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... :)]

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