Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Few Good Lessons

This week was packed with all sorts of things.  It was challenging because I was sick the majority of the week with food poisoning (and other South-East Asian diseases for all I know) but that didn't stop our proselyting efforts.  I learned my lesson though, if you eat food from the members, you get sick.  

The only problem is, you have to eat it or else they'll hate you.  For instance, Sunday night we were dropping by a member’s house on the way to another appointment.  Somehow they managed to force us inside and handed each of us a bowl of bowled pumpkin in water stuff.  It was gross, but we were late to our appointment and we had to at least take a few bites.  After eating half the bowl we did a little Asian bow and said, "Thank you very much, we have to go to another appointment now".  The member guy responded "No, hurry finish that bowl, I've got more"...*placing a big pot of the slime in front of us*.... We then said "Uh no thanks, we have to go now..."  So then the guy went on a big spiel about how the last missionaries were "cooler" than us and that they always ate tons of his food and would come hang out for 2-3 hours at a time.
Luckily we made it out of there, and got to our next appointment (who also decided to feed us :/ )  We ended up spending the next few days battling sickness as a result.  Being sick put a lot more stress on our already very busy week.  Although it was still a good week in my book.

After emailing we met up with the senior couple and the rest of our district and did some sight seeing.  The senior couple, Elder and Sister Dilworth, finished their mission this past week.  They drove us to see a cool zoo and a natural water spring/waterfall.  At the zoo I saw all kinds of animals like… ostriches, birds, lizards, fish, bears, boars, porcupines, and monkeys.  I think the Khmae's there were paying more attention to us than the animals though.  It’s not too often that they see white people.   

One crazy thing did happen at the zoo...

We were all looking into the monkey cages at one point.  Out of the corner of my eye, on the other end of the cage, a small girl (maybe 3-4 years-old) had been standing near the cage.  A larger monkey swung down and reached through a gap in the cage and GRABBED the little girls arm!  The monkey then proceeded to pull her whole arm into the hole in the cage, and started trying to eat it or something.  A nearby man was able to pull the child away from the cage and crazy monkey, and give her to her mom.  The girl was screaming, and seemed to be very frightened, but not seriously injured.  

2nd lesson learned this week: Monkey's are insane, avoid them.  

Tuesday was an average day.  I do have one good story though... 
Tuesday night we met with a less-active member outside a cafe were he works.  The cafe was closing and the lady there was shutting things down for the night. Very generously she brought elder Clark and me drinks, free of charge.  Awesome right?!? ....No, not awesome.  It was Coffee.  We don't drink that.  We apologetically and politely told her that we couldn't drink the coffee and that water (even dirty Cambodian water) would be fine.  She seemed to take it pretty well, but then she returned with sugar… like for the coffee I think?  So once again we told her we couldn't drink it.  Then I saw her go and start coming back with another drink. Thank goodness right?!?...No, it was Tea this time.  :/

We told her that we couldn't drink that either, and that plain water would be fine.  She just kinda waved us off and told us to "drink up" and walked away.  So here you've got two missionaries and a less-active member.  On the table we have Coffee and Tea.  It was a party.

We actually turned it into a teaching opportunity.  The less-active was able to witness the whole thing, and perhaps he was a bit impressed by our resilience.  We tied the whole thing into our lesson on "Enduring to the end", and explained that difficult circumstances come up, and we have to choose the right no matter what.  We promised him blessings and committed him to "endure to the end".

Wednesday was the day the Senior couple were leaving.  Elder Clark and I made a stop by their house in the morning to see them off, and they gave us basically all the food they had in their house! J  Few things compare to how happy I was when we received that food.  They had tons of expensive, imported American stuff. That day, Clark and I were able to stock our dusty, empty cabinets with food.  It was maybe the biggest score so far this mission. (besides Lookpu Nani's baptism of course)  Just to list a few food items we received: Carrot cake mix box, a couple of Jello mix boxes, a big container of oatmeal, brown rice, a container of chocolate powder for cooking, Crisco, all sorts of seasonings, raisins, craisins, Beef Jerky, dried mango, Barbecue sauce, and on and on.  (That may sound like nothing to you people over in USA, but here in Cambodia....that is the food of King's.) We will be eating great through the end of the transfer.  So that was one big blessing this week.

On Thursday we found a place that sells good fortune cookies.  The only problem is that they only sell them in 9 lb quantities. They were pretty cheap Clark and I have about 9 lbs of fortune cookies in our house...

On Friday we had service in the morning.  We served the same guy as last week I guess he had called the elders and said that we weren't done yet and he had more for us to do.  He's an investigator for the 1st branch elders, and he has a nice family.  I do wish they would help with the service more though...When we started working on Friday morning the guy said "I gotta go eat first", so we were like "okay" and started working.  3 hours later we were still working and the guy hadn't come back yet.  We finished up the job and headed back to our bikes.  The guy was just chilling in his hammock!  So yeah that was kinda annoying.  Again though, I do love service and its always a great workout, I just hope he gets baptized.  

Saturday was a big day.  We had a 24 hour exchange (Friday night through Saturday night).  It was Elieson and I holding down 2nd branch, and Clark headed to 3rd branch with the Zone Leader, Elder Krump.  At this point in my training I wasn't nervous at all to be sort of on our own.  (Elieson and I are from the same MTC group, we're both pretty new).  I was confident that we could handle the busy day, language and all.  We ended up having a great, successful day.  3 lessons, 2 meetings, and a referral.  After lunch we headed out to the Island and I was able to find the home of the less active who lived there.  We met 3 member families on the island, and had two lessons there as well.  
Saturday was a big confidence booster for me because I felt proficient enough in the language to carry out every task we had planned.  It is amazing how much we have learned in our 2 months here.  It was a blast proselyting with Elieson, and seeing each other's missionary-growth once again.  

On Sunday Lookpu Nani got confirmed and received the gift of the Holy Ghost.  Through out the week we were able to teach him and prepare him for these things.  Also, Elder Clark and I spoke in Church.  I gave a talk on "The One and True God".  It went well and I was able to speak for a solid 4-5 minutes on the topic and finish with my testimony.  I was able to ponder on the reality that it is only through Jesus Christ, and Heavenly Father's plan that we can have happiness in this life and the next.

As for proselyting, we had a few good lessons with some less-actives, contacts, etc..

Announcements for the week:  
This week the Cambodia Phnom Penh mission announced that it would be opening two new areas.  "Prey Veng" and "Pursat" will be opening up very soon for missionary work.  The government gave us the green-light on proselyting in those areas after years of trying to get in.  It’s super exciting and maybe I'll get the chance to serve in one of these new areas.  

Also.... Transfer call is this Friday the 5th and I'll find out if I go, or stay here in Kampong Cham.  Our guess is that I go somewhere else, and Clark will train again here in KC.  To be honest I'd be totally fine with spending another transfer with Clark.  It’s pretty unlikely though.

That's all I've got for this week.  Hope everybody is safe and having fun.

Elder Z

Sunday, September 21, 2014

It was a good/long week in KC.

We had a cool Preparation-day last Monday.  After we grocery shopped and emailed, my companion, Elder Clark and I headed to the big market to look for a poncho that he wanted.  The central market in KC is pretty big.  It’s like a super packed/steamy Costco, just covered in tarps and they don't make pizza.  Monday was a rainy day so we kept having to dodge the leaky spots where water came through the over-head tarps.  Our intent in going to the market was to find a durable rain poncho from Thailand for Clark.
There are some very nice durable, green poncho's sold here.  The reason he wanted one was because he had drawn out a design for a waterproof/convenient backpack he wanted made.  So we bought the poncho for material, and then headed to a tailor/seamstress to have it made.  You can get anything made here super easy.  Labor is very cheap, and all you have to do is tell them what you want done, and they'll do it, no questions asked.  It’s awesome.  

If I were an inventor I would totally move to Cambodia.  Anything you can think up, they can make...low-cost.  
On Tuesday we met with an investigator, Li Heng (a 25-year-old guy from Kampong Thom).  We taught him the Plan of Salvation and explained what we all have to do to get into the Celestial Kingdom.  I asked him where he wanted to go and he said "The Celestial Kingdom".  We explained that baptism was necessary and committed him to be baptized in October, and he accepted!  
We had a big service day on Wednesday.  We cut grass and weeds out at an investigator's house.  It was super hot and itchy and exhausting.  It took us practically all day and our arms were all rashed up from the alien-plants that grow here.  Clark had bad allergies for 2-3 days after that.  Service is good and fun.  It’s kind of weird to me though when the whole family we serve just sits on their porch and watches us do their work for them.  2-3 very capable young men, the father of the family, all just watching us elders and sisters slave away.  It was a good time though.

On Thursday The AP's (President’s Assistants) came down (Zone training was Friday morning) and we did an exchange.  So Clark and I were in a trio with AP Elder Satterthwaite and we did work in the KC 2 area.  We had some VERY good lessons and our unity was incredible.  It was like every one of us was in sync and our transitioning was flawless.  Everyone knew their part despite not having planned before hand.  It was a good lead into our Zone Training with President Moon the following morning.  
Zone Training was the best and it was sweet to have Elder Paramore (from my original MTC group) come down from the Kampong Thom province. Elder's Paramore, Elieson, and I had a good little reunion/picture.  It’s great to see how much we all have grown and changed since our MTC days.  

In Zone Training, President Moon taught us a lot about improving ourselves and always progressing as a missionary.  He taught us to be bold, fearless, and obedient.  He taught us how to become "Powerhouse Missionaries". He also testified of the importance of the work we do.  He said something that I really liked..."You have to WANT to change in order for your mission to CHANGE you."  I can't just sit and coast through my mission, I have to put forth good effort, and I will be changed as a result. Everyone wants to change, to improve and be better.  You gotta want it.  

On Saturday Clark and I decided to visit our island.  We have an island in our area, its in the middle of the Mekong river and we had to take a boat to get there.  There are 5 families that are members of the island.  
On the boat ride over, a member lady who was also on the boat came over to us and said "Elder's, don't pay them more than 1,000 riel (25 cents equivalent)...usually they charge white people 4,000-8,000 ($1-2) per person".  We thanked her and only paid the standard 1,000 riel when we got off the boat.  The guy who charged us was freaking out though, calling to his other co-worker saying in khmae "should I stop them and make them pay more??" (Obviously thinking we couldn't speak or understand what he was saying)  We just kept walking through before any trouble started.  
Once on the Island we visited the Elder's-Quorum President's family.  His 24-year old daughter (visiting home from school in Phnom Pehn) was a little too excited that the Elders were over.. and we were just trying to teach a lesson on service.  It ended up good despite the lesson going off topic over and over.  The girl kept talking about America, and how she wants to go there, and how pretty the elder's faces are, etc...Luckily we made it out alive and headed back for the mainland.  The island was cool and it was fun to ride a boat.  

Sunday was by far the best day of the week because we had a BAPTISM.  Lookpu Nani asked me to perform the baptism.  I got all the words down (the baptismal prayer is kinda a tongue twister in Khmae, for me anyway). I was able to do it the first try though, not messing up on the wording at all. J

It was great to be able to see Lookpu Nani take this new step in his life, and his family had been very blessed this week because of it.  They have a good family and in a few years Lookpu Nani will be able to baptize his kids into the Church.  Sunday was a happy day, totally making the hard parts of the past 1 1/2 transfer worth it.  
I hope to have a few more "happy days" in KC before I transfer out of here.  We keep working hard to find “The Elect" of Kampong Cham.  

Sunday, September 14, 2014

We are Healthy, Happy, and Determined

Hey Everyone,

It was a long, action-packed week.  The weather has been great.  

Tons of rain and not too hot.  On Wednesday Clark and I were contacting and we could see a storm a big one, so we headed home to take cover, but got caught in the storm anyway.  It was the hardest, biggest rain I have ever experienced.  It was raining so hard that I had to put my sunglasses on in order to see where I was biking.  Within seconds we were soaked from head-to-toe from the wall of water falling from the sky.  I loved it haha.  Clark doesn't like to get wet though so we usually avoid the rain. 
Earlier this week Clark and I were doing nightly planning and I heard a squeak and saw something scurry across the entry room.  I knew immediately that it was a rat.  I stood up and blocked off the hallway leading to the rest of our house.  Clark and I scared the thing out from under the couch and back out the door.  We don't need any of that in our house.

Church was cool this week.  During our weekly meeting with the branch president, Clark and I were able to make some good suggestions to improve Sacrament Meeting reverence.  We reinvented "the foyer" here in Cambodia.  This should improve reverence and focus during the sacrament portion of the meeting.  

Normally it’s really bad and people are walking in (actually like half the branch) right during the blessing and passing of the Sacrament, which is not acceptable.  So yeah, project "Foyer" was a success yesterday thanks to Elder Clark and I.

This week was a bit more challenging in the proselyting sense due to the holiday season.  Although we did have a few very successful days despite the holidays.  Elder Clark and I incorporated fasting and prayer into our efforts this week, and we were blessed.  My testimony of fasting was greatly strengthened as I saw blessings bestowed immediately and directly.  
We have put much effort into our less-actives the past transfer, but at times no progress is seen.  Often they are "too busy" to meet or can't give up work on Sundays, so Clark and I teach, testify and make effort accordingly.  We get some success from this, but we still have many who don't seem to care or listen.  This week during my personal study I came across Enos 1:23 :

23 And there was nothing save it was exceeding harshness, preaching and prophesying of wars, and contentions, and destructions, and continually reminding them of death, and the duration of eternity, and the judgments and the power of God, and all these things—stirring them up continually to keep them in the fear of the Lord. I say there was nothing short of these things, and exceedingly great plainness of speech, would keep them from going down speedily to destruction. And after this manner do I write concerning them.

This is not the comfortable way to teach, but with some of our less-actives we were bolder this week.  I shared the scripture with Elder Clark during our Companionship study and we decided that we had certain people who this scripture applied to.  We exercised faith and taught one less-active in this manner.  Not angrily, not disrespectfully, but boldly we testified.  After a full transfer of no success with this particular less-active, he WAS at church on Sunday.  

I learned a lot form the words of Enos, and I was able to apply it to my work here in Kampong Cham.  

I have one final story to share from this week  
Last week during our exchange, Elder Croick, Elieson, and I contacted a young man who was sitting near the river.  He showed a lot of interest, particularly in our English class that we teach every Wednesday.  
This week Elder Clark and I were taking our lunch on a bench overlooking the Mekong river.  The young man approached us on a bike (which is strange because most Khmaes don't ride bikes, its considered "shady" to ride a bike here in KC. A lady once told me that people say "never trust people on bikes" which is ironic because we ride bikes.  Everyone else rides a "moto".  Basically like a MoPed / motorcycle.  We're foreigners so it a little more okay for us to ride bikes.  

Anyways so the guy said he was trying to find the location of our English class, but couldn't understand the map.  He asked if we could take him there really quick so he would know where it was.  We had him follow us to the church where we teach English, and the whole way he would not stop asking us question about where our house was.  He would ask us "So do you live at this church, and if not where...exactly?  We gave him a rough location, but didn't wanna be too specific because thieving is prevalent here, and this guy seemed like that type.  Still he persisted until I finally just told him that we were knew and couldn't describe the exact location.  After showing him the church he kept sorta following us until we said "goodbye, see ya at English class" and made a rapid turn.  
So that guy kinda gave us a weird vibe and we kept feeling like people were watching us while we were in our house.  That night we fortified the house against intruders as best we could.  When we felt satisfied with our fortifications we went to bed, weapons stowed conveniently in our bedding.  Nothing out of the ordinary happened that night or the next, so we kinda just felt silly for worrying and relaxed a bit.  
Saturday we started fasting in the morning and proselyted all day. Fasting in Cambodia really takes it out of you though.  Especially since you are biking and sweating bullets all day.  That night we went to bed halfway through the fast, and I never sleep that well when I'm fasting because I repeatedly wake up very thirsty.  
I woke up at 1:00 am, the middle of the night. I could hear strange noises coming from upstairs (we sleep on the first floor). It took me a few moments to realize what I was hearing, but I realized from the sounds and hushed Khmae voices that someone was either breaking into our house, or already in.  It sounded like they were getting in through our laundry room window upstairs. All of our windows are barred though, so it would be work to get in.   
I quietly unzipped my mosquito net and stuck a leg out, and kicked Clark's hammock to make it swing.    He woke up and I whispered "Do you hear that?".  He listened for a moment and then responded "I don't think they're in yet".  We got out of our beds silently and began preparing to confront these thieves.  We were tired, dehydrated, and a bit freaked out, but we weren't gonna let these guys get away with our stuff. 
We got dressed, I put on a T-shirt and sweats, slipped a knife in my pocket, and Clark handed me his brass knuckles. Then we just kinda looked at each other and knew what we had to do.  Clark was wielding his two-foot long night-stick. All the while we were hearing this noises/hushed voices upstairs.  Clark and I then had a kneeling prayer together right there on our bedroom floor.  We had no idea what was gonna go down when we opened the door.  We closed the whispered prayer and stood ready at the door.  Knife in my pocket, un-lit flashlight in my left hand, and brass knuckles on my right.  I was tired, but the adrenaline was definitely kicking in.  
After a moment of silence we opened the door and poked our heads out. Silence.  It was very dark but I didn't want to turn on my light and alert whoever was there.  We stepped out into the hallway and made a right turn, towards the entry room of the house.  From there we could look up into the upstairs balcony/window and see if anyone was in the upper room.  It was silent, the noises had stopped.  We crept over to the stairs and began to ascend.  Once up the stairs, Clark peeked in the upstairs bedroom, it was empty/normal.  We then checked the laundry room where we thought the noises were coming from.  The window as open, but the bars still appeared to be in place.  No one was to be seen. We looked out the window and we could see a shadow coming off the roof onto a near building.  It was a man standing on our roof.  We turned on the lights in the house to scare them off, made sure everything was fortified and went back to bed. Before going to sleep we had another kneeling prayer of gratitude and thanksgiving that nothing bad happened.  It was a crazy night, closest thing I've had to the "Saratrov Approach" .

It was a good week, we are healthy, happy, and determined.  I anticipate our Zone training this Friday.

Love, Elder Zierenberg

Soaked from the storm, A homeless guy that kept asking me for a dollar, and the new church being built here in Kampong Cham (will be finished in during mission).

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Our Contacting Was A Record Breaker

It was a fun week,

On Monday we finished P-day with an intense game of "Bal Toe'at", or Soccer.  It was Missionaries vs. Members, 8 on 8.  We played at about 3 in the afternoon, so it was crazy hot.  So hot that we were sweating hard before we had started playing.  It was one of those days where the game would have been cancelled for safety precautions had we been in America.
Us Elders made a good team.  Our squad was about half American half Khmae elders.  We actually beat the members; it was a tough win though.  You'd be surprised but these little Khmaes can play in 110 degree weather, wearing jeans and flip flops.  We will be playing again this afternoon; the khmae's want a rematch.  

Soccer was a good workout and no one died despite the heat.  Tuesday was even hotter than Monday though.  It was rough because I spent the majority of the day outside getting cooked.  (Not sunburned though because I have plenty of sunscreen).
After lunch Elder Clark had interviews with baptism candidates in "Poom Tinay" Village.  I had to sit outside while he did those.  The sun was beating down hard, and the metal sheeting of the shack was reflecting tons of heat at me.  I sweat so much.  I was praying the interviews would go quickly.  I ended up standing there about an hour or so:/

Immediately after the interviews we began biking to one of our far away less-active members homes.  I was drinking as much water as I could, but it was all very warm from being outside.  During the lesson inside the less active's home (also hot), I just about passed out.  I remember being super dizzy and not being able to focus at all.  I was just focused on staying conscious.  At one point Clark looked at me, signaling me to bear testimony on a point, but I couldn't speak very well, and I was forgetting really easy words.  Clark helped me along, but he could tell something was up.  One doesn't simply forget the word "Pol-Jay" (blessings)....we use it over 3 times every lesson....So yeah heat exhaustion or something.  After the lesson I was able to cool down a bit and the clouds shaded us, so I recovered pretty quick. 
Elder Clark and I started running out of ideas for food to make.  It seems like we make the same meals everyday. So we decided to buy a blender.  I'm excited because there's tons of fruit and stuff at the nearby market.  So yeah if anyone knows any quick/easy blender recipes, send me them.  Our blender CAN chop ice, I was determined to find one with that capability.  We had to go from shop to shop to find one.  
I've been using my resistance bands every morning and every night to exercise.  Two things I really miss (exercise -wise): Dumbells and Benchpress.  Also, our bedroom has a nice thick pad on the ground that I stretch and read on.  

Kampong Cham's flooding is going away because it hasn't rained in a while. (I miss the rain because it makes it less hot).  

Our missionary work was great this week and we had a lot of success.  Our contacting was a record breaker for me, 206 contacts :D

We also had a ton of great lessons, both with investigators and less actives.  We gained 4 new investigators.  On Sunday we had an investigator attend church, and 3 long time less actives attended as well!(:  I know that through the spirit in our lessons people are motivated to do things that may be hard for them.  One of our awesome less actives, who had a leg injury preventing him from attending, prayed for strength to go.  It was great to see him there.
In one of our lessons with a less-active, I shared the scripture Moroni 7:5

5 For I remember the word of God which saith by their works ye shall know them; for if their works be good, then they are good also.  

"Bong Pannut"  was super receptive to this verse.  He sat there, read the verse, and then looked at me.  He said "So...if we do good, we are GOOD, If we do bad, we are BAD".  I then asked him if he though of himself as a good person.  He responded "Sometimes I'm good, other times I'm not".  I told him that no one is perfect, but we can be good.  I asked him how he could be good.  He looked at me and said, "I'm inactive...I need to go to church, then I will be good".  That was exactly what Clark and I wanted to hear.  
We teach a lot of lessons on enduring to the end because its so important.  What’s the point of starting a race if you're just gonna stop halfway through.  Our job as missionaries is to motivate people to keep going, and show them why it’s all worth it.  It’s so worth it! J

This week at a restaurant we saw an American (rare).  The man was maybe in his early 50's.  He told us that he was a missionary for his church.  He believes in Jesus Christ so strongly that he wants to share the gospel with the people in Cambodia.  We had so much in common, and it was cool to talk about the success we had had.  The man has lived here for 4 years or something, but he only speaks about 2 sentences of Khmae: "This is about Jesus Christ" and "call number". He hands out pieces of paper about Jesus for people to read and then call a number. He said he had handed out some 50,000 sheets in the past year.  Wow.
I'm glad there are people in the world who know how good the message of Jesus Christ is, and share it.  Because of that guy's efforts, 90% of the people we contact/teach have heard of Jesus Christ before.  Because of that piece of paper, suddenly they have a base for us to build on when we meet them.  It’s awesome! It makes our job WAY easier.

So yeah, just a great week.  Love you guys!

-Elder Z (In Cambodia)

I met some deaf kids (all related) and contacted them...In Khmae sign language...It was hard but we did it.  Then they wrote on my hand in kids.


A kid with a cool helmet.