Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Week 12: This Week... My Eyes were Opened

This week I had my eyes opened.

Last Monday was one of the hardest days in the mission so far. I have realized that some days it just feels like there is a dark cloud over your head, continually raining on your parade. We started out the day waking up a little late because the alarm didn't go off. We have our P days planned out so thoroughly that if we aren't like perfect with timing, then everything is messed up.

Well we ended up being a little late to a few things and then we headed to emails a little late. Then we headed over to the middle of the city to meet up with everyone. We met with all these members and other Vietnamese Elders and we headed off to go play soccer. We had some fun and everything was going alright. Then our appointment fell through with both our investigators so we decided to get the groceries we needed with the time we had.

We went to this newly built super store; it had a whole bunch of American food products and things! The only catch was that a box of Lucky Charms was almost 15 dollars. We ended up not getting any groceries because they were all over priced. I did get a big piece of delicious looking carrot cake for 50 cents.

We left the store and were on our way home. We were riding for a while and I heard a motorcycle coming up beside me which wasn't unusual. I turned thinking it might be a member or something. I yelled out "Hey!", but as the word left my mouth I realized he was grabbing my backpack containing my Scriptures, Soccer Cleats and clothes, my ipod that I had put conference talks on, the keys to the house and the church, and my wallet with my mission debit card and insurance card, and THE CARROT CAKE!

He grabbed my bag and sped off. I kicked it into the highest gear and the chase was on! I was yelling after him and we chased him down almost three streets before we lost him.

My first thought was, "Dang, I was really looking forward to that Cake..." .

After about two minutes a man came riding up, and stopped next to us. Immediately after that another two boys came riding up. They were all members of the Khmer Branches. They said they heard what happened and one of the men said that he saw the man and chased him on his motorcycle! I was speechless that these people acted so quickly and baffled at how they caught word so fast (haha). I couldn't believe how quick to serve these people really are. I got choked up a bit… mostly about how much these members cared… and a little because I really wanted that cake.

Tuesday was a lot better! We had Zone Conference which only happens once every two transfers. We all get to meet together with the Mission President and receive wisdom from him for like six hours. It was really long but they played some videos and we talked a lot about how we can improve… so I felt that it was worth it.

(Quick side note: If you haven't seen the Mormon message titled, “The Hope of God's Light” , then I suggest you watch it as soon as possible.) We learned a whole bunch of stuff and they fed us like candy the whole time so it was amazing.

That afternoon we decided we should do something about the keys to the house. We rode around and found a guy who makes key copies and stuff. I found pretty quickly that this key business is pretty sketchy seeing as in the time we told him what we needed him to do, three men came by asking if he could make a key to a motorcycle's ignition that had been cut out. I think they were all stolen. I hear that is common. It took him a while to do it, but he made our keys for about 5 bucks.

I almost forgot! This whole past week was a Buddhist Holiday that lasts all week. The city felt like a ghost town, especially at night. All the shops were closed and stuff. 

Wednesday was pretty normal, and then we had English class. We didn't have as many people as we had originally planned for because it has been raining like crazy here. When it rains, usually people don't ever come.
Then on Friday we met with a guy who has been moving around a lot recently, because he doesn't have a job… and the last people like kicked him out. The reason he got kicked out wasn't because of the fact he doesn't have a job, it is because he won't stop trying to teach them the gospel! His name is Chu Canh. He is an amazing guy. Everywhere he goes, he tries to share the gospel. We met with him and he told us about how he is looking for a job, and he is staying in our area for the time being. He has only been around here for about a week and said he has talked to almost everyone where he lives and that he had some referrals for us! He is incredible. He truly lives the scripture Romans 1:16. 

Saturday, we met with a few investigators and also met one of the sister's investigators for a Baptismal interview. Then we went to a member's house and had a family home evening. After, I thought I would ask if she knew anyone around the area that was Vietnamese. She said there was a wealthy family that lived down the road. We rode around looking for it and stumbled into a group of guys standing on the corner. It was pretty late so I was debating whether or not it was smart to chance getting mugged again. I gathered my courage and rode over to say Hello.
After a few minutes I found that the men spoke Vietnamese! There were 15 of them that lived here and worked on the wood work for the mansions around the neighborhood. I explained why we were out this late and why we were in Cambodia. Then they asked us about English Class. They were all super interested in English Class!

Yesterday was crazy! This was the first time in my life that I passed the Sacrament without shoes (haha). We woke up in the morning before church and it was raining very hard. As it got closer to the time for church to start I prepared myself mentally for what I knew was ahead. We opened the gate and as I expected, the streets were flooding. It was only like a foot deep by our house, so I decided to keep on my shoes and stuff on. 

We rode down a few streets and got to the railroad. To my amazement, the water was up to the windows of the cars… easily up to my chest. We decided to take a detour through a little village and came out on the other side where the water was only up to about our waists. We rode through it and I got completely drenched. When we arrived at church, so as to not track water all over the place they told me to just come in without shoes. It was a good day. That was my week! Definitely had its ups and downs, but I have decided that I am grateful for the hard points of the week. It really reminded me of who is really in charge. Thank you all. Love you tons!

Elder Morris

Monday, September 22, 2014

Week 11: It was like 1000 degrees outside and I almost died!

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

This week was a blast! Monday was probably one of the best P days so far. We were told of a new place to play soccer so we went out there and there were like full on teams playing. I gathered my courage and asked them if they wanted to play against us. It was so much fun, I have been hoping for soccer to get more competitive! We won of course and it helped us all realize how easy soccer would be for contacting people. 

Tuesday we were out in Kilometer 7 and we were walking on some monkey bridges looking for people to meet when this lady pokes her head out of one of the stilt houses and yells at me! I ask what she wanted and she said to just come over there. I walked across some boards to talk to her and she told me to come into her house. I looked in and there were five others in there. We went in and she kept calling me her child (con) and referring to herself as mother (ma). She started asking about our religion and we told her why we were here and what our message was. Without asking any further questions, she told us she was going to follow us. We explained that we were not the leaders of the church. (haha) She accepted a Book of Mormon and said she would read it. We gave the others Plan of Salvation pamphlets and they began reading them right away as well! It was crazy. 

Wednesday morning we went to a local tailor and I took measurements for my first pair of pants! Woo Hoo! The best part was that the pants cost 8 bucks. Score! Almost as good as the DI... then we went to meet our investigator who is close to baptism. He is amazing; he has gone from smoking two packs a day all the way down to four cigarettes. He wants to be baptized so badly. He said it was really hard to quick smoking and I told him to give me all his empty packs of cigarettes from this week so he wouldn't be tempted by them.

We also had a ward activity that night before English Class. We were just about to start, when the old Branch President asked if I could give a spiritual thought to start the activity. I had quickly picked a few scriptures to share about. I didn't know what to say or anything after I shared about the scriptures so I decided to just bear my testimony and to show my gratitude to the members for everything they have done for me. Sometimes it is hard and I was a little scared coming here and they helped me feel at home and showed me a lot of love. I started to tear up and I can testify that you cannot speak Vietnamese when you cry.

Next thing was Thursday. We were invited by one of our members to come to her house for a family home evening. She is by far the wealthiest member in the Branches and I had never been to her house before. We went to the richest part of the city. She has a nice house and it was really fun. She asked my companion and I how our parents went about teaching us the gospel. It was fun to look back and really think about it. We came home and planned for the next day. 

I have started a kind of work out group a couple weeks ago. We live with two Native Khmer elders who are notorious for not getting along with anyone. I have made it my goal to be good friends with them. I work out every night and about two weeks ago one of them asked me if I would show him a few things. I helped him and his companion work out and since then they ask me every night if we will work out together. I have seen a change in them since we have been spending time together and becoming friends. They are both really great missionaries. 

Next we went to our other investigator Chu Bay's house. It was like 1000 degrees outside and I almost died. We went there and began reading the Book of Mormon with him. He loved the story of Lehi's family and then shared this insane story about his life. He said that when he was young in Vietnam, he and some people thought they found a land mine. He started throwing rocks at it and when it wouldn't blow up, they went to investigate why. He dug it up and it was a lock box. He opened it and it was a Kilogram of pure gold! He told us about how in  the time of Pol Pot* people buried stuff like that and told us how he has payed for virtually everything with this block of gold. He has lived in four different houses off that gold. That story blew me away!

Then we had District Conference this Saturday. We had President Moon there and also an area 70. It was really good and I met a bunch of members from the other Branches. It was so exciting and I learned a bunch of new words. 

That night we went to a place called Phumsamaki to contact people. I was walking and these to teenage boys started talking to me and one was wearing a jersey for the soccer team Chelsea. I asked about it and he said he loved soccer. I told him I played a little and he was very interested. We walked into this little neighborhood and he started talking to the other boys and they all asked me if I would teach them how to play soccer. They all spoke Vietnamese so I told them I would.

Then this morning we decided it was time for a haircut. We found this old man in a little shop who said he cut hair. He had a folding chair in front of a mirror and two pairs of rusty scissors(haha) . I was a little apprehensive about it, but hair is just hair. I reasoned with myself and decided that even if it was bad, it would just grow back in like two weeks. It actually turned out really well and we gave him a dollar for the new cuts. This week was a blast. 

Elder Morris

* Pol Pot, was the Cambodian communist revolutionary who led the Khmer Rouge from 1963 until 1997.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Week 10 In the Field: I think I’ve seriously missed something about the culture here...

Good Morning Vietnam!

This week was especially delicious. I cannot tell you how grateful I am for the Priesthood!

We had an appointment this Monday with a less active member named Chu Sa Line and his family. They are always so nice and fun to be around. We came over and things were looking grim. Chu Sa Line was laying on the ground and seemed to be in a lot of pain. His wife was too. He said that he didn't know why, but his stomach was killing him and it had been hurting for 4 days.

His wife Co Nga, said her head has been hurting a lot recently as well. We asked them if they wanted to go to the hospital. They said they would, except that they are afraid because hospitals here are really sketchy. Many people die in the hospitals, even with minor operations for a lot of reasons.

So they asked us for a blessing… I was insistently the most scared I have been in the mission so far. I had no idea what to say or anything. After trying to explain to them that blessings were very special and asking them if they had the faith to be healed, we proceeded to bless them.

I was so scared of messing up, but as I started to speak I felt the spirit guide me. The spirit was really strong that night. We thanked them, wished them the best, and then left. Two days later they called, explaining that after we had left that night, their pains went away and that they had slept well that night.

I know that Priesthood Blessing are powerful. I know that through the priesthood we can not only be healed of pain, but through the power of the Priesthood, we can perform the ordinances essential for Salvation. I am so grateful for that experience. 

Tuesday, we had two Elders who are serving in Vietnam come down to our neck of the woods. They had to renew their Visas so they stayed with my companion and I. They are so much fun… Elder Hieu and Elder Bao. We took advantage of this newly found manpower and went on as many splits as we could. 

Elder Bao and I went to the upper Kilos. We stopped in Kilo 7 and went contacting. Something about Elder Bao… is that he is not the smallest Elder around. We had to walk on a lot of Monkey Bridges so I asked him if he felt comfortable. He said yes, and after agreeing that if one of us fell in, the other would jump in after him. That made me a little scared.

After about an hour, we went all the way to the end of the bridges to a house floating on the water. We stopped and asked the man there if he spoke Vietnamese. He said yes and invited us to climb across his boat and over to his floating house. I jumped across and Bao waited on the other side. They asked me who I was, so I introduced myself and why we were there. They became really excited and told us to go over to their other house. Across another boat was a big blue house. They led us across some more bridges and up some stairs. We immediately began teaching their whole family. We taught them how the gospel blesses families. I bore my testimony to them and asked if we could leave them with a prayer. They said "Yes Please!". First, we taught them how to pray… it was super cute because they all had their arms folded and eyes closed even without us telling them to. They said they wanted to learn more, and asked us to come back another time. 

Wednesday we had English class! It was so good! Bunthy came again and he told me that he had accepted Baptism… and would be getting baptized on October 5th. WOW! Then at the end of class, we had a new member of the class ask to learn with the Khmer Elders. English class brings miracles for sure.

Thursday, we went to get some breakfast at a member's food cart. While we were waiting for the food, an old lady came up to me. I said hello and she did the strangest thing. She called me beautiful and then slapped me really heard and then started laughing. I think I've seriously missed something about the culture here (haha).

Lastly, Sunday, we had a lot of people come to sacrament meeting. We had one of the Presidents presiding named Ong Dung. Whenever I see him I am reminded of the time we went to their house and he was watching a 007movie from like a million years ago when Sean Connery was James Bond. At least I think it was 007. Anyways, we had a great sacrament and due to the fact that my companion was called to give an emergency talk; I planned the entire priesthood lesson! It was so hard. My companion saw that as a learning experience for me and decided to let me teach. That was so rough. A bunch of old guys judging your terrible Vietnamese for an hour was pretty tough. But I thought it went well. I taught about Family Home evening and the importance of it. I kind of called some of them to repentance though when I used D&C 68:25 “…(the sins be on their parents)… They took it well though.

All in all, a great week! This gospel is true. Every day that I am out here, my testimony is strengthened. I know that Christ is at the helm, leading our church. I shared a spiritual thought in Branch Missionary Meeting. I shared from D&C 31, one of my all-time favorite sections. I know that Heavenly Father does prepare the hearts of the people (verse 7), I have seen it first-hand. It’s real. I know that there is no reason to be afraid, for the Lord is with us (verse 13) and if we rely on him and keep a prayer of gratitude in our hearts always, we will be blessed.  I love you all and can't wait to start this next week better than the last. :)

Love, Elder Morris

Friday, September 12, 2014

Week 9 In the Field: Don't Think You'll Never Get Old !

This Week has been a blast! 

So much has happened and I can't believe this week is already over! Ok where do I start? I know, first things first, on P-day a few of us went the new market. I went in to look around. I decided to get a watch. The lady said it was for 15 dollars and using charm and little luck, I successfully bartered her down to 4 dollars. The reason I say I used some charm is because when she finally gave in she declared, ähh you are a very smart American...So charming!" haha I got a kick out of that. Then we went and played some soccer.

Tuesday was an interesting day as well. We had our district meeting and fixed and reorganized all of our Convert Baptismal Records (CBR's) and then we had a lesson with our investigator Chu Si. He is a really nice guy who has been learning for a while and has a desire to be baptized. We wanted to teach our lesson at the church and were able to get our Branch President to teach the lesson with us.

Well, we were about five minutes into teaching when this white guy comes running through the doors! He seemed frantic and I stood up to greet him and he asked me,  Are you Christian?" I answered, "Yes, we are members of the Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints". He then said "good." and went on explaining that the end of the world was coming!

He said that he and some friends of his have been researching and have figured out that on the 24th of September, the world would have a huge economic crisis, an earthquake, and then Palestine would announce the end of the world.

I couldn't help but answer, Äww man, looks like I won't be turning 20 after all".  He disregarded my comment and continued on saying that there is a guy named like mayagey (Magog?) or something that will bring the destruction of the planet.

I asked öh really?" and he promptly replied, "Yes! he is even on Wikipedia." I thanked him for the warning and then took his name and number and offered to talk more about what our church believes on these things, and he agreed but only after the 24th because he had to see if he was right or not. (haha)

After that exchange, we went back to teaching Chu Si. We got about five more minutes into the lesson and another man walked in, this time a little quieter. I asked what he needed and he said he was there to learn English I explained to him when English class started, and he understood. So he said he wanted to wait until English class. We agreed, gave him some water and went on with our lesson. We talk about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and how repentance and baptism will bless his whole family along with himself. We committed him to getting baptized on the 21st, just before the end of the world. He accepted!

Then we taught English class and had an great time, we had 15 people there I think and they all had a great time as well… I love teaching that class. The boy who waited for an hour and a half for class is named Bunthy. He is a college student who knows a little English already, but his friends know more than he does so they kind of make fun of him for not knowing very much.

I promised Bunthy that we would be able to help him speak even better than he already did.
After class we went to the Khmer companionship and said he wanted to learn about Jesus Christ! Now he is learning the Gospel with them. That was so cool… Some people are just so prepared for the gospel.

Ok so Thursday was so much fun! We decided we would go out to Kilometer 11 which is a decently long bike ride on a pretty dusty road. So along the sides of the road are these long trailer type transport carts called “Lamonts”. They are pulled by a little moto bike and the drivers just park on the side of the road and wait for customers. Anyways, we were about to Kilometer 5, riding pretty fast.

I looked up and got a blast of dirt in my eyes, I looked down to blink out the dirt… when I looked up, I noticed I was looking at the back of a parked Lamont. I crashed right into the back, flew off the bike, and smashed into one of the metal support beams.

Supporting my theory that I am actually Superman, I broke the metal beam in half. After peeling myself from the concrete, I proceeded to do a damage report of my bike. The handlebars were bent a little, I broke my water bottle and my cute little bike basket was shredded. Nevertheless, I came out of the whole thing pretty much unscathed.
After apologizing to the lamont driver and the crowd of people that had come to see if I was alive or not, I found my companion waiting for me and we continued to teach an investigator in Kilometer 9 instead. We called and he said to come on over and that he had already prepared a wondrous meal for us which scared me a little because he doesn't eat very normal things (even for a Vietnamese).

We arrived and he ushered us into his shack. In the dim light I could see what he had prepared for us... It was three little grilled chicken heads on a plate, one for each of us. On the bright side, he bought a loaf of bread to go with it. People here don't have a lot of money, so I am super grateful for him and his generous nature. We didn't dare deny such a bounteous meal, mostly because that isn't good manners. So we just dug in. It was mostly just fat and skin, but it really isn't so bad. Tasted like chicken... kind of. Then we taught him about the Articles of Faith and took some pictures with him and left.

I will finish this week’s post with Sunday. This Fast Sunday was really special to me. We got ready and left for church. When we got there, one of the lost members that we found a few weeks ago (Em Phong) was there at the church waiting at the door to greet us!  I was so happy to see him, he was all dressed up for church and seemed happy to be there. After welcoming him to church, I walked in and saw two of our investigators (Chu Si and Chu Thanh, the one who gave us chicken) sitting together just talking. I also saw a recent convert sitting down (Em Da Ny) and another Inactive member ( Chi Hong). I was so happy to see all the people he had been inviting to come to church sitting in their seats!

Then sacrament starting and about halfway through the opening hymn, two of the sister missionaries' investigators walked in with a lost member that we found (Chu Thang) and two of our other investigators (Chu Hai and Chu Hung).
I can't express the happiness I was feeling. I immediately went back to sit with them. I placed myself in between Chu Hung and Chu Hai and helped them figure out the hymn. Then as the Sacrament was about to be blessed, I just offered a silent prayer of thanks to our Heavenly Father. The Spirit was overwhelming that I couldn't help but tear up. My testimony of the power of prayer has been strengthened. I could feel Heavenly Father's love for our investigators. I felt just a fraction of the joy that Heavenly Father was feeling because his children were finally reaching out to him.
Then we got to teach Gospel Principles class. We had the most people ever, so far. So many youth! We taught about Faith in Jesus Christ and they were all so involved in the lesson. Em Phong made friends so fast that they all exchanged numbers after class, so cute.
Then it was time for priesthood. I took my seat next to Elder Bailey, who is a senior missionary. He always has a translator and that is usually Elder Barker. For the life of me, I don't know why I offered to translate for him but I did. It was rough, but I got through an entire class translating for him… Especially when he testified of the sacrifices that Christ made for us., but was the easiest part. I apologized to him after the class because even though he had a smile on his face, I know I did a terrible job in comparison to a real translator. (haha)

Oh!  I almost forgot. In testimony meeting we had another crazy experience I would like to call the Ong Luong Fiasco of 2014. Ong Luong is like… in his 90's and is pretty senile. He sometimes gets up and shared in testimony meeting, always about corruption in the church and government, so we all sat up in our seats in preparation for the upcoming speech. As expected, he opened up his blue conspiracy folder and starting ranting about corruption. He had to be escorted back to his seat and as he was nearing his seat, he shoved off the person helping him and pointed at the crowd and yelled out, "DON'T THINK YOU'LL NEVER GET OLD!!". No one could help it, we all started cracking up. I also felt bad.. but it was pretty funny.  (haha)  

Ok everyone! This week was crazy but I gotta go… 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Week 8 In the Field: Haircuts, movies, and ramen in the street...

Ok so this week was jam packed! First on the list is haircuts last week! We got them for a dollar, but I threw in a 25 cent tip ;) …a high roller… I know. Then on Tuesday, we had our district meeting and for that we made an aqua blue cake. (with frosting).  It was so good, and then after that we went to the senior couple's house to eat, because apparently there is a rule that the zone can meet once a month to eat together. Plus, a lot of the Vietnamese speaking missionaries were going home. So it was more of a goodbye. We ate like a taco soup with tortilla chips ( don't know where they got those) and then they found cheesecake! It was delicious.

After that, it started to rain really, really hard. We went out to Kilometer 9 which isn't too far but it’s the boonies. The water was up to our butts almost when we rode the bikes! So nuts! haha super fun though, I love the rain.
We picked up a member to come with us to teach an Investigator of ours. Then we went to meet with another investigator who lives out by the river. We ended up walking on "bridges" to get there. They were just little branches and stuff, super slippery and sketchy. That was Fun.

Then we had our English class special activity! It was movie night! We went and looked for popcorn but couldn't find any so we just got corn flavored crackers called Cornbis.. (haha) They did not taste like popcorn... We had the sisters rip tickets for the showing, and I was at the concessions of course. We made a little theatre and turned off the lights. It would have been cool if the TV and DVD player didn't shut down right when the people started coming.
We ended up just teaching a regular lesson with the setting of a Movie Theater (haha) It was loads of fun though.

We had a sister that is serving in Saigon (Ho chi min) come down for transfers named sister Hunsaker. That was cool too. Then we had Transfers! I am staying in Branch 3 for the remainder of my training, which is fine with me! I love Branch 3 to death! There is still so much to do here. I got the opportunity to help my companion translate the Transfer letter from English to Vietnamese which was really fun. I learned a bunch of new vocabulary. I have like a million flashcards already,

I don't know what I am gonna do. I went on Family home evening run with a companion of mine, Elder Cuong, who got transferred and a member named Suong. We visited a lady named co Hien who had recently been in a car accident, and that is why she hasn't been coming to church. We were talking about it and she was telling us about how she like had internal bleeding around the area of her appendix. Next thing I know, she is whipping off her little dress cloth thingy and showing us her battle wounds. It was like the size of my hand and like yellow and white. I felt like sick when I saw that. So gross! The she told us about how her previous doctor told her to drink this drink thing, which she did and had a seizure! So she prayed and the seizure stopped. Then she said that last week she prayed on her way out to go somewhere and there was a big accident that she was in and like 9 people died but she survived. She really believes in prayers now. She says once her 
nasty scab/wound thing heals she will come back to church every week. On our way out, I poked my head back in to say goodbye and her daughter like     walks in wearing just like a bra. ahhhhhh! We both like freaked out and the daughter like ran back into the kitchen (haha). Then on our way home, we had to hurry because her crazy stories lasted a super long time.

We were flying down the street and this little kid holding a pack of Ramen ran out in the road and Elder Cuong ran him over. After the initial shock of what happened had passed, the kid started screaming and everyone in the neighborhood like ran out to see what happened…It was nuts!  (it turned out that) the kid just wanted his noodles...

Then the next day we were on our way to a member's house and I'm just riding and this little boy makes eye contact with me and smiles and I smile back. I say hello and he… pulls his little shorts down and just starts peeing. All while still smiling and waving to me. That was probably one of the funniest things I have ever seen.

That night I went on my first split ever with only a native. I went with Suong and it really wasn't too bad! I didn't understand everything but we had a good time!

Yesterday at church, it was so good. We had a total of 8 investigators at sacrament! So cool! We have a lot of people we have to meet all the time so decided to cut this P day short so we have enough time to ride out and see these two old dudes who are so cool! We are hoping for upwords of 8 baptisms this month, so excited!!! ok that is all for this week as far as I know!

Love you all, Elder Morris