This week was pretty cool.
Elder Clark and I made it a companionship goal to step up our contacting efforts. Rather than accomplish the standard "10" contacts a day, we were hitting up in the 16's-17's this week. Sometimes we'll just be riding down a street and Clark will say "Okay, everyone who isn't selling something on this street we WILL contact". So that's what we do. Clark has me initiate just about every contact and I'm pretty confident at this point.
I remember my first few weeks here, when he had me initiate contacts...One time I contacted these three teen-aged kids outside their house...I got all my khmae right.. but it just ended up like an interrogation as I tried to assess their level of understanding of God, Jesus Christ, the bible, etc. They were all so quiet and really confused. They had no knowledge of anything I brought up. They ended up not interested, so we left. As we biked away, I said to Elder Clark "Wow, that was like nothing I've ever encountered..". He laughed and retorted:"....THAT...was like nothing THEY'VE ever encountered". We both laughed and continued to contact.
The past few weeks I've gotten better at contacting. I can talk to people about more than just missionary/gospel related stuff. Usually we'll bike along the side of the river, which is always hopping with excitement and activity, and we get contacts there. We talk to people while they fish most of the time.
Last night we saw about 6 young guys playing the popular Khmae hacky-sack game. They are super good at keeping this thing off the ground, passing it around in a circle. Elder Clark and I just got into the game. I was doing surprisingly well.. I think the Spirit was helping to be honest. After playing a little while they stopped to take a break and that's when we contacted them. So we just find fun ways like that to befriend people and then contact them.
A few nights ago we awoke to a loud noise coming from the AC unit (which is about 8 inches from my pillow). Apparently a chunk of ice had formed and fallen into the fan of the machine. We were able to resolve the problem and go back to sleep.
On Thursday I bought a cool hammock from a little military gear shop. I got one just like elder Clark's, except the material on mine is a little more durable. It’s super nice and will last beyond my two years here. The hammock is large, comfy, and has a built in zip-up mosquito net. I wish I had this thing when I was in YM's going on all those camping trips. It was like 10 bucks and its made in Thailand (In the US it could sell for $75-$100). Elder Clark has slept in his hammock 80% of his mission, based on the bed/house situation each transfer. One perk is that the hammock folds/zips up into a small portable bag that is easy for travel.
In the next few weeks, half the missionaries in Kampong Cham are "dying" or finishing their missions. They are all concerned, saying that they will feel out of place and out of the loop on everything. Maybe I'll feel that way too when my time comes.
So this whole time I've been in Cambodia, I keep seeing these fake $100 bills (US) on the street and in the gutters. The stuff is everywhere. I picked one up once...If I didn't know better I'd probably think it was real. The print is basically exact, the paper texture is close, and it’s the same size as a real bill. The only difference is that there are small Khmae "aksaw" characters underneath George Washington's picture. Clark told me that the Khmae's burn fake money so it will go to their ancestors almost like a burnt offering. But it’s fake so I don't get it. They also burn food (so their ancestors won't starve). -People who do not perform these rituals daily?/weekly?....Its believed that they are bringing on the wrath of their ancestors and will be cursed. Sometimes I put the fake $100 bills in my wallet as a joke...The Khmae's see it and think its real because "I'm white" says Clark.
On P-day we spent a few hours trying to fix the senior couple's computer. The Dilworth's had downloaded a virus and we did our best to resolve it. Because we had lost quite a few hours of our P-day, they took us out to lunch on Tuesday. We went to a restaurant on the riverside run by a French guy. Best hamburger I've had in a while. After lunch they drove us around to see the extent of the flooding that had occurred in the past week and a half. Areas where we had previously ridden our bikes through and visited people, now flooded 6-8 feet deep. Over at the river-side area, there is a long wall that separates the land from the water (imagine the seawall at the beach house just smaller) The water had risen so high that its almost over the wall. Many houses on stilts are safe, others were flooded.
On Friday we did a service project and planted rice in a field. A member in the third branch needed our help so that was fun. Leeches, spiders, crabs, and other stuff were swimming/crawling all around our legs. The Khmae elders were catching crabs to eat later. It was fun and muddy. I've officially planted rice.
Quote of the week:
"I'm just waiting for someone to bear their testimony to me about Buddha" -Me (During contacting)
All is well in the KC 2nd Branch. I anticipate a good week.
Love your guys, Elder Z (The one in Cambodia)
President Moon's email to us
Remission of Sins
Dear Elders and Sisters,
An important part of our purpose is to help people repent and be baptized so that they may receive forgiveness-- a remission of sins. John the Baptist demonstrated this when “he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;” (Luke 3:3).
Sometimes we mistakenly teach or imply that receiving the ordinance of baptism and receiving a remission of sins are the same thing. They are not. Baptism is required for us to receive forgiveness, but it does not automatically wash away our sins and make us clean. Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve recently taught this principle when he said, “The gospel of Jesus Christ includes the making and keeping of sacred covenants, the first of which is the covenant of baptism. The act of baptism itself does not wash sin away. Thanks to the Atonement, the effects of sin depart when one faithfully keeps the baptism covenant to follow the Lord Jesus Christ.” (2014 Seminar for New Mission Presidents, June 2014) As we faithfully keep the covenant and obey the commandments in our life the Atonement cleanses us from sin and the Lord forgives our sins.
Sometimes I have even heard members who are watching a baptism service say, after someone is baptized, “Forgiven!” as if the act of being immersed in the water is what automatically brings about a forgiveness of sins. This is not right. Baptism is a symbolic ordinance—as are all ordinances in the gospel—and it is the keeping of those covenants associated with the ordinance that allows the power and blessings of the ordinance to result in our life. The ratifying seal of the Spirit is necessary for an ordinance to be valid and effective in our life. Someone who has not fully complied with the requirements of repentance and prepared themselves appropriately for baptism cannot expect to be forgiven simply because the participated in the ordinance—Moroni cautions, “See that ye are not baptized unworthily…” (Mormon 9:29) For one who has fully complied with the law of repentance and receives baptism worthily, sins are washed away in the waters of baptism. But the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, manifested by the companionship of the Spirit in our life, is also necessary for us to be cleansed and purified from sin. It is important for us to understand this doctrine clearly in our own minds, and to teach it clearly to our investigators and recent converts. It is the continual striving and faithful keeping of our covenants that brings the Holy Spirit into our life and sanctifies and cleanses us, and prepares us to live again in God’s presence.
This means that when we contact using the picture of a baptism, or when we teach a new investigator about baptism for the first time, it is important that we introduce the concept of baptism and forgiveness of sins correctly. We should not say “baptism is an ordinance in our church that makes you clean from sin” or “when you are baptized you are forgiven of your sins”. Instead, we should say “baptism is an ordinance that can help you be forgiven of your sins” or “baptism is an ordinance that is necessary to enter the path to become clean and worthy to return to live with God again”, or “baptism can lead to feelings of being clean and forgiven of your sins”. Another way to say it, as you are teaching, would be to say, “through faith on Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, the Atonement of Jesus Christ can make you clean from sin and allow you to receive forgiveness”.
The scriptures teach us clearly that the Holy Spirit, often symbolized by fire in the scriptures, is an important sanctifying agent necessary to receiving a remission of our sins. Nephi taught, “For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Nephi 31:17) This is also made clear in revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith in our day: “And of tenets thou shalt not talk, but thou shalt declare repentance and faith on the Savior, and remission of sins by baptism, and by fire, yea, even the Holy Ghost.” (D&C 19:31) We are baptized unto repentance (see Alma 7:14). Repentance means making the changes necessary in our life to keep God’s commandments. Keeping the commandments allows us to receive the Holy Ghost and feel the Spirit’s influence and guidance in our life. The sanctifying and purifying influence, or fire, of the Holy Spirit refines us, changes our hearts and desires, and makes us clean and pure.
King Benjamin teaches us powerfully that humility, prayer, and steadfast obedience are key to retaining a remission of our sins: “…if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God… and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come…I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins…” (Mosiah 4:11-12) A remission of sins is not a one-time event in our life. If our investigators mistakenly believe that baptism is an easy checklist procedure that immediately washes away the effects of previous sins they will have less desire to continue in faithful adherence to the commandments. We absolutely want them to have faith and believe that through repentance and baptism they can be made clean—but we also want them to understand that keeping the covenants they make at baptism is a key part of becoming clean and holy and worthy to live again in God’s presence.
We must be help our investigators and members understand that “[putting] off the natural man and [becoming] a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord” is not a simple easy procedure like taking a bath. It requires humility, patience, yielding to the Holy Spirit, and a willingness to submit to the trials and adversities of life with faith and trust in the Lord (see Mosiah 3:19). Please teach this clearly to your investigators. Baptism is not a quick and easy fix to past sins. It is the gate we enter to start on the path of becoming clean and pure.
I testify that the remission of sins is real. Likely you have felt its power and influence already in your own life. The sweet peace that comes from feeling the Lord’s Spirit and the companionship of the Holy Ghost—which is a sign and indication of the Lord’s forgiveness of your sins—brings joy and spiritual contentment into our lives. I know that the Atonement of Jesus Christ offers each of us the opportunity to receive a full and complete remission of our sins, so complete that the Lord will “remember them no more.” (D&C 58:42) May the Lord bless you as you teach this important doctrine to others. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
President David C. Moon