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

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