Friday, May 29, 2015

Well, Plot Twist . . .

Hey so I'm emailing you on a Saturday... Pretty weird... I'm also not in Stung Mean Chey anymore, I'm in Chaktomuk (Phnom Penh). Let me explain a bit.

On Wednesday around lunch time I got a phone call from President Moon. He explained that this transfer was a little weird and we'd be doing some switching around in the middle of it. He asked me to come to the office and be his assistant. He said he wanted me to come in half-way through the transfer instead of at the end of the transfer so that we didn't have a new assistant come in just like a week before the new president gets here. He told me I'd be leaving Friday morning. It was not fun saying goodbye to all of the members after spending over half a year in Stung Mean Chey. The extreme short-term notice did kind of make it nice though. Kinda like ripping off a band-aid. Elder Brewer, who is the AP leaving the office, is going to take my place in Stung Mean Chey. I'm going to miss that place so much. I'm going to miss Elder Osborne a ton too. We were having a blast and doing work. This new opportunity is going to be a great experience though. I'm very excited to help in any way I can!

So my p-days are on Saturdays now. I'm coming into the office at probably the busiest time ever. Like today, even though its p-day, Elder Eppley (my new companion) and I are going to go translate for 4 hours for stake conference. We're going to translate again tomorrow. And then Tuesday we have Mission Leadership Conference (MLC), which is where all of the zone leaders and sister training leaders in the mission come to be trained and counsel together. At this MLC all the district leaders are being invited to attend as well, so there will be a lot of people there. And then on Thursday zone conferences start up. Thursday and Friday we're doing all the zone conferences in the city, and then on Saturday morning we'll drive up to Kampong Cham with President and Sister Moon and do zone conference there. We'll attend two different wards in Kampong Cham on Sunday, and then that afternoon we'll drive up to Siem Reap (Road trip with the Moons!). That Monday Elder Eppley and I are planning on hitting up Angkor Wat with Elder Duffy and Elder Horn, then Tuesday we have zone conference for Kampong Thom and Siem Reap. I'm super excited to see both Elder Uhi and Elder Allred again! Then on Wednesday we'll go and do zone conference in Battambang. It's going to be crazy. I'm pretty nervous, just because Elder Eppley and I are going to have a big part in all the training. I don't know what I'm doing! I've only been a district leader for a transfer and a half! I kind of feel like I got thrown straight into the furnace. But it's going to be so much fun working with President Moon this last month of his mission and then helping bring in President and Sister Christensen.

It’s way fun being in the office too, because we're in basically a four-some for a lot of the day with the office elders. And guess who it is... Elder LeNguyen and Elder Morris! I love those guys. (For the short-memory loss people: Elder LeNguyen is my MTC comp and Elder Morris is a Vietnamese-speaking elder in my group). It’s so much fun. Elder Eppley is the coolest too. He's 6 months older than me in the mission. It’s weird being junior companion again. He's way awesome though and... HE'S A FELLOW TEXAN! He's from Flowermound. Its going to be so much fun working with him.

Chaktomuk is in the South Stake (same as Stung Mean Chey), so I'll get to see everyone from my ward at stake conference this weekend. That'll be nice. Chaktomuk is probably more affluent than a lot of wards. It’s the second oldest in the country, but also one of the smallest. It’s a really hard area. Hopefully we can help it progress though! Normally the AP's are in the International Branch, but since the office elders have had one khmae and one viet elder in the office for the past few months, they've switched over to the International Branch. We share the car. I'll be getting my Khmae license sometime here in the next week. Then I'll have to learn how to drive stick :/

So I forgot my camera at Stung Mean Chey so I don't have pictures for y’all today. I'll try and send them on Monday. Saturdays are my p-days for the foreseeable future. However, next Saturday I don't know when I'll have the chance to email since we'll be in Kampung Cham, but we'll probably try to get an email in next Monday in Siem Reap. We'll see.

Well I love y’all so much! I hope all is well back home!

Love Elder Burger

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Music of the Gospel

After I sent this picture I realized y'all have no idea what the sign reads, so you have no idea what I'm doing. We were contacting for English class along the road outside our meetinghouse

Hey everyone. I hope there are still some of y’all remaining to read this. It sounds like the flooding in San Antonio is washing away every single person I've ever known or loved. Hope y’all are all alive out there. Make sure y’all take some super cool pictures if y’all ever have to stay the night out on the rooftop. I hope all the flooding isn't making it too difficult to ride y’alls bikes places (cuz that's how y’all get around right?). And it’s dad's birthday tomorrow!!!! WOW! Happy birthday! I won't say how old you're turning, because you'd be embarrassed, but it rhymes with "warty line" right? Way to go!

This week was awesome. But but then again, that’s got to be the way I've started off at least 45 of my emails, since EVERY WEEK IS AWESOME ON THE MISSION. Hard, but awesome. 

Yesterday Sophetraa and Sovannaa received the saving covenant of baptism! They're great kids. It’s definitely been a weird change of pace teaching them, since they're a couple young boys (they're 14 and 9). They act just like you'd expect them to act. Elder Osborne and I had to be a lot more creative to help them be interested and absorb the gospel. Obviously the most important teacher of the gospel for them should be their mother, so we're also trying to think what we can do to help her more effectively help her children hear the music of the gospel, and dance the steps. 

Sophetraas and Sovannas baptism yesterday! Their mom was baptized a few months ago.

Speaking of that, wasn't that just the greatest talk ever? Elder Osborne has the last general conference on his iPod, so we've listened to that talk together close to a bajillion times. It’s the greatest. Elder Osborne is convinced that the more alliteration General Authorites use, the more powerful their talks are, haha. We're trying to use more alliteration in our own teaching to see if it has any more effect! But man, was that talk good! Such a great analogy that we can all relate to so well. I'll put my Burger guarantee on it that they make some great Mormon Messages out of that one by Elder Wilford Anderson.

So let me tell y’all about a tender mercy of the Lord this week. Elder Osborne and I were having a bit of a slow day on Thursday, lessons just weren't happening and it was obviously insanely hot. Well as we pulled up to the church in the afternoon to quickly refill our water bottles we saw two brand-new Liahona magazines in plastic wrapping sitting on the foyer table. Curious, we walked over to them just to see what they were and we were so excited to see that they were CONFERENCE ISSUES! Not only that, but THEY HAD OUR NAMES ON THEM! Whatttttt! We weren't expecting conference issues for like another month! That totally made our day and helped us to smile a bit wider! So we've been tearing through the conference edition in our free time at night. This last conference was legendary. So many wonderful talks that really touched my heart and caused me to look inwards for what more I can do to be a more dedicated servant of the Lord, and what I can do to help others out as well! Some of my absolute favorites were "The Music of the Gospel", "Truly Good and Without Guile", "Where Justice, Love and Mercy Meet", and "Stay by the Tree". Not to mention President Eyring's 3 spectacular talks. Every time he gets emotional, it’s impossible not to cry. Anyone who says they didn't cry during "Is Not this the Fast that I have Chosen?" needs to quit lying and repent! Man, he knows how to pull at the heartstrings through the Spirit, that's for sure. 

Playing piano barefoot at the baptismal service

Well, this last week I hit my six month mark in Stung Mean Chey. Haha, kind of weird. I got to Stung Mean Chey a month and a half before Elder Osborne even entered the MTC! I'm loving transfer #5 here with all my heart though. It doesn't feel like I've been here a long time at all! Just a few weeks! 

Sometimes I get really temple-sick, as in homesick for the temple. Like sometimes I'll read a verse in the scriptures that'll remind me of something from the endowment, or I'll just have a quiet peaceful moment which makes me remember what it feels like to sit in the celestial room. I really miss going to the temple. I love a verse that I came across this morning, in Psalms 27 verse 4:

One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.

This is the desire of my heart! That I may dwell in His house all the days of my life. In the temple we truly learn of the beauty of the Lord and of His infinite Atonement, and of our individual worth in the eyes of our Heavenly Father! What a great place to go and "inquire" too. I know that as we are looking for answers to the questions of this life, that we can retire to the temple and therein we may find that inspiration and guidance that we are looking for. That is so cool that y’all have been able to go to the temple as a family and do baptisms and other ordinances with each other! I'll want to go and do that with y’all when I get back. 

Yesterday Elder Osborne and I had a great lesson about the temple with a recent convert named Thiaraa. He is usually super sarcastic and is kind of mean to Elder Uhi and Elder Osborne just because they're new and it’s a bit hard for them to follow his super slurred Phnom Penh accent. But yesterday we gave him this big picture of the Manila Philippines temple for him to put on the wall, and we were talking about the worthiness and cleanliness we need in our spirits in order to enter such a holy place. He became way sincere and really opened up to us, asking what he could do to gain that inner peace in his life. He said he felt like he had gone wayward with a few of the commandments, and he was finally done with it all. He was like "I want that inner peace in my heart." He said he was going to go to church next Sunday and ask for a meeting and blessing from Bishop. It’s so neat seeing the Holy Ghost soften people's hearts and help them come unto the truest peace that exists, the peace of the gospel. 

Well that's all I have today. I'm alive and well! I pray that y’all are too!

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.  Psalms 27:1, 14.

Love Elder Burger

Monday, May 18, 2015

An Amazing Year

We go through this market several times a day
What in the world?! My year-mark has come and gone. I don't feel like I've been out for a year at all! It feels like just yesterday that Mom and Dad dropped me off at the MTC. That actually feels like it was like last week or something. Seriously, it's insane how fast missions fly by. In some aspects I feel like I've been gone for a very long time. Like when I consider the personal growth I've gained through the Atonement over the course of this past year. The Atonement truly is an enabling force in our lives that picks us up and carries us to soaring heights we could have never ever reached on our own. If you had told me last May that in a year's time I would be walking around all day, doing missionary work with all my heart, day in, day out, speaking in coherent Cambodian for crying out loud, I don't know if I would have believed you. It’s just too hard. Missionary work is just too hard and requires too much of people to be able to do it on your own. Are there missionaries who go two years without the aid of the Spirit and the aid of the Atonement? Yeah, of course; but their missions are fruitless. If a mission is to be the experience that will set the course of the rest of your life, you've got to rely on the Atonement and the Spirit. If you're to help the area have maximum growth, and find every single soul the Savior has prepared within your area, and stretch yourself beyond possible limits with the language, and love the people with every fiber of your heart, you HAVE to rely on the Atonement every second of every day.

Over the past year I owe every single experience I've had to the Savior. Something I've been thinking about a lot recently is making sure all the glory to him. Sometimes people get really caught up with who has had what assignments in the mission, or which missionaries are the hardest workers, or the most obedient, or the best at the language. None of that matters! We're all just servants out here anyways! When you go to Buckingham Palace is it the servants that are the center of attention or the queen? Glory be to our loving Master, whose awe-inspiring work we have the privilege of doing every single day. He is our light and our Exemplar, and our eyes should always be focused on Him. I am eternally grateful for this last year, and for the year I still am blessed to have remaining, where I can focus all of my heart, might, mind and strength on increasing the glory of our Heavenly Father, and His Son Jesus Christ.

Srei Niats baptism

It was so much fun getting to talk with y’all this last week! It blows my mind how grown-up Chloe and Riley are now. Riley turns 14 and Chloe turns 17 this year! What in the world?! I've only been gone a year after all. How'd y’all grow up 10 years since I've been gone? Haha, that reminds me of Daniel, because every time he'd see Riley he'd be like "What the heck? Why is she so old? Isn't she like 6 years old still?" haha. Congrats to Riley on being a total jock and to Chloe for almost being an upperclassmen! And I guess to Maddie too, because you're almost an upperclassmen in college now. Weird...

I tore through my year mark package from y’all and the Jenson's this week. The Jenson’s have been so nice about sending me packages and letters! I think they're outclassing even y’all, my own dang family! It’s super nice of them. 

These past couple weeks have been amazing. We've had a couple of baptisms, for Srei Niat and Srei Lin, and these next couple weeks we'll be having a few more baptisms with Sophetraa and Sovanna and hopefully a few more investigators after that! Its amazing seeing all these people come unto Christ.

Srei Lin's baptism yesterday! She's the thirteen year old cousin of two recently returned sister missionaries in our ward.  Elder Osborne is six foot 3. Everyone calls him Elder Two Meters or Elder Palm Tree

Thol, Vin, and Srei Niat, who are all the coolest recent converts of all time, are giving us tons of referrals right now! It’s so cool seeing them catch the spirit of missionary work! They love the gospel and they know it's true and they want to share it's light with others! We're also getting referrals from other members in the ward, including less-actives! I love this area! Our bishop, Bishop Phun, is the coolest guy too. He is super funny and so extremely active in visiting less-active members and interviewing people for callings and the priesthood and things like that. I love him and our stake president too. They're really leading this area to great things. 

I continue to see wonderful miracles in the work here every week, especially as a part of the "Rekindle Cambodia" project President Moon has had us working on recently. We've been going and trying and visiting every single member in Cambodia in the months of April and May, and really trying to focus our efforts to the less actives in Cambodia these two months. We've been seeing less actives who haven't come in forever start coming regularly again! It’s amazing! Cambodia has so many less-actives, so sometimes its pretty daunting doing less active work here. We have around 13,000 members but only about 2800 of those members come to church. But this is the Lord's work, and our God is a God of miracles. I am confident that we can have all of these members be found and brought back into the fold, as missionaries and ward leaders work together to further the work. 

Thol showing us a referral he wanted to give us

A miracle I saw about a week and a half ago showed how the Lord truly protects us. Elder Osborne and I were racing down the road coming from an appointment. In front of us were big 3 foot tall concrete road blocks to prevent cars from going through a certain part of the road. Well since we're on bikes we could totally go through, so we aimed our bikes to shoot through the small gap. At the last moment this tuk-tuk to the side of me decides to flip a u-turn right in front of me, so going full-speed I have to veer right into the course of one of these concrete road blocks. I only had time to start hitting my breaks maybe 5 feet before the road block, so I was still basically going maximum speed when I hit it. I braced myself as my bike goes headlong into the block, with a speed that should have caused a tremendous forceful crash to occur. This concrete barrier is the perfect height to have caused me to flip over it if I crashed into it. I honestly should have hurtled about 15 feet over this barrier after hitting it buttttt...... Nothing happened. It felt like lightly bumping a mattress. My bike hit it, and me and my bike just bounced off it about a foot into the air and then I landed, still on my bike... The tuk-tuk driver, Elder Osborne, and I were completely perplexed as to how in the world that could have happened. I still don't know how nothing more than that happened, but what I do know is that the Lord protects us. This is His work, and He has given me the opportunity to be one of His servants!

I love y’all and the work and Cambodia and the Savior! Life is good.

Love Elder Burger

I've been trying to get a picture of the foot and a half wide rat-infested staircase next to our WM leader's house forever now, but pictures just don't do it justice.  Downstairs is full of cloth fragments, and sewing machines. These are the stairs that lead from the room downstairs to the room upstairs where they sleep. 

Cutest Baby

Construction crew on the road hit a pipe at around 2 o'clock on one of the hottest days you can possibly imagine. They had a good time with it, as you can see

Monday, May 4, 2015

2 Gone's and a Chewa!

More biking through flooded streets while simultaneously talking on the phone to try and confirm appointments.  Classic.  Meanwhile there's a random Lexus in front of me.

SOOO Transfers calls were last night! AND GUESS WHAT?!! I'm going to be staying here in Stung Mean Chey second ward for... MY FIFTH STRAIGHT TRANSFER!!!!! I'll get to finish training Elder Osborne and I get to postpone saying goodbye to this wonderful area for another 6 weeks! That's crazy! I came to Stung Mean Chey a week before Thanksgiving! Now I'll be here until past my 20th birthday! Haha I've been here long enough to have two trainees, or កូន (gone {rhymes with bone}) or children, and also had an additional transfer with the legendary Kim Meng Chewa! Wow! I was so excited to get that call last night! 

This week was so awesome. It was a very successful week with the people in our area. We were able to get a lot done and things just seemed to always work out. We got 12 member presents! That was way cool. We also got 26 lessons, which is the most we've gotten since we split the area. We're picking up lots of new investigators and we've got 4 baptisms lined up in the coming weeks, including Srei Niat's this Saturday!! Yay! So excited!!

Here's a cool interesting tidbit from this week: we were doing service for this one member, helping stuff curry powder into little bags to sell at the market. He was telling us about an old job he had after the Khmae Krahom were overthrown. He was working in the jungles out in western Cambodia in the mountains. His job was to go with a group of guys into the jungles for weeks and weeks at a time in order to find plants to make expensive European perfumes. So they would go out into the wild and cut these plants (I picture like that scene from Willy wonka where he goes out into the jungle looking for those new candy flavors and he finds the oompa loompas. Kind of like that.) He was telling us how they would sleep above the ground so that the snakes and floods wouldn't get to them and how in the jungle the trees are wayyy high, and the foliage at the top is so dense that the sky and sun are completely blackened so that you can't see anything. He said that several times a tiger would come out across their path and they would just stop and have a stare down with the tiger. Its whiskers would be quivering and then after that, as long as you don't move, the tiger would just go back into the brush. So he said that tigers weren't the thing that they were the most scared of. The thing they were legitimately the most scared of was... wait for it... peacocks. Haha, he told me that and I was like surely not! But he was like "no I'm for real". He said peacocks are insanely aggressive. When they see you they instantly go for you and they try and peck out your eyes and throat with their beaks. He said their beaks were way long and razor sharp. So next time any of y’all are going on perfume-ingredient expeditions in the mountain jungles of southwestern Cambodia, make sure to look out for the peacocks, alright?

That building you see in the background is the memorial stupa at the Killing Fields

Well this morning Elder Osborne and I and a few other elders rode out to the Killing Fields, which is actually in our area's boundaries. That was such a sobering experience. It is such a sacred place. It's hot season, so Cambodia is insanely hot right now, but inside I really felt like it was significantly cooler. There was a nice breeze the whole time. It’s totally quiet except for the monk chanting coming from the watt adjacent to the Killing Fields. I think it was one of the most surreal experiences I've had on my mission. It really helped me to understand that much more clearly about what the Khmae people have had to overcome.

A quarter of their population was murdered, and by their own people too! What happened is that Pol Pot, a power-hungry, Chinese-educated man who became obsessed with the dogma of Chairman Mao Tsedong, took over Cambodia in 1975 with this idea that he wanted to start a New World. He wanted to go back to the old Cambodia, the age when Cambodia was the most advanced civilization in the world. He wanted to remove anyone who could be a threat to his new government. This meant killing anyone with any education, any intellectual skills. He went and brainwashed the extremely poor countryside people, telling them that it was the city peoples' fault that their circumstances were so awful. He promised them steady jobs and safety if they would join with his cause. So they went and started killing everyone. Anyone who was educated was taken and murdered, as well as anyone who looked educated. If you had glasses, had soft hands, knew another language, went to college, graduated high school, etc. you were taken and murdered. 2-3 million people were murdered by Pol Pot. That’s one in every 4 Cambodians. They were taken to places like the Killing Fields.

Skulls inside the memorial stupa at the killing fields. This isn't even a beginning to the number of people slaughtered there

The Killing Fields that I went to this morning, the most famous one, had 20,000 people murdered there alone. They were killed in the most savage ways. None of them were shot; bullets were too expensive. They would all be taken to the edge of a pit, made to kneel done at the edge, and then they would be hacked to pieces by the tools that the killers were most familiar with: hoes and axes, and sickles and crowbars and machetes. You know the bark on palm trees? How it’s got that kind of leaf like things that fold off it, which has the serrated edges? Those were used to slit peoples throats. The worst part is that this was all done in secret, kind of like the Holocaust. The Khmae Kroham would hang speakers in the trees and blare revolutionary music as loud as the speakers could go so that farmers in the vicinity couldn't hear the screams of the thousands of people being murdered. There are so many more details I could tell but I won't. Some people probably don't want to hear them. It’s incredibly heart wrenching and unimaginable that any human being could do things like that to other human beings, especially their own people! So I'll spare y’all the rest of the details I learned. They're very extreme.

I encourage y’all to go and learn about it online though on your own. It really opens our eyes to how resilient of a people the Khmae people really are. I love them with all my heart. They are my life right now. How grateful I am for a Lord and Savior who lives! He knows me, and better yet He knows the Khmae people, every single one of them. All that is wrong and unfair about this life will be made right. All our hurts and pains and sadness can be washed away through His glorious and infinite Atonement. Nothing can help the Khmae people truly and completely overcome their troubles except for the atoning sacrifice of our Redeemer Jesus Christ. I love Him so much, and I am infinitely grateful for the opportunity He has given me to be His servant and representative for two years! What a privilege!

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" - Psalms 46:1

I know that God isn't just an idea or a force or an incomprehensible being who is indifferent to our cares and struggles. God is a real Being, who truly knows and loves each and everyone of us. He isn't just a mystic wind on the horizon, but He is our Father, who will comfort and strengthen us. He isn't indifferent, but He truly wants nothing more than to help us return to live in His presence. I testify that every single one of us has infinite worth and value in His eyes. We can never lose that value! It doesn't matter what we do! We will always be loved by Him. That's why He gives us commandments. Because He loves us that much. He knows that best way to live, and we can show our love for Him if we will follow Him and the example of His Beloved Son."

In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:37-38

I love y’all so much! I can't wait to talk to y’all next week! Be ready Sunday night!

Love Elder Burger

Where two of our investigators live. There's a lot of places like this in Phnom Penh. It's basically a pavilion which has a bunch of plywood booths or shacks underneath it, but they aren't really shacks because the booths themselves don't have roofs at all. They're all open under the pavilion. Pretty sketchy. I took a picture with the flash and without the flash to show you what it really looks like 

ឆាគ្រឿងនឹងឆាត្រកួន។ឆ្ងាញ់ណាស់!​​ (Chaa kruang and chaa trakuan. Super delicious!)
Elder Allred yesterday evening. His lip just started swelling up in the middle of a lesson for no apparent reason. Haha welcome to the lives of Cambodian missionaries: random rashes, bug bites, swellings, and bumps that seem to come from no where

Biking over to the Killing Fields this morning. Some of the views on our ride. The Killing Fields is in our area's boundaries (Stung Mean Chey second ward). Back when I actually proselyted on the south side of the area with Elder Kim we would come down close to it but we never actually taught anyone this far down