Monday, March 30, 2015

I have a new son, but my father died

Boat on the Mekong

Wow big news this week! First off, I have a new companion! Elder Osborne, fresh off the plane from the MTC! I went to the mission home on Friday to pick him up. I love the trainers/trainee meeting on transfer mornings. All the trainers and trainees meet in President Moons office and President Moon and the assistants teach us for a while and then everyone finds out who'll they'll be with! There's always so much excitement and fire. So much fun. When President Moon called out my name and then Elder Osborne's name he was like "No way! I read his blog back home! I told my mom he was going to be my trainer." Haha, what a funny coincidence. He said a bunch of people in his group had read my blog before coming out. I promise I'm the most confused person about this; my emails even bore me sometimes. But there you go mom and dad, hope you're happy that that blog y’all post is read by more people than just y’all two. Later that day we went to a member's house and they asked him whether he had known of any missionaries before coming out and he was like 'Yeah, I read two missionaries' blogs. Elder Nelson's (which is actually the one I read all the time before my mission) and Elder Burger's." Small world. Sister Sheffield, one of my friends from BYU, actually came in with this group too. That was fun. I thought she was coming in the June group so it was a surprise to see her for sure.

Elder Johnson with his two kids (Me and Elder Carter) with my two kids (Elder Osborne and Elder Uhi)... aka Abraham and his posterity

It was super sad saying goodbye to Elder Uhi and Elder Johnson on Friday. At least I know I'll be seeing Elder Uhi sometime in the coming months. Elder Johnson I don't get to see for at least a year. It was the weirdest thing saying goodbye to him, because Friday was just the second time I had seen him since I ended training (I saw him on Christmas as well). I was like "How are you dead? When I left you, you still had a decent amount of time left!" Missions are so short, its unreal. Really put it into perspective seeing my trainer finish his mission. What a great guy! I'm going to miss him. I'm glad he got to meet his two grandchildren before he left though.

Me and Elder Johnson right before we said goodbye :'(

On Sunday we had ward conference. We had 115 people at church! Unreal! The stake presidency came to speak to us. AND GUESS WHAT THEY ANNOUNCED! They said this Saturday there is going to be a special fireside at the stake center and they are going to announce THE FIRST PATRIARCH IN CAMBODIA! Oh WOW! So exciting. What a great step in the work here. Its funny though because people don't really understand anything about patriarchs because basically nobody here, even the super active endowed members, has a patriarchal blessing. Elder Kim actually has his, but its in English and he just happened to get it because there was an available patriarch in the Philippines when he was at the MTC. Elder Osborne, Elder Allred, Elder Sok, and I had a meeting with Bishop Sunday afternoon and he asked me "So is the patriarch presiding when he's here?" I was like "Haha, ummm no, no he doesn't preside.” It is common sense to people who have grown up around patriarchs but it was a perfectly honest question from the bishop. Oh man I'm so excited for the work here. Yesterday Elder Sok and I had a lengthy conversation on whether they will announce a new temple or a new mission in Cambodia first. Who knows...

Elder Osborne is a great missionary. Reminds me of Elder Uhi. I've been blessed to have two kids who both already speak Khmae way clearly coming straight out of the MTC. Elder Osborne is a go-getter and isn't afraid to contribute in lessons or in studies or in contacting. We're going to do work together here (hopefully for the next 2 transfers. I don't want to half-train him. We'll see what happens though). He just did 2 semesters at BYU (summer and fall) majoring in computer science. He's from New Mexico but he's lived all over the world, in China, Guam, Idaho, etc. 

Stung Mean Chey. Gotta love it!

So since the sisters were taken out of our area that means we have to teach women, which is something I have never done on my mission. It makes it really hard, because we HAVE to have a male over 18 with us to teach them, and there aren't any over-18 males that are available in the morning or afternoon, which is when most women can meet. So we'll see what happens with that.

Several of the Stung Mean Chey elders after English class on Wednesday

I am so excited for General Conference. I have no idea when we're going to watch it here. Probably in 3 weeks. Please do me a favor and don't ruin any of the jokes or crazy highlights of it. Feel free to send all y’alls favorite doctrinal points from the talks, but don't ruin the fun parts that you have to see in the moment. I hope y’all (mom and dad) have tons of fun up in Utah at general conference. It feels so good there this time of year! That’s in exact opposite to Cambodia. We have now descended into the Inferno. It is ridiculously hot here. I love it though. Being absolutely drenched in sweat is a blast. But in order to make up for the ridiculous heat, Mother Nature has given us a consolation gift in the form of mango season! I'm about to start eating nothing but mangos. Can't wait.

Me and Vichika doing deep sentimental poses.  Vichika is 17.

Well that's all I got for y’all this week. Sorry if I missed out on anything. Everybody make sure to watch ALL THE SESSIONS of general conference. What good would it have the done the people of King Benjamin if they had gone and set up there tents and then just gone inside, set up their hammock and slept? When we watch all the talks we can have a spiritual feast instead of just a spiritual snack. Love y’all! Stay safe and have fun!

Love Elder Burger

Riding along the banks of the Mekong last pday

Our district before we split. Elder Uhi to Kompung Thom, Sister Matthews to Siam Riab, Sister Davis back home, Elder Kim to Posat

Monday, March 23, 2015

I'm so excited I want to fly!

with Sopheatraa and Sovanaa, two kids we teach. Their mom is a recent convert
ជំរាបសួរ! ឥឡូវខ្ញុំរំភើបចង់ហោះដោយសារខ្ញុំនៅស្ទឹងមានជ័យដដែល! ហើយខ្ញុំនឹងមានកូនម្នាក់ទៀត!
I'm so pumped! We got transfer calls last night and guess what (well for all of y'all who can't read Khmae)? I'm still here in Stung Mean Chey Second and I am going to be training again! Wow, I'm so excited!!! I really thought that I was going to be leaving. I was pretty sad in Sacrament Meeting because we had I think the single best most-spiritual sacrament I've had since I came to Cambodia.  And guess what? 110 people were at sacrament meeting! I'm pretty sure that's a record for our ward since it split way back in the day. It was amazing. So many people, so many great talks. Sister Davis gave a great going away talk (she dies on Friday with Elder Johnson's group). The closing hymn was the Spirit of God. I love playing the piano because I am at the front of the chapel and get the full effect of the singing. It was so beautiful. That meeting was even more beautiful because Phiarun's baptism was completed so he was confirmed! So awesome.

So yeah, you could say I was pretty excited when I got the call (in Khmae we say that “I'm so excited I want to fly!”) from President Moon that I would be staying in Stung Mean Chey and training another missionary. That's exactly what I wanted to happen. He also told me that he wanted me to be the district leader over here. That'll be exciting. New opportunities for growth!

I got my call about 45 minutes before Elder Kim, Elder Allred, and Elder Uhi got their calls because they had to wait for the zone leaders to call (President only calls if you're training or if you will have a new leadership assignment which you don't currently have). Once I found out that I would be staying I told Elder Uhi that I thought he would be going to Kampung Thom with Elder Child, who is in the group in between Elder Uhi and I. Lo and behold, Elder Kim picks up the call from the zone leaders and they tell him that Elder Uhi is going to Kompung Thom with Elder Child! Wow, paternal inspiration at its finest. Elder Kim is going to Posat to be the district leader over there (in Posat it'll just be him and his companion. Posat and Prey Veng and the two newest opened provinces). Elder Allred is going to stay here and his mother (companion right out of training) is Elder Sok. This next transfer our district in second ward and the district in 1st ward are actually combining, so there will be four companionships in our district. I don't know how other missions are, but in ours that's pretty unusual to have four in one district. I also guessed correctly that Elder LeNguyen would take the vacant office elder spot! What a guy! He's going to do great! In my group Elder Elieson and Paramore will also be training, Elder Zierenberg is district leader and Elder Christensen is a zone leader up in Battombong! I can't believe we're to this point in our missions already! Crazy, I feel that it was just yesterday that we met each other at the MTC!

This last week was really fun. One of the highlights was that on Wednesday the AP's asked Elder Kim and I to go on exchange and go to the Russian Friendship Hospital to be interpreters for Operation Smile, which is an organization which helps children born with cleft lips and palates. It was so much fun. We translated from 12-4:30. We were always just kind of on standby; sometimes we were super busy and sometimes we didn't have a whole lot to do. Elder Kim made me do the majority of the translating. He said he can't really understand white people when they talk. I was like whatever man, you've been speaking straight English with your trainee for 12 weeks. I didn't complain too much though. I really like translating, even though the Khmae-to-English, English-to-Khmae switcheroos give me headaches sometimes. I saw some crazy things on Wednesday too. Wednesday happened to be the day where Operation Smile opened its doors to all sorts of weird problems, not just cleft palates. I saw a little boy who had that 'werewolf syndrome' you see in Ripley's believe it or not or in stuff like that. He was probably 2 years old and the entire left side of his face was covered in bluish-black fur. Not hair, not a bruise, but fur. It was pretty bizarre. Cambodians also have like zero shame so he was surrounded by like 40 people just goggling at him. I also saw a girl with 13 toes, 7 on her left, 6 on her right. It was crazy. Plus lots and lots of super cute kids with cleft palates. What that Operation Smile organization does is amazing. It was really fun going and helping them serve the Khmae people.

Shoutout to all my Jewish buddies back home. Y'all aren't forgotten out here in Southeast Asia

We're getting pretty close to Khmae New Year here. That's the one thing that's going to be way rough about being here in the city next transfer: For that week we're going to have absolutely nothing to do. And also apparently as we get closer to Khmae New Year, more and more power-cuts start happening. Our power cut out three times last week. It’s the worst because it usually happens in the early morning and so we have to go and study out on the second floor (our bedroom has no windows) and just sweat to death down there. Sometimes we just go to the church and do our studies there. Power-cuts are rough for sure.

I read Alma 5 this morning. I've always loved that chapter so much. I've always like how Alma stirs the Zarahemlites to remember the captivity, sacrifice, faith, and deliverance of their forefathers. Alma 5:6-10 says that,

6 And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, you that belong to this church, have you sufficiently retained in remembrance the captivity of your fathers? Yea, and have you sufficiently retained in remembrance his mercy and long-suffering towards them? And moreover, have ye sufficiently retained in remembrance that he has delivered their souls from hell?
7 Behold, he changed their hearts; yea, he awakened them out of a deep sleep, and they awoke unto God. Behold, they were in the midst of darkness; nevertheless, their souls were illuminated by the light of the everlasting word; yea, they were encircled about by the bands of death, and the chains of hell, and an everlasting destruction did await them. 
8 And now I ask of you, my brethren, were they destroyed? Behold, I say unto you, Nay, they were not.
9 And again I ask, were the bands of death broken, and the chains of hell which encircled them about, were they loosed? I say unto you, Yea, they were loosed, and their souls did expand, and they did sing redeeming love. And I say unto you that they are saved.
10 And now I ask of you on what conditions are they saved? Yea, what grounds had they to hope for salvation? What is the cause of their being loosed from the bands of death, yea, and also the chains of hell?

Verse 13 goes on to say
13 And behold, he preached the word unto your fathers, and a mighty change was also wrought in their hearts, and they humbled themselves and put their trust in the true and living God. And behold, they were faithful until theend; therefore they were saved.

I like asking myself, "Have you sufficiently retained in remembrance your pioneer and pilgrim ancestors and their sacrifices for your sake?" I love my ancestors so much and I am sad that I didn't do more family history work when I was back home. I went to the temple often enough, but sadly I didn't take part in the second half of that work, which is researching about our own ancestors and then taking their names to the temple ourselves. When I go back home I fully intend on claiming both halves of the blessings of temple work.

I also love verse 57 from Alma :
And now I say unto you, all you that are desirous to follow the voice of the good shepherd, come ye out from the wicked, and be ye separate, and touch not their unclean things

It’s not enough for us to just not commit sins. Over time that will result in us falling into that very sin we're not doing. We have to not do sin and completely remove ourselves from situations and people that cause us to do those wrong things. "Be ye separate and touch not their unclean things." I know that Alma's advice definitely helps me to ensure that I have the Holy Ghost with me. We should avoid and detest sin like the plague. When we fill our mind with good thoughts and our mouths with good words and our days with good deeds, we can be sure that we'll have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. 
At Watt Phnom

Have you lost weight or had any intestinal issues?  This last transfer I lost 3 kilos. I was a constant weight my entire mission until a few weeks ago. I haven't been eating as much rice recently, which is what I think the problem is. Haven't been sick recently. No intestinal issues.

Do people in Cambodia have a hard time getting to the temple? Yes, most of them have to save up for years. The Church makes sure that everyone has the opportunity to go though. As they prepare themselves to the best of their abilities the Lord provides the means to be able to go to the temple. 

Do you get to go on temple trips? No, the nearest temples are in Hong Kong and the Philippines. So no. Senior couples take turns accompanying the groups of members that go.

Love y’all, stay safe and have a fantastic week!

Love Elder Burger

This monkey kept coming up to this dog and hitting it and then it would run up a tree

A diger. Like a liger, but the Stung Mean Chey version

Huge bats up in this really tall tree, probably 75 feet or so off the ground

Bong Thol's baby aka the chubbiest baby alive. It blows my mind how chubby it is

Crazy battle chicken holding up the sign for the fort right across the street from the church building 
Back in my old area on an exchange with Elder Allred. I miss the southside of Stung Mean Chey

On these flooded outhouse shacks you can see the LDS charities stamp. Pretty cool

Elder Uhi and I went to Watt Phnom on our last Pday


Monday, March 16, 2015

What a time of my life I'm living right now!

Sister and President Moon, Elder Uhi, Elder Neuberger, Elder & Sister Gong

“Hi! Healthy happy no? Eat rice yet? Oh ok you eat already already. Delicious no? You get food what kind?”

That's a typical way to start a conversation in Cambodian (I translated it literally, haha. Can you see why Asian's speak English the way they do? It’s a perfectly ok sentence to say in Khmae, but if you translate it directly they end up speaking that Asian-English that is super stereotypical). Oh gosh, Khmae is the greatest.

So anyway, how are all of y’all? Hope everybody's doing super. This last week was pretty tough, not going to lie. We weren't able to meet with very many people but that’s ok! We found a lot of great people contacting, including an old member! We went up to him on the street and he was like "No I'm busy I'm busy!" but Elder Uhi started contacting him anyway (persistence makes a good missionary!).  He told him about our free English class and invited him to go. The guy said that he might. Elder Uhi then had to pick up the phone so I stepped in and asked him if he had ever learned about Jesus Christ before. He said that he had and that he had actually joined a church up in Kompung Thom. I was like "wow really!". I assumed that it was another church. But then he said, "Ya, do you know Bong Sophal?" (Bong Sophal is a really famous member because she is the one who makes all the cool Khmae ties that we wear here). I was like "yeah! Wait, you've learned with elders like us before? And you were baptized? That’s awesome!" It turns out that he had been baptized in 2012, but then after a year in Kompung Thom he moved to Siam Riap. After a year in Siam Riap he moved to Stung Mean Chey where he helps register guest's names at a guesthouse. He's been inactive ever since he moved away from Kompung Thom a couple years ago. I was like “Do you want us to show you the church building?" and he said that that would be great! So we took him over to our church building, which is only like five minutes away from his house. At the church building we taught him a lesson. I also asked him if he knew a Vuut Sela, who was one of my former companions. He was like Vuut Sela? Yeah! He was the person who introduced me to the church! Oh man, what a small world. Another weird thing is that even though this guy was 27, Elder Vuut is still older than him...  That was a cool miracle this week though.

We also ran into more members while contacting this week, but they aren't Khmae, they're Filipino! We had actually seen them in passing before when they called out once to us "Hey elders!" but we had never had the opportunity to talk to them. While riding past their house this week we saw them pull up in their car and we went over and talked to them. The mom and dads names are Joyce and Nestle (Nestle has 2 brothers as well, named Hersheys and Almond Joy. That is not a joke at all. I'm dead serious. Way to go Filipinos. Y’all are naming your kids right). They speak absolutely perfect English, like a ton of Filipinos do. They said they were super active back in the Philippines and even a few years ago in Cambodia they were super active, but the last couple years they haven't been going too much because the International Branch meets kind of far away and they've been a little lazy. They told us that they were actually in the process of moving houses up the street. We offered to help. We're going to be going over sometime this next week! Yay! Planned service!

We actually do a lot of service everyday but it’s all completely unplanned. Just whenever we see someone carrying something heavy, or carrying things into their house we jump off our bikes and grab stuff from the truck and start bringing it in too, despite their extremely loud protests (Cambodians HATE people helping them with stuff, especially white people). But they're always really appreciative when they see that we aren't going to budge. Serve or die!

This last week I read Our Heritage, which is the only book in the approved missionary library, which I haven't gotten around to yet. It was a great book, reading about the history of our Church. I love Church History so much! It is so inspiring looking back at the wonderful examples of the people who helped establish the church. It was also really cool reading about my ancestor Elijah Cheney! I read it and I was like hey I know him! I forget what the relationship is. Like a fourth or fifth great grandfather I think?  (Editor’s Note:  Elijah Cheney is Elder Neuberger’s 4th great-grandfather.  He joined the Church in upstate New York in February 1832.  He soon left on a mission and with his companion converted Wilford Woodruff.  Wilford Woodruff went on to become the third president of the Church).

Yesterday Bong Phiarun was baptized! His testimony is unreal. He loves the Gospel and the Book of Mormon and he knows that all of this is true! He is amazing. It was really cool because Elder Uhi got to perform the baptism! That was his first time baptizing anybody. Definitely an experience to remember.

Bong Phiarun's baptism 

I read a quote from President Monson this last week that I really liked: "Missionary work is difficult. It taxes one's energies, it strains one's capacity, it demands one's best effort- frequently a second effort. No other labor requires longer hours or greater devotion or such sacrifice and fervent prayer."

Elder Christopher Waddell of the Seventy said, "Just as with missionaries past and present, the Lord knows you and has a mission experience prepared for you. He knows your mission president and his wonderful wife, who will love you as their own children and who will seek inspiration and direction on your behalf. He knows each of your companions and what you will learn from them. He knows each area in which you will labor, the members you will meet, the people you will teach, and the lives you will impact for eternity. Through your devoted service and willing sacrifice, your mission will become holy ground to you. You will witness the miracle of conversion as the Spirit works through you to touch the hearts of those you teach."

I'll finish with one more quote from President Monson, "Brethren of the priesthood, the world is in need of your help. There are feet to steady, hands to grasp, minds to encourage, hearts to inspire, and souls to save. The harvest truly is great. Let there be no mistake about it; the missionary opportunity of a lifetime is yours. The blessings of eternity await you. Yours is the privilege to be not spectators but participants on the stage of priesthood service."

What a time of my life I'm living right now! I'll remember these years forever. I feel so blessed to be a full-time servant of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and to represent Him to Heavenly Father's beloved children. God bless.

Love Elder Burger

It was quite the adventure getting this pic. We were riding our bikes down this street when all of a sudden elder Uhi goes 'Elder look!" And I see this car drive by in a different direction with a UT bumper sticker. So I go "I have to get a picture!" and I zoom off after the car. It probably took a half kilo of riding like a maniac to get to the car. I was zipping, weaving, diving through traffic, all while taking off my backpack, putting it in my bike basket, unzipping it, taking out my camera case, unzipping that, taking out my camera, and getting it ready to take a pic (all done at the same time). I would have looked like Jason Bourne if someone had gotten a video of me. I finally got the pic while I skidded to a stop right behind the car at a congested intersection (thats mid-skid, not after I stopped. I took it while still sliding to a stop in the dust). Pretty proud of this picture, not gonna lie.

At the National Museum. Didn't actually go in, we were just riding past it last p-day

American fruit prices at Lucky's supermarket (that is US dollars). Shaking my head.... 

Our WM leaders house is always full of clothes. His mom sews them.

Waiting for a recent convert to show up
Me and Bong Viin and Bong Thol 
Baptisms yesterday! Bong Phiarun, an investigator Elder Uhi and I have been teaching, and then 3 investigators of Elder Kim were baptized as well
Zone Conference with Elder Gong