Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Dec 28, 2014 An Agricultural Revolution

"You ride [your bike] like you were born in the [provinces]." Me to Elder Child

"You ride like bikes have the right of way." Elder Child in response

The provinces are a little different than the city. I mean, it's still Cambodia and it's still missionary work and it's still teaching people and stuff but it's still different. Different how? Uhh, well... there are fewer people, the houses are more spread out, it's prettier, people are generally less educated but more friendly. It's hard to describe really. Obviously on the surface it's pretty different but it has a different feel too. Maybe I've just got a bad cold.

We were at an investigator's house the other day and he owns some kind of parrot. It wasn't like any parrot I've ever seen but it talked and stuff like that. It spoke in Khmer of course, and basically like the first word that came out of his mouth after hello was a swear word. Is that just universal or what? It seems like that is always the second thing the bird learns. Pretty funny. The guy we're teaching was really apologetic. "Sorry about my bird, he doesn't know that's a bad word. He thinks it's a good word! That's why he keeps saying it so much!" Elder Nhoem told us about a bird near his house in Kampong Cham that sat at the front of a little shop and announced to the owner that "they're here" whenever customers walked up. Funny enough, that bird said bad words, too.

Transfer calls were yesterday. Elder Child and Elder Nhoem are leaving me and I'll be with Elder Ngov for my last six weeks here. His parents are Khmer but he was born and raised in America. It will be a fun companionship. I've had a pretty wild last few months as far as the mission goes. I've been in 3 areas with 5 different companions, in a threesome twice, an emergency transfer, etc. Hopefully this will be the last of that.

Me, Elder Child and Elder Nheom after the road dead ended into the river. We had to backtrack a little but there were some cool views. Elder Nheom tried to take some artsy pictures by holding his camera out over the water.

It's rice harvesting season! I don't remember how much I told you about rice harvesting last year but it pretty much consumes all the laborers for 2-3 months in the winter. Unless, you use a tractor. I saw a couple of people use tractors last year but this year it's really becoming wide spread. I would guess that up to 60% of the rice fields I see are being harvested with a machine. The thing with the tractor is that, unless you do the whole thing without hiring any labor (which would take a really long time unless you have a very large family), it's both cheaper and faster. People are catching on. We're watching the second agricultural revolution happen right before our eyes in Cambodia. It causes problems in the short run (no jobs for the laborers) but obviously it will be better in the long run. Still, we go out and help those that harvest by hand.

Elder Vore harvesting rice (chrote srow). You take that little mini curved scythe thing, hook it in the stalks of rice, grab with your free hand cut and repeat.

Elder Nhum told a story the other day that really made me stop and think and I want to share it with y'all too. It was a couple of years ago when he was a recent convert and his mom was learning with the missionaries. She hadn't really caught the spirit yet. She hadn't been to church in a while and wasn't really progressing. At one particular lesson the missionaries asked if she had her scriptures. She went to a different room to get them and brought them out, covered in dust, slightly water damaged and obviously unread for quite some time. She excused herself briefly and was busy in the other room.

Then Elder Nhum saw the missionary do something that really made him think. That missionary picked the book up carefully, and with tears in his eyes wiped the dust off of the cover and fanned through the pages to unstick them. He then pulled a small rag out of his backpack and wiped the cover until it was clean. Now, I don't know what was going through that missionary's head but that story really made me pause and think: How much do I value God's word? 

"In the late 1300s, a priest named John Wycliffe initiated a translation of the Bible from Latin into English. Because English was then an emerging, unrefined language, church leaders deemed it unsuitable to convey God’s word. Some leaders were certain that if people could read and interpret the Bible for themselves, its doctrine would be corrupted; others feared that people with independent access to the scriptures would not need the church and would cease to support it financially. Consequently, Wycliffe was denounced as a heretic and treated accordingly. After he died and was buried, his bones were dug up and burned. But God’s work could not be stopped. (Robert D. Hales 'Preparations for the Restoration and the Second Coming: My Hand Shall Be over Thee'", Oct 2005)

God's word cannot be stopped! Isn't that just so cool! Can we think about that for a minute? How do you treat God's word? How often are you reading, studying, feasting upon the words of Christ? (2 Nephi 32:3) Take 5 seconds of personal reflection for a second here and then decide what you can do to be more fully a student of the Word. Love you guys!
-Elder Vore

Monday, December 15, 2014

Dec 14, 2014 He is the Gift

First things first. A great big thank you goes out to my wonderful parents who sent a super awesome birthday/Christmas package that managed to get to me right on my birthday! Thank you also to everyone that sent letters! I love you guys! I set up the Christmas tree right away and put it on a little box to make it taller. Then I put the nativity you sent in front and placed pictures of Christ all around. I love Christmas time! Unfortunately, the box I packed last year with all the ornaments and decorations you sent disappeared... I probably forgot it somewhere :P Thanks for making the Christmas season a little more Christmas-y!

Elder Child was actually talking about that just the other day. It's not very Christmas-y around here. There's actually pretty much nothing to remind us of Christmas outside of our homes. Most of the people around here know that Christmas exists but that's pretty much it. It's kind of like how you see "Boxing Day (Canada)'' on your calendar every year and you know like basically when it is and that someone is celebrating it in Canada but you don't really know or, frankly, care what they're doing to celebrate it or even why they're celebrating. It is cold though. You know, relatively cold. It gets down to like 65 degrees at night sometimes. All those people sleeping outside at nights could get a cold...

Speaking of cold, Elder Nheom has been playfully complaining that we have turned the bedroom into Utah. It stays a chill 17 degrees C in our room at night. I'm cold too but there are 5 in our bedroom and they've out voted us.

A member of our congregation was speaking in church yesterday.  He is a recent convert to the church who has absolutely no Christian background. In fact, he constantly turns to us when he is teaching to check if what he is saying is doctrinally or scripturally correct. That's one of the difficulties with a lay ministry in a third-world Buddhist country, but we deal with it.

Anyway, he was speaking up at the front of the congregation and he wanted to share a scripture. "Now I'm going to turn to [Luke] chapter 3 and share a scripture" he said. " Yes chapter 3..." He had his scriptures out and was poring through them but couldn't seem to find the verse he was looking for. Embarrassed he cleared his throat and said, "Well, I can't find that verse but it goes a little something like this.." and then he paused. As he paused and the congregation waited his wife stood up from the pew behind me and called out to her husband, "I found it! It's verse 16-17!" He looked at her and mouthed "16-17?" which she replied to audibly. Then he shared the scripture. I love it when everyone is so involved in the learning process. :P

In a couple of recent lessons about Christmas I have asked the question, "Does anyone know why we give gifts at Christmas?" That's a fun little question and there are probably lots of cool historical answers to that, but maybe the most basic answer is found in Matthew chapter 2. Wise men, magi, came from the east to worship the Christ child and bring him gifts. We follow that tradition and give gifts to our loved ones.

I love both giving and getting gifts and it's a really fun part of Christmas, but as we all know, it's not really the point. The greatest gift to be had at Christmas time is the gift of Christ. It is a time to be grateful and a time to remember the greatest gift ever given, from a loving Heavenly Father to all of His children.

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)"

Merry Christmas!
Elder Vore

                                                               Santa at the Christmas Party


                                       Pictures with Church Members

We were heading out to a small group of members in an area far away called Chuu Dtial when we stopped to talk to some people. Afterward we realized that we had stopped in a really pretty place and took some pictures.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Dec 8, 2014 Boring Off-Roading in Cambodian Jungles

Yesterday there was a baby blessing in our branch here. It's quite possible that everyone who participated in the blessing was participating in a baby blessing for the very first time. With that in mind, we can all understand why there were some problems. They announced that there would be a blessing and then came to the front. Problem: the child's mom is breastfeeding her. Solution: pull up a chair for mommy! So, this woman who is breastfeeding her child walks right up to the front of the congregation and sits down in the chair that our branch president has provided for her. --Side note, public breastfeeding is not weird in Cambodia, though it felt a little too out in the open for me...-- They all started gathering around the chair to bless the baby but the woman was still just smiling and breastfeeding her child! That's when me and Elder Nheom got up and suggested that Mom go sit down and that the child's father should hold the baby and everyone else in the circle put their hands under the baby. Crisis averted.

Elder Vore and Elder Child
The other day we were going to our last lesson and Elder Nhum turns to me and says that the house we are going to is on the other side of this ditch and we have to back track to the main road to get around it. "Or," he says, "We can ride our bikes down the side and then carry them up the other side". Well, that sounded like a good idea to me but when we started going forward Elder Child (who had not really been consulted yet) said, "Wait, we're going THAT way? Well, OK." That was a little ominous but he explained that last time it was pretty muddy and they almost slipped and fell into the stream. As we walked our bikes into the jungle an older woman muttered, "I don't know why you're going over there. There's no road." Yet another somewhat ominous sign, but we continued forward.

Elder Child shined his flashlight down the hill. It was probably 20-25 feet downhill at a 55 degree angle or so. Rocks, trees and small animals cluttered the way. We went anyway, and after that dramatic of an introduction you would expect that something happened huh? Nope. We took the hill like BMX riders. Loud, screamy BMX riders. I wish I had taken a picture as we were looking down. Dragging the bikes back up the other side was probably the hardest part actually.

Had someone compliment me in a very strange way the other day. She told me I was so attractive that I looked like a girl. That was supposed to be a good thing for her but I wasn't really sure about it. Still, she persisted. "Yeah, you do look like a girl, but like you still love women... A homosexual woman! Yup, that's it!" I didn;t really know what to say so I just thanked her, invited her to church and rode off. Weird...

I've been studying the Doctrine and Covenants lately and started thinking about one of the themes found in it. D&C 82:10 reads, "I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise." It's not a very complicated idea but it is a very important one. God promises great blessings for us but they are all conditional blessings. "There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—  And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.(D&C 130:20-21)" .Some blessings we receive having fulfilled the condition of being His children. Other blessings have a longer list of conditions.

For example, take the scripture found in D&C 14:7 "And, IF (emphasis added) you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God." Does that scripture even need further explanation to make it clear? IF we keep God's commandments and endure to the end, THEN we will receive the great blessing of eternal life.

There are those who would say that God will bless people regardless of their actions and they are absolutely right. God blesses everyone, both righteous and sinners, but He reserves His greatest blessings for those who work for them. "For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory."  

That's my spiel for today! Love y'all!
-Elder Vore

Monday, December 1, 2014

Nov 30, 2014 Gassed Out!

New companions! Introducing Elders Nheom and Child! Elder Nheom is a Khmer Elder from Kampung Cham who has been a member of the church for just over 4 years now. He's about 5' 5" and says the funniest things when we bike down the road. The members love him here. Elder Child is from Bountiful, Utah. This is his first area and he's really picking up the language quickly. Fun fact, his parents knew mine back when they were in college (our moms were camp counselors together?) and apparently they read this blog a lot. Shout out to the Child family! Your son is the coolest!

I had a really fun companion exchange this week when I went to Pursat with Elder Britain. Elders Britain and Bo just opened missionary work in Pursat last month and it is exciting to be in a new relatively untouched area. They were in Batdambong for Thanksgiving. We actually did have a pretty great Thanksgiving meal but it was kind of funny because it was hosted by a Canadian couple serving a mission here and we ate turkey with Khmer food.

 After Thanksgiving dinner, 4 of us, Elders Britain, Bo, Nheom and myself headed to Pursat. Because the bus schedules didn't work well with our schedule we decided to just flag down a car and go with them. That may sound sketchy according to first world standards, but it's perfectly normal around here. We had our backpacks and started walking down the highway. It wasn't long until someone asked us where we were going and offered to take us there for $15. All four of us sat in the backseat. Elder Britain and I didn't have bikes so we spent our entire time out there on foot, teaching, looking for people that want to learn about our church and advertising for their English class. On the way back Elder Nhoem and I did the same thing. This time we both sat in the front seat together for the hour and a half ride back to Batdambong.

A member of a branch here in Batdambong died on Friday and they kept her body in the church. Some interesting things about Khmer funerals. The family of the deceased person is expected to put on a feast for everyone who comes to pay their respects. The people who come pay for the food and are expected to pay very generously for the food to help pay for the funeral. Also, the family and friends of the deceased person have to be with the body all the time. The more there are the better.

 So for the past few days there has been a constant parade of people coming through the church eating and taking turns sitting in the chapel overflow room with the casket. Sunday morning came and we were filing in for sacrament meeting. Several family members were keeping vigil with the casket and were slightly miffed that we were going through with our normal church services. One of the members of the branch presidency came to me and asked if it would be a good idea to open the overflow curtain so that we could all be in the same room as the casket. Actually, he literally said, "Do you think we should open the overflow and display the casket during sacrament meeting?" Umm, no. They picked me to go explain that to the family members with the casket who were actually ok with that. Never thought I'd hear that question asked to me...  "Do you think we should open the overflow and display the casket during sacrament meeting?"

On Tuesday mornings the missionaries in our zone here in Batdambong all gather together for district meetings. We are in 4 districts and three of them meet in separate rooms at the church. We were getting close to wrapping up our district meeting when we heard a loud whirring sound. Someone was out in front of the church, wearing a gas mask, holding what appeared to be a large leaf blower. It was clear though that he was spraying for pests and he blew billowing clouds of grey mist into drains out around the church.

 We ignored him, closed the curtains and continued our training meeting. About 10 minutes later the sound got suddenly much louder and we were somewhat shocked to hear the blower thing coming into the church. We tried to get out but by the time we opened the door there were already clouds of bug poison filling the church. The other two districts opened their doors to find the same thing. It was pretty hilarious. Would have been really bad if the stuff had been a little more dangerous.  We closed the door, opened the widows in our room, and sat over by the windows for 30 minutes or so. We couldn't get out of the windows because they are barred to discourage theft. They OKed us to leave after a while and we held our breaths and stumbled through the smokey hallways out the door. It was a little more dramatic than it should have been. Funny though.

Last little story! We were at Thanksgiving dinner and one of the Khmer Elders, Elder Reom, was looking at a little pilgrim hat that Sister Zemp had made to decorate the table. She put a black paper circle down and then covered a small cup with black paper and put it one top. Elder Reom picked it up and asked me what it was. That was kind of hard for me to explain and I told him it was the style of hat they wore in America 400 years or so ago. He turned it over in his hand and then turned the cup right side up and poured himself some water. 

That's it for me guys, I'm out of time! Thank you for your prayers, both those in my behalf and those offered for the people I meet everyday. Love y'all!
-Elder Vore