Thursday, November 27, 2014

Sam sent us the following email & pictures on Sunday, November 23, 2014.  Our questions & statements are in italics.  Sam was transferred from Phnom Penh to Battambang last week.  The map below shows the location of Battambang.

From: Samuel Christensen <>
Subject: Battambang Week 1
Date: November 23, 2014 9:47:55 PM MST

Hi guys,

You must be in your new area... How many missionaries are there and how many Church units?  Are they wards or branches?  Do you live with other missionaries or just your companion?  I still don't know much about this area. There are 3 branches here. The best thing is that our house is literally across the street from the church. You can probably look it up on lds maps or google maps or something. We live in a yellow house. It's about a 30 second walk to the church. It's just me and him in this house. The other missionaries live in a house just down the street. I don't know how many missionaries are here. Probably like 12 or so.

I read that Cambodia was named again this year to have the best rice in the world.  I don't have all the rules of the competition, but this is what the Daily Cambodia newspaper said.  Haha. I really don't know much about rice, but I do know a little bit about propaganda. It's like in the movie Elf when he walks into that coffee shop and congratulates them for making "the world's best cup of coffee."

When I opened the mission call to Cambodia and you all got so excited because you thought I was going to the jungle, you were wrong. But now, 4 months later, I have arrived in the jungle. There's still a little city atmosphere here, but when you turn off the main road you're into the jungly areas. Wow, it's nothing like the city. It's so pretty and there are more bugs and it's definitely exciting to see a new area. It was cool to drive out of the city on the bus and see open land. There's a lot less garbage here than there was in the city.

Is Nate sleeping in my bed downstairs?

I don't know, there's not a lot to say yet. My companion has only been here for 2 weeks, so we haven't done a whole lot since I've been here. Just visited a few member houses. And I don't know any people or any of the area so I'm pretty handicapped at the moment.

Umm, yeah. That's all I have. I think we'll get to have Thanksgiving dinner at the senior couples' house this week, but I'm not sure. We'll see.

Ok, have fun Christmas tree hunting!

Jungle around Battambang

This picture, and all the following, were taken before Sam left Phnom Penh.

Sam wrote:  "Reshaping the future"--because someone's gotta do it.

Sam wrote: I mean seriously, is there a job market for proofreaders?
A 2nd grader can do this.

Sam wrote:  This is Vanny.

And this is what 50 cents gets you for a sandwich. Oh how I miss those sweet, sweet Subway footlongs.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Sam sent the following email & pictures on Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014.  Our questions & comments are in italics.

From: Samuel Christensen <>
Subject: I'm Moving

Hey I don't know if you've sent stuff for Christmas already or not, but if you havent, you could send like a companion book to reading the D&C to help give more background info. If you have sent it already, just wait and send the D&C book for next year or something. Also, Ty wants to know the recipe for eggie pancakes and I don't know it off the top of my head.

[Peter updated Sam on the Ebola epidemic, ISIS, and other world (and baseball) news.]  Another missionary told me about that guy in America that was quarantined in the hospital and ended up dying. He also told me that a few people got into Cambodia with it and when they found out about it, they quarantined them and then they killed them. Meaning that they didn't "let them die," but rather they "killed them." So I'm not sure if that's true or not. But wow, that's pretty crazy. I hate not being up to date on world events. Like I know that when I run for president in the future one of the questions in a debate will be "In the year 2014 in the month of November, what political group in the middle east led an uprising in Iraq" and I'm going to flounder because I don't know any of this stuff anymore. I used to be so smart. That's awesome for Trout. It also just sounds so cool how you said ISIS probably would have taken over if the US hadn't stepped in. Oh I love America.

Tell Bompa Lloyd happy birthday from me. 88 and still going strong!

And Emily, I forgot to tell you, but I actually did get the letter that you wrote to me in October. 

I got another hair cut this morning and it feels really uneven and lopsided. I haven't really had the opportunity to look at it yet. I don't know why they just can't do it good. You have like one moment of truth when they finish and they wait for your approval and you do all you can in 5 seconds to identify problems and then you pay them and leave and then you realize they forgot to cut the top. That's exaggerated, but still. It's only $1.25 though so I guess you get what you pay for.

Jessa Homer told us that the reason why are no McDonald's restaurants in Cambodia is because Cambodia's meat quality doesn't measure up to McDonald's standards.  I didn't know that about McDonalds. Hmmm. Burger King's here. I guess that tells ya something.

[For some reason, Peter decided to read a Cambodian newspaper on the Internet.  He learned that Dominoes Pizza will be opening up in Cambodia and that Cambodia has a 3-day water festival/holiday coming up.]  Dad, you're reading the "Cambodian Daily"???? Yeah the water festival destroys proselyting.

Sam, if the tempos of the pre-recorded hymns on the keyboards at church are such a problem, why don't you just play the hymns yourself?  Mom, I don't play the piano for them because they need to learn to become self-reliant and not dependent on the missionaries. Otherwise they will never progress. [Heidi's note:  Yeah, I'm not buying that excuse.]

[At the conclusion of Emily's mission next month, she is going to bring some converts she absolutely loves home with her for a short vacation.]  That will be cool to meet German and Francisca and Eric who we've definitely heard so much about. Maybe I'll bring a few friends back to the states too when I'm done.

Our guy who is the golden investigator that we were really hoping would get baptized yesterday didn't because he didn't pass his interview on Saturday night. He didn't tell us something when we reviewed with him, but we were so happy because he really did tell it when it counted. So he has to get another interview and hopefully he'll get to be baptized next week instead. 

Which brings me to my next point. I'm transferring to the Battambang 2 branch. So I'm kite-bound. Battambang used to be super famous for having really good members out there. They speak really clearly out there, and it's probably going to be a little more like what you all were expecting with a call to Cambodia. So that will be interesting to go out to the country-side. I think it's about a 7 hour bus ride or something from Phnom Penh. My new companion will be another native, Elder Roem. He is infamous in the mission. When I say infamous I don't mean in the "more than famous" sense. In the "he is widely known as the most difficult companion in the mission" sense. So that kind of takes the cool level down a notch or two. To be honest, I'm already really worried about having to go out there with him. I hope we're going to be living with other people because I knew about this guy from multiple sources even before yesterday and he is a psychopath. He told his last companion that when he's mad he just wants to make people hurt. I think that sentence comes across so frightening because of his limited vocabulary, but still. So I thought things were tough, but they're about to get a whole lot harder. But we'll see. I can't judge it til I've actually tried it otherwise it's not fair. I thought for sure I'd go somewhere in the city because the kites were pretty full. And I started to get excited about that because I was hoping maybe I could come back for Somuen's baptism because I've been with him since the beginning. But I guess that won't happen. It'll be sad to leave Teuk Thla. There really are a ton of people in and around here that I will miss. I'll miss just riding down the street and waving to my "friends" who maybe I've talked to only once or twice, but I've just waved to them every day for 4 months. There's a lot of stuff and people I'll miss here. Darn it all.

So yeah, that's what's happening here. Business as usual. Are you guys going Christmas tree hunting? What day is Thanksgiving again?

Keep up the good work guys. Maybe go see interstellar and tell me how it is.
This guy is a less active who is super cool and writes songs and stuff

You'll definitely notice the power lines when you come here.

 Somuen and I switched helmets for a sec.

Sam advertising English class in Teuk Thla.  The sign reads, "Learn English Free"

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Sam sent the following email & pictures on Sunday, November 9, 2014.  Our questions/comments to him are in italics:

From: Samuel Christensen <>
Subject: All the pictures I send home I have helmet hair because I wear a helmet every single day
Date: November 9, 2014 11:05:44 PM MST

Seriously, since my first day in the country I haven't not worn a helmet, so every picture that I send to you guys my hair is all messed up.

Jessa gave her homecoming talk in Sacrament meeting on Sunday.  She did a really good job.  She ended by bearing her testimony in Khmae.  It is a language so different from anything we are used to.  It is pretty cool.  It's weird because now I know enough Khmae, you know, that it doesn't sound weird to me anymore.  But we have an investigator who prays in Thai sometimes because he knows I like to listen to it cause I think it sounds cool. So maybe it sounds something like that. 

I learned a little bit about Cambodian government and some stuff like that, and man they're just so messed up. Just so, so messed up. I may have said this before, I can't remember, but the infrastructure of their government is about as strong as the infrastructure of their buildings. To clarify: not strong. I sure do love America. Even as it falls deeper and deeper into liberalism like gay marriage and recreational marijuana, it's a lot better than most of the world. What's up with the Ebola thing? I only know a little bit about it, but I know it's a big deal.

Transfer calls will come next week and I'm assuming that I'll probably be transferred. Maybe not though. But probably. And I'm also assuming that I'll just go to a different place in the city and not to any kites. Maybe not though. But probably.

I was wondering if you have to speak in Church much?  Have you had to give a talk or have you gone up to bear your testimony? I actually haven't spoken in church at all. They have been really nice to me. That or they think my Khmae is so bad that they don't even want me to try.

Are you guys taking lots of pictures and videos of the stuff you do to document them? I know everything seems mundane and like it hasn't changed much from week-to-week, but in a few years you'll look back and say wow, that changed a lot.

All the families of American missionaries currently serving in Cambodia received an email last week telling us that there is an opportunity for us to donate money or small gifts to be given to the native Cambodian elders and sisters for Christmas.  A local guy is collecting the donations and will be flying to Cambodia with them the first part of December.  Are there things  you think the Khmae elders and sisters might especially like?  That's nice they're taking stuff over. No, I can't think of anything they'd really like. I'm sure candy would be fine. I'm good with candy. I still have plenty of good socks, I haven't used the slime yet so wouldn't need any more of that, my shoes are still great and I love them. Candy should cover it.

Will your mission celebrate Thanksgiving in any way?  Do they even have turkeys in Cambodia?  I have no idea what we'll do for Thanksgiving, if anything. I know sometimes the senior couples will host a Thanksgiving for the missionaries, but that's only sometimes. We'll see. I don't think turkey is really big here. Plenty of pigs, cows, and chickens. You're really going to have to gather intel from the Homers on what you and Peter and going to eat when you're here. Seriously, I don't know how Peter could do it and be vegan. Asking someone what their favorite food here is synonymous with asking them if they prefer chicken, cow, or pork. Like, I don't think they'll understand if you say no meat. And even if they don't put meat in it, like heck they're going to clean the pan before they cook something vegetarian. If you thought the local Burger King had a hard time with "no cheese," try talking to these people. So yeah, ponder on that one for a little bit. Ensures are SUPER expensive here, too, so you'd have to bring them all from America. Some American cereal brands that have been shipped over I've seen at about 12 dollars for a normal box. It's ridiculous.

I (Heidi) taught the Laurels lesson today.  November’s “Come, Follow Me” theme is “Spiritual and Temporal Self-Reliance.”  I’ve felt like the girls need to understand the importance of maintaining activity in the church all their lives (spiritual self-reliance), and they need to recognize common pitfalls which can lead to inactivity so they can guard against them.  I was looking at statistics on the Internet, and found that of the 15,000,000 members the church currently has worldwide, only about 30% (4.5 million) regularly attend church meetings. I think that's a good lesson for your young women. Church inactivity is obviously a huge problem. That's probably why so much of the last general conference they focused on getting your own personal testimony. So here's a question, all those people who are technically members but are completely inactive, are they going to be like the tares among the wheat at the second coming and burn or is mercy going to save them?

The stake president spoke in our ward yesterday and he absolutely threw down. He talked a bunch about reading scriptures, praying, and going to church, and expounded on each of them. But when he talked about reading the scriptures, especially, he said he's met a lot of people who say they're too busy doing this or that to read. He says that everybody's busy, but that "if you're too busy to read, REPENT!" Oh my eyes almost welled up with tears of joy and I was about to stand up start clapping and singing hallelujah. That's all we hear every single day is that people are too busy to do any church stuff.

There's one guy here we found who lived in America for over 20 years. Long story short he's had some life problems, but apparently he was baptized. But we decided to review lesson one with him, which was a good idea cause he doesn't really know. But after we finished and put the bow on it with moroni 10 and reading and praying to know, he's just like "Well yeah, that's why I choose the Mormon," in his Mexican-American English accent. Pretty funny.

If they encourage "defensive driving" in America, then people embrace "offensive driving" here. 

We had a drop by with the guy who was told not to pay his tithing a few months ago [Sam told us about this guy--he's been inactive, but he showed up at church one day and bore a fervent testimony about how the Spirit told him not to pay his tithing...]. He didn't know we were coming and what a shock that must have been to him when we rolled up, cause he had to get back in his house real fast and try to hide the mug of beer that was in has hand. But we both saw it. Actually, now I'm stoked to meet him again and lay it down on him. I was thinking either DC 82:3, Mosiah 2:36-39, or a scripture about how God sees everything. Maybe one about how the Spirit of the Lord doesn't dwell in unholy temples.

I also found it interesting this week how when life is easy, it's easy to go to church and do all the church things you know you should do, but the second life gets hard, Satan tells you that you don't have time or ability to keep reading or praying or going to church. When in reality, when life starts to get hard, that's the time that you need help from Him the most. You should increase your scripture study and pray more often. Make sure you're still going to church. It's like that saying that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. I'm not sure how that relates, but somehow it seems like it does. I know this is easy for me to say as a missionary, but, like I tell a lot of people, we as missionaries meet a lot of people, and I can promise that people who are honestly and truly trying to live every Gospel principle are miles happier than those who are not or do not care to. 

Ok that's enough of that. I don't want to become that guy. A guy named Vanny who is a super cool guy that I like here says to tell my family hi from him. So hi from Vanny.

Because nothing makes me want to buy toilet paper 
more than a picture of a dog eating toilet paper.

[This picture shows some of the Church-owned property
adjacent to the chapel Sam attends in Phnom Penh.]

Do they have this Fanta flavor in America? It's super good.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Sam sent the following email and pictures on Sunday, Nov. 2, 2014:

From: Samuel Christensen <>
Subject: Hi Guys, I'm fine so don't worry too much about me
Date: November 2, 2014 11:38:33 PM MST


Yeah I know that my email last week wasn't as upbeat as sometimes, but I'm fine. 

I got the group letter and it was fun to get accounts of their families from each of them. That's so crazy that Emily is going to BYU. By the time I get back, she'll have been there longer than I was.

Halloween was normal. No one celebrates it here. One guy thought it was Thanksgiving.

There's really not too much to report out here. We have a couple of solid investigators, and a lot of not solid investigators. So there's that. 

At sacrament meeting yesterday I decided that I'd do something for the good of the ward and tell the little girl who pushes the button to make the piano play itself to go to the slowest recommended tempo. Because every single time we sing a song, the tempo is automatically set too fast and it sounds horrible because they can't keep up with it. So I told her to go to the lowest one, because when I've controlled the organ I've found that that's best. But when the opening song came and it was playing through the introduction the first few notes I heard i was like ohhhhh crap. It's wayy too slow. But shoot, she didn't know that. I don't know if she went slower than the recommended or not, but it was pretty dang slow. The lady conducting did, though, and she decided to speed it up on her own and take it at her own pace. So she was trying to lead everybody and go fast while the piano was going slow and it sounded so bad. I just sat there in shame. Eventually the conductor lady went and turned the piano off and they made an announcement that they were going to sing the last 3 verses without accompaniment. The other two songs were fine though. But sometime this week I'm going to find out the ideal tempo for all of them and write it down on the page that we've already made for them that has correlating page numbers. Sometimes it's like the law of Moses here where they're not ready for the higher law, so you've got to spell out every little thing for them.

And fast Sunday meetings here are the same as they are in America where certain people get up every single month and as they're walking up you're thinking "no, no, no, sit back down"--those people that you can take to the bank because you know there's no way they're not going to impart of their wisdom to the congregation. Like, the 2nd counselor's wife always gets up and goes forever. She thinks she's so funny. And people like her here love to say how they've been members for so long, and it seems like they're bragging about it. They're like "yeah, been a member since 2005. long time." So honestly everyone in the congregation is shuddering when she gets up and the bishop you can tell is getting agitated, and the only person smiling is the second counselor either because he's scared of her, or he thinks that what she says is actually worth something. But I timed it and she only went 6 minutes, so it could have been worse.

I can't think of much else to say other than don't worry about me, I'm doing fine. I told Ross I probably complain more on this email thing than I would in real life.

Thank you guys. I miss you and love you.
This is a water label that Elder Yorgason and I always used to laugh about.

That's supposed to be a cheesy smile, but instead I just look like a maniac.

One more label:  Serve well, everybody.

This is typical Cambodian construction.