Wednesday, December 30, 2015

History, Hotels, Homes, and Happiness (and a handful of Humility)

29 Dec 2015

Christmas 2015 has now become fond memories and history.   This Christmas was very different than most.  We were not in our own home nor in any of our children's homes, instead we began our Christmas Day in a hotel room in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Skype filled our quiet room with the voices of children and grandchildren having just finished their Christmas Eve dinner.   The room quickly bubbled over miraculously through magic wires and well placed satellites. Through the computer and from the other side of the world, we saw the grandchildren counting down the moments of Santa's arrival.  Some were thrilled with the anticipation of opening their one gift before bedtime while some of the others (Jack) were a bit underwhelmed well-knowing that "the one gift" is just another pair of pajamas!  My heart and my arms yearned to reach through the screen and hug them all (big children included).

We drove the mission van the 6 hours to Siem Reap bringing beds and wicker book cases to the missionaries.  We had to take some of the seats out to get all that furniture into the van.  So it seemed like the 1980's again when we loaded up all 10 missionaries into the back of the van to take them to the Church for the first part of our Christmas evening with them.  (There are no seat belt laws nor are there any seat belts in Cambodia!!) We watched the 1st Presidency's Devotional and had a testimony meeting.   It was beautiful. We then took them to dinner.  It was a simple evening filled with love and the Spirit, not unlike the first Christmas.   

Boxing Day was extraordinary.  We went to one of the wonders of the world.... Angkor Wat.   This was a series of ancient Cambodian Temples.  It was completed in 1181!
The history of these people were carved on every wall.   We had a guide that was able to explain meaning of the chiseled walls.

Even after 834 years some of the carvings were clear and detailed.
The Wat was magnificent.   Yet it was a place that only the King could live and the upper class could worship.
Still after more than eight centuries a woman's prayers and the smoke of the incense drifted upward in hopes that a sandstone statue could grant her her heart's desires.  So it seemed fitting that we walked through a hollow temple of old.  Even in its best years I don't think this temple could offer much more than what it was offering right now.
 All it could ever give was its beauty and splendor which was fascinating. 

 Flanked on either side of the building was what they called The Libraries. 
 Not very much was preserved because they wrote everything on "leaves" is what we were told.  They didn't know how to write on gold to save their heritage.  I couldn't help but think of the people of Mulek and Hagoth in the Book of Mormon and how they left their homes to explore and were never seen again.  Is this where they ended up?
We kept thinking that it has the same feel of the Mayan structures in Mexico.
The sprawling grounds were equally as beautiful.  They seemed to be self maintained.   I don't think we ever saw a grounds keeper or any workers there. Just tourists and tour guides.
We went to several Wats that day.  One was referred to as Tomb Raider.  This is where all the Tomb Raider movies were produced.  It had this fabulous tree right in the middle of it.  I am not sure how long the tree has been there in relationship to the Wat.

We were there with our friends, the Ovesons.  Great people from South Jordan, Utah.
This was once an entrance gate.  It is some what spell binding to stand there and let the history wash over you wondering who and how many have walked through that same gate you stand in.
The centuries have taken their toll on the structure and now modern supports need to be used to preserve the heavy arms of the tree.

Some things stayed just a clear and detailed as the day the carver blew the last bit of dust off and said, "this is done".
 The last two Wats we saw were my favorites.  Pink Lady and Bayon Temples.  It was so intricate that at times you felt as if time had stood still and they had just finished it last week!

Bayon means four faces, which is exactly what is on the top of the temple. 
 There's nothing like a picture frame doorway...
 All in all, this is a magnificent display of history.  What is so ironic about this is that you can ask any Cambodian who King #7 (his name is too long and difficult to say so they just refer to him as #7) is and what wars he won, or who built Angkor Wat, or who was in power in the 13th century.  They will tell you.  But if you ask them what was your grandfather or grandmother's name or to name the grandparent's siblings they will tell you they don't know. That is all due to Pol Pot and his evil.  But they have a history.... it has some gaps... but history gives us hope, faith, knowledge, and a sense of belonging. 

The last thing we did that day was go to the Floating Village to watch the sunset.  The Floating Village is just that... a neighborhood on a lake.   The anchored houses were made of corrigated tin sitting on hollow oil barrels bobbing to and fro as boats went by. 
Along with the houses were about 3 restaurants/gift shops for all the tourists.  We rode a rickety old boat to get out there.   I caught myself at times gawking at the people's poverty and feeling sorry for their plight in life. 
The sunset was beautiful.....

Living on a lake in a tin house has its own beauty.   I realized that I was seeing just a house but these people see it as their home.   Its not the stuff that makes the house a home... it is the love inside.  The children looked happy and well taken care of.   These children are just growing up with a different playground than I grew up with. 

I think I am here to learn humility.   I hope I learn it quickly.   I get a handful of it everywhere I go in Cambodia! 



Monday, November 23, 2015

Language is such a big deal!

If I could just communicate!   We work with the Vietnamese people every Sunday.  I have learned a few token sentences.  I pray every Sunday that they don't respond.  I can't remember whether the tone goes up or down or are they an even sound.  A "y" is an "e", a "d" is a "d" but sometimes its a "Z".   An "x" could be 2 or 3 sounds?  I am corrected at every breath I take and I still can't hear nor perform the sound that they are exemplifying.   Good Grief! I'm from the south!  We have vowel problems anyway!!!  The Vietnamese have one thing going for them.  The language is romanized.  At least then I have a fighting chance.  This is the Vietnamese alphabet. 
As you can see.... no "f", no "J", no "w", and no "z" ..... which means that you will never have to worry about an "F-word" coming your way from a Vietnamese person!!  But how do they get their questions answered like "what" "why" "where" and "when"?  How do they "jump" out of the way when a motto is coming?  And of course, zebras are non existent here anyway.   I don't know!  They seem to make up for the lost letters in their alphabet with vowels and their sounds.  Just like English these are the vowels...

These are all the sounds one vowel can make....
Each symbol, squiggle, and hash mark means a different sound ... up, down, wiggly, or question mark.  Oh, good grief, I'm too old for this!   Really, I have it pretty good because I think that Khmer (ka-mi) is worse.
No real letters here.   I am not sure how they even begin to learn this stuff.   But some days I am not sure what is worse.... the foreign language or the broken English. 
One day I was on the phone with a lovely Khmer man who was confident and anxious to show off his English skills.   This didn't mean that I didn't have to listen intently because their English is never as good as they think it is.  And it is certainly more difficult over the phone. He told me that I needed to use a different phone number for this call.  Upon my request he began to give me the new number.   The phone numbers here are 9-digit numbers.  He began.... 095 223 ..... I was thinking, "Ok so far this is good.  No need for an apologetic repeat so far"... he continued.... 3,1,"zevvie-on"!
                            "oh, excuse me, I didn't catch that last number, 3,1 what?"
I paused for a brief moment to process this number, but nothing came! 
                           "let me repeat that number to you, OK?  095 223 31 (still nothing came to me so all I could do is repeat exactly what he gave me) zevvie-on.
                           "Yes. that's right."
                          "OK.  Well, "zevvie-on " is not a number so I'm going to count and you stop me at    "zevvie-on", OK?
I began counting.  1,2,3... nothing yet.... 4,5,6... Oh no I have only a few more numbers to go what am I going to do when I get to the end?.... 7
                              He quickly blurted, "That's it." 
                              "That's it?  Zevvie-on is seven ?"
                              "Yes, Madam" (they use Madam a lot.... a kick back from their French days)
Puzzled still with the results yet grateful the mystery was solved I said, "Thank you.  I'll call that number."

So my lack of language mastery still remains present.  Don't expect me to be rattling off a bunch of Vietnamese when I get home, after all, what am I going to do with Vietnamese in Cardston anyway?  I have a greater respect for Joel who was self-driven to learn Chinese; for Taylor (Hmong), Vaughn (Russian), and Brant (Russian) who spent 2-3 months in the MTC to learn their respective new languages.  (I think the greater admiration is that they stayed in the MTC for that length of time without going crazy.)

What I have learned is that there are some things that you don't need language for.  Every Sunday I see joy in their eyes when we arrive to the church.  They can't wait to shake our hands.   And what little bit of Vietnamese I use they are thrilled that I tried. I see their soft, warm, "thank you for trying" look.    I'm sure my broken Vietnamese is worse than their broken English.  I see their love of their children.  I see their sweet kindness and care toward one another.  

You don't need words to be a true disciple of Christ.   That is a language I need to learn better.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Deliberate Disciple

24 Oct 2015

Our mission vision is to "Be a Deliberate Disciple".   I have thought about that a lot.   I am now trying to direct my focus on being a deliberate disciple of Christ as opposed to an "accidental disciple". 

I have tried to be more observant and find the difference between the deliberate and the accidental disciple.   What does it take to be a deliberate disciple.   What does a deliberate disciple look like?  And likewise, what does an accidental disciple look like?

As best as I can figure out,  it is hard to see the difference.   The Accidental Disciple goes through all the motions.   They go to church, they accept callings (most of the time will do them... may not), prays most of the time, has read the scriptures, has an understanding of the Church and how it works.  The children go to Primary, the youth go to the activities they really like. On occasion the Gospel of Jesus Christ will wash over them like the tides coming in toward the shores.  It will touch you and even some of it may stick.  Then you just wait hoping that there is another high tide some day soon. 

What makes the difference is the HEART and MIND which will direct STRENGTH or action.  That is why the Lord requires your "heart, mind, and strength".  This will create the Deliberate Disciple.   One who takes seriously the promises we make every Sunday when we take the Sacrament.   We will keep His commandments, we will always remember Him, and we will take His name upon us.  The Deliberate Disciple will be focused on being Christ-like daily.  Some of the attributes are faithfulness, kindness, thoughtfulness, and being uplifting to others.  They do what they do out of love of others and love of the Lord.  No other motives.

I think the Deliberate Disciples in our lives are part of the miracles we see.
The Deliberate Disciples seem to be all around us in the form of family, friends, neighbors, wards, and stakes.   Julie, my dear friend, has had the opportunity to see some of these Deliberate Disciples up close and personal.   She has been the recipient of their love and caring arms.   She received her miracle this week, or was it in he last 10 months?  Either way, I'm grateful that my friend's health is being restored.    The examples witnessed are worth emulating.  I have learned a lot about being a Deliberate Disciple.   I am more focused on being a Deliberate Disciple. I am grateful for miracles and that they are still very evident in this world.   The true disciples, the deliberate disciples make life bearable while we wait for the miracle.   The miracle began when a community of people had the slightest shred of hope.   It was that little bit of hope that became stronger and stronger until it was larger than the disease. 
I just can't stop saying "thank you".   The real test is I a better person because of this?  Am I becoming a better disciple of Christ... a Deliberate Disciple of Christ?  I am working on it.  I have my sights set on the goal. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Zone Conference in Kampong Cham

3 Oct 2015

What a wonderful experience this was to attend the Zone Conference in Kampong Cham on 26 September 2015.   There are 12 Elders and 4 Sisters in Kampong Cham.  16 missionaries for a city approximately 120,000 people.  They are on the streets every day "contacting" which means they are striking up a conversation with people, if they will give you the time of day!

President/Sister Christensen, the 2 AP's, and 2 Sister Trainers taught some wonderful principle of the gospel.  President Christensen brought forth his Mission Vision, which is "To Be a Deliberate Disciple of Jesus Christ".   It was inspiring.
They all ride bad, old bikes, but if you get them new ones they would always be stolen and possibly hurt to get it.  New bikes would make our missionaries bright big targets. 
                                   The first missionaries we saw were Elder Hall and Elder Slavens.
                                                    Elder Lauritzen doing his part to help.
                                   President Christensen with his "let's get to it stride".
 Awww! Good man, Elder Hunt (on the left), handing over the receipts for Elder Leavitt while Elder Lauritzen looks on.
 Our marvelous Sisters!  Sister Sheffield, Sister Ren, Sister Semones, Sister Harris, Sister Uresk and Sister Spangler.  

                              A one on one conversation with Sister Christensen is always uplifting.
Eating ice cream with chop sticks was a challenge worth taking!  Even President and Sister Christensen took up the challenge! 

                                     Lunch was great but we all LOVED the chocolate ice cream!
And the day is over.  Everyone a better person for having been to the Zone Conference in 
Kampong  Cham.