This Blog is my Cambodia-secular Blog and will contain the non-religious parts of our Cambodia Mission Experience. Here I will place the information and experiences I have of a non-religious nature, such as people, sights and places. Religious things will not be included except as needed for context. The next few paragraphs will introduce the reason my wife and I are going to Cambodia and is planned to be the only time my church is mentioned in this category.
Perhaps some of you do not understand the Mormon process of calling 19 year old young men, 21 year old young ladies and much older Senior Couples on ‘Missions’. The Mormon Church, officially named The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has an extensive Missionary network covering almost the entire world, active in every country where we are permitted. Missionaries are interviewed for worthiness (abide by the teachings of the Church) then submit a request to the Church, and then are ‘called’ for 1 1/2 to 2 years to proselytize, usually at their own expense. The ‘Call’ consists of a letter from the Church leadership identifying where the missionary is to labor, the language they are to use and when and where they are to report for training.
Julia and I submitted our Mission Paperwork in July and were told it would take anywhere from 3 to 8 weeks to process. Ours actually took the full 8 weeks.
In anticipation of the arrival of our Mission Call, we purchased a world map and invited all our children and their families to visit Thursday evening, September 29, for a dinner and family ‘call opening’ party. We hung the map on a large piece of cardboard and had each person guess where we would be sent and stuck a push-pin at that place. We then opened the Mission Call and started reading the letter. When we got to the destination, we stopped reading and stood there with our mouths open. Our kids hollered for us to keep reading, then reacted with almost shock, as we read we were being sent to Cambodia Phnom Penh. The closest guess was from 7 year old Elsie who guessed China.
The paragraph from the Call states:
“You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of The Church ofJesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You are assigned to labor in the Cambodia Phnom Penh Mission. Your primary assignment is to labor as a member and leader support missionary. It is anticipated that you will serve for a period of 18 months.”
Men called on a Mission are referred to as “Elder”, an honorific title for the priesthood normally held by the missionary, and the women called are referred to as “Sister”, therefore we are known as Elder and Sister Tuck.
We will receive a week of training, then will depart the Salt Lake City airport on January 9 for flights to LA, then Seoul, Korea, then on to Phnom Penh for a total of 21 hours flight time. Those readers who frequently fly to India will understand what this means, but for Julia and I, this will be a new experience.
After we received our call to the Cambodia Phnom Penh Mission, I started scanning the Internet to learn about Cambodia and its people. The sadness I felt for these people reached new depths when I read that from 1976 to 1978 the Khmer Rouge had a motto, “To keep you is no benefit. To destroy you is no loss”. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khmer_Rouge) The Khmer Rouge killed between 1.6 million and 2.7 million of their own people, mostly the educated.
This statement bothered me a lot because it goes against some of my fundamental beliefs. I have always believed that all people were worthwhile and had not considered that a government would have such a concept. This caused my heart to go out to the Cambodian people and hope that my time working with them would make a difference, at least to some of them.
But the Cambodians lived through this and have a big ‘age hole’ in their population demographics where 50% of the population is younger than 22 years old. (http://www.nationmaster.com/country/cb-cambodia/Age-_distribution)
Several weeks following our call, we set up Cambodian language training. We are meeting 4 times a week with our tutor studying Cambodian. This is a non-trivial task but we are plugging away and hope to be able to engage in rudimentary conversation in Cambodian when we arrive there.