Sunday, March 19, 2017

Collecting, Culling, and Cleaning

16 March 2017

This is our last week in Cambodia.   We have been busily getting the apartment ready for Elder and Sister Scott.   Of course, you could dust mop here 3 times a day and get a mop full of dirt every time.   Being domestic is not my favorite thing to do..... I am the least domestic person on the earth.   On the other hand, Brian is a great little cleaner!   He has been very handy to have around!   As the children were growing up I would assign them a job to do.   Trying to evaluate how thorough and at what standard the job at hand had to be completed, they would ask, "is this a "dad" job or a "mom" job?"   If I said it had to be a "dad" job I would hear moans and groans but if  it was announced as a "mom" job they would frantically scurry around to just get the job done knowing that they would have lots of time to do whatever they wanted.   I have often told the missionaries.... "I hate cleaning. But I know that the Spirit will not dwell in filthiness.  I know what the Spirit feels like in a clean environment."   So here we are collecting, culling, and cleaning.
It is not just at home either.   I have been putting together instruction sheets to help Sister Scott with all the multitude of jobs that she will have to do. I am trying to clean up my projects and jobs on the computer.    On top of that I have inherited the Temple Patron Trips for the Districts.    Last year I think the Mission, using the Temple Patron Assistance Fund,  did one trip with 25 saints, although, there was also a Viet group that went but they orchestrated that on their own.

We just completed one trip in January (Manila Temple) and I now have 3 more Hong Kong Temple trips being planned.   I discovered some appealing attributes that the Hong Kong Temple provides.   The Hong Kong Patron House has a full functioning kitchen where the Saints can cook for themselves.  The temple trips are very involved and have an order in how things are done.  Poor Sister Scott will have to finish these things up for me.

By June we will have sent 67 Saints to the Temple.   My goal was to have 60 Cambodians endowed per year until the Thailand Temple is completed.  The Thailand Temple was announced in April 2015 but this temple has not even been started yet.  We don't even have an architect's drawing of it. They are presumably 5 years away from any kind of completion (that's my guess).  Within that 5 years, Cambodia is not standing still.   Cambodia will have 400 or more endowed members ready and waiting for the doors of the new Thailand Temple to open.    This year we have already exceeded our goal.  I can see that I was short sighted when it came to the Saints of Cambodia and the temple.  The Saints are ready to go to the temple.  On top of all of that, when these saints go they take a hand full of names of their ancestors to temple.   This is not unfamiliar to them..... the Buhdist have been taking, remembering, and worshiping their ancestors for centuries to their temples.  So all these Saints are doing their own kind of collecting, culling, and cleaning.

We are doing several of our "last time" things.   We have now gone to Church in Cambodia for the last time.   It was a sweet experience.   It was a Central District Conference.   The District itself was dissolved and now the 3 Viet Branches are now 2 branches.  New boundaries were drawn and new Branch Presidencies were called.  It might seem that this is a step backward.   But on the contrary,  this is going to be a great thing for the Vietnamese Saints.  There is strength in numbers.   Eventually they will be part of the East District.   With the Vietnamese numbers added to the East District it will become much closer to becoming a Stake.  We now have the Russey Keo Branch (Vietnamese) and the Kbal Thanl Branch (Vietnamese).
We had many good-byes today.  This is Sister Hanh.   I could not possibly look into her sweet, sweet eyes and let her cry alone!  She is a Vietnamese Family History angel.  We also had to say good-bye to this little family.   I love them and will miss them so much.  These children speak the best English of all.  They also speak Khmer and Mandrin!   Very educated children.   They are the hope of the Church in Cambodia.  James was looking real spiffy in his new suit. 
We will have many more good-byes on Monday at the Mission Office with the missionaries.   Last week I had one of the Elders ask, "Sister Leavitt, do think it will be Okay if I get a hug on Monday before you go?".  I get "drippy" every time I think about that little request. 

I have gotten rid of shoes, clothes, toiletries, food, books, bags, and any thing else not useful in my life.   I have been able to cull out the things I used to think were important but now it doesn't even seem to be worthy of suitcase space!  The things I have collected instead are a tiny bit more tolerance in my life, maybe a sprinkling of patience, an unmeasurable amount of faith, and an eternity of new friends.  I see the Church, as a whole, a little differently.   When the brethren talk about the Worldwide Church I see a better picture of that, not just my little Alberta corner!    But I gotta say, I LOVE my little Alberta corner!   So what I come home with is..... 

I feel privileged to have been able to raise our children in the heart of Alberta where the gospel of Jesus Christ was always present.  Maybe not in huge groups all the time, but it was always present.  A place where true doctrines where taught and lived.  A place where they had good friends, outstanding leaders, and family close by to direct them toward the ways of the Savior.

I am grateful for many callings that have built faith and understanding of the gospel. I am grateful for those early Primary leaders that had patience with me in my early teaching days. (I really wasn't a very good teacher because I didn't know what I was doing and certainly didn't understand what I was teaching. I am grateful for Brian who was so patient with my lack of gospel knowledge.  He had to explain many simple things to me over and over..... as well as Norma and Ray and probably Tami too were good resources of gospel information for me!)   I am grateful to have been surrounded by LDS books that have educated me in doctrine.  I am grateful to be have been taught to read at a young age. I am grateful that the scriptures have been my textbooks and my focus of learning. 

So thank you Cambodia for helping me collect, cull, and clean.... which helped me remember many of the things that I am most grateful for!  I really was privileged to have been fed by a "silver" gospel spoon.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Sand Barges and Suitcases

26 Feb 2017

This week I captured a rare photo of two sand barges passing on the Tonle Sap River.   Believe it or not, they are identical ships.   One is full of sand and travels in the depth of the river.  The other is empty and skims across the surface of the river.  

It was fascinating to see them side by side.  Just to look at the ships you would think that the larger of the vessels would be the mightier and most valuable, but on the contrary, it is the smaller one that has all the value and strength. The one that is full.

Seeing these two ships, one coming and one going, has made me reflect on my beginnings here 21 months ago.  (We leave Cambodia in 26 days.)  I came with a large amount of knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ.   I know how it works and why.   I came with a fervent testimony of Jesus Christ.  I came fortified with years of scripture study.  

I also came with two huge suitcases and a carry-on loaded with things I knew I would need for the next several months.  (I can't even remember what was in there!)
Interestingly, all those things that I thought I needed ..... I am hardly bringing any of those things back!  My suitcases that originally housed things I thought I needed will now bring back gifts full of memories.  My vessel that I thought was strong and mighty I have come to realize only sat on the surface of the gospel.   Cambodia has given me depth. 

I have re-read and reflected on Jacob 5 and the Allegory of the Olive Tree.  
I always understood my privilege of having been planted on a "good spot" of ground and have felt a responsibility in having had that privilege.  I now have a greater understanding of His "nethermost part of the vineyard".   I have seen the "poorest spot of the ground".  

I have also seen the spot that was "poorer than the first"!
What I know now is that even though this may be the "nethermost part of the vineyard" it is STILL the Lord's vineyard.   Growth can take place here.  Growth has taken place here.  Growth will continue to take place here.   Slowly but surely, just as the small-looking vessel, they will trudge up stream.  Cambodia will be filled with the gospel.   The Saints are beginning to grasp the importance of the temple and more and more temple trips are being organized.   They are not waiting for the Bangkok Temple to be built they are going now!   Even though it is a great hardship for them.   They will contribute one hundred, maybe two hundred dollars (for some this is years of saving) and some even more, toward their temple trip.  The Church's Temple Patron Assistance Fund makes up the difference.  I believe there will be 60 or more Cambodian Saints that will receive their endowments this year.   What a tremendous blessing that will be for Cambodia.

 I can't wait to see my family again but more importantly I want to develop stronger relationships.  I have 21 grandchildren.... one I have never met.   I have things to learn about them.   I yearn for not only a weekly temple attendance schedule again but I want to draw nearer to the Savior with that attendance.  I have Family History that is screaming for attention.   I can now do these things differently with a depth that I never had before. 

Even though my suitcases may come home lighter they will be filled to the brim.  I can't say that I will be "filled" as if to say I am complete.  There are still many more things for me to learn.  I am grateful for sand barges and suitcases that have taught me about what is important in this life.
Thank you Cambodia.   I came to this poor spot of the ground equipped to be the "teacher" but I have clearly been the "student" as I watch the Saints strive every day to make this a good spot of ground in the Lord's vineyard. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

What About the Eye-bone?

31 January 2017

There was a childhood anatomy song that taught how the body was all "connected".... shin bones connected to knees and knee bones connected to thighs, etc. and we sang from head to toe learning about the human body.    I always wondered, what are the eye-bones connected to?

The scriptures have often talked about the importance of seeing. We look to leaders to learn how they see the world.   We listen to and marvel at the apostles and prophet to catch a glimpse of not only what they see but how they see it.

 On an Asian Tour in May 1996, President Gordon B. Hinckley, a prophet of the Lord,  dedicated the new Hong Kong Temple, as well as, visit 13 other cities.   Three days after the temple dedication he was in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.   Pockets of the Khmer Rouge were still taunting the country with its tyranny.  Pol Pot hadn't quite finished murdering, plundering, and stripping Cambodia of its goodness.  An Apostle of God and over 230 Saints stood behind the Cambodiana Hotel, on 29 May 1996, to dedicate the country to the opening of missionary work.  Today I stood where that meeting took place.  I wondered.... what did President Hinckley see that day?
Today I stood behind the Cambodiana Hotel.   I wanted to see what he saw.   Of course, in 1996 it was no more than an open field looking on the Mekong River.   Now there is a beautiful courtyard behind the hotel and a walkway for people to stroll up and down to enjoy Cambodia's beauty.
I would imagine that the stunning sunrise looked much the same.  There are some things in Cambodia that don't change.  By the looks of some of the fishing boats I would hasten to guess that some of them were there but now they are just manned by a families' next generation.  And there could have been single fishermen like this gentleman just looking for breakfast not understanding what was taking place above him.
Symbolically, the people in that congregation looked out where the Mekong River and Tonle Sap River meet.   This is where one of the great miracles of God takes place every year.   Every year this is where the Tonle Sap River experiences it's unique flow reversal.  One day it is flowing in one direction and the next day it is reversed!  Because of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge Cambodia had not experienced any spirituality for 20 years but on this spot of ground a prophet of God blessed and dedicated this land for the opening of missionary work.  Cambodia was about to witness its own spiritual flow reversal!  
The Buddhist still have the lion's share of the people's attention but the Church is growing.  I was recently reminded of the ancient prophet, Nephi's, observation.
                  1 Nephi 14:12  "And it came to pass that I beheld the church of the
                  Lamb of God, and its numbers were FEW.....who were the saints of God,
                  (they) were also upon ALL the face of the earth..." (italics added)

We have 111 missionaries surging forward every day.   We are few in number but they are EVERYWHERE!   They are marvelous people and I have the greatest respect for them.   They seem to be able to see beyond the trash, the filth, and the awkwardness of the city's daily routines.   Like President Hinckley, the missionaries are able to see into the hearts of the people of Cambodia.   It is in Cambodia that I have learned that the eye-bone is connected to the heart-bone.    When your eyes and your heart become inseperately connected then you can understand and feel the love of Christ.