This last week has had some of the most fun and awesome days of my entire mission I think!! So many fun activities and awesome experiences I hardly even know where to start!! I guess we will start with the beginning of last week! As you already know, I turned 21 this year!! This would be the year that if I wanted to go and buy a cold one in America, I could do it legally (don't worry I'm not the slightest bit tempted). Here in Cambodia however, if you are old enough to hold a beer in your hand you are old enough to buy a beer as well!! Haha it’s kind of ridiculous! I wish that they had better rules for that so there weren't so many people with drinking problems here!! Anyway, on my birthday morning I opened my package (which was awesome) and then we got to go and do service at that house that we have been serving at forever now! We did the final step that day though, which was laying down the cement! Not going to lie… it was not a fun job because usually you have a machine to mix the sand and the cement mix together and then the cement mix together with the water to make it like cement, but they did not have that machine so we had to use a shovel and hoe and it was super hard and exhausting!! Ha but when we finally finished we felt very proud of all of the hard work that we had done! The owner of the house even gave us permission to carve our names into the cement so that they would always remember the Elders who built their house:) I thought that was pretty cool!
Next we went to the church and taught some lessons to investigators, which was also really good, and then after that we had English Class! I taught the class on making small talk and then I asked for some volunteers to come up to the front of the class to practice the things they had learned to say that day. It’s important to apply what you are learning because if you don't do that you will never learn!! So I called on one of the students and she came up and we began to make some small conversation and then all of the sudden she asked, "What is your birthday?" Haha how ironic! I told her that my birthday was actually today! The whole class thought that I was lying and didn't believe me so I just let it go and didn't try to convince them that it really was my birthday because I'm not a huge fan of that! But then my companion stood up out of his seat and told everyone that it really was my birthday and then told them all to sing the Happy Birthday Song to me! Ha so the whole class (in Cambodian accents) sang the song to me! Ha it was super cute and I was sufficiently embarrassed:) Then after English Class, our President from our Branch asked if he could meet with me for just a second, so I followed him into the activity room and the room was dark but then he turned on the lights and there were a whole bunch of members and they all screamed happy birthday! They had made a poster with a whole bunch of pics of me and my family and a very pretty cake and best of all there were a whole bunch of my very favorite members!!:) What a great surprise, right!?:) They had me go and stand behind the cake and then turned off the lights again and sang the Happy Birthday Song to me again and then I blew out all of the candles and when I blew them out they sprayed me with confetti and with silly string! It was so awesome!:) I knew that my birthday was going to be a little different this year because I was going to be away from loved ones back at home, but if I could not be with my family this year I could not have picked a better group of people to celebrate my birthday with! It was the best birthday in Cambodia any person could ever ask for!:) I felt so very loved and I was so grateful that I was able to celebrate this special day with all of these amazingly wonderful people here in Siem Reap!!:)
So my birthday was awesome!! Then last Sunday we had 3 of our investigators get baptized!! It was a mother and two of her children:) We have been teaching her since I first got into this area and now she was finally able to enter into that sacred covenant with her Heavenly Father! The joy that was on her face after baptism was indescribable! It reminded me that this is what I am out here to do! To give every person that same opportunity… to have that same wonderful smile written on their faces as well! The smile that says that you now KNOW that you have a Heavenly Father who loves you so very much and that you have just entered into a covenant with Him that shows you love Him and will walk down His path all the way to the end so that you can go back home and live with Him again someday! That is a smile of worth beyond what words could ever describe! The baptismal service was beautiful and she even invited her mother to come who is actually a member of another Christian church! When she came she said she felt different that she had ever felt before! This was such a huge answer to my companion’s and my prayers because we have been trying to get her mother to come and at least see what our church is like for over 3 months, but she just never had the desire to come! We understood and didn't try to force her to do anything that she didn't want to do, but just continued to teach her and trust that Heavenly Father would help up is our efforts! Well, He (as usual) came in clutch!! When her daughter invited her to come to the baptismal service, she had originally said no because that was the same day that her church had their Christmas party and it was the same time as the baptism! But when she woke up that Sunday morning she told us that she had the strongest impression that she needed to go to the baptism and watch her daughter get baptized! How wonderful it is to see Heavenly Father’s loving hand guide His own work here on earth! She said she really enjoys our church and wants to be baptized as well so we will be setting up a baptismal date for her as well this week:)
Then last week was also Christmas week!! Sorry that I could not email last Monday! I forgot to tell you that they changed our p-day to Friday instead because that's the day we Skype our families!:) My bad! Haha don't hate me Mom!!:):) So this last Saturday we had our ward Christmas party as well! The members asked us to come to the church last Friday night so that we could help them set up for the Christmas party! So we went over to the church for an hour or so and helped them set everything up so it looked all pretty and Christmassy!:) I made a Christmas colored chain link and then taped it onto the wall in the form of a Christmas tree! It was pretty sick:) Then we had the big party, starting from Saturday morning all the way into the evening! We invited a million people in our contacting to come to the church learn about our beliefs and also there was tons of food and refreshments for after the open house and Christmas performance! Unfortunately, not a lot of people came from our contacting, but there were a lot of people who were inactive that came to the party! So we felt like that was just as good because we were able to talk with them and the members were able to talk with them and invite them to come back to church and told them how much they missed seeing them at church, so that was really cool!!:) When members tell you that they miss you and want you to come back, that means so much more than the annoying elders calling to tell you over and over again that they miss you! Haha overall I would consider the Christmas party success even though we really did not get a lot of new investigators, at least we have a lot of less actives who now know that the member still love them and miss them!:)
Then this Wednesday we woke up at 4:30 am to head to Phnom Penh for the missionary Christmas party!:) In this mission at Christmas time we get to meet all together, all of the missionaries, and share Christmas Day all together!:) And so you know what that means right!? I got to see my boy, Elder Quirante!!!:) Man I missed him so much!!! It was so nice to be able to see him and catch up with him again and we all stayed in a hotel and we even got to share the same room so that was just an absolute party!!:) Please everyone… pray that I can be companions with him again! We would be an unstoppable force of righteousness if President put us together again!;) The Christmas party was lots of fun and we had a little bit of training from President as well, and then on Thursday we got back on the bus and headed back to Siem Reap!! It was a super long ride back! The guy did not know how to drive and it took 10 hours to get home when usually it only takes 6 or maybe 7! Not fun!! Ha but then I got to wake up the next day and Skype with my family!! That was the best Christmas gift ever!!:) It's been since February since I have seen them and I was far overdue to see all of their cute faces!! It was an absolute blast! We laughed our absolute butts off and had the best time ever talking to each other! Or at least I did!;) I LOVE YOU FAMILY!!:):) Can't wait to see you all again in just a couple short months!!:):)
This Sunday was filled with lots of emotions and it was the first time I have had feelings of this kind on my mission. The feeling that was felt quite strongly this week was sorrow. When I got to the church, we had a meeting right away with the President and he informed us of some very sad news. One of my recent converts who has been struggling with a severe skin disease passed away this Sunday morning. When President told me, I couldn't believe it at first. I didn't want it to be real. My heart was filled with heartache because earlier this week I received a random thought that I should really go to visit him at his house, but the thing was he moved and was no longer in my area and so I decided that next week I would plan to put him in my planner and get permission from the other elders to go into their area and visit him. I also told myself that I was way too busy this week with going to Phnom Penh and all of that stuff. Later in the week, I received that same feeling that I should really go see him. Once again, I told myself that it would not be a problem and that I would go see him when I had more time to plan the longer bike ride into our schedule. So this Sunday I came to the terrible conclusion that I had tried to put off the prompting that my Heavenly Father was giving me through the Holy Ghost. It was a rude awakening to the importance of doing as soon as you are told to do! Only God knows the future and what is going to happen tomorrow and so when he inspires us, we need to act on it quickly! Don't wait, don't think, if it's good, just do! After church, we went to his mother’s house and that's where his body was and we went upstairs to see him. Then the missionaries and about 15 other members who came with us (including our President) gathered around him and said a prayer all together. Then after we sang "I Need Thee Ever Hour" and the Spirit was incredible and it was impossible to hold in the tears. I knew as we were singing that he was in the room with us because when we sang we invited the Holy Ghost to come into that house as well. With tears in my eyes I told him I was sorry for not coming to see him sooner. I told him I loved him and was so happy for the opportunity to have been able to meet him and teach him about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I felt his presence as I talked and felt comforted by his spirit. He was very young… only about 30 years old, but he was born with a skin disease and it restricted him from being able to walk or move normally and it caused him a lot of pain. So as sad as it was to see him leave this earth, I was so happy to think that soon he will be receiving a body that is perfect in every way and does not have any imperfections like his earthly body had. Soon he will have a perfected body, but for right now I know he is in the spirit world currently being a missionary himself and teaching people that don't yet know about the gospel of Jesus Christ to receive a knowledge of Him. I know that with that big huge smile that he has, they will all want to hear what he has to say! Please pray for his wife and his daughter that they may both be comforted and blessed during this difficult times in their lives as well.
On top of all of this emotional stuff, it was transfer calls this week and I am getting transferred!! I was super nervous to find out where I was going to be going and I was already pretty bummed out as far as the things that had happened on Sunday. But....transfer calls came in and the news was some of the best news I possibly could have received! I am headed back to ស្ទឹងមានជយ័!!! :):) (Stung Meanchey!) President called me and told me that I would be going back to serve there and that I would be the district leader over there as well!! I was so excited when he told me! I get to go see all of my old recent converts!:) Such a blessing! My companion’s name is Elder Bostrom and he is just barely getting out of training, so I am going to be his “mom” (the person that's companions with someone right out of training.) One of the elders here in Siem Reap is in the same group as him and he told me I am going to like him a lot and we are going to get along just fine!:) Man it was a hard day today, but as usual at the end of the day Heavenly Father cheered me up and showed me just how much He loves me!! The mission really is an emotional roller coaster! You can be at what feels like the very bottom of the hill when all of the sudden you are back on top and feeling like you can touch the top of the mountain! I love all the experiences I am having out here! The difficult ones, the happy ones, the sad ones, the exciting ones, the frustrating ones, the funny ones, and everything in between!! I'm so grateful to be able to take these two years to be able to learn and grow! I know these experiences are going to bless me for the rest of my life!! Well, that's all I have for you this weekend! I am so sorry that it is so long this week!! Just lots of information to catch you all up on!! :) I love you all and hope you have an amazing week!! I'll be emailing you all from my old home next week!!:):) But until then God bless you all:)