Monday, April 25, 2016

The sun never sets on the Army of the Lord

Hey guys! Hope all of y’alls weeks went well. My week was pretty good. We're still working as hard as we possibly can, trying our best to follow what the Spirit tell us to do to help this area progress. The problem is that practically the only people we ever can contact are motodopes and guards. All the motodopes live in different areas and all the guards guard at their locations 24/7. They literally work 24/7. They let us come back and teach them but its so hard to help progress or get anywhere. The good people we've taught have dropped us and don't want to meet anymore. But that’s ok, sometimes that’s the way it goes. People have their agency. This week we did get a ton of referrals, which we believe is a direct relation to the contacting we've been doing. Though our contacting hasn't been turning out new investigators like we want it to, it shows our desire to help the area grow to Heavenly Father. I've seen time and time again on my mission that the more effort you put into contacting, the more referrals you magically receive from members and other missionaries.

Drink Cart

It's way fun being with Elder Khiev and Elder Try. Those guys are a walking comedy routine. I die laughing everyday at their back-and-forth dialogue. They tease each other nonstop.

I feel so much gratitude for Heavenly Father helping me learn Khmae. It's so so so weird to me thinking that just 2 short years ago I didn't know a lick. And now, because of God's mercy, I'm fluent and can express myself however I want in Khmae. Isn't God amazing? He doesn't choose the learned and wise and mighty to be His missionaries, He chooses 20 year-olds! He doesn't pick exclusively Harvard Linguistics Ph. D. candidates, He picks run-of-the-mill kids, and they become so fluent in their respective languages at such a speed that institutions around the world ask the Church what in the world they are doing to teach us these languages. I'll give first-hand testimony that it has very little to do with the curriculum at the MTC, where we are taught our languages from 6-9 weeks. It has everything to do with God and the gift of tongues, which He wants to grant to all those who ask for it sincerely and with worthiness. 

I always love the question that the people of Ammonihah sardonically ask as Alma preaches:

"Who is God, that sendeth no more authority than one man among this people, to declare unto them the truth of such great and marvelous things?"

Don't the people of the world nowadays ask somewhat of the same thing. "Who is God, that sendeth no more authority than [twenty year-olds] among this people, to declare unto them the truth of such great and marvelous things?"

A wonderful God! A powerful God! A God who knows that His work is true and that it will fill the earth. A God who uses weak and simple instruments to show that He is the source of this power, that He is the source of this success! All He requires of us weak and simple servants is a desire to serve Him, and then He calls us to the work. He says "sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you." I think the prophecy from D&C is being fulfilled before our eyes: "First let my army become very great, and let it be sanctified before me that it may become fair as the sun, and clear as the moon." How cool is it that the sun never sets on the army of the Lord, which goes forth preaching His gospel in nations throughout the earth, declaring that God lives and His truth is restored! This gospel is true. The Atonement of Jesus Christ is real. It can sanctify all of us if we'll let it.

Love Elder Burger

Elder Kim went home a couple of weeks ago

I'm so full

Missionaries descending on Burger King

Monday, April 18, 2016

Friends, food and testimony

Me and my friend Puu Mongkol

YES KHMAE NEW YEAR IS OVER!!! Oh thank goodness. To be completely honest, it's the worst. But now people have returned back to Phnom Penh, it is past and all is well. "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away."

The events that President scheduled made it a little better. Tuesday was cleaning day, but we cleaned our apartment real fast so we got back out on the streets proselyting for the last day that we could before Khmae New Year hit in all its glory on Wednesday. 
Wednesday we had a wonderful zone conference with President and Sister Christensen. It was awesome. Focused a lot on how we can better use the Book of Mormon.

On Wednesday Elder Khiev and I also got a new companion! We're now in a threesome. Our new companion is Elder ទ្រី (kinda like tree, but roll the r). He's transferring from Prey Cho! It's been a blast so far serving as a threesome. It's not quite as difficult and awkward as I thought it would be. Threesomes have always seemed like it would be so much harder to proselyte with, but it hasn't been bad. We’re always laughing and having a good time. A sense of humor is a good thing to have in Tuol Kouk.

Thursday we had a city-wide lunch at the Tonle Bassac buffet. Chowed down for a couple hours. It's so fun chatting with everyone about how their areas are going and how life is going for them. Always reassuring to know that we're all going through the same experiences and can completely empathize with each other. We get each other's jokes and stories. It's going to be terrible going back home not being surrounded by people who can perfectly understand what my mission was like. Words can't properly describe what it’s like to serve a mission.

President & Sister Christensen at the buffet lunch

This last week we got two more new investigators! We're finding people, slowly but surely. The trick in Tuol Kouk is to get them to progress. Khmae New Year was a big big stumbling block, because everyone drops off the face of the map for a week. So we'll see how our investigators are doing this week. What's hard about getting people to progress in Tuol Kouk is that almost all our investigators are guards, and guards have the most insane work schedules, and they change work locations all the time. We had a cool experience with this guard named Saran the other day though. Elder Khiev and I had contacted him before Khmae New Year. He said he'd still be in Phnom Penh guarding and so we asked if we could come back Wednesday night and teach him about Jesus Christ. He said sure. So we went back, and at this point we had Elder Try with us too, and we sat down with him, and almost immediately he laid out his need right in front of us! It's not always that easy to see what people's needs are. He said "I read that pamphlet you gave me. As I looked at the pictures of happy families I started shedding tears. I just separated from my wife 3 months ago. I've been wondering what I can do to help bring my family back together." We were pretty blown away. That's as obvious of a need as any. So we taught and testified of the reality of eternal families, and our Father's plan to help our families find happiness. We've taught him twice now. We're going back tonight, although it may be harder to meet with him now that Khmae New Year is over and he is back on active guarding duty.

Yesterday I had such a cool miracle happen! It was 10:30am and we were contacting for a couple hours before lunch. I felt like turning left down one street and we did and we see a guy sitting on his moto about 50 meters away and we bike over to him and as we get close he takes off his sunglasses and says "Elder Burger! Do you remember me?!" I instantly saw that it was Bot, a less-active guy from Pochentong whom I used to go and teach with Elder Johnson all the time in my training! It was so neat to run into him. He's doing good now, he's kinda sorta dating a returned sister missionary who served in England who is in his ward.

Me and my friend Bot

I don't know if y’all remember a couple weeks ago me meeting Puu Mongkol, an investigator from my training. But I kid you not, as I was still talking to Bot, I thought "Man, what if I met Puu Mongkol again right now? Haha, that'd be crazy." I don't know why I thought that, but seriously, not even 30 seconds after I had that thought, a man comes pedaling by on a teeny little bike. It was Puu Mongkol!!! I was still talking with Bot! We started talking with Puu Mongkol as well. Oh my word, miracles happen so often in the mission! So many tender mercies occur, which sometimes don't seem to have any great lasting significance, but are just tender reminders from Heavenly Father that He lives and that He is always lovingly aware of me.

It was really weird at zone conference, because President had the finishing missionaries get up and bare their testimonies. I've watched people do that my whole mission, and have always loved that part of zone conferences. It was really odd to be on the other side. It still hasn't sunk in that my mission will end, even though people constantly tell me it will. President had called the night before and asked me to bear my testimony on how I came to know that Book of Mormon was true. That's something that I've been thinking a lot about this last week. I really think I began to believe in the Book of Mormon as a little kid, dressing up for Family home Evening and acting out the stories. But I remember so clearly when I was nine, I wanted to know if it was true. I decided I wanted to read the Book of Mormon from start to finish. So I did. I remember the night I finished it. I got down on my knees at the base of my bunkbed and I asked, with the innocence of a 9 year old, "Is this really true?" I remember so vividly the feeling of peace and warmth that instantly washed over me. It filled my whole body. I remember that feeling so clearly that I tear up almost every time I recall it, and I feel it again and again every time I study from the scriptures. I remember I ended my prayer and got up from my knees and ran to Mom and Dad and said "I prayed! I know the Book of Mormon is true!". Then I ran back to my room. As I entered back in I remember Maddie getting up from her bed and asking what the fuss was about. I told "I know the Book of Mormon is true." The next morning I remember Dad took me out for tacos as a reward. To this day I can't exactly remember what sort of tacos I got or what they tasted like, but I do remember what the Holy Ghost felt like, as He confirmed to me the truthfulness of the book. Since then my entire testimony has always rested on it. I have occasionally had doubts about Joseph Smith and the Church and even if God really is out there, but I have never doubted the Book of Mormon. Every doubt I've ever had just bounces off it. Because I know the Book of Mormon is true I know that all I have been taught in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true too. That brings real peace.

I love y’all!

Love Elder Burger

Is this what y'alls Elders' quorum meeting whiteboard looked like after 3rd hour last week?
The view outside the cultural hall windows at the North Stake Center

Monday, April 11, 2016

Tomorrow the Lord Will Do Wonders Among You

Ming Phen and Leak and Leap were baptized 2 weeks after I left Prey Cho (they got interviewed like 2 days after I left)!! Just got the pics. Man it makes me so happy seeing them be baptized.

Wow, General Conference!  Isn't it the coolest?!! I can never believe it when it's over. It's like, did I really just watch ten hours of that? It goes by wayyyy too fast. I had so many favorite talks. I think if I had to pick a couple it'd be Elder Holland’s (that can just go unsaid) and Elder Hallstrom's. I got chills as he talked about the saints in Liberia. I think my favorite moment though was when President Uchtdorf got up and announced the music and final speaker after Elder Kearon's talk about the refugee crisis. I've watched President Uchtdorf for more than 10 years now and I've never seen him cry. That was moving.

Man such a feast. How can you not be uplifted as you listen to it? I liked Elder Holland's talk so much because it reflected something that had really become a concern of mine as we kept leaving the church building after sessions. I mean like Saturday evening we left after having watched 3 inspiring sessions of conference and as we go to try and teach someone, we re-enter into a world of filth and sin. On our 10 minute bike ride to our appointment we rode past literally hundreds of drunk people and prostitutes, using horrible language, blaring discordant Khmae techno music... It was like plunging into a filthy ice bath. I thought "how can I keep such a feeling of spiritual enlightenment when this world I live in is so ignorant and blind to the true road of God?!" Elder Holland's talk was an answer to prayer. 

This next week is going to be an interesting one. I say that with clenched teeth, haha. Khmae New Year begins Wednesday, which means no one is going to be in Phnom Penh at all. Tons of people have already left to their provinces and Tuesday the great exodus will occur. Thankfully President scheduled as many possible events he could this week to help us out. So Tuesday we have a "don't-leave-your-house-till-its-spotless" cleaning day, Wednesday is zone conference, and Thursday we have a luncheon at a buffet with everyone else in the city. It's still going to be rough though... But it's okay, being with Elder Khiev makes things easy.

Elder Khiev is the coolest. He's a walking Liahona story. This is his story. He was born and raised on a small farm in the backwoods of rural Cambodia. His dad abandoned him and his mom when he was a few months old. He's only met his dad once in his life. His mom and him and his two older siblings lived in a very small bamboo and palm-leaf shack. That's what he lived in his whole life. When he was 19 he moved to the capital city of Kampong Cham to go to college. He lived with his aunt, who was a member of the church, who eventually convinced him to repent and be baptized (that aunt now lives in Salt Lake). That was 5 years ago. In the time since then he went through a period of inactivity (when his aunt moved to America) for a few months, then came back with a bang, and became the legendary District Young Men's President of Kampong Cham. They still talk about how great he was over there. Now he's 25, graduated from college, and he's been on his mission for over a year. He's a spiritual fireball. He came out on his mission to work hard and he's bent on doing just that, all day, every day for as long as he's wearing a missionary badge. He's also just about the biggest khmae ever. He's about 6 feet tall. People always ask him what he ate as a kid to make him so big, haha.

Man I love the mission. I loved something Elder Stevenson said at conference. It highlighted something I've been thinking about off and on my whole mission. As a youth I thought that the gathering of Israel was an event that would be immediately precedent to Armageddon and the Second Coming of the Savior. It is not. On my mission I have come to know, with increasing clarity, that the gathering of Israel has been happening for a long, long time now.  It begun in the year 1836, when the great Hebrew prophet Moses appeared to Joseph Smith to bestow upon him the priesthood keys of the gathering of Israel. All missionaries across the earth today proclaim the gospel with power and authority, which comes directly from those same priesthood keys, which are held and exercised today by our prophet Thomas S. Monson. It is our sacred privilege and mandate as the youth of Zion to be the hope of Israel – to have an active part in preparing the vineyard of the Lord for the great harvest of souls. This isn't some humanitarian mission trip, to provide temporary relief to the people of the earth (although those are extremely necessary too). This is two years where we are called by God to go forth and help His divine children remember why they came to this earth in the first place. We as twenty year-old missionaries have an active role in helping people receive eternal salvation. How could anything be cooler? 

Ming Phen, Leak and Leap on their baptism day.  This picture makes me so happy!

That kind of relates to something a member of the Seventy said during one of my first weeks in the MTC that I've always liked and remembered. It's that we are called as missionaries, and assigned to our missions. I was not called to serve in Cambodia, although that is a common phrase people (including me) often use. I was called to represent Jesus Christ and to invite others to come unto Him by receiving His restored gospel. I was assigned to do that here in Cambodia. But man, how much do I love both my calling and assignment. Both were made by God to me. I have a sincere testimony of that.

I hope everything goes well this week. Good luck with finals Maddie! Love yall!

Love Elder Burger

"Our battlefield" as Elder Khiev always says. I don't know if you can see the dog hiding in the debris or not, but it literally tries to murder us every time we walk into this house. It's the house of a blind active member we go and visit once a week. One time I tried to sneak past the dog into the house and as I passed it I turned around and walked backwards so I was still facing it, then my water bottle slipped out of my backpack and hit my leg and I freaked, because I thought the other dog had just leaped and got me from behind. Elder Khiev was laughing so hard, he couldn't keep it in the whole lesson. He was shaking with silent giggles the whole time. It's ok, Puu Hua had no idea. 

Whats upppp??!!  From me and Elder Paramore's exchange last week

Monday, April 4, 2016

The beginning of the end

Another great week in Tuol Kouk – and another astonishingly fast one at that. Way too fast! It's flying by and I don't know what to do with myself. Transfer calls were last night. I will be remaining with Elder Khiev in Tuol Kouk! Way pumped to be with him another transfer. Also this transfer, Elder Osborne will be entering the office and Elder Uhi is training! Let's gooooooo!!!!. So cool!!

Today has been good. Went and played one last game of soccer with Elder Kim and with a bunch of youth from Pochentong.  Then we went and ate at this super nice buffet (that only costs $7) since it was Elder Kim’s last pday. We had a way cool group go. There were 8 of us. I can't believe Elder Kim finishes his mission on Thursday. Seems like just yesterday we were a couple young’uns serving together in Steung Mean Chey. Now he's done.

My area is doing good. We're still contacting a ton, and we're beginning to see miracles come as a result. One was a referral from Chaktomuk whom we called and invited to church and he came and we're going to meet with him at 5! I'm way excited.

This week we have a ton of events. Tuesday we have MLC, Friday is zone training, Saturday and Sunday is General Conference. I'm SO PUMPED for General Conference, I can hardly stand it. Thanks for keeping the spoiler alerts to a minimum, haha. It's nice being able to go in and watch it with fresh eyes. I've been rereading the General Conference Liahona from November like crazy, reviewing the talks. So many good ones were given! Can't wait to listen Saturday!

A cool story from this week is Tuesday all the missionaries who serve at the North Stake center were standing outside advertising for English class at rush hour traffic time, and lo and behold, Puu Mongkol, one of my favorite investigators from my training (who was actually interviewed for baptism and then a series of unfortunate events occurred and he was never baptized). He pulls up and says "Elder!" I was like "Puu!". He gave me his phone number and said he lives in the same house as before, on the railroad, and I passed it on to the Pochentong elders. 

Oh another thing is that on Saturday there was a huge classic Cambodian church party for Khmae New Year. Hundreds of people went. Elder Khiev and I briefly stopped by because someone called us and told us a really less-active guy we teach had showed up, after we had invited him to go earlier that day (his name is Jomraun). So we go and I run into a returned missionary who is back in Cambodia visiting with his wife. He said his name was Elder Shipley, and I was like "you're the guy who taught Puu Dee!" He was thrilled to hear that Puu Dee still talked about him all the time. I texted Puu Dee's number to him later that night. Pretty neat.

The mission is the best, I love it more than I can say. Seeing Elder Kim die is making it start to sink in that this won't all last forever. It's weird to think that. 
Sorry there's not too much today. I'm trying to hurry because Elder Khiev can't log in to his email for some reason and I don't want to keep him waiting.

I love you guys! Hope y’all have great weeks!

Love Elder Burger