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