We didn't proselyte Friday OR Saturday because of the Khmer New Year celebrations. I thought it was odd when we were told we weren't able to proselyte because of a holiday. My thoughts were, there's no way it could be "that bad". Well it is.
Everyone goes to their "home country" which is usually anywhere but the city. And when I say everyone, I mean everyone! It was eerie to walk down a usually bustling street and find it completely abandoned. And there were only random cattle roaming around. We did proselyte on Sunday though. It was still technically Khmer New year. (Feeling like America needs to catch up. Why do we celebrate our New Year for only a day?)
Sunday's church attendance was pretty pathetic. We only had 30 people there. 5 of which were investigators though. The night before I had got a text from the Branch President asking me to speak on how the gospel blesses families. I didn't see the whole text message that said my companion and I would BOTH be speaking. When we got there we were reminded that both of us needed to fill the 35 minutes of speaking time. I had only prepared for an 8 minute talk. Like a champ, Elder Blocker went up first. He gave it all he had for a solid 3 or 4 minutes, and then it was my turn. I looked at the clock, took a deep breath and went for it. I started by stating how this life is a life to prepare to meet God. In the eternities we will be living as families. I felt like the spirit guided me for the rest of the talk. I think those 30 people were glad they came. It was a neat experience. I can't fully expelling how great it is to be able to get up and say things correctly. It takes a long time in this mission Other news... We had a sports day on one of the days we couldn't proselyte. It was fun! It was the first time I've tossed around the football in over a year. It was pretty sweet. We played basketball for hours. There's some pretty athletic kids in the mission and it got pretty fun (intense.) The last 2 days I've loved waking up soooo sore.
The other day we had this huge red spotted lizard in our house. By huge, I mean the size of my forearm. My companion and I chased it all around the house for 30 minutes. It went under couches over dressers, into the kitchen, climbed up on the ceiling. I would throw socks at it and it would bite at the socks and start hissing. It reminded me of the You Tube that mom and I used to watch over and over of the lizard that jumped on the TV show host. We finally chased it outside and it started climbing up our landlord's front window. We followed it and it was in the perfect position to catch. I had my broom cocked back and a big orange basket to catch it in. Then out of nowhere a nice older woman came out and was very surprised to see us there. She asked what we were doing and I tried to explain that an extremely large lizard was climbing up the window and we thought we'd do you a favor and catch it. So, if you wait one more second we will take care of it. She told us, "Oh don't worry, where you boys scared? let it come into my house, no problem...." It made us feel really dumb. Then she walked us back to our house and said. I hope you have sweet dreams, don't worry about lizards in your house now, you have nothing to worry about. We went back in our house and it looked like a tornado had hit. Couches crooked, chairs turned over, dressers out of place. It was pretty funny. We got so close to conquering the lizard.
We have a baptism set for next week, I'm really excited, its the 77 year old man that we've been teaching for a while now. He's awesome. I feel like he was the reason I was sent to Pochentong.
We were able to watch General Conference yesterday. It was amazing and I loved it. I enjoyed every speaker. Its interesting, no matter how long we are members of the church, how much we know, or how much it gets repeated, through the Spirit, each Conference impresses us and inspires us to change things in our lives. I felt like I learned so much and there were things said that I felt were especially for me. Two stories today: 1) I went on an exchange with Elder Gibson. He is from Connecticut. It was fairly late in the evening and raining super hard. In fact, it was chaos for a while. The flooding patrol was flying by in Land Cruisers drenching us in muddy water among other uncomfortable results of still being out at on that kind of night. Anyway, we were on our way to a less active member's house to discuss the Book of Mormon. He lives off a main road in a pretty sketchy area known as the slums. We ride our bikes down an alley to the turnoff for his road and suddenly the rain slowed, almost to a stop and there was an eerie silence. We turned down another narrow flooded road with rickety houses and there was a thick fog. It had been raining so hard, no one was out. I started feeling really creeped out. I turned to my companion and he agreed that he felt the same way. Then, all of a a sudden, a loud speaker started playing, what I would describe as "happy carnival music." Children singing really loud in high pitched voices, kind of like chanting. And given the circumstances I assumed we were about to be ambushed by a mob of blood thirsty clowns. Elder Gibson recalled that I turned to him and said with a very serious look on my face, "'If a clown jumps out right now I will seriously knock him out cold!" We kept trying to joke around but neither of us were laughing. Unfortunately, our route took us closer and closer to the music until it was echoing off of the houses around us and seemed like it was coming from all directions. Then, suddenly...we came to a house which was clearly the source, and... there was a jolly, middle aged man with a pot belly, shirt off, drinking a can of beer. Four little children were smiling and dancing around in a circle without shirts, wearing colorful, sparkly party hats. We stood there and stared in silence and my companion stated in a dead serious voice, "Now, that's just pure."
I found the response extremely funny. This use of the word "Pure" will now be a permanent addition to my vocabulary. But don't ask me to define it. One more story. So, I got a call from a recently less active, single mother of 5 children who wanted to meet with us. It was getting close to the time we should be home for the day. (I like to call her my mom. She said it makes her feel special.) She said she was super sick and needed a blessing. So Elder Blocker and I got on our bikes and hurried over. She was sitting on the ground level (which is open air) her head was in her hands and was yelling bad words at one of her daughters... telling them to eat their rice. (yes, there are bad words for "eat rice" in Cambodian) We went up to her and started talking to her and she told us about having migraine headaches and she needed a blessing fast. So we gave her one right away. It was very spiritual. Afterwards, she thanked us and apologized for interrupting us. We sat down and decided to take some time to talk to her. She said she was depressed and that her kids were disobedient, she felt lonely, etc etc. We asked if we could share a scripture and she agreed. We shared 1 Nephi 1:1. And talked to the family about the first sentence of the Book of Mormon. We taught that the first sentence of the Book of Mormon was well thought out, it was inspired, important, and it was what the world in the latter days would need to hear first. It says, "I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents...". We then taught about the importance of parenting and motherhood. I felt a little awkward because I've never been a parent, and never will be a mother.... But I talked about how this is what Nephi, looking back, found most important to him. When he was a child, he probably didn't have the same appreciation for his parents that he did when he wrote the book of Nephi. I then related to the family how there were times in my life when I was less respectful than I should have been. But now, looking back I realize I have been so blessed to come from the mother that I have. I talked about how in short term, while children are young, its hard to see the eternal perspective. I loved the lesson, It just came into my mind. I had never taught or heard a lesson based on that sentence before but I felt like the spirit truly guided what I was saying.
Best part if the story-
Afterwards, I gathered all the kids together. It felt like one of those forced family nights or family councils when there's some awkward tension. We shared number 5 of the 10 commandments with them and committed them all to show more respect and love to their mother. Then, I asked if she would be willing to kneel in prayer with her family. You can NEVER underestimate the power of a kneeling prayer as a family. The mood was still a little off at the end. Then I remembered the end our tense family council nights and Dad would say, "Ok, c'mon you guys... group hug!" So, I "firmly suggested" this family give each other a group hug when nobody wanted to. And guess what? It totally worked! Just like at home... thanks Dad! The feeling in the house completely changed. I love being a servant of the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ with all of my heart. I don't see it as a sacrifice in the slightest.
So first off, I forgot to tell you about my awesome birthday party... The branch threw me a birthday party! After church ended, we were leaving and one of the members called me back to the church. She asked if I could carry some chairs up the stairs for her. Then when I went to leave again, another member called me back and I helped them with something else. Anyway, the pattern continued for a while. I just couldn't seem to get out of the church. Well, when I started to show small signs of confusion and frustration, the members came in with a cake and they all started cheering! Then, the branch president yelled in Cambodian, "OK, sing it one time quiet and the 2nd time wild!" It was funny. I really, really appreciated it. I don't know how they got the money for the cake but it meant the world to me. Last night I went in the bathroom after planning, turned on the light and to my surprise there was this HUGE cockroach on the ground. I said to myself, wow, now that's a big cockroach! Then one fell off the shower and then one was on the toilet seat. Before I knew it there were 6 very large cockroaches in our bathroom. Elder Blocker and I actually enjoy this because we can take the hose from the bathroom and spray them until they flip on their backs. Its my Cambodian video game. OK, story. So we have this investigator. Her name is Janta. She's been taught by the Elders for about 7 months in another branch and we got her as a referral. Its a long story but she keeps putting off baptism. We finally asked her why? She said that her parents say she can, but they don't support her. So Elder Blocker and I decided that we needed to go to her house and have her parents become familiar with the church. Janta kept telling us that it was too far away and that it wasn't possible. I assured her it was no problem. We were pretty confident we were strong enough to go. But, she was right. It was too far away. The next day we met with our Branch Mission leader. He said he wanted to go too. He asked if he could catch a ride. I said, sure! "Catching a ride" means riding on the back of my bike. Still not realizing how far away it was, we went to the church and picked up the Branch Mission leader and took off. In my mind I estimated this ride to be 6 maybe 7 kilos away. Not too bad. Sure having a Cambodian on the back of my bike made it hard but I could do 6 or 7. Well it turns out her parents really do live in the middle of nowhere! At least 15 kilos from the church! I was completely exhausted. At about the 10 kilo mark I looked over to Janta and asked her if we were almost there. She started laughing and said, "Oh no, we still have a long way to go." Miserable ride.
We finally got there. It turns out her dad is a farmer. He owns a ton of land out there. When it saw it, I was reminded of what the Garden of Eden would look like. He had a fruit vineyard where he grows Mangoes, Papayas, pumpkins, zucchini etc. etc. It felt like I stepped into a picture book. The coolest part was that the father said he wanted to treat us to some palm juice. (There's two kinds of Palm juice, one that makes you drunk and one that tastes really really good) Anyway all the sudden this 70 year old man tucks a huge knife in his waistband and starts climbing a palm tree. I guess they cut open roots at the top of the tree and it drips into a container and it takes like 12 hours for one cup of juice. Unfortunately we can't eat at member's houses.
Janta's father retrieving palm juice.
Janta's father's Garden of Eden
After a good meeting, we had to leave. I have to confess, biking back was miserable. I remember seeing the 11 kilo marker to Pochentong and saying a prayer in my head to help me not realize how much pain I was in. Then, at that exact moment I got a thought to call a member that we didn't plan on meeting. The BM president held the phone up to my ear and we said we'd be at her house in 40 minutes. When we got there she completely broke down and told us about a problem she had and how she was planning to go inactive. We ended up teaching about forgiveness and at the end I gave her a blessing. She had a new light in her eyes when we left and the next day she was sitting at church. A miracle. Although I was in a ton of physical pain, and I was extremely frustrated, Heavenly Father made my burdens seem light. The whole trip was worth it. The next morning I checked my bike and realized my tires were almost flat! No wonder it was so hard.. I love you all. I know the church is true. The power of the Atonement is real. It is open to all of us. I love teaching Jesus Christ's doctrine. Elder Nelson