Monday, September 28, 2015

Sam sent the following email & photos on Sunday, September 27, 2015.  Our questions are in italics.:

From: Samuel Christensen <>
Date: September 27, 2015 10:55:06 PM MDT

Hey what's up guys,

We're looking to turn the corner on some of our investigators. So luckily we were able to get to meet a few of those contacts from before. Now we're looking to take the next step and get them to be legit and progress. The subject bar is one of my favorite lines in PMG. For some reason it just sounds awesome and I like to scream it out randomly if there seems to be a lull in conversations. Gets me pumped! But seriously, we've got to get some of these new people to actually try what we've told them and pray so that they actually can feel the Spirit and then have a desire to progress. So that's where we're at right now. So I guess we have seen success this past week, but it's still a grind most of the time.

I’m curious to know if you feel like the Cambodian people are religious people in general?  I assume most of the population would identify themselves as Buddhists, right?  But are most of them actively practicing religion in their lives?  I think the hardest people to teach would be those who are just apathetic about religion in general.  This reminds me of a little story/fable: “There was a large field with a fence dividing it.  Christ owned the field on one side of the fence, and Satan owned the field on the other side.  A guy came along, and he had to decide whose side of the fence he wanted to be on.  He was left alone to decide.  A while later, Satan came back to the field and found the guy sitting on the fence.  The guy said, “I couldn’t decide which side to choose, so I sat on the fence.  I chose neither you nor him.”  To that, Satan said, “Well, didn’t you know?  I own the fence.”  I like that "don't you know I own the fence" Satan quote. On the drive here I was actually thinking about how it's hard here not because people are Buddhist, but because of what Elder Holland said that "apathy is more dangerous than apostasy" and yes, most people would identify with Buddhism, but few actually follow the precepts of Buddhism. They won't even care enough to look at what they say they believe, nor will they consider what we believe. The most common thing I hear is that all churches are good, all religions teach people to do good things. Buddhism and Christianity are good, the same. To which you have to just say ok yeah, but what about authority and power of a God of creation. What about ETERNAL LIFE?? One guy a little bit ago told us that he lived to die. What's the purpose of this life, I asked. To "receive help from charitable organizations" he replied. I'm hoping he misunderstood the question and doesn't really think that. But I'm afraid he does...

We sent over a referral to the Philadelphia Elders of a guy we talked to here who was from Cambodia, but he is really American cause he's lived there for like 40 years. We didn't get the chance to meet him even though he really wanted to meet us. He had to go back but he offered his American phone number and we got that sent over through the office elders. He'll be shocked at how fast information goes in the church. See you on the other side, Peter.

I can't wait til you guys come here and see how it is and meet the people I've met. Be prepared to come for the experience of a lifetime and come wanting to take lots of pictures and videos. Most of the guys in my group's parents are coming so maybe you guys can get in contact with them in the future. I'll let you know.

I was looking Chbar Ampov up on the Internet.  It looks like it’s on the eastern edge of Phnom Penh, across a branch of the Mekong River.  Mom, Chbar Ampov where we proselyte starts quite a ways after the bridge near Chbar Ampov high school up until road Prek Aeng pagoda. It's a fairly smallish area of people compared to other areas.  You told us last week that you had ridden on the road from Kean Svay to Phnom Penh a few times and it was full of pot holes.  Is that road “National Hwy 1”?  If so, it sounds like they need to get the Department of Highways busy on it.  That ride on National Road 1 is crazy.... This is a NATIONAL road, people. They're pretty good at tearing it up, putting it back down is the trick.

We had zone conference last week and president wants us to focus more on becoming "deliberate disciples" instead of "accidental disciples" which I think is very insightful. We're going to go play football today for P-day which is the first time I'll play since I've been here.

Peace out guys. Love you and miss you!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Sam sent the following email on Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015.  Our questions/comments are in italics.:

From: Samuel Christensen <>
Date: September 21, 2015 12:56:35 AM MDT

Hey what's up guys!

Well, we're doing the best we can out here in Chbar Ampov. We've braved the moguls on the road from Kean Svay to Phnom Penh several times this past week. By moguls I mean that the road is one giant pothole. We can't get anywhere without getting our shoes and pants completely covered in mud!

We get to do a lot of contacting here. Since we've been here for about 11 days I have written down 22 phone numbers of people that we've contacted. The next part is actually getting them to meet with you. But we're going to keep contacting and keep up the faith that there's people here to teach. Because we don't believe that there is such thing as a "bad" area, just that each area is different and maybe this is a little bit more difficult of an area than others. But we believe if we do the things we're supposed to be doing and working hard every day then we will have people to teach. I always have liked the sentence in PMG that says your success as a missionary is measured primarily by your commitment to finding and teaching people. And if that's the case, then we're very successful missionaries.

How has the training been going with Elder Riches?  Elder Riches is doing really well. He speaks the language very well already and is up to do anything.

The electricity in our apartment can't handle too much, so with two ACs and two refrigerators our power is always flipping off. Like a ton, but I guess that's going to get fixed soon.

I think I'm basically just numb to crazy stuff that happens now because if I was writing this email a year ago I would probably have a ton to say, but now it feels completely normal and like not much has happened. I'm glad to be out here and I wouldn't rather be anywhere else right now. I've heard through the grapevine that Somuen, from TT, is seriously considering serving a mission. That would make me so happy and it would be great preparation for his life. 

I guess that's all I've got. Have a good week!

Note:  Peter stumbled across the following on the web.  It was written by a missionary named Elder Epply, and is an account of the day he spent on a split with Sam:

"... I was able to go on a pretty great exchange this week too!  I went with one of our South Zone Leaders named Elder Christensen.  I'm kicking myself for not taking a picture with him, but he's a real great guy.  He's been serving for about a year now, and I can't believe how great of a missionary and leader he is!  Right now him and his companion, Elder Myers, ANOTHER outstanding Elder, are serving in an area called Tuol Tum Pong, which is one of the oldest areas in the mission.  That being said, there are also a TON of less-active members in that area.  The work is pretty hard there, plus the area is literally a maze.  We got lost a couple times, but I learned a lot from him that day.  During the day, we went and visited a less-active that we both knew from serving in Teuk Thla (my first area) and had a super great lesson with her, and we left notes of love and encouragement for her husband, who is a dear friend of ours.  It's really hard to see someone you love and that you've worked so hard with fall away and deny their beliefs.  We also went to the house of a very sick member who had a stroke and lost the ability to move his body.  His right leg and arm work, but his left side doesn't respond very well and provides considerable pain.  The man needs physical therapy, but his family doesn't have the time nor resources to provide that assistance.  Well, turns out there is a member in their ward who is studying that very science who went and visited this member with the missionaries before and he taught them some exercises to do to help him recuperate.  So, everyday the Elders there go to his house and one will read the scriptures to him while the other massages and works the man's legs to help him gain strength back.  It was a marvelous experience to participate in that, and to feel of the love Elder Christensen has for the members in his area.  Also, considering there aren't many prospective investigators in their area, they've started a new campaign where they go Amateur Johnny Appleseed and plant seeds in every single person they can.  Let me define what planting a seed means:  It's anything that brightens another person's day.  So a smile given and returned is a seed.  A "Hello!" given and received.  They're trying help people feel happy and Christ's love through small and simple means, and it's something I find is praiseworthy!  It was a fantastic exchange, that's for certain."

Monday, September 14, 2015

Sam sent the following email & pictures on Sunday, September 13, 2015.  Our questions & comments are in italics.

From: Samuel Christensen <>
Subject: Bring the hose, it's a white-wash
Date: September 14, 2015 12:41:21 AM MDT

Hey what it do guys?

Well this was a different week from before.

To answer questions: Now that you're in a new area, will you still be teaching piano?  And what about English class? probably not teaching piano anymore, still english, just add 3 more english speakers and subtract about 35 people. We'll see about that this week. With all your trekking through floodwaters, how are your poor shoes holding up?  Do you need us to send you some new ones? My shoes are great. I'm big on Ecco now and I think I'll wear these same shoes when I get home too because they're doing fine.

We hope you've had a good week with your new companion.  How is it training a brand new missionary? Being on the other side of a training for the first time takes me back a little to my training. Actually, it's hard for me to remember just the general feeling that I had for the first little bit in Cambodia because it was all so crazy. But there are specific things that are so basic now that I remember being awed and shocked about that now I don't think anything of. But my companion is still exploring this big new world. His name is Elder Riches and he's from Mesa, AZ. He is one month older than Skibby. He is a great missionary already just because of his raw desire to help all people and share the gospel. I want to make sure I'm not corrupting him and shutting doors, telling him "this can't work, and that can't work." Because after a while you get to think those things. But with a really fresh mindset the proselyting world is full of possibilities. We live in a house with 4 of us, one guy from my group. Already my group is just about the oldest in the mission, only 5 American Elders older than us. Why is that so fast?!

White-washing is hard! I'm trying not to have a pity party for myself over here, but boy, it's tricky. We do a lot of hauling around CBRs and trying to meet any members. Really, we'll meet anyone, anyone, haha. We came in and there was one investigator total in that area, a 10-year old. There is also exactly 1 Recent Convert that we are to take care of. That means one person, who is a male, who has been baptized here in the past 12 months. Contrast that with Battambang 2 where we had about 54 people to look after. So you could say the work is a little sparse. It's a challenge, but it's one I'm excited to have with Elder Riches. I mean, could we get any worse? So anything's a success! No just kidding, the area feels good, it feels exciting. We're tossing out seeds of joy and trying to get people to like us and trying to do all we can to get some kind of investigator pool under us.

The ward is not as developed as the last one, or Battambang, or Teuk Thla. But, like everywhere, there are good and faithful members. Branch President called us both up spur of the moment to bear our testimonies yesterday in sacrament and to pass the sacrament because "it appears that because of the rain we have no representatives of the priesthood. So we would like to invite the elders to come forward and pass." Hey I have no qualms with that.

I hope that I can be a good trainer. Elder Riches knows a ton of Khmae already. Like a ton. I was nowhere near where he is when I first came out of the Empty Sea.

It's hard, but I'm excited. I hope Nate's finger is better, that's a pretty terrible picture that he sent me.

Peace and love you guys!

Heidi's note:  Sam sent us this photo but didn't explain anything about it.  I find it disturbing.

Sam wrote about this photo:  "In other news, English is still a very hard language..."

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Sam sent the following email, photos, and video clips on Sunday, Sept. 7, 2015:

From: Samuel Christensen <>
Subject: The final trimester (It's a boy)
Date: September 6, 2015 9:47:53 PM MDT

Hey guys,

Well, the results are in... I have to leave Tuol Tompung. It's kind of sad because I really like the ward here and we've got good stuff going. I'll be going to an area called Chbar Ampov. I've never really had any desire to go there, and it is still in the city sort of. I'll go there and white wash and finally get to train a kid. So I am excited to hopefully get a good son and teach him to be a good missionary. It won't be too bad there, I'm just a little bummed to be leaving this area so soon. But it is what it is! I feel like our area is better now than when I first got here so I guess it's time to go. The transfer will happen on Thursday this week.

We had a really good fast and testimony meeting yesterday--probably the best one I've been in since being in Cambodia. All down-to-earth people who spoke briefly. No more open-mic time for the youth.

To answer your question about the rain, it feels like it rains most days, not all. Usually it comes on about 4 o'clock. There's plenty of time of just hot sun though. It rained pretty severely this past week and flooded everything again. I've got some videos I put on dropbox for you. It's amazing how people have to deal with it. Some people in a really poor area, when it rains that hard, just deal with garbage water up to their necks. And then eventually it drains and goes away and they're fine. That's their life, they don't really know anything different. They're very humble. I had to walk through some of the water to get to someone's house and I got there and the lady had me take my socks off and she wrung them out and put them up to dry. Like, I wouldn't even want to wring out my own socks.

I've learned a lot about how to teach better and better methods since being here. And the rust is knocked off a little since we're out of the threesome so I can speak and teach a little more smoothly like I felt like I used to. Gotta get ready for my kid!

Like I said, I'm sad to leave, but I guess it's the plan and it'll be a good thing. Hope everything is going well there at home with health and school and stuff.

Peace and love!