Sunday, October 19, 2014

In The Takhmao

Hey everyone,

So this week was fun.  Since I'm new to the area(s) ...(we have 2)..I spent the majority of the week meeting people.  We had some good lessons that I'll never forget.

So in the Takhmao area we've got a pretty good setup.  The area is about 15 minutes bike ride from our house.  Usually we like to have our lessons at the CHURCH's so great to have that.  It's built by the church, so it feels like home.  The building is very clean and convenient for our purposes.  

Our second area, Baku is very far away...ridiculously far away.  It's out in the middle of nowhere surrounded by miles and miles of rice fields.  It takes about an hour and fifteen minutes of fast biking to get there.  We don't have a church, but we've got a small tin-roofed shack with plastic chairs and a white board that we meet in.  On Sunday we packed about 20 members into that room and had a sacrament meeting.  Halfway through it started raining hard and ...a tin roof + hard rain = can't hear a thing.  So they just sat down and stopped giving talks and we had a closing hymn and prayer.  It was a 25 minute sacrament meeting.  I was in disbelief about how short it was.  After the rain died down they had a little gospel doctrine/discussion class.  I may not be perfect at the language, but I can listen and understand a lot.

I kept having to interrupt the lesson and correct the false doctrine that was being taught.  The lesson was supposed o be on the plan of salvation, but they ended up talking about outer darkness for about 45 minutes.  Elder Keo and I went up at the end and taught a brief, concise overview of the plan of salvation to clear up any confusion that may have arisen throughout the lesson.      

The hardest part about the new area is all the biking.  It seems like we spend more time biking than we do teaching or meeting with people.  The worst part is that my bike in this area isn't too great.  The tires are always low on air, the back wheel wobbles hard, pedaling is really choppy and I have no rear breaks.  What's more, I have no bell to warn the crazy drivers around me not to hit me. I kinda need that bell more than you might realize.  

So that's some of the tough stuff for the week.  Whats cool is that everyday my Companion makes us a big lunch.  He cooks so good! Elder Keo was a chef at one of the most famous restaurants in Phnom Penh before his mission.  He cooks up a big lunch and we eat it on the floor in our bedroom. We sit cross-legged facing each other with our food in-between us. Also, I think I have officially mastered the use of chopsticks.

After church in Baku we biked as fast as we could to get home, eat, and then go to church in Takhmao.  We made it home in just under an hour, ate a super quick lunch,and headed straight to church (round 2 for the day).  Church was cool.  I'm the designated translator for the senior couple in our branch.  So basically I sit behind the Hollenzer's and translate the talks and announcements into English. Then after the meeting I follow them around as they visit with members and translate their questions / the member's responses.  Translating definitely keeps me awake during church.  

After church we had two baptisms.  Bong Jeep and Bong Same got baptized! They're two young men who have been learning for a while and I have enjoyed teaching them a few times since arriving.  They even invited a friend to their baptisms,  He wants to learn as well so we got a referral from them already.  

So it was a killer week. I also had an overnight exchange in Kien Svaay.  I was with Elder Satterthwaite (recently retired AP).  We had a ton of success and I learned a lot from him.  He's a hard worker, and I thought we had some really good unity in our teaching.  Those are lessons I will never forget. We ended up getting like 7 lessons that day and some 18 contacts or so.  I really enjoyed the exchange.  

On the spiritual side of things I've been studying my scriptures pretty hard.  My goal is to read and study the whole Book of Mormon through in a transfer, and so far i'm on track. Its been really good and I can feel strength coming to my proselyting because of it.  I would encourage everyone to put effort into studying it. Not reading, but  really "studying" the words of the prophets.  You will be blessed.  

Love, Elder Z


Elder Keo and I travelling through the city at night

The baptism of Jeep and Same...(Yes people like to hold hands in pictures haha)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Conference Was Fantastic

Hey Everyone,

This is Elder Z reporting from Takhmao, Cambodia.  I'm officially out of training and out of Kampong Cham as well.  

I had a great last week with Elder Clark and headed out Friday morning.  It was tough leaving that elder, we got pretty close after 2 months together.  We took a bus for a few hours into the city (Phnom Penh).  

Once in the city, I was a little overwhelmed by all the buildings and people.  I've been in a province for the past few months and its very primitive out there.  Phnom Penh is like LA, just more Asians. I was able to get right off the bus and start talking to/answering the questions of nearby people standing at the curb.  After a minute or so they ask, "So, how many years have you lived in Cambodia for?" They are always taken aback when I tell them "Uh yeah...I've been here for 2 months". I guess my language is pretty good...?  That was a big confidence booster.  

At the mission home I was greeted by many of my old MTC buddies. Namely Elder Christensen, Paramore, Le Nguyen, (and Elder Elieson had accompanied me on my travels).  It feels like decades since I've seen those guys.  It was a very happy reunion.

I was able to quickly spot out my new comp Elder Keo (Pronounced "Gaio").  Elder Keo and I then headed to our house in Takhmao.  It’s a nice house, an old sister's apartment.  Now elders get to tear it to shreds I guess.  

Elder Keo is cool.  He has been a member for about 3-4 years, and been on a mission for 8 months or so.  He speaks ZERO English, at least I have yet to hear him speak an English word anyways.  It’s fine though we just speak Khmae.  We've had some killer lessons the past few days and I've been pretty pleased with what speaking khmae 24/7 is doing for my teaching.  Yeah, so the language is super legit and so is my companion.  We also have two baptisms this week.  

Conference was awesome!  The speaker line up this year was fantastic.  I got to watch Conference in English at the south stake center in Phnom Penh.  It is the most beautiful, large, extravagant building I've seen in Cambodia.  The stake center here is (no joke) better that the Thousand Oaks stake center. It’s super modern and comparable to a temple.  I enjoyed conference a lot and got some good notes.  The Sunday afternoon speaker, Elder Katcher, the man who spoke about "rip-tides" and his 16-year old daughter......That 16 -year-old girl is Sister Katcher, now older, serving her mission here in Cambodia.

My first night in Takhmao was fun.  Elder Keo and I spent 20 minutes trying to track down a rat that had gotten in our room.  After a struggle we finally beat it to a bloody pulp with a broomstick.  It was great a companionship bonding activity and we were laughing/screaming the whole time.  

The city is crazy.  Nothing like the provinces.  I have been given churros, Burger King, KFC, and home cooked meals by sister Moon.  Food is so plentiful out here, it makes Kampong Cham seem impoverished.  (Which it is).  

Anyway I had a big week.  It sounds like it was a big week back home as well. 

I love you all, Elder Z (The one in Ching Chong Chang)


"My last day in Kampong Cham"

Monday, October 6, 2014

Life Changing Knowledge

Hey Everyone,

The week flew by...


My favorite day of the week I think...The day I stopped being sick. :) 4-5 days of Vitamin C finally paid off..  After emailing home, Clark and I headed out to find a computer guy who could convert a bunch of "Mormon Messages" on a USB Flash-drive into a format that could be played on our DVD player.  It was super cheap and we just came back a few hours later and now we have about a dozen "Mormon Messages" that we can watch whenever we want. After that we headed to the other elder's house to visit with Elder Quirante for a bit.  At 5:00 we started proselyting again, had some good contacts and an active-member lesson.

Tuesday we headed over to an investigator's place to do service.  The reason I say "place" and not "house" is because he is currently building it.  We spent about 3 hours moving a massive pile of gravel from the street, over to the construction area.  It was a good work out and it felt good to wield a shovel again for the first time in 6 months.
That afternoon Clark and I stood out in the middle of a busy street and handed out English class flyers. Basically I hold up a sign that says "Free English Class" (both in English and Khmae script), and Clark hands out flyers to motorists and cars that drive by.  It’s funny because people will do some crazy maneuvering just to get they're hands on whatever the "white people" are handing out.  After handing out nearly 200 flyers in about 8 minutes....we went and taught our progressing investigator Lookpu Pheap.  We had a great lesson with him and committed him to be baptized.  He's great, has a family, and he is quick to recognize truth.  He has investigated 2-3 other churches before, but he feels that he has found where he is meant to be.

Wednesday we had English class and a few new people showed up (Our flyers were a success). That night we met with our recent convert Nani and taught him about receiving the priesthood, and committed him to prepare accordingly.

Thursday we had weekly planning.  Weekly planning is the best thing ever.  We sit down for an hour or two and we plan out our whole next week hour-to-hour. Its great for goal setting and maximizing our time out here.

Friday was Zone training. We reviewed old goals, set new goals, and received instruction from the president through our ZL.  We learned that by next week there will be 67 total companionships in our mission.  One thing that was shared that stuck out to me was a quote about President Monson: "President Monson does things that others only think about doing".  I have learned in my two months here that we need to do things that others only think about doing, and that by showing our faith we will see miracles happen.

Also on Friday we met with a member that lived on the island.  The man has been a member a while and has read through the Book of Mormon a few times.  He's somewhat of an expert I guess.  While we were visiting with the family the father looked at me and said "Elder Zierenberg... Zieren... Mountain...."  I was in disbelief thinking that this guy living on a random island in Cambodia knew German somehow and translated "Berg" as "mountain".  Then he said "Ether 12:30".  We looked up the scripture and here's what we found: 

  30 For the brother of Jared said unto the mountain Zerin, Remove—and it was removed. And if he had not had faith it would not have moved; wherefore thou workest after men have faith.

I got a kick out of that.  It totally talks about us in the Book of Ether! 

Saturday morning we had service at our investigator's house again. We helped move a large stack of bricks this time.  After an hour or so of that we headed home.  On our way home we ran into a member of our branch presidency. He told us that a sick, bedridden man in our branch had passed away and that he was headed to the funeral.  He asked to go with him, even though we were in t-shirts and shorts from service still.  
We went to the funeral and saw the dead man, still in the bed where he always was when we visited the family.  This time he was covered by a white sheet, and many Buddhist decorations surrounded his body.  The funeral was half Buddhist, Half LDS. As Clark says: "I guess just in case one didn't workout on the other side, he had a back up plan" haha. They did a bunch of Buddhist chants and stuff over his body, and lit incense, etc.  It was sad and the family was crying.  Then the Branch president and a few members from the branch came up and we sang "I am a child of God" (khmae version) and I'm telling you, the atmosphere in the room completely changed.  The Spirit was strong and a feeling of love was over the funeral.  The District President then blessed the grave.  We closed singing "Till We Meet Again".  After that we left and the funeral went on, Buddhist-style for all I know.  What I do know, is that the message of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ is true.  I know that we do not reincarnate, or cease to exist, but rather we will live again because Christ did.  I know that we can live with our families forever in happiness if we will follow His plan.  That is the best knowledge I could ever ask for.  It’s life-changing knowledge.

Sunday we had church.  Our new progressing investigator accepted our invitation and attended church.  It was fast Sunday and many members got up and bore their testimonies.  Then, out of nowhere, our investigator gets up and starts bearing his testimony! It was the sweetest thing ever.  He was talking about how grateful he was to come to church that day, and how he likes the elders, and how important church is.  It was great.  He was using prayer words (imagine like how we use "thou" and "thee" in English)  It was sorta like 50% testimony, 50% like he was saying a prayer when he went up.  It was good though because he was using the correct form for praying (Address God, Thank-thee's, requests, close in His name), so he must have been paying attention when we taught him prayer the other night. :)

Everyone in the congregation was looking back at us elder's and smiling and giving us thumbs ups and stuff.  Our investigator killed it and he stayed for all three hours too! Two more weeks and he can be baptized.

I have received my new assignment.  I finish my training this week and I'll be transferring out.  I'm headed to the "Baku" (Like "Aku" from Samurai Jack) and "Dakmau" area.  It’s a couple areas spread out, but all combined into one.  My new companion is named Elder Gaio, and he's from Cambodia.  I've never met him, but it sounds like he doesn't speak any English so I'll be using my Khmae a lot more.  

My new area is not in the City but its pretty close (like an hour bike ride).  I'm still sort of in the "Kites" (provinces) to some extent.  I'm excited, but sad to leave all my friends and Elder Clark here in Kampong Cham.  Clark is the new Zone Leader here.

So yep, that's my week.  Hope everybody is doing well!

Love, Elder Z (In Cambodia)

 Here's what buddhists have instead of Angel Moroni's on their temples.  It means like the 7 states of reincarnation.  On the 7th one (highest) become a state of nothingness.