Monday, August 5, 2013

Last One Baij Magadgui‏

Due to impending travel to the countryside with my sponsor next week and the family coming in the week after, this may be my last chance to get a real letter written before I'm back in ex oron. 

Quick notes from the week include our investigators who passed their baptismal interviews and are set for this Friday as well as meetings with the President and a split with the Songino Elders that allowed me to see a couple of new members in that area. I met with Bayarbold and Erdenebat each of who are doing great.  This weekend was quick with church, a family home evening, and a great ward mission meeting that we ran successfully for only the third or fourth time since I've been in the branch .  .  . score!

So as the time marches steadily forward towards the close of the transformative two years that is a mission, it has become increasingly important in some small degree to document and determine what these two years have taught and meant to me.  To fail to do so would be, I suppose, to risk forgetting in the ensuing years the things that have become so fundamental in the life of a missionary constantly immersed in the work of the Savior.  To acknowledge that there has been some change in these two years is relatively easy especially in the terms of the tangible:  a new language coupled with experience in a foreign culture, an increased knowledge of the scriptures and a greater capacity to express the doctrines of the gospel, etc.  But where it is less apparent, and the part I see most fitting to share with you as I close out this blog is that of the less measurable.   That of fortified faith and purified purpose, of relationships with deity and fellowman.  In short, the change made from a distracted, disoriented teenager, who found it difficult to fulfill home teaching assignments, inconvenient to wake up for church, and completed the bare minimum of church callings and christian covenants only by the persistant persuasion of loving leaders and patient parents and into a disciple of Christ filled more fully with charity and an increased interest in the service of others.  Ready to stand with Paul to "give every man that asketh a reason of the hope that is in me."

My mission means everything to me!
There's really nothing that compares in any stage of life to that of serving a mission. To wake up every morning, put on the name tag and ask the Lord to place in that day's path those who need the light of the gospel.  Being a missionary is filling each hour of each day with activities targeted at building the faith and testimonies of others and watching it build your own in equal portion.  It's being absolutely exhausted when you stumble in the door at night, attempting to stay awake on buses and yet waking up each day at 6:30 ready to give it another go.  It's learning to love every facet of the gospel and wanting everyone around you to love it just as much as you do.  Being a missionary is loving those around you and finding ways to serve, lift, inspire and help people everyday.  It's being devastated when people chose not to follow Christ and overjoyed when they do.  It's building a relationship with God and recognizing that you need his help as much as possible.  It's praying like you've never prayed before.  Being a missionary is being obedient because you want to not because you have to.  Making obedience a quest not a burden. It's learning to live with, learn from and love a companion who you may never have even tried to be friends with otherwise.  As a missionary you are put in a seemingly impossible situation being called to preach the gospel to every nation tongue and people; people who in many situations are more educated or at least more experienced than yourself.  In some situations you may find the people speak a language so foreign you wonder if you'll ever learn.  But the Lord knows and directs and shapes each missionary for his own purpose.  He understands what such a task may look like through our very limited mortal vision and He allows us to take it on; perhaps for the very reason that when we do call upon the powers of heaven and they distill upon us as the dews from heaven as the scriptures say they must. We will then know that it was only through His grace and His mercy and His love that such a task was accomplished   We must then in such moments, recognize what the author of a family favorite once penned. "That feeling of a sudden burst of wanting to do some great thing.  We feel a wonderful happiness and then it passes, because we have said, "No I cant do that. It's impossible." Whenever something in you says "Its impossible,"  take a careful look around and see if it isn't really God asking you to grow an inch or a foot or a mile that you may come to a fuller life and know that the only possible way lies right throught the middle of impossible.

A mission...our mission is about enduring to the end.
5 Greatest things I've learned from my mission

1.That God loves every one of his children and is in the details of our lives.
2.That this church and the doctrine adjoined to it are a catalyst for joy and peace and the source of all true happiness in my life.

3.Families determine the states of physical and spiritual well being for those apart of them.  In that sense who I want to be as a brother and a son and a father and a husband.

4.The Glory of God is intelligence. And knowledge coupled with faith is a principle of power.
5.No matter where you find yourself in life or on the map, you can find some one in remarkably close proximity that you can lift, inspire, help and serve.

I love missionary work! and its' difficult to see my turn as a full time missionary coming to a close, but I'm grateful for everything that it was.  I know that God lives and the Church as it was in the time of the Savior and is now in these latter days is the true and living church.  I know we are led by prophets even in this dispensation and that their words can act as a light in a darkening world. Missionary work is the work of our loving Heavenly Father anxiously waiting for our arrival back in our heavenly home.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Have a great week,
Elder Neuberger

Monday, July 29, 2013

Time for a Top Ten

We had a wonderful week and are looking toward two baptisms next week and one the week after before it's time to go.  We found an absolutely golden investigator this week who is prepared beyond imagination with a small background in Christianity and a desire to find the truth.  We had splits with the AP's this week and continue to meet with several ALA's.  Sprinkle in a little English and a zone training meeting and it was another great week of being effective and productive. 
This week I thought a lot about a year ago at this time as Elders Wilson, Jolly and Huff prepared to leave.  My biggest reflection was what Elder Wilson told me the night before they left.  "The next year is going to pass like a week"  True in every way.  The next was about one of the last letters Elder Wilson wrote which was a nod to ESPN I'm sure, in the top ten format.  As the number of emails I get to write from internet cafes in Mongolia is quickly diminishing I felt the best way to work to some sort of a close would be to compose a similar list...

Five reasons coming home will be bearable:
1)Family-This would probably top the list of any missionary and for me it tops it by a long shot.  I love my family so much! and I feel I owe them for two years of support, letters and being behind me in everything.
2)Living the Gospel in everyday life-"But isn't that what your doing now," you ask.  Yes, but living the gospel when there are other things going on around me; prioritizing so the Lord is always first and find times and places to be a missionary after serving a mission are all parts of what makes this #2. 
3)Learning-Ask me again in a month but sitting in a chem lecture sounds great.  Learning about everything, becoming educated and participating in intelligent conversation.  If I enjoyed learning before my mission I think that desire has increased about ten fold.  This quote from Brigham young about sums it up:
"If men [and we would add women] would be great in goodness, they must be intelligent, for no man can do good unless he knows how; therefore seek after knowledge, all knowledge, and especially that which is from above, which is wisdom to direct in all things, and if you find any thing that God does not know, you need not learn that thing; but strive to know what God knows, and use that knowledge as God uses it, and then you will be like him; [you] will . . . have charity, love one another, and do each other good continually, and for ever. . ."
4)Being the greatest Home Teacher/ Calling fulfiller. This one relates a lot to number 2.  After almost fighting people to do their home teaching and seeing the benefits when it's done, I want to do all I can  without a dragging-our-feet, staring-at-our-watch, complaining-as-we-go approach to discipleship a President Uchtdorf explained in a recent conference.  Continue to love the people I'm called to serve.
5)Talking to People-What? Who? Elder Neuberger?  You mean the kid scared of talking to the lady at cash register at the store? Yea.  A lot of times people go on mission and the fact that you have to be so open forces them out of their comfort zones.  For me it was a bit the opposite.  I think the absolute inability to communicate for the first however many months and then the gradual increase from there built up a tremendous desire to just talk with people that never really existed before.
Top Five things I'll miss about serving in the Land of the Blue Sky:
5)Teaching English - I think this one was on Elder Wilson's list and it stands.  Two years ago I would have traded half my white shirts and a cool tie to not have to teach English.  But the relationships that I have build with those I have taught and with my sponsor are as strong as any other that I've made here.  I really can say that I enjoy teaching English.
4)Mongolian - I don't care what the MTC says. Mongolian is without a doubt the hardest language to learn for multiple reasons listed in several earlier letters.  It's mind blowing in the MTC and continues to be mind bending throughout the journey.  I would be the last to say that my language is anything spectacular, but I will miss the daily challenge it has been to learn the language and improve my ability to communicate with people. I've learned more then Mongolian from learning Mongolian.
3)Companions - I'm not sure for what reason, but I can honestly say that I have been blessed with fantastic companions at every point in my mission.  Some easier than others, but there's no companion that I'm not excited to continue contact with as I move forward.  There is certainly something about being within sight and sound of another person for 24 hour a day that causes you to rethink your relationships with others and analyze how you can be an influence for good on others.  As I think back over my companions I can see things specifically learned from each and every one.  I love my companions
2)The Mongolian People - I'm not sure of many places in America where you can walk up to a house you've never been to, with people you've never meet, knock on the door and instantly be invited in for water, bread and whatever the family is eating at the time. Beyond the unbelievable hospitality is the amazing sacrifices that so many make to provide for their family, get through school, and be members of the church.  With the backdrop of thousands of years of wrestling, the Mongolian people can be a bit strong willed, but most of the time that just means they are prepared to do whatever is necessary to finish what they started.  I'll miss all the crazy small traditions and rules and the cultural things that make Mongolia, Mongolia. I'll especially miss the new members, and members who have become great friends over this last two years. To paraphrase George Mason...To love people is truly the purpose of life...
1)BEING A MISSIONARY - It's hard to believe that my days of waking up, putting on the tag and devoting every waking hour to serving the Lord are coming to an end.  With all the stresses that come with missionary work, there can be no greater assurance that you are where you are doing what you are supposed to be doing.  Your goal is so singular; lift, inspire, love, and teach people about the amazing gift of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  There is simply nothing as difficulty wonderful or joyously hard as serving the Lord full time.  I love it.  I'll miss every facet from mission meetings to teaching investigators to just walking the dusty roads filling the day with efforts to bring others happiness. 
I have a testimony of what a wonderful tranformative experience the past two years have been as as well as an increased testimony that God lives and loves each one of us individually.  The Gospel is truly the door to greater happiness!

Have a wonderful week,
Elder Neuberger

Monday, July 22, 2013

One Last Surprise

Dear Everyone,
I can honestly say I didn't know when the transfer was this week until we got the call from the AP's on Monday evening.  Dad seemed to feel that this transfer was pretty much locked as well considering for the first time in two years there was no questions as to what is going to happen at the transfer.  So it was in this sense of false security that I found myself  talking to the AP's Monday afternoon.  The first big news was that two Americans were headed to the countryside.  One of them being Elder Naef from my group who leaves in  November and the other being Sister Shiffler who leaves in 5 weeks.  Both are in nearby cities, but it is still pretty big news that Americans are going outside the city.  Unfortunately, that means I won't see Elder Naef until he gets back in the winter.  The biggestest shock personally came next as I learned that I would not be spending the home stretch with Elder Mainbayr.  No, he is headed to take Elder Naef's spot as the ZL in the other city zone and I am picking up Elder Chingunjav who is pretty new on the mission and was just trained by Elder Williams.  However, he is not the other ZL for our zone, that would be Elder Stranski who is still finishing up his last 6 weeks with his trainee.  Pretty crazy!  Elder Stranski and I will be doing quite a bit of coordinating over the phone and taking some time out of each week to plan things together.  With the new president being just that, new, we both feel a bit of heightened responsibility in making sure everything is running smoothly in the zone.
After the initial shock wore of it was back to business as usual with our combined district/zone training on Tuesday that went fantastically.  The two highlighted topics were obedience and safety (of course deeply related, lol).  We ran the meeting in the clerk's office of the Songino church and the odds seemed against us as we got started squeezing 10 people in the room.  But people brought their A game as far as participation is concerned and we had a wonderful discussion on the blessings of obedience. We shared from Elane S Dalton's talk form last young women's conference as well. She does a wonderful job at explaining the circles of influence that we truly have when we make decisions.
Wednesday turned out pretty cool when Elder Naef and I had to wait for our new companions to show up from Baganuur and ended up spending the first half of the day as companions.  We talked for about four hours and it was great that it turned out that way before he left for the countryside.  
Splits with Elder Stranski on Thursday where we found out that we both listened to all the same music growing up.  Teaching with Elder Stranski all day was a great experience and we taught an amazing Plan of Salvation lesson to a girl whose grandmother had just died.  
The rest of the week went amazingly according to planned.  The last three days of the week we didn't have a single lesson fall through!  That's a miracle for sure!
One month to leave it all in the field!
Have a great week,
Elder Neuberger

Monday, July 15, 2013

Naadam Boloo

It feels like it was yesterday that we were saying goodbye to Elder Titensor and Elder Woodward, thinking we have the elections, and the arrival of the new mission President and then Naadam shielding us from August .  .  . and now even Naadam has passed.  What a great week it was though.  The front half was filled with English teaching and service projects.  We hauled a house full of furniture from one house to a house way out in the back of our area.  Elder Lloyd joined us providing the comedic commentary for the entire event.
The middle of the week brought our first zone leader meeting with President Benson which was great as we did the whole thing in Mongolian. One thing he definitely brings to the table is energy and how much easier is it to express love and get to know the Mongolian elders and sisters when  you can do so in their own language.  He's great and reminds me a lot of Uncle Chad .  .  . also a great guy. Go Clemson .  .  .

That evening our attempts to meet with people failed a bit with everyone preparing for Naadam anyway.  Which brings us to the biggest annual happening in Mongolia  A few of us in my MTC group played it smart and got tickets way back in February buying two tickets a piece for who ever we would be companions with during Naadam.  That worked out perfectly and we got in to see the opening ceremonies.  It was awesome for my Mongolian companion who had never experienced Naadam in the city much less gone to the stadium grounds.  The production was amazing with thousands of people participating and forming the map of Mongolia at one point.  The traditional clothing was as colorful as ever and there were some horse riders pulling off some stunts that would have had Secretariat applauding.  My companion is huge into Mongolian wrestling, so after the opening we stayed and watched for an hour which was fun because I got to pull on his knowledge and increase my own as far as the sport goes.  We were sitting pretty far off and he was naming people like they had numbers on their backs, but of course they were just wearing the blue speedo and red sleeved top).  Mongolian wrestling is great.  Much to the opposite of American/whateveryoucallthewrestling. The rules are super fall, you lose.  I know those who are avid watchers back home are already aware, but this year's champion was Epkhembayr.  It was his first time as champion and he looks to make a run from here on out.  He's a big guy....really big.
After the stadium we were off to Elder Lloyd's where we made without a doubt the greatest khuushuur of all time.  Here's the menu: Sweet and sour chicken khuushuur,  bacon cheddar BBQ chicken khuushuur and finally apple pie khuushuur with ice cream and chocolate sauce.  It took the entire week to find all the ingredients, but it was worth it.  We had about 14 missionaries all going at it. 6 bags of flour 4 kilos of chicken. Later we all headed to Sukhbaatar Square to take pictures with other missionaries.  Great day!
On the second day of Naadam, the President set up a get together at the church where we played some traditional games and heard a speech on the history of Naadam.  More khuushuur and some quality time with the Benson kids.  Tommy and I became really good friends this week.  I had forgotten that little kids speak English.  Tommy, age four, is hilarious and probably my favorite little Benson.  BTW his favorite ninja is the green ninja.  Why? because it can turn into the golden ninja of course.

The rest of the week went great with a few people finally being able to meet near the close of the week.  It's on to more city wide soccer today.
Have a great week,
Elder Neuberger

Monday, July 8, 2013

Dropped Ball

So i feel a bit bad messing up Dad's Monday morning "Christmas," but we finished P-day and realized we hadn't sat internet.
But on the bright side we did a ton of stuff today including getting new shoes, finishing my new suit for 60 bucks hand made. And getting sized for a sweet ring that my whole MTC group is getting. It says CTR in Mongolian in old script....sooooo awesome!!!!!
Everything else is Naadam this week.  Goood times!!!!
Love you all sooo much!!!
Kristi, there's a big hug coming your way as well!
Hope the 4th was great!
Elder Neuberger

Monday, July 1, 2013

Presidential Changes and Not

For those of you avid followers of the Molgolain election progress you probably already know that the current president, President Elbigdorj, will be retaining his post at the head of the Mongolian government for another 4 years.  Unfortunately, that's not the candidate that my sponsor was supporting, but my sponsor was successful in collecting all the electoral votes in the regions he was in charge of, so no blood there.
It's hard to know where to start, but I suppose the most build up event from the past week was the breaking down of the old house....didn't disappoint.  It was a one story house with an attic.  When we showed up there was a pile of axes, sledgehammers and pickaxes.  I was expecting at least a small degree of guidance as to the proper technique and strategy, but the little lady was like, "yea pretty much just bring it down as fast as you can."  We haven't sent video into the department of health and safety, but the lack of gloves and protective eyewear would probably be very low on the list of complaints they would have.  Or in other words it was amazing in the same way scout camp is amazing to teenagers who can't wait to play with fire and knives for a week.
This week was another highlight reel in several other missionary areas as well.  On Wednesday we were standing at the bus stop when a man engaged us in conversation and showed general interest in the church. We ended up meeting with him the next day.  A forty year old unmarried man who spent 11 years in prison and has now turned his life around and works as a carpenter.  The entire experience felt so classic missionary.
Friday was the baptism for Naranchimeg and the Chingeltei Elders had a baptism as well.  Everything went wonderful and three or four women from the ward were there to be with Naranchimeg for the event. Everything went great and both of the sisters who were baptized had wonderful stories as to how they had made it to the gospel.  The Chingeltei Elders' convert is a member of a family who has been members for 13 years, but she has never accepted the gospel herself.  When Elder B went to go meet with the family one night he asked if she would be interested in hearing more about the gospel and she accepted.   Simple as inviting.
We ran from the baptism to Sukhbaatar Square to meet up with the Elders from Khanuul for this week's exchange.  I spent the ensuing day was Elder Lloyd (yes from the MTC group).  Probably one of the greatest days ever.  We tag teamed two English classes both with unplanned lessons and both went perfectly. Teaching English has now become almost borderline fun.  Then we ran around in the rain meeting with a couple of investigators before finishing up the day with my sponsor for English class/dinner.  (we may or may not have eaten caviar).  Elder Lloyd and I had a ball teaching him English together and the night culminated with the three of us taking funny face pictures on his new ipad mini.  We were running late so he drove us home and we made it just in time to switch back with our companions.
Sunday was quick as well.  The Farmers were there today so I got to chat with them and allow them to experience the meeting in their native language.  Today was the fifth Sunday of the month which means the missionaries give talks.  I was super pumped and gave 15 minutes on acting even when we feel we haven't received direct revelation.   Using the gifts and knowledge that the Lord has given us to make the best possible choice and then to move forward in faith.  I think it went pretty well and my companion did fantastic as well. We finished the day meeting with our investigator Chogjinjalav, our other investigator looking toward the 19th of July and our weekly dinner with the RM who served in Arizona and her family.  Home in time to collect numbers from the entire zone, put together today's encore to last week's soccer and somehow get off the phone just after 10:30 to get to bed.
Best moment of the week:  This morning all the missionaries met at the main building to present President and Sister Clark with a painting.  We got there early and all lined up on the stage while the AP's lured the President downstairs with some great ploy.  When they walked in we all began to sing "Called to Serve" and presented the painting.  After we sang and Sister Clark had wiped away a few tears, the President had us all sit down for a moment.  He then gave a 20 minute spirit filled thank you complete with a story of finding the diamonds that are right inside of us instead of going looking for them somewhere else.  Sister Clark added a few words and it was opened up for questions.  Questions were asked such as what are their plans for after the mission and what they had learned.  There was a feeling in the room of no one wanting to leave and break the moment.  Spontaneously we began to sing "God Be with You Till We Meet Again" followed by a kneeling player by President Clark.  Easily one of the spiritual highlights of my mission and a great way to end not quite two years with President Clark. 
Have a wonderful week, 
Elder Neuberger

Monday, June 24, 2013

2013 Ulaanbaatar daxi nomlogchiin delkhiin avraga!!!‏

Well this letter comes after a personal victory of somehow organizing a 22 missionary, city wide, 2 zone soccer game.  It took us since last Wednesday to get all the details worked out and the go ahead from President, but it went off with out a hitch.  The only disappointment being that we weren't able to put up the W.  A late hand ball in the box derailed our comeback efforts.  Everyone seemed to have a great time and we even organized for everyone to wear their teams' colors so we all looked super professional as people were walking by.  My entire group was there and fortuitously ended up on the same team. Elder Naef had brought an American football as well and that got a few tosses at the end.    A quick visit to the dentist for my companion's fallen out molar and then to the seamstress (unrelated to the dentist don't worry). That brings us to the Internet cafe and then to some shopping before getting out and meeting with two investigators this evening.
Looking at the week ahead mark your calendars for Tuesday where we will be teaming up with the khan uul elders to demolish a house.  I've been looking forward to this service for two weeks now and we are pretty excited.  It works out really well because we will run a quick zone training near the to-be-torn-down house right before the project.  If it's as awesome as it sounds like it is going to be, I may have to find a way to send pictures.  This Wednesday brings the elections for your next Mongolian president.  Odds are in favor of President Elbigdorj staying in office for another four, but I'm personally pulling for the 12 time Nadaam wrestling-champion-turned politician, B. Baterdene.  He's a student of my sponsor and they are really good friends. In the event of a victory it could mean a quick trip to the government building to take some pictures.  My sponsor has educated me on politics in Mongolia so that I can and "wow" people when I start talking about political parties and what not .  .  . good times, lol.
Looking not much further past that to the next Monday and then Wednesday brings the arrival of the new mission president and the leaving of President Clark.  As always the turnover will be quick.  They won't spend more then a few hours together, just enough to turn over the keys to the Land Cruiser. It's hard to believe that President is really leaving.  Seeing missionaries come and go is one thing, but the President has always been there and it seems like something that just shouldn't get changed.  Because one of our investigators was meeting with President Clark this Sunday I was able to visit with Sister Clark for a moment.  They'll be booked until the moment they leave working all the way down to the wire.  As far as meeting the new mission president goes, there are no major mission events for another month or so, but I imagine we will get to interview with him for a brief moment.  We will have a zone leader meeting the day after President Clark leaves on the 4th of July. (hope Sister Benson makes burgers, lol)
Speaking of food I didnt really know where to fit this in, but in response to a question I haven't really eaten much fruit besides bananas, apples, and oranges. Anything outside of those are only available if you're really looking and they are all way more than a missionary budget would allow.  A bag of grapes goes for about 15 American dollars.  Fruits is awesome.
Our investigator Naranchimeg has passed her interviews and is set to be baptized this Friday.   It actually works out perfectly because our branch president, who is her best friend's husband, will be back in town this week for the event.  It's been a long time coming for her and she has shown unwavering faith despite some difficult setbacks.  From experience I've learned that a friend in the gospel is the largest defense against inactivity.  With the help of the wonderful ladies of the Relief Society we have been able to surround Naranchimeg with wonderful friends and acquaintances.  Elder Bayrtsogt also has a baptism that night and we are going to throw together a musical number for the evening.  Everything looks good to go.
We have a couple other investigators poised for baptism including a young man who lived for 10 years in America.  I LOVE preaching the gospel in Mongolia, would not trade the experience for anything.  However, there was a special something in bearing my testimony and sharing scriptures in my native language as well as his.  He's 19 and planning on attending the University of Chicago in the fall.
A great experience I had this week was going on our first splits as zone leaders.  This week we worked with the Songino elders and I took Elder Odd out in my area for the day.  He has just experienced his first weeks with a native companion and the stress and anxiety was a bit visible on his face.  As we had a closing interview at the end of the split I smiled inside as he listed a number of things that had bothered me in the same way a year and a half ago. As we sat and spoke of ways to overcome the problems he was facing I could see so clearly in my mind the way that each problem was to be resolved through my own specific experiences and the promptings of the Spirit.  After the many missionaries who have blessed me in my service in Mongolia, it was a wonderful experience to turn back and lift another just beginning.  
A lady had us over for dinner this past evening and served us the gel that gets boiled off when you boil sheep bones. You mix it in with your boiled water as a drink.  The surprise on peoples' faces when you tell them that you have had some unusual Mongolian food before and that no, it won't make you throw up if you drink/eat it, never gets old.
Still loving Mongolia,
Elder Neuberger