Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Sam sent the following email & photos on Sunday, March 29, 2015:

From: Samuel Christensen <samuel.christensen@myldsmail.net>
Subject: Hey Guys

Date: March 29, 2015 10:38:34 PM MDT

Elder Kim is my new companion. He's Khmae. He's close to finishing his mission and has previously served in Battambang, but in a different branch. My house is now 3 Khmaes and me. Oh how quickly did it flip from being an all-American household. Now it's me that has no one to talk or relate to. We're eating a lot more rice now, too.

I think my voice sounds higher in the videos too. Actually I think when I speak Khmae I speak maybe a little higher than normal, but I don't think my overall voice has really changed. I don't know, you'll have to judge it when you hear it in a year.

I didn't even know it was Easter this week until I got on email.

On Friday morning we left and went down to Phnom Penh for transfers. We got there at 2:15 or so. So I had a cool 20 minutes to be at the mission home, then we turned around and came right back. We didn't get back until 9:20, so it was a full day on the bus for me. Fortunately, the Chinese shoot-em-up movie, and the Thai punch everything movies were better than expected.

We're still painfully low on investigators. Hoping that things can look up. We had no investigators at church yesterday.

Every time I have a native companion I think about writing a new rendition of "Let it Go" and change the wording to "Let us Go." I often find myself apologizing for our lateness....

We get to go down to Phnom Penh again today, actually, for a meeting. So we'll leave at 12, get into the city late, and meet tomorrow. I won't be back in Battambang until tomorrow night. More foreign movies and mission home for me!

Last week we went to a crocodile farm, and that was pretty cool. That led to us having a bracket for "The Ultimate Animal 2015," which took a lot of debating and somehow we ended up with the elephant. What animal do you guys think would win in a fight?

Elder Cook & Sam.  Elder Cook was just transferred to Siem Reap.
He was a great companion and Sam will miss him.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Sam sent the following email, video clips, & photos on Sunday, March 24, 2015:

From: Samuel Christensen <samuel.christensen@myldsmail.net>
Subject: Transfer Calls, No Transfer

Date: March 22, 2015 11:34:00 PM MDT

Well I thought I would be leaving Battambang this transfer, but we got calls last night and I'm staying for a 4th transfer here with another companion of reputation, and we will be zone leaders together. I'm hoping this will all work out ok. Elder Cook is leaving and going up to Siem Reap to be a district leader. Lots of guys in my group and even a guy below me are training. Our mission is super young. There is a possibility that I will be in a 75% Cambodian-speaker house now.

The start of last week was better for the beginning half on the investigator side of things, but it slowed halfway through the week, and was dead by Sunday. I'm hoping that we can get enough new people to teach this week that we can go into the next transfer rolling, because if there's no one to teach next transfer, it could be a really long transfer.

We did start teaching one new lady this week. We finished teaching her lesson 1 and taught her to pray and asked her to say a closing prayer, but she was too scared and said she wanted to wait until later, so I said I would pray to close. During the prayer there was some super loud, strange sound. I opened one eye, but didn't see what it was. After the prayer we left and rode away. Elder Cook told me that the sound was one of the chickens violently raping a duck during our prayer. That certainly wasn't very reverent of them.

I saw a guy carving a slingshot with a broken shard of a glass bottle.

We've had a lot of people stand us up for appointments this past week, including one guy twice in one day. But at least we had appointments scheduled...

There was a senior couple who is serving in Hong Kong that came here for a short time to train a senior couple here or do a presentation or something. Anyways, the lady had been out of the car and in the building for 5 minutes. She just came out of the bathroom and exclaimed, "I just feel so...dirty!" Yeah, welcome to The Show.

Yesterday at church we sang Silent Night for the Sacrament rest hymn. Then in the Gospel Principles class the lesson was on the Life of Christ. Our teacher, bless his heart, taught about Jesus' birth and his childhood. Then (in an effort to condense the material and cover the parts that he deemed most important), skipped 3 pages and covered the last point that was like "why the Atonement is important" or something. Then we prayed to close and finished right on time.

Even though we don't have enough investigators to fill out our schedule entirely, we do have a couple who are really good, just progressing really slowly. I'm grateful for the good ones.

That's all I got!

Video Link to "Magic Trick, Coconut Crack, Black Water, & Burning Tree":

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Sam sent us the following email, video clips, & photos on Sunday, March 15, 2015.  Our questions are in italics.  I included Sam's descriptions of his videos (paragraphs 2-6) in the video link below.

From: Samuel Christensen <samuel.christensen@myldsmail.net>
Subject: Howdy
Date: March 16, 2015 12:12:43 AM MDT

I'm not going to write a lot today, but there are a bunch of videos for you to watch. 

One is in a Muslim neighborhood that I've never been to. It was the most third-world I've felt since I've been here, just because no white people ever ride through there. That's the one with the fish. Later, there was a guy who was very willing to help me find a Cambodian wife if that was something I was looking for. I told him we'll have to wait and see.

The other is of a house that has been built over a drop off. Like, there are tons of houses that do this and it just doesn't seem like a good idea. Like I say in the video, I'm pretty sure if I jumped on the house platform the whole thing would just go down. That house is especially leaning, even though it's hard to tell.

Then there's one of a lady weaving on a loom.

There's a very third-world one of moto drivers running up to the bus to try and get passengers. This happens all the time and it's one of the things that just hits me and I'm like jeez, you don't see this in America. Usually I think there are even more people running after it and they're usually a bit more aggressive.

Then there are two of me playing music with a guy on the drums. That was just a random guy and when he saw us he's like "come play music with me." He didn't even ask if we knew how, he just saw we were white and assumed we did. I've never seen anyone with a keyboard, electric guitar and bass, and drums. This guy was the first. There power was out for a while, but when it came on we got to play a little bit. My repertoire of good songs to play to drums is pretty low. And you don't get to see it, but on the 180 degree angle, this house is just right in the middle of the jungle, so that was pretty funny.

We still don't have any new investigators. Every day is a grind when you're just riding around trying to find people to teach and nobody wants to learn. We spend a lot of hours on our bikes.

Our district pulled off a district conference this past week, which was pretty boring, but at least they made it happen. There was one activity that President Moon did on the Saturday night session where he was trying to teach them how to hold a proper ward council meeting. So he had a "mock" ward council with a different branch. He called up the branch president and then was like "ok, so who else should attend this meeting?" The counselors. "Are the counselors here? No. Ok. Who else?" The RS Pres."Is the rs pres.here? No? Any of her counselors here? No. Ok, who else?" The Elders Quorum President. "Is the EQP here? No? ok." Etc., etc. I was like huh, this mock ward council is seeming more and more like the real ward councils that they have.

When they had our ward go up, our EQP got a phone call right when he was in front of everyone. No problem, as the culture goes, just answer your phone and talk on it. I started laughing and I think President Moon was even laughing. But none of the people in attendance seemed to take any notice.

K to answer your questions. That’s cool that you got to go to Seam Reap!  How long did it take you to travel there?  And did you go by bus? It took us about 3 hours to get to Siem Reap, and we rented out a van so it was all 13 of us missionaries. So was Elder Gong just visiting there for the District Conference?  You said he is your area authority—so where does he live?  I think Elder Gong lives in Hong Kong, but I really don't know. When you took the pictures of all those bats in the tree last week, were you at a special bat sanctuary somewhere, or was that just some random place where a bunch of bats decided to congregate? That's just a random bat tree that they all get in. I don't know why, but they all just chill there. When you buy things from the markets there, do you barter on the price? Yeah, if the prices are bad you shouldn't take it for what they tell you. I like price tags, so much more forthright. Has is been a while since you’ve been to the mission home?  I’m guessing you don’t go there on P-days when you’re stationed in Battambang.  Does Pres. Moon travel around the mission to check on those who are a distance away from Phnom Penh? I haven't gotten to go to the mission home since I left the city for BB, which is too bad. I love the mission home. President Moon makes his way around Cambodia pretty well. He goes everywhere. 

Keep the good hopes of finding new people to teach coming our way. 

Thanks. I miss you guys.

Video Link to "Fish, Foundations, Bus Stop, Weaving, & Music in the Jungle":

Sam's email:  samuelchristensen@myldsmail.net

District Conference in Seam Reap
(Sam is on the back row, 3rd from the right)

L-R:  Sister Gong, Elder Gong, Sam, Elder Cook, Pres. Moon, Sister Moon

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Sam sent us the following email, video clips, and photos on Sunday, March 8, 2015.  Our questions are in italics.

From: Samuel Christensen <samuel.christensen@myldsmail.net>
Subject: The challenge of thinking up clever titles died a long time ago
Date: March 9, 2015 12:05:54 AM MDT

Hey guys!

Right now we have almost no investigators. That's just another reason why we shouldn't baptize them. No I'm joking, but seriously we have 1 or 2 good investigators, but they can only meet once a week, so there's nothing to do. We keep waiting for it to pick back up, but up to this point it hasn't. So we ended up getting a ton of Recent Convert/ Less Active lessons this week--19. It's nice because a lot of the less actives who I've been visiting since I got here seem to finally be turning the corner. A lot of them just need a lot of time to find themselves. Others still don't want any part of the church. Most just say they're very busy--they're not. So yeah, pray for new investigators.

The biggest thing we did this week was go up to Seam Reap for District Conference with Elder Gong, who is our area authority. He's a pretty cool guy. They had all of the provinces gather up there. After the entire training I got to have a short one-on-one interview with him. He's a very smart and insightful guy. I know this sounds dumb, but I really can feel how much he cared about me and loved me. Kind of like I told Peter how I felt when Cecil Samuelson said hi to me last year. 

Do you ever have anyone “slam the door in your face”?  No doors slammed in my face cause they don't really use doors here.....

We got to see Angkor Wat from a distance, but nothing special. It'll be cool to go there in about a year.

I don't know if you guys know, but because members don't ever fellowship new members, it is now the missionaries' responsibility to continue to meet recent converts for an entire year after their baptism. So we get plenty of time to keep meeting people. In America I feel like someone just takes them under their wing. Only the people who already had connections get taken care of here.

Hey you guys should all go watch the Jeffrey Holland Book of Mormon talk from 2009. That's probably the most epic talk of all time. I heard Holland is coming to Cambodia in a few weeks. You guys will have to see what info you can scrounge up about that.

The thing about the church members here is that first, they generally like the missionaries. But lots of these people really are quite prideful. They talk bad about other members and do lots of arrogant things. The old members like to treat it like an exclusive club. But Elder Ngov heard them talking about how the missionaries this and that that wasn't complimentary about us. It's just dumb because they really don't realize that missionaries do so much for them because that's just the way it's always been. So they kind of start taking missionaries for granted. This doesn't apply to all people, but definitely to some.

Generally contacted people are nice just because you're so different from them, but then they all lie and say they're too busy to learn. If there's any one thing to say that gets people to learn, I want to know it. Help me out with that. Like I asked a guy this week if he wanted more happiness in his family and he said "yes, but I have a family now, so I can't really learn." Ok, we'll get ya next time man.

How often do you run into Caucasian people like those you mentioned in your last email?  Usually not a lot of white people. But one guy from the groups of white guys that we met last week, we ran into again last Monday. He's like "I love to hang out with you guys. I'd like to do it again." So we set him up and all 6 of the elders met him for lunch on Thursday at the Mexican food place. He was pretty cool, but man, lots of these people just believe the Bible is completely infallible. Like they need a reality check. It all makes so much sense if you really think about it fairly. But now they both have book of mormons and the ball is in their court.

There's probably more to say, but we're kind of in a hurry to go play soccer. This is the first time I haven't worn church clothes on a p-day. Wow, so freeing.

Peace and love

Video Link to "Bats, Bike Repair, & Grocery Shopping":  http://youtu.be/ayysw8Tm9Is

Sam's email:  samuel.christensen@mldsmail.net


At least they're honest

Sam with another elder in his district

Sam with his district

Elder Um (one of Sam's former companions) is on the right.

Sam's current companion, Elder Cook, is in the foreground.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Sam sent us the following email, photos, and video clips on Sunday, March 1, 2015.  Our questions to Sam appear in italics.

Hello Mother, Father, everybody,

It was interesting to hear what kinds of foods you generally eat.  Are your eggs just chicken eggs, or have you branched out to eggs from ducks or other types of fowl?  I just get chicken eggs. Question: our fridge really does not keep anything cold. Is that a problem to put eggs in there? Like will they go bad or is that fine. If I wanted to I could get things where they eat little baby ducks out of eggs. Like the little fetus or something. But that's never appealed to me. I really haven't eaten anything that weird here, just because I usually steer clear of it. If I wanted to, I could eat weird stuff.

Do you ever get a chance to play a piano? My piano skills are deteriorated enough that it'll take a fair amount of practicing to get them back--as has my critical thinking ability. I think on such a superficial level now that if anyone asks questions that are somewhat deep, I just draw blanks. I'm not sure what that stems from, but it's probably from just having to teach things so simply and basic that I've lost the ability to think deeply about stuff. I'm not even joking here....

Is it quiet at night when you go to sleep? Um, quiet is relative. It's more quiet than it is in the day, but since we're right next to the road there's still cars and motos that will go by really loudly. But usually by the time I get in bed to sleep it's nothing that's going to keep me awake.

Do you ever bake food, or do you mainly cook on a stove top? Elder Cook bakes food. I don't. I'm just not a very talented cook, so mostly I don't even try. I don't deviate much from the rice, eggs, noodles, bread, water combo. But I have gotten 2.50 banana bread that is a pretty nice bit of heaven.

Do you ever listen to any music?  Do you ever have a chance to sing?  Do you ever sing when you teach lessons?  Some of the other guys have music on iPods and I listen to that. Like Cook has lots of Disney songs and stuff, so I'm free to sing to those. And there's a piano guys CD that we used to listen to a lot. I never sing when I teach lessons. 

Will Elder Yorgason be going home after this transfer, or will he have one more?  Are you still the district leader? Yorgason has 2 and a half transfers left. I'm still the district leader, and they added a new companionship to our district at the start of this transfer. It's for one of the new areas that they just opened up a few months ago. So that's cool that I get to check up on their status everyday. How are your English classes going?  Do you ever use the Gallop book we sent you at Christmas?  English class attendance has taken a nose-dive and we're not positive why yet. I haven't used the book yet, but in the near future I will.

So probably the most interesting thing that happened for me this week was talking to white, Christian Americans about the Bible. On Thursday we ran into two guys from America who teach the Bible in English here or something. The one guy looked like Tim Lincecum and was wearing a Giants hat backwards. He's like "hey are you Mormons?" They knew a lot about the Bible and they love using the different translations and looking at Paul's letters in context and all kinds of Bible stuff. We talked to them for a while, then as we were getting up to go I asked them what denomination they were, and the main guy kinda tilted his head back to the ceiling and goes "ahh, ya know, at this point I don't even really know anymore. I...probably find myself between Calvinism" and something else. That guy literally belongs to the church of Jamie and Chris (that's their names). Like they talked about how such smart people translated the Bible ("smarter than all of us"), and how that makes it an accurate translation, but yet they leave the interpretation up to themselves. It was nice to talk to intelligent, God-fearing people though...

...Which leads into the next day when we were eating at another American place, just Elder Cook and me in the store. Then a whole truck-full of white people pull up and we're like ok we gotta get outta here. But we were waiting for food, so two white guys came over and cornered us. They're both from America. One was 18 and the other was 20. Neither of them looked especially clean and they were pretty hippy. But we talked to them for a while about normal American stuff. They were here doing some Christian thing, but also finding out about how to stop sex trafficking? I don't really know their purpose for their "mission." Then I asked them what denomination they were and they said nondenominational. But yeah, so it got on to the BoM and the one guy was asking questions about it. Let me tell you, it is really hard to try and teach this stuff in English right now. Really, really hard. I'm stumbling all over my words and saying weird stuff. But he got the gist. Told him about how Joseph Smith read in James. He pulled out his ESV Bible and read it. (Hey note to self and to all other people: stick with the KJV). Anyways, we finally wrapped it up and they kind of understood. But then this guy took his turn (and felt really uncomfortable in doing so also) and said "I just think that Jesus is enough. I would just advise you guys to step back and look at your life and make sure you really know what you're doing before you go and try to convert people." He went on a bit more but ended up saying there couldn't be more than the Bible. And before that he asked about how the Bible said "no more shall be written" in Revelations. But Elder Cook clarified how that was actually written before most of the books in the bible. He shrugged that one off. I asked them if they had a copy of the Book of Mormon, would they try to read it. The main guy's like "no, personally I wouldn't." The other guy was like a uhhh sure yeah definitely. I don't know. They were nice guys but I just left that conversation feeling a little less than satisfied. If these guys would look at it rationally and humbly they could learn so much more. Like, if you really believe that Saul saw a vision, is it so hard to believe that Joseph Smith did too? We went through some hoops and I don't know if they'll actually get a BOM, but maybe. It's good that these people have good experiences with Mormon missionaries though cause we're cool guys.

We had a guy get baptized the other day. The district president did it. He's not the smartest guy--definitely a faith guy, but he's great. His neighbors have been trying to get him to go to church for years and he'd always tell them it wasn't his time. Then one day 4 weeks ago we stumbled on his house, and he said it was his time. He wouldn't have gone to church on his own for whatever reason, but now he goes every week all three hours and loves it.

Another thing that's funny is how we watch the Restoration video with a lot of people when we're looking for an easy, but still quality lesson. But these people really relate to the colonial shots--like plowing the field with and ox and planting corn, and seeing chicks, etc. etc. They're like "wow, just like Cambodia." We tell them that this was 200 years ago in America, but I think it still doesn't register much. They probably think that America is just the same now as it was then, because it pretty much is that way for them. 

That's all I've got. I'll send some pictures off. I miss you guys, but it sounds like you're getting off all right without me! 

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