Monday, September 28, 2015

No Coincidences

President Christensen is the coolest. If he wasn't my mission president I would call him a bro. But he is. So I call him President...

Hey so quick email this week. Currently sitting in a random internet shop that we found here in Siem Reap. This morning none of the Siem Reap Elders wanted to go to Angkor Wat, so Elder Elieson and I just woke up at 4:15, hopped on a couple bikes and biked out there ( it’s about 15 minutes away from their home) to catch the sunrise. The road to Siem Reap is so pretty, it’s just surrounded by thick dense forest. And the police don't stop the elders and ask for their tickets because the Siem Reap elders just ride past every day to go and visit their investigators! This morning we didn't actually go in. We just stopped out front of it and took pictures of the sunrise and then biked back.

There at Angkor this white guy with long blonde cornrows and a beard comes up to us. I was like "oh no, here we go". He gives us the typical barang opening-line: "Y’all Mormon missionaries? Geez I run into y’all everywhere!" Classic. Then we asked where he was from and he said he was from Idaho. Haha, we were like man, right in the heart of it. And then he was like "Today's p-day isn't it?" Haha wow, ចេះទៀត! And then when we were walking back to our bikes we met him again and he stops us and is just like "So are y’all stationed here in Siem Reap?“ and we told him that we were from Phnom Penh, just up for a couple days doing some training. He was like "You know what, when I was growing up we always had this missionary come over to our house. He was from Cambodia. I think he was the first missionary to ever leave from here. He had a way interesting background too. Like I think he was raised by a prince." I was like "WE KNOW THAT GUY! His name is Leang! He is our mission realtor! He's helps us find all missionary housing!" It was a way cool moment.

After that this man told us that he had actually completed a mission of his own just 8 years earlier, he served in Chile Vina Del Mar mission. That was a huge surprise. If you had asked me to identify the one returned missionary from the crowd of hundreds of barangs at Angkor Wat that day, he literally might have been the last person I would have chosen. God definitely works in mysterious ways though. Maybe that meeting was just what that man needed to re-pique his interest in what he taught for two years on his mission. Maybe I'm really skewed-thinking nowadays, but on my mission I have really come to disbelieve in coincidences. 

This morning Elder Elieson and I also went to the Angkor National Museum here in Siem Reap. That was cool. Our favorite part was where it showed the evolution of Khmae script from about 1500 years ago to now.

Well, no time today. I'm emailing y’all again on Saturday though, so I’ll save some stories for y’all then! Love y’all!

This little kid is way cute. He lives in this run-down building right across the street from Elder Rom and Cook's old house. 

Landlord's granddaughter. She's the cutest. The only downside of moving houses is not getting to see her anymore:(

We've been going back looking at the old MTC devotionals from when we were there. So throwback to the good ole days, when Elder Christensen, Elieson, Le Nguyen, and I were all famous

Saturday, September 19, 2015


Making faces with our landlord's two little granddaughters. They live on the first floor of your building. 
Every night when we come in, no matter how hard the day was, we can count on their little voices going 
"ពូអើយ!!សួស្ដីពូ!!" (Hey uncles!!!). It makes everything better

Hello! In y’alls emails y’all hoped that I had a bit more routine of a week... Haha, it’s funny because the office reminds me so much of climbing Enchanted Rock. Every time you think you've climbed to the top you realize that there is another ridge ahead of you, and it happens again and again and again... Just like in the office! For whatever reason I always think we're going to be done... But new stuff always comes up. Things just never seem to really settle in the office. You think I would have already learned that sometime over the last 4 months, but it continues to startle me just how much we have to do! I love it! Being busy and having things to work on really is the greatest thing. It makes me sick to my stomach to think about all the laying around I did in the latter part of high school and in college. Just a bunch of ពេលឥតប្រយោជន៏.

This last week was extremely busy. Most of the busy-ness was us preparing for the big huge trainer/trainee meeting we had yesterday.

So in the past we have always just done training for the new missionaries on that Thursday, right when they come in. Then transfers would be the following day. But President Christensen really wanted to try out having transfers on Thursday this time. So instead of training them right then, we really basically just shuttled them out to their new areas with their trainers and they just went straight into the work. So on Friday what happened is we had a big huge meeting with all of them (21 trainers and 21 trainees) at the mission home. Trainers and trainees from the khets came down Thursday night. Our meeting was from 9:30am-7pm. Sounds way long. The week before, the trainers were asking us, "How in the world is the meeting that long?"  But we really did have a bunch of great productive activities to help train the new trainees and get feedback from all of them about their experience. 

We started off the morning with President and Sister Christensen giving their backstory to the new kids. I've seen them give their story about 10 times or so now (from that big "Meet the President" tour we did a few months ago) but it never gets old! 

After that we did a four-station rotation, with each station having 45 minutes each. Elder Elieson and I gave culture training, which we primarily deferred to the trainers in each group, since they know just as much (well probably more to be honest) about Khmer culture as we do, plus we just generally GOT THEM PUMPED ABOUT SERVING IN CAMBODIA/VIETNAM!!!! It was so much fun. We felt the Spirit so strongly.  I know they did too, as we just discussed about the Khmer culture and what a wonderful opportunity we really do have to be servants in the hands of God to help this amazing people! The other stations discussed things such as the MSF funds, bikes, internet security (Cambodia's computers are a cesspool of digital viruses), and study habits... Just the kind of things that the កូន need to know. Halfway through we had a donut break cuz President Christensen is just cool like that.

At 1:00 we had lunch (subs) then we met back at 2:00 to watch the Christmas 2014 slideshow with pictures of missionaries last year. There’s a couple hundred pics in that slideshow, and after having closely watched that PowerPoint many times, I am 100% confident that I am in 0% of those photos. But it’s cool, I'm not bitter or anything... Maybe just a bit....

Then we broke out into 2 groups, trainers and trainees. Elder Elieson and I took the trainers and just had a discussion with them, getting feedback on how the training experience has been going for this first week, what they want to do better the remaining 11 weeks, what they expect from their trainees, what vision they have for their kid's progress and for their personal progress as well. Stuff like that. That group of trainers is solid as a rock, so it was a great discussion. After that we got back together and discussed what we learned from the 2 break out meetings. After that we watched one of our sick mission videos and then had a testimony meeting with all of us together. It was so powerful hearing the testimonies of those new missionaries. They're a great group. 

What's weird is that every single elder in that group except one is a Class of 2015 graduate... What the heck. When I finish the Class of 2016 graduates will be preparing to come out. Super weird.

For dinner we finished with Khmae curry. Ahhhh sooo good. Comfort food. Reminds me of last Christmas Eve when we were all gathered together at the south stake center chowing down on vats of the stuff. Christmas is coming up again sometime soon! So weird . . .

But the best part is that GENERAL CONFERENCE IS ALMOST HERE AGAINNN!!!!!!!!!!!! We are so close it’s ridiculous. Make sure y’all are going back and reviewing all the talks from last conference. Just like 2 more weeks left!!!!
Well I love y’all. Today we're pretty busy too. Last night Elder Funk from the First Quorum of Seventy arrived in town and today there is the Central District Conference. Even though Elder Elieson and I don't know Vietnamese, President wants us to go to take, and set up, and take care of the translation equipment.

Love y’all!

Elder Burger

Elder Osborne teaching English class. He's the english class leader for the South stake center right now. Both my sons make me a proud father:)

Monday, September 14, 2015

Finding Methods to the Madness

Long Live the Republic of Texas!
Elder Elieson, Elder Neuberger, Elder Eppley
These week was long and quick and stressful and just a ton of fun. Transfer weeks are always crazy, but this one was especially crazy because we switched the schedule around A LOT from how transfers have been done in the past. Let me just walk y’all through the madness day by day...

But first off, this week was way sad because I had to say goodbye to Elder Eppley. He's headed off to die training in Siem Reap. He's going to do an awesome job! It’s been super fun serving with him for these past 2.5 transfers. He'll probably be my longest companion on the mission! He was a fantastic one to be with for so long. I'll miss him for sure!

This week my new companion joined us in the office. It's... Elder Elieson!!! He's one of my closest friends in my mission. We've been friends since way back when we were at BYU, we were always ruling the sand volleyball courts with each other. Man I was so pumped when I found out it would be him coming in! We've been telling each other since the MTC that one day we'd serve together as zone leaders or something out in the khets! Well we aren't zone leaders, and we aren't in the khets, but this will do just fine! We've been having tons of fun already. This next transfer is going to be an absolute blast.

So yeah, this past week's schedule:
Sunday: It was Fast Sunday (which automatically makes it great, just right off the bat). We meet every week at 8am at the South Stake center for Chaktomuk ward. Church was just good ole normal Cambodian testimony meeting, with a neakming leading off the proceedings, ranting for 20 minutes about literally nothing. Super classic here... The bishop started motioning for returned missionaries in the congregation to come up afterwards to kind of get the meeting back on track (kind of like Dad sometimes used to do, haha). After church we went back home and Elder Eppley made this delicious khaw for us. Khaw is this real sweet-tasting Cambodian dish where you basically carmelize a ton of palm sugar and throw in garlic and pepper and salt and meat and boiled eggs. It’s a missionary favorite. Later that day we headed over to a few less-actives, but unfortunately they all refused to meet with us, saying they were too busy and stuff. It was frustrating, but eventually we headed over to the mission home to make transfer calls. It was way fun (transfer calls are always way fun). It’s always weird though, because other missionaries are super anxious and jittery about it. It’s weird when you know everything about it for a couple weeks beforehand. Transfer calls definitely loses it’s preliminary excitement and magic when you're in the office. They're super fun to make though. 

Monday:  This day was filled with a million different tasks (well all the days this week were). We had to finalize all the logistics for the people traveling the remainder of the week. We had so many logistics prepared for this last week it was insane. I think it was like 20 pages of logistics or something crazy like that. SO MUCH PLANNING. So we finalized all those, finalized meeting agendas for the 3 big training meetings for the week, and so on.

Tuesday: Tuesday was the day that people actually started having to come down from the khets. It was really only zone leaders and sister training leaders from the khets who came down Tuesday for MLC on Wednesday. They came down in the evening. Elder Beacco came down from Kampong Cham to go and be zone leaders in North Zone with Elder Uhi, replacing Elder Elieson there. So when he got to the mission home around 4:30 we threw him and all his bags into the car and ran over to Pochentong, where we dropped him off and picked up Elder Elieson and grabbed him and all of his stuff and brought him over to Chaktomuk! We immediately started filling him in on the details of Wednesday, which would be crazy packed with meetings and stuff, and he would be giving some of the training in those meetings right off the bat. Thrown right into the fire. We also bought like 35 bus tickets for the next few days for people heading off to the khets. Buying bus tickets is always crazy. Gotta force your way up to the ticket counter sometimes.

Wednesday: Craziness. Wednesday morning we had Mission Leadership Council from 8-12pm in the conference room in the Service Center. It was a really great MLC. We got some great issues out on the board which were discussed at length and we got some pretty good resolutions. Elder Elieson and I and the Senior Training Sisters and President and Sister Christensen will decide on the best ones to apply at a mission-wide level. Most of the issues we discussed related to recent convert retention. That's really a big focus for us here. We have about 13,000 members but only about 2,700 attending church any given week. So that's a really big focus President Christensen has been making since he came here. Wednesday continued on with a million different problems and concerns being brought up by different missionaries (as is always wont to happen at transfer time). It was stressful but good. At 6:30 we headed off a leadership training meeting for all district, zone, and sister training leaders who would be serving in the khets without President and Sister Christensen being there, because they were picking up two trainees who arrived from the Philippines MTC that night (the trainees arrived in 3 different waves, which is just one factor in making the logistics crazy. 2 arrived Wednesday night, 15 arrived Thursday morning from Provo, and 3 more from the Philippines arrived Thursday night). They were able to make it to the meeting around 7:30ish. After that meeting ended we had to take a couple sets of sisters back to their homes in the van because it was past their curfew (The meeting went late). Eventually we made it home though.

Thursday: Arguably the most stressful busy day of all. Super fun though. Transfers for all normal missionaries happened that morning at 7:30. We didn't have time to take those missionaries to the bus station, because we were in the Train the Trainers meeting, so the office elders were the shuttle drivers for that. The Train the Trainers meeting was good. Makes me think back on all the good times training. Training really is the greatest thing you can do as a missionary, in my opinion. It is so much fun, and you can have a huge last impact on a missionary's whole mission. I was honestly a bit jealous of Elder Eppley, who is getting to train in this group! But it’s ok, hopefully I'll get to train again sometime!

At 9:45am we drove out to the airport in a caravan, Elder Elieson and I driving the big 13 passenger white van, the office elders taking our standard silver van (to carry all the luggage in) and President and Sister Christensen in the Prado. It’s super fun picking up new trainees! They start walking down the walkway that leads to the arrivals pickup place and they get so excited to see us at the end of it! I remember thinking "Wow real Cambodian missionaries!" when I made that walk myself, haha. We loaded up most of the trainees into our white van and then we were off, dropping them off at 4 different contacting locations: Psaa Thmei, Psaa Orusey, Olympic Stadium, and Independence Monument. They met their new trainers at those locations and then contacted for a couple hours and ate lunch as well. Then we either went and picked them back up, or they rode tuk-tuks back to the mission home in time for their assigned interview. Then those going to the khets (who weren't still waiting on trainees coming from the Philippines) got taken to the bus station by us, in a few frantic races against time, but we did get them all there on time thankfully.

Right after we took those missionaries to the buses we headed back to the airport to pick up the 5 missionaries who still needed to come in from the Philippines (3 new missionaries, and 2 missionaries who have already been serving for about 6 months). Their trainers came to pick them up with us. It’s always so much fun picking up people from the airport. Then we hauled them all back to the mission home and ate dinner with each other and then went home, very tired.

Friday: Started off the day by driving the remaining missionaries who had to go to the khets to th bus station. Then we had to drive around the dying missionaries, Elder Kim and Elder Duffy, to a couple locations for dying-missionary stuff.There was a lot of updating records and spreadsheets on Friday to keep it up-to-date with all the changes from transfers. Friday evening we helped translate for Elder Kim's family at the dying missionary devotional. Later that night Elder Duffy thought he would meet his parents (they were scheduled to come in). Well their plane was delayed to Saturday night. Story to be continued...

Saturday: Our p-day. Or so you would think. But from 9 to 1pm we were at zone training meeting for south zone. Normally they're on Wednesday but this one had to get pushed back because of the transfer madness. It was a great meeting. Elder Kim, my former companion, is our zone leader, so it’s super fun. So we didn't get back to the mission home till about 3 o’clock, which is why I'm having to finish this email on Monday. So Saturday evening Elder Duffy's parents were supposed to come in. Since President was in Kampong Cham for district conference, Elder Elieson and I got the job of taking Elder Duffy to the airport! So after making our nightly call-ins at 9:00pm, we had to sit around for a couple hours and then head over to the airport (they were scheduled to land at 11:15). Elder Elieson had just gotten his Cambodian license in that morning so we made him learn how to drive stick on the way to the airport. He learned way fast! He's already a pro. But anyway, we took him to the airport and see that the plane is ahead of schedule on the arrivals/departures board. But then a couple minutes later a big green "DELAYED" popped up next to it. So at this point it’s about 11:30pm. We go up to the information desk and we ask the lady what the deal was. She said that the flight came in, landed, and immediately flew away. We asked her where in the heck it flew off to. Her reply: "Syria". Haha, ummm... All three of us were like "Syria? Really. Syria?!" She was like yeah Syria, it came, and then immediately took back off for Syria. "Did they give a reason?!" "No, no reason. We won't be able to get any information until they land." Hmmmm, so we walk over to a bench, sitting, extremely confused. At this point it’s 12:30am. After about half an hour we think, surely all three of us must have misunderstood her. There's no way that she actually said Syria. So we go back, ask again, and she gives us the same answer. We continue asking her, because thats not plausible at all, and then she got flustered and was like, without even looking at the computer or anything, "It's canceled it’s canceled, it won't be coming in." Haha what?! She was just flat-out lying to us. I'm still so confused what her beef was with us. Such a weird situation. Eventually we find an airport employee who comes out and announces to us that the flight will probably be leaving China the next day at 2pm and arrive there at 6pm. So we left. I drove back and believe me, there is nothing as fun as driving a stick-shift 10 passenger van through Phnom Penh at 1:30 in the morning when NO ONE is out. It was a blast. We ended up going to bed at 2:00am.

Sunday:  Wake up at 5:30 after 3.5 hours of sleep. My head felt like I was getting kicked in the back of the forehead, to use a phrase of Elder Elieson's. Elder Duffy went with us to church. We came back home, studied, planned, and took Elder Duffy back to the airport for the time which we were informed his parents would arrive. We get there, and they tell us that their plane arrived an hour and a half before then! What the heck... We had no way to communicate with his parents either. It was super frustrating. It made us wonder how in the world people got things done in the age before cell-phones. I mean I was alive back then, but I was a kid with nothing important for me to get done. So I'm glad I live in this time haha. But eventually Elder Duffy just decides to try and call his parents numbers which he has memorized. After a couple of attempts of entering the correct international country code he gets it to go through but there is no answer. So we decide to just drive back home and then we could take him back to the airport that night (because thats when a flight from Shanghai was scheduled to come in). But when we were driving back our phone rings with the 801 number that Elder Duffy called and it was his dad, who told him that they had just arrived at their hotel, so we drove him over there with his stuff and dropped him off. It was super fun having Elder Duffy hang out with us those last few days. Him and I have become good friends in our missions, from doing exchanges with each other and serving around and with each other a lot, whether through him being in the office or me. 

So that was that. Now we are back to normal. Today is everyone else's p-day, so we've got to do the typical p-day activities, which usually consist of trying and resolving missionaries problems that had come up in the last week. We're about to head out and purchase 5 brand new bikes.

Well I love y’all. Life is good! The mission really is the most fun thing I could imagine for anyone. Such a blast! Have a great week!

Love Elder Burger

Saturday, September 5, 2015

from the smallest alleyways in Phnom Penh, to the rice-field villages in Kampong Cham

A compound of people who collect recycling. They are basically the lowest level of society here in Cambodia. A lot of the time they live in collective compounds, where they pool their collections and get a shared wage. I've taught people in quite a few of these compounds over the last year.

Just got in this morning from Kampong Cham. That was a fun drive down because it was early morning so there really wasn't anyone on the road. That road is brand-new too, part of some huge government project, so it was super smooth to ride, which meant we could go fast. We averaged about 100 kph, which isn't really that fast compared to American freeways, but in Phnom Penh we average driving about 20 kph. Phnom Penh traffic is super slow and super aggressive, the exact opposite of America. 

Tuesday we had the opportunity to go and do exchanges in South Zone. I went with Elder Christensen and Elder Kim, who are the zone leaders for south zone. They are both the coolest! Elder Christensen is in my group (he's the one from my mission prep class before the mission) and obviously I was companions with Elder Kim back in Stung Mean Chey, and then we trained in the same ward as each other for another 3 months after that. Their area is doing great. We had the chance to meet with some great investigators. Both of those guys are hilarious and love to work hard and have fun while doing it.

Reunited with Elder Kim on exchange:) He's the South Zone leader

So yeah, we got up to Kampong Cham on Thursday night (by the way, as we were driving out of Phnom Penh there was this enormous rain storm. We basically boated out of the city. It was 2 feet deep everywhere we drove!) and then yesterday Elder Eppley and I did exchanges. Elder Eppley went with Elder Beacco and Slavens in 1st branch, and I went with the zone leaders, Elder Long and Um, in 3rd branch. It was such a blast! It was so cathartic to just go with 2 Khmae elders for 24 hours and do nothing but speak Khmae. Ahhhh, it felt so good. I just realized that it’s been like 9 months since I've served with a Khmae companion. Too long... I was thrilled to see how quickly the rust flaked off once I just got back into complete immersion. Those two elders are great. I've served around both of them at different times and was really excited to go and conduct an exchange with them. At the beginning of our exchange they were just like, get ready cuz tomorrow we're going to our far area, អណ្ដូងស្វាយ (Mango Well)! 

On exchange with the Kampong Cham Zone leaders, Elder Long and Elder Um

In that area there is like 40 less-active members because it’s an hour away from the church building and they are all dirt poor so they don't have anything to ride to church, and before members would arrange to bring them to church but since that has stopped these people kind of refuse to go. So there is a ton of work for missionaries to do out there, encouraging and helping lift these members back to the faith that they once had. There are just so many out there! So we rode out bikes out after lunch that day and stayed there until dark, going around with our member help teaching people, some up one hill, and others down on the other side of the hill, and then others still down little roads into the brush. Proselyting in the khets is a lot less stressful than in the city, that’s for sure. For most appointments in the city you need to have back-ups out the wazoo, because people will stand you up, or because their schedules are so inconsistent here that they're there one day and gone for the next week. But out in the khets, people are basically home all day, every day, so you can just show up and it’s almost a guarantee that they'll be there. The only trick with far areas like Andong Svaay is that you have to arrange for a member help to go with you out there! We had some amazing lessons with members out there. Each one was full of the Spirit as we taught and testified about faith or prayer or as we read in the Book of Mormon with them. 

Homes in Andong Svaay

We had one great experience where we had taught our last lesson in Andong Svaay and we were riding up this last dirt hill to get back to the main road and our member help stopped us and was like "Hey, there’s another member who lives just like 20 feet back that way. Do you think we should go visit them?" and of course Elder Long and Elder Um were like heck yes! So we turned around and turned off the dirt road to this stilted house (well all houses in Kampong Cham are stilted) where we talked with her for like 20 minutes. Haha, it was funny, because for the first 5 minutes we were just talking about eyeglass prescriptions and near-sightedness vs far-sightedness, but then after we talk-played (Khmae for chat) we got down into the heart of it. After asking a few questions trying to determine why she wasn't coming to church she was just like ":Look it’s because I'm lazy. That’s all there is to it! I have a moto, I don't work on Sunday, but I just don't go to church or accept the missionaries into my home because I'm lazy!" Then she went on to tell us that all those other less-actives who we had taught earlier that day were lying when they told us that this week they would make the effort to go out to church (which everyone who we had met sincerely told us).

Those sort of words always come out as daggers when a less-active says them. The only thing that we could do (because obviously this woman had already consigned herself to apathy, and reason doesn't usually work for resigned apathy) was to bear testimony. Elder Long and Elder Um just leapt into it so lovingly, but boldly as well, just teaching her about the love and patience the Savior has for her, and how faith unapplied is basically faith that doesn't exist. Even the biggest journeys start with one step, and God eagerly wants to help us make that first small step, and then the next one, and then the next one... It was amazing. One of those moments where I felt like the Spirit must have been glowing out of our eyes and mouths. One of those moments where you can feel the power and authority of our calling as humble servants sent from a loving Heavenly Father to minister to each of His children as individuals. I couldn't help but remember that verse in Alma, as we were riding away from there, that says, "seeing no way that [we] might reclaim them save it were in bearing down in pure testimony against them." I was just glad that I got to be there on that exchange so we could enjoy that moment together. Hopefully that woman's heart will be softened one day and she will return to the diligence she once had. 

A less-active we talked to yesterday shared some Khmer Rouge stories with us. It still amazes me every time hearing about them because I honestly kind of forget that it happened sometimes, because Cambodians kind of try to forget to. It’s just not openly talked about too often. But this woman was telling us how the Khmae Rouge force-marched her and her family out of her village when she was just a little girl, and they had to walk 80 kilos along the road. She said they would put whatever they could find on their feet for protection, since many of them didn't have shoes. If they stopped walking the soldiers would shoot them.

She also told us of her older brother, who tried to escape to Thailand via boat. The Khmer Rouge shot down the boat and all 70 people inside died, except for her brother. A car tire floated up through the wreckage and he grabbed onto it and then wave after wave after wave pounded him, all the way until he drifted near the Thai shore, where a boat picked him up. Now he works at an airport in Texas. I'm not sure which one, although I assume it’s the Houston one, since that’s where all the Khmae people in Texas live. Amazing story though. 

Well transfer calls are going to be going out tomorrow! This will be a big one, because we'll have 20 trainers! Super exciting ហ្មង់!

I love my mission so much! I love Cambodia! I love serving the Lord and I love seeing the marvelous work and a wonder that He is performing through His servants here, both missionary and member alike. This work is really spreading, both to the smallest alleyways in Phnom Penh, to rice-field villages in Kampong Cham. God truly knows all of His children.
អ៊ែលឌើរ បើុហ្គើរ

On exchange in Tuoltumpong. I thought the wooden boards were going to collapse and send us into the foot of trash underneath because they were so rotten. But we survived.