Friday, July 5, 2013

Maly's Conversion and Garrett's Head-on Collision with a Moto: Last Months in the Mission Field

Means you need to know your own self worth.

am psyched to be in Kean Svay for the last 3 months of my mission.  Kean Svay is called a half khet because it is kind of outside of the city.  It is still pretty darn close though....we ride our bikes 30 minutes or so to get to our house.  Not really that is on the south end of Phnom Penh.  The area is cool...really pretty.  Mango trees everywhere.  I am training a new missionary named Elder Seever.  He is a really diligent, self-motivated 19 year old from CA.  I really like him.  He works hard, and I do not have to force him to do anything.  He is ready to jump in and get to work.  I know that we will get along well.   

I want to tell you about a miracle.  After coming home from church and studying, we left the house around 5 to go and visit a potential investigator.  I was riding my bike down National Highway Road 1.  It was slightly raining after raining extremely hard for an hour or so.  A man on a moto going way too fast and coming off another road merging to the National Highway Road 1 looked at me and then looked away and ran straight into me.  It was not a head on collision but it was pretty close.  Based on how he acted after he hit me I am pretty sure that he was drunk.  Either way, he hit me going very fast and almost head on.   


 Mekong River

The miracle is that I really do not remember what happened, and I did not really get hurt.  I do not know how I fell, but I just remember being on the ground with my left leg under my bike.  I did not have a single scratch, and my arms did not hurt from breaking the fall.  The only thing that really hurt was my left leg.  My left calf/ankle hurt pretty bad, but nothing too serious.  I can walk/ride my bike just fine.  I am amazed as to how I do not remember falling or breaking the fall with my arms, and the fact that I got whacked by a moto going pretty fast, and I did not even get a scratch.  I am also amazed because if a moto or car would have been following me I know I would have gotten hit, because I was in the road.  I have traveled down that road before and it is very busy and almost always full of motos and cars.  I felt very protected and although my bike is now un-rideable I know that it could have been much worse.  I really believe that I was protected by the Lord yesterday.  Don’t be worried...just happy that I was protected. 

A combination wedding and baptism 

A combination wedding and baptism

A combination wedding and baptism

My bike was ruined though.  The front wheel is all bent up and un-rideable.  I have just used Elder Caine’s bike that he left here.  I was pretty famous actually.  I did not even know that anyone would really notice, but the Khmer elders who work in the other area got several questions about it from people who know who we were and knew members and asked them.  I guess when a Cambodian hits a white guy on a bike things get around.


Week 1 with Maly: We have a new investigator, a 50 year old women who came to church yesterday.  She is a really nice woman who has a lot of troubles with her family.  Actually her daughter is good but her younger (17 year old) son is really bad and never talks to her and smokes all the time.  So she is really sad and worried about him. After talking to her one afternoon she allowed us to come back the next day and then came to church for all 3 hours.  I have hope for her that she can progress quickly through the gospel.  Her only problem is that like many Cambodians her eyes are terrible.  I do not know why but tons of people in their 40's 50's cannot read because their eyes are just not good.  She does not have glasses either.  I have a big copy of the Book of Mormon that I am hoping can help her out.  Her name is Maly.

Help fix a member's house

Week 2 with Maly: So this week Maly is still doing really well.  She came to church again.  She is super friendly and sometimes just calls to ask if we are going to come even when I told her already that we were going to go.  She is a cool lady.  She told us that her son is a little bit better.  He spends less time out and about and is at home now more often.   I arranged for a member who lives near her to pick her up for church, but she called in the morning and said she had already started walking already.  Her problem is that she cannot read.  We are going to have another girl who lives near her who is preparing for a mission to come and read with her 2 or 3 times a week.  

Help 'cha' or fry the food at the Branch Presidents house

Elder Seavre and Elder Mao cutting fruit

Helping fill up the cups of soon to be jelly at the church

Week 3 of Maly: This week we saw a lot of good progress from Maly.  We finished the 1st lesson with her.  I was surprised and happy to see that she went out and bought her own pair of glasses so she could read.  These are not fitted glasses – just glasses with numbers on them and you try them on until it fits.   

Well, she got the glasses.  Then we found our real problem.  She does not really know how to read.  I mean she does, but at the same time not that well.  I read better than her.  So at least she can try to read and to make out the words that she can.  I have seen/ heard of a lot of Cambodian members who testify that when they first started to read the Book of Mormon they did not really know how to read, but then as they read they were able to read a lot better than before.  So I really believe that if she tries to read every day that the Lord will help her to know how to read better.  We are still going to have members read with her though.  She is cool.   

I told you that her son is a punk.  I met him, which I had tried to do several times, but he was never home.  He is a regular teenager.  He was nice but kind of shy.  I asked him if I could meet him that night at 6.   He said yes.  Well, he wasn’t there at 6 but after going to a different appointment and coming back around 7ish, he was there.  I think we are going to be able to start meeting him.  I don’t know how far it will go, but I am ready to do what I have to do to help him.  She is always begging us to try and help him.  We will give it a shot.

Mouse somehow got in the fan
Week 4 with Maly: Maly is doing well.  Monday we taught her about the 10 commandments, and we especially hit on the one of having no other gods and not worshiping idols or other statues and things that people worship here.  She accepted them easily....almost too easily, so I was pleasantly surprised.   

Well I was worried when we met her again on Thursday because that day we went and met with another couple that she referred to us.  She met them at her house and had a quick meeting with them. Someone asked a question the almost everyone asks, "so if I am Christian can I still go to the Wat and light incense, etc."  Usually you give them the buttered up version of "right now we just want you to learn with us and see what you think, we won’t force you to do anything”, etc. not to scare them off and get their faith and desire up before we try to encourage any changes in their lives.  Well, she piped in before I could say anything and explained that it was okay he could keep still doing what he wanted to do and that Christianity did not mean they could not "worship our ancestors."   
 Elders in Kean Svay

Well, I was kind of bummed, and I figured we had to go over it again.  When we went on Saturday to meet her I had planned to go over that.  She was talking to me about him (the investigator), and she explained that she is trying really hard to help him have a desire and help his wife to have a desire to learn as well.  She said that right now when she talks to them she only focuses on things that are fun and happy and stays away from the fact that he can’t smoke, drink , or cannot go to the Wat, etc.  So, she cleared it up that she understands and she is willing and desiring to do what the Lord asked.  She was just trying to ease him into learning.  Pretty smart actually.   

We had District Conference in the city so our branch got a big coach bus.  There was extra room so we rode with them.  Maly was there and brought 2 friends as well.  Out of over 400 people there she sat in the front row with her two friends.  She really liked it and afterwards there was a quick welcome from President Moon and the District President to all the new converts and Maly stayed for that and loved it as well.  She is showing her faith a lot.  She reads, prays, shares the gospel and gets tons of persecution, walks to church, etc.  A lot of people have made fun of her and persecuted her, but she says that she does not care and that before she had no purpose or happiness but ever since she started learning she has been happier and more hopeful.  Also her son is doing better.  She said that he is less mean and angry in the house and that he has slept at home every night this week.  She said that he still is not talking but went fishing the other day and caught some fish and gave it to his sister and told her to go and give it to her.  So she thinks he is changing.  

Maly's baptism

Week 5 with Maly: This week was great because Maly was interviewed by the Zone Leaders and then by President Moon for baptism.  She passed both of them.  I was a little worried because she has a lot of faith but is kind of forgetful.  She shows her faith though.   Her baptism was a great service.  She was nervous but afterwards said that she felt so grateful for this church and for Jesus Christ.  She broke down crying when she was sharing her feelings.  I want to remind you of her story.   

Maly's baptism

She was born in Phnom Penh, but then during Pol Pot was forced with her family to go back to Kampong Cham.  When she was 7 she simply woke up one morning and both her parents were gone.  She looked for them and asked for them and started walking looking for them, but they were gone.  It is assumed that the Khmer Rouge came in the night and then killed them.  For some reason they did not kill her.  For the next part of her life she lived with people that knew her or felt bad for her.  At age 15, she was forced to get married because some man that she knew felt that she needed protection and support so he arranged it.  She had two kids and moved to Kean Svay.  About 7 years ago her husband hanged himself for an unknown reason.  She said that she would constantly go to the Wat to send rice and other things to her mom and dad and her other ancestors.  Lately, her son also has turned to drugs and hanging out and has not talked to her in a long time.  She told me that she has never seen any elders come down her road.  It is a dirt path that looks like there is maybe nothing down there.  But when we went that day she said she felt an instant connection.  She took the Gospel on and felt that this is the only thing that has given her purpose, hope, and peace in life.  We taught her about temples, and she was very excited for the possibility to live with her parents again.  I really love her and I feel like we were supposed to find her.  She needed Christ and His gospel.   

Maly at the talent show

Week 6 with MalyWe had a great talent show at the church.  Over 80 people came.  It started off slow because people were nervous and coming late.  Elder Sam is really good with words and stuff so he did a great job in getting everyone excited.  We had over 25 acts or singing, dancing, telling jokes, a model walk, etc.  A YM/YW group synchronized a few dances.  That was cool.  Maly sang and had everyone up and dancing.  It was really fun.  All the members had fun and the next day at church a lot of people were taking about it.  

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

That Time Garrett Traveled To Vietnam

Well after I finished emailing you guys on Saturday we got into the car and went to the Phnom Penh (PP) airport.  We traveled with a Vietnamese sister who was going to transfer to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC).  It was exciting to get going, but this sister is extremely motion sick.  And I sat next to her on the plane ride.   

Similar to Cambodia but much nicer

It was kind of weird because when were in the airport we had to take off our nametags and President told me I could not talk about the church, or about missionary work, etc.  I jokingly said, 'So, president you are telling me not to be a missionary."  He thought about it for a second and then said..."yea".  He also told me to kneel down and open my bag when we were in the airport.  I was a little confused, and then I saw him holding a stack of $100 bills.  The stack was probably 1.5 inches thick.  He told me he could not take more than $10,000 into Vietnam so he put a nice little stack of about $2000 in my bag.  I felt scared going through security.  Then I forgot about the money too, and it just sat in my bag for a day or so in HCMC when we were out and about.  It was fun though.   

Well the flight from Phenom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City was really short.  We literally just got up into the air, and then they said we were going to land.  Luckily the sister did not throw up on me.  When we got to Ho Chi Minh City we all got through customs and visa checks fine until Elder Khan.  I guess his passport only had 5 months left until it expired, and they want 6 months to be left in order to let you into the country.  We were kind of nervous, and we just watched Elder Khan talking with the agent and then having them call over other agents and talk.  Then one of them took Elder Khan on a nice little walk up and down the terminal.  The agent wanted money from Elder Khan, and he kept saying that he would let him in and help him but that elder khan had to help him a little bit.  Eventually they let him through when we showed and convinced them that he already had a ticket purchased to leave in 4 days.  We were very grateful that Elder Khan would be able to continue.   

 Some thing in HCMC that looked cool

We got in the taxi and went to the Elder’s apartment.  Ho Chi Minh City is super nice.  There were tons of bridges, overpasses, sky scrapers, etc.  I mean it is similar to Cambodia...motos everywhere, etc, but HCMC was very western though.  HCMC is very big.  It just keeps going and going. 

  HCMC from the top - lots of big nice buildings

In the area where the Elders and Sisters live there were a ton of white people.  The first night there I went out with two elders to a lesson.  In Vietnam there is one zone for both HCMC and Hanoi (all together in one).  There are usually 12 elders and sister in all of Vietnam.  6 in each city. HCMC is by far the best though in terms of progress that the church has made.  We traveled by taxi maybe 40-45 minutes to a lesson with a less active and his daughter.  It was fun to sit there and listen to them teach in Vietnamese, but then it gets kind of old honestly.   

 Lunch at an American members house

Then on Sunday we went to church with them.  There were 141 people there.  It is kind of an international branch.  There are several Americans living there with their families, the elders quorum president is Korean, etc.  There were a good amount of return Elders there that were still active and helping the branch.  That is something that Cambodia kind of struggles with.  It was really fun just to be there and be a part of it.  Afterwards we went to an American family’s house who lived at the top of a skyscraper.  We could see all the bridges, the city, etc.  HCMC also has Subway, Dominos, Burger King, etc.  Then we went and taught some lessons at people’s houses through the city. 

House looking building is the church and then a skyscraper in the back

You have to bike a long way there because you cannot contact or approach people so you meet who you can and if there is no one to meet it kind of stinks.  Monday we then had zone conference and Elder Khan and I did a pretty good job.  That night we flew to Hanoi which was a 1.5 hour long flight.  We got there late.  Hanoi itself is also very nice, but I did not like it is as much as HCMC because it just seemed dirtier and more strict.  Lots of big buildings though, the highway was just like one in America.  It was kind of chilly up there too.   
After the zone conference in HCMC

We got there late and got to the Elder’s apartment (which was not as nice as the HCMC apartment at all) and then the next day we had zone conference.  It went well again and was fun to be up there with all the missionaries.  Parts of Hanoi reminded me of NYC.  The work up there is definitely not as good, and they get about 45 at church every week.  We sat around a little bit at night at the church because we had no one to go see, and we could not go and contact.  I feel like serving there would be fun for a while, and then it would just get old when you could not do anything. 

In Hanoi, at the church.

I was impressed with the Vietnamese people’s English.  Many of them know pretty good English...a lot better than in Cambodia.  The next day we flew back to Cambodia.  PP is a little different than Vietnam. Actually a lot different, but it was so fun to be able to go there.  I saw communism flags with the hammer and sickle thing and a few weird paintings and murals that hinted death and communism.  The south just seemed happier and lighter. 
Kind of of looks like NYC

I ate the famous Vietnamese soup called pho; it was kind of similar to Khame soup, but I had to eat it at least one time.  I loved Vietnam.  It was a really great week.  Traveling with President was fun too.  He talked about fishing and just regular things which was different but fun.

Driving around in Hanoi 

In Hanoi, the Elders live on the 18 floor. 

I don’t know if I told you guys, but at our last zone conference when Elder and Sister Wilson were here we all got the assignment to read the Book of Mormon again with a fresh copy and highlight in different colors all the references to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I have loved it.  I feel like I have picked up more on the repetition of the gospel of Christ in the Book of Mormon.  I especially love the sections where I just get to go "crazy" and mark a ton of things just like 3 Nephi 31.  I am looking to finish this project.  I am in Jacob now and then when I am done I want to go forward, and I want to do it again but only mark references to Christ or go through just looking for answers to specific questions.

Elder's house. So nice. A bit messy.
I feel like recently the scripture telling us that when we are in the service of our fellow beings we are only in the service of our God has come more alive.  I am obviously not perfect and sometimes need a lot more patience, but in the office we have to do a lot of little errands or things to fix a problem or help someone.  I have felt happier as I have served others and sacrificed my time or something that I wanted to do to help make someone else's life a little bit easier.  I know I still have a long way to go and sometimes I need to work on not complaining to myself before I go out and serve them, but I really have enjoyed the chance to try and become a little more like Christ since being in the office. 

 Can't escape the roadside food places.  

A Sampling of Garrett's Responsibilities and Experiences While Serving as Assistant to the President

There are everyday things that we obviously need to get done around the office like setting up interviews for missionaries, updating the missionary transfer board, planning, etc.  Every transfer we have a leadership training for all the Zone and District leaders. We teach for two 45 min to an hour segments.  I feel more tired in here at times than when I would bike 50 kilos a day in Battambang.   

One week was interesting on Friday and Saturday.  Friday was the funeral parade for the King that died about 3 months previously.  We were at the mission home when it happened which is just off the main road where the parade went down.  Everyone was wearing white shirts and then some type of black color.  Most people had a black ribbon pinned to their shirt.  Almost all the roads were shut down.  Lots of police.  When the parade started they told everyone to either sit or kneel in the group.  I kneeled on my shoes, but it was still painful.  The whole thing lasted probably 30 minutes or so. I did not understand a lot of it. We saw the King's coffin and all the floats.  There were some strange floats as well.  One of them literally just had fake animals on it; like a dolphin, gorilla, bird, etc.  It was a little bit strange.  It was cool to see though.   

On our P-day, we went to the royal palace which is where his coffin is until Monday when they will burn it.   There were a lot of people there.  The floats were there.  That was my first time going to the royal place.  We got in line to actually go into the area where the coffin was, but as we got to the front they would not let in white people.  We walked away and were talking to a press guy from England, and he said that they had not let in anyone.  Then we see a whole group of white people get let in and then for some reason they let us in as well.  It was cool but I definitely felt out of place.  We just walked in single file and then walked past the coffin and went to the other side and it was done.  It was a little strange.  It was cool to see everything though.  A lot of people really loved this King. 

We had some trouble with our bikes and eventually could not use them because they were broken.  So we rented two bikes for 2 dollars for the day.  The woman was worried we would steal them.  I promised her that we would not take them.   

One Pday, we went to the famous Wat Phnom.  It is the most well known and major wat or temple in Phnom Penh and maybe in Cambodia.  The legend is that a woman named Penh found a floating basket of sorts in the river that runs through PP and that in the basket/raft things she found some little statues that were somehow connected to the Buddhist Religion.  She then took them to the top of the hill (very small hill) and since then there has been a wat there, and it is a place of worship and also a place of acknowledgment for the area.  It was cool to go to.  Not the coolest wat I have been too, but it is famous and you just have to do those things.  It was beastly hot though.  We will go there when you guys come back.  If you look at the cities name...Phnom Penh.  It is named after the lady.  Phnom means hill and Penh was her name.


Well the Kite trip, where we go on training exchanges with all the Zone Leaders, was awesome.  

On Monday we typed in the weekly results and did a little work around the office and then headed up to Battamabang.  I was so excited.  The whole time in Battamabang on Monday night and Tuesday; it was just like being home.  I really miss that place and miss the members.  I could not see everyone.  It is not like I was there to go visit people.  I was to proselyte with the missionaries.  I was able to see a good amount of people though.  I saw Bang Iat, my Branch Mission leader up there.  I love that guy.  I also saw Sov and Tevy; they got baptized right before I left.  They are doing well. Sov has the Aaronic Priesthood and Tevy just told us when we met with them that her sister and mom want to learn.  I loved Battambang.  Kaliyan is doing well.  I was happy to teach them.  I was nervous to leave all those members and recent converts that we had worked with to another set of missionaries.  I was really happy with Elder Sorenson, the elder who replaced me up there.  He seemed really on top of his game.  Battamabang.  The best!

Then the next morning we got up and traveled to Kompong Thom.  It is a really small place, but it was really pretty.  A lot of the time we were riding on raised dirt roads through little villages or rice fields.  There were also some really cool members up there as well.  Then we went to Kompong Cham.  I met a lot of cool members and was able to work with this one older women who is kind of famous with missionaries because she does a lot of member missionary work.  It was really cool, and we had some good lessons with recent converts. 

 The next day we went to Siam Reap.  It was a really pretty drive up there.  I got to proselyte in the area of Angkor Wat.  Siam Reap is really pretty.  There are tons of big trees and such.  We saw monkeys while proselyting.  Like the pictures showed, we helped someone carry those buckets of sand up the hill so he could sell them.  It was really cool.   There are some really cool members in Siam Reap.  It was fun to get to know a lot of new people.   

In Kampong Chnanng province.  I love palm trees. 

Our focus for all the exchanges was on evaluating the elders’ teaching and then other things that we saw that we wanted to help them work on.  We took turns driving.  The roads at times are nice and smooth.  And at other times incredibly broken up and bumpy.  So many potholes.  From Kompong Cham to Phnom Penh was the worst.  Everything on the dashboard, seats, cup holders, etc. ended up under my feet (I was not driving).  Cambodia is a little bit dry right now, but it was still really pretty.  A lot of the times I was just so thankful to be from America as we drove through many remote and poor areas.  I was so thankful that I get to serve here.  One of the best parts of the Kites trip was seeing all the awesome members through Cambodia.  There are a lot of them!  I love this place so much.

Elder Wilson, a member of the Quorum of the Seventy, and his wife came from Hong Kong for the week.  We had our first zone conference for the north and central district in Phnom Penh.  The focus for all of the Zone Conferences was about reading the Book of Mormon with our investigators and others in order to get them started on the path.  They also talked a lot about the tree of life and about how to teach about the fall of Adam and Eve more effectively.  Elder Rucker and I only had a short 20 min segment on effective language study.  We did a pretty good job on it.  It was fun to see Elder Wilson teach; let's be honest he is a member of the Seventy.   We did a ton of translating for the district conference.  It is just a little more nerve racking when you are up there in front of 400 people.  I think I did a good job though. 
Battmabang village 

Famous statue in Battamabng,  They say that she protects the city. 

We also sent 8 missionaries to the MTC this past week.  2 sisters and 2 elders from Cambodia and 4 sisters from Vietnam.  We did some training with them here at the mission home for a day or so and then sent them off to the Philippians.  The two sisters from Cambodia are from Sen Sok, and they said that they followed Elder Chan's example.  It was fun to have them here, and it made me think about the day before I went to the MTC and things like that.  So long ago, but it feels so recent as well.  Two of the sisters threw up in the car (in a bag) just on the way to the airport.  It was maybe a 30 min drive.  They are just not used to cars.   

Driving in Cambodia is obviously hard, especially when it is a two lane highway through the provinces and there are bumps everywhere.  I think I hit a bump and it caused Pres. Moon to hit his head on the top of the car.  It was awkward after that.   

Proselyting in Kompong Thom

We had a cool experience where we got to place dodgeball with the local U.S. marines at our church.  One of the senior couples is an ex-marine pilot so somehow people respect him and will do things that he wants.  We met them at our local church and played dodgeball with them for 25 minutes or so.  It would have been longer, but they backed into a tree and came about 20 minutes late.  Quite honestly only one of them looked like an actual marine that you would think about.  The other ones were kind of tall and lanky.  I mean they still had a lot of muscle, but not what you would typically expect.  It was fun. 

famous statue in Kompong Thom

Rubber tree forest. Who knew it came trees?

Before we came back to the city one day, we went to the bamboo bridge.  (See pictures.)  That bridge is awesome.  They make it every single year from scratch during the dry hot season so that motos and people can get to and from the island.  The island has a good amount of people on it that need to get to and from the city.  Even cars could ride on it.  When a moto or car rode by while we were standing on it, it was like a wave in the strips of bamboo.  It would roll and give just like a wave.  It was really cool, especially to go under it.  Completely made out of bamboo and some small metal strings to keep the pieces together.  Not cables or anything but simply metal strings to tie the wood together in some places.  When the rains come again in a few months and the river rises, the bridge will be destroyed and all the people will need to ride a boat across to the island. 

Monday was busy with transfer meetings (trying to figure out where each missionary will go and what companionships there should be).  Preparing for transfers is pretty fun when you actually know what is going on. Friday, we will have 12 new missionaries come in.  We will have 9 elders and 3 sisters.  

We had 5 or 6 of the ending missionaries come in for their exit interview.  There was also the departing devotional/dinner for these missionaries.  It was kind of weird.  Well, it was really weird.  I knew a lot of them pretty well and being there and seeing them have their final interview, eat dinner for the last time in Cambodia, have the last devotional and bearing their testimony for the last time as a missionary was just sad because it made me think about my group and me and how we are next.  It was just weird.  I did not really like it.  
lder blocker. one of the office elders at a shoe place. lettuce in bags on the trucks.

My car and drying corn. They feed it to animals. 

An old school temple that was supposedly built during the Angkor period.