Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Moons are about to die

Well this is the last time I will ever send an email with President Moon as my mission president. It’s such a weird feeling. President and Sister Christensen will be coming in late Tuesday night, and then President and Sister Moon will be leaving late Wednesday night. President Moon will only spend a few short hours orienting President Christensen with mundane logistical things, like which hotels are the best to stay at and which restaurants have good food etc. They won't be discussing the missionaries really at all. Every missionary has a brand new start. It’s awesome for everybody! For the missionaries who have had less than favorable track records, they now have the opportunity to create a new life for themselves in the mission. Everything can be changed around! And for those missionaries who have been giving their all already, well they can't rely off stored credit with the new president! They have to show him and especially the Lord that they can endure to the end! 

My feelings are understandably extremely mixed about President Moon leaving the mission. He and Sister Moon have been like my mom and dad here for the past year. President Moon has provided me so much support and encouragement and advice when things were hard or when I doubted my ability to fulfill my calling and reach my full potential. I don't know if I've ever met anyone wiser or more in-tune to the Spirit than him. Certainly there are people tied with him, but I've never met anyone more Christ-like. He has been such a wonderful leader for a mission that has over 100 million people inside of its boundaries. My interviews with him are moments that I will cherish my whole life. This extra time I've had to spend with him over the last month have been extra special. Making the road trip with him and Sister Moon was such a great experience. Sister Moon truly is the mom of our mission. Being away from home hasn't been nearly as difficult with Sister Moon's caring attitude for every single missionary. I'm excited for them though. They certainly have received so many blessings for their wonderful service over the last few years. Now President and Sister Moon can go home and see their grandkids (of which there is 3 or 4 which President Moon has never seen before) and a new son-in-law as well. They actually have a grandbaby who is supposed to be born tomorrow!

We are all so excited for President and Sister Christensen to come in though. On Wednesday morning at 9 they will come down and meet the office staff and we'll meet and greet for a little bit. I'm excited for that! Then the next day, Thursday, we'll have a "Meet the President" meeting for a few hours for South and East zones. It's not a zone conference, but really just an opportunity for President Christensen to go and out and introduce himself to everyone, and introduce some new ideas and programs he wants to implement into the mission. He'll do interviews afterwards. Friday we'll go and do the same thing for North and Central zones. We won't go and do Meet the President meetings in the khaets for another week after that. Friday and Saturday President will have a lot of meetings with stake and district presidencies and what not. Elder Eppley and I are super interested to see how much President Christensen is going to need us. From what President Moon told us, he needed a ton of help from the assistants when he first came. Showing him where to go, translating for him, helping a ton with transfers, helping him understand kind of how the mission runs. So we'll see. It'll certainly be exciting. We're about to turn up the pace about 1000% here.

I'm getting a lot better driving the van. Learning to drive stick in the middle of a third-world country's capital city is certainly what you would call a "gauntlet". It’s way fun, haha. Who ever thought I would be more scared of riding a van in terrifying traffic than a flimsy bike? Weird how that happens. But I'm getting the hang of it. We're thinking of maybe painting racing flames on the side of our van in the next couple days so that we can transport the Christensen's in style.

On exchange with the East Zone leaders in Kean Svaay

This past week we had the opportunity to go and do exchanges with the zone leaders in South and East zone. On Wednesday we went to South zone. I went with Elder Christensen, who was in my MTC group! It was a blast. We were in Toul Tom Pong, which is the oldest branch in Cambodia. There are some wonderful wonderful members there! One of the people we visited was a man whom I had seen several times at stake conferences and things like that, but I had never officially met him before. He is like 84 years old and missing all his teeth. He's been a member for about 15 years. He is currently a high councilor. He is the cutest old man you've ever seen in your life. I was touched meeting with him. He is one of the most celestial people I've ever met in my life. He lives in this little stilted wooden shack on the edge of a busy Toul Tom Pong road, and on the other side of his house is this open river/sewer. He is bent over from age and walks slowly, but his testimony is so bright! Elder Christensen said he does nothing all day long but read in the scriptures. When we got to his house he was reading in the General Conference Liahona. People like him never cease to amaze me. He isn't in the gospel for the glory or admiration of men. How could he be? He lives in a little wooden shack on the side of a sewer river in Cambodia. But he feasts on the word of God and actively fulfills his calling as a high councilor despite him being 84 years old. There's no shortage of people like that in Cambodia, but just because there’s so many wonderful people like that doesn't mean any one of them is less special. That feeling that I get every time I walk into a shack where a picture of the temple is clearly up on the wall and the scriptures are there laying wide open on the table is a feeling that I will never be able to forget. I've had the privilege of having that sacred feeling many times on my mission, and it almost moves me to tears every time. These people don't follow the gospel because of social pressure or greed or vanity. They don't follow it through doing a mundane routine. People like that follow it simply because they know it’s true, and because they know that they have an infinite eternal potential, bestowed upon them by a loving Heavenly Father who is perfectly aware of them and their goodness, even if seemingly no one else is. That's how I want to live. 

District Meeting - Myers, Eppley, Christensen, Neuberger, Kuon, Jepsen, Morris, LeNguyen, Osborne, Olsen, the Ovesons
On exchange in Tuoltumpung, Elder Christensen pointed out this random building out to me that is advertising volleyball, and their advertisement has a BYU player on it! In the middle of Cambodia! What a small world...

To answer y’alls questions:
Will you pick the Christensens up from the airport?  No. Elder Eppley and I will not be the ones picking up the Christensens from the airport. President and Sister Moon will be doing that.
When do you go back to the provinces?  We go back to the provinces in 2 weeks. It’s not zone conferences, just a couple hour get-to-meet-you sort of thing

When Elder Holland visits do you think you and Elder Eppley will be the primary translators?  Most likely we will not be the principle translators. They'll probably have anative Church translators (like one of the General Conference translators) doing it for him. It'd be a lot better that way. Although, Elder Eppley could totally do it and just be awesome at it. He knows a ton! I would get way too nervous and forget all my Khmae if I had to that, haha

Where did Elder Osborne go? Elder Osborne is in Chomkaamorn. It’s in East zone. It’s actually the area right next to Chaktomuk, so he's real close!

What is the biggest challenge of being in the office? The biggest challenge of being in the office is definitely the lost time just meeting with people face to face and seeing them embrace the gospel. We still have a bit of time to proselyte in the evenings, but it’s hardly anything. Also the language. My language is starting to go downhill. It was easy to tell in the exchanges. It’s not like words or anything, It’s just fluidity. It’s harder to speak fluidly and quickly now.

Thanks for the package that’s in the mail! Love y’all! Hope y’all have a great week!

Love Elder Burger

Here's a Google Maps image of my house.  It says we are 75 meters from the Tuol Sleng prison
MTC group almost all reunited

With Elder Brewer and Elder Osborne on transfer day

The new shirt y'all sent to me, compared to a shirt I've had my whole mission.  You can't really tell in the picture, but the difference is immense.  I've tried to keep them appropriately clean.  I would have to regularly sit down for hours with a bucket of suds and a hard bristled brush in the bathroom in Stung Mean Chey to scrub all that dust out of my clothes.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Survived My First Transfer Day in the Office

Sister Moon brought in an ice cream cake from Dairy Queen for my birthday! Ahhh so good.

and then I had to pick up a phone call right in the middle of the picture...

Whew! Transfers are over. It was so much fun. Absolute craziness for a couple days, but fun!

On Thursday we went in the morning to pick up the new missionaries from the airport. It was so much fun seeing all of them, especially Elder Medley! We put the four elders in our car and President and Sister Moon had the 3 sisters in their car. We drove them all down to​ Phsaar Orussey, which is a huge market, and we had arranged with a couple companionships of elders and sisters nearby in the city to come and contact with them. They were all like "wait whatttt, we have to go and speak Cambodian with native Cambodians right away?!" Ummmm yeah, welcome to the mission! Haha, I remember how crazy it used to be hearing what a native Cambodian sounds like. I still remember the first time we did TRC in the MTC, which is where we go and practice sharing lessons with returned missionaries and members, Elder LeNguyen and I had to teach this little old grandma from the Cambodian branch in West Valley. We had no idea what was going on. And then we would also skype to Cambodian members. Now at this point in my mission I've heard thousands and thousands of Khmaes speak Khmae and probably only about 150 white people (148 of which are elders and sisters). It’s so weird to think that a Khmae speaking Khmae used to be the weird thing to me. 

President Moon talking with the newly arrived missionaries at the airport

After that we took them back to the mission home. The rest of the day we were helping out with training for them. They were so sleepy the entire time.  Elder Eppley and I were cracking up. At one point, we were sitting down with them discussing a little bit about cultural changes they'll be going through and asking them about what they want from their trainer, and I just clapped my hands as loud as I could out of nowhere. They all jerked so bad, haha. I had to do it though. Dang jet lag...

Shoes at the mission home on transfer day.

Guess who I saw as I was walking out of the mission home with Elder Eppley on Thursday? We walked outside and all of a sudden we hear " Elders!" and we look up and we see this white couple riding bikes down the street. They turn around and come over to us and it was Lookruu Hill and his wife! Ah it was so cool to see him! We had just been talking about Lookruu Hill not even30 seconds earlier and then there he was! We talked to him for like five minutes. He'll be here for a couple months helping look over some study abroad students here. He said he might go to the Chatomuk ward on Sunday, because that was the ward he was born in! He's seriously me and Elder Eppley's hero. He remembered us and everyone in our groups so vividly too! It’s weird that it’s been almost a year since we left the MTC.

On Thursday we also had to go and buy like 25 bus tickets for all the missionaries leaving to go to the khaets the next day. Boy are all those travel logistics a nightmare! We had sat down and figured them all out a million times, but all the missionaries are constantly calling in and telling us that actually they'll be coming in a day or two early, or they'll be arriving late because of this or that. It was kind of stressful at times, not gonna lie. We also had to figure out who was taking whose bike and how everyone was getting where, and who would exchange with whom when their companions were in training meetings... The list goes on and on about things that have to be figured out before hand and then be changed right in the moment. Next transfer won't be as crazy though because there aren't any new missionaries coming in. Just a new mission president... It’s really weird now that the sisters in my group are now basically the oldest sisters in the mission. There is only group of sisters ahead of them and that group only has one sister in it, so they are basically the most senior out of them all. Starting in August Elder Eppley's group will be the oldest elders in the mission, and they are only 2 groups ahead of my group! Yikes!

I learned how to drive stick this last week. It’s really not that hard, it’s just a lot to think about as you're driving in downtown Phnom Penh craziness. It was really scary (and still is sometimes) the first couple times that I had to get the car in first gear on a downhill slope. The car just starts rolling backwards and you've got to engage the clutch and let off the brake just right so the car will get in gear and go forward and not roll backwards. But I'm getting a lot better. Elder Eppley is really patient (and brave) so he's a great helper.

Well there’s probably a lot more from this week that I have totally forgotten but I'm pretty ក្រញាញខួរ (brain-fried) right now sooo. That’s all I got. Love y’all! 

Love Elder Burger

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Pictures, Pictures, a letter, Pictures and More Pictures

Sunrise at Angkor Wat

Hello! Well I just wrote y’all Monday, so it feels weird to already be writing y’all again. The khaet trip was really really fun. We got back late, late on Wednesday night. We walked into our apartment probably around 9:45ish. Siem Reap was a really fun place. After we emailed on Monday we went back to the ruins and this time went to Angkor Thom and Bayon and Taa Pruhm and Preah Khan.

Monkeys jumping along the walls

A Buddhist monk taking pictures for a group of people


Bayon is the "Tomb Raider" temple

Gate of Angkor Thom.  Note the size of the gate compared to the SUV underneath it.

It was awesome. I'm not sure which of all the ruins is my favorite, because they're all pretty different from each other and have different unique cool features. was definitely way  cool though. It’s unbelievable how advanced Khmae civilization was all those years ago. I have absolutely no idea how they could have built such enormous structures out of heavy, heavy stone. Plus every square inch of those ruins is covered with incredibly intricate Hindi/Buddhist carvings. It’s unreal.

Later that day Elder Eppley and I went on exchanges with the two companionships of elders in Siem Reap. I went with the zone leaders, Elder Horn and Elder Duffy. We didn't have a bike for me, so I had to get doped several kilos over very bumpy roads. I was way sore. It is so odd proselyting in the khaets. It was pitch black and we were riding down this muddy, jungley road to this less actives house. I looked up and could see so many stars! And then all around us were fireflies. It was a way cool experience. We also got to teach 3 super awesome people. The Spirit could be felt really strongly at all three appointments. 

It was fun reuniting with Elder Uhi as well. I saw him on Monday night when we returned to the house in Siem Reap. He is doing great out in Kompong Thom. Tuesday we did zone conference in Siem Reap. It went off without a hitch. That afternoon we got back in the van and drove to Battambang. We did zone conference there Wednesday morning and then made the long drive back to Phnom Penh that afternoon/evening. Overall we traveled through 9 provinces: Phnom Penh, Kandaal, Kampong Cham, Kampong Thom, Siem Reap, Bontiay Mean Chey, Battambang, Posat, and Kampong Chnnang. It took about 2.5 hours to get to Kampong Cham, about 4 hours from there to get to Siem Reap, about 2.5 from Siem Reap to Battambang, and about 5.5 from Battambang back to Phnom Penh. That’s a lot of driving. It was really fun seeing all the missionaries in the mission, especially because some of those khaet elders and sisters have been in khaets for a very long time.

Pictures from our drive in the khaets:

So ever since we've gotten back we've been doing prep for transfers coming up. With all that time in the car with President we were already able to discuss a lot of transfers already, but we've met with him several times since then to discuss more. It is so neat being able to see President Moon behind the scenes. He is so logical, but he is completely flexible to what the Spirit guides him to do. He wants to have the missionaries enjoy their areas and their companions, but at the same time the Spirit guides him to make certain companionships or send certain missionaries to different areas in order to help them have a growing experience. It’s so much fun. 

This next week is going to be crazy busy and crazy fun at the same time. It’s transfers week, which means that we're going to be having to prepare logistics out the wazoo. And new missionaries come in from the Provo MTC on Thursday! That’s going to be so exciting to pick them up from the airport and feel their energy! New missionaries are the greatest! And the best part is that one of those new missionaries is Elder Medley, who was in our MTC group, but went home a year ago. I'm so excited to be able to rejoin with him here in Cambodia, our country!

Well I don't have a ton today. Sorry. Just emailed y’all Monday. But I hope all the pictures are semi-enjoyable. Love y’all! Have a great week! 

Love Elder Burger

The Moons taking their "death card" picture.  The card they hand out with all of their address and contact info.