Monday, June 8, 2015

Road Trip!

Here's a "teaser" photo from our trip so far. This is the "Elephant Stomp Tiger" statue in Kompung Thom.

Hey y’all!  I’m emailing y’all from . . . not Phnom Penh! Wow... I'm actually in សៀមរាប (Siem Reap) right now! This morning Elder Eppley and I, as well as the four Siem Reap elders, went out to Angkor Wat! Oh my word, that place lives up to all the hype for sure. It was unreal. You take a tuk-tuk down this long, super forested road to get there. We went really early in the morning so the sun wasn't up yet, it was just dim dawn light. The mist was coming off the river and jungle to the side of the road. It looked like something out of a movie. Then you turn the corner and see this super jungly island in the middle of a big old lake, with this huge ancient looking causeway crossing the moat/lake thing. And then Angkor Wat comes into view. It is huge! It’s so unbelievably beautiful. I honestly have no idea how in the world they constructed it. It is so pretty. It makes sense that it’s number one on that Trip Advisor site. This place has been hyped up to me every day for a year, and when I went it still lived up to all that hype. It is a gem. I took a LOT of great photos, but the problem is that this internet cafe that we're at isn't the greatest. I'll just wait until my next p-day on Saturday in the mission home and email y’all all my pictures from Angkor Wat and our road trip with the Moons. That'll be a lot easier. 

This last week was super busy. Sunday we finished our stake conference, which Elder Eppley and I had to translate for (all the sessions). Tuesday was Missionary Leadership Conference at the mission home. That was a blast, because in addition to all the zone leaders and sister training leaders coming, we also had most of the district leaders come as well. The couple days before MLC were spent finalizing logistics for housing for all the incoming mission leaders, as well as going and buying bus tickets for all of them. It’s kind of insane. Mission Leadership Conference was great. We have such a wonderful army of missionaries in Cambodia. It’s was so much fun on Tuesday getting to learn from so many missionaries that I look up to so much.

Thursday we did zone conference for south and east zone, which was super fun being united with Elder Osborne. It was really weird being around him when he had another companion, haha. Friday we went and did a zone conference for the north and central zones. Early Saturday morning Elder Eppley and I started our road trip with President and Sister Moon! It has been so much fun so far. Elder Eppley and I feel like we're their sons. President Moon really relaxes when he's not in front of all the missionaries or working. It's been super fun driving around Cambodia just chatting with him and Sister Moon and Elder Eppley about home. We've learned a lot more about their personal lives. One thing that I really like about President Moon is how much trust he places in all his missionaries. Even though President Moon is a genius and a spiritual giant and he could easily run the whole mission with no help from anybody I'm sure, he still asks for our input and opinion on things, and he actually listens to our ideas. He really shows how much he cares for all of us. Like this whole trip, he's been asking for a lot of thoughts from Elder Eppley and I about the upcoming transfers. It's so much fun helping President Moon with all this, and I'm so grateful that he allows us to have a small part in the work.

On Saturday we did zone conference in Kompong Cham, and afterwards Elder Eppley and I went and visited some people that he used to teach back when he served in Kampong Cham. On Sunday we attended church at one of the branches and then attended a baptismal service for 5 people! It was awesome. Afterwards we went over and attended another sacrament meeting, then right after we hopped in the car and drove on up to Siem Reap. We arrived in Siem Reap at about 7:45 and then we headed straight over to a member's house to eat dinner with them. The Belchers (the senior couple who used to serve in Stung Mean Chey) were there as well, so it was fun to see them again. We were out at dinner 45 minutes past curfew, but President was with us, so I assume it was alright, haha. Lightning didn't strike us, so it must've been ok. Then we stayed the night in the Siem Reap elder’s house. 

This morning we went over to Angkor Wat. Later today, when p-day ends at 5, Elder Eppley and I will go on exchanges with the two companionships of elders here. I don't exactly know how that’s going to work because we don't have bikes, but we'll work something out. Tonight the Kampong Thom elders will stay at the Siem Reap house as well, so they don't have to make the drive right before zone conference tomorrow morning. So I'll get to be reunited with Elder Uhi! It’s been almost three months since I saw that guy! It's going to be so exciting. After zone conference tomorrow we'll head over to Battambang, where I'll get to see Elder Elieson! I'm way pumped to see him (and his child, Elder Slavens. Apparently he's hilarious). Then we'll hopefully get back to Phnom Penh late Wednesday night. Right when we get back we'll be starting preparations for transfers.

Transfer calls will be going out this Sunday, and transfer day is in a week and a half, on next Friday. Madness! It's so much fun though, I'm having a blast. Elder Eppley is a super stellar guy. I'm learning a ton of Khmae and missionary skills from him. I basically feel like he's my second trainer, just because missionary life is so different for me now than before. You basically have to be re-trained. I also kind of feel like he's my trainer just because he has such a similar personality with Elder Johnson, my real trainer! Like 30 times a day he'll say something and I'll just be like ' Elder Johnson, is that you underneath that Texan mask?' Life is going good right now. 

To answer some of y’alls questions:

-We live about a seven-minute car drive from the mission home. Our house is literally a hundred feet away from Tuol Sleng prison.

-We just live with the office elders. It’s ridiculously fun being with them. Sometimes it feels like we're in a four-panionship, just because we spend so much time with each other all day

-We spend our time all over: in the office, running errands across Phnom Penh, etc. We try and go proselyting from 5-8pm everyday, but sometimes our schedule is too hectic to allow it. But most of the time we get to go out and teach a little everyday. It's nice to still have that opportunity to go out and interact and teach people on a personal level.

-Yes my birthday package came, and yes, I already opened it (sorry, it was just sitting there in the mission home and I had no self-control.) It was awesome. Thanks so much!

-There are 8 or 9 senior couples in the mission right now. They have varying responsibilities, from Church leadership training to LDS humanitarian services to PR to family history research. There is one couple who is stationed in the office, the Hollenzers. They're way nice. They're about to finish their missions in a month though, so there is actually a brand-new couple named the Leavitts who just arrived this week who will be taking their place in the office.

-Yup I've got my license. Right now I just have the paper version, I'll get the plastic card in a couple weeks. But I can legally drive now. It’s way easy to get it, all Sister Hollenzer had to do was send in my American license and fill out a couple forms and then they issue it. The only key now is that I have to learn how to drive stick.

Well that’s all I have. Wait until Saturday and then I'll unleash a torrent of pictures on y’all. Till then have fun! Love y’all! Have a great first week of summer!

Love Elder Burger

These are the Hassell's, a new senior couple in our mission. And guess what? Elder Hassell is the brother of President Hassell (editor's note:  President Hassell was Mitch's stake president until he was about twelve). The Mormon world is so small.  They'll be serving in Vietnam. He served in Vietnam back in the old days before they closed it down (fun fact: President Christensen also served in Vietnam before they closed it down). Elder Hassell still speaks fluent Viet. It's way cool. He's been going out and teaching with some of the Vietnamese elders in the city while they've been waiting for visa stuff.

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