Saturday, November 29, 2014

Nov 23, 2014 Quit Staring at your Food and Eat It!

The day I left Sen Sok was a really sad day. We got a call as we were packing that Makara, a young member of our branch had fallen from a bridge and was injured very seriously. The ambulance was already on it's way so we called the Branch President and left as soon as we could.

 By the time we got there he had already died. He was fishing and leaned over the guardrail when he slipped. His fall jostled some rocks that fell and crushed him. It was a bloody, heartbreaking scene. We helped the medical crew move his body into their home where most of the village was gathered. His dad was beyond comforting. He knelt by his son's body and sobbed for some three hours.

 After a while I took the other children aside and we prayed for comfort. His mom was one of the last to arrive. She was at work far away when she got word that her son was in a serious accident. She immediately left work and flagged down a passing motor taxi. Without a personal cell phone, she had no way of knowing how severe the accident was until she got to the house. I can't even write about this without tears coming to my eyes. Several of the village leaders came up to me and asked if we would be taking Makara's body to the wat to do the necessary Buddhist rites or if we would be taking care of the funeral services. I didn't want to step out of my boundaries and suggested that they wait until his father had collected himself and then ask him. Makara's  brother solved the question when he declared very emphatically that he, his siblings and his parents were Christian now and whatever the Branch President decided to do, that's what they would do. I was frustrated how quickly they focused on a somewhat less important matter. Couldn't we let the parents mourn for a few hours before we start talking about what we're going to do next?

It's always a sad thing when our loved ones pass away, but we can take comfort in the promises that are contained the holy scriptures. When we are faithful, we will meet with our loved ones in the next life. 

I left straight from there to go to my next area all the way up north in Batdambong. The church hasn't been established here as long as it has been in the city. The area is much more open and the buildings and scenery make you think of... well, Cambodia. Our Bishop is an excited member who was baptized a few months after I got to the country. We will likely be taking a more in depth role in the branch and helping teach classes and manage the branch than we usually do.

Random thought. A couple of weeks ago I was at church and a member who recently returned from his mission here in Cambodia asked the Branch President who would be teaching Sunday School. The teacher had suddenly gone out of town and no one had prepared a lesson. The Branch President said something like, "Well, Final, will you teach today? Actually, can you teach this class from now on?" 10 minutes later the Branch President was setting him apart as a teacher in front of the class. Don't see that in America much...

Last week I was taking a different route than I usually take to go home. It was late, dark and the road was lit only by the light from signs on the side of the road. I looked up and was somewhat surprised to see that there were light posts at regular intervals, but that they were all off. I wondered why they were off. Was there a power outage? Did they not have enough money to keep them on? I never really got to the bottom of it but I remember thinking, "Why would you put lights and then not use them? " 

There's probably several lessons that could be learned here but as I was biking I started thinking about the importance of applying the gospel of Jesus Christ.  There's not much point in having a knowledge of the scriptures and of the doctrine of salvation that can lead to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come, if you don't apply it. It's kind of like ordering food at a restaurant and then just staring at it. "Boy that pizza sure looks good..." Quit staring at your food and eat it! Likewise, we need to apply our knowledge and understanding about the gospel. Love y'all,
Elder Vore

Friday, November 21, 2014

Nov 16, 2014 To Batdombong We Go!

So, you guys know how I had a kind of crazy week last week going to a new area and all? Well, we're doing it again! I'm only going to be in Sen Sok for 2 weeks and then I will be moving to Batdombong! I was pretty shocked when I got that call. Sen Sok is a small, struggling branch a few kilos north of the city and I was actually pretty excited to have an opportunity to work here. I had an experience on my second day in Sen Sok that I feel like pretty much describes Sen Sok.

 We were in a tiny alleyway outside the small tin shack of the member we were waiting for. A man finished his beer and threw the can off to the side, disrupting the kids who were playing naked in the street. The 5 or 6 women who were playing cards didn't even blink. One man was collecting cans to sell to recyclers. He picked up the can, turned it over his head and drained the last few drops before tossing it in his bag. A lot of people here spend most of their time drinking,smoking and gambling while occasionally going around scrounging for a living. I'm super grateful for the church that helps us understand what we really need to be doing in our lives. I am excited to go to Batdombong too though. It will be my first real experience of being out of Phnom Penh.

Yesterday I got to play the piano when our pianist's child suddenly had a problem. Closing song was 'Now Let Us Rejoice' on page 32 in the Khmer hymnal. I started playing the intro and then looked at the last bit of the intro on the other page. What I was seeing didn't seem to make sense. I was suddenly playing a different song. I stopped playing and everyone looked at me. I examined the hymnal that I was playing from and realized that the middle sheet (pgs 33-36) in the hymnal had been ripped out, which meant that I was now playing the hymn on page 37. Little awkward as I stood up and looked for a hymnal that didn't have sheets missing. Then I played the hymn. Badly. I wish I had actually learned how to sight read before my mission.

My companion is a little antsy so I've gotta get going by I want to tell a quick story about a woman named Heang. She got in the habit of paying her tithing at the beginning of the month before she received her salary. Last month she was hoping for a raise so she paid more in tithing. Now, I don't know if this always works but she got the raise and it was even more than what she had hoped for. She promptly paid an offering of 10% on the raise she got. Isn't it cool what can happen when we act in faith? Sorry this email is short, Love you guys!! :D
-Elder Vore

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Nov 9, 2014 Back to the Boonies

After a pretty crazy week with several problems in the branches out here, President Moon decided that some changes needed to be made. I was on my way to teach at a Zone Training meeting this last Friday when I got the call that I was to pack my bags and take over things in Sen Sok starting that evening. Boy, that was a bit of a shock. I didn't even get to say goodbye to everyone! Sen Sok is still in the same zone as Tuol Kork but it is about 13 kilos north and a little off to the west. I'm going there with Elder Neng, who is somewhat familiar with the area, having previously served there for like three weeks.

 Sen Sok is a small, struggling branch that is based in a very poor area that was created by the government for people whose land was needed for city building projects. It's pretty different from my last couple of areas in the city. Goats and chickens are all over the place. Cows, ducks, geese, pigs, all over the place. Most of the people live in small tin shanties raised on stilts. I'll have to send y'all some pictures so you can visualize it. We live in one of the nicest houses in the whole area. Honestly, I'm embarrassed by how nice our house is in comparison to everyone else around us. Sure there are housing standards for the mission and stuff but it's pretty ridiculous.

One of the members that I'm really sad I won't be meeting around town any more is Chombei. Chombei has been a member for a little over a year now and she is one of the most devoted Christians I have ever met. She always seems to have some dramatic event going on in her life.  For example, a few weeks ago at church she came up to me and told me that she had a problem. A cousin (like a third cousin or something like that) or hers got a really serious illness and his family took him to a kruu Khmea, or a Khmea witch doctor who told them that he sensed that one of their relatives had joined the christians and that the reason this kid was sick was because his ancestors were angry.

His family started racking their brains to try and figure out who had joined the dark side and finally decided that Chombei was the closest Christian relative. They called her and told her that she needed to renounce Christianity and go do a Buddhist ritual to save her cousin's life. She, of course, told them that it was ridiculous and she would not do any rituals or renouncing but that she would come as soon as church was over. Around the time church ended, her cousin died. It was a very sad, very dramatic afternoon. One morning later in the week she looked out her front window to see a Khmea witch doctor and a couple of others burning incense, sprinkling water and chanting around her little shop. They were trying to curse her and call down evil spirits to harm her... She told me she just prayed and went around like normal!

Another person that I'm leaving in Tuol Kork is named Sarueon. He's led an interesting life. He never has explained exactly what he was doing during the Pol Pot era, but after the Vietnamese invaded Phnom Penh in 1979 he became a monk for 7 years. Afterward he got married and had several children, but was conscripted into the army and fought in several civil wars during the turbulent late 80s and early 90s. He went into politics and government and now works as the government representative at a large open market, as well as holding several local government positions. Such a cool guy. He comes to church every week too.

Here's a fun one for you that are familiar with how ward councils are run. My ward council met this last week and only the Bishop, the Relief Society President, the second counselor and the Elder's Quorum President were over the age of 28. The Young Men's President, Young Women's President, Primary President, Ward Mission Leader, Clerk, Executive Secretary, Sunday School President, 2 sets of missionaries and even the high counselor were all under the age of 28. Let that one sit for a second...

I don't think the public works ministry communicates very well. My companion and I were complaining about a road full of pot holes one week and the next we were pleasantly surprised to see it being patched! The new road was actually quite nice. Two weeks later we were unable to go over the road because they were ripping it up to fix a sewer underneath. Then they just left the road ripped up with loose gravel over the hole.

I wish you could come here and go to a slum and turn in a slow circle and just take in all the difficulties these people deal with. It would change your perspective on life. I wish even more that all of you could have all the experiences that I've had over the last two years that have shown me how much God cares for us and how much he loves us. His plan is perfect and those who follow His commandments will be blessed.
 -Elder Vore

Nov 2, 2014 Srawberries and Raspberries

Conditions near the Railroad Tracks

One of the most obvious differences between Cambodia and the states (I don't even know if I can say this is one of the most obvious differences because it's all so different but it is a big difference) is the architecture. In the cramped confines of Phnom Penh there are millions of people stacked on top of each other and they all need houses to live in. Most everything is built straight up. If you want a bigger house you stack a second floor on top of the first floor. More space? Put another couple of floors up there.

 This last week I went to help a member of our ward move. His family is pretty well off and their house is five stories tall. Now, keep in mind, each story is maybe 12 feet wide and 40 feet long. Because he is a little wealthier than most, his furniture is made of real wood. I don't know how professional movers do it! We were taking huge pieces of furniture that are made from solid wood, through cramped stairwells down 2, 3 and even 4 flights of stairs.

 One time as we were halfway down one of the flights, a dresser got turned awkwardly and everyone got pushed out of the way except for me. We were moving it with six people but I ended up being the only person between the dresser and the lower floor, everyone else was holding onto the top and trying to hold it up and keep the weight off me. This actually happened several times with several different people and all different types of furniture. I wish some Khmer architects would design these stairwells with this in mind. My back was sore for two days after that! Pretty ridiculous.

One of the families we've been teaching includes some members of the family that joined the group in Phnom Penh a little later including an adopted brother, and husband. The reason that is significant is because they never learned how to read. Actually, one of them knew the ABCs pretty well and know the sounds and stuff but when you start putting it all together he got a little dizzy. We volunteered to help teach them how to read.

 Can we all ponder the irony of this for a second?  No matter how well I speak Khmer I'm always going to have an accent. I'm never going to say some of the vowels correctly. But I am going to teach them how to read? It's not the first time I've done this either. Actually the third time. In any case, I took the man that didn't know his ABCs very well and Elder Brewer got the other one and we set off. We started reciting the Khmer alphabet and he got to the 12th letter of the alphabet. When I started writing them he only recognized up to the 4th one and he could only write the first two.  After a very laborious hour, he could write any of the first 10 letters if I called it out. He was averaging only about 80% accuracy on that one too. Learning to read is REALLY hard if you've never even been to school to learn how to learn.

Due to a pretty crazy set of circumstances I now have another companion in addition to Elder Brewer. Welcome Elder Neng! Elder Neng is from Toul Tom Pung here in Phnom Penh and has been a member of the church for just a few years. He's bee on his mission for just over three months now and is always excited to get out the door and start teaching people. We are going to push each other. I think he's in one of the pictures I sent of me on a bridge over a small creek.

We were teaching about the importance of going to church as part of our lesson to an investigator the other day when another person who was listening and somewhat familiar with Christianity asked the following question, "If you believe in Christ and pray in your home on Sunday to keep the Sabbath Day holy do you still have to go to church?" I answered with the following story:

Once there was a mother who was very busy preparing for a gathering in her home. She sent her young son down the street with some money and instructions to buy some raspberries (fruit has been changed for the sake of the audience :P). The fruit store was quite a way down the road and so the boy got going. When he was still far from his destination he happened to pass a man who was selling strawberries from a cart. He stopped and bought strawberries. Then he went home and gave the strawberries to his mom.

We then talked about the little boy. Was what he did bad? No, not really. He kind of followed his mother's directions. He was willing to go do something. And who doesn't like strawberries anyway? I'm sure his mom could use the strawberries right? The problem was not that what he did was bad, it was that he was given a specific assignment and then didn't fulfill it.

In the Doctrine and Covenants section 59 verses 9-10 we read, "And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day;For verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High;"

Praying in faith and as a family and other such related activities are really great and extremely important, but on Sunday we have received a specific assignment from the Lord. He has asked us to go to His holy house and partake of His sacraments. And it's that simple.
That's all I've got for today. Have a great week!!!
-Elder Vore

Cambodian Housing

Delicious Fish
The reason I won't be able to make it under the 50 pound limit for suitcases.

Sunset near the church