Thursday, October 30, 2014

Sam sent the following email and pictures on Sunday, Oct. 27, 2014.  Our comments/questions are in italics.

Hey Everyone,

This past week was better than last week. Still hard in plenty of ways, but missionary-work-wise it was a lot better. I think my companion is really sick.  He's taking medication that has some wicked side-effects. We had regular interviews with the president this week and he said my companion is very sick and to just do what he can do. So I have his OK, and we just do what he can do.

We saw Jessa and the Homers today at stake conference and it is a little surreal to think they were just in Cambodia and are now home.  Carol said that there is just no way to get the full impact of what you see there through pictures.   Yeah, the Homers are right. Like, you just can't capture everything here in a picture or a video or a letter. You've got to be here and live it. Sometimes it's awesome living it and sometimes it's not.

You said last week that you hadn’t had rain for about a week and a half.  It rained a bit more this week. 

We had 26 lessons this week and got 7 new investigators, so number-wise it was a very successful week. I did have a bike crash, and on the way to emailing today I lost my wallet with my church debit card and old byu id card and about 75 dollars in it. So that's a bit of a downer for today. Ughh. I never carry that much cash on me, but I put the 70 dollars in today so I could break the 50 at the grocery store, and then I must have dropped it on the ground, and when we came back to look for it 3 minutes later, it was gone. So someone's taken it and is 75 dollars richer. And I'm fine from the bike crash. But yeah, various things that just make life a little tougher. Like I get that it's all part of the plan, but sometimes I wish the plan was a little different.

I see Elder Yorgason almost every P-Day, and Elder Zierenberg is closer to the city now so I get to see him sometimes. We had an exchange this last friday, and it was good. On Friday and Saturday we got 7 lessons both days. 

Do you have much interaction with your mission president?   Sometimes I interact with the president. I try not to if I can avoid it because he is just such a big presence that no one really knows what to say to him. How is the ward doing at staying for the Sunday meetings? The ward still leaves by 3rd hour. But I've come to expect less from them, so it's not as big of a deal as it used to be. We saw a picture of you talking on a cell phone.  Wow, how is that speaking Cambodian on the phone? It's hard to speak on the phone sometimes, but now it's do-able. If I really can't understand what they're saying I hand it off to someone who can, and if there's no one there to hand it off to I just say, "so you can/can not meet at X time?" cause usually they just go off on an excuse for why they can't meet and they're always busy and can't find 30 minutes in their life. Yet they make it to English class.

English class has gotten a little bit more stressful, because now I'm the only English-speaking person in my district, so I have to teach the class all by myself. So every Wednesday I get to stand in front of a bunch of Cambodians and represent the only English person in the room and straight up teach all by myself for one whole hour. But it's not too bad if I get enough time to prepare for it. It is what it is.

Are you doing the magic trick with the three ropes? do magic tricks when the moment is right. But then they all want me to teach them and they get upset when I tell them it's no fun if I show them how it's done. Are you having any trouble with mosquitos? I haven't had to worry about mosquitoes at all since I've been here. That's mostly a problem out in the kites--the city isn't too bad. There are tons of bats here though. 

That's all I have. I don't know. I'm a little down right now, probably because of the wallet thing. I know it doesn't really matter, it's just a little frustrating on top of everything else. I'm sure I'll be fine. I just miss home sometimes.

Mamy Poko Pants. We truly are witnessing the degeneration of society.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Sam sent us the following email & pictures on Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014.  Our comments/questions to him are in italics.

Peter told Sam about the Royals & Giants going to the World Series.  Wow, that sounds like a wicked World Series match up. I wish I could see what goes down.

I hope Bompa Lloyd is doing ok and give him my best.

For me it was a little bit of a rough week. It's been kind of a difficult transition companion-wise. I'm not going to write about it a lot here, but I did in my journal. There are a lot of things happening that aren't necessarily "ideal," but that's the name of the game. I mean, they always say that living with a companion on your mission is great practice for being married. If that's the case, then I'll be well prepared if my wife loves to smack her food, doesn't clean any of her dishes, doesn't shower for weeks at a time (and counting), and urinates all over the toilet seat.......Every time. Besides that there are things that I'd like to change as far as the work goes with Elder Um, but apparently he's very sick, so we have to do all we can.

How are your investigators?  Our progressing investigator pool is a little low, and we threw up a couple of goose eggs this past week. Kind of a tough time. Any more rats in your apartment?  No more rats because we're in the nicer place, but our apartment is getting dirtier than it was before. I'll let you guess why. I'm trying to keep it clean.

I heard that Cambodia gets about 10" of rain in October.  The wettest months are Sept., Oct., and Nov.  I'll bet you are feeling that.  Yeah, this is supposed to be the rainiest month of the year, but up until yesterday it hadn't rained for like a week and a half. But I don't expect that it will give up that easily. It'll probably come back in full force.

[Sam sent us a letter from a little Cambodian girl who wants to have an American pen pal.  We gave the letter to my 11-year-old niece, Isabelle.  Then we asked Sam who Isabelle should address her return letter to.]  If you send that letter back, yeah, send it to the mission home and actually just address it to "Teuk Thla Elders" then maybe inside it you can put a little sticky note that says "give to Ret, the school teacher, in Tuol Kouk Ward" and hopefully it'll find its way back even if I've left. Letters here are terrible. I'm not sure, but I think Emily has tried to send me two letters, but I've only gotten one. I've heard that a lot just get lost in the mail, but some also come like 4 or 5 months late. Don't ask me where they go.

Have you seen Meet the Mormons yet?  Do you know if it will be showing in any Cambodian theaters?  I heard all the missionaries in America got to see Meet the Mormons. No, I haven't seen any of it and I don't know if I will or not. It definitely will not be aired in Cambodian movie theaters. Maybe one day they'll translate it and give it to the churches or something. Movie theaters aren't typical entertainment for people here like they are in America. So they're not very common as far as I know.

One of the new missionaries that came in this last transfer is 6' 9". And people thought I was a monster.

Aside from that, yeah that's about all I've got. A planned baptism for this week fell through because the guy wanted to wait, but we were glad because he is actually legitimate. He's super cool.

[Now Sam briefly describes the following 3 photos he sent:]  
Statue of some guy, somebody's accident, and flaming garbage. Gotta love it.

Have a good week you guys.
Statue of some guy

somebody's accident

flaming garbage

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

John & Carol Homer arrived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, last Thursday (Oct. 9) to pick up their daughter, Jessa, who has just completed her 18-month mission there.  The Homers were so nice to deliver a package to Sam for us.  They went to Teuk Thla on Sunday (Oct. 12) and found Sam at church.  They took the following photos and sent them to us.  John also called us on Sunday to tell us that Sam looks great and is doing really well--such a comforting report!
Jessa, John, Carol, & Sam outside the LDS Church in Teuk Thla, Cambodia
Sam with his new Khmae companion.  I think the bag Sam's holding contains ties
John brought from the US.  John had learned that many of the Khmae men don't own
ties, so before his trip, he gathered a bunch of them to donate.  I think Sam
is supposed to give them to his branch president so he can distribute them.

Above & below:  John snapped these candid shots showing Sam engaged in the work!  Isn't he precious?!?!?

Okay~Following are the email and pictures we got from Sam later Sunday night (Oct. 12, 2014).  As usual, I am inserting our questions to him, and italicizing them.

From: Samuel Christensen <>
Subject: It's still hot in Cambodia
Date: October 12, 2014 10:41:58 PM MDT
Hey Guys,

Did you get the package we sent?  So yes, I got your package from the Homers. Thanks so much, there was a lot of good stuff. The little pouch magic trick especially will get everybody's attention. I don't know if Hi-chews are Asian or not. Have you ever had Milkita candies? They're all over the place here and are pretty good. John said the other day that this is probably the best 2 years...of Nate's life. He's probably right.

So yeah, I'm still in the same area, and it's actually pretty fun because now I'm the only one that knows the area and the people, so instead of being a little sidekick following along, now I get to actually do something that I feel has meaning instead of just tagging along. My companion is 23 years old and he's been a member for 13. He knows a lot of English, but his accent is a little hard sometimes. I think he's excited to have an American companion because then he gets to practice his English. And because he practices his English and told me that when I speak to him he wants me to speak English, my language isn't quite like I think you all think it is. Also, we live in a 2-person house so it's just the two of us. Not four. He does cook pretty good even though I think the sanitation is a bit suspect. I know you keep saying to do everything I know is clean and sanitary, but most of the time I just let him go to town and do his thing. He cooks and I wash everything.

Last Monday's front-page Deseret News headline announced, "Same-sex marriage now legal in Utah."  Is this an issue in Cambodia?  I haven't met anyone who's gay in Cambodia, so as far as I know it isn't really a thing. I don't know, maybe it is.

Do many Cambodians have TV sets and/or cell phones?  I would say about 50-50 have tvs. Even really poor people often have tvs. Their programming is terrible though! They have the lamest shows you've ever seen. And everyone has some type of phone, even if they don't have money on it.

When Elder Yorgason was here before, it was easy to not--I don't know how to say this--not be the one who was working hard, because I knew that everything was going to get done and be all right. Now that he's gone, it's more of a choice to work hard or be a little more lax. Kind of like when a kid goes off to college and makes decisions for him or herself, or a mother bird leaves the nest. So I actually get to choose to work hard and do everything that's good because it's better that way. Cause if I didn't push it and do it maybe now it wouldn't get done.

We just finished conference the other day. I was actually excited to watch it. The Saturday morning session was so good! There is no way that it is that good every time and I just sleep through it.....right? My favorite talks were Lynn G. Robbins, Christofferson, I think it was Uchtdorf. Then Holland's was also good in the later session and Bednar's was good too.

Have you heard anything about the new church movie, "Meet the Mormons"?  I'd be really interested to watch that movie. Hopefully it gets a lot of attention and a lot of good press. You haven't seen it yet?

Ok, I'm in a hurry and have to go. I don't want to turn into that lame, typical missionary that only talks about working on his mission and boring spiritual stuff. Don't let me become THAT guy.
"Here's our friend that heard the whisperings from the Spirit about tithing...
...and another classic sign. No grenades in grocery stores, people."

P.S.  Hey I just watched the trailer for Meet the Mormons. You guys should definitely go see that.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

We received the following email from Sam on Sunday, Oct. 5, 2014.  Our questions/statements are in italics.  In his second paragraph, Sam talks about meeting a guy named Brian Melcher.  He was a missionary to Cambodia several years ago.  Peter and I met Brian about 6 months ago and asked him lots of questions about his mission.  He told us he and his family were going to be taking a trip to Cambodia in the fall and that they would try to look Sam up and see how he was doing.  So that visit is what Sam describes in paragraph two.  The photos at the end are some Brian emailed to us.


General Conference was great.  Some of the speakers spoke in their native tongues--Cantonese, Portuguese, Spanish.  I recall saying something about thinking speakers should speak in their native language. Uchtdorf is still speaking in English, right?

Yeah I saw Brian and his family. He certainly does love his mission. We were at a baptism for 3 people in our ward who just turned 8 and their dads baptized them.  When I first saw him it was pretty funny because I saw these 3 white people [Brian, his wife, & his son] walking up to the church and I was the first one to talk to them and then about 3 minutes later he asked an elder standing right next to me if he knew an Elder Christensen with red hair. The elder's like "ummmmm yeaahhhh."  I thought for sure Melcher was looking for someone else, but then he said no it's me and then I knew who he was.  I guess Melcher served with the stake president who I've previously said is a total boss.  After the baptism they had some little refreshments, but elder Yorgason and I had already started our fast so we told them we couldn't eat anything. But Melcher heard that and he's like "oh man, that's awesome. I'm so jealous of you guys right now." I'm like whyyy...cause we're fasting?
So we got transfer calls last night, but Elder Yorgason got the call to be the next AP on Saturday night. Right now I'm in a tripan and he's getting trained because APs go in a week early. I'm obviously staying in Teuk Thla, but before I was just in TT North. Now there's just one TT because they're taking both the south elders out and putting one pair of sisters back into TT. My new companion is Khmae, I don't really know him yet. We'll switch on Friday. And the two new sisters are both Khmae. I'll be the only one that knows the area at all. I have to learn sort of the south area in these few days I'm with the south elders. It's going to be really really hard. Like the guy who's in TT South right now was saying last night how stressed out he was because he has so many referrals and people he thinks he has to meet and he has no idea how to keep up with it all. Now I have that problem plus all the people in my area. It sounds like the work is just blowing up here, but usually these people wash out after a lesson or two. There were just a lot of contacts because we had a massive English class turn out last week. It will be nice to have sisters back in TT though to help because there are so many rules about meeting with girls that it makes it super hard to do it and since they had taken sisters out last transfer we had to tread water. So yeah, I have to try to find out everything that goes on in their area. My area is easy, I could do north no problem. Their area is hard and their organization of stuff is more than suspect. uhhhhh. I haven't said much about Elder Yorgason, but I'll just say now that he was the best guy I could have ever imagined to be my trainer. He was just a great, great guy. In a lot of ways he reminds me of Peter. He'll be a killer AP. Yeah so this transfer is massive.

When I get back we'll all have to take a family trip to California and we can go hang out in Long Beach for like a day or two and I can speak Khmae, and then we can head up to Mexico town and Emily can speak Spanish. Then we can go to Hermosa and Orange County. That would be super cool.

My final thought is this: If so many people that don't even know us think we're prophets, why do we get cut off on the road so often?
Sam and his companion, Elder Yorgason

Sam with Brian Melcher and family

Elder Yorgason & Sam