 30, 2014

Jun 29,2014 Mansions and Marshmallows

You know, I've spent a good deal of time in these emails telling you guys about all the crazy things we've eaten here. Everything from bugs to leaves to dogs. You guys remember all those stories right? I bet y'all have been thinking that we are eating all that stuff every day for lunch and stuff huh? Well, you would be incorrect! :D Elder Quirante isn't the biggest fan of foods that are new or questionable (not that he won't eat it, just that it won't be the whole meal) and he would be the first to tell you that he is not a big veggie eater. So what do we eat? Well, because we're in the middle of the city and there's a super market (of sorts) just right down the street, we eat peanut butter and jelly, and lots of bread and toast and eggs and normal college student food. We're going through about 50 eggs a week right now. Lots of times I'll just drop 3 or 4 in a bowl and season it and then fry it and serve it with rice. Or just fry them and eat egg sandwiches. One thing that we did this week that was fun was we made roast in a slow cooker. Super easy and way good. Just drop a kilo of meat and some veggies and season it with everything we have in the kitchen and boom- roast. Served with rice of course. We did it twice actually. Although, our roasts aren't coming out quite like Mom's did... What all do you put in that Mom? Help?

We had a baptism yesterday! We've been going to Ming Ly's house regularly for about six months now because she and her family are recent converts in our ward. Ming Ly runs a sewing shop out of her home and whenever we go to her house they pretty much drop everything and take out their scriptures. Eventually, as we met with her and her family, some of her employees would come and sit down with us and learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ.

 Banha was one of them and she is so cool! She learned with us for a really long time before deciding that she wanted to get baptized because she wanted to make sure that when she decided to join the church she wouldn't change her mind and stop coming and "quit". Once she started coming to church the sisters started teaching her and after a few weeks she got baptized! When Banha got interviewed to get baptized she told the story of why she decided to start coming to church and really join and follow Christ. She was feeling sick that week and couldn't get to work. While laying on her bed having painful stomach cramps she remembered what we had taught about prayer and that if she needed to ask Heavenly Father for help, she just needed to pray. She got out of bed, knelt down, prayed, and then fell asleep on the ground. Upon waking up, her stomach no longer hurt and she felt hungry and awake! She felt that that was a clear answer to her prayer and that if God would answer her prayers then she should follow him. Cool huh? Little miracles are the best.

We went to visit Banha and Ming Ly last week to share a fun message with them right before Banha's baptism on Friday. Ming Ly's youngest daughter's name is Oh Mee and she is 3 years old. We gave her a piece of candy and told her that she could eat it right now or if she waited for 15 minutes we would give her another one and she could eat two. Her mom thought it was really funny and explained it to her two more times before we said an opening prayer for our lesson. As soon as we said "amen" we looked at Oh Mee and she had already eaten it! It was so funny! Then we watched this super fun video:

God has given us the great gift of this life and has given us the agency to live it however we want to. He has also promised that if we keep His commandments He will prepare mansions for us in Heaven (John 14:2). If we "keep [His] commandments and endure to the end [we] shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God." So be patient and endure and then you can eat whole bags of marshmallows! Love y'all.   Elder Vore

Baku members at the 20th Year Anniversary Celebration! So much fun to go and see them! If you read my story in my email from January 5th, Sovanna is the guy in the blue striped tie (the Khmer guy, the big white one would be me)


Elder Kim in the middle was the first person I ever taught here in Cambodia. If y'all remember a few months ago I shared a story about a young man who really wanted to go out and teach the gospel and serve a mission? Now he's serving in Stung Mien Chey! Super fun to run into him.

Waving Khmer flags while they dance in the foreground and Vietnam Flower Dance

Vanny and Elder Quirante enjoying durian

Vanny and I at the Independence Monument after the celebration
Elder Vore and Vanny

Jun 23, 2014 Great Blessings Can Be Ours

 All Elders and Sisters that head to third world countries risk a few things. Our living standards are really, really nice by Cambodian standards, but there's always some things you have to get used to. One problem that we have a lot of around here is stomach problems. There are a good number of Elders and Sisters that get here and then spend an unusually long time in the bathroom for months and months. Bugs are common and whenever we are the slightest bit sick our mission president and his wife tell us to stay inside and not try to push through it.

 Anyway, we had a zone conference a couple of weeks ago with all the missionaries in the north zone and in the Vietnamese speaking central zone. The conference ran from 9 in the morning to 3 in the afternoon so lunch was provided by the mission! Whoo! What did the mission order for 30+ hungry missionaries? Mexican food. Now, I wasn't too sure about Cambodians making Mexican food but this place was really good, or maybe I just haven't had Mexican food in a long time... In any case the food was gone way too fast. That night about 75% of everyone got sick! The first time I got up, Elder Quirante was already in the bathroom and one of the Vietnamese speaking Elders in our house was in the other bathroom. It was a pretty rough night for our zone. I thought it was really ironic that here in Cambodia we were floored by relatively safe Mexican food catered from a nice restaurant.

Met a very interesting man on Tuesday. A set of Elders in another area talked to an older man who was really interested in learning more about the gospel. His house was in our area so we got the phone number and gave him a call. We set an appointment with him and were really excited about things as we got to the church. We exchanged some pleasantries and started to get to know each other. It didn't take too long to realize that this guy was a little strange. He prefaced his meeting with us by saying, "I've been feeling like I needed to learn about a new religion for a while now and when you guys called me I asked the spirit in my head if I should go meet you and he said I should so I'm here!"

 He then proceeded to explain that this spirit directs all of his actions every day and it's the way he makes a living. People bring in their sick children, the people who can't walk, those having marital problems and he takes some water and sprinkles it, burns some incense, throws some feathers and stuff around (all according to direction from the spirit in his head) and BOOM! Everyone is magically cured! He credits the spirit in his head and the shrines to all sorts of different gods (including Christ) that he prays to. I think we would call him a witch doctor or something like that in America. Pretty weird. He had all sorts of wild stories, like the time where he was looking at the sun and it hurt, but then it didn't hurt so he kept looking. And he looked and looked and and his soul left his body through his head and floated up to the sky where he met with Heavenly Father who told him that all religions were correct.

 When he told that story he stood up and demonstrated how he held open his eyes with his fingers and looked into the sky. Or the time when he went to Malaysia because he had a feeling that he needed to. Upon arriving he saw a Malaysian monk walking down the road, and they made eye contact and it was almost as if they knew each other. They ran to each other and suddenly he could speak perfect Malaysian! "I don't know how it happens. I just follow the instructions of the Spirit in my head and he leads me around". We told him that if he wanted to follow Christ he had to stop praying to different gods and doing magic. He wasn't real into that...

We had a really fun lesson the other day when a recent member got a little off topic and started asking questions about our purpose on Earth. "How can I, as an uneducated poor person get all these amazing things that you guys say I can?" We were happy to explain. The fact is, as spiritual children of an all powerful Heavenly Father. As children of our Heavenly Father we are limited only by our own actions. If we follow the plan that has been prepared for us since before the creation of the Earth, Heavenly Father will shape us according to his will.

The important thing is that we do what we need to in order to receive all the great blessings that can be ours. President Uchdorf shared a parable relating to this:
I know that only as we follow God's commandments, will we live to our full potential.
Elder Vore

North and Central Zone Conference Picture

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Jun 16, 2014 We Get All The Crazies

This should be a fun email even if I'm getting worse and worse about saving enough time to send y'all a good long email. A couple funny things happened this week and we had a few conversations about past experiences and yeah... Let me just say it like this: If you wander around a city for 15 months (wow, I've been out here for a while) talking to whoever is willing to give you a second glance, you're bound to run into some crazies. If we add weird circumstances like 1. being white  2. being able to speak Khmer  3. being kind of gung-ho about talking to everybody  4. being in a third world country  and well... you get the idea. I mean, we're all crazy to a certain extent but some of the following have become standouts for me.

Almost every day we have an opportunity to teach people about faith. Faith, as we learn in Hebrews 11:1 "is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." When we teach about faith, one of the easiest examples to use is Heavenly Father or Jesus Christ. It is very common for us to ask, "Well, have you ever seen God? If not, why do you believe that  he exists? That is faith." See how that flows?  Well, that only works for people who don't believe they've ever seen Christ. Enter one investigator in the Tuk Thla branch. Elders asked, "Pu, have you ever seen Jesus Christ?" His answer, "Yes." They were a little shocked and asked again to make sure that everyone was understanding each other. They were and he answered a bit defensively, "Yes I have seen Jesus Christ!" One of the Elder's asked him when he had seen Christ. "He was cooking me scrambled eggs right there (pointing at the stove) just last week." 

While I was out in Baku I met a man who lived in Holland for nearly 30 years. At some point during us getting to know each other I mentioned that my Dad had studied in Belgium and I lived there when I was a toddler. Several weeks later he brought a picture of when he got to go to the royal palace or something like that. He pointed at two random people and said, "look, it's your parents!" They were definitely not my parents and I told him he was probably mixed up. However, he insisted that he knew my parents and that they were in this picture. Then things got weird. He told me that he and my parents had run into some problems and couldn't get out of the country. And he made up a kind of James Bond story where he went undercover to find this document so my parents and I could get home. Then he told me how close we were and that we were destined to meet up in Cambodia. We didn't go by there much after that...

Crazies aren't even limited to those with low IQs. I once taught a university professor who went off on a 35 minute rant on his life while we were teaching him at the church. Everything from his humble beginnings in a clay hut, to his mother's sickness and his suicidal thoughts, to the 15 minute ghost story about his two uncles that killed each other and the time where he had a premonition that a certain girl was going to meet him at a very specific time and that he needed to propose to her right when he saw her and then it actually happened and he didn't propose to her and then why it was necessary that the world have so many religions. Yeah, I wrote that in one run on sentence to illustrate how he told his stories. 

The other day we were talking to this one lady and I told her I was from a desert. Then she asked me if I rode camels. I didn't know the word for camel but kind of got it in context and sketched it and she confirmed it. Sorry, no camels in Odessa is what I told her. She just could not believe it. "But I've seen them! I've seen them in movies!" Ok, that one wasn't that crazy but it was still funny. I wish we had camels in Odessa!

Today is the day for random stories and guess what? I've got another one. We were going down a road we didn't know looking for people interested in learning about Christianity and stopped to buy a water bottle. Talked to the owner of the stand for a good 20 minutes and finally invited him to church. He said he wasn't interested and we started leaving. As we picked up our bags he told us that he was shocked when I started speaking Khmer to him. He said that when we walked up he had assumed that Elder Quirante was my translator! 

I feel like my thoughts on gospel topics return to the same basic main ideas over and over again. One of those major ideas that I have returned to time and time again is the importance of a firm foundation in Christ. Elder Russel M. Nelson taught about this by comparing our lives to different types of rock climbers. 

Christ taught this truth in the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 7:24-25 we read, "Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock."

Choose today to follow the teachings of Christ (Joshua 24:15) and build upon his gospel, a secure anchor, a rock "which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall. (Heleman 5:12)" Don't wait to build your foundation!
Elder Vore

Jun 12, 2014 Spiked Chocolates

Another week, another set of adventures! Seriously, every single day here is just a blast. It's interesting for me to see what makes the days fun and exciting. Oddly enough, it's not the adventures, the new things, the language, the food or anything related to that at all. What makes this whole thing fun is the work. Sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with everyone I meet and inviting them to apply His teachings and change their lives. That's a thrill. There is nothing more important, exciting or fun than this work! There really isn't! Short confession: I didn't really think I would like my mission. I knew it was the right thing to do but I didn't really enjoy going to three hours of church on Sundays or meetings/firesides, teaching with the missionaries, home teaching etc. and I figured missions would be more of the same. My mission here certainly has changed me, and now, this work that I might have dubbed a chore 5 years ago is my whole life and I LOVE IT! Teaching and serving others and doing the work of the Lord is the most rewarding thing I've ever been a part of. Kind of going in circles here at this point but yeah, just wanted to share.

Well, we had a special activity for our English Class this last week where we had everyone create paper Facebook profiles and play get to know you games and word games and stuff. At the end we had some fruit and cookies and stuff to share and all gathered together to eat and talk before heading home. Elder Quirante and I were talking to one of our recent converts, Sophal, as we wrapped up the activity. He pulled some chocolates out of his bag, popped one and offered us some as well. The chocolates were pretty small and shaped like bottles. Biting into mine I was kind of shocked when it squirted juice, but Elder Quirante was smarter and just ate the whole thing. As I chewed on the chocolate I had a weird feeling, almost like I was drinking cough syrup. The liquid in the candy seemed to have some kick to it! Elder Quirante and I looked at each other then at the wrappers and found that the candies were made by a popular beer company in Cambodia. A little shocked, we spit the chocolate out.  Poor Sophal felt really bad. He was really funny about the whole thing! As for me, I thought it interesting that of all the ways I could accidentally drink (injest?) alcohol it was from a piece of chocolate while I was at the church. 

Well, I feel like I haven't typed for very long but I am definitely out of time! Last week we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Church in Cambodia. It was a great thing.  Most significantly, two stakes were organized and the first Khmer Bishops and Stake Presidents have already been ordained. President Moon sent us some thoughts about this in an email to all the missionaries. He said: 

"There has only been one other time in the history of the Church that the first two stakes in a country have been created on the same day.   The only other time that has happened was in Ghana, in Africa. That happened just a little over 20 years ago today.  At that time the church in Ghana was about the same size that it is today in Cambodia.  What does the Church look like now in Ghana-- 20 years after those first two stakes were created?  I don't know what the church will look like in Cambodia in 20 more years, but it is interesting to see what has happened in the 20 years since those first two stakes were created in Ghana.  Today there are almost 60,000 members in Ghana, 168 wards and branches, 4 missions, 1 temple, and an MTC.  What a wonderful thing to think about the future of the Church here in Cambodia.  You are part of a great work-- a miraculous work. One member at a time.  One step at a time.  One miracle at a time.  What a wonderful thing to be a part of that miracle in people's lives as they come to know the truth of the gospel and receive the blessings of joy and eternal life that it can bring as they accept and live the truth."

I have personally seen the joy the gospel brings into people's life's. I know that every one of us, where ever we our on our journey, we can set right now as the time to recommit to be more devoted to following Christ more completely.
Love y'all, 
-Elder Vore

Monday, June 2, 2014

Jun 2, 2014 The Value of the Gospel Lies in the Application of it.

We're going back in time a couple weeks here because I was writing in my journal yesterday and remembered about this one day a couple weeks ago that I never told y'all about.

It was Thursday, which means weekly planning. We spend 3 hours preparing, scheduling and planning for all of the people we are teaching that week. We had a referral from another set of missionaries, which means they gave us a phone number and a name and said that he wanted to learn. That's usually a dead end but after calling the number, sure enough! He wants to learn! One problem, I couldn't figure out where his house was, and it seemed like he didn't know either. He recently moved from another province and didn't know any of the normal landmarks or any of the major streets. Well... we decided to give it another shot and after planning we met with Vany (have y'all seen enough pictures of him to recognize him yet?) and asked him to call for us to see if he could figure out where this guy's house was. After another 10 minutes on the phone we finally figured out that he lived outside of our proselyting area. Well, we asked for permission to head on over there and set off! On our way there we got lost twice, had to buy an extra phone card, and then finally got directed, by phone to a really sketchy looking apartment complex. Remember, there is 1st world sketchy and then there is 3rd world sketchy, this one was 3rd world sketchy. Elder Quirante was the one who said it out loud but I was kind of thinking it too: "It feels like they're going to lead us into a dark alley, beat us up and rob us." Though I must say, I am not scared when I'm walking next to Elder Quirante. I don't think anybody is going to try and bother him.

Maybe the weirdest thing about the whole thing was that after we had walked up the dark staircase and into their little room on the third floor, Om Manh and Sombo were sitting there smiling, waiting for us with their scriptures out! We had a great lesson with them and they were super excited to be learning about Christ again! Really fun experience there. 

We were on a big high coming out of that lesson as we headed to the church for our next appointment. As we biked we felt the rain coming in hard. Really hard. We were caught totally unprepared and just decided to try and out run the storm. And we made it! Just as we headed inside, huge sheets of rain hit and hit hard. We taught our lesson and left the classroom to find 6 soaked missionaries taking refuge in the front room. As we sat there waiting the storm out, a busload of men in suits showed up and jogged inside under their umbrellas. I guess it wasn't so weird because we were at the district center, but 20 guys in suits anywhere is weird, especially since they were very clearly from at least like 5 different countries. Apparently the Asia Area committee for building chapels was having their annual meeting just upstairs. We spent the next 20 minutes visiting with church leaders from Thailand, Mongolia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Vietnam among others. 

Finishing up our day real quick because I'm out of time. The streets were flooded. Knee deep water and traffic was not moving at all. After sitting in traffic for about 10 minutes we finally saw the cause of the huge jam. A tree had fallen and blocked two lanes of traffic forcing all the cars to go by one at a time and all the motos and bikes to wait behind the cars. So, Elder Quirante and I parked our bikes and started pulling apart the tree. It was pretty slow going at first but eventually about 15 people who were stuck too stopped to help us and together (with the help of two meat cleavers) we pulled all the branches off the tree and then dragged the trunk off the highway.

And other stories will wait for later but guess what? I want to share something from my personal scripture study this morning. I was reading in Romans this morning when a verse caught my eye. Romans 2:13 reads "For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified." Or in other words, the people who will be justified and counted as righteous before God will be those who follow the commandments, not those who only hear them. As I flipped open my journal to record my thoughts on the scripture, I saw a quote by Thomas Edison that I wrote down over a year ago. He said, "The value of an idea, lies in the using of it." Boy, doesn't that ring true? 

Because I'm a missionary and everything has to relate back to the gospel, I thought of that quote in context of the gospel. I don't know how Mr. Edison would feel about me messing with his words like this but I want to rearrange his quote just a bit. The value of the gospel of Jesus Christ, lies in the application of it. Christ has prepared the way for us. He has given us commandments and direction that will lead us to Eternal Life IF we apply his teachings and actually do the things he has commanded us. If we only listen to his words and then go on our merry way it is quite pointless. Still positive I guess, but incomplete. "The doers of the law shall be justified." Love y'all
Elder Vore