Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Last Home Letter!

Hello everybody! Well, I hope that you all had a great week! Mine was amazing as usual! :) I don't really even know how to begin this letter to you all this week! Ha my heart is filled with so much emotion I feel like it's going to just pop right out of my chest! How can it already be time for me to come home? What is home? I don't think I have the same definition for home as I did before I came out here! Cambodia has been my home for the past two years of my life and now they tell me I get to go back home... I feel like I already am at home in a way! Ha but at the same time I have an overwhelming amount of joy because I get to go back to America this week and see my family that I love and miss so very much!! :) I really can't begin to describe to you all how much my mission means to me! My mission has blessed my life in so many ways I could not even begin to try to count them all! Before my mission I did not have much of a testimony at all of the truthfulness of the restored gospel. To be honest with you all, I kind of just believed because everyone else believed! When I came out on my mission however, I quickly realized that I was the only one that was heading to Cambodia! Not my mom or my dad or my church leaders, just me. I realized that I needed to figure out what I truly believed in! Because if all of this was just some made up story, I was not about to go share about it for two years halfway across the world! So I started reading and praying for the first time in my life! And by the first time in my life, I mean the first time actually reading and praying and having a burning desire to know the truthfulness of the message! Well, as you all know, towards the end of the Book of Mormon there is a promise that the prophet Moroni gives to all who read the book with an open heart and a contrite spirit, that the truthfulness of that book will be made known unto them. Well I remember I was in my first area when I finally finished the Book of Mormon all the way through. When I finished, I quietly went up to the top of my house up on the roof/balcony where it was nice and quiet. I knelt down to pray, but I remember as clear as day that before I could even get anything out of my mouth, the Spirit rang through my whole body and at that moment I received my first true witness that the Book of Mormon was true. I did not even have to use words to ask, God knew the desires of my heart and answered my prayer that morning. Instead of asking, I thanked my Heavenly Father for the answer that He had already so generously given to me. My very favorite thing about this Gospel is that it is a Gospel of free agency. Nobody is trying to force you into doing anything you don't want to do. All God is asking, all that we as members of the church are asking, and all that I have ever asked anyone to do out here as a missionary, is to take what we have taught them and pray about it and ask God if what we are teaching them is true. What an amazing promise Heavenly Father gives to all of His children! He wants us to know! He wants us to receive! And all that He asks is we cry out to Him with faith and His end of the promise is always fulfilled! I have seen it countless of times out here on my mission! 

I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is Christ's true church once again restored onto the earth! I know that Joseph Smith saw God and Jesus Christ and that through him, the power and the fullness of the gospel was restored. I know that we are led by a modern-day prophet, just like the prophets of old. I know that he receives revelation from on high to lead us safely back home to our Heavenly Father. I love the people of Cambodia. It's a good thing that you guys can't see me right now because I get way too emotional talking about the people of Cambodia! There is not a better group of people in this entire universe! These past two years, having the opportunity to be able to live amongst these people and work with them and talk with them and love them has been the greatest blessing in my life up to this point. How I was so lucky as to get to serve my mission in Cambodia I will never know, but what I do know is that the Cambodian people are some of God's most beloved children. The children that God knew could tough it out, that could handle all of the hard obstacles and trials that this life has. The toughest of the toughest were sent to live their earthly lives here in Cambodia! I love the people of Cambodia. I love my mission so much. In so many ways I do not want this experience to end! I feel like I have learned so much out here, and yet I feel like I am only beginning to scratch the surface! I want to thank all of you as well for all of the support that you all have given me throughout my mission! There have been days out here that were very hard, but one thing that I could always count on was feeling the love of those back at home. There were many days where I know it was because of the prayers of those back at home that I was able to keep on pushing forward! Thank you all so much for your love and support! 

I testify to you all that this Church is true. The Atonement of Jesus Christ is very real and can and should influence every aspect of our lives. The Plan of Salvation is obtainable. Families can be together for time and all eternity. Joseph Smith is a true prophet of God. The Book of Mormon is true scripture given to us from God. I want to share a scripture with you all that I love so much in 2 Nephi. It's towards the very end when he is testifying of the truthfulness of what he is writing upon the plates that God has commanded him to write on. He says, "And now, my beloved brethren, and also Jew, and all ye ends of the earth, hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good." I know that this is true! I know that God has given us these words out of love and compassion for each and every one of us and I know that if we read and study these words, just like Nephi said, it will only teach us to do good! The Book of Mormon is true and I know that with all of my heart and soul! It's a gift that Heavenly Father wants every single one of us to receive! I know that anyone that reads the Book of Mormon and asks God with a sincere heart if it is true scripture or not, will receive an answer that it truly is of God! I love this gospel with all of my heart and soul. Please, as members of this Church, continue to spread the good word. We have been given a gift beyond measure and it would be nothing short of robbery if we kept this great gift to ourselves. Have the courage to share. Have the courage to invite and always have the worthiness to testify! For those of you who are not members of this Church, I invite you learn more about our church. Visit our website at Talk to a member that you may know and have them help you set up a meeting with missionaries in your area so they can come and teach you more about what we believe in. I promise that if you do this with a sincere desire, that it will be one of the greatest blessings in your life! For those of you that are already members, but for some reason or another have fallen away from the church, come back. We miss you, and we love you so very much!

I have been trying to think of how I wanted to end this letter and how I could express to you all just how much I love my mission, and as I was contemplating about it a few days ago in my personal study I came across the testimony of Ammon and how he felt about his missionary service! As I was reading it, I felt that he and I had very similar outlooks on our missions! So to close I want to share his testimony with you all and I want you all to know that I echo all of his words! I summarized a little bit so if you want to see the full passage, it is in Alma 26. He says: 

12. Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever.
28. And now behold, we have come, and been forth amongst them; and we have been patient in our sufferings, and we have suffered every privation; yea, we have traveled from house to house, relying upon the mercies of the world--not upon the mercies of the world alone but upon the mercies of God.
30. And we have suffered all manner of afflictions, and all this, that perhaps we might be the means of saving some soul; and we supposed that our joy would be full if perhaps we could be the means of saving some.
31. Now behold, we can look forth and see the fruits of our labors; and are they few? I say unto you, Nay, they are many; yea, and we can witness of their sincerity, because of their love towards their brethren and also towards us.
35. Now have we not reason to rejoice? Yea, I say unto you, there never were men that had so great reason to rejoice as we, since the world began; yea, and my joy is carried away, even unto boasting in my God; for he has all power, all wisdom, and all understanding; he comprehendeth all things, and he is a merciful Being, even unto salvation, to those who will repent and believe on his name.
36. Now if this is boasting, even so will I boast; for this is my life and my light, my joy and my salvation, and my redemption from everlasting wo. Yea, blessed is the name of my God, who has been mindful of this people, who are a branch of the tree of Israel, and has been lost from its body in a strange land; yea, I say, blessed be the name of my God, who has been mindful of us, wanderers in a strange land.
37. Now my brethren, we see that God is mindful of every people, whatsoever land they may be in; yea, he numbereth his people, and his bowels of mercy are over all the earth. Now this is my joy, and my great thanksgiving; yea, and I will give thanks unto my God forever. Amen.

It could not be put any better than that! I am forever grateful for the experiences that I have had out here and I will cherish them and the relationships that I have made and the knowledge that I have gained for time and all eternity! God bless the people of Cambodia! I love this Gospel, I love my mission, and I love the people of Cambodia! One last time...

Much love headed your way from the KINGDOM OF CAMBODIA!!!
Elder Steadman

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Another wonderful week in the Kingdom!

Hello everybody!!:) Another amazing week for me here in the Kingdom! I hope you all had a great week as well! I'll give you all a quick rundown of how this week went! So on Monday we had p-day and we spent the day just hitting up all of the markets and doing lots of shopping! It was actually quite an exhausting day! Then when we got back to our area that evening, we went to visit some members and that was super great!:) On Tuesday morning we had Zone Leader Meeting...I don't think that's what it's called, but the actual name won't come to my head haha… it was just a meeting with all of the zone leaders and sister training leaders in our mission! It was super good! I don't know if you guys know this or not, but a couple of weeks ago the church leaders had a World Wide Missionary Broadcast! Well, we had to wait for the broadcast to be available online before we could watch it so we were not able to watch it live with all of the other missionaries, but we were finally able to watch it this week! So we watched that in the meeting and it was like 2 hours long! It was super good! I really liked the focus that they put on relying on the Spirit and letting the Spirit testify that what you are teaching is true! That's one thing I love so much about this church! We are not trying to convince anyone of anything! We only state what we believe and then ask them to go to God and ask Him if our message is true or not! When you put things that simply, missionary work sounds so easy! Haha there is a little more that goes on in the background, but that's pretty much the overall gist! Anyway, I loved the broadcast! Then the Assistants gave a small message on repentance and the importance of teaching repentance clearly and understandably! Unfortunately, in this mission it's gotten to be a bad habit for some of us to just say repenting is feeling bad about something you did and then not doing it again. Well, that's technically correct, but there are other things that are part of the repentance process that are very important to understand! So they had us practice teaching repentance and I feel like it's really going to help with our vision this year, which is having 50% of our recent converts attend church! Right now we are at about 32%, but with the way President Christensen is running things I know we will be able to reach that goal by the end of the year! So overall the meeting was super good and Elder Bo and I got a ton out of it! We then had Zone Training with our zone that same Friday! Basically we just watched that Broadcast with them all and then Elder Bo did a great presentation on repentance as well! So my Tuesday and Friday this week were kind of like the same day, but they were super good so that's lucky I guess!:)

Then there was a super sad thing that happened this last Tuesday as well. One of the members in our branch had his house burn down. His neighbor’s gas tank exploded and ended up burning down around 20 houses! I was so sad when I first heard the news because I had just been to his house the week before and he was telling me how he had just finished it and that it had been something that he had been working on for 20 years. I was so crushed. I went to go see them and to my great surprise he greeted me with a warm smile and a hug! He told me that when it happened he grabbed his 3 grandkids and ran out of the house, but because the fire was so big and their house was made out of straight wood, he literally had no time to go back in and get anything else. Literally everything that they owned besides the clothes on their back was gone! And yet he was still smiling and just telling me how grateful he was that he and his grandchildren were able to make it out alive! His faith is so inspiring to me! I was also so happy to hear that members from all over Phnom Penh, not just our branch, but everywhere, were coming to visit him and give him some clothes or a little bit of money! It's so cool to see the members come together and show love for another member who is going through a hard time in their life! And the coolest was on Sunday he came to church! He did not have church clothes, but he and his wife came to church! When we went to meet him earlier in the week, he told us he was probably not going to be coming because he was going to be busy trying to figure out everything, but then on Sunday he walked in with a big smile and was warmly greeted by all the members!! So it was a very sad thing that happened to him, but he is looking at it as a blessing in disguise! He told me he feels lucky he gets to start new! Sometimes the faith of the members here is so humbling!

On Friday we met a new investigator who's name is Bong Touch. She is so awesome! We taught her the first lesson and at the end committed her to pray about what we had taught her and then she said yes and asked if we had an extra copy of "that Book of Mormon book" that she could keep and read for herself! That was a first for me on my mission! Ha we gave her a copy of the book and taught her how to read it! We have not met her again yet, but we will be meeting with her this week and I am super excited to see how she is progressing when me meet again! Church was also super good this week as well! I did not have the opportunity to fast last week so I fasted this week for the family whose house burned down and when I got to the church, I saw all of these people offering their help in all of these different ways and I felt like the prayer to my fast was literally getting answered right in front of my eyes! It was a pretty cool experience!:)

I love my mission so much! I feel so unbelievably blessed for the time that I have to be serving here in this wonderful country! I seriously believe that there is not another place in the world like this, with people like these people, and with experiences like these experiences! It's a once in a lifetime opportunity and I cannot think of a better thing I could be doing with my life right now then sharing the wonderful message of the gospel with these amazing people! I am the luckiest guy in the world to be able to live in the wonderful Kingdom of Cambodia! Don't miss me too much! I'm enjoying it way too much out here! I love you all so much and hope you have a very wonderful week over in America! Oh yeah, and happy Valentine’s to all of you love birds out there!!:) This Valentine’s Day I’m grateful for a family that loves me far more than I think I deserve! 

Love you all so much!! :)
Elder Steadman:)

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Don't miss me too much...

Hello everybody!!:) Well, I am sorry in advance because I don't really have a whole lot of time this week to write all of you! Today a whole bunch of Elders are getting together at the South Stake Center and we are having a huge Cambodian BBQ and playing some backyard baseball! I am super pumped!!:) We are in a hurry to get over to that party today so I don't really have a whole lot of time to write a long email, but I will try to update you as best as I can with the time that I have!:)

This week was super good! Monday was super fun because it was Elder Riches’ birthday and so a whole bunch of Elders met all together to eat pizza and it was so delicious! :) But way expensive, so it's not a place that I can go to eat very often!! Ha Then on Tuesday we were not able to do any proselyting!:( Elder Bo's knee was hurting him super bad! About 6 months ago he got in an accident and hurt his knee and then this week it was starting to hurt him again, so we spent Tuesday at the doctors getting X-rays and all that fun jazz!! At the end of the day they just told him to take some meds and to wrap it up and tough it up! I don't think that he was too happy about their answer, but it is what it is I guess!! Good news is that the medicine they gave him is helping and he is feeling a lot better!! Then on Wednesday we had English class and that was...ok! Haha we did not have a whole bunch of people show up, but I tried to be super enthusiastic when I was teaching so I am hoping that everyone will invite their friends next week!!:)

On Thursday we had Zone Conference with President! Oh my gosh! I cannot even express to you all how good it was!! President focused on the importance of studies and making your study hour worthwhile and also good ways to go at studying! It was soooo amazing! The only thing that would have made it better was if I had heard it 2 years ago!! Ha but it was also really cool because a lot of it was focused on after the mission studies as well! I loved it so so so much! I have always studied my whole mission, but I wish I would have known all these different ways to study like we were taught this last week! But hey, better late than never right!? Then on Friday we went to our far away area and we had great success in meeting all of our investigators and members down there!! :) We also have another potential investigator down in that area as well so I will try to keep you guys posted on how that goes!:) Then on Saturday we went out all day and had like no success at all getting lessons! We were able to meet a lot of members, but they were just too busy to meet with us! In Cambodia they celebrate Chinese New Year and it started on the 7th. So on Saturday everybody was getting ready for that and all of their relatives were coming over to visit them! Or they were gone because they went to go visit their relatives instead! Ha on Sunday we did not have as many people at church as we usually do because there were a lot of people that went out to the provinces, but it was still a great Sunday! It was fast and testimony meeting and those are always fun to listen to here in Cambodia! It's not so much of a testimony meeting! It's more like stand up and tell everyone everything that is going bad in your life and who you are mad at and then at the end tell everyone how much you love God and that's about it! Hahaha it's kind of awesome! They are all just so open with each other here it's so cool! Just one big family!:) But yeah, I think for this week that's pretty much all that I’ve got for you all! Nothing too exciting happened to us this week, but it was still a great week! :) Especially the Zone Conference!! I love you all so much and I hope that you all have a very good week!!:) Don't miss me too much! I don't have enough time left to be missing you guys!!;);)

All my love,
Elder Steadman:)

Thursday, February 4, 2016

"Completely and totally humbled"

Hey guys!:) Well, it was another great week for me over here! This week felt like a really good week because we had a lot of success in our contacting efforts! That is super super rare for this area, so the Lord definitely blessed us this week!! I guess I will just give you all a quick run down of everything that happened! So on Monday we went and hit up all the markets and I just did a whole bunch of shopping to get some small things that I needed, so that was really fun!:) Then we went out to eat at Elder Bo's favorite fast food place and it was pretty good! He is so funny because he wants to like American food so much, but it's such a different taste for him that he just has not gotten used to yet! But every p-day he loves to go to this place and they make a hamburger there that he really loves and I think it makes him feel like he is really embracing the American culture every time we eat there!! Haha he is so awesome! So that was pretty much it for our p-day besides we went and visited a few members in the evening time and that was great too! 

Then on Tuesday we went to our far away area and, I'm not going to lie, it was a super hard day!! We were out all day trying to meet our members and investigators and all of them bailed on us! Literally every single one! It was super frustrating and I was not really enjoying my day, but then at around 7 (so like an hour before we were supposed to go inside) we were about ready to throw in the towel when we remembered an old less active couple that we were not able to meet in the past because they were never home. We decided that we might as well give it a try with them before we went home! So we hiked over to their house and sure enough, they were home! Just to give you guys an idea, they are both about 60 years old and they pick up garbage and recyclables for a living and resell it back to small companies for a very small amount of money! Their house is no bigger than 10 feet by 10 feet and is filled with recyclables that they have not given to the companies yet. When they saw us, their faces both lit up! They are both Chinese, but have lived most of their lives in Cambodia. Neither of them speak the language super clear, but they welcomed us in their small house and grabbed some cardboard for us to sit on and then we all sat down and then the older man told us how happy he was that we were able to make it today! Then he told us that Chinese New Year was coming up really soon and he would love it if we could come to his house to celebrate with them. He told us that he does not have a lot of money to make some nice food for us, but that he has some rice that we could all eat together, and then he said something that I will never forget for the rest of my life. He said, "I don't have a lot. I can't make you any nice food because I don't have any money. I don't have any friends. You two are my only friends, and God too! So I would love it if you could come and celebrate with us." My emotions overcame me at that moment. I don't know what it was, but I was completely and totally humbled by this man. He had absolutely nothing going for him in his life and yet he was smiling from ear to ear. For that moment I was jealous of him! He can see the big picture. He sees that this life is only a small trial of our faith and that in the next life he will be able to rest from all of these trials and hardships. I only hope that I can try to be half as good as this man and women in looking for the positive things in life! I know that he is one of God's most precious children! I could feel it when I was at their house! The Spirit was so strong! Anyway, that made my terrible Tuesday into one of the best days of my whole mission!

On Wednesday we were out contacting and met a man of another religion who has believed in Jesus for over 20 years already and he was super awesome! We asked him if we could come back and share a little bit about what we believed in! We were also able to teach a little bit about the Book of Mormon and he seemed intrigued that God could potentially have given us another testament of Jesus Christ's mortally ministry! So I will have to keep you updated on that as well!:) That night we had English class and that was pretty good too because Elder Bo and I are trying to get more people to our English class so we are doing a lot of contacting and inviting people to learn English with us and we already have a few new students, so that's pretty tight as well! Then on Thursday we had a good day and we were able to meet a lot of members, so that was really good! On Friday we went back to our far area, but this time we had a lot of success in going and meeting all of our members and investigators!:) Friday night we went again to the old couple’s house and we watched the Restoration video with them and they loved it so much! We listened to it in Chinese so I did not understand a single thing, but I have seen it so many times I already knew everything that it was saying!:) ha Then on Saturday we found two more people who told us that they were interested in learning with us about the gospel so we scheduled to meet with them this next week as well! Also, Saturday evening we went over to an investigator’s house to teach her and she lives right next to some members and so we invited them to come over and learn with us as well! When we got all together, the member started to tell us that she had a big problem in her life right now because the place that she was living was no longer going to be rented out to her so she was going to have to leave! She told us she was going to have to go and live with her mom, but she said the problem was that her mom lives on the land of another church and that that church has a rule that everybody that lives on their land has to go to their church and worship every Sunday. Kinda weird, I know ha, but anyway she said that if she goes there that she will have to go to that church! She asked us what she should do! Well, that was a super easy question for me because all I can do is invite her to ask God what to do! I am just a kid! I can't, nor do I have the right, to force her to choose one church or the other! I told her to pray to God and promised, “He will lead you and help you know what to do in order to follow Him with all of your heart!” Then we watched the restoration video and I think that it really hit home for her! She said the closing prayer and begged God to help her know what she should do to follow Him with all of her heart! Well, when Sunday morning came around, guess who showed up! :) She had a big grin on her face and I did not even need to ask her! I knew that she had received an answer to her prayers!:) Sometimes missionary work is so easy because we are really not doing any of the work at all! We are just small instruments in God's hands and we help people know the way that they can communicate with Him so that they can learn for themselves about what they need to do in their lives to follow Him! I love my calling:) It's a constant reminder that God truly is at the head of this great work! 

Oh, and guess who else showed up at church!? Bong Narit and his family!! For those of you who have been reading my emails from the beginning, you are going to have to jog your memories really hard to remember this family! I met them in my very first transfer here in Cambodia and fell in love with them and have kept in touch with them through letters throughout my entire mission as well! Well, they found out that I was leaving next month and asked the Elders in their area where I was serving, and then came and surprised me! How awesome is that?! Their little daughter is soooo big now! And they have a cute new baby boy!!:) I love them so much and it made my whole week to be able to see them walk into church! And to see that they are still strong and active in the church! They have such hard lives! The husband has to do different random jobs night and day just to be able to provide for his family! I have not met a more hard-working Cambodian during my entire mission! He is a huge example to me of what the role of a father entails! He does anything and everything to provide for his family! I took a picture with them that I will be sending to you all as well so you can see how they all are!:) Well, for me that's pretty much all that I’ve got for you this week! I love this work so much! It's so dang hard! But there is not any other work I would want to be doing in my life right now than this work! It is of God and I feel so blessed to be a part of it! I love you all and hope that you all have a great week!:)

All my love!
Elder Steadman:)