Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Sam sent the following email and pictures on Sunday, January 25, 2015.  You'll notice that Sam's email this week is rather short, and a bit accusatory. :)  Peter and I hadn't gotten our emails sent off to him before he got online to write. Oops.  But in all fairness, I have to note that Sam was online a good 1-2 hours earlier than normal!

From: Samuel Christensen <samuel.christensen@myldsmail.net>
Subject: Hmm
Date: January 25, 2015 9:10:59 PM MST

Hey everyone,

I really can't think of anything new to share and seeing as how you guys haven't yet updated me on the happenings at home (yes, that's an indirect shot at you guys-sorry I had to do it), I don't have anything to say about that either.

If you guys want me to send you some of the videos I take I can do that if you'll be willing to make me a dropbox account and give me the information because that would be cool.

We're still doing the same old here. This week wasn't as good as last. We should have a baptism for an 8 year old kid this Saturday.

One of these pictures is of a little girl playing with a dead mouse. The adults don't care, they just stand by and watch. The other is of my bike which is broken again and hopefully is being fixed right now. Both pedals on the same level so that makes for a hard time trying to pedal.

Peace and love

Monday, January 19, 2015

Sam sent the following email & pictures on Sunday, January 18, 2015.  Our questions & comments are in italics.

From: Samuel Christensen <samuel.christensen@myldsmail.net>
Subject: Another Day, Another W
Date: January 18, 2015 10:31:02 PM MST

Hi everyone,

Thanks for letting me know what's going on. Mom, I really liked what you sent me in the email. I think it does ring pretty true. I'm going to have to think on that a little longer. We've definitely had a bunch more success contacting as of late. We (just Elder Cook and me) contacted 119 people this week. 70 was our goal, so we're doing pretty well. And usually every time we contact we go for return appointments if the situation is right, or just go for a phone number. Last night we didn't have any contacts after church ended at 6 and we didn't get out on the road til about 6:30, but we found a few places and just talked to everyone we thought we should and got 18 contacts in about an hour. I was thinking last night "this is just getting too easy!" because everyone was like yeah, sure, I'd love to learn. I think sometimes it's like that and other times it is definitely not.

Do people actually buy those pig heads they have at the phsaa?  And if so, what do they do with them?  Yeah, I'm not exactly sure if they eat the pigs heads or what. Like I've seen one completely cut open and skinned, so I imagine they do something with them. At the phsaa this morning I saw something that I was pretty sure was pig brain and I asked if they eat it, but the lady said it was actually lungs and they were delicious if you know how to eat them. So...? Did you know pigs can grow to 100 kilos in just 4 months? Pigs are truly disgusting animals.

Nate put a picture of you on our computer as our latest wallpaper.  Glad to hear my face finally made it onto the computer wallpaper. Interesting findings on the family science project, too.

Last week after emailing, all of the missionaries went and rode the famous "Bamboo Train." That was a good time.  Not much I can say that the pictures can't. Basically you're on a really unsafe little platform that's just set on wheels and they crank up a motor and you just go. Then the road stops and you get attacked by little kids wanting you to buy stuff. But that was a good time. 

We had a hang up with an investigator who was concerned that fasting wasn't actually a real thing, just that it was like self punishment. Can't remember if I talked about him before. We're like "of all the things to be hung up on in this church, fasting...?" He did an elaborate comparison to how the tower of Babel was led by someone who they all believed in, and he was afraid the fasting thing was the same situation. When we had a later lesson with him that week about it, we shared Bible scriptures like "Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights." He didn't really have anything to say about that. The best part was when our member help (who did a good job) was like "actually they (the missionaries) know more about it than I do because they fast every month." ...Yep.

On an exchange this week, we very fortunately met this Christian family that had been Christian for a long time. They have like 7 kids who are all Christian. Oh man, we were stoked. We set up an appointment to teach them the next night and did and it did not go well. The part about the "authority" didn't register with them at all. The house right next to them was blasting music for the entire lesson and it didn't stop until we had finished the lesson. Satan! In retrospect, I should have just asked for another place or said we'd come back another time, but it was far away and we had been planning on it. Anyways, they belong to a different sect and they have a pastor who goes to their house every Tuesday night and teaches them. It's always hard telling people that their baptism wasn't necessarily good. Ughh, it was rough. Their old son was like "whose name do you baptize in?" So I read the prayer to them and he's like "same as us." Authority, authority, authority. We may, if we're really, really lucky, get a second chance with them. He said that they believe in Jesus not in churches. I'm like yeah bro. Is there a bible scripture somewhere that says that Jesus established His church or something. I don't know, I feel like that's what a mission in a more Christian country would be like. That Great and Abominable Church of The Devil...

Anyways. We talked to some monks in a wat [a Buddhist monastery or temple] and they were like "it's not important that we be of the same religion, just that we're friends with each other." And we just kind of sat there nodding our heads with each other in silent approval and a spirit of friendship. Times like that I wish we just had a camera man following us. Also needed a photographer on Saturday when I had just bought a bag of baguettes and was hungry and Elder Cook had bought some too, so we both just ate the straight bread immediately as we were riding on our bikes before we could go home and stash them at the house. I mean, if that doesn't further stereotypes I don't know what will. 

Our sacrament meeting is by far the best part of this email, so don't stop reading yet! President Moon was in town to interview us today and go to church yesterday. He was in our sacrament and actually spoke to them all on repentance. He's really pretty dang good at the language. He was probably about halfway through and Elder Cook and I were quietly sitting and listening to his talk when we heard the strange but unmistakable sound of water hitting metal coming from the row behind us. Curious, we both turned around to see what was making the noise. It was none other than a little 4 or 5 year old urinating into an empty Coca-Cola tin can that his mother was holding for him to make things easier for him. Just fillin' the can. Takin' care of business. Oh man, that was about it. I was oh so very close to having one of those uncontrollable laughing attacks. I made a note to write that one down in the journal. But you can clearly understand their logic: obviously they were concerned that by getting up and going out to the bathroom (conveniently located right down the hall from the chapel) would interrupt a very well thought out talk by the President of the Cambodia Mission, and furthermore, would be very distracting for the members in attendance. So ultimately I think they made the right call. 5 minutes later the little kid's brother took a turn, but I think he didn't have as much to drain. I mean, nice mom, right? So that's a little bit of how our sacrament meetings go. All I'm saying is make sure that kid doesn't have to urinate over 12 ounces or we're going to have a problem.

That's all the fun news for me. If you have questions or want to know something specific, fire me off an email and ask me or I'll never know what you want answered. How's the Cub? Don't have too much fun skiing without me. Wow, the 5 of you all back together in one group. Just missing me....Dang.

Miss you and love you.

-Your favorite son
Big old spider

Your typical "Survivor Man" set-the-camera-on-timer-to-take-a-picture-of-yourself-in-a-crazy-natural-habitat-that-you-walk-through-often-but-never-have-anyone-there-to-take-a-picture-for-you-to-let-the-folks-at-home-know-what-life-is-like-out-here shot.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Sam sent the following email & pictures on Sunday, January 11, 2015.  Our questions & comments are in italics.  Sam's opening sentence needs a little explanation.  In Peter's email to Sam, he had written, "We got Emily in school this week and have had a little bit of the first week of shock by all that is required of college classes.  We have a science fair project due this week.  Nate experimented to see if people would pick up an old penny, new shiny penny, or a quarter more quickly.  Not much action at the mall or theatre for people picking up coins.  Church on the other had was a great place for people to pick up money."

From: Samuel Christensen <samuel.christensen@myldsmail.net>
Subject: Hey guys
Date: January 11, 2015 11:13:52 PM MST

Hey guys,

Ok, first of all, I loved Peter's email how he said that "we" had college starting back up, and that "we" also have a science fair project. Funny. I'd be intersted to know with Nate's project how the places affect how many people will pick up the coins. I'll pick any coin up, but I'm less likely to do it in a mall where people see me pocketing a dirty penny than when I think no one will see me. That reminds me. Yesterday when we were walking home from church, there was a 100 bill that I walked over lying on the pavement. I can't tell you how many fake 100 dollar bills I've seen here so I didn't think much of it. But as I picked it up, a moto with two ladies pulled up next to me. I was like "fake, right?" and was kind of holding it up to the light. Then they like motioned to hold it so they could inspect it as well. So I passed it right off. They kind of looked at it slowly for a second, and then slowly just pulled off and drove away without saying anything or looking back. We kind of just stood there in the street all alone trying to figure out what just happened. These people really don't have a conscience because not only did she steal it from me, but also from whoever dropped it. I wouldn't have taken it. Honestly there's not a whole lot that you could have done to try and find the owner, but I could have given it to fast offerings. But naww, they just drove right off. Kind of numbing, like... what just happened. It was real, by the way. But that's enough money to almost pay for half of a year of college for them. Or it could just buy them a lot of booze. Either way, cheers.

[We gave Sam a report on the violence that occurred in France last week.] That's a terrible thing that happened with France. I'm glad it isn't happening in the states. How can these religious groups justify violence like this? It's like anti-everything we learn. 

Last week after emailing was so smooth. I didn't have to [politely] beg to go to the American store, but instead was the one who was more going along for the ride. I loved it. I'm thinking now that the scale I got on a few weeks ago might actually have been broken. I've done a few more knuckle pushups recently. They hurt my knuckles, but not my wrist. I don't know where I'd get an xray. Also I got a haircut here last week and it was my best one yet. Good place, they even massaged my back after and then cracked my neck. I wasn't expected the neck crack. Let's just say a little bit further and they could have killed me quickly and quietly. But hey, I'm still here!

Grammy wondered about bugs and animals. Just the usual array. With cockroaches, there's not a ton of them, but I realized that I'm not surprised by them at all anymore. It's kind of just second nature. I just love when there's a dead cockroach lying on the ground and nobody really wants to clean it up, so it just gets dismantled by ants, and lo and behold, a few days later the cockroach is completely vanished. Nature. One guy offered us fried frogs that he had made. We politely declined.

Skibby talked about a teacher at RHS that was talking about Cambodia. Let's just get something out of the way now. White people, who aren't missionaries, DO NOT KNOW CAMBODIA. I see tons of white people here riding on tuk tuks to go to their tourist destinations. They know nothing. They come back and say things about things that they don't fully know. Trust me on this, we (the missionaries) get to know what real Cambodia is like, and the people. Those other people get to experience it in rose-colored, week and a half glasses. It's great sometimes, but like when we talked to some tourists from Europe that we randomly met and talked to for a little bit a few weeks ago, the lady said that there was like a "buzz of progression" in Phnom Penh and all kinds of stuff that she'd picked up on and liked from her very short stay. Honestly, lady, I just thought it was dirty. So don't trust anyone that's not a missionary to give you an honest depiction of Cambodia because they don't really know. Jessa knows, trust her.

Have you gotten the Christmas card we sent yet? Do you have any candy left from your Christmas package?  Do you need anything?  The Christmas card hasn't yet come, but I'm betting it will be here this week. The candy is long gone. It was very good, thank you. I don't need anything, but for the next occasion to send something over, I've learned from other missionaries that getting like bagged food, like easy to make American food is a good way to go for that. So we'll stash that in our brains and cross that bridge when we come to it.

We're hoping to get people progressing and to be doing really good things here. And I think we can do it. The language hasn't been a barrier for us at all yet.

Thanks for everything. I love you and miss you all.

This picture was taken at Christmas.

Harvesting rice

Pig heads at the phsaa

Me with a big black man they worship

Friday, January 9, 2015

Sam sent us the following email and photos on Sunday, January 4, 2015:

From: Samuel Christensen <samuel.christensen@myldsmail.net>
Subject: Hi guys
Date: January 4, 2015 11:07:06 PM MST

Hey so I didn't budget my time very well today at email so I’m not going to write a lot. 

Just say that we finished the farewell tour this past week up until I got the new companion. We're doing well. We're doing hard work and at least I'm feeling fulfilled. My new companion is a good guy who wants to work hard. He's from Idaho named Elder Cook. He's bigger than I am. So I feel like we attract a lot more attention with two giant white people on bad little bikes going down the road and talking to people.
Once this week when I was in a 3-some with the zone leaders, one of them looked up into the distant sky and remarked on the beauty of the fireworks that he was seeing. When we all looked a little closer, we actually saw that it was just somebody up in a high building welding something and that sparks were shooting out of that. But it was a very close call.

We committed a family (mom not included) of like 5 people to baptism yesterday, then all the kids came to church but the dad didn't. We're going to get our district straightened out and restore Battambang 2 to all its former glory.

I moved houses and so now all 4 of us Americans live together. It's nice and fun to not just be one-on-one, which is how I've been for all but 4 weeks of my mission so far. The house isn't as nice, but it's still fine. The stairway up to it is probably about on a 70 degree angle.

We're doing the best we can out here. I'll probably say more next week. Ok, thanks, good luck all you good people!

Group picture~Christmas 2014  [Sam is 3rd row from the back, 5th in from the right]

Sam with a Cambodian family and his former companion

Saturday, January 3, 2015

We got to Skype with Sam on Christmas evening!  It was great to see and talk to him!  He sent the following email and pictures a few days later, on Sunday, December 28, 2014.

From: Samuel Christensen <samuel.christensen@myldsmail.net>
Subject: Hey There Guys
Date: December 28, 2014 10:00:28 PM MST

Hey Mom, Dad, Aunts, Uncles, Grandmas, Grandpas, Brothers, Sisters,

That's how they start every talk in Cambodian here. They address EVERYONE in attendance.

Anyways, yeah, I'm good. We got transfer calls last night. There's a lot of shake-up in the mission right now. I'll be staying here and getting a new companion named Elder Cook. He is actually fresh out of training, so that makes me the senior companion. They want me to be the district leader. My current companion is going into the city to be with a missionary on his last transfer. But for me and my new companion, we'll have 6 completed transfers between the two of us. Yikes. We do not know that much of the language. That's the thing--I can usually say all that I need to say here, but not all that I want to say. And in times past, if people ask hard questions that I don't understand, I just turn it over to the native speaker. Now, that responsibility falls to...me. So pray that the language between the two of us can progress enough to answer peoples' questions.

I'm worried about that, but not too much. I think that we know what we need to teach, and people can't ask questions that are too hard to answer, they just need to ask them simply. So maybe we'll just try to teach every lesson simply and by Preach my Gospel. Have I ever said how much I love Preach my Gospel? I didn't like any of it at all before my mission, but now I absolutely love it and try to only do exactly what it says in here. That's further proof that I've been brainwashed out here.

You're probably all concerned about me being homesick after skyping home on Christmas. That was a weird day. It feels like a dream. I don't really know why I was crying, but it was just coming. They were real tears! I think I was just confused and frustrated a little bit. But I feel better now and I'm excited to finally get back to hard, grind-your-face missionary work that maybe has been absent for a few transfers. Our area is picking up a little bit, and I'm going to make some personal goals that I feel like will help me feel more like I'm accomplishing what I came here to do.

Like I said on Skype, Christmas was really fun. It was great to go into the city and see all of my friends and people that I hadn't seen for a while. I'm really glad that I was born in the city so that I got to know a lot of people fast. We stayed overnight in a guest house which in America would be really, really ghetto, but here was pretty decent. I will say, though, that it was the hardest floor I've ever slept on...

I got on a scale this morning that an old person was carrying around and charges people to stand on and I weighed in at 74 kilos, I think it was. I converted that on the computer here and that's about 163 pounds. When I left the MTC I was about 178 I think. But I think most of that loss is muscle loss. That's something that I need to work on.

I'm excited for the future. I will say that I didn't learn a lot from my current companion, but I learned a lot during the time that I spent with him up to now. We're friends.

Can I just say one thing? People are seeing God way too much. I swear, I've met more people out here who have met God. Like I was under the impression that only prophets or God's very elect ever see Him, but people (mostly members) are always telling me they met God in a dream and stuff. Like I can't just discredit them for being crazy, but I also feel like maybe they....I don't know. Am I wrong on this?

Also met a guy last night who said his mother wasn't able to provide milk for him, so he ate ONLY bananas from age 2 months to 2 years. Hence he was adorned with the name "Banana," but in Khmae. He says he still doesn't know how he survived on bananas alone. That guy is a living testament to the healthiness of bananas and their ability as the sole provider of life.
The ad for someone who speak English good. Presumably to replace whoever it was that originally wrote the ad.

The Samuel the Lamanite-themed Nativity shortly before Samuel took a nasty spill off his ladder

The food they made for the stake christmas party that I think made me sick

Free rice day at the church

The hardest ground I've ever slept on for my Christmas Eve night

My MTC group that all came over together

Me and Elder Zierenberg [Sam’s MTC companion]

You guys!   [This is a picture Sam took of his computer screen while we were Skyping on Christmas evening!]