Monday, March 28, 2016

The Barber

Elder Slavens mounted the traffic barrier in the middle of the super busy road in front of the stake center to contact for English class. What a man!

Hey you guys. Can you believe General Conference is just two more weeks away??? (Well one more week for y’all). How does it come up so fast?? The best part about General Conference is that it's twice a year! Imagine having the World Cup or NBA Finals or March Madness or Super Bowl or Olympics twice a year! I still can't believe it's come around again.

This week was much of the same as last week. Lots of contacting. But at this point in my mission I really do love contacting, like I don't just ចេះតែថា, I'm serious. Contacting is fun! And it's really fun when you've got a great comp like Elder ខៀវ who loves to contact as well.

This morning we went to play soccer again. Us, Elder Kim, Elder Khiev the Younger, Elder Slavens, Elder Hunt, and some youth from Pochentong. It's so weird, today is Elder Kim's second-to-last pday. Haha, I can't believe he's dying already. 

I wanted to share a story from President Eng that he shared at ward conference a few weeks ago. I don't know if he got it from some general authority or if he made it up himself. I hope he made it up himself. Here it is: 

A man goes to get a haircut at the barber's. The barber and the man talk about their lives, and it comes up that the man getting the haircut is a Christian. The barber does not believe in God. He says, "How can you possibly believe in God? Look at the world around us. People suffering everyday, our society falling into moral decay... I can't believe there is a god because of the awful, awful things that happen in our world everyday." 

The man getting the haircut didn't know how to respond. What could he say that would be adequate to help this man to know for himself that God is real. Frustrated, he remained quiet in his chair, unable to come up with words good enough to share with the barber. When the barber was finished the man got out of the chair and left the shop. He walked outside and saw a man sitting on the sidewalk. The man was very unkempt, with dirty clothes, long matted hair, and a cigarette in his mouth. The first man ran back inside the barbershop. "There is no barber here!" he declared. The barber looked at him incredulously and said "Are you serious?! I'm the barber! I just cut your hair!" 

The man replied, "No surely there is no real barber here. If there was, there wouldn't be a man sitting right outside this shop with long unkempt hair!" The barber was beside himself. "Well what have I to do with that? He sits out there on that curb everyday! He's never come in my shop looking for a haircut! How can I help him if he doesn't come to me?" 

The man said, "Exactly. I know God is real.  Sometimes people look around at the situation around them and say 'Surely God isn't real. He doesn't exist. If he did, these problems wouldn't exist.' But God is real. He waits for us to go to Him so that he may help us. If we never looking for Him, we will never find out that He has been right there the whole time." 

I thought that was a way cool story. Just wanted to share that. This week was awesome. I got to go on an exchange with Elder Le Nguyen!! That's the first exchange I've ever been on with him! It was awesome being able to teach with him again. So weird that it's been over 22 months since we taught our first lesson with each other. We've come a long way since then, haha.

I love y’all! I hope y’all had a great Easter and a great general conference weekend! Please don't spoil it for me!

Love Elder Burger

Monday, March 21, 2016

Khmae Bikers

Here's our zone after zone training last week

Hey guys! Emailing y’all after another quick week. It was a hot one for sure! Elder Khiev and I still haven't found any investigators that have stuck and progressed, so we contact a lot. We've found a few people and we meet them once and they're super good, but then it’s really frustrating because they'll never pick up their phone again. We had a group of maybe 5 investigators and potential investigators that we called almost every day this week just trying to get in touch with one of them, and not a single one of them picked up a single time. It's frustrating when people seem so good in the first lesson and then never want to meet again. We've already dropped all the investigators who were here when we got here so we're really starting at ground zero.

This week we're going to try and really work through the active members so that we can see how fertile the referral ground is here. We ask for referrals from everyone we see including the members, but we have just been asking in passing. This week we selected a few active members who we think would be willing to invite friends/family to learn and we have planned some lessons about member missionary work to share with them to try and get some referrals going. One of the lessons we're planning on teaching comes from a video they presented in the worldwide missionary broadcast they had all the missionaries around the world watch about a month ago. Did I ever tell you about that broadcast? It was amazing. First one of its kind they've done in over 10 years. The video shows how easy it is to share the gospel through both word and deed. It really isn't a big deal that we have to get stressed about. It can be done so naturally.

This week I went on two exchanges. First one was on Friday with the assistants. I stayed in Tuol Kouk with Elder Asay. He's a living legend and it was way fun to finally spend a day proselyting with him and learning from the way he does missionary work. It was also good being with him because he used to serve in Tuol Kouk not too long ago, so we were able to meet with a couple less-actives that he is close with so that he could encourage them to come back. Elder Khiev went with Elder Christensen in Chaktomuk.

We went straight from ending that exchange Friday night to starting another one. I went to Pochentong with Elder Khiev (no not my regular companion. Yes there is another Elder Khiev in our zone. Yes he is also from Kampong Cham just like my companion. Yes, all the khmaes think that's just hilarious.) Elder Khiev is Elder Kim's kid whom he's training right now. It was way fun going back to Pochentong for another exchange. That was my third or fourth exchange I've done there. It was so fun serving there with Elder Khiev the Younger. I figured out sometime the middle of our exchange that he is the youngest missionary I have ever spent a day of proselyting with ever. That includes the people I was comps with when they were fresh from the MTC. It's because if Elder Khiev went to the MTC for 9 weeks he'd only be in week 5 or week 6 in the MTC right now, but since he's khmae they only go to the MTC for a week and half. Pretty cool. 

The elders in our zone riding to Burger King after zone training. Starring, from left to right: Elder Khiev the Elder, Elder Riches, some maniac, Elder Mathers, Elder Paramore, Elder Cravens, Elder Kim, Elder Le Nguyen, and Elder Khiev the Younger

Yesterday at church I had a way cool experience. I stood up after the closing prayer in sacrament meeting and in the back row, sitting next to a member who knows a ton of English, was a big, super athletic looking African. The member called me over and I started talking to him. He was so cool! He's a professional footballer here in Phnom Penh. He comes from Cameroon and he's been here for a couple years. He came because he felt that he needed to come back and find Christ. He asked whether this was a Catholic or a Presbyterian church and I told him it was neither. I got his information and told him about the international branch and offered to translate for him if he wanted to stay for another hour. He said he'd love to and so I translated for him during a great Sunday School lesson. After the closing prayer he immediately said to me in his deep velvety voice "Wow! That was powerful. That's food for the soul."  Haha, . . . ahh man so cool. Hopefully the office elders teach him here in the next couple days.

Haha, breaking news right now: Elder Khiev is currently taking the opportunity to give a play-by-play explanation of all the Bible videos on to the lookpuu sitting next to him, who has been creepily leaning on his armchair watching him email this whole time. How's that for clutch? Haha

Hey by the way through a turn of events I lost my suit I had cut when I was in the office. Elder Mias, a khmae elder, who went to England a couple weeks ago found this suit in his wardrobe (the same wardrobe where I had hung up my suit while sleeping on the floor of his and Elder Slaven's apartment). He thought it was an old elder’s who had left it there.  Elder Mias would always walk out and model it for us. My mind was so wrapped up in whitewashing and not having an apartment of my own that it never crossed my mind that it was my suit. Then he left to England wearing it, haha. I guess it’s good that he has it. He's poor and only had one suit, and he’s going to have to be wearing one every day in England anyway, so he might as well have two. Haha, bit crazy. But could I cut another suit? I've only cut the one, I think before I was telling you I'd cut two, but I'll just cut one more and call it good.

This week was the only week of my mission that I can remember not having taught a single investigator lesson... That was a tough tough pill to swallow last night. But it's ok. This is the Lord's work and Elder Khiev and I are doing everything we can and the Lord will guide us to those He is preparing in this area. I know that’s true. All we can do is continue working our hearts out and repenting and overcoming our personal weaknesses, so that we can continue to become purer and purer vessels for the Spirit, who is the real teacher. Man I love the mission. Could anything be harder? Could anything be better? Not at this point in life. No. The mission means everything to me. People tell me that it ends someday, but I don't know if I believe them. It doesn't feel like it will. And I hope it continues to feel like that. I don't want it to sink in that I have to go back to America someday.

Love Elder Burger

Monday, March 14, 2016

Sweet Reunion

Ran into my boys Tol and Vween when Elder Khiev and I went to the church building to teach a new investigator. They were there at a hugeeeeee YSA activity they were doing! I was so pumped when I saw them, I ran up and almost tackled them! 

The weeks are blurring together at a horrifying speed. I can't believe it's already p-day again. This last week was a crazy blur. During the day when we don't have any else we have to do, like English class or zone training, we are mostly just out on the streets contacting motodopes. There's a lot of houses in Tuol Kouk, but they are mostly palaces with enormous gates around them (and usually nobody living in them, because they are mostly owned by foreigners, and if they're owned by Cambodians those people have like four houses, so...) The people we contact are mostly motodopes and tuk-tuk drivers and guards. They mostly don't live in Tuol Kouk too, haha. But we're happy to find investigators for other people! We give out a lot of referrals. We've found a couple new investigators too! Unfortunately one is going to move to Kampong Cham this week, but that's ok. There are more prepared people in this area whom we have yet to find!

One of the villas of Tuol Kouk. This is out of our bedroom window. It's a big one, but some of the other villas in our area make this one look like a fish-tank accessory

Being out on the street for most of the day is very hot, but I love it. When it's blazing hot, it makes missionary work that much more fulfilling. You just feel good. And it makes for some good deep sleep come 9:30pm. "The sleep of a laboring man is sweet" as that Bible verse goes.

With Lee as well, a recent convert of Elder Kim and Elder Allred's that I knew really well in Steung Mean Chey!

Tuesday they had an enormous Young Single Adult (YSA) activity at the North stake center. YSA from all of Cambodia were invited. They had hundreds of people there. Apparently they're doing it again in May, and are going to do it even bigger. I have no idea how they're going to manage that, but I'm sure they'll find a way. When Elder Khiev and I pulled up at 6 to meet a new investigator from English class, whose name is Sopheak, I ran into Tol, Vween, and Ponlok, three of my RC's from Steung Mean Chey! 

Me and Ponlok

Ponlok was an investigator that Elder Osborne and I found and started teaching in Stung Mean Chey. But I had to leave after just a few weeks of teaching him. He got baptized a few weeks after I left. Now he is engaged to the member that he was dating back then! And he is doing so well!! Before he was kind of shy, but as I was talking with Vween and Tol he runs up and he was like "Elder Berger!". Now he's way good friends with Vween and Tol. I got to talk with them for about 10 minutes after our lesson with an investigator. Ahhh man, it was one of the happiest moments of my mission, just talking with them and seeing how much they love the gospel and how much they have embraced it. I was on cloud nine for a few days after seeing them. There's nothing that can match the joy of being an instrument in the hands of God to help assist in bringing some of His children to repentance. Ahhhh!!! So happy. I love the mission.

I can't even describe the feeling of joy that comes as you watch people become converted to the true, restored gospel of Jesus Christ. The words of Ammon always ring so strong as I think about the miracles I have seen the Lord do in these two years. Here he quotes the words of the Lord:

5 Behold, the field was ripe, and blessed are ye, for ye did thrust in the sickle, and did reap with your might, yea, all the day long did ye labor; and behold the number of your sheaves! And they shall be gathered into the garners, that they are not wasted.

6 Yea, they shall not be beaten down by the storm at the last day; yea, neither shall they be harrowed up by the whirlwinds; but when the storm cometh they shall be gathered together in their place, that the storm cannot penetrate to them; yea, neither shall they be driven with fierce winds whithersoever the enemy listeth to carry them.
7 But behold, they are in the hands of the Lord of the harvest, and they are his; and he will raise them up at the last day.

8 Blessed be the name of our God; let us sing to his praise, yea, let us give thanks to his holy name, for he doth work righteousness forever."
It is so comforting to know that the people who I have been privileged to meet with and invite to come unto Christ are not "my" recent converts, as the terminology we so commonly use puts it. Really, they are the Lord's, and He loves them infinitely more than I do, even though I love them with all my heart. He will take care of them. That knowledge has soothed my heart so many times as I have stressed over those people. I know that the Lord will always tend to his children.  Alma 26:5-8

Friday we had zone training. It was awesome. Elder Khiev and I had been studying and praying since we got to North zone, asking God what we should share to the zone. It was cool as we came together to discuss zone training with each other and we had each independently felt prompted that chapter one and chapter 6 in Preach My Gospel should be the topics that we train on. I felt the Spirit so strongly as the missionaries in our zone discussed with each other about these chapters. We have such a wonderful zone, full of spiritual giants. It was Elder Kim's last zone training meeting too (how weird is that?) so we had him bear his testimony at the end. Ahh man, that almost sent me over the edge. I'm convinced that Elder Khiev and Elder Kim both will be stake presidents here in a few years. Elder Kim's testimony was so awesome. He testified how the mission is a preparatory experience for Khmaes, to come out and be tempered and be made instruments in the hands of the Lord, so that all the returned missionaries in Cambodia could become the foundation on which the Church in Cambodia rests. It was awesome. It was also the first zone training I've ever been to where it was all done in Khmae, no English at all. Our zone is like 60% Khmae, so it just made it a lot easier to do it that way instead of having someone translate.

Sunday was ward conference. The stake presidency taught for second and third hour. Oh my word, I never wanted it to end. President Eng, President Boot, and President Meng are foreordained. No doubt about it. They are insanely good. Like I can't even describe it. The meeting was so good. Just what the members needed. They trained about keeping the Sabbath day holy (which is a lot more than just going to church) and what the difference between a saint and a member is and the difference between a testimony and conversion.

This week was full of spiritual highs. I'm loving serving with Elder Khiev. We just moved into our own apartment this week, so we don't have to crash on the floor of the other elder's apartment. We're still in the same building, but now we have an apartment all to ourselves. It's pretty sweet. We each have our own bathroom. Elder Khiev makes us 3 square meals a day. Life is good. Can't complain about anything.

Love y’all!

Elder Burger

Watch out for the hand cleaning solution at Burger King. Satan will use any means he can to get us...

Monday, March 7, 2016

The Week of a Missionary

This is jackfruit. It's like eating candy, it's that good. It's probably my favorite fruit in Cambodia

Hey guys! Man, it was a quick week! Elder Khiev and I are having a great time together whitewashing in Tuol Kouk. We get less and less lost every day. Now it's not so much us getting lost, as us not knowing the fastest routes to places, so sometimes we ending up taking a road somewhere that is three times as long as another route we could have taken. Kind of frustrating at times, but the key to learning a new area is definitely just not taking yourself too seriously. So Elder Khiev and I just laugh at our mistakes and move on. I think we'd go crazy if we didn't, haha. So much to have to remember and take care of!

The ward is awesome. Yesterday we had 85 people! I am the ward pianist again, as I have been in every single unit I've ever served in in my mission. Thanks mom for making me practice all those years...

So here is how last week played out:

Monday: went around Chaktomuk a bit, rolling with Elder Kim and his kid, Elder Khiev, Elder Meas, and Elder Slavens. Didn't do too much. Pretty chill. In the evening went to meet with our recent converts (the Elders only have two in this ward. Most of the recent converts in Tuol Kouk are women)

Tuesday: District meeting in the morning. Elder Slavens is a great district leader. Its way fun, because its six Khmaes and two Americans, so we just hold district meeting in Khmae. Afterwards, we had an appointment with the former district president to show us the houses of some less-actives the elders might not know. Met some great people and got return appointments to go back and meet with them.

Wednesday: Lots of contacting (we are contacting a lot everyday. Not a ton of people to teach yet).  Wednesday evening was English class. I teach the Advanced class. I LOVE teaching advanced class. I haven't gotten to do that in over a year (ever since I taught it in Stung Mean Chey with Elder Bostrom). Super fun not having to speak one-one all the time (speaking word by word super clearly). The advanced class students at north stake are probably the best in the whole country, because of the North Stake Center's placement right across from Royal Phnom Penh University.

Thursday: Weekly planning. A bit easier to do than it was last week. Improvement! We actually know most people now in the area book/CBR book.

Friday: MLC. It was a way productive one. Fun to be a part of it again. It's so cool seeing Elder Uhi and Elder Osborne in there too (they've been zone leaders for a lot longer than I have actually, haha)! Elder Khiev and I presented our vision/goals/expectations for our zone. Since our zone is so small we're really gonna focus a lot on chapter 1 and chapter 6 in Preach My Gospel to ensure everyone understands what being a missionary and an instrument in the hands of God really means. We're going to talk a lot about where the desire/motivation/power/authority/ability in missionary work comes on. We'll be doing all that in zone training this coming Friday the 11th

Saturday: Lots of contacting, trying to find those whom God has prepared in this area. We know they're out there! We've been getting return appointments, and we've gotten a couple new investigators, so we know we are being guided by the Spirit. God will definitely help us, but only if we put in the effort and sweat on our part. We also had a meeting with the stake presidency. All the district leaders and their companions and the sister training leader and her companion and Elder Khiev and I met with them in the high council room. (Its way cool being able to serve around President Lum Ang again! I don't know if y’all remember him, I knew him really well in my training. He's the first counselor in the stake presidency. He's also assigned to look over Tuol Kouk ward, so I'll be seeing him a lot!) They asked us how the priesthood leadership at the ward and stake level could better help missionary work to progress. It was a way cool meeting. President Eng is one of the biggest spiritual giants I've ever known in real life. Keep your eyes out for him being the first general authority from Cambodia. At the end we helped them plan a big open house they want to do for the north stake center, to help find new investigators and to help the community understand our Church and it's members better. It'll be on the 30th of April. It's going to be so awesome! More planning for that will be happening in the next few weeks.

Sunday: Church. We had lots and lots of people. There's several returned missionaries in the ward, which is a great asset. We're going to have ward conference next Sunday. I'm so pumped!

I'm loving serving with Elder Khiev. He is a master teacher and contactor. He relates with people so easily, and just gets how Khmae people think, what their hesitation might be in not wanting to learn, and he can address with them right there. Such a great companion to have. He's hilarious too, which is a good de-stresser.

That's all I've got. I met a guy from New Zealand this week by the way dad! Down some random alley. He had one of the hairiest chests I've ever seen in my life. Looked like he glued a bag of cottonballs to his chest. He was nice till I brought up how we were representatives of Jesus Christ, and then he said "yeah yeah" and said a word I've had the privilege of not hearing in almost 2 years. Haha, ohhhh people. Gotta love ‘em.

Well I hope y’all have great weeks! Have fun! Stay safe!

Love Elder Burger