Monday, January 26, 2015

Jan 26, 2015 An Incomplete Construction Project

Today I'm wearing the same tie that I wore the day I entered the MTC on January 30, 2013, almost exactly two years ago. Two years in Cambodia can really do a number on a tie. Two years ago, it was a dark pinkish color. It's a silk tie, dry clean only, which of course wasn't really an option out here. It's faded and frayed quite a bit. More of a grey color now. As I was typing I leaned over to Elder Ngov and asked him how he would describe the color. It's a little dark in our corner here so that's maybe the reason why he answered, "Coppery. Kind of a dull copper color." Then I turned the tie over and he scooted in a little bit. "What is that, pink?" This isn't a very interesting story, but I forgot to write stuff down for my email this week so I'm kind of going on nothing. I'm still wearing the tennis shoes that I bought at the beginning of my senior year back in 2011. Nice Nikes, but totally falling apart at this point. I have super-glued the soles back on once before but they're falling off again. We've played some basketball lately and the soles are like flapping up and down as I go up for rebounds. One of the shoelaces broke a month ago, but I haven't bothered to replace it yet. Nobody even uses shoelaces around here. I'm not even sure I could find some.

The area that I'm in right now is kind of new. I say kind of new because the church has been here for over ten years, but most of the members have been baptized in the last 4 years, and that makes for some interesting problems. When you make relatively uneducated, recently converted rice farmers the leaders, teachers and presidents of your church... it's just hard sometimes! Because we have to help them do it themselves. We can't step in and start running things for them or they'll never learn! But, the missionaries often act as advisers in all sorts of different contexts. On Saturday, Elder Ngov and I actually had to split up so that we could go to two meetings that happened at the same time. Jesus Christ called fishermen to be his apostles and President Moon and others have called rice farmers to be bishops and branch presidents. It's an adventure!

Once upon a time there was a man who had a dream to build an add on to his house. He scrimped and saved and made plans but never seemed to have enough money to get things going. One day a construction project near his home was unexpectedly cancelled and the remaining materials were just left there. He called the company and asked for permission to use the left over materials for his own project. Permission was granted and he gleefully got to work. 

Because his plans were already drawn out, the man felt that he could begin straight away. The only problem? He didn't really have all the required materials and tools. He had a lot of them on hand and with the additional materials from the abandoned construction site, he really had a lot. But not quite all of them. While mixing the cement he realized that he had cement and water but no sand. "Well," he thought, "I can just replace that with some dirt and pebbles and it will probably be fine." He poured the foundation. Later he began to make the frame. He had wood, nails, a hammer, a meter stick but no saw. "It's not a problem," he thought. "I'll just break the boards with my knees and then pound the irregular edges out with the hammer." A third problem occurred when he realized he didn't have one of those spatula looking things that they use to spread cement around and lay bricks (in Khmer I call it a brodap liap seemong but I have no idea what to call it in English, someone help me out here?). Undeterred, he scooped the cement up with his hands, packed it onto each of the bricks and then layed them like normal. When all was said and done, how do you think his extra bedroom looked?  We need to have all the required materials and tools and then use them to the best of our ability for the greatest desired outcome possible.

James taught, "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, do not commit adultery, said also, do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. (James 2 10-11)"

 Recently I was working with a family that was really good about studying the scriptures as a family, and were really nice people and loved each other and prayed and stuff like that but never went to church. The problem is, "salvation is gained by keeping the whole law" (Bruce R.McConkie, see the chapter heading for James Ch. 2 in the LDS KJV). Those that go to church, serve the poor, pray daily both personally and with their families, study the scriptures, volunteer in the community but watch porn in spare hours are not keeping the whole law (see Matthew 5:28). Those that do all manner of good works but never renew baptismal covenants by partaking of the sacrament at church on Sunday, have "become transgressor[s] of the law".  Just like those who obey traffic regulations, don't murder people, don't steal, don't use drugs but occasionally engage in graffiti would need to be punished by the law, those who "offend in one point" will need to be held accountable for what they've done. 

Fortunately there's a way out. I believe it was Spencer W. Kimball who said, "It is better to prepare and prevent than repair and repent, but the atonement has power over all sins."
-Elder Vore 
Pictures:  Check out the nice tie!
                                             Elder Vore   January 30, 2013   almost 2 years ago
                                         Entering the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah

Saying Goodbye to Mom in front of the MTC

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Jan 18, 2015 The Refiner's Fire

Elder Ngov is preparing his application to BYU this week so we are here waaaaay later than normal, but that's cool. Just writing at a really leisurely pace today. I tend to be the one that my companion is waiting for so I am actually kind of relieved to be waiting for someone else for once. Makes me feel like less of a burden or something like that.

We very commonly teach people who aren't necessarily super interested in what we're saying. Why? Well, they are trying to be polite to the two Americans that are walking around teaching and even have a free English class and stuff so when we ask them if they want to learn more about Christ, sometimes they answer politely rather than truthfully. We are ok with teaching people who aren't necessarily interested because the spirit of our message oftentimes changes their minds and hearts and they have a chance to receive the gospel. Others just turn off when it becomes clear that we actually want them to do things as a result of our teaching. The following are some funny examples of what can happen in these kinds of situations:

We were teaching an older woman for the first time and about five minutes into the lesson it became clear that she was not interested in what we had to say. In an attempt to salvage the lesson and invite the Spirit to be with us we changed our lesson and started teaching about the atonement of Jesus Christ rather than our prepared lesson. We emphasized the universality of Christ's atonement and also the importance of our following him and accepting his gospel and baptism to receive a remission of sins. She was actually interested in the whole remission of sins thing and I expanded on it. Then I asked her, "Do you want to be cleansed from your sins?" Her answer? "Yeah, but I'm too busy."

Just last week we were teaching an older man about prayer. He probably wasn't paying attention super well, and certainly was not very well educated.and for whatever reason he was just having a really hard time understanding what we were talking about. Elder Ngov shared a well used comparison likening prayer to a telephone call with our Heavenly Father. "But, do you think you can just call Heavenly Father on you cell phone?" "No," he said. "I don't have a cell phone."

Another story, this one somewhat less related to my above stories. OK, well, pretty much just not related at all. Yesterday at church (not in my branch but someone else's branch) there was a somewhat shocking incident that the local members just completely took in stride. The relative chaos at church meetings here in Cambodia has been well documented (if you have forgotten, just start scrolling through my blog, the stories are there. I promise). The mission president was in attendance. That doesn't happen for us very often. He was the last speaker and it seemed that everyone was focused on him. Then Elder Christensen heard a strange tinkling sound, like a trickle of water. He turned around and saw a child of about 5 peeing in a bottle held by his mother. His mother still had her eyes on the speaker. Elder Christensen just buried his face in his hands. What can you even do? It must have been all the more funny when 3 minutes later another brother took his turn. And all the while, the members just nodded and smiled. We're doing pretty well with tolerance out here at least. :D

I watched an absolutely moving video about trials the other day on Check it out real quick.

"The refiner’s fire is not a comfortable place to be. It involves intense heat and repeated hammering. But it is in the refiner’s fire we are purified and prepared to meet God." (see Love y'all,

-Elder Vore

                                            Sunset from my back porch

Jan 11, 2015 Bugs in the Technology

Lake Komping Poy

Elder Child and Elder Vore.  This was on P-Day. Some members convinced us to go out and eat lunch at this lake that was pretty darn far away. Lunch was somewhat less than satisfying but the views were pretty great.

Hope y'all enjoy the pictures. It took a really long time. We have everything so streamlined and easy in the states technology wise. I'm like cleaning viruses off my hard drive as I go.

Speaking of technology, the a/c in my room has been really unreliable lately. We can't get it to work for more than 3 days out of the week. Because it's January though, the a/c isn't quite as important as normal. The weather stays in the mid 80s and 90s mostly during the day and down into the 70s and even 60s at night.

 Since the weather was nice we decided to just open the windows and turn on fans. Bad idea. It's "winter" so the mosquitoes aren't quite so active but we were sitting ducks in our beds. I woke up at 12:30 scratching all over. I must have had over 30 bites on my exposed right arm in addition to scattered bites all over. A couple of days later the same thing happened again. This time we put nets and laundry bags on the windows and spayed DEET all over. Still managed to get bit a whole bunch of times, this time though, without waking up. I counted 57 bites on my arms yesterday. Yikes.

I live in a house with Elders Christensen and Cook, who sleep in the room next to us (we've started sleeping on their floor since we still can't get our a/c going). Yesterday they had a really funny experience. Now, I don't know if I've told y'all about this but when the Khmer people make Buddhist sacrifices to their ancestors they commonly burn fake money. You can go to the market and buy copied $100 bills for like nothing.The bills are actually the right size and everything too, because that's not against the law here. So, it's not too uncommon to see big bills floating around.

 Well, Elder Christensen was walking to church when he looked down and saw a $100 dollar bill. He walked right by it but then went back and picked it up. It was real. He felt the little plastic strip, held it up to the sun and messed with it a little and sure enough, it was a $100 bill. Someone was coming by slowly on a motorcycle and asked to look. Elder Christensen held it out and the guy looked at it and slowly, very slowly, accelerated. Elder Christensen just watched him leave. $100 is a lot of money. That's like a month's salary for a working man. Pretty funny.

Thought my younger siblings would enjoy this. Our branch is lacking some key leaders and just don't really have anyone to put there. It's because the church is so new and the members are inexperienced and well, basically we don't have a young men's president. There is a guy who has been called but he's still in high school, isn't very helpful, and doesn't always come to church. So, his first counselor has to take charge of things. His first counselor is 15 year old Sokhon. We've been helping him with what is one his plate and this weekend he planned and carried out a small activity where the young men played soccer at the church (the YM president actually came to that activity!), led his branch in the Mutual activity that was run by the Elders and the district YW president, taught 3rd hour young men's class, planned activities with us for next week and went to branch council. Even though we were guiding him through every step of the way, I was pretty impressed.

Christ taught many times about the importance of service during His mortal ministry. I am always moved by the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew chapter 25. In verses 34-40 we read: 

"Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:  Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

The importance of serving the poor and needy has been well established, but can I suggest, especially to my younger siblings and cousins, that service in the church with the purpose to invite others to come unto Christ is also an extremely good cause. You will find that as you are willing to get involved, leaders will create opportunities for you to help plan, prepare and teach to help things go forward. I want to invite all of you, especially those who already hold positions as class and quorum presidents to ask you leaders what you should be doing now that you have that calling. For their parents, it might be helpful to ask those same questions to your child's class president. "Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: (Ephesians 4:13 (11-15)"
-Elder Vore

Just a little pond we stumbled on after we were harvesting rice with some members one day. Those are lotus flowers I think. I'm pretty sure that's what phkaa chuke translates into English. I know what they're called in Khmer!

                                                                  More Flowers

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Jan 4, 2015 Are Those Fireworks? No, They're Just Welding

We were at the church a little after dark on New Year's Eve and saw some sparks falling from the air. Elder Christensen pointed and said, "Hey, are those fireworks?" We all looked and waited for more sparks. It was just someone welding something at the top of a tall building. Funny moment for us. They do celebrate New Years here but they also have Chinese New year and Khmer New Year so the "Universal New Year" gets a little under celebrated. Oddly enough, lots of people view it as a Christian holiday. Like, Khmer and Chinese New Years are Buddhist holidays celebrated in Buddhist countries whereas our New Year is the week after Christmas on the first day of a calendar based on when Jesus Christ lived. So Happy Christian New Year! :D

I have a new companion now! Elder Ngov was born in Washington, but his parents are both from Cambodia and fled the country during the Pol Pot Regime. They were a part of events that would have happened at the same time and place as the movie 'The Killing Fields'. Elder Ngov's family speaks a lot of Khmer at home so hear could already understand everything that was going on when he got here and could also make himself understood. It'll be fun to be with him for my last transfer here in Batdambong.

There's a new Elder in my house named Elder Cook who got a football, and a little nerf basketball hoop set in a Christmas package from his parents. He pulled out the football and tried to pump it up but it wouldn't inflate. Sad... Later he was looking at the nerf basketball and realized that it had been torn open and resewn. He checked the football for similar signs and sure enough, it appears that someone in the post system thought something valuable was being sent to Elder Cook inside his Christmas presents. Poor guy. And now we can't play football!

We taught a lesson the other day where we took an idea from Elder Bednar and kind of molded it to a Khmer audience. There is a Khmer side dish called chruak that is made of pickled vegetables and peppers and ginger and stuff like that that they serve to flavor lots of foods. In order for it to become pickled however, it needs several days or even weeks of soaking in brine. A quick dip or incomplete submersion won't do. 

The point of the lesson is that the gospel is the same as pickles and brine. We must be completely immersed in the gospel of Christ for it to change us completely. Those that are only willing to follow some of God's commandments all of the time or even all of God's commandments some of the time will not receive all of the benefits of the gospel.

Well, the lady that we taught this too really liked what we were talking about- food. She went on and on about food. She talked about her favorite recipes and how exactly you should make chruak. She kind of missed the point of our lesson and we had to go back and summarize the main points without mentioning the comparison to food. It was hilarious! I think she kind of got it by the end...

Moral of the story? Look for deeper meaning and embrace the gospel completely! Love y'all,
Elder Vore

Christmas Group Photo  December 2014
I'm now the oldest in the mission