Monday, July 13, 2015

Take me home, ជនបទ road

Balcony of our hotel room in Kampong Cham looked directly onto the Mekong River

សាយសប្បុខ y’all. Hope everything is going great back home! It certainly sounds like it is! I'm currently emailing y’all from an email shop in Siem Reap. Y’all want to know something crazy about this week? It’s been a year and a half since I opened my mission call when I found out that I'd be coming to Cambodia. Craziness. Time doesn't just fly, it completely disappears! Missions start and then almost immediately you're over a year into them! I thought I understood the way time works. I've come to realize that I don't know how time works at all. It’s the weirdest phenomenon...Something I forgot to tell y’all last week is that I got really sick! Yay! I'll spare y’all the details. They'll probably make for some pretty funny stories someday though. Sister Moon gave me some medication to help me out. I was on it for a few days. It seemed to go away. Then I drank a gallon of milk in like 2 days, which I haven't done since I came to Cambodia. Let me explain something about Cambodian cuisine: dairy doesn't exist. No cheese, no yogurt, no milk. The only dairy I've had are the few yogurts I buy at the supermarket every week. Not a lot. But something interesting that happens to most missionaries over time here is that we become pretty lactose-intolerant, from a lack of eating dairy. So the day after I went through the gallon of milk, Elder Eppley and I had to drive President Christensen down to Bakuu to do a baptismal interview. Bakuu is this little farming village about 45 minutes away from Phnom Penh. The roads are wayyy bumpy. Well needless to say, I had the worst abdominal pains while doing the drive. Thankfully when I went in with President to translate for him during the interview, the pains went away. But when we drove back they came again. Tender mercies though.

This trip has been so much fun so far. On Friday we drove up to Kampong Cham with the Christensens. We did the Meet the President there, and then Elder Eppley and I translated for several temple recommend interviews and a meeting with the district presidency and a fireside with all the members. Saturday morning we made the drive up to Siem Reap through Kampong Thom. We held the Meet the President meeting there and then translated for another baptismal interview with President had to do, and then we dropped off the Christensens at the hotel and Elder Eppley and I went to go observe the Siem Reap English class (because they're having tons of success with it up here!). Sunday we attended both wards, in between going over to eat lunch at the elders' house. Afterwards President had to do training with a branch president to help him learn how to do temple recommend interviews. The district president couldn't really train him either because both the branch and district presidents have only held those callings for three weeks. It was cool because the way that President conducted the training is that he had the branch president conducting the normal temple interviews, and we just sat in on them to make sure he did them right (Elder Eppley and I were sitting in translating for President). We only sat in for one of them then President had the branch president conduct the rest while President Christensen took the district president and talked with him for an hour and a half about problems in the district. It’s so cool having the opportunity to go and translate for President Christensen because honestly, Elder Eppley and I get to sit in on a lot of meetings that we would never be able to sit in on until we are like 45.

Elder Eppley and I are learning a ton about church organization through all this. I definitely feel like a theme of my whole mission has truly been seeing how the church works on an administrative level, just because the church is so, so young here, and the leaders really have to turn to us American elders to learn about their responsibilities and about protocol and what not. As Americans and members from birth, we are kind of the knowledgeable ones on the matter. So I've learned a ton about church administration already, but since coming to the office I've learned even more. It’s such a rare and wonderful opportunity to be able to accompany a mission president (well 2 of them) 24/7 and to learn from him and his vast store of knowledge. 

Our responsibilities have certainly changed a lot since President Christensen came in. We really have to be by his and Sister Christensen's side all the time, because they don't speak any Khmae.  We drive them everywhere as well, because even though they just got their licenses, they haven't had the opportunity to practice driving in a third world country yet. We also answer questions about mission policy, rules, initiatives, and programs all day. It is so much fun being with the Christensens! They are the coolest! Everybody loves them when they meet them. They are just so funny and warm and welcoming. It’s been an absolute blast being around them all the time. They get along perfectly with each other too. Their chemistry and team work together is such a fun thing to watch! They are really driven to learn Khmae as well. Elder Eppley and I have been teaching them Khmae as we've been driving around. We bought a little white board before we left on the trip so that we could help them practice learning the script before they learn anything else. "Lesson #1; Romanized Cambodian is the work of the devil."   They're doing really well with it! They're catching on and aren't getting frustrated with it, which is the key. They always finish their talks at church with their own testimony in Khmae. It’s cool and the members love it. Hopefully President Christensen will quickly be able to do what President Moon would do, which is give all his talks, interviews, and training by himself in Khmae (he got that good). But until then, I absolutely love translating for them all the time!

It’s been wayyy nice staying at hotels, not going to lie. Like the last two nights here in Siem Reap we were staying in this resort that was beautiful (we just stayed in this alright guesthouse in Kampong Cham). We got to take baths! Oh man those were nice... In the last 9 or so months I have showered with hot water a grand total of two times. The beds were ridiculously comfortable too. Haha, I'm sure I would have thought that it was just an average bed, if I was coming straight from America. But I've been sleeping on rotting, pockmarked foam pads put on flimsy 2x4 frames for the last year, so it felt good to sleep in a real bed. The breakfast was way good as well... Bacon...

Lobby of the hotel in Siem Reap

Real beds!!

Yesterday at church a girl was opening her mission call. Of course we went over to watch and guess what? She opened her call to the Utah Salt Lake City mission! She opened up her book and was like "this is going to be my mission president!" and she shows us a picture of the Spendloves! I was like "I KNOW THEM!" The Christensens were way excited too because they met the Spendloves as part of their training. She'll be getting to their mission in like November or December. 

Sister Yin receiving her mission call to the Salt Lake City Mission.  She is holding up a picture of President and Sister Spendlove who will be her mission president. [Editors note:  President Spendlove was Elder Neuberger's stake president when he left on his mission]

Yesterday, as the day was winding down, Elder Eppley and I were kind of going over the itinerary of the rest of the trip (we'll be getting back to Phnom Penh on Tuesday night), and we were amazed at the craziness yet to come. This week is going to be crazy because on Friday we begin another 5 day trip... to Vietnam!  We get to fly out with the Christensens to Ho Chi Minh and then to Hanoi! We're way pumped to be able to go. The assistants haven't gone to Vietnam for over 2 years, but President Christensen told us that he really wanted us to go with him. Elder Eppley and I were thrilled to hear that! We'll get back from that Tuesday night as well, and then transfer madness begins, because transfer calls will be going out that next Sunday. President Moon usually kept us very involved in transfers, but since this is President Christensen's first transfer, we're going to get to help out a ton with it! We're excited! The week after that we'll be driving out to the provinces again so that President can do interviews with all the missionaries. After that Elder Holland will be coming to our mission! We're going to have to figure out all the logistics for that, with all the missionaries in the mission coming down to the city to meet with him. That's going to be nuts. A couple weeks after that will be more transfers, and in that transfer we'll have 20 new missionaries coming in, which makes all the logistics and training a lot crazier!

WHEW!!! Life is a blur. I love serving the Lord here in Cambodia. This isn't the way I imagined my mission panning out to be at all, but I guess this is what I need to be doing right now. I do cherish the little time that we get to go out and teach people though. It’s such a wonderful thing to help bring others closer unto Christ, because what happens without you realizing it is that you get closer and closer to Him as well. I love the church and I know it’s true. Having the Spirit in our lives is one of the greatest blessings that exists. All our choices contribute to having that presence or not.

To answer your questions:
What are you going to do in Siem Reap this Pday? More temples? – today in Siem Reap we went painting shopping. Cambodian paintings are the coolest. I didn't buy any because I've got a long time left (thankfully) but Elder Eppley's mission is beginning to wind down so he splurged, haha. I'm not going to tell you how much money he spent.

Who are the investigators you are currently working with? – we have one investigator we're working with right now named Bolo. His situation is difficult right now, because his mom (who is a less-active member) has cervical cancer. Thankfully, after lots of doctor's visits and a priesthood blessing, the cancer is going into remission. Bolo still isn't progressing though. That’s frustrating enough, but what’s also frustrating is that we aren't really in town too much to teach him!

When in Phnom Penh do you drive the mission van, or do you have a different car for city travel? – Yeah most of the time we drive the big ole 12 seater van around. It’s a blast to drive because it’s got a turbo engine. It’s got a lot kick with it. On this trip we've been driving the Toyota Prado (which is the mission president's car) around. That’s a fun car too. It’s got a less sticky stick then the van, but a less forgiving clutch. You win some, you lose some... Both are good though. The Church actually wants President and Sister Christensen to go and buy a new car though. They'll be doing that soon.

How was the Fourth of July at the Embassy? – 4th of July at the embassy was definitely a weird experience. After getting out of it, being surrounded by Americans, the four of us just looked at each other and were like "Man, we felt like foreigners in there.'" It was a breath of fresh air to step out of the embassy and be surrounded by Khmaes again. It’s going to be terrible culture shock going home...

I love y’all! Have a great week! We'll be heading out to Battambang in a couple hours!

Love Elder Burger

The Mekong River

The daughter of the member of the district presidency in Siem Reap. She's way charismatic.

1 comment:

  1. Elder Neuberger, I love reading your letters and I'm sorry this is the first time I've replied. It sounds like you are absolutely doing amazing work for the Lord over there and have had many adventures. I hope that you're feeling 100% again and that it doesn't happen again...........Thats not fun at all and especially away from home.
    My thoughts and prayers have been with you and I pray that things continue to go so good for you.
    Take care and can't wait to hear of this weeks adventures (hugs)
    Kitty Lantry