Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Oct 27, 2014 Chickens and Eagles

I was talking to a new member in another branch the other day. He is a professional boxer named Khamera. Super cool guy and really excited about learning about the scriptures and the gospel. On some weekends he goes to Thailand to fight and gets his paycheck. Someone asked him how much he usually got paid and he said that it wasn't very sure. When pressed he talked about the last fight he was a part of. If he won, he got $70 (keep in mind, there are some people here that don't make that much in a month) and if he lost he got $35. BUT, the bookies told him that if he lost they would give him $350 extra. That's a significant amount of money around here. He said he tried to win (If he wins a lot they want him to fight at bigger fights so it can be even better than the short term loss) but the other guy won. Nice consolation prize though. The sports scene in Southeast Asia is a little different than it is in America.

Earlier in the week I was teaching a group of children and their grandparents in one of the slums off the railroad tracks. Such nice humble people who are enduring trials that I can't even really comprehend. As the lesson came to a close, the grandfather asked one of his grandchildren to say the closing prayer. She is six years old though she looks like she's about four, keep that in mind. In her prayer she asked that God would, "Please have my mom stop playing cards and gambling. She doesn't need to play cards, she can just play with me and my sisters instead. And help my dad with his job so that he can keep this one and not lose his job. And help him stop drinking." I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry. Poor little kid.

We had a fun activity in English Class on Wednesday. In order to get our students talking and excited we taught them how to play mafia. Really, what we were trying to do is get them to argue with each other in English. It was pretty fun. Being in a classroom setting can get people to do things that they would never think of doing in the real life. If the teacher tells you to do something, you just try and do your best!  We had a lot of fun. Not much to that story actually.

I want to tell a story real quick. There once was a man who raised chickens. He had several hundred chickens and spent a good amount of time taking care of them. One day he noticed an egg that seemed a little larger than normal. He however, did not pay too much attention to it and put it in the pile with the other eggs to be incubated. Several weeks later when this egg hatched, it was not a baby chick inside, but a baby eagle.

This eagle had an interesting upbringing. It was born in a chicken coop, lived with chickens, and was fed and treated like a chicken, and so it acted like a chicken. It ate feed with the chickens, scratched in the dirt with the chickens, slept with the chickens etc. Eventually though, the eagle got a little bigger.
One of the older children noticed this and told his father, "Dad, there's an eagle in the pen with the chickens." The father chuckled and told his son, "Son, that's not an eagle it's a chicken. It eats like a chicken, it walks like a chicken it acts like a chicken. Therefore it is a chicken."

The son set out to prove that the eagle was indeed an eagle and so he took the eagle up on top of the chicken coop and pointed its head off to the horizon and whispered to it, "You are an eagle. Fly!" The eagle looked up at the horizon, down at the chicken coop and then hopped down and continued to scratch with the chickens. The son dragged the eagle to the roof of the house and had the exact same result. "See?" said the father. "I told you it was a chicken."

Undeterred, the son took the eagle to the top of a mountain, far from the chicken coop below. He went to the edge of a cliff and pointed the eagle's head at the horizon and whispered, "You are an eagle. Fly!" And the eagle opened it's wings and flew.

Sometimes we forget that as sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father we have infinite potential. If we spend our time in less worthy pursuits we will never reach our full potential. We will never learn how to fly if we spend all of our time scratching with the chickens. Fortunately, a loving father in heaven has prepared a plan for us. When we follow his commandments we will have real growth in our lives and we will be able to reach our full potential.
Love y'all!
Elder Vore 

Oct 20, 2014 Everyone is a Critic

I've had several experiences recently that have both been a little humbling and a little funny. To preface this, some back ground is necessary. There are different dialects of Khmer spoker here in Cambodia. Actually, they're not even really different dialects, more like different accents. In America when we think of a country accent compared to a city accent we might think that the city accent is clearer or more correct (I'm imagining people from small towns in the south compared to people from suburbs near big cities in the east). In Cambodia its a little different. The big city accent is slurred and unclear. Among other things, Rs are dropped, sub-consonants are routinely ignored and tones are kind of thrown into a language that isn't actually supposed to have tones. Those from the provinces, especially in the north like in  Batdombong, speak very clearly. All of the letters are pronounced the way they are written and their speech is almost clipped.

I've spent my entire mission in the city at this point, except for 7 months in Baku where they speak like those from Phnom Penh but even more pronounced. My speaking has been learned from those who supposedly don't speak very clearly. I'm very good at parroting what those around me say, and I pick up accents a lot better than I pick up words, reading or writing. Basically, I sound a lot like a Khmer that was born in the city.

 My companion is much younger in the mission than me, but he is also a very good listener and good at parroting and picking up accents. He however, has spent the last 6 months in Batdombong, an area that is known for its clear speakers. In the last couple of weeks as we have talked to people around our area we have been complimented on how good our Khmer is, especially my companion. Boy, they love how clearly he talks! "You (pointing to Elder Brewer) speak very beautifully," they say. "Much better than him (pointing to me). His words all run together and aren't pretty". I've spent all this time working on speaking exactly how Khmers do and in the end what do I get? Everyone is a critic. :P

This last Saturday night we went to visit one of the families we teach and were greeted by a somewhat pitiful sight. They were in the process of adding a floor to their one room house so that there would be enough room for everyone to lay down at night. Crossbeams were placed just above their heads (I have to duck to walk in but they're a little shorter than me so they're fine), floorboards were laid on the second floor and they started to lay bricks. The roof was to be raised just a couple of feet (the second floor is going to have a really low ceiling) and they were replacing the tin for the roof.

 In this process it was necessary for them to take the roof completely off for a few hours while the cement dried and stuff like that and then put the new roof on. Their sister also happened to be moving and had put all of her stuff in their house. Then it rained. Without a roof the rain was particularly frustrating. All available tarps and plastic bags were put over the recently laid wooden floorboards that would warp if wet. All of their exposed belongings sat in the rain. When we showed up they were just kind of staring at everything. Clothes, belongings, and construction materials filled the house. Only two of them were sitting (on bricks) while the rest of them stood. There wasn't enough space for them to sit. We stood just outside the front door as rain came down softly. I was fully expecting them to be pretty down but they were incredibly positive about things. We laughed together about their bad luck for a good 15 minutes before we left. Sunday morning we went to help them clean out their house and lay the bricks so the roof could get put on. 

I was really blown away by how optimistic they were. Nothing was getting them down! I guess we don't have to react to challenges negatively, we can just laugh it off. I really felt like I learned a lot from them.

Elder Brewer and I ran into a lady who was collecting recyclables to sell in front of our house as we went home this week. She dropped her cart when she saw us and started begging for money. That was a little uncomfortable because we aren't allowed to give money to beggars, but Elder Brewer had a couple of energy bars and he gave them to her. She was pretty drunk and reacted a little illogically. She threw the energy bars down and said, "I don't want these American cakes, I want Khmer food or money! Don't you have any rice?" She certainly wasn't very grateful and didn't seem to understand that the energy bars would help her a lot.

Later I was thinking about the Atonement. Sometimes I see people who learn about the Atonement of Jesus Christ and then choose not to follow Him or his gospel because the Atonement is not the gift they wanted. They wanted money. They wanted instant gratification. They wanted entertainment. They wanted rice. 

Sometimes we act like that. We want God to solve our problems. We want him to tell us what to do. We want Him to guide us financially. Instead, He has given us the Atonement. When we learn about and apply the Atonement in our lives, God will bless us, though not necessarily the way we want Him to. Often times it would help us a great deal if we would just focus on the things that God wants us to focus on. Jacob taught, "seek not to counsel the Lord but to take counsel from His hand." So, the next time God gives you a blessing or a challenge, try to apply that. I'll try too. Love y'all
Elder Vore

Monday, October 13, 2014

Oct 13, 2014 Some Things are Not as They Seem

While leaving the church the other day I was the given the phone number of someone who had come into the church and said they wanted to learn English and were willing to listen to a message about Jesus Christ as well. I called and was greeted by a woman who said her house was on a street near the church. I told her to stand on the side of the road and flag me down when I passed. I also told her I was wearing a white shirt and tie. I went all the way down that road looking for a 20 something woman who looked like she was looking for something and got nothing. At the end of the road I called her again and she said that she hadn't seen me, but that she was now sitting by a certain tree near a parked car. That was actually a decent enough landmark so we turned around and headed there. Once there I was somewhat shocked to find that sheover the phone and the wind was blowing so it was kind of har was a he (some kind of weird problem with his voice), and he was pretty shocked that I was American (we were talking d to hear). So, he was looking for an older Khmer man on a motorcycle and I was looking for a woman. But at least we found each other!

Hey! I have a new companion! His name is Elder Brewer. Elder Brewer hails from Wildomar, in southern California and is the 5th of 7 siblings! Elder Brewer likes long walks on the beach in his bare feet and puppies. :D Ok, maybe putting words in his mouth. We're getting along super well and he is a big singer! There are going to be 4 Elders in our small apartment for a little while and 3 of us are really big singers! We went off on "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" in impromptu 3 part and it was awesome! I might send y'all a recording or something.  

I want to tell a story about a woman named Panny. She was just 49 years old when she was diagnosed with cancer. Because the health care isn't the best in Cambodia she went to Vietnam to find better a better hospital. In Vietnam she got some bad news and the doctors told her they didn't know what to do. She cried in her hospital room and one of the doctors gave her a bible and suggested that it could help her find peace. She opened the book but couldn't read it because it was the wrong language. The Bible laid on her chest overnight and for some reason, when she woke up she was feeling much better. She scheduled a later visit, got some painkillers and went back home with a determination to find out more about Christ. She contacted a cousin of hers who is a member of our congregation in Ta Khmao and started coming to church.  For several weeks she studied the scriptures very carefully and wanted very much to be baptized. She had a very firm belief that if she followed Christ, He could cure her cancer. The week before she was to be baptized she went back to Vietnam where they told her that there was nothing they could do and that she was going to die in a matter of months. She was crushed. 

After staying at her home for several days she decided that she needed to keep following the commandments that she had learned about with the missionaries and received baptism. She did so and invited her whole family to come with her. She dragged her husband to worship services every week for several months. Over the last few weeks her health worsened and she went in and out of a coma. Two weeks ago was fast and testimony week where members are invited to stand up and give their own personal testimonies. She wanted to get up and speak but literally could not leave her bed. She told her husband that he had to go to church and speak for her. He did. She was in a lot of pain before she went into a coma one last time and passed away.

At the funeral this last Tuesday I was moved to tears. More so than anyone I have ever known personally, Panny kept the faith until the very end. Her husband broke into sobs when he told us that one of the very last things she did was sit up and tell him that she loved him and that he had to get baptized. It was almost hard to believe.  She made me think about a talk I read recently by Elder Dennis E. Simmons called 'But If Not'. He wrote: 

' Faith is not bravado, not just a wish, not just a hope. True faith is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ—confidence and trust in Jesus Christ that leads a person to follow Him. 

Centuries ago, Daniel and his young associates were suddenly thrust from security into the world—a world foreign and intimidating. When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego refused to bow down and worship a golden image set up by the king, a furious Nebuchadnezzar told them that if they would not worship as commanded, they would immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. “And who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?” 

The three young men quickly and confidently responded, “If it be so [if you cast us into the furnace], our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand.” ....  then they demonstrated that they fully understood what faith is. They continued, “But if not, … we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” That is a statement of true faith. '

I really felt like Om Panny exemplified this. She probably told me over a hundred times that if she followed Christ that she would be healed of her cancer, I think she really believed that; but when she was on death bed she was going out of her way to find some way to serve the God she loved. 

' Our God will deliver us from ridicule and persecution, but if not. … Our God will deliver us from sickness and disease, but if not … . He will deliver us from loneliness, depression, or fear, but if not. … Our God will deliver us from threats, accusations, and insecurity, but if not. … He will deliver us from death or impairment of loved ones, but if not, … we will trust in the Lord.

Our God will see that we receive justice and fairness, but if not. … He will make sure that we are loved and recognized, but if not. … We will receive a perfect companion and righteous and obedient children, but if not, … we will have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, knowing that if we do all we can do, we will, in His time and in His way, be delivered and receive all that He has. '

I believe that will bless all those who truly believe in him. I love you guys.
Elder Vore

Monday, October 6, 2014

Oct 5, 2014 Be Perfected in Him

One of the activities we run at the church here is a free English Class. The main purpose of the class is to try and find people who want to learn more about the gospel, but it's also a really great opportunity to help a lot of people who need to be able to speak English to be competitive in their job. We have been spending a considerable amount of time lately working on making our English classes more organized and conversation based but we also realized that it wasn't doing as much good as it could be doing because we simply weren't teaching very many people. So, we decided to do some advertising.

Several months ago we made signs to hold on the side of the road by the church but Elder Martinson and I felt that the signs we being underused, so we encouraged all the missionaries serving in branches that operate out of our building to go out and hold the English class signs whenever they were sitting at the church waiting for appointments. This worked really well. We had many people stop and ask for information and many more that were interested in learning more about the gospel or joining in with our worship services. However, the first week after we started this advertising push we only had 7 people come to English Class due to a Khmer holiday (we average around 55 in three classes). We decided to just laugh it off and keep trying.

 This last week we had 123 show up to class. The 70 or so that came for the first time packed themselves into the foyer where we had only one sign in sheet (we quickly made 5 copies and got another table). When you double the amount of students in your class it gets a lot harder to teach. And I mean a lot harder. We can't just lecture either. The whole point of the class is to get them talking and practicing their English with native speakers there to help them. We had only three classrooms ready and only 3 lessons prepared and enough worksheets for about half of them. It was pretty crazy. We're hoping to split into 5 classes this week. Ideal class sizes would be around 15, but that doesn't seem feasible right now..

Random side note, 6 of those 70 or so new people came to sacrament meeting with my ward and several more went to the other two wards. Pretty cool.
I've been thinking a lot about becoming perfect lately. In Matthew 5:48 Christ taught us to be "perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect." This command to be perfect is repeated a number of times throughout the standard works including to Abraham (Genesis 17:1) and the Nephites (3 Nephi 12:48; 27:27). It's a matter of doctrine that "the Lord giveth no commandment unto the children of men, save e shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them (1 Nephi 3:7)", and so it follows that He truly does expect us to be perfect. How can we, imperfect "natural men" (Mosiah 3:19), expect to be perfect like our Father in Heaven? There are a lot of possible answers to that question and I want to share an example from the sporting world to illustrate just one.

In 1984 the Miami Dolphins were the the best team in football. They went undefeated, 14-0, in the regular season and won three straight post-season games including the Super Bowl. The first and only ever "perfect season". Now that's not to say that the team was perfect or even that their so-called perfect season was perfect, I'm sure they had their ups and downs, but their imperfections were swallowed up in a greater victory, that of overcoming all opponents, all obstacles, and taking home the championship.

When we got baptized and made sacred covenants, you and I joined a team, and unlike the 1984 Miami Dolphins who had no perfect players on their roster, our team captain is perfect. He is Jesus Christ. He is our exemplar. He is our savior.

During His mortal life nearly 2,000 years ago, the Savior, Jesus Christ, performed an act known as the atonement that is central to all human history (The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles). Bruce R. McConkie wrote, " We know that in some way, incomprehensible to us, his suffering satisfied the demands of justice, ransomed penitent souls from the pains and penalties of sin, and made mercy available to those who believe in his holy name" (The Purifying Power of Gethsemane).

You and I and all of us who believe on Christ's name and show that we are willing "to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things and in all places... [by] being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that [we] have entered into a covenant with him (Mosiah 18:9-10)" have joined His team. When we are weak, he is strong. When we fall, He lifts us up. Though we will sin, when we feel godly sorrow and repent, He takes those sins upon Himself, the sins of all mankind, and He suffers, but He is strong and we are cleansed. Our team is not perfect, but we are undefeated.

President Boyd K. Packer taught, "it was understood from the beginning that in mortality we would fall short of being perfect. It was not expected that we would live without transgressing one law or another (The Atonement)". Rather, the plan was that we could be saved by grace, after all that we could do (2 Nephi 25:23). So we have a disclaimer. We cannot sit on the bench and watch Christ save the day. Even though we are imperfect, unprofitable servants, we have a personal responsibility to follow Him with all our heart, might mind and strength. Our Heavenly Father may not expect us to be perfect now, but He certainly expects us to try. When we try with all our heart to follow Christ's perfect example, we can be made perfect through His atoning blood.

At the end of the Book of Mormon, Moroni makes one final plea to all who read: "... come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ".

To those of you who have joined Christ's team through baptism by immersion by proper authority, be a team player. Follow the rules. When you follow the commandments that Christ has set for you, you will never lose another game.

For those who have not yet joined this team, and especially my friends who may be reading this, I encourage you to learn more about it. We do not capture those who walk into the chapel and lead them captive to the baptismal font. Rather, we welcome the curious and those seeking for more. I promise that all those who learn about and apply the restored gospel of Jesus Christ will see that it is good and it will bring them happiness. Only after learning about and applying the teachings of the church could one make an educated decision about whether or not one should decide to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Come and be perfected in Christ.
-Elder Vore

Elder Vore and Elder Martinson

With Chan Finel, Sokpheakday Kong, and Nimol Kosal