Monday, July 27, 2015

Sam sent the following email and pictures on Sunday, July 26, 2015.  Our questions to him are in italics.

From: Samuel Christensen <>
Subject: Mike Trout is killing it.
Date: July 26, 2015 11:11:01 PM MDT

Hey guys,

It was another pretty good week here. So we picked up another companion, and transfer calls came in last night and we're staying the same. So we'll be "walking 3" for this transfer with Elder Kim (the good one that was with us before) rejoining us just coming off a successful surgery in Thailand. He's great and he's the best teacher I've seen out here, so we're glad to have him. 
Left to right:  Elder Myers, Elder Kim, Sam
How much longer does Myers have? Elder Myers has about 3 1/2 weeks left then he's done. Do you go to the mission home every week? If we can we go to the mission home weekly. How many missionary zones are in Phnom Penh? In PP probably like 50 missionaries or so. I don't know, rough guess. We are lacking missionaries big time right now and we have to wait til next transfer before we get like 17 new ones. How missionaries in your zone? In south zone there's 18 of us I think. Do you every see Elder Z [Sam's MTC companion] much? I get to see Elder Zierenberg sometimes. How are President and Sister Christensen doing? They are doing well. I think they're finally starting to get settled in and soon will start doing stuff more their way.  I wondered if they have been to Vietnam yet? I kind of wondered how much time the president has to spend on Vietnam vs Cambodia. They went to Vietnam last week. The APs went with them and it sounds like it's totally different from here. Modern. Do you need some more supplies? Is there anything specific you would like? I'm doing good and shouldn't need anything for a while.

[We sent Sam some pictures of his own baptism back in 2003.] Thanks for the baptism pictures. People will be excited to see those, I think.  Have you gotten wind yet of the First Presidency’s & Quorum of the Twelve’s recent emphasis on the importance of improving Sabbath Day observance both at Church and at home? I don't know that they've really done too much to keep sabbath day observance and sacrament better here, but they should because it's a problem.

Hey mom. Got any good tips on teaching a beginners piano class with a lot of people in the class? Like should I just start by drawing a staff and notes and getting them to memorize it? What order would you do?

I'm kind of short on time right now, so that's about all that I've got. We've got some decent investigators, but also some who will be close to dropping soon, so we're hoping to find some more soon.

Have a good week you guys!
an LDS church

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sam sent the following email, photos, and video clips on Sunday, July 19, 2015. Yes, I know I'm a whole week late posting this.  I was at Girls Camp last week and am still recovering...

From: Samuel Christensen <>
Subject: The power has gone out 1, 2 times in the writing of this letter
Date: July 20, 2015 1:46:16 AM MDT

What's up family! Sounds like you're all having a good summer. As am I.

First of all, do you think you could find a picture of my baptism and send it to me? It would be cool to show people.

I was in what Elder Myers dubbed the "splash zone" earlier this morning at the phsaa. That means I was standing a little too close to the lady's booth who was chopping pig heads and I got a little bit of pig blood splattered on my shirt so I had to go home and change.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM! You are the greatest mother I've ever had. But I really do love you.

Also I got a hair cut this morning from a street-corner guy. He did ok. I don't know yet, I haven't really gotten to look at it yet. There's nicer places than that. I mainly got it there for pictures/experience...

I loved listening to the sacrament talks yesterday when several of the speakers got up and said that they hadn't received topics to speak on, so the were just going to do________, and most of them just read from something else. But one guy after he read off of some pamphlet or something for most of his talk, he closed it out with reciting the 10 commandments randomly. Those are important too so I'm glad he decided to remind everyone of them, lest we forget.

There's plenty I could say about this week, but instead of going over the whole week, I'll just give you a rundown of how yesterday went because it was one of my craziest days as a missionary. 
7:25- We get to the church late and find that neither our investigator, nor our member present had showed up for the appointment that we had set with them both.
8:00- We've made some calls trying to get some stuff set up for the day, and then venture into the primary room to see how it looks, and it's a mess. They've been repainting the church for the past few weeks, so this room was super dirty and crowded with tons of chairs, all of which are dusty from the paint. So myers and I started opening windows to air out the rooms, moved 3 pianos, lots of chairs, tables, etc. This is important because we're going to use the primary room for our 11 o'clock baptism.
8:25- We decide that washing the dusty chairs is going to be our best option. At that point our member help arrived and asked if the investigator came. No.
8:45- We've been washing the chairs with the outside hose. I'm spraying and Myers and the member, Sarika, are setting and stacking. Myers mentions that the font is a little dirty. I go look and then Sarika went and looked and we decided it was best to get new water. There was like oily stuff in it and paint particles and also the floor was disgusting. We wanted it to be nice for this big moment in our investigators lives.
8:50- Ask the guard to drain the water. Also some little 6 year old girl found us and followed us around everywhere.
9:00- We're running around doing stuff and the other ward comes down after sac meeting and wants their chairs, so we lift them all back in.
9:05- The water, if draining at all, is draining way too slow. We ask the guard again.
9:10- Call our ward mission leader to make sure he's preparing the program. He's in Kampong Cham! We audible and ask Sarika if he'll do it which he happily obliges.
9:25 We've been looking at the water level, which is barely draining, if at all, and try to open the drain ourselves. Lots of lever pulling/pushing, running around and worrying with the provided knowledge that it takes 3 hours to fill the font all the way up. We decided that we were going to have to drain it ourselves.
9:30- Myers and I went upstairs and found some giant buckets (dumped the brooms and the dead cockroach out), changed into our baptismal white pants, lose the shoes, enter the water and start bailing water from the font.
----We would both go into the font for our respective bucket, try and lift the bucket out, then help Sarika slide it across the way into the mens bathroom and lift it to dump the water out into the toilet.
9:45- Several observers mosey by and ask if we're having a baptism today.
----We did it until about 10:05 or so. Between us we probably lifted 30-40 buckets out. The buckets were probably at least 20 gallon buckets. Maybe bigger. All 3 of us were soaked in sweat and water. We were so grateful for all the help and willingness that Sarika offered. Truly Christlike.
----I scrub the font and we get it generally clean enough and start the refill
10:10- Myers and I feed the outside hose through the window into the baptismal font to help.
10:50- The font is completely filled and we've had a little bit of time to rest.
11:20- The baptism starts.
Sam wrote, "Bailing Crew"
(Left to Right:  Sarika, Sam, Elder Myers)


We went and got pictures and had the baptism. It was a great baptism. It ended up being for the two original people. She had told us that she would like to be baptized this week, so we arranged it for her. It was probably the best baptism I've been to. Very reverent. Just really, really good. And the two girls who were baptized will be really good members for a very long time.

Skip to later:
2:00- We were eating food at a member's house because of the baptism, and it starts pouring.
2:35- We leave to go to the church. It's still pouring. They try to make me wear a raincoat but I refuse because wearing raincoats makes me feel like I'm wearing dresses. Also I don't care about getting wet as long as my stuff doesn't get wet.
2:40- Arrive at the church and there's some Cambodian group there waiting inside the church, probably like 20 people and none are members. They say they're in a band called Messy Classy and they've come to film a music video. Ok, sure.
2:53- We go upstairs into the sacrament room and there's nobody in there. Ope, yep, actually there's one old Om sleeping on the pews.
2:55- Myers and I start preparing the sacrament after we go down and borrow cups from another ward because no one from our ward is there.
3:00- Our church is supposed to start now. There's 5 people in the sacrament room: 1 investigator, the Om from before, 1 less active and his wife, and someone else.
3:08- We finish getting the water ready and ask the old branch president, who is now one of maybe 8 people in attendance (still none of our, if we should go home and get bread from our house. He says probably yes.
3:12- We're back at our house getting the bread.
3:13- We head back to the church with the bread.
3:18- We place the bread on the trays. While doing this, they announce the opening song. I go and turn on the piano and play the opening hymn.
3:24- We confirm both people who were baptized.
3:41- The bishop makes it into the meeting.
8:20- It's still raining and hasn't stopped all day.

The rest of it was basically just normal, but it was a crazy, wet day for a little bit there. We lost 35 people at church from last week because of the rain, and I think because they had a Pioneer day celebration the day before. Whenever they have parties, people think it's not necessary to go to church the next day.

It's crazy here but it's great. I just keep thinking that I wouldn't rather be doing anything else than what I'm doing here. I'm on another high. Thinking about going home doesn't make me feel very good. Our zone is right on track or ahead of what we set for our monthly goals, so we're really excited about that. I hit my year mark in the country last week on the 17th and that was pretty cool to think about where I was and what I was doing a year ago. Time goes fast here. You age (in understanding of things) really quickly out here. It almost all feels like a dream.

I hope you guys are happy, healthy, and have a good week!


The Favorite Son

Video Link:

Sam wrote, "Pioneer Day.  Please note the decorations of A) Post-it notes to add color, B) the pictures of bamboo, presumably to represent the many trials our forefathers endured"

Friday, July 17, 2015

Sam sent the following email, photos, & video clips on Sunday, July 12, 2015.  Our questions are in italics.

What up guys,

You wondered about our English class. Last week we had a total of 90 people come out to our English class. That was really high for us. Myers and my class had 32 people and just the two of us teaching. We do basic class. If I can I like to teach medium because more of them can understand when I make jokes. How often does it rain there? It rains here whenever it wants to. You sent an overhead picture last week of someone cooking dinner.  How did you manage that vantage point? We were above the lady cooking dinner, so I put my camera to the floorboards and took a picture. Simple as that! You said you’ve gone on a couple of exchanges to Stung Meanchey.  How do the people living there respond to the missionaries?  They're very open to missionaries there.

Yesterday I was browsing through the Mormon Channel, and happened upon a video segment of a documentary series titled, “Two Brothers Two,” which tells about a guy named Luke Nelson who served a mission in Cambodia.  Do you know him?  I've heard of the Nelson guy and seen one clip. He was long gone before I actually got here. It's cool because I wish we had camera guys following us around getting sweet clips of us doing stuff. But on the other hand it makes you feel bad if you're here. There's one where he talks about going to get rice to eat and then looking around and seeing people looking at him and thinking "when was the last time that person ate rice?" Like yeah, that's a really nice thing to think, and it looks great on a documentary, but in reality what does he want us to do about it? Should we buy them all rice so they can eat too? If we do that then we might as well be EVERY other Christian church in Cambodia. Like, it's cool from the outside and the culture is spot on what it is here, but from the inside like I'm living that and he's kind of going over-the-top. My take, though..

We got to have MLC last Tuesday, which the Christensens didn't teach much at since they're still trying to get acquainted with everything. But it was good and fun to see a lot of my friends who are out in different areas. Then we took that and taught our South Zone Training on Thursday. They were a little dead, but I think it went ok. We have set new 3-month goals, which are (I think) pushing, but also realistic and believable. President talked a lot about how we should be accomplishing our goals. He said "the missing of a goal should be relatively rare." He's got some cool ideas and takes on things.

We tied Lookpu Pan's leg up to a table with a bungie cord. That'll help him a lot, but we couldn't help but try to suppress laughter as we were doing it thinking what his family might think. hahahah

I guess Pioneer Day is a big holiday here. They didn't really mention it that I saw too much last year, but at the same time I couldn't speak the language then, so... But they're gearing up for a big Saturday bash to celebrate our pioneering ancestors.They met after church together, the entire ward council and even their counselors for our monthly meeting. The only thing on the agenda: what we were going to eat for the party. They went through all kinds of different Khmae food options for about 40 minutes before settling on ordering hamburgers. Go figure. When we asked the little kid (holding the baby in the pic I'll send) if he knew what Pioneer day was he said it meant sandwiches and juice. I mean, fair is fair.

I made the cinnamon cake in the newly-discovered slow-cooker.

You know, to answer that thing I said a few weeks back about not having the golden plates. Has anybody actually located the 2 tablets with the 10 commandments on it?..... I didn't think so. Doesn't make those any less real, does it?

Some old crazy guy saw us riding our bikes and he straightened up and put his feet together and gave us a good old-fashioned military soldier salute. We were in a rush so I returned the salutation. Myers stopped and he got his hand kissed...

That's about all for my week. We're actually hoping for 1 baptism this next week instead of 2, but we'll get there. 

Thanks guys, have a good week!

Video Link:

Sam wrote, "Is something wrong with this mural?"

Lightning rod

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Sam sent us the following email & photos on Sunday, July 5, 2015:

From: Samuel Christensen <>
Subject: Happy 2015th Birthday, America!
Date: July 6, 2015 1:01:49 AM MDT

Hey guys!

Sounds like you all had a happy 4th of July. I'll be there with you for the next one. There wasn't a lot of celebrating from us, but we always keep in our remembrance a deep and abiding love for the US of A. Mom, you're right. They really opened a can of worms with that decision [the Supreme Court’s decision regarding same-sex marriage] and it's only going to get worse. Those idiots. I just keep thinking what would our Founding Fathers be thinking. They're like this is not what we had in mind. But I guess this is all a part of what the grand plan is. I was wondering this week if (and this is a legitimate wonder, I'm not making this up to be dumb) people who are either members or endowed members are given a gift of greater understanding, because the church seems so logically and obviously correct to me and to the people I'm working with. Like if you really look at it from a logistical standpoint there's.... I don't know, when we meet people who try and bash or oppose us, their points don't make sense. That's what I really like about the church is that there is an answer to everything. And it works. Every time. 

This was also a really pretty good week. We are doing a lot of good things in this area and I feel like it's really opening up to us. We're working well with the members, who are really solid here. That made church yesterday really nice to see all of the people that we have been working so hard to get out to church (investigators, less actives) come out, and then be taken in by the ward so nicely. 

We got to meet President and Sister Christensen for the first time on Thursday. I'm sure it's pretty overwhelming to step into what they just stepped into, but their spirits are high and they kept telling us how excited they were to be here. President is a super cool guy. Very easy to talk to. Incredible last name. His mission was very unique in that he was serving in Hong Kong for most of it, then his mission president sent 4 elders into vietnam (in 1971) to keep up the missionary efforts that US troops had started. He had no previous language training and so they all had like 6 months to learn it and translate the book of mormon and stuff and it's an incredible thing. I'm sure he's full of great stories. But they've been so stoked to get here and be back in southeast Asia, and I'm always happy to have more Salt Lake Valley people here. His personality and style is very different from President Moon. Completely different. But I think that he will be a really great Mission President too. Pres. Moon seems even more legendary after having left. I'm excited to see where we go and I'm grateful from where we've come.

At the start of this week, actually, I was pretty down on missionary work. I was tired of it and just not having the spirit of it with me. But we pulled out of it after a few days and I'm back to a good state of being. It's a hard thing to do missionary work, but it's a lot better if you're happy about doing it.

We're having fun with English class. The class was very impressed with Myers' and my knowledge of their famous, popular khmae songs and that was funny. But don't try to play "Fruitbasket" with them because they won't understand that at all....

We had our first downpour of the season a few days ago while I was on another exchange in Stung Mean Chey. Bring on the floods.

We had two investigators who we assumed from the sisters that both decided, without talking to each other first, that they would like to be baptized on July 19th sometime in the morning. We wanted them to be baptized at the same time anyways, so that's what we're going for now. 

I also got to do a baptism interview for a Filipino lady attending the International branch with her husband. She's in the Office Elders' district. First time I've had to conduct one of those in English. She's got an incredible story and has some of the deepest faith and conversion that I've ever seen. She passed with flying colors. After her baptism she just kept saying that she was so happy and couldn't even describe it. She's truly seen a change in her life, and she says that those around her have seen it too.

I'm glad to be a missionary. It's never really easy. At the end it's worth it. The trick is making sure you're glad in the middle. 

Thanks for everything you guys. Peace and love!

Above & below:  Sam's caption for these two pictures was, "Venice" 

This picture and the following 2 are of a sunset at Trash Mountain

Sam's caption:  "Dinner from above/through the slats"

Sam's recent zone conference with his new mission president, President Christensen, and his wife.
Sam is on the back row in the center, and President Christensen and his wife are on the front row in the center.