Sunday, October 4, 2015

This week my companion and I witnessed a miracle. Like a big one. Coolest thing ever. So last week I talked about that woman who got all of her stuff stolen by her daughter in law. So she had no money and borrowed about $150 bucks to buy a new machine and some coconuts to start making money again. Last week we met with her and after we gave her our lesson Elder Brewer said the closing prayer. He asked God if Ming could have a miracle in her life. We left and then came back a couple days ago. We rode our bikes to her little hammock place and she told us something that just blew my mind. She said the day after we prayed with her she was walking and just found a bag of money on the ground with like 200,000 rial (60 bucks)!!!! Which is an insane amount of money. Especially in Prae Choo. She already payed a lot of the money back before she found the bag so now she is almost done paying back all the money! Man, that experience just totally reminded me that God truly knows us. He cares about everyone even old sugar can juice ladies in the little town of Prae Choo. She shared the coolest testimony yesterday. SO SICK

So right now we have about 6 investigators with baptismal dates, but the other day we were visiting some of them and we found two of them totally drunk or in the process of becoming drunk. I was so mad cause we pulled up to Om june's house and he was sleeping, or I thought he was he was just so drunk he couldnt even sit up. He saw us and then got up and started to yell all around to the other little huts to come learn with us. Ha it was way funny cause he made no sense but also way sad cuz he hadnt dranken anything for like 2 weeks and he was supposed to get baptized soon. So we got to wait a while for him now. Alcohol is just so dumb. It literally ruins so many lives here. Lots of dads just get super depressed because of how hard their life is and just give up. 

I think it was on Wednesday, we started to wait on the rode to hop on a car to get to our other area. We were walking down on the rode and this lady with her toddler girl came up to us with some pretty desperate faces and was asking for money. I opened up my wallet and gave her 10,000 rial which isnt even 3 bucks and handed it to her. Apparenly that is a ton of money to give a beggar here, but i didnt know that, she looked at the bill and just started to cry. Like a lot. She got on her knees and was just saying thank you thank you and crying. She got up picked up her kid and was on her way smiling still tearing up. That experience was just one of those moments in your life where you just reevaluate everything. If 3 dollars can make someone that happy, I need to change some stuff. I just, idk ,me feeling bad about myself not knowing anything didn't really seem that important anymore. Every day im just realizing how truly blessed we are. Sometimes we just have no idea, and I’m finally realizing it.    

Funny story, the other day we were in a lesson and Elder Brewer pulled out his scriptures and when he was passing them across the bamboo table this purple goop fell from the banana leaves that were covering us and landed on his scriptures. We looked up and this semi big lizard was just staring at us. It totally pooped on his scriptures and left a nasty stain! HA the little kids were dying. Oh and another thing happened that was just wierd. We were teaching like this 60 year old woman (idk thats just how old she looks) and in the middle of the lesson this little kid came up on her lap and she just started breast feeding right in front of us with not a care in the world. It was just one of those moments where you're just like whoah is this actually happening, and then that turned into when you  cant stop smiling or laughing, and it wasnt even funny but like I couldnt stop smiling and laughing. I just did my best to bite my tongue and just stare at her face. We shared for a little longer and then left. Way funny. 

We had zone conference last week and let me tell ya President and Sister Christensen are some of the coolest people ever. They are just so passionate about making this mission amazing. I love it. President Christensen talked about being an accidental disciple and a deliberate disciple. He pretty much told us that most of us were accidental disciples and how we all needed to transition to become a deliberate disciple. He said its your choice to CHOOSE if you are going to be someone who follows Jesus Christ because you have to or becuase you truly want to because he is your Savior and your older brother. Im definitely butchering it, but man he killed it. It was so awesome.

The mission is going good, I still barely understand anything but I'm trying my best. The Church is true and I love how happy it can make sad people. It truly gives people hope and a divine purpose here on Earth. Love you all


Beautiful ruins

We got really lost.

    Sunday, December 23, 2012

    Give a little bit...

    There are people all of us have met in our life that capture our hearts from the moment we meet them.  At first we may not even be able to recognize why we are so drawn to them--but for some reason, they stand out amidst the hundreds of people we know.  The feelings may come through admiration for what they have accomplished or overcome in their life.  They may come as a result of a common interest or goal.  You may feel drawn to them simply because of the way you feel when you are around them.  An orphanage in Cambodia did just that to our family's heart.
    When we were on our humanitarian trip last year the first place we visited was an orphanage in Cambodia called the Cambodia and International Children Friend Organization or CICFO.  The name they decided to call the orphanage still makes me smile.  It is a small orphanage that is home to around 35 children.  I hesitate to even call it an orphanage because the images and feelings that come to mind when you hear that word  are usually negative.  But what makes CICFO so amazing is that it truly feels like a home.   The children are happy and thriving.  

    It is hard to explain what it feels like when you are there. Even though these children have been through so much in their life, I never felt anger from any of them.  They were genuinely happy and worked together for the common good of all.   They respected each other and were full of gratitude for a place to live and the opportunity to go to school.  But even more than that, was a great feeling of belonging.  They knew they were loved and were part of a family.  They all contribute to various chores to make it run smoothly... 

    I never saw complaining or frustration when it came time to help out--unlike my home where we have been known to have weeping and wailing when it is time for Saturday jobs, dish duty, toilet scrubbing, laundry folding, or the dreaded play room clean up.  I was hoping some of their willingness to pitch in without complaint would rub off on my kids :)   I loved what I felt there as the children all worked together--they knew it was a combined effort to get everyone fed and have clean clothes,  to understand schoolwork, and clean up.  That was one of my favorite things about CICFO--they all worked and helped each other. 

     These are the two women who started it all--Botevy and Vanneth. 
     In 1975 Pol Pot overtook the Cambodian government with his Khmer Rouge, a communistic group.  (Please take a moment and read here and here (except the link is not working so google carefreetimelessness Pol Pot and it will come up) to see how this affected Botevy and Vanneth personally.  It will help you understand the background to CICFO.) Pol Pot was a dictator who reigned until 1979 and was responsible for killing 3 of the 8 million Cambodians living at that time.  Teachers, doctors, lawyers, professors, business men, officials ranked in the military, and anyone who wore glasses or knew how to read were killed.  Millions of others were starved or tortured to death.  There was nothing left after his reign.  This beautiful country had to completely start over.

    There were many orphaned and abandoned children.  In 2004 Botevy and Vanneth decided to do something to help these children.  Botevy would stop them and say, "Why are you not in school?"  The children would tell her they did not have enough money to buy a uniform.  This really saddened Botevy and Vanneth so they slowly started taking children in to help them. Soon after CICFO was created.  What a blessing it is to all who live there.

    Botevy and Vanneth refer to all the children that live there as their own.  On one of the last nights we were there we gathered under the stars outside and sat together.  

    The children shared a little bit more about themselves and what they liked to do.  But without question, not one of them finished speaking (through a translator)  without sharing their feelings about Botevy and Vanneth.  The expressions of sincere gratitude for them was deep rooted and part of their very core.  They were very tender, emotional words.  The amount of love and respect they have for their "mothers" was felt and noted by all who were there.  When someone takes you out of your current conditions of poverty, uncertainty, hunger, and emotional heartache and gives you a humble home but the opportunity to go to school, have 3 meals a day, and feel unconditional love--your heart is forever theirs.  Botevy and Vanneth are changing the stars for all of these children one by one.

    Later on that night my mind kept wondering back to the starfish analogy.  I am sure most of you have heard the story of the starfish numerous times, but if not I will share it here.

    Strolling along the edge of the ocean, a man catches sight of a young boy. Drawing closer, he sees that the beach around him is littered with starfish.  He is throwing them one by one back into the sea. The man lightly mocks the boy, "There are stranded starfish as far as the eye can see, for miles up the beach. What difference can saving a few of them possibly make?" Smiling, the boy bends down and once more tosses a starfish out over the water, saying serenely, "It certainly makes a difference to this one."
    Someone could say the same thing to Botevy and Vanneth..."There are so many children in need here in Cambodia.  How is your little orphanage of 35 going to make any difference at all?"  But when you go there, and you become friends with these children and see how Botevy and Vanneth have given them hope, a family, unconditional love, education, and a vision of what life can be for them--it is absolutely awe inspiring.  35 children will now have completely different lives, which matters very much.  Families will be created and those 35 children will turn into hundreds of people... 

    Before coming to CICFO two siblings at the orphanage yearned to be able to go to school.  They lived with their grandmother who was very old and trying to support them.  They were very poor.  She would make Cambodian desserts for the children to sell.  As they walked around selling these desserts they would see other children dressed in blue pants or skirts and a white shirt on their way to school.  How they wished that they could have a uniform so they could also attend school.  They said that they would sell their desserts as quickly as they could and run over to the school.  They would crouch down outside the classroom window and listen to the teachers teach the students.  As she spoke they would repeat the things she said out loud so that they could also learn.
    Those siblings went from being sweet humble children like this:

    To a sweet humble child like this...all dressed up in a school uniform.

    They now have dreams of going to college, becoming professionals, giving their future children a stable home, and helping their families. The stars have changed for these sweet children.  It makes me smile just thinking about it.

    One thing that is a constant battle for CICFO is having enough funds.  Since CICFO feels very much like a family, we didn't want to start a program where children were sponsored individually.  We did not want to create a spirit of competitiveness or have some children saddened because they were not sponsored.  The feeling at CICFO is very much, "all for one and one for all" and we didn't want to do anything that would take away from what Botevy and Vanneth have worked so hard to create.

    Would you consider donating to the orphanage as a whole?  Every penny donated goes straight to the children.  There are no administrative fees, as everyone on the board or involved with CICFO is a volunteer.  Your donation would help buy food, pay for the children's education, (school is not free in Cambodia), clothing, and other daily needs.  Eventually we would like to start an endowment fund for the children for their college education.  But for now, we are concentrating on getting their immediate needs met.

    If you would like to donate,  you can do a one time donation or set up a monthly withdrawal from your bank account.  It is very easy to do and even $20 a month is a huge help to them! You can donate anything from $5 a month to $150 a month which is the amount needed to provide for a child at CICFO.)  Under the donation bar there is a place where you can write a note.  If your family would like to be a pen pal to one of the children there write it in that box.  The children would love it! 

    I read about a family that wanted to teach their children to give back.  They wanted their children to have to sacrifice something for someone else.  They got a jar and put it in their kitchen.  They decided that they would give up certain things so they could donate to a charity.  So on the weekend when they wanted to go to the movies, they would go to redbox instead and pop their own popcorn.  They would total the cost of going to the movies and subtract the redbox from it and put the remaining money into the service jar.  Same thing with going out for ice-cream--they would go to the grocery store and buy a half gallon of ice-cream and eat it at home and put the saved money in the jar.  They did this time and time again and the children felt so good inside.  When the jar was full they donated the money to a charity of their choice. I LOVE THIS IDEA.  It gives them ownership, empathy, and teaches them the value of giving.

    Service and sacrifice walk hand in hand.  I am convinced there is no better feeling in the world than to know you have eased someone's burden, brought happiness, or lifted another to higher ground.  No one ever regrets it.  And just so you know,  once you start to give of yourself and you feel what it feels like to give, you won't be able to stop yourself :)  A beautiful magnet is formed in your heart that will keep drawing you back to those in need. 

    Take a moment and click here to donate.  It will take you to their website where you can choose the amount of your one time donation or set up a monthly withdrawal.  Thank you in advance for helping out the sweet children of CICFO.

    ps- If you would like to someday do a family humanitarian trip to Cambodia to visit the children go to .  You will get to visit CICFO and also build homes for needy families in Cambodia.  It is an amazing experience.  Global Outreach Alliance is a non-profit company who takes people or families to Cambodia and Africa to build homes, provide clean drinking water, and volunteer in local schools.  Steven Wrigley (founder) is a man in his late twenties who uses 100% of his fees toward the project you are working on--fabulous.


    Saturday, May 5, 2012

    Micro Lending in India

    Have you ever heard of Micro-Lending?  It is an inspired program that helps people who have a will to work get started.  Rising Star has their own program for the locals at the leprosy colonies.  It is fantastic.  There was one man they told us about who wanted to borrow some money for some wood working tools.  I can not remember the exact amount, but it was not very much money-less than $100 for sure.  He now employs over 40 people and has a thriving business.  There are so many who want to work but do not have the means to just get started.
    We were able to meet this man who borrowed $12 for a pair of scissors and a few supplies to be a barber.  He now has his own little place where he cuts hair and gives men a great shave.

    Doug got a haircut and a shave and looked great :)
    Now imagine cutting hair and shaving people when your foot feels like this...

    There is a reason he has to sit down and cover his leg (look in the above picture) so no hair will get stuck in his wound.  When he took his little bandage off we all could not believe he was working so long without complaint.  I am sure he is in great agony all day while he is working. When we washed his wounds it was evident.   But he was so grateful to have work and to have a way to provide for his family.  You see when he got leprosy his wife left him.  When she heard that he had this business and could provide for them she came back to him.  This sweet man's life would be one of misery and destitution-all alone with no family.  Look what $12 did for him.  I LOVE IT.  I love Rising Star for giving people their life back, or creating one they never had.

    Brandon, my little pre-med boy, was able to wrap his wounds.  He did it ever so carefully and with such skill.  The nurse told me, "Your son wraps better than you do." That was no news flash to me-he is a natural.
    After we finished cleaning all their wounds we went in to the place where all the elderly live together.  One side for the men, one side for the women.  This colony had a sort of "assisted living" center.  I have no other word for it, maybe I should just call it a living center.
    I have a grandmother who is one of my greatest treasures.  She is 89 years old and has always been the kind of grandmother that everyone dreams of.  When you are with Grandma Logie you feel genuinely loved.  She is an incredible cook, will play with the children all sorts of games for hours, she reads stories, she will start food fights, she can beat anyone in Croquet.  She would take us bowling and fishing and to the local strawberry patch.  She was an absolute dream.  When you were with her she was never distracted with other things she had to do.  We were it to her and we knew it.  She is getting older now and it starting to need more care.  When I walked into the building I immediately thought of her trying to live in this environment.  It brought tears to my eyes for all these aged people.   It is on my list to come back here and help these elderly people become a little more comfortable.

    No sheets, no cozy blanket, her pillowcase is an old rice burlap bag. This bed belongs to the sweet lady below.

    This man was so incredibly cute.  I loved how he made his little area his own.  He got some sticks and tied a piece of fabric to it to make a little canopy bed.  He has a little radio and some pictures and a calendar.  All that he owned was on that bed and look at that fantastic smile.  These are the souls who find happiness in any circumstance and who have a sure spot in heaven.

     It is neat to see the children go and befriend these souls.  Sam was "chatting" with this man and decided to take off his "live strong" bracelet and give it to him.  I think there is a lot of symbolism in that.  Sam in his own little way was trying to tell him to keep holding on, to endure to the end--that someday he would feel no pain and would have a perfect body of his own. 
    After Sam gave him the bracelet the man leaned down and handed this picture to Sam.  It is a picture of a painting that he made.  Honestly, these souls have such little material possessions and then what they do have, they give away.
    Material possessions are such an interesting thing.  There are possessions that we absolutely need in life and then there are those that are just kind of fun to have.  Then there is a whole different category.  It is the category of constantly needing more all of the time.  I went and visited my school in Switzerland and there was a poster on the wall that I thought said it perfectly.

    It is so well said.  It causes reflection doesn't it? Do we really need a new handbag, pair of jeans, cell phone, designer shoes, or latest flat screen tv?  Does there come a point where we put the jeans back on the shelf just to have some self-denial? not give in to every want.  Do we tell our children that we have enough clothes and we will make do with what we have already?  Even if we can afford it,  there is something to denying ourselves.  I heard a quote once that said, "If you always give your children everything they want, they will never stop wanting." That goes for adults too.  I want you to ask yourself a question.  (myself included)  How much time in your week is spent just looking.  Looking for a new decoration for the house,  surfing the internet for a deal, wondering the aisles of Target, just running from here to there buying things that we don't really need.  Wouldn't it be interesting for one week to add all that time up?  Then the next week tell yourself that you are only going to shop for what is needed like food or other household items.  I am thinking we would gain a lot more time and save some money.  I am not talking just about shopping and material things.  There are other things that we can be addicted to...reading, constantly cleaning...obviously those things are great, but they can also be done in moderation.  (a little disclaimer here--I know most of you reading this are probably in the thick of it raising children and that is what you should be focusing on 100%.  But, if you are feeling like your kids are getting a little older and you have some extra time on your hands then this is for you.)
    Now, what if we took that one step farther.  What if we took that time that we were mindlessly wasting and decided to use that time to serve someone?  We could donate the money we would have spent to a food bank or use it to buy a gift card to Walmart for someone in your life that is struggling financially.  The point being is that I think if we all become more aware of the way we spend our time, we will find that a lot can be cut out and used to lift others.  But, I do think you have to schedule it at first.  I think after awhile it will become second nature, just part of who you are, but at the beginning I think we will have to say, "Okay this Tuesday morning from 10-12 I am doing something for someone else." Doesn't matter what it is.  It can be making cookies for an old friend and stopping by to let her know you were thinking of her.  It can be sitting down and writing a letter to a family member and let them know what you love about them.  It can be going to your local assisted living facility and asking them if there is someone who does not get visited regularly and would like some company.  It can be setting up a scheduled time to volunteer at the soup kitchen or local boys and girls club.  It can be making something crafty that your could sell and donate to a charity.  There are just so many things out there to do.  It is just a matter of making time for it.
    I am telling you right now that if you can get your teenagers to serve on a regular basis you will eliminate a majority of their ...what's the right word for it...complaints, selfishness, laziness, and boredom.  They will complain at first, but don't give up. Ignore it.  They will thank you someday.
    I remember reading an article one day about a young man who was struggling.  He was disobedient, unhappy and just having a hard time.  His mother had heard about an older man who needed help getting to bed each night.  He needed help getting his medication, brushing his teeth, getting his jammies on etc.  She volunteered her son to do it.  At first he was just mad that he had to do it.  He complained and had less than a desirable attitude about it.  I am sure you can guess what happened.  That young man grew to love the elderly man.  A relationship formed and grew and he started to look forward to his time with him.  His heart was changing.  He started to care less about himself and more about others.  It is a natural consequence of service--outward thinking.
    One other note.  This post is not to bring guilt.  It is quite the opposite.  It is to help us all, mostly myself, look at what areas I can improve on to make more time to serve with my family.  I am scared to death to go home and just get busy in life again.  We go home in 4 days and I am trying to figure out a way to keep all that we have learned and felt right in the center of our lives.  It is also important to "not run faster than you have strength."  There is a time and a season for all things, so if this is not your time, let it go and keep it in your heart for when it is manageable in your life.
    Okay, back to the leper colony.
    Charlotte just fell in love with this lady and kept picking her flowers

    These two ladies were sisters

    This man was sooo tall and he was a yoga expert.  We loved looking at his photos, pretty incredible.

     This is one of my all time favorite experiences.  (Did I already post about this?  If I did, skip on. )  This man spoke really good English.  He asked Sam what he wanted to be when he got older.  Sam told him he wanted to be an entrepreneur.  The man did not hear him right, and he said, "You want to be a doctor?"  
    He then took both of Sammy's hands looked him right in the eyes and said, "Always use your knowledge to bless the poor people of this earth." What a wise soul.  Shouldn't that be the goal for all of us?

    High fives are a universal language :)