Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Jul 27, 2014 The Tiger and The Gorge

New companion! Everyone please welcome Elder Martinson! Elder Martinson is the 2nd of 4 children and hails from Vancouver, Washington. We went to the MTC together back last January and it's really fun to be with him again. Elder Martinson is just a little older than me but he graduated in 2011 because his birthday was so close to the kindergarten enter date. Fun fact, Elder Martinson was born in Sweden and his first language was Swedish, but he's forgotten much of it now.

We are the only set of missionaries in our ward here in Tuol Kork. Our zone has ballooned in size and we are now directing 25 missionaries in our Stake. Even with the huge increase in missionaries in our stake, and even though 2 of the wards in our Stake have 3 sets of missionaries, President Moon felt that Elder Martinson and I would be able to handle the work in our ward by ourselves. Well, it's been a great week here and it's looking like we are not going to be able to handle all the work! But that's OK, because a busy missionary is a happy missionary! :D
Elder Vore and Elder Quirante with Visal (member that works with the missionaries regularly)

We started this last week with a focus to try and get a return appointment with every single person we talked to about learning about the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The Cambodian people are very accepting of us and our message but are usually much less interested in actually learning more or committing to do anything. Most everyone we meet says we're super nice and thanks us for coming to their country to help teach about Christianity, but that they're busy or already Buddhist and can't meet with us. Many people even tell us that they are interested, but just can't make time. Well, Elder Martinson and I decided that we were going to push a lot harder to get a return appointment with people who said they wanted to learn but didn't have time. The result: we met people during their lunch hours, at their work, in their moto taxi and got 9 new investigators! I know that a lot of people that are reading these emails are not familiar with how Elders in our church do missionary work or how we measure success, so to clear things up let me tell you. That's a lot of new people that want to learn about Jesus. Honestly, we didn't even do much and really felt like the Lord was guiding us as we looked for people who wanted to learn.
                                                 Elder Vore biking through the rain

We had one guy named Pan-aye who just walked into the church and said he wanted to learn about how he could be baptized and cleansed from his sins. Pan-aye is 21 and moved from the countryside into the city to find work. He had a friend who invited him to find a Christian church in Phnom Penh and learn about Christ because it would help him have direction in his life. He was very interested and very serious about the gospel. He wanted to know exactly what he needed to do in order to follow Christ and receive blessings. Usually when we meet people we need to be very careful to be friendly, interested in their life and happy, but Pan-aye was all business. We're planning on meeting him several times this week. 

That was a theme we saw this week actually. Meeting a lot of people who really wanted to follow Christ and were willing to do something about it rather than just talk about it. I heard our Stake Young Men's President (who was my zone leader just 10 months ago) tell a funny Khmer parable the other day. He told of a gorge that was impassible unless you crossed the wooden bridge that was guarded by a magical tiger. One day two men approached the bridge. The tiger asked the first man if he believed that the bridge would hold him when he crossed. The man replied that he did, the tiger stepped aside and the man walked forward and across the bridge. The second man walked up to the tiger and asked permission to cross the bridge as well. Again, the tiger asked if the man believed the bridge would hold him when he crossed. The man answered yes but hesitated when the tiger stepped aside. The tiger then pounced and swallowed him whole, except for the lips, because it was only his lips that truly believed. 

So, believe with you whole heart and show it by your actions or a giant magical tiger will come and eat you! Love you guys! 
Elder Vore

Monday, July 21, 2014

Jul 21, 2014 Gospel Seeds

Getting kind of tired of writing the same type of email over and over again and I was feeling a change of pace, so today's email is intended to read like a journal entry!

Monday July 21, 2014

Pretty crazy week since transfer calls on Sunday.  Normally my week would be taken up by goodbyes but since I'm basically just moving my house and changing my companion it was pretty much just business as usual. Wednesday was the end of the "semester" for our English Class and we had a special activity. We decided to teach the students how to buy food and bargain and bid on things and then give them fake money and have them buy food from us. The activity was a huge success. Elder Yorgason made really funny play money and passed it out as the students filled out English Class evaluation forms.  We all had brought different fruits and cakes and things to sell and set up our stands and sold to the highest bidder! It was funny to see how the prices adjusted to supply and demand too.
                                            Me as my  Sau Mau gets mobbed by customers!
                                  Elders Satterthwaite, Quirante and Sam selling sugarcane

                                               Sister Kuoch and Orton making change

                                                         Sister Melton sells bananas

On Thursday we spent some time going around and saying goodbye to the young men in the ward. We've helped several of them start coming back to church and get involved in activities and so we decided to celebrate by going out for ice cream! Friday is 2 for 1 at Swenson's so we met there. Cambodians still haven't figured out how to smile for photos so it kind of looks like a funeral picture, but they were stoked and we had a great time. The sundaes we got were kind of big so none of them were able to finish it, so Elder Quirante and I had to sacrifice and eat a lot of ice cream.  I'm sorry I won't be seeing these guys quite so often anymore but I'm still running the youth activity on Saturdays and they all came and brought their friends! When I got here 6 months ago none of the young men were active. I'm so happy to see these guys all coming back and hopefully breaking the poverty cycle and getting off the streets and into an environment that will help them grow. On that subject, Mutual was really fun too. We taped some squares down on the basketball court and played four square with all the kids. They loved it!
                                                            Ice Cream Party with the young men

Elder Vore explaining the rules for four square at the youth activity
Just before transferring to Tuol Kork Elder Quirante and I got to meet Som On for the last time. He is so awesome! He has such a sincere desire to learn and understand for himself about the church and Christianity in general! We spent over an hour just answering all his questions that he wrote in the margins as he read the chapters we assigned him to read in the Book of Mormon before sharing a quick spiritual thought and heading off to the mission home. I saw him later in the week when he went to church and brought his 2 young children! Crazy thing about his kids, they speak English. Apparently he speaks enough English to them around the house that they have picked it up. They talked like normal, American toddlers, albeit with an accent.

I'm now in Tuol Kork (the dusty hill) with Elder Martinson. It's fun to be with Elder Martinson again. We haven't seen each other much since the MTC and that was nearly a year and a half ago. Boy, time flies. First item of business in Tuol Kork was a baptism! Both Puthia and Kunthia had indicated that they wanted the Bishop to baptize them but at some point that message got a little garbled and the Bishop didn't bring white clothes to the baptism! So it fell to the Elders by default. In any case, the baptism was great. 
                                    Elder Vore with his new companion, Elder Martinson

Sunday morning before church, some members of our ward gathered to go out and teach less active members and invite them to church. It's like a combined home and visiting teaching program. I went out with the second counselor in the bishopric to teach some members near his house. He lives in what could be termed a slum, right off the railroad tracks. What he lacks in worldly education and training he makes up for with testimony and faith.  The message we shared was awesome and comes from President Uchtdorf's first presidency message for this August. 
President Uchdorf shared a story about a woman named Christa who worked at a seed company and some strange complaints she got as she worked there. He wrote: 
' “I’m very disappointed in your seeds,” the customer began. “I planted them just as the package recommended. I gave them water, made sure they had sunshine, and waited until finally they produced their harvest.”
“Sounds like you did everything right,” Christa said.
“That’s all very fine,” the customer replied. “But what I got was zucchini!”
“My records show that those were the seeds you ordered,” Christa said.
“But I don’t want zucchini; I want pumpkins!”
“I’m not following.”
“I planted the seeds in my pumpkin patch—the very same soil that produced pumpkins last year. I praised the plants every day, telling them what beautiful pumpkins they would become. But instead of large, round, orange pumpkins, I got long, green zucchini. Tons of them!”

Christa knew then that guidelines might not be enough and that it was necessary to state a principle: “The seed you plant and the time of the planting determine the harvest.” '

Wouldn't it be great if you could do whatever you wanted and then get whatever reward you chose? Unfortunately, that's not how things work. If we plant seeds of obedience to God's laws, love, selfless service and kindness we will receive blessings. If we plant seeds of wild partying, anger, addiction, and feeding the lusts of "the natural man" (Mosiah 3:19) we will receive according to what we have planted. 
 --Elder Vore
                                                                      Zone Picture

                                                                    Elder Quirante

                                                              A great baptismal day 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Jul 13, 2014 Cups of Cockroaches

Another super fun week here punctuated by transfer calls on Sunday night! I've been here in Tuk La'ak for 6 months or so, so it wasn't too surprising when President called me last night and said I would be transferring. I was a little surprised by my new assignment because once again I will be moving to the branch bordering us to the north, Tuol Kork! It's an interesting thing because there is an entire country open here with 30 something branches and buildings and different provinces and such and all that, but President has felt that I needed to be here at the North Stake Center. I'm actually kind of stoked. I'll still be able to see all the people that I've been teaching and I'll still be working on the activities and projects that we've been pushing for the last few months. My new companion is Elder Martinson. I know him really well because we went to the MTC together and I';m really excited to be with him! We are going to get a lot of work done.

No weird experiences from me today but Elder McGavin, an Elder in my district, told me this story the other day and I wanted to pass it on. He got out of bed and felt pretty thirsty so he went down to get some water. He picked up a cup, filled it up and started drinking without looking into his cup. He was pretty shocked when a cockroach hit him in the face! :D Even here in the city and in really  (ok, relatively) nice houses the bug problem never ends. Makes for good stories I guess.

I am actually really short on time today but I want to tell y'all about something we've been doing here in our stake youth program. Weekly organized activities for our youth here weren't happening for a variety of reasons so my companion and I decided to make some! We asked for permission from the youth leaders and have been running a weekly activity, "Mutual" for a little over three months now. Now the youth leaders are in on the activities and on most weeks will lead the entire thing! On Saturday, the youth leaders were in charge of a gospel lesson and other things and the Elders set up some relay races. We led 30 screaming teenagers through obstacle courses, games of charades, dizzy bat races etc. for an hour or so and had tons of fun. Best part about it? We had 5 young men go from our branch and all 5 went to church the next day!

I thought about that a little bit as I wrote the last paragraph there. I was thinking about how lots of the young people I teach think about the gospel of Christ. I know that many of them think about church as something that needs to be endured and that isn't fun. Just a brief thought about that. When we follow the gospel of Christ and live by his teachings it will bring us joy. Sometimes doing the right thing isn't necessarily "fun", but it's always worth it and it will always bring us happiness and joy. Sorry things are a little rushed here. Love you guys!

                                                 Elder Vore & Elder Quirante at the church

 Elder Vore giving an example of the relay race mutual activity the following Sunday

                                        Elder Vore and Elder Quirante teaching English class

Friday, July 11, 2014

Jul 7, 2014 Spiritual Exercise

Elder Quirante and I were talking about a recent lesson with a member who couldn't seem to understand the importance of daily prayer. When we invited him to pray at the end of our lesson on the importance of prayer he said he didn't want to because he "prayed yesterday". Later Elder Quirante told me that when he or his siblings would say things like that back at home his dad would ask, (PG warning for those reading this to little kids) "Well, did you wipe your butt yesterday? Are you going to wipe your butt today?" I chuckled but then I realized something strange. I haven't wiped my butt in over a year... Guess that one doesn't work for us. We just use sprayers around here! I've gotta get one installed at home.

We played football last week. Real American football. It was super fun, but super tiring. You guys remember me telling you how my comp is a football star? Well, while we were leading up to football he kind of played himself down saying that we were playing 7 on 7 and football with pads is a whole different game and stuff like that. Yeah, well he REALLY knows how to play football. I was kind of blown away. We were like a bunch of little kids, even though we were playing touch football. I pretty much killed myself trying to cover him on defense. It was crazy.  I was thinking back to the last time I played football and I remember going to things like Thanksgiving turkey bowls and playing on New Years and stuff like that at home. We would play for a couple hours and then everyone would start slowing down and winding up and stuff. I remember getting in the car after playing for two hours and thinking, "Come on, why are we going home? We only get so many chances to play football like this!" Yeah... I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that I was sore for 3 days after playing football for just two hours. And here I was thinking I was in pretty good shape too. Sad.

I was talking to this guy the other day who was really complimentary about the charitable nature of our missions here. He told us how impressed he was that we were willing to give up our time and money to come teach people. He kept on this subject for a minute and then he said something that almost made me laugh out loud. He told me that he felt bad for me because I was missing out on opportunities to learn and progress in college.  I thought about this a lot after he said that. Pause for a minute. What have we done since we got out here? We learned how to teach, study, learn a language, work hard, deal with people, help people, direct meetings, set goals, accomplish goals, do paperwork and everything else and then we just apply it every single day forever. I can't even imagine a college course that would teach me as much as I have learned in a short 14-15 months here in Cambodia. But I didn't tell him that. Just invited him to church.

I told a story in a lesson this week that I want to share. There once were two young men who wanted more than anything else to become soccer stars. They loved the game and they had the potential and so they set a goal. When they grew up, they would be professional soccer players. That's a big goal. The first young man took that to heart and set out to accomplish his goals by working out and practicing. He ran, he lifted weights, he practiced with his team, he ran some more. The second young man loved playing soccer, and whenever there was a game he was the first one there. But he wasn't a huge fan of running by himself. He didn't have the self discipline or the desire to push himself when he was off the field. In the end, who do you think will be the once to accomplish his goal?

All worthwhile goals will take time and effort to accomplish. Anything worth having will not be had in an instant. We will always have to work to receive a great reward.

God has planned a great reward for us. He wants us to have "immortality and eternal life" (Moses 1:39), but this will not come to us easily. It's easy to understand that anyone who resists training will never become a great soccer player, and just like that, those who do not prepare themselves to receive eternal life by walking in God's way during this mortal life, will not be prepared to receive eternal life in the world to come. So take it to heart and get spiritually fit so that you can be worthy to receive God's greatest blessing.
Elder Vore