Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Sam sent us the following email and pictures on Monday, December 14, 2014.  Our questions and comments are in italics.Emily is completing her mission this week and will be home with us on Friday, December 19th!    

Man there's all this excitement going on at home and I just want to be a part of it so bad!

I got the Christmas package on Wednesday and was enjoying everything in it. I also received the Halloween letter on that same day, so that gave it a nice touch. Thank you so much for everything in there. The candy is great and the letters are better. Nate's was my favorite--sorry everyone. His opening sentence was "Things have never been more lame at the house." I mean, how do you top that?! And mom, the nativity set is totally adorbs! Thanks for spending so much time making that and sending it. I really do like it! That being said, I was wanting to ask you a question about it. Would you be upset if I were to give it to a family here? We've taught them the Christmas lesson and they don't know much about Christmas, but when we went to their house last night they had bought a small string of lights from a little store and strung them up to try and get in the spirit of Christmas. There was a little spot on a table that looked like it was just missing a little nativity scene, and I feel like having a nativity scene would mean so much to them. I want to keep it, but I feel like it would be for the greater good if they had it and they could get it out every year for Christmas. You can let me know on that.

The zone conference we had on Wednesday was pretty good. Elder Yorgason was there and I got to sit next to him for most of the day and talk to him, so it was fun. We had "mexican pizzas" (I also had it later this week on the exchange), which were good. Like, it's bad Mexican food, but because we're in Cambodia it becomes good Mexican food.

Like I talked a little bit about last week, people do not know when Christmas is. Only a few. Example: a guy we taught this last week we asked if he knew what Christmas was and he said it was Jesus's birthday. Wow, I'm super impressed, so I ask him a follow-up question because he answered correctly the first time. "Do you know what day we celebrate Christmas?" He answers now with increased confidence "For our church.....they celebrate every Saturday." I told him he was so close!

English class isn't as big of a deal for me here as it was before. Before I had to teach a class so I'd prepare and teach all by myself. Here, right now, we're just taking sign ins and then I join a class and sit by students and help them and they ask me questions that I don't understand, but I still try and help them.
I actually went on an exchange this past week and that was kind of a fun change of pace. We were actually riding in his area and we rode past a white guy on a moto and he yelled out "Go back to Utah!" So that's something I really haven't heard since I got here. It was also nice to have another white french person with me to absorb the blows of being in the minority. We talked to one guy for a long time who we contacted. He spoke in English. Long story short, I asked him if he believed in God and he named a bunch of different Gods, but for like God God, like our God, he told us that there's no proof of God. Me and the companion on the exchange were just completely dead silent for like 10 seconds. Finally I was like "....earth?" Cause you know, we were talking while standing in the middle of the jungle. But he said that no one made nature or something like that. OK, pal. Also we kind of contacted a monk.

I decided yesterday that my relationship with my companion is a lot like that between Zelda and Ivy in the picture book, just not as sweet and decidedly more sinister. But we're still trying to survive here.

[In my email to Sam, I thanked him for telling me last week that he loved me back. :)]  Thanks for all your updates mom. I know I don't usually have a lot to respond to them, but I do enjoy reading them and hearing what's going on with people at home and who's where and doing what. I really do love you, mother! And all of you as well!

I won't get to have a P day next Monday because we're going to have days off for Christmas, so don't worry about emailing.

I need to take more pictures because I haven't taken many and the ones I have aren't very good. I'll send a couple. I guess the next time I'll talk to you will be Skype in a week and a half. Have I told you before how much I don't like talking via skype? It always seems so awkward. Think of some good conversation points and I'll do the same.

Love you and miss you! Drive safely to California and give Emily all my loves and kisses.

You look closely and that whole truck is filled with ducks. Also they're speeding at probably 60 miles an hour or so and there's people riding on top. I've seen several trucks just filled to the brim full of pigs that have been packed in and are heading to Phnom Penh to be slaughtered. Just not stuff you see on an average day in america. Cambodia. 

And two hilarious old people that we teach that are recent converts and you have to yell so they can hear you. One of them is 81 and I have a picture of him from when he climbed a palm tree. In this picture they're both putting in eye drops
It's rice-harvesting season in Cambodia

Sam got the Christmas package we sent!


To: Mom, Dad
Outlook.com Active View
He is the Gift khmer
Added on 12/12/14
This is our He is the Gift video if you're interested

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Sam sent the following email on Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014.  Our questions/comments are in italics.

Hey Everybody!

I'd like to report that I'm enjoying the warmest December of my life, so that's great.

I hope you are having a good day in Battambang.  We have tried to look up the church building in Battambang but the Google maps arrow doesn't point to a specific building and doesn't give a "man on the street" view.  Does your church have some kind of street address we could try typing into the search bar?  I would just try on lds.org, but it sounds like you've already tried that.  I guess you can see it when you come over.

I know Cambodia had only branches up until this past summer when they created the two stakes there.  But Battambang isn't included in either of those stakes is it?  Battambang is a district--not a zone.  What is the name of your branch?  My branch is Battambang 2 or sometimes they call it Ratana.  Does your branch have a piano?  They have a piano.  Are the Zone Leaders in your city?  My Zone Leaders and most of the rest of the missionaries live like 3 houses down from us, still right across the street from the church.  

Is there a transfer coming before or after Christmas?  There will be a transfer a few weeks after Christmas, but I don't think anything will happen with me. I'm pretty sure it'll just be me and the same companion for one more transfer.  

I was wondering if you missionaries use DVDs or media of any kind.  Is there much translated into Cambodian that you know of? The only dvds I've used are the finding faith in Jesus Christ/Restoration videos, and I only used those back in TT [Teuk Thla].  

Last week, you said you didn’t have many investigators, but that you did have a lot of new converts.  I’m curious to know how many new converts there are in your area and how there came to be so many of them.  Did the missionaries just before you have a  blitz or something?  Are you responsible to help the new converts, or are you primarily focused on finding and teaching non-members?  By members I assume you mean active members. We had 170 at church yesterday (apparently, it didn't seem like that many), but that's a ton. But there are soooo many people who are technically members. I think we have upward of 55 recent converts in the ward. Meaning they have been members for less than a year. I think the missionaries just had some crazy success a while back and found some big pockets of people and hit it hard. We have to teach them for a year after their baptism.  We only had 4 investigator lessons last week, which is dangerously low. On Wednesdays and Fridays we go out to one of the pocket areas that blew up with the church and visit new members. It's about 10 kilometers away one way.

The First Presidency has started sending emails to those with an email address listed on LDS tools.  I got one this week with a message about Christ and how "He is the Gift."  The church has got a large billboard ad about the "He is the Gift" initiative in Times Square, and it will be there during the New Year's Eve celebration.  It also has a hashtag associated with it.  They are inviting everyone to share the gift.  This campaign is supposed to reach millions of people on the internet.  They've told us about the "He is the Gift" initiative. I guess it's a pretty big deal then, huh. We just teach people about what Christmas is and why we celebrate it. It is amazing though. Probably 75% of the people don't know what it is, and the other 25% only know that it is Jesus's Birthday. Longtime members alike just don't know. It's shocking to think that, but I guess if you asked someone in America what Pchum Ben is they wouldn't have a clue. So we try to teach them and I try to make sure that what my companion says isn't too...not exactly accurate. It is a cool idea though to think about Jesus being "The Gift" and we were given that gift because Heavenly Father loves us so much. I don't know how much actually sticks in their mind, but we're trying. I have seen the little 2 minute video.

We will celebrate Christmas on the 24th and 25th in Phnom Penh. I think they're making us do service or something. We have Zone Conference this week on Wednesday.

Sam, are you seriously eating grasshoppers?  I ate 2 grasshoppers for real. One was because my companion told me to and he wouldn't leave me alone and I was just trying to please. The second one I ate so I could take a picture and have it be somewhat authentic.

I'm sorry your companion struggles with anger issues.  Do you ever feel that he poses any danger to you?  I'm in no danger with my companion, sometimes he's just dumb. I'm sure once I'm long passed from this companionship I'll look back and say hey, that wasn't that bad. It's just not really what you'd call "fun" though.

Yesterday there was a kid in our ward helping us go to teach people. Sometimes he's really cool, other times not so much. But he's getting ready for a mission, been a member for 10 years, and pretty much is the best-informed person in our ward. But it was in the evening yesterday [Sunday] and he just stopped on the side of the street and bought some little food thing. I was like come on bro, it's Sunday and he's like "Khlian" i'm hungry. I'm like bro, that's not a reason. Little things bug me. I'm tired of a lot of the people here teasing me for stuff that I don't understand and can't tease back about because I don't know enough words to. Like freckles for some reason people had a hayday with this week, and I don't know what to say so I just sit there helpless while they laugh at me. My companion doesn't back me up at all and usually brings up how I look 35. Ugh it's so annoying.

Our branch president left yesterday to go to Hong Kong to the temple. He's been a member for like 10 years, but was inactive for a long time I guess. Good for him. We met him at his house a few days ago and he's shirtless and is just wearing his little loincloth. I'm just thinking about how that just is so different from how you'd meet a bishop in America.

I tracked the Christmas package we sent you, and the usps website says it has been delivered to Cambodia.  I addressed it to the mission office in Phnom Penh. Have you gotten it yet? I don't have the package yet, but I imagine I will get it on Wednesday.

I haven't drunk milk in probably a month, and if you know me that is a really long time.

We watched the First Presidency Christmas Devotional earlier this evening.  Some of the speakers were Bonnie Oscarson, Elder Christopherson, and Pres. Eyring.  They shared really good messages.  Elder Christopherson is probably my favorite GA to listen to speak.

The church is really on top of its stuff. The church buildings here are in fantastic locations and are big, clean, well kept, etc. I've seen other church buildings from different sects and they're just old and dirty. The church is smart.

I love you Sam.  You love me too, right?  I love you, mom!  [Yeah, I was soliciting... :)]

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Sam sent the following email & pictures on Sunday, November 30, 2014.  Our statements & questions are in italics. 

From: Samuel Christensen <samuel.christensen@myldsmail.net>
Subject: Hi Family
Date: November 30, 2014 9:54:09 PM MST

Wow, can you believe I just finished my second-to-last Thanksgiving in Cambodia already? Time flies.

First some matters of business. They said that we will be able to call home on Skype on my Thursday morning December 26 meaning that it'll be the evening of Christmas day for you. For this, it would probably be easiest if you guys just made a Skype account for me and sent me the username and password so I can just log onto it because I really don't know much about Skype. Second, I sent home a big envelope about a week and a half ago, so it should be arriving soon. It's my meager Christmas offering for everybody so don't open it until Christmas. And no, your Christmas package has not yet arrived but I'll be glad when it does.

That sandwich you sent us the photo of last week looked mighty appetizing...  Was that just a seriously sub-standard sandwich offering, or are sandwiches like that pretty much the norm?  The sandwich is a typical side of the road sandwich.

We had Thanksgiving at the senior couples' home and it was really fun. They had everything American and Thanksgiving there except stuffing and apple pie. I ate a lot of food. It was super nice of them to let us all come over and have a Thanksgiving and feel like Americans again, even though they're Canadian.

I gave a talk for the first time in sacrament meeting yesterday. I don't know why it took so long because usually missionaries speak pretty often, but this was my first time. 

There are a lot of good things that are happening here and a lot of bad things. I honestly think that my companion has some acute psychological disorder that is undiagnosed, because he clearly has some problems.

We have next to no investigators right now, but about a million recent converts.

I don't really ever have much to say on email, but I write a ton of stuff in my journal. So I have it.

I guess that's all. Do you have any pictures from christmas tree hunting you could send to me?

There's your stack of delicious sandwiches.

And a grasshopper. I didn't eat that one because it was too big, but I did eat 2 smaller ones.
I don't know why people decide that things that shouldn't be eaten are acceptable to eat.
A lot of times, recently, I don't know what I'm actually eating. Most of the time it tastes ok, but I really don't know what I'm putting into my body.

I don't have any good pictures of me in the jungle yet, but I'll get one someday.
And I'm not just going with the open-necked look because it's more comfortable. We were helping gather rice for some people so I felt justified in taking it off for a few minutes. My companion's tie is still on because he volunteered us to do it, but he didn't actually do it.