Wednesday, July 29, 2009

July 22, 2009

July 22, 2009
Hello everyone!

This has been a super busy week to say the least so we got a lot done. A group of missionaries headed to America this past Monday to go into the MTC and start their missions! I'm so excited for them. Three out of the four who are going have been my Branch Missionaries! It is sweet to see two sisters and an Elder who came out to help us all the time finally starting their own missions. One of them, Elder Vey is serving in Sacramento. He helped us a lot here in second branch and helped the branch so much. The other two are Sister Chhuoen going to Everett, WA and Sister Ang, serving in Temple Square. I'm so excited for them! It will be something they'll never forget. We've been helping them prepare for this for the past 5 months and who knows how long before I got here. They're all going to do great. I have to find some way to keep speaking Khmer when I come home. I don't like English

So we have several investigators who are doing great right now. One guy, Votana was just baptized on Sunday after learning for about seven months. He had problems he had to resolve, but his faith was so incredible. He was one of the best members in the branch and he wasn't even a member. About a year ago he killed someone in a fight and came to hide out here in the city. It was an accident, and he wasn't the one who actually killed the kid thank goodness. It turned out to be an argument that turned into a fight and Votana's group of friends killed one of the kids. When he got interviewed for baptism the first time, the interviewer said "He has completely repented spiritually and has incredible faith. He just has to take care of any legal penalties that may exist. Well, everything is taken care of and he is so awesome! He has some great leadership qualities and the members love him. We're so happy for him. We had another investigator named Komleng who was baptized this past Thursday as well. She was so excited. She's going to be a great member as well.

We have three more investigators with baptismal dates right now. One of them is a man who's three children have already been baptized but he wasn't ready. At this point he has read the Book of Mormon, most of D&C, Preach my gospel, and studies the priesthood books daily. He is such a stud and he finally has a baptismal date. He is so cool, It is a lot of fun to teach him. Another person with a baptismal date is a man named Het Hon. He is absolutely amazing. We just found this out the other day, but four other companionships before us have tried to teach him and he wasn't interested at all. Now he is incredible. We are so lucky that he was prepared to receive the gospel while we were here because it is a treat to teach him.

We're teaching two people right now who are the branch 1st counselor's younger brother and sister. They've been inactive for five years, but have become active again. They want us to teach them the lessons again because they don't remember. This sister we're teaching is so cool! She reads every day and takes notes, and every time we teach her she has all these cool doctrinal questions. I can name the old testament prophets in order now thanks to her asking that question lol.

So Cambodia is gearing up for pioneer day! It is huge here, the members absolutely love it. Every branch is having a huge party, I guarantee it. So that should be pretty exciting. A lot of recent converts are giving talks on pioneers on Sunday and they're all panicking. So we'll be spending some of our time this week helping them lol.

A couple funny things from this week -
Here, most toilets are in the ground, and you squat to go to the bathroom, like if you were camping. A lot of places have real toilets though, but poor people who have never used one before are scared of them, and squat up on the toilet seat. There were muddy footprints on the toilet seat at church the other day, it was hilarious!

Oh by the way, I ate a big plate of fried crickets the other day! It was so good. They taste like unseasoned fried potatoes.

Even without watching the news and seeing all the things that are going on in the world, it is easy to see the signs of the times unfolding. I've been studying in the Old Testament lately and so many of the prophesies are being fulfilled during our time. And the world sure isn't getting any more righteous. I'm so grateful for our leaders in the church and for the scriptures. We know exactly what to do so that we don't fall into these traps. In the words of the late Michael Jackson, "Youuuuu are nooot aloooooone". Our Father in Heaven will always be there for us if we call to him. Something we tell people here is "If you don't pray, how are you going to tell God that you need his help?". We're so blessed to have these simple truths. I know this gospel is true and it is such a privilege to be sharing this gospel with the Khmer people every day. They sure make it interesting lol.

Well, that's it for today. I hope everyone has a good week!

Elder Donnelson

FINALLY! Update from Cambodia!

I know I haven't updated Taylor's blog since the end of April - many changes since then but it's impossible to post every email since that time. So to catch you up, Taylor served in Ta Khmau until his transfer June 17th. He is now serving in the 2nd Branch in northern Phnom Penh and is companion to Elder Jason Howell. Here are a couple of his most recent emails from his new area:

July 8, 2009
Hello devoted readers!

This week was super hectic and super wet, to say the least. The hot/wet season is going strong now. In fact, I can hear rain on the roof as we speak. I hope it stops before we leave!

So to start off, I'll tell about one lesson we had last Thursday that was great. There is a family who are all learning, the brother and sister learning with us, the rest of the family learning with the Vietnamese Elders. Well we were pretty sure the two we were teaching would have a problem with law of chastity and word of wisdom, so we were expecting the worst. We started the lesson and before we knew it, they were accepting them as commandments of God and agreed to resolve any issues they had and to stop drinking alcohol and tea. It was incredible! Their Vietnamese cousin lives with them (she was just baptized in the Viet branch this Sunday) and I'm pretty sure she is being a really good example to them. It was a great experience and it was obvious the Spirit was working on them. We have another investigator named Hon but I can't remember if I told you about him yet. I'll tell some more about him. He is the dad of a sister missionary and is the only member of the family not baptized. Well, we've been teaching him and although he is really quiet and does not talk much, he's a star. He is such a stud! We recently gave him a Book of Mormon and asked him to start reading it and he is now almost to Mosiah. We were blown away when he told us! He reads with his wife to, which is really weird for Cambodia. There isn't a whole lot of stuff like that going on in Cambodia, as in a husband wanting to do something constructive with his wife just to grow closer. He is doing amazing and progressing like crazy.

We have so many investigators in this branch that we don't even have time to teach most weeks. It is a huge blessing to have so many investigators but you sure feel bad when you can't visit all of them. We get a lot of referrals here to, which is so great. The members really care.

So we were at Pizza Company the other day (the only place we do finding) and the person sitting in the booth behind us was very curious, and giving all the signs saying we should talk to him. Our waitress would talk to him, he'd tell her to come ask us a question, she would and then go back and tell him. After a bit we got up and sat by him and started getting to know him so we could try to teach him a finding lesson and see if he was interested. It didn't take long to figure out that he knew a lot about the church because he knew 'Mormon' and 'LDS'which no one here knows. Wouldn't you know it, he's one of the higher-ups in the Ministry of Cults and Religions. Obviously he wasn't interested in learning, but he said he was very impressed with how respectful we were and our grip on the language. So, we were able to set a good example for the church that will maybe help open a door to that man learning the gospel one day.

Well, the language is coming along really well, which is a huge blessing but at the same time something I have to be careful of. President Winegar gave us some advice that I try to keep in my mind all day. "Praise is Poison". Well, for a missionary it is at least. People praise me because of my ability (more like inability) to speak the language but the problem is not knowing if they're being honest or not. It is also very easy to become prideful in such situations, so I am trying to constantly be aware of how little of the language I actually know lol. I am very grateful for the gift of tongues though. It is truly such a blessing in my ability to teach. If we cannot speak the language how will we teach?

That's about all I have to share for today. We are SUPER busy all the time and are teaching lessons like crazy. Elder Howell baptized two of our investigators this past Sunday and they are both AWESOME. They already want to be sister missionaries. Ok, really now thats all. Until next week, Love you all!

Elder Donnelson

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Missionary Mail 4/1/09

This has been a great and pretty interesting week! We had some frustrating, long days but had some great success as well.

We had one investigator who has a baptismal date already and was doing so well! We asked him if he had been reading in the scriptures and praying about it, like we had asked him to try out and he said yes he had, and it gave him a really good feeling when he prayed. He started progressing really fast after that and started coming to church and to activities. Not long after though he apparently made some new friends and we haven’t seen him at church in two weeks and he ditched all three of the appointments we had with him this week. It really hurts because it is becoming apparent that he does not yet understand how much this gospel can help him and his parents. And if he won’t meet us, we can’t help him. It’s a tough situation. I spend a lot of time praying for that kid.

Someone who has allowed his life to be changed by Jesus Christ is Tolaa. That man is amazing, and so full of fire. He lives about twenty minutes away from the church and only has an old bike. His bike was broken but he had said he had a way to get to church. The Sunday of his baptism rolls around and church is starting and he wasn’t there! We snagged a member with a moto to ride out with us so the member could dop him to church. (Give him a ride). Well before we could even ride out through the gate, Tolaa comes walking through the gate, and he had walked for 45 minutes in his torn up sandals to get to church. That is the kind of thing that really makes you sit back and consider your personal faith. For a man who two months ago was in a severe accident and could not walk to come 45 minutes on foot to come and worship this new God that he did not know a few months ago is pure faith. He was baptized after church that day, and his wife and good friend also sacrificed so they could come be there to support him. Elder Moore baptized him. It was such an incredible experience for all three of us. We’re really short on time this week for email but I’ll send pictures net week. He is going to be an amazing member of the church. In his own words he “hopes he can really see our little branch grow!”

Also, we knew there were going to be transfers this week but normally the calls come Tuesday night if you are leaving. Elder Moore has been here for 7 months now so we thought he was gone, but no call last night, so we thought he was staying with us.
This morning, we got the call though, and it looks like he is heading to Phnom Penh 12th branch. I’m more than a little sad. We were just really starting to bond and we were really having some success through the Lord. But I know there are people who need Elder Moore in Phnom Penh. I’m more than a little scared that I’m going to have to know the area and all the investigators houses and all that. There aren’t street signs or addresses or anything like that here so it can be hard (lol). My new companion will be Elder Shipley. He’ll finish out my training. I’m really nervous but I’m going to miss Elder Moore too. It has been a pleasure serving with him and I feel like we have really opened some doors here. The members love him, I hope I can fill his shoes.

Just some funny tidbits from this week –

Most people think I dye my hair. They never see blonde people and it is so hard for them to believe this is real!

There were two huge concerts this week right by our house, and apparently they were both really famous singers here. All the member kids went. They make those concerts free. For the first one, it was about 100 yards away, so we went up on the roof of our 4 story building and took some pictures. It was so loud even inside with all the windows closed!

We also found some strawberry cake mix in the cabinet this week and made cake in the microwave. It was really good. We ate a whole cake during nightly planning.

People here eat these tiny oysters like candy. They are just tiny little things people scrape up out of the river. A member had some when we went to visit (part member family) and offered them to us. They are pretty nasty. They pretty much taste like what you would expect of dirty river oysters. But I have definitely eaten worse.

Speaking of which, we met this old guy named Gon a few weeks back, and he wanted his 20 year old daughter and her husband to learn, so he invited us over. We went and taught a few times, and he is really the only one who retains anything. He is like a crazy sponge for knowledge. He is friends with the District President so knows a little about the church and told us he can never join because he’s a sinner. (drinks and smokes). He has a ton of potential and he loves what we teach. He just doesn’t realize he would be an awesome member. I have high hopes for him! Yesterday we went to teach and they had made lunch for us. They made a common dish called somloh majoo gruen (I have no idea how to spell it in English or Khmer. It is normally not too bad. This however was disgusting lol. They but Brohoke in it, which is this paste stuff they make from rotten fish. They put a TON of brohoke in there and the beef was like chewing on a rubber band. It was really bad. Elder Moore eats just about anything and even he was having some trouble. I swallowed a lot of big chunks of rubber that day.

So when we went to Tolaa’s house last night to teach there were two neak mings (middle aged women) who were shrieking at each other and just screaming and cussing because their kids had gotten in a fight. One of the lady’s other little daughters was sitting over by Tolaa’s house just crying because she was scared. She’s the cutest little kid. A couple weeks ago I taught her to do thumbs up and say oooookay whenever she sees a barang. (They call all white people barangs. it’s the word for french.) Well anyway I saw her crying so I went over and gave her a big smile and a thumbs up and said some stuff to her in Khmer and she just got the biggest smile on her face. She cheered right up and came and sat in Tolaa’s house while we taught and to get away from the yelling. It is really amazing what a few kind words and a smile can do for these kids. It is the happiest thing in the world for them when you tell a little boy how cool his shirt is, or a little girl how pretty her shoes are or something. That’s probably the fastest way I cheer myself up when I’m down. I just wave at a little kid and smile as we ride by the watch their faces light up. There is nothing sweeter than a little kids joy. It brightens my day every time.

Ok, well Email is short today; we have to get everything done quickly so Elder Moore can pack!
Love you! Elder Dinosaur

Sweet Bike!

Email - 3/25/09

Hi everyone!
We are approaching the hot/dry season and the hottest month of the year is the end of April and early May. I’m not sure why it’s the hot/dry season. It stays super humid all the time! Khmer new year is in April. It should be interesting, because everyone goes back to the province they were born in to spend the time with their families, meaning basically none of our investigators will be here, or they will be partying. I wonder what we’ll be doing for those two days. hmmm.

We’re really excited about our chapel. Its going to be massive. The building we’re in now is pretty small, so it should be a nice change. I’ll be long gone from Ta Khmau by the time it’s done though. And yeah, Hong Kong is the closest temple. We don’t get to go though. The branch just did a trip up there this past week! One family from our branch went. It was the branch president’s family. They have a huge family and they were going to be sealed. How awesome. The church pays for the bulk of the trip since there is basically no way a Cambodian can afford the trip. I talked to a bunch of them this Monday and they were all just glowing. You could just feel the spirit coming from them. I can only imagine how it must have been for that family to be sealed together. They have two kids who have served missions, one in the field right now, and a daughter that just got called to the Everett Washington mission. How cool! Another sister from our branch just got her call to temple square too. I’m so excited for them.

Marin is not doing so hot. He did not show up to church on Sunday to be confirmed and receive the Holy Ghost, which is kind of a big deal. We went to talk to him and he said he was watching his neighbor’s kids and couldn’t go. He told us that we have to meet him according to his terms because he had recently made a “master plan” for his life. I just about gave him a master smack (jk). We’re really trying to work with him to get his priorities straight. From now on he can only stay for one hour of church because according to his master plan, he will study the English dictionary at the same time church is. So he can’t stay at church. We’re going to be spending some time with him. I really hope we can help him develop this faith that he apparently does not have.
Tolaa will be baptized this Sunday. We’re so excited for him! He is our all-star. He is so ready and so excited. He keeps telling us he can’t wait for his baptism and confirmation so he can tell people he’s a real member in God’s true church. He’s really excited to bear his testimony too. He’s a great guy and I love him to death. His wife is doing better. Her friend is learning too now, and she’s rock solid. I hope her example encourages Tolaa’s wife a bit more.

The leadership in our branch is really good. We have some solid RM dudes here who help out a lot. We need more of them though. We need some members in the late 20s-30s range. That would help the branch progress so much.
I don’t burn anymore. I’m getting dark pretty quick. I have a good watch tanline going too. By the way, my bike has a bell on it. I wanted one of the squeeze honk horn things, but no go. And yes, all bikes here are all old like that. Mine is actually on the nicer end. It was a $40 bike lol.

We had some great success and some great trials here this week. The days are getting hotter and not too many people wanted to listen this week. But, I know the Lord has prepared those people for this message. We just have to find them.

That’s it for the week! Love,Elder Donnelson

Also from 3/18/09

When we were at the copy place where we make print outs for English class, there was a Monk there and we got up the courage to go talk to him. There are some higher terms of address for monks, so we asked the print shop owner and his brother, who love us, to tutor us real fast. We went and talked to him and he was really quiet, but also way nice! He was very kind and not at all rude, and we in turn tried to be really respectful of his station. It was neat. We took a picture with him!

Email - 3/18/09

It’s been a great week in Cambodia. Not nearly as many meetings as last week.

Eating dog meat really wasn’t that big of a deal, I just didn’t think about how I was eating a dog while I was doing it. I’m sure I’ve gotten plenty of weird meats from people who say they’re giving me “pork” or “beef”.

Tolaa’s family is having an especially rough time right now. Operation Smile was in Phnom Penh last Friday and they took their boy to see if he qualified for surgery. Operation Smile is a group that comes here and works in the hospitals doing surgeries for cleft palates and stuff, which is what their son has. A bunch of missionaries were there translating all day and we had a few looking out for Tolaa and his family and told them to let us know what happens. We got the call that night that their son is too small, he doesn’t weigh enough to do the procedure safely so they turned him away. That was their last foreseeable hope at this point, but they are in the Lord’s hands. He has a greater plan for them that we can’t see. Their neighbor has also started coming over and learning, which is awesome.

Oh did I tell you they’re building us a chapel here? Right now we’re in a rented building that we use for our church. Ta Khmau is getting a church! It’s pretty exciting. It will probably be a year or so before it’s done though.
It’s also right next to a couple homes of recent converts, which is good for them.

Speaking of converts, Marin was baptized on Sunday! It was a good experience for us. Elder Moore baptized him. A little about him... He’s about twenty eight and used to work as an English translator at the police station. For some reason he stopped. He’s really awkward around people he doesn’t know. We hope he can make some friends at church. He has some kind of condition with the upper part of his nose that makes his eyes hurt and gives him migraines so he never stays for all of church. We took that excuse away by giving him a big pack of Excedrin Migraine! Anyway, He’s doing great. He’s single by the way, no family.

Our new approach of finding through the members was moving slowly, but it paid off in an unforeseen way. We hadn’t been getting many member referrals and we were kind of down, but we were trying really hard. We go to FHE at the church (it’s a once a month thing), and like 4 members had brought friends. Since then we have had people bringing friends to stuff like crazy! One member had two friends who wanted to learn and when we went to teach them at her house, there was another! That’s three from one member. We also had several come to English class which was so cool! We have really been blessed with people to teach.
I have had several embarrassing experiences so far of swearing at people on accident lol. One is the difference between to bite (Kam) and sexual desire, the root word being (gam). Well, needless to say I was talking to some investigators who were going to the beginner English class which the other two elders teach and they were nervous, so I tried to say don’t worry they don’t bite. But I ended up mispronouncing and saying ‘Don’t worry; they don’t have any sexual desire”. It took some quick explaining on my companion’s part. At the time I had no idea what I had just said. A very embarrassing experience!

By the way, we have Tolaa’s baptism scheduled for this Sunday and also had another investigator commit to be baptized on the 19th of April. AWESOME.

Final story for this email: We went to meet a less active who was not home, so we went over and started up a conversation with their neighbor. To make a long story short, he wanted to learn about the gospel. He has been progressing really quickly, he read the whole restoration pamphlet we gave him (never happens), and agreed to have his family start learning with him. A lot can happen with this family if we’re listening for the promptings of the spirit. Teaching him is a great experience. He is reading and praying about the Book of Mormon and we are also praying really hard that he’ll receive an answer.

Ok, well that’s it fort this week! The work is progressing and the Lord is providing us with an abundance of people to teach!

Elder Donnelson