So off they went, faithfully answering the call to a little island on the other side of the world. We got letters weekly (snail-mail only at the time) from them sharing their adventures with us all. I recall reading one of Ray's letters marking their 1-year mark for that mission. Dad wrote, "Well, I now have sweat for 365 days in a row!"
We all laughed but I remember reading that thinking, "is that bad?"
Brian and I have now reached our 1-year mark. Brant and his four boys took us to the MTC in Provo on his birthday, 25 May 2015. I don't think that we have sweat for 365 days in a row but it has been close. I'm still asking, "is that bad?"
I have experienced and seen things that, even after a year, are still so foreign to me. We have both said many times that Cambodia is a country of contradictions. Opulence beyond your wildest imaginations and absurd poverty conditions that only third-world countries call home.
The Church is constantly growing with almost weekly baptisms, yet Cambodia is still an emerging Church. They are young and inexperienced Latter-day Saints. Very few, if any, have seen a Primary program run. They don't know what a Young Men's or Young Women's activities or program looks like. They don't know what Seminary is but they do know what Institute is. They are begging for gospel instruction. They look to the missionaries, young and old, to give them a piece of LDS normality.
A year ago there were 2 newly called Patriarchs but this year Cambodia only has one functioning Patriarch for the entire country. The difficulties that the Patriarch had was that he had never heard a Patriarchal Blessing, he had never received one himself, so he really didn't know how to "give" a blessing. All of the congregations are dotted with recently returned missionaries who know how to be missionaries but still struggle with how to run the programs of the Church. Every lesson taught focuses on the Book of Mormon and how we are to come unto Christ.
Kampong Cham is trying to build a brand new Stake Center. It is just about completed but they come up against many problems. Construction has been halted several times.... the most recent stumbling block was that the city government wouldn't allow the steeple to be placed on the roof. It is too high! No problem!
I look at this country and I look at the people who we serve. I realize what a blessing the gospel is to those faithful saints and how it has improved and changed their lives. These people work long, hard hours to make a dollar. (And they are lucky if they make a few dollars per day!) Some are skilled craftsmen.
Some own their own stores.....
I use a counter-top oven which is just a cut above an Easy Bake Oven! but it seems to work fine. I don't have a blender, or a hand mixer, or a Bosch.... I am not sure my meals were any better with them than without. Hot water was just installed in the kitchen! It seems that everything I NEED seems to fit in a 1000square foot apartment. Who knew?
The other things that I have learned this year are even more precious. I have caught a glimpse of Heavenly Father's love for all His children. I have seen His tolerance and patience. I have a greater understanding of Justice and Mercy. I have been taught for 40 years of how Christ's mercy makes up for what justice can't. How His mercy will "fill the gap" or "make up the difference". I don't think that He "makes up" a difference.... but instead, I think that Christ makes ALL the difference. There is no "gap" or "difference" to make up. Christ already paid that debt in full. His grace is sufficient "after all we can do". Christ makes all the difference. He can forgive what justice can't. My actions, my attitudes, my obedience will determine in what kingdom I will reside, and how "at home" I am in God's presence. That's why I keep trying..... What I have come to realize is that everybody's "all that we can do" is different.
What I NEED is my family. What I NEED are my friends who are so dear to me that they are considered as family because I am a better person with them. What I NEED is God's love and forgiveness. What I NEED is the power of Christ's atonement, not to chide or chastise, but instead to help me change, to help me put off the "natural man".
As my sons came home from their missions I observed that the Lord did more for them in 2 years than I did in 19! Maybe He has done the same for me????