Friday, July 03, 2015

Speaking Under the Stars

I've been reading the last chapters of the book of John.

I noticed Jesus' words at the end of chapter 14:  "Arise, let us go hence."

Then chapters 15-17 continue the discourse that he began as he and his disciples sat together at the passover feast and the end of that (chapter 17) is his wonderful intercessory prayer.

So I imagined that these chapters may have been a message to his disciples, spoken out of doors, beneath a night sky, somewhere between the upper room in Jerusalem and the Gethsemane garden.

Cloudy or clear, given the general absence of light pollution, the sky would have been magnificent.

And I imagine, under that night sky, these phrases:

"All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you."

"These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace."

"O Father...I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from the, and they have believed that thou didst send me. I pray for them."

"They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.  Sanctify them through thy truth."

"Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us;"

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

John 16 Jesus' message to his 12.

There will come a time when people will see you as dangerous and will think that killing you and your message is a service to God.

When someone thinks like that, it is a sure indication that they do not know God.

When such times come, do not be taken by surprise.  I'm telling you ahead of time so that it will not throw you off.

When I am no longer physically with you, be assured that I will send the Comforter to be with you.

He will show where right and wrong judgment lie by showing and testifying that I have gone to be with the Father.  And he will convince people of the reality of divine judgment by showing that the prince of this world is judged.

When the Holy Spirit comes he will guide you, speaking the word of God, alerting you as to what will come and testifying of the glory given to me.  All things of the Father are mine and the Holy Spirit will receive of that from me and share what he receives with you.

There will be times of deep sorrow and difficulty ahead.  But, be assured, the magnitude of the joy that will follow will make that sorrow seem like simply an instructive, challenging, new experience.

There will be sad times, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice with a kind of joy that no person's actions or words can ever stop.

When you need something, ask in my name.  But ask directly of the Father yourself.  You do not need for me to pray for you.  You can pray directly to Him.  He loves you.  He loves that you love me and that you understand that I came from Him.  Ask Him directly, and experience the joy of receiving communication and instruction and help from Him.

Shortly things will become so scary that you will scatter and leave me alone.  But I am not alone. The Father is with me.

Why have I told you all this? So that you may understand that, as you stay connected with me, you will have access to what you need in order to feel peace in your heart.

Tribulation is part of life and you will experience it.  However, be hopeful and of good cheer. Continue to do good. The reality is that because of who I am and  what I do  I  am able to undo and overpower the effects of anything bad, wicked, catastrophic,  tragic, unfair, unjust, sinful, horribly misguided or destructive that this life or the people in it did, does or will inflict upon you and anyone else.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

"Both Feet Forward"

My friend J. shared the audio of Scott Swofford's Devotional Address with me.  Honesty, humility, interested listening, real appreciation and love in our discipleship vs.our tendency to point out the virtues of what we know and what we hope we are.   Well worth the 25 minutes of listening.

I'm leaving links here so that I can find and review it again.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015

We spent the latter part of the morning attending a district meeting in the small chapel two blocks from here, with four of the Vietnamese-speaking missionaries.

Back row: Elder Cuong from Virginia and Elder Thai from Hanoi
Front: Elder Phouc from Buenos Aires and Elder Thanh from San Antonio

They are a delightful bunch. 

I found out where Elder Phouc was from after I did a serious double take as, when asked to read a scripture, he read it from the book in his hand in Spanish.  He was pleased as punch to find someone to speak Spanish with and surprised and delighted, as was I, at the Argentina connection.  He's been here about three months.  He said he arrived at the mission training center knowing no English or Vietnamese and was totally confused for a few days until they set him up with a program aimed at teaching him both English and Vietnamese at the same time. He seems to be managing both now pretty well.

Elders Cuong and Elder Thanh are the two elders we spent an evening working with last week.  Lewis knew Elder Cuong's grandparents when he was in Saigon 41 years ago.

Gah!  I can't believe we're that old.

This evening we spent working with some Sister missionaries. These are a sweet and highly competent pair.

Sister Thao from Laos on the left, Sister Diem from Hue, VN on the right
Chi Phung in the center with her neighbor, Lada.

We have been down amazing side streets and alleyways, climbed steep, narrow stairs to tiny apartments and visited with people living on amazingly creatively built stilt houses by the river.  I don't take pictures when I'm out working unless someone asks me to because I want to BE present here, not make it an object of photography.  So I can't show you the color and variety and or the constant community interaction and small children racing up alleyways in school uniforms and on and on and on.  But I am really glad we've had this week here.  We've met some really lovely people doing challenging and beautiful things.

We've been traveling mostly by tuk-tuk when things are too far away for walking.  After dropping Sisters Thao and Diem off at their apartment we took the tuk-tuk back to the mission home where we are staying one more night before moving again somewhere else for our last night here.  Here's a shot of some of the traffic on the way back.

The driver is Le Van Hen.  Watching him over the past few days (we've hired him a few different times) I've learned that he is a man with a very good heart. Remind me to tell you the stories someday.  I'm glad he's here quietly doing the good he does.  

Monday, June 08, 2015

Interpreting Reactions

"As a psychotherapist, one of the themes I constantly talk about with my clients is that perception is critical. Some expats view any anxiety about their life abroad as a sign of how exciting their new life is, and thus thrive upon it. Others, however, feel their worry is a tell tale sign that they have made a mistake, and start to panic. How you interpret not only your new environment, but your reactions to it, is critical."  ~~ Joshua Wood

It strikes me that this applies well to me right now.

Good to remember.  How I interpret my own automatic or initial emotional or physical reactions to my situation is critical to my perception of my situation and therefore what I assume will follow.

And though one cannot usually choose one's own immediate physical or emotional reaction to a new geographic, cognizant or situational  reality, one can choose how one interprets that reaction.

L. tends to interpret the emotions brought about by new situations as manifestations of the arrival of new and exciting challenges and so he gets antsy to get going and doing.  I tend to interpret emotions experienced in new situations as a message that I should carefully, slowly and methodically explore and figure out stuff in order to avoid making really stupid decisions.  

I wonder how much of that difference between us is personality and how much of it is the fact that one of us is a foot taller, twice as strong and about 100 lbs heavier than the other.

Fortunately, we're used to each other's automatic initial reaction interpretations.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

One of the benefits of arriving here in June

Mangosteens are still in season!
There is nothing quite like a chilled mangosteen for dessert on a hot day.
Truly marvelous.
(And the mangoes are good too!)

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Starting the Journey

We headed west on Friday morning, had a hugely long layover in Los Angeles that was made much sweeter by some lovely time with BrieAnn who took the time to come and talk and enjoy the huge space which is LAX's international terminal.

On the way we stopped in Kita Konabalu, Malaysia as we were accompanying Elder Chew, who lives there, home.  It's lovely.  Lush, green, with islands off the coast.  I can see why it is a popular destination for vacationers on this side of the world.  We got to meet his family at the airport and then later, with his district president (who also met us and got us to our hotel) were able to visit Elder Chew's family and talk with them for a while.  They seem like a gentle family who have been through a lot.  And we could tell that their district president cared about them.

We left the hotel for an early flight out the next morning. Our friends, the Kanes, arrived in Kota Kinabalu a day later, starting their next stint as directors of LDScharities work (they previously worked at that in Indonesia).  They are marvelously upbeat and adventurous people (they met 30+ years ago on a beach in Goa, India: he was backpacking around the continent and she had come south after spending a couple of weeks trekking with friends in Pakistan)  .I think they will be perfect for the job.

We arrived in Phnom Penh and were greeted by a cheerful group of fellow volunteer mission workers, some doing humanitarian projects, others managing the Perpetual Education Fund (a loan program for post-secondary vocational and technical education that you can read about here), handling clerical work or working on community relations.  They are a cheerful, friendly bunch.

President Moon, us, Elder and Sister Gatherum (LDSCharities), Elder Hollenzer (office support) 
Elder and Sister Oveson (Perpetual Education Fund and CES), Elder and Sister Van Broklin (public affairs).

We were perched in an apartment on the 3rd floor of a building near the middle of the city.  Perched, because we're transient, waiting for final word on our visas (Good News yesterday!  They've been approved and after a final look over by the government's security department, should arrive next week) and this apartment was available for a few days before the next set of mission workers arrive.  They arrive tomorrow, so we're packing up again and will settle on another perch for a few more days until we have visas in hand.

Jet lag means we're awake quite early, which means we've been out and walking before the traffic gets crazy busy.  Some photos from some of those walks:

The next day we headed to the mission office where there was some leader-training going on with some of the young missionaries.  This was what we found at the front door:

Cambodia is a shoes-off-in-the-house country.

To keep ourselves busy while visa-waiting we've spent some time on the east side of the city with a couple of fine young Vietnamese speaking missionaries (young men) and a couple of open-hearted Khmer speaking missionaries (young women) who had visits to make and have met some really good-hearted people in that process. And we took Ngoc's friend Kimlen and her younger sister out for dinner one evening.    Kimlen is a radiologist/ultrasound technician who did her medical studies in Vietnam and became fast friends with Ngoc while there.  Now she is back in Cambodia and has a husband and a 4 month old baby, the latter of whom she sees only intermittently as the little boy, in Cambodia-family tradition, is being taken care of by his grandmother who lives several hours away in Kampong Cham.  Kimlen  invited us to see the palace complex and the National Museum (an amazing array of archaeological artifacts and ancient sculpture) with her and her sister and cousin the next morning.  So we did.  

While planning our time together we'd invited her to visit with two of our Cambodian sister missionaries and tour the south stake center.  Ngoc had told her about missionaries and about the changes in her life after listening to what they had to say so she was interested.

So after her sister and cousin headed back to their studies we took a tuk-tuk to the stake center and sat through a very lovely teaching time unable to understand a word of what was said but thoroughly enjoying watching the interest, laughter, kindness, and sympathy that moved across all three of their faces at different times during the conversation.  They are three very good young women.

I wish I had a photo of the south stake center to show you.  It is a big, airy, three story building with high, high ceilings, big open spaces like terraces and classrooms that you enter from large open-ended, shady corridors that the breeze moves through.  The conversation we had we held on the ground floor shaded foyer, a huge, open (no doors anywhere, just high, see-through metal gates that are closed at night) entryway that took up the middle third of the building with views of the expansive entryway and beyond to the street, the broad stairs leading up to the second floor, and the wide corridors on either side.  It was really the perfect kind of architecture for the climate and setting.  I was really impressed at what the architects had created and very much enjoyed the shade and the breeze and the expansive feel that resulted from their work.