Mission Calls

Last night, one of my dearest friends opened his mission call. It was very exciting to be present for such an important day in his life--to hear the pages turning as he entered a new chapter.
He has been called to the Cambodia, Phnom Penh mission. When he was busy calling family and making his rounds in the dorm lobby, I perused his letter for several moments, trying to take everything in.

Cambodia... half a world away... signed by President Thomas S. Monson... wow, that's a real signature...

It all seemed so surreal. He wasn't going to be here next year. I wouldn't see him anymore.

He'll be off getting malaria somewhere, I thought to myself. It didn't help that when I Google searched "Cambodia," I saw some recent headlines about there being malaria outbreaks. I felt my heart sink.

But he is in the Lord's hands--the most capable hands in the universe. I can't think of a better place for him to be, nor for a better young man for such a demanding mission.

A mutual friend and I were talking for some time last night about Cambodia, and she searched for the religious breakdown of the country--mostly Buddhist. One of the more interesting religions in the world, in my opinion.

I remember when I was in junior high, I read a few books about Zen Buddhism, and how artistic and peaceful it sounded appealed to me. I liked how individualized the "journey" to Enlightenment seemed. We talked about this for a time, and we thought about our friend. The idea of him teaching among Buddhists became extremely comical because he's so dangerously literal.

Part of some branches of Buddhism include the study of koans, which I love. They're parables that often use natural imagery to present a really nebulous lesson that the monks ponder in order to achieve Enlightenment. I enjoy reading them because they make sense to me. They're the kind of puzzle I can figure out because figuring them out is more about feeling their meaning instead of recognizing or applying fact--which is more of his forte, I should think.

One that I really love in particular is about Chiyono (Mugai Nyodai) the first woman to become head of a Zen order in Japan. It tells about how Chiyono tried for years to understand meditation, but just couldn't do it. Finally one night, she was starting at the moon's reflection in a pail full of water she was taking back to the monastery, when it broke. She wrote this about then achieving enlightenment:

This way and that way
I've tried to keep the pale together
hoping the weak bamboo
would never break.

Suddenly the bottom fell out
No more water,
no more moon in the water--
Emptiness in my hand.

The situation with my missionary friend seems a lot like this to me. I cannot worry about him, as easy as I might find that to be right now. Cambodia needs him more than Provo, and he will do a fine job of taking the truth to them. And according to what the CIA has published about Cambodia, my friend has a lot to face.

The country not only deals with a lot of malaria, but also AIDS. Their median age is in the early twenties, with a third of the country being under the age of 14, and half the country being under the age of 21--creating quite a strain on their limited economy--especially in light of the global economic crisis. I'll be interested to hear about the situation of the Church in that country, and because the Phnom Penh mission is on the Pouch system through DearElder.com, writing to him won't be as great a hassle as I thought.

All in all, I guess the only thing I can do is to try and support him in any way I can--especially praying for the people that he will serve, that they'll be ready when he comes. Somehow, I think he's really going to need that.

Truth Eternal Tells Me I've a Mother There

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