Tuesday, December 27, 2011

It happened. I'm getting transferred.

Hey Family!

Well, I'm headed to the city! I'm going to the 12th branch in the city! Its one of the most northern branches in Phnom Penh. 

Good news: the airport is in our area, which means Dairy Queeeeeeeeeen!

Also, I will be companions with one of my best friends from the MTC (Elder Nielsen) We always joked about the day we would be companions someday. So excited! I honestly couldn't be more excited about this transfer call. At first when the ZL told me I thought that he was kidding. 

In other news, I baptized Neak Ming Sidon on Sunday. And my companion baptized her daughter. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I can't wait until you all have a chance to meet her. I feel like she is the reason I came to Siem Reap. We've been helping her quite a bit in her fields and harvesting rice and things and she is the nicest person in the entire world. I will never forget her. She kind of talks with a southern accent and is really in tune to how she feels. She calls us angels and when I told her I might leave she was super sad, but then said don't worry, we'll meet again in heaven and it will be even happier than now! I'll be honest, that made me tear up a little bit. And the biggest news: Her husband came to the baptism all dressed up with a new shirt.  (which is a really big deal)  He's always been pretty against the Elders.  I asked him how he liked church. He said he loved it. But he said the cold machine (air conditioner) made him super sleepy and all he wanted to do was sleep. Its true. During Relief Society he put a bunch of plastic chairs together in the back and put his shirt over his face and slept. But he was there, and he liked it, and we're hoping to start teaching him tonight. 

Love you all
Elder Nelson
Thanksgiving feast!!!!!!

Feeling at home in Siem Reap. (from November)

Hello family,

I'm starting to feel a lot more comfortable with the country and everything that goes on here. My bike breaks literally everyday so I am always at the bike repair shop. I'm getting to know those guys really well.

We are seeing a lot more success in our area. We're starting to click more as a companionship and our lessons are getting a lot better.

So first I just want to thank you guys for the package. You really do know exactly what I need. Man, I'm really excited to make a peanut butter sandwich tonight. 

In this area, there is a night and day difference from a few weeks ago. Its been a lot of hard work and pure grit, but we're starting to see some great things happening here. It seems wild to think my time in Siem Reap will likely be drawing to a close in 2 weeks. But we're just going to be putting our shoulder to the wheel and doing work.  

One of my big goals has been teaching my companion english. When we leave the house I look at him  enthusiastically and say: "What time is it?!?!" He replies quietly "game time." He finally asked me what that meant ... it was too hard to explain. I eventually just told him not to worry about it,  just say it. 

My companion said my Khmer language skills had gotten A LOT better since our first week together. This is exciting to me. 

 I got to spend some time with Elder Hill at Zone conference which was sweet!  Zone conference is great, lots of the Spirit and lots of FOOD! Thats what I'm talking about!

I love you all!
Elder Nelson

I wish I could drive this around.

A Cambodian baptism.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

New companion, new responsibilities, same great place.

Pictures of the Narnia path.

Our destination.
Hello Family,

So everyday we see various tourists drive by us in Tuk Tuks. And I'd say about 75% of them kinda poke fun at us as they drive by. We always just wave and smile. There was a particular Tuk Tuk full of younger adults and as they drove by us, they made some kind of joke and all started laughing. I know thats no big deal.  Then, as they were driving away I saw one of the women accidentally drop the lid of her water bottle.  I have personally learned from sad experience the inefficiency of a water bottle without a cap.  So, I decided to go get that cap and return it to her before they got too far away. I need to add, my bike is much too small for me and the only gear is low so I look like the Wicked Witch of the West when I try to ride fast.  So, I got the cap, and started racing after them. I was weaving in and out of traffic trying to catch up.  By the time I finally caught up I was super sweaty and red faced. As I pulled up, I did my legendary "skid stop" and held out my hand with the bottle cap and said, "Excuse me, but I believe you lost your bottle cap a ways back" She wasn't sure what to make of me, but slowly took the cap. Then, like a super hero, I turned around and sped away. In my job, no kindness is ever wasted.

Something new to report: I'm now a district leader with a new companion.

I've officially started a new chapter of my mission. It has been one of the most difficult weeks so far. But its all an adventure and that's just how the mission goes. There's been A LOT of good times that balance out the difficult parts. 

So for transfers, everyone goes down to Phnom Penh to pick up their new companion. I was excited but I didn't really know what to expect. Elder Hill and I had been companions for 4 1/2 months which is my whole mission so far. It was very difficult for me to say goodbye to him.

My new companion's name is Elder Phan  He is pure Cambodian and doesn't speak a lick of English.  My language skills are about to get better. Lets just say that the 8 hour bus ride back to Siem Reap was quiet. I gave him all I got for about 10 minutes and then, I just didn't have anything else. So we both just sat there and looked forward. I guess he loved the area he came from and was sad the first few days.

I'm starting to realize there's a lot of vocabulary words I don't know. The first day, Elder Phan said something that I didn't understand... then he explained it with another word I didn't know... and then used another word I didn't know but said it really slow.  I looked at him and thought, "It doesn't matter how slow you say it, if I don't know the word I can't understand it." He finally took his shirt and held it up and said, "c-c-lein."  I was like, OH! Washing machine! Its downstairs. I turned around and was like "oh boy, here we go…" 

Elder Phan bio: 
Phan's dance group.
-Very tall for a Cambodian
-Been part of a performing dance group (but they've only performed 2 times in 2 years) 
-I tried to speak English with him and asked something very simple like, how old he was and he had no idea what that meant. 
-He's 23 years old
-He has 2 girls waiting for him (but they don't know each other) He likes one because she is skinny and can dance. And likes the other one because she's "fierce" and tall. I didn't know the word for fierce. It took him forever to explain it. He ended up ,like a tiger" which solved it but I still don't know when I learned the word for Tiger?) 
-He's nervous around me and talks extremely fast which doesn't help the language barrier. 
-He is deathly afraid of people who sleep talk. Which apparently, I do, a lot?

The good news is, my understanding of the language is getting a lot better. I have no choice.  Before I could follow Elder Hill in everything, but now I set the appointments, make the plans and lead the area. It's been super crazy, but gets better every day.

Love you guys!

Elder Nelson.  

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Narnia Path

Hello Family

We found a new investigator named Si Don. She is a referral from a member.  The member took us there that night and we followed him down a magical bike path. We decided to call it "Narnia Path" because you go through this hidden alley way and then suddenly it opens up to miles and miles of rice fields that I never knew were there. The first night we went out there the sunset was unbelievable and we  ended up riding right into the sunset. It was an incredible feeling. I didn't know what to do with myself. It would blow away any desktop background ever produced. I never knew I could ever see something that beautiful. I wanted to start  dancing or running or SOMETHING! It was a great feeling. When we got to the referral's home, the woman came out and announced to her family, "The 2 messengers from heaven are already here!" We had a sweet lesson. The great news is, after continuing to teach Si Don, she has committed to baptism!  Our lessons with her take place with the most beautiful backdrop during the day.  300 yards of fice field, then a jungle with a meandering stream.  Sometimes there is the BIGGEST moon you have ever seen which makes the night very bright.  It's one of my favorite locations here.

I'm still safe in outrageous flooding and absolutely loving my mission.... we are anticipating the biggest storm in years to hit next week. Should be fun. 

I had the opportunity to go to the city last week for a couple days, which was great. My companion had a Zone Leader conference so I got to spend the day with 3 of the elders in my MTC group. We planned, then went and finally got me a new suit.  Both of mine were lost. (long story)  I'll be able to pick it up on the 21st so that will be exciting. 

Conference weekend was amazing.  I've been spoiled watching conference in the past, with pancakes, couches, pillows and blankets, on a big TV. This time we watched in a humid Primary room sitting on plastic chairs and the AC was broken. The TV cut out half way through so we had to finish it on a 12" DVD player. Very funny. Despite all of that, I enjoyed conference more than ever. 

VI Chai who I've mentioned before (he was the one who was inactive for a long time and saw us on the road with bike problems and helped open up his whole village... he lives across the street from Angkor Wat, remember?)  His wife is learning and loving the Gospel. She's awesome and their family sits in the front row every Sunday. They have 2 of the CUTEST kids I've ever seen. Makes me very, very excited to be a father someday. 

Like I've said before, the first missionary lesson is tricky to teach people in Cambodia. The whole concept of God is foreign to them.  Then, a great idea come to me of how I could teach it better!

 This is it!  I make a comparison between my father on earth and my Father in Heaven. Then, I explain it this way: 

Obviously, I know that my father on earth loves me very much. Before I came to Cambodia I lived with him. I talked with him. He loved me and would do whatever he could to help me progress and be happy. Right now I'm in Cambodia, away from him for a small time. I know that he still loves me. Every week I can email him, and he shows me his love and offers me encouragement back through regular emails. When I'm struggling I know that all he wants to do is help me, and when I'm doing well it makes him very happy.  I have faith that after my mission I will go back and be with him and my family. I know he will still love me and meet me with open arms. 

Our Father in Heaven is the same way. We lived with him for eternities before our life on earth. We knew him. We talked with him. All he wanted to do was to help his children progress and be happy. He made a plan for us to come to earth for a short time to accomplish this. While we are away from his presence we are still able to have a relationship with him. He is able to help us whenever we ask. Instead of email it is prayer. He is all powerful and will do anything to help his children. He's there to encourage us when we struggle and rejoice with us when we succeed. Although we cannot see him right now, we can feel his love and be influenced by his help. We know that we will only be away from Him for a short time. But after this life, we will meet him again. His face will be familiar to us, and he will welcome us with open arms. 

It was a powerful lesson, and the investigator understood. 

I love you all! Hope everything is well, I miss you!

Elder Nelson

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

More serious rain, service and tasty little snacks.

Hello Family

I am at a loss for words (especially english ones) for how much water is sitting on the ground in Cambodia right now. We have had some severe rain storms this week.  We were on our way to an investigators house late thursday night, and the wind started to pick up like I've never seen. It started peeling the roof off our investigators house!  When we went back outside we saw the biggest scariest rain cloud I have EVER seen. It seemed like I could watch it growing as stood looking up in the sky.  I think I'm getting used to these kinds of things so we muttered an "oh boy" and kept riding. The minute I decide I'm getting used to the madness, we were under the scariest, craziest rain blitz I've experienced yet.  We soon concluded it wasn't normal by anyone's standard.  We were racing home as fast as we could and the wind was so strong it was difficult to even ride our bikes.  Lightning was everywhere and the thunder never stopped. 

The good news is we got home safe. We finish planning and stare outside and agreed it was definitely the biggest rainstorm that we have seen since in Cambodia. It rained and stormed all night, and continued until we left the house the next day. When we left, it was absolutely insane what we found outside. The whole city was at least knee deep in flood water. Where there were soccer fields there are lakes, roads were running rivers, and wave pools. I didn't think I'd say this again, but this week has been the biggest adventure so far. 

Of course, this kind of situation is perfect for missionaries.  My companion and I smiled at each other and I said lets get to work!  So first we went to a members house thats quite a distance from where we are. We had no choice but to go on a road close to the river.  At times we were trudging through water up to our belly button. The river over flowed, and for MILES there was running water that was at least knee deep.  At one point we stopped to take a quick picture, then we turned around and my bike was gone! It had floated away in the river. My companion parked his bike and we looked for it for 15 minutes. Luckily, we ended up finding it 20 yards "down stream" hooked on a street sign. It sounds terrible, but I have to admit it's been crazy fun. 
The best part is, we've had the opportunity to help so many, many people who are stuck. Everyone finds it very funny and entertaining that two "french guys" in white shirts and ties are walking through main street helping people in the flood. The worst part for us is our favorite restaurant was flooded. We went in and told them we would always be their most loyal customers.

The flood brought us some good luck because the Kapoong Thom elders are now staying with us. It flooded so bad that it was over 7 feet of water by their house. They had a member take them to another member's house in a canoe. President took them out and they'll be staying with us until the water goes down (it could be quite a while)   

Other interesting notes from this week: 

This week is the holiday called Pshum Ben. It's the fifteenth day, of the tenth month, of the Khmer calendar. They believe it is a special time when the spirits of dead ancestors walk the earth.  And the living can ease their suffering by offering them food to eat by leaving it around the temple and feeding the monks.  It lasts 15 days which makes it difficult to get a lot done. BUT, there's a GREAT upside.  Everyone gives us these tasty little things called Num Soms. They look just like tamales with rice and pork and bananas.  Then, they cook it in a banana leaf and it makes a very tasty snack. We've literally received hundreds of them. Everybody takes great pride in their recipe and we are more than willing to compare and contrast the variations. 

We had president interviews last week. I got to go on an exchange with one of the assistants which was very fun.  He complimented me on my language skills which is always a relief to hear. 

Despite the weather, the work is going well. We seem to find a new investigator everyday. We have 3 baptisms scheduled before the end of the month which is exciting. I'm happy, I'm safe and I have really bad foot fungus. But, I love where I'm serving, I wouldn't rather be anywhere else.


I love you all, I hope all is well at home. 

-Elder Nelson

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I'm staying.

I found out I’m staying put for another 6 weeks! I am very excited about it. I’ve been on cloud 9 since transfer calls. AND I'm also staying with my trainer.  I'm really pumped about that as well. My trainer and I have gotten to be really close friends.  We have been on fire this week and we were hoping to stay together. I'm officially no longer a "greeny"  and it will be fun to be more involved because of that. We just added 2 new families and 3 other investigators to our teaching pool. We look forward to being able to continue to work with all of them.

I’m going to follow Sam’s example and start leaving a spiritual thought at the end of my emails.

Spiritual Thoughts about Moroni:

In my recent Book of Mormon reading I picked up something that I haven't noticed before.  First of all, Moroni is definitely one of my biggest heroes. He is such a man, and he just takes care of business. There’s this one story I particularly like in Alma chapter 62. This time through the Book of Mormon I've been taking my time and it has greatly increased my understanding. 

So, at this point in the Book of Mormon, Alma has the Lamanites on their heels and he is heading to Nephihah to take the city back. In verse 19, his plan was to take them out of the city and fight them in the Valley of Nephihah to protect the lives of the people in the city. But, the Lamanites wouldn't, because they knew the strength of Moroni's army. That night, they all went to bed and planned to fight the next day. But while everyone else went to sleep, Moroni, the Chief Captain of the Nephite army, climbed up the wall and went to the extra effort to personally find out where the weak points were. Obviously, that was the job of the scouts and not a job expected of the Chief Captain. But as the story goes, the Nephites were informed where the weak points of the Lamanite forces were and went in by night, and took over the city. Without even one soldier losing his life.

Sure, Moroni knew he could have easily fought the next day and "leveled the Lamanites to the earth" and lost some soldiers.  But he chose a better way by going the extra mile and saved thousands of lives.

We've been taught that everything in the Book of Mormon is there for a reason.  I really found why this story was put in for me.  Not to learn how to win wars on the battlefield, but in my life.

Like the example of Moroni’s leadership, I/we need to "climb the walls in our lives” This relates to me now as a missionary.  I can be obedient, keep the rules, and have some success.  But until I am ready to climb the wall, go the extra mile, serve when I wouldn't be expected to serve... That is when I will have true success.

This principle can be applied to any responsibility in our lives. Whether it's being a husband, a father, an athlete, a brother, a son, in my profession, in my calling as a missionary or anything else, it is key.

We can't settle being mediocre.

That's all I have for the week.

Love you all!

Elder Nelson

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

We moved to a new house, dodged bats, waded through flood waters and walked the planks.

So this week was another interesting week because we moved! The water was always out from 8-930 (when we need to shower/cook) There were also lots of mean dogs nearby. They have one that’s usually locked up. But when its not, it always tries to attack me. On our last week, I got a solid kick to its jaw and it left whimpering. It was a storybook ending as we pulled away. 


I need to mention that we felt really grown up moving. We didn't have any senior couple help because we are so far away, so it was just us four, moving our whole house!

So for this week my regular, American companion went with our district leader to Phnom Penh for training. So once again its just me and Elder Hem, the cambodian elder.  Last time, he was able to take advantage of my "greeniness."  But this time, I am prepared. I wake up early every morning like Rambo and counter plan out every time when he could possibly be up to “something.”  Also known here as a,"tvee baab." (which means to do something bad like sin. But, the phrase is commonly used among missionaries for pranks.) This time I will not be vulnerable.  It’s very funny.  My kind of situation. 

Yesterday, I went proselyting with Elder Hem. We had a VERY severe rainstorm last weekend and our church attendance was way down.  I have to say I was really bummed about it. But this week, I started to figure out why it’s so difficult for members to come to church under certain conditions. For instance, we were on our way to our first appointment and our path eventually led straight into a “lake.” Elder Hem turned to me and said, "Now, we take our shoes off." Huh?  So, we hid our bikes in the jungle, rolled up our pants, and started wading through fairly deep water to get to our investigator. We started walking through a village and it was actually cool how they adjusted to the flooded conditions. They rigged long planks so that the villagers could walk from house to house without getting wet. Very cool! 
 When we came around the corner our investigator yelled, “ELDERS!” super loud and stood up very fast. He couldn't believe that two men in suits were willing to get all dirty to meet with him.  I could tell that we had instantly earned the respect of our investigator. The lesson we taught him went very well.  And, like I’ve said in earlier emails, it felt amazing to make extra sacrifices to meet our investigators. They truly are children of our Heavenly Father, and it’s our honor to offer them the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

Interesting trivia for this week:

One time I noticed this huge, creepy bird. Then, I realized it was a bat.  Elder Hem pointed to the distance and there were literally 300 bats were flying our way! When they were on top of us they started to swoop down and kept coming very close to hitting me. They made strange, loud creepy noises.  It seriously gave me the chills.  Not my favorite thing about Cambodia.

The Cambodian language is coming along. I wish it was much better.  However, me and my companion “had a moment” the other day. He looked me in the eye and told me he was super impressed. He never gives compliments so it was a big deal. I've enjoyed having him as my trainer.

Next week I'll know where I'll be when Uncle Rick comes to Cambodia! I really hope its in Siem Reap.

Much Love,

-Elder Nelson

Friday, September 2, 2011

And, another week is on the books.

We had a different kind of week. Not as much proselyting. My companion was pretty sick so we were out of commission for a few days.  It was a little frustrating but we had some good talks and it was great for studying. My companion is really smart in the gospel and we enjoyed bouncing ideas off of each other. 

Our mission president had family visiting this past weekend. It is fun for us when he has family visit because they usually visit Siem Reap. President likes to take them teaching with the missionaries. I am lucky to be here because I’ve gotten to teach with the President twice.

The spirit he brings to lessons is amazing. He knows quite a bit of Khmer, but his example and his presence has helped us and our investigators this week. He loves the people that he is helping to teach, and the investigators can really feel it. That’s something I have been focusing on a lot lately. I want to have Charity when I am teaching but also in all other aspects in my life. It realize how important it is as a true disciple of Christ.

Ok, so let me tell you about a man named Hal. He has lived in Australia, New Zealand, and England. His accent is a little strange to me. He showed up at church randomly one Sunday. In our ward we usually get white, tourist visitors almost every week. But Hal was wearing a tank top and board shorts. Out of the ordinary even for tourists. He’s also a bit older, (hopefully I can send a picture home sometime.) But I remember thinking that first Sunday, oh boy, what do we have here?

Anyway, my companion usually translates for all visitors and after class we started talking more in depth with Hal about the Gospel. He said he once had a Mormon friend that he really respected.  He’s been interested in knowing more, but never really acted on it. So we set up a return appointment with him. My companion and I talked about it that night during our planning and we both agreed Hal probably wouldn’t be going anywhere soon, and that we should meet with him.

To make a long story short we had a very spiritual lesson with him. It ended with him in tears, saying the prayer, thanking his Heavenly Father for answering his prayer and guiding him to us. He called us by name in his prayer. And it was really touching. I mean REALLY touching.  The spirit was so strong. We've been meeting Hal pretty frequently now, and we truly believe he has been prepared by the Lord to receive the Gospel.

At times Hal can be a little different. Sometimes he starts comparing our meetings to a famous Australian song, and he scraped his arm on the fence to the church, and insisted that the Khmers had a remedy for it... Then, he sliced up a lime and put it on his arm. The whole lesson he insisted that it didn't hurt, but honestly I don't see how it didn’t.

Hal is odd, but he is a beloved son of our Heavenly Father. He is an honest seeker of truth, who Heavenly Father loves.
We feel like the Lord blessed us with him in our area. 

I love you all!

-Elder Nelson

Friday, August 26, 2011

I'll never be able to explain what the rain is really like here.

First of all, I finally took a picture of the sunset we see every night.  The picture still doesn't do it justice.
I'm officially comfortable handling raw meat.  We helped prepare the food for the branch dinner. These are very skinny chickens.

Rainy season is starting to build here in Cambodia!  It’s a relief because more rain means less sun, so I'm not complaining.

Quick rain story I to share:

We had a powerful experience teaching a recent convert family the other day. They live a good 1.5 hours away by bike, from where we live (which is rare). We were having a rough day and many people canceled on us so we decided that we would go visit this family that we hadn't seen in a long while. It was quite the ride! We passed lots of temples and cool bridges and things I swear only existed in movies or make believe. It was mind blowing.  At one point, I looked down and there was literally a "herd” of monkeys, like 20 of them. I stopped my bike by one and we just kind of stared at each other for a while. It was weird. And big news!  I saw my first elephant in Cambodia. It had a big platform on top with a lady sitting on top all dressed in red. Very cool. 

So anyway, we definitely went "over the river (and mountains) and through the woods" to get to this house. We meandered through a crazy random village and sped through miles and miles rice fields. The whole time I was thinking, “Man, who in the world went proselyting way out here?”

We finally get to the house...and, they weren't home. So we walked out back to see if they were in their field...but they weren’t. However, all was not lost, we were greeted by some big, giant, scary, black pigs.  See picture.

So, we went back to our bikes and there were two little kids (picture attached) standing right by our bikes. We asked if they knew where this family was. They said yes.  Then, they started walking across the road, so we followed, and followed...and followed. We ended up winding through a bunch of rice fields. The whole time I was thinking, what are the chances that these random kids will actually lead us to these people? We soon realized, we were again in the middle of nowhere with at least a mile of rice fields stretching in every direction.

Suddenly, a ways off, we heard someone yell  “ELDERS!” from a few rice fields away. It was the man and his wife we were looking for and they had been working all day in the fields! They asked if we wanted to share a message with them right there, and of course, we happily agreed. It had to be the most spiritual lesson of my mission so far. This location was completely quiet except for a few birds chirping, crickets and frogs.  Very peaceful. We taught about the Plan of Salvation. It was wonderful. I felt a guilty for being a little negative about going all that way out to teach them because they were SO amazing. They truly have been prepared and are ready to learn the Gospel. 

Then, right as we were finishing up the lesson, the wife turns around really fast and says. Looks like it’s about to rain!  Which was weird because it was sunny.  Then we noticed, because it was so quiet, that we could hear the rain hitting the rice fields about a mile away.   Then during the prayer it got louder and louder. By the end of the prayer we could look in the distance and see mist rising from the fields.  That’s how fast things change around here. The wife started panicking and told us to run or else we would get wet. So, my companion and I started running. The rain was getting louder and louder, and we were laughing and running like crazy to outrun the rain, getting completely exhausted through a mile of rice fields. We ended up getting back under cover and right as the rain hit! It was pretty fun trying to outrun the rain.  Of course, we ended up getting soaked anyway riding home. 

This experience and many like it really remind me of Gods love for each of his children. The family we met had such a light in their eyes. It was an honor to meet with them.

Mom, thanks for posting my letters and pictures on the blog!
I love you all!

-Elder Nelson

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Harvesting rice with tough, hardworking people!

All is well in Cambodia. And as usual, it’s been a pretty wild week.

I could write another story about a crazy rainstorm experience, but those may be getting old.  Lets just say it is definitely "rainy season".  After every storm I think, “Wow! That must’ve been the biggest storm in Cambodian history!”  But it never is, and they happen every other day. Just a part of the daily adventure here.

Yesterday, we had a unique Cambodian opportunity. We did service for one of the members in our branch. We helped to harvest her rice field! It was really fun! We just rolled up our dress pants and got to work! It was funny because we were so bad at it.  The Cambodians really liked showing off their rice field harvesting skills.  Word spread fast through the village that there was a couple guys in white shirts and ties, helping harvest a rice field.  After a while, there were about 20 extra people helping us and we all had a great time!  We got a few contacts from that group too, so we were pretty excited.

When you harvest the rice, there's a specific process that needs to be done. At one point, you need to get the mud off the bottom of the bunch of rice that’s pulled up by slapping it against your foot. Well, I didn't know much about what I was doing and was slapping the rice on my foot too timidly.  One of the older ladies there started yelling something at me! Then she just rolled up her pants and marched right into the rice field and did about 30 minutes of my work in about 5. Then was whacking the rice so hard against her foot, it was kind of freaky. I thought she was just a fragile older lady but she was tough and really knew how to work! Needless to say, she really showed me up. Then, when I started hitting the rice against my foot really hard, I got covered with mud. I must’ve looked pretty awkward.  I have lots of respect for rice farmers... a very cool experience with very cool people.

So there is a member named Dora that helps us with our teaching. He’d been somewhat inactive lately. We wanted find a way to strengthen him so we invited him to help us with some missionary work. He is an awesome guy. The first day he seemed a little reluctant to help us, and when we asked him to contribute to the lesson he would share only 2 sentences that weren't really related to the lesson. But, after a few weeks of working with him he now LOVES working with us! He brings his Book of Mormon and contributes powerfully to the lessons. He's by far our best member helper. Yesterday when I was “doping him” (letting him ride on the back of my bike) he was practicing how he was going to introduce himself and what he was going to say. I asked him, "Dora, have you ever thought about serving a mission?" He said, “Me, be an elder?” I said Yeah!  He felt like that wasn’t possible. I asked him why and he just said he didn't know. I assured him he really could and he got very excited. When we take him along, he talks all about how much he wants to serve a mission! So now we call him Elder Dora.

It has been so cool to see the progression and spiritual growth of him and others. Once again the Book of Mormon is the important part that starts the process. It really is powerful, and has the capability of impacting people’s lives in positive ways.

The Book of Mormon truly changes lives. I keep seeing it over and over again. I love having the opportunity to read it every morning. I wish there was more time in the day so that I could read it even more. It is truly another testament of our Savior Jesus Christ.

I love you all! Hope all is well at home

Elder Nelson

Monday, August 8, 2011

Greetings from a dusty Internet cafe in Phnom Penh!

Yes, this is my first official trip back to the city since I've been here. My companion has a Zone meeting tomorrow, so we are here for a couple days. This is one of the really cool benefits of the Cambodian Phnom Penh Mission. For meetings and gatherings, you get to travel all around the country.

This trip is actually extra exciting for me. It’s the first time I've talked to an American (besides my companion) in over a month and a half now. Its awesome seeing my buddies from the MTC.  Everyone goes to the mission home to get letters and what not, so I saw just about everyone. It’s strange to see the transformation of the Elders after 6 weeks. Everyone seems more mature... and 15 pounds lighter. Speaking of weight, I started working out pretty hard after I lost all that weight at first and now I'm back up to185. Whenever we need to “dope” someone, (Have someone ride on the back of my bike) I always do it because it gives me a solid leg workout.   All my buddies from the MTC are doing very well and holding up okay. The language is slapping us all in the face, but we're a solid group in that we're all good, hard workers. I’m excited to see how we all progress as time goes by.

This week has been wild, here are a couple of stories:

A few days ago there was an extremely bad rainstorm. We were meeting with a recent convert and it was sunny outside.  However, there was a dark lightning cloud off in the distance, but it was warm where we were. It was absolutely insane how fast the storm grew. In a matter of minutes it seemed to grow 50 times in size.  The thunder started off soft (like a regular rainstorm in Seattle) and then it started getting louder and louder. Out of the recent convert’s house you can see miles and miles of flat rice fields (Literally to the horizon.)  We saw the lightning striking way off in the distance. But it didn’t take long before the lightning started getting closer and closer. We started noticing that we couldn't see a lot of the things we could see earlier because the rain was coming down sooo hard. Once again, my companion says, “Oh boy, this is a bad one! I am literally scared right now.”  I thought he was joking, but all of the sudden, rain started coming down ridiculously hard and fast. It’s impossible to put into words just how hard it rains.  I guess its like at a water park when a huge, oversized bucket fills up with water and dumps on your head. The rain started coming down so hard on the palm tree leaves that we could hardly hear anything.

I need to go back for a second and talk about the lesson we were teaching. It was about the Restoration. It was me, my companion, Om Yum and 4 kids between the ages of 10 and14.  We all had our Books of Mormon out, reading one verse at a time by candle light with rain and thunder going crazy right outside. My companion turned to me and said, “These are the kind of moments I will always miss about Cambodia.” It really was amazing to be there with them.  The faith of the people here is absolutely incredible.

But anyway, back to the wild storm.  Suddenly, my companion turns to me and says, “We need to go, NOW!” We ended the lesson and left. I asked him why we left so suddenly and he said, “I have a horrible feeling.” Oh boy, then I did too!  So we quickly got on our bikes and started riding as fast as we possibly could. We were still in the middle of the jungle (it is absolute chaos in the jungle during storms.)  Branches were swaying and falling, loud noises of all kinds, thunder, and the rain pounding palm leaves.  Then, all the sudden there was a blinding flash accompanied by the loudest noise I have ever heard. It was enough to shock me for a second. I don't know how close the lightning struck but it had to be really close.  It seriously freaked me out. I don't think I’ve ever biked that fast in my whole life. The dirt paths through the jungle turn into rivers so there's dirty water splashing up from the ground.  Also, it was super dark and it was one of those moments where part of me just wanted to cuddle up in a ball and wake up from a dream.  

We sped out of that forest as fast as we could.  My companion was riding right in front of me.  I started making war sounds and pretending I was in the middle of the Vietnam War. I kept making explosion noises and yelling to my fellow soldiers… I’m sure I sounded crazy, but I decided to have fun with it.  It was like being a little kid again, but better.

Anyway, we got home, and immediately said a prayer of gratitude for our safety and prayed for the other two missionaries that were still out there. It was a long night, but it was an amazing experience.

So that’s all for this week! I'm safe, happy, warm and very glad to be under the Lords protection.

There’s no doubt in my mind or in my heart of the truthfulness of this gospel. I love my Savior so much. There is nothing I would rather be doing right now than sharing this message of peace, happiness, joy, hope and love with the people of Cambodia. They truly need it and deserve it.

I love you all so much!

-Elder Nelson

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Staying in Siem Reap for a while.

Transfer calls were last night... and I'm staying in Siem Reap! And so is my companion. The chances are, next transfer he will get sent out and I'll stay for one more. That means I'll likely be here for another 3 months. I'm really pumped about that because Siem Reap is the place to be. I know that a lot of missionaries say that about their areas, but this is different.  I feel like I'm in the best area in the entire world.

First of all, my companion and I have been very obedient and hard working, good boys.  We try to always be doing something related to missionary work and carefully avoid coming close to bending any rules. I’m not writing this to brag or anything, just to show how obedience has brought us miracles!

Anyway, things just hadn't been going our way, and some progress was falling through.  We believed that if we kept doing our part, the Lord would provide a way for us to do His work.

So last Thursday, we went to a female investigator’s house. She is a jungle lady, she doesn't have a phone, and half of the times we go there she's off somewhere in the forest. She's a very sweet lady.  If I was ever stranded on a desert island and had to survive and could only choose one person to help me, I would choose her. She's 60 years old and really super tough. She shows up to church with a broom sticking off the back of her bike and refuses to take a mask off her face because of the “city fumes.” She's so, very sweet. So, there's a rule in the mission, if you are teaching a woman, you need to have either 1 other priesthood holder there, or 2 other women.  It was a bummer when we went to teach her because we couldn’t configure a way to keep this rule.  So we had to tell her we were sorry but we had to leave until it was appropriate to teach her.  Obedience to this rule has complicated things for us many times because it’s very difficult to arrange that many people here.

So, we left the jungle and got to the main road and I realized my tire was flat. It was so flat that I couldn't ride it the few miles back to the city to get it fixed. This meant I had to sit on the back of my companion’s bike and ride back to the city.  Which also looked really silly.  This problem would add about an hour to our commute.  Then, literally as we were starting to get moving, somebody shouted “ELDERS!” We turned, and it was the Branch President’s son.  He’s a great guy who has been inactive for 4 years.  He said he wanted to start meeting with us everyday, start going to church and wants his non-member wife to learn too!  AND….  he gave us a tow back into town behind his motor scooter.

SO, we were so excited to go meet him the next day.  It turns out, his house is literally right across the street from Angkor Wat!!!  In fact, it’s the closest house to the temples.  So needless to say we were pretty pumped. When we got there he said that he talked to his village about Christianity and that everyone had become somewhat interested and that we should contact around there. So we did,!!!  Now we have several return appointments in the closest village to Angkor Wat, to learn about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  Very, very cool.

There are several amazing parts of this story:
1.     We were obedient to the rule, and if we had left the house at that exact time we would have never seen the branch president’s son.
2.    An LDS member owns the closest house to Angkor, which is just plain cool.
3.    We got to be towed back in to town and didn't need to waste the whole day.
4.    Our dinner hour is right after we meet with him.  So, we get to eat at this awesome place that overlooks Angkor Wat.
5.    We get to go to Angkor Wat for free when we teach!
6.    This man is bringing a friend to church who previously wasn’t interested. (Bonus!)
7.    I may be going out on a limb to officially say, No LDS missionaries have ever actually taught across the street from Angkor Wat.

Obedience brings blessings.  And, the Lord looks out for his missionaries.

We've actually had several experiences like that, but it would take me hours to ever explain them all. So know for sure, miracles happen everyday in the mission.

A few interesting Cambodian observations and highlights:

1. We were going through this banana tree forest and all the sudden a HUGE “turkey” that was making really weird noises staring me in the face. It was so big and so weird.
2.   There was a small heard of goats outside of our house the other day. We were outside contacting someone and they were eating the grass right by our feet. They are a dog/horse combination.  Very awkward.
3.   We went outside on another day and there were 20 Buddhist monks in our driveway singing to the landlord’s family.   Not something you see every day.
4.  Found another HUGE spider in our study room.
5.  I officially saw a "Tokaa" which is a REALLY big green lizard with red spots. Super creepy
6.   I bought a new bike. I traded Old Blue, for the Red Bullet.
7.   Elder Hem, the native is going to teach me how to shoot a coconut out of a tree with a slingshot. 
8.   When we walk to our investigators houses, there are so many fruit trees on the way that we just pick whatever fruit we want and keep walking.  YUM.
9.   I crashed Old Blue and got super muddy.  See pics.
10.  I love the mission.

The mission is going great. I love the people and I love the gospel. I never want to leave this place.

-Elder Nelson