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

Video sent from Brother Ping

New photos July 26, 2011.

Bike crash

Thursday, July 21, 2011

I get why Noah needed the Ark.

Hi Family,

This week, I completely understood the story of Noah and the Ark. I have personally witnessed how extremely fast rain can fall and flood.  That may sound odd but I experienced my first true Cambodian rainstorm. First, it started getting pretty windy and my companion said,  “Oh shoot, here it comes!” When I looked up, I saw huge, scary looking clouds that were moving in way too fast. It was like those Disney Halloween movies when the clouds start circling and lightning starts striking.  So, my companion suggested we put our backpacks in garbage bags and head out.  My companion kept saying, “Yep, this is gonna be a Doozy!" All the local Cambodians were scattering in every direction and closing their shops and doors in a really chaotic manner; Motos kept flying by us from further down the road, with ponchos that were soaking wet. In a matter of about 10 seconds it went from no rain at all, to the hardest, craziest rain that I have ever experienced! It was totally insane! It’s really hard to describe.  But I think I saw this kind of rain in Forest Gump.  The rain starts pounding super hard and you think, wow, that’s not even possible! But, I will tell you, it is.

We soon started losing visibility because of how hard it was raining. The dirt roads quickly started filling up with water with deep puddles everywhere.   It was hard to bike on any solid ground. Interestingly, the rain was very loud.  Usually when people talk about rain being loud they talk about it hitting the steel roofs or something, but it was super loud just from hitting the mud and the puddles. I literally could not communicate with my companion between the wind and the rain. Again, totally insane. Needless to say, I was completely soaked from head to toe with a fountain running off of my helmet. You have to ride with your head facing to the side because the rain gets in your eyes if you look forward. In 15 minutes more time, there were no longer puddles and we were riding through a solid 6+ inches of water and orange mud. We were on our way to an investigators house and my bike suddenly started sinking and sunk half way up the tires in murky mud. It was so cool! Complete chaos! I just started laughing really hard when I ended up knee deep in water. I couldn't hear my companion but it looked like he was laughing too. My clothes were literally soaked like I had just jumped in a swimming pool. I noticed it didn't faze my companion at all. I look forward to being a seasoned missionary and don't get fazed by stuff like that.

It was so crazy. And it all happened in about 15 minutes. The whole city was under inches of water.  It turned out being a really cool experience for me.

Remember the man I told you about before?  We decided what was important for him was prayer, and the Book of Mormon. So, instead of teaching him, we would pray, read the Book of Mormon together until there was a really good feeling in the room.  We did this for a while and started meeting him every night. We started teaching regular lessons slowly but surely. If he didn't read ahead, we would just read with him and not teach. If he read, we would teach a short lesson. It’s been super exciting. Anyway, to make a long story short, we had the chance to commit him to baptism!  He's made a complete turn around.  The last lesson we taught him was the Atonement, and he understood it clearly (which is a first because its usually a difficult, foreign concept for Cambodians to grasp) He was wearing a polo t-shirt, clean-shaven, very respectful, with his hair combed to the side. He was actually bummed to see us go.  Last week, he went to all 3 hours of church and was found outside afterward reading his Book of Mormon.   How cool is that?

Wow, what a change. It is absolutely amazing to see the positive influence the Book of Mormon can have on people’s lives. Hopefully, it will change and benefit his family forever. His wife is so thankful for the missionaries.  It has strengthened my testimony of the power of the Book of Mormon tremendously, and of the love our Heavenly Father has for each one of his children. He truly does not forget about any his children and loves them all.  And, He will do whatever He can do to help us as soon as we ask for it. 

In other news.

-I've lost 15 pounds since I've been here.

-The rains won’t end until November.  I guess the worst is ahead.

-I’m buying a new bike as soon as I get my debit card.  For 20 bucks.

-We sprayed the huge spider with Raid, and the scorpion by our shoes.

-Maybe send some Kleenex.  It hasn’t been invented here yet.

-Went to Battambang, (It’s 3 1/2 hours away) to do interviews with President Smedly and to go on exchanges. (One of the many cool perks of being in a big country with fewer missionaries)

-Got to go out on exchanges with Elder Jorgenson, my MTC companion and an AP. super fun.

-Transfer calls are next week, I’m sure I won’t be transferred though.

Life is good in Cambodia!

-Elder Nelson

New pictures of hoeing, kids, rain, haircut and spider.

Ancient man made lake.

The service project starts.

Cambodian weightlifting.

Patty cakes with the white man.

"the" spider

Cute Cambodian kid.

First Cambodian haircut.

Notice the rain at my feet.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Almost a Month in Cambodia!

This was definitely the craziest week in Cambodia so far.

Like I said in my last email, my companion was out of town for four days.  So, it was just me and Elder Hem (A Native Cambodian) together. We are hours and hours from any other missionaries and it seemed like a lot of responsibility for us. He has only been a missionary for about 3 months and I've only been in the country for 1 month. So, being inexperienced as missionaries and having a pretty serious language barrier made for quite a few adventures.

Our job was to cover ALL of Siem Riep (2 areas) The distances between our appointments were sometimes five miles. Which seems extra far when you're riding a realllly crummy bike.

But anyway, we had to roar all around Seam Riep for 4 days. This was cool because I got to become pretty familiar with a lot of investigators and recent members that I’d never met. I also found that serving with a native Cambodian, you don't eat a lot, and if you eat what they're cooking you may end up worse off. So, I didn't end up eating much this week.

Two days into the week I felt very exhausted. I literally stumbled into a house like I was really sick. Then the mother looks at me and was like "oooooh kdau khluan" which means, “Hot self.” I think in English it would mean fever. She then gave me this vial and insisted I rub it on my face and it would “clear up my system.” I was a little skeptical at first, but I tried it. It smelled funny and I thought, "Hey, maybe I'll find a crazy Cambodian cure for being sick that nobody in the states has ever heard of before!" As soon as I put it on my face it started burning like crazy. It didn't stop for a very long time.  I just sat there with my face burning up. I looked at the bottle... and it was nail polish remover! Note to family: Nail polish remover does not help a fever.

Anyway, she came in later and felt really bad and had me lie down and put this wet rag on my face. I missed the part where she said to put 1 drop on your forehead.  Once again, the language barrier can be a problem. I have a very red face now.

Some of the events this week:

-We found a very creepy, huge spider in the jungle, (bigger than my hand) and it was black, yellow and red. We took it home with us. It was the biggest bug I've ever seen. I'll try to send a picture so you guys can look it up on Wikipedia.

-Interestingly, one of our new investigators thought I was from Cambodia. They said I had Cambodian features.

-Turns out I had a case of heat exhaustion. When my regular companion came back, he told me to sleep all day after church. I ended up sleeping for about 14 hours straight.  I feel much better.

-We went to Srat Srong to do some service. I think that means the “kings bathtub” which is a huge man made lake. One of the coolest things I've seen since I've been here.  Look it up.

-We went to do a pre-arranged service project, but the people didn't believe we would actually come so they didn't have anything for us to do. So, we just walked away and starting hoeing a random rice field.  At first the elderly owner of the rice field started laughing because she didn't think we were serious. But we went on to hoe her field with some really old school, wooden hoes for about an hour and a half. Then, after a while, she started crying as she sat watching us. (And, it’s rare for a Cambodian to show any emotion) It was definitely my favorite service project I’ve ever done. This lady was about 65+ years old, bare foot, and could only hoe really slow like you would expect an elderly lady to hoe. I think we were able to accomplish about 2 weeks of work for her and she really appreciated it.  After a while, around 20 little naked kids came up and started helping too. It was a really cool. At the end, I said, “Git taa khnome aac jab moan?”  Translation:  “Want to help me catch a chicken?”  Then, I got all the kids running around to help me catch a chicken. And boy, they really got into it, and it was funny. I stopped for a second and thought to myself. How cool is this?   I'm in Cambodia, chasing a chicken, with 20 little kids, in the middle of a rice field, and the sun is setting behind the palm trees, with blisters covering my hands after helping an older lady hoe her yard. Could this get any better? The kids then taught me a Cambodian version of patty cakes. It was really funny to them because they could not get over the fact that a large white man was playing patty cake with them.

-I've really had to learn how to cook since I've been here.

-I think I've already lost 2 inches in my neck.

It’s been a fun week. And it’s amazing to see the Gospel bless the lives of the people we serve. Its interesting since I've been here, my testimony of the Book of Mormon has grown. It is so amazing that we have it.  It’s easy to take for granted.

I know that our Heavenly Father loves the Cambodian people so much. It’s so cool to see the miracles that happen here every day. I love my Heavenly Father. I love my Savior. I honestly couldn't do this without them.

I love you all. I hope everything is going well in America!

-Elder Nelson

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Week 3. Sweaty, dirty, happy.

Hello family,

Another week is on the books! And it was a good week for sure.

Good news.  We’ve found a few more investigators. I realized I've been talking a lot about what Cambodia is like and not much about our awesome investigators.

So, I’d like to write a little about one in particular. His name is Sambo.   He is scheduled to be baptized on July 24th. He actually used to be a Buddhist monk. He's what I like to call, “an absolute stud.” That means a really great guy, over the top.  He is very smart and has great faith. He has a job that requires him to work all night every night.  It’s the only job he can get right now. We're hoping to get him to come to church. But it would mean very little sleep. It’s a tough situation for him, but we think he’ll start coming.  Like I said, he really is a stud.

There was also an experience that I had at Om Nret's home. The 6 or 8 people in Om Nret's family are already members but he, the father, isn't. He has a difficult Word of Wisdom issue, so missionaries in the past haven’t been able to help him move forward. We decided that we are just going “go for it” and do whatever we can for him. We hope to complete the family and improve their experience by having Priesthood in the home. Initially, he wasn’t interested at all. We prayed to know if it is worth our time to go all the way out there and we got a very powerful confirmation that we needed to be teaching him. So, our lessons have continued and he’s become more and more interested.  A couple of nights ago, we got to teach just the wife and the father (which was special because usually there's like kids running around the house and it’s kind of chaotic) we taught “the Restoration” and “the First Vision.” The Spirit felt so strong.  My companion had me teach the first vision.  I was so nervous because this was such an important lesson. After I finished explaining the first vision, I bore my testimony of it and then returned the lesson back to my companion. He looked at me with this somewhat shocked look and I thought I had said something wrong.

We finished the lesson and it went very well. We went back outside and my companion said,  “Elder Nelson that was awesome! Your pronunciation was super good. Om could totally understand you!”  I was so happy because I’d never been able to say things exactly right before. But for those few minutes I could and it was really cool.

However, the next time we went to visit him he told us he “didn’t want to learn today.” We were worried this meant he didn’t want us to come back.  Then all of a sudden he said, “because I didn't read my Book of Mormon and I feel badly about it. Can we meet tomorrow?”  We were like, YES!!!   It was super exciting because he's never actually read the Book of Mormon on his own. And we usually have to beg him for appts.  So, our hopes are high that he will continue to progress and he and his family will greatly benefit.

Interesting note, this week my regular companion goes to Phnom Penh for a leadership-training meeting. So, for the next four days I'll be with a 25-year-old Khmer companion. He doesn't speak any English and of course, I don't speak great Khmer. It should be a funny week. Before my companion left he informed me that Elder Hem likes to play jokes. Uh oh. I'm actually excited for the week.  We will be the only two missionaries out here in the middle of nowhere. Quite a responsibility.

Things I’ve observed In Cambodia this week:

-Strange weather:  There was one night where it was totally clear out with a million stars. But, off in the distance there was this big pillar of a cloud that shot way up into the air. It was a “lightening cloud” so every 10 seconds it would light up and everything around us would light up!  It was super warm and wasn't raining where we were.  Kinda creepy, but very cool.

-We’ve found a small village that we're pretty sure no missionary has ever found before!  Details to come.

-New skill:  Everyday my chain falls off my bike. I've figured out a way to keep pedaling and put it back on.

-All the people here are extremely nice and kind.   I can't believe I’m so lucky to be sent here. It truly is a dream everyday.

-I finally got to speak English to an American the other day... Unfortunately he didn't like Mormons. Not so nice.  Bummer.

-We were walking into a meeting at church and this Cambodian guy comes out whacking and beating the ground like crazy, with a bamboo stick. He was attempting to kill THE BIGGEST cockroach I’d ever seen with a bamboo stick. Very unsettling.

-I’ve seriously thought to myself 100 times that I’m definitely going to adopt a Cambodian child when I get older.  Every one is so cute and amazing.

-My legs are getting very strong.

-Weirdest thing this week.  I saw a breast-feeding man.

My mission is awesome and I love it.

Love you all,

Elder Nelson

Finally, the pictures arrive!

The plane ride.
The weather.
First scenes after the airport.

First meal.

Home sweet home.

the Kitchen.

Living area.

My wheels.

A monkey.

Our church building.

Typical roadside scene.


Phairon's baptism day.

The roads we usually travel.

Yummy bread.


Arriving at an appointment.

Sweaty, dirty, happy.

A typical hut in a village.

Bug bites.

The road.

The road to an appointment.

Getting water.

Criss cross applesauce.

Elder Hem.