Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Power

Dear family and friends,

This week had a few things that stood out.  

In Baku we have an investigator named Lookpu Long. He is a bike mechanic, but I rarely see him actually working on bikes, usually he just sleeps in his cot all day.  When we visit, he kindly pulls out chairs for us to sit on and listens to our message.  The first time we visited him, we taught the restoration and gave him a Book of Mormon, committing him to read.  During our follow-up visit with him the following week we asked if he had had an opportunity to read  the book.  He apologized and said that he hadn't, with the excuse that his friend had borrowed the book.  I knew instantly that he was lying (I could see the book still sitting on a table in the background, where he had placed it the previous week).  Elder Horn must not have seen it though, so he commended Pu Long for sharing with his friend and pulled another from his bag and handed it to him.  Unfortunately, I couldn't really say anything, or explain to elder Horn till after the lesson. The following week I went to his house while leading an exchange with Elder Jarvis (He's been in Cambodia for 3 months).  I again asked Pu Long if he had read in EITHER Book of Mormon we had given him, and his excuse was "Uh my friend borrowed both of them..".  Before I could say anything Elder Jarvis was pulling out a third Book of Mormon and handing it to Pu Long.  This time he actually tried to refuse it, saying his eyes were bad and that he couldn't read, but elder Jarvis insisted.  At this point I wanted to take it back (along with the 2 others), but I worried that it might ruin the spirit for the special lesson we had prepared for him.  

The lesson actually turned out really good, the teaching part anyway.  Elder Jarvis and I had a good flow and the big/intimidating words came out of my mouth just magically.  We taught with spirit and we could feel it with every point we taught.  Unfortunately, Pu Long wasn't as moved as we were.  At the end of the lesson he continued to talk about being to busy to go to church, or read the scriptures.  At that point I was really trying to hit him with the spirit that we were already feeling, so we began to testify powerfully.  He reacted a bit differently after that and his "No's" turned into "Maybe's".  Still not quite what I was going for, but we did our part.  I know that the Lord is very intimately involved in His work, so I trust Him and His Spirit to do the real teaching.

As for miscellaneous noteworthy events that occurred this week:

Pu Sophal and the Infected chickens: Part III

On Wednesday we met with Pu Sophal and asked how his chickens were doing.  He told us that he had sold them all, fearing that they would all die of the vicious disease.  So basically he sold a couple hundred infected chickens to some poor ignorant guy, not to mention probably spreading the disease to other chickens in Cambodia.  

On Thursday I drew out the entire solar system to answer the questions of a member family in Baku.  They were very interested to hear what was beyond the Earth, Sun, and Moon (Having never heard of anything beyond those three).  Thanks to some singing "Blue's clues" toy we used to have back at home, I remembered all the planets in order, including the qualities that set each one apart from the rest.  

One tool we have found to be helpful in our proselyting and teaching is the "Gospel art-book".  Basically a compilation of many paintings and photos to be used for various callings in the church.  Often, we will use it to teach an investigator about the restoration, showing them the picture of Joseph smith's vision.  During future-interview questions we will ask, "Do you believe that Joseph Smith saw God and Jesus Christ?" and some say "Yes, I know for a fact he did!" and we ask "Did you receive an answer to a prayer or have a spiritual experience?" And they respond "Yes I did, but also you guys showed the photograph of Joseph Smith when he met with God and Jesus, so it had to have happened" ....(Its a painting, not a photograph).  The thing is, more important than how many facts people can gather to back it up, is a strong testimony of the Book of Mormon.  That is something that I have noticed when observing the strength of members and recent converts, as well as the rate in which investigators progress.  Do they read their scriptures?  If they do, they are bound to have previously, or will receive an answer at some point.  The message of the Book of Mormon is a beautiful one, and I feel its power during each daily reading.

Good news for this week is that we had a family of 4 baptized into our branch yesterday.  They are a good strong family and have the support of the members as they have entered the church and seen changes in their lives.  As for The Cambodia Phnom Penh mission, we had a total of 30 people baptized yesterday.  

It was a good week.  Thank you for your support.

Love, Elder Jake Zierenberg

My Ride 

Elder Horn and me as millionaires

Btw #millionairse is a joke between me and elder horn.  Everytime we're tired and don't feel like teaching or contacting I ask him "what would a millionaire be doing right now?"  Because we both wanna be millionaires.When we hit all our key indicators and get good numbers, we say "we were millionaires today"

Also, can you tell that i'm almost as dark as elder Horn...Everyday I get darker and darker..

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Tak Gii Village

Hello my fellow Barang's (white people),

This week Elder Horn and I had a few adventures in Takhmao and Baku.  

On Tuesday we met a referral from English class.  Bong "Davweed" (David) has been learning English with the elders in Phnom Penh for quite a while.  He was overjoyed when he heard that an identical free-English class was taught right here in Takhmao, and he no longer had to commute to learn.  Davweed has a christian background (rare) despite having never read the bible.  He claims to have attended a christian church and after listening to many sermons, he converted and was baptized. He had a close relationship with his pastor, who eventually nicknamed him "David", hence Davweed.  He knows a lot on a few subjects and enjoys sharing his knowledge with us when we meet him.  Our first lesson with him, Elder Horn and I attempted to teach "The Restoration" but Davweed ended up talking the whole time despite our efforts to interject and share our message.  I guess he is just very passionate about teaching doctrines, which I admire.  We managed to briefly share Joseph Smith's experience with him, which he accepted and applied to his life, reflecting on his personal search for truth.  

The work in Baku has been picking up as well.  In Baku, we currently have 3 investigators we are working with, one of which is preparing to be baptized next month.  

As for other Baku news, do you remember Lookpu Sophal and his 500 chickens?  Apparently a chicken-disease spread among the birds and A TON died.  During the half hour that we visited, 20+ chickens fell dead.  Pu Sophal and the other worker kept throwing the birds in bins at the edge of the property, neither looked very happy at the unfortunate circumstances.  I asked if they could at least eat the dead ones, but he said "No, but the dogs can".  So his 6 dogs will be eating chicken for a few weeks.  

The night-rides home from Baku have been dark lately.  What was dim and difficult to see before is now pitch black, forcing us to rely heavily on our flash lights to see the dirt road in front of us.  It makes avoiding the large holes and rice paddy's very difficult.  This week I figured out the reason its been so dark...its because the moon is nowhere in sight. At first I thought "lunar eclipse", but its been a week and still no moon, so it must be something else.  Elder LeNguyen and I have come to the conclusion that the times back in america where you see the Sun and the Moon at the same time means that in Cambodia, on the other side of the world, there's no Moon.  If our theory is correct, I hope all you guys back in America are enjoying both the Sun and the Moon.  

Wednesday to Thursday we spent the night in the Guesthouse again.  The Icy-cold showers in the morning are brutal, and I think I'm allergic to whatever blows out of the AC unit.  Last week in the guest-house was still fun, Elder Horn and I had bought a kilo or two of alien-fruit to eat, so we sat across from each other on our beds talking and eating.  

On Friday we proselyted in Takhmao, where the work seems to be a bit slower.  We often bike in one big circle through the area looking for people who might have stayed home from work that we can meet or contact.  I've biked that "circle" many, many times in my 2 1/2 transfers here and figured that I had seen the entirety of the area, but on Friday we found a bridge.  All the bridges here are like something from "Indiana Jones" and biking on them is pretty scary.  Loose boards, broken spots, zero hand rails, and the entire thing shaking as you bike or walk across it.  The scary part is that its a 40 foot drop if something goes wrong. Anyways we found a bridge that we hadn't yet crossed, neither do we think any missionaries ever have in the past.  We crossed it and found "Pom Tak Gii", or "Tak Gii" Village.  There seems to be a lot of potential there, and as we biked through it we were greeted by the people with friendly hey-loh's.  We will start spending sometime there and hopefully find people who are interested in hearing our message.  

Sunday's schedule was a bit crazy as always.  We left for church early to prepare for sacrament meeting, we had a broken bike so we doubled up on one, Elder Horn hanging on the back as I biked..(we don't even have pegs), a rice-cooking malfunction that cost us an extra half hour, plus an intense bike-ride to Baku so we could bring them the sacrament bread on time.  I still enjoyed the meetings, even though we got called on last-minute to teach Sunday-school, and then to teach in YM's priesthood class, and then called to speak in Baku sacrament meeting after the speakers finished their talks with 30 minutes still remaining in the meeting.  My good friend, Elder Horn bit the bullet for me and spoke for a solid 20 minutes, leaving me about 10 minutes to share some thoughts.  10 minutes seems longer in English, but when its Khmae, time flies.  

That afternoon as we were making our "rounds" in Takhmao, we saw 4 children all riding on the same bike.  An older sister (maybe 10 yrs old) with 3 younger siblings hanging on (front and back).  They were cruising along, but suddenly came to a stop as a younger boy (aged maybe 4-5) 's bare-foot got caught up in the front wheel/spokes.  His foot lodged between the frame of the bike and the spokes.  The bike then flipped over, 3 kids fell off, and the fourth was still attached to it.  The boy screamed and the older sister rushed to pull his foot from its jammed position, but her efforts only caused the kid to scream louder.  Elder Horn and I jumped off our bikes, he held the bike securely, and I used my superhuman strength to bend the metal of the bike, freeing the kid's mangled ankle/foot.  We told the sister to get ice for him, remounted our bikes, and left the scene.  Thus your friendly neighborhood elders' saved the day again.  

It was another good memorable week.    

Until next time, Elder Zierenberg


Chinese food on P-day

Cow intestines-noodle soup

Wild chicken family (not yet infected)


"Hagrid said follow the spiders"

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Independence Day

Dear family and friends,

The first week of the new transfer was exciting.  Our week included new investigators, baptismal dates, and impressive church attendance's.  

On Tuesday we met with Bong Pia.  He's a returned missionary (having served in Cambodia in 2005-7), he works in agriculture, and he's inactive.  I have met with Pia quite a few times since I've been in this area.  Every lesson seems to follow the same pattern; We show up, we share a message, his rowdy cousins (6-8 years old) mess with our bikes and throw things, we close the lesson and encourage him to attend church, Pia gives us Mango's or Coconut's despite our resistance, and we leave. With every appointment we prayerfully prepare specific messages that can help him have desire to get active again.  So far we are his good friends, and he supports everything we share, he just hasn't yet made the effort to attend church.  Perhaps with a bit more encouragement and faith-building messages, he will return to activity.  

Wednesday was "Prampell Makara", (January 7th).  Its basically the Cambodia Independence day from the Khmer Rouge.  Everybody got work off and seemed pretty happy, Elder Horn told me it isn't really that great though because it signifies 30 years of corruption under Hunsein's dictatorship.  

That night we had a Family Home Evening in Baku.  We grouped a few families together and shared testimonies and thoughts with each other.  After wards we had dinner all together. The group leader's wife prepared food, and we provided soda.  Dinner was pig intestines on rice, just the way I like it(: To be honest I didn't even gag, its all just "food" now.  

Wednesday night Elder Horn and I stayed in a guest house near Baku.  It was pretty weird, but it maximizes our time and energy, and that's what matters.  The guest house allowed us to proselyte two full days in Baku and we had good results.  We gained several new investigators, and identified even more potentials.  

On Friday we had Zone Training in the city.  Our Zone leader's notified us of the mission-wide results for 2014.  Our mission had a total of 666 baptisms this past year.  We had a few laughs over the number, and felt proud of the good work we had accomplished.  We were then instructed on how to work smart, and how to accomplish the goals we set for 2015.  I enjoyed seeing the other missionaries, and the training we received was top-notch.  

Saturday morning we returned to Baku and continued in our strengthening and finding efforts. At one point we visited the chicken farm of a Baku member.  He proudly showed us his collection of Chickens.  He owned hundreds, all crammed into one big room, pecking around on the floor.  I took some good pictures.

Sunday was good in both sacrament meetings, and we had many opportunities to serve.  Due to lack of active, priesthood-holders, Elder horn and I are regularly involved in the preparation, blessing, and passing of the sacrament.  Church meetings in Cambodia are always full of unexpected events and I have grown used to it. In Baku sacrament meeting a woman was about to go up and speak, but she hadn't prepared anything. She handed me her scriptures/topic assignment slip, and requested that I find her a scripture that she could share.  I had just enough time to find a scripture, high-light it, and hand her scriptures back to her as she walked up to the stand.  I was impressed with her delivery and I appreciated the "shout-out" she gave me from the stand. 

It was a good week.

Love, Elder Z

Elder Horn wouldn't let me catch it, he said it was poisonous and if I got bit... we were an hour's bike ride away from civilization.  

Baku country-side 

Guest House with green walls   

Chickens (they're smaller than the ones in america)

A baku member's Rice grinder tool.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Brand New Year - Brand New Transfer

Happy New Years everyone,

My New Year's was an interesting one.  It felt strange when all the elders settled down for bed at 9:30 pm as usual.  At midnight, I was awoken by the little fireworks that went off down the street. I jumped out of bed and looked out the window for a bit, having a moment of quiet contemplation.  It was a memorable night, I hope your New Years was as good as mine (;

We started out the new year strong, applying our New Year's resolutions, and working towards achieving our goals.  Transfers happened on Friday and Elder Ty, and Anthony left our small band of missionaries in Takhmao.  Elder McGavin and Elder Jarvis arrived to replace them.  With the new changes the atmosphere in our house seems different, but we're happy to have the new guys with us.  

I saw a few cool sights this week that are almost exclusive to Cambodia. The first was a massive semi-truck that had been packed full (too full, Cambodia style) with rocks and gravel.  It had rolled off the road and flipped over upside down in a rice field.  My thoughts were: "Hmm, that's what they get for driving so crazy, honking louder and longer than I've ever heard, and purposely trying to run me off the road everyday". In the past I've seen a truck force a motorist off the road once, nearly killing the guy.  I'm not too fond of the big trucks.  

Another "cool" thing I saw was on the bike ride home from Baku.  I looked up at the moon and saw a circular rainbow around it.  I've never seen that in America, but I think its a result of the pollution here.  What does the "moonbow" mean?  

We have a new Sacrament meeting Schedule for the new year.  Takhmao meetings are now in the mornings, followed by Baku in the afternoon.  I liked it better before, but this allows us to finish our day out proselyting in Baku.  

With all the new changes and "Christmas recovery", I've been pretty tired lately.  Tired enough that as I am biking down the road, I day-dream about just laying down on the dirt ground and resting a bit.  I actually had that day-dream a lot this week.  One day I was biking and I felt like I was just gonna fall over and pass out, but I remembered that I had a Royal-D packet in my bag.  I whipped it out and ate it like a pixie-stick.  So I felt more-awake for a few minutes.

Even though I was tired, It was still a good week.  I hope everyone had a good New Year's and set good goals to work on.  

Love, Elder Jake Zierenberg

Sorry, No pict-cha's