Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Home Stretch. Mongolia is in sight!


This week really felt like we turned the corner.  It feels like we went from telling people that we have 6 weeks left to telling them that we have three weeks from yesterday.  I feel like I even have sufficient Mongolian to survive, so that’s good.  The language continues to improve.  We’ve had such a mass of information thrown at us and it feels like we’re starting to process it.  There’s hardly enough time in the day to accomplish all that I want to.

I have a lot of short thoughts so I’ll try and keep them organized.
Tomorrow we become “English” missionaries as we finally reached the amount of time left that English missionaries entering the MTC tomorrow will have total before leaving.  Also, tomorrow we get to host.  Basically, we lug baggage around and orient new missionaries.  It’s really not that exciting, but it’s somewhat a badge of honor to say that you’ve hosted.

I received some great letters this week
Brother Bezzant, I loved your comment on the amount of a’s in Ulaanbaatar and your commentary on the happenings of the Frontenac Ward
John, great letter! I sent yours in the mail today.  I also finally responded to a bunch more of you today, so have faith in the mail system
I also recieved a fantastic package from Uncle Scott.  Thank you, thank you!
And I got a note from Elder Stutz serving in Cueranevaca, Mexico.  What a treat to hear from him.  Thanks, Sister Stutz!  It’s such a cool feeling to serve alongside the people I met at BYU, with us being spread all over the World. 

Every day we have an hour or so where we use a computer program to study Mongolian (besides the 6-8 other hours of studying Mongolian).  You can also pull up the LDS site at the same time.  By the time you’re in your 8th week here you find ways to keep yourself sane like listening to the songs in the youth tab.  This week Elder Stranski and I (he plays guitar) jammed out to a few of our favorites during computer time.  We got the whole computer lab to sync the music at the same time so we were all listening at the same time.  Great songs!

Mongolian funfacts (I hope you enjoy these as much as I do)
There are no real addresses in Mongolia, due to the fact that everyone lives in gers (yurts).  When people move in they just pick a number and hang it up.  This makes finding people extremely difficult when they give you an address.  Luckily, they have a fantastic directional system.  Pretty much getting directions will consist of ´´go straight until you hit the crooked tree, then go left by the white post, walk to the one patch of grass . . .´´  Nice!
This week we also we learned Mongolian cursive which looks awesome. When they made the normal alphabet they made all the capital and lowercase letters the same just different sizes.  I’ve decided that because this was so reasonable, they decided they could make the cursive as hard as they wanted.  Almost none of the letters look the same as the “normal” letters.  The letters that I used to call “snowflake” and “trapezoid with legs” don’t make a showing.

Last week Elder Nelson came for the Tuesday night devotional.  It was really wonderful because they had given us all the special edition of the Ensign for October which is centered on the Book of Mormon.  He had some Elders and sisters come up and bear their testimonies which might have been the most terrifying and amazing experience of their entire lives.  He continued to take us through the magazine and point out certain things.  And he bore his testimony of the Book of Mormon along with give an overview of its history and editions.  The best quote however was something his wife said before he spoke.  She spoke on obedience and said that your motto should always be "NOT EVEN ONCE."  No matter the situation, if you have cause to hesitate because you’re not sure it’s right, then don’t do it.  Not even once because one time could be the time that changes your life forever.  Keep the high ground.  Don’t be Lehonti (see below).  “Once” soon turns into “once more” until you find yourself poisoned by degrees. Remember that the Lord is always mindful of you even when you are not always mindful of him.  If only one of us was going to use the atonement he still would have suffered it because he loves us all that much.

I love you all too!
Be Strong

Elder Neuberger

PS  I compiled a small photo album before I left and realized that don’t have too many with friends.  Mongolians love pictures and love to see who you are.  If you have any great pictures that I can put with my others I would appreciate that a lot.

The Story of Lehonti:
Alma Chapter 47
10 And it came to pass that when it was night he (Amalickiah) sent a secret embassy into the mount Antipas, desiring that the leader of those who were upon the mount, whose name was Lehonti, that he should come down to the foot of the mount, for he desired to speak with him.
 11 And it came to pass that when Lehonti received the message he durst not go down to the foot of the mount. And it came to pass that Amalickiah sent again the second time, desiring him to come down. And it came to pass that Lehonti would not; and he sent again the third time.
 12 And it came to pass that when Amalickiah found that he could not get Lehonti to come down off from the mount, he went up into the mount, nearly to Lehonti’s camp; and he sent again the fourth time his message unto Lehonti, desiring that he would come down, and that he would bring his guards with him.
 13 And it came to pass that when Lehonti had come down with his guards to Amalickiah, that Amalickiah desired him to come down with his army in the night-time, and surround those men in their camps over whom the king had given him (Amalickiah) command, and that he would deliver them up into Lehonti’s hands, if he would make him (Amalickiah) a second leader over the whole army.
 14 And it came to pass that Lehonti came down with his men and surrounded the men of Amalickiah, so that before they awoke at the dawn of day they were surrounded by the armies of Lehonti.
 15 And it came to pass that when they saw that they were surrounded, they pled with Amalickiah that he would suffer them to fall in with their brethren, that they might not be destroyed. Now this was the very thing which Amalickiah desired.
 16 And it came to pass that he delivered his men, contrary to the commands of the king. Now this was the thing that Amalickiah desired, that he might accomplish his designs in dethroning the king.
 17 Now it was the custom among the Lamanites, if their chief leader was killed, to appoint the second leader to be their chief leader.
 18 And it came to pass that Amalickiah caused that one of his servants should administer poison by degrees to Lehonti, that he died.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

3000 Laughs

Hey Everyone,

This week we ran into a senior couple who had served in Mongolia a few years back.  We asked them about the weather and the brother said to us, "They love to say this in Mongolia, ‘There’s no bad weather, just bad clothing’" True that!  Double true! 

Best moment of the week:  Every Sunday night there is a devotional that everyone attends.  There are about 2200 seats in the gym (stadium seating/bleachers and on the floor) and a couple hundred more in other rooms that receive a live feed of the speaker (roughly 3000 total).  In the main gym where we were seated there are two huge projectors on the walls that also show the camera feed so that everyone can see clearly.  Also, they'll use these screens to display slides and visuals.  This time there were two mics set up in the aisles.  We were sitting on the first row of the bleachers right behind the mics.  President Wilkins (the speaker) began and gave a nice talk on some of the difficulties we will face on the mission. About halfway through the talk he posed a question to the audience and asked people to come up to the mic to answer.  A few people came up and the camera panned to the mics.  You could clearly see myself, Elder Lloyd, and Elder Call on the screen.  After the first person gave an answer the speaker said, "I recognize a young man sitting behind the mic and was wondering if he would care to answer".  For a second I thought he was talking about me and I started to rack my brains about where on earth I could have met this man.  Fortunately, Elder Lloyd started laughing next to me and got up.  At the time I figured it was someone he knew from back home because he lives in Draper, UT and seems to know half the MTC.  I wouldn't find out till later that Elder Lloyd being his borderline unhealthy social self had run into President Wilkins in the lunch room twice and started up conversations.  So President Wilkins only recognized him from these encounters.  hahaha Anyway, Elder Lloyd got up and gave an answer and President Wilkins asked him if there was anything else.  At this point he looked around to me (still on camera behind the mic) and I, thinking nothing of it, shrugged and shot him a thumbs up.  Apparently it was hilarious because the entire place started laughing.  And for the beginning part of this week we've been regarded as celebrities by the occasional passerby.  Memorable stuff!

We received a letter this week from one of the two missionaries in the previous district that already left for Mongolia.  He talked about the food that he's been eating.  We have also talked about food for a bit in class.  Way better than everyone thought.  Apparently there is some sort of stir-fry (seriously looks like Mongolian bbq) that’s fantastic.  They eat meat filled dumplings like they're going out of style and some sort of fried dough.   Vegetables and fruits actually are available, and apparently the stews are great.  The only questionable items so far is the aaruul which is some sort of candy.  It looks like decorative hotel bath soaps and has been described by our teacher as tasting like baby vomit.  Elder Woodward said it was like cheese that went bad 30 years ago and tasted nothing like cheese.  However my teacher also said that by the end of his mission he couldn't get enough of it.  Along with the candy is the drink airig which is the liquidized form of the candy and is usually drunk hot as you come in from the cold.  The teachers also loved this by the end.  It’s gotta be better than caju juice, although I’m sure it’s no abacaxi. (a Brazil reference that may be lost on a few of you.  Ask my family.)

All of the Roman alphabet speaking missionaries (Spanish, German, Portuguese, etc.) are getting their travel plans this week.  I can’t believe we will have been here seven full weeks tomorrow.  Most of the 9 weekers are crazy to get out of here, like they couldn’t stand another week.  However, there’s a certain calm in our district and the other 12 week programs because we realize that we need all the language teaching we can get before we get out of here.  None the less I pumped out of my mind to get to Mongolia.  The first thing we do when we get there is head straight to the Zax (huge open market) to by huge coats.  Which seems like a good idea because apparently the coats there are a lot warmer and a lot cheaper.  This seems like a good idea except for the question of how we are going to keep our blood in liquid form on the way to the market.  hahaha  oh well.

There is always special musical number before the devotionals and Elder Call tried out this week on Wednesday.  He played an arrangement of "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief" and nailed it.  It went through the roof high (the kind of notes that if you’re off at all sound terrible).  He got them all.  The sister who runs the tryouts was up in arms about how good it was and told him yes yes yes!  So we know he’s in but we are waiting to see which week he will be playing.

Another musical note . . . Our district sang in sacrament meeting this week.  We sang “I Am a Child of God” in one of our district meetings when President Taylor was with us, and he said we needed to sing it in church.  So we practiced and ended up singing two verses in four parts and the last one in unison.  It was awesome and all in Mongolian.

We were privileged to hear from another member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles this week.  Elder Ballard was here on Tuesday.  My favorite part of the message was when he related a story from his own mission.  Serving in England and on his first day, all the missionaries went to a square and spoke to a crowd.  The mission president called him up and asked him to speak on baptism.  He said, "I said all I knew about baptism in a minute and a half.”  From that point on he promised the Lord never again to be unprepared in anyway.  This obviously resounds with me as I struggle with a new language and it strengthens my resolve to learn the language as quickly as possible,  so that I can be as effective as possible for as long as possible.  So that when people are set in my path I will be prepared to share the gospel with them.

Finally, rumor has it that President Monson (the president of the church) is coming tonight.  We are singing "Consider the Lilies of the Field" which apparently is his favorite song.  And we were all given a copy of the latest Ensign magazine (fantastic issue, so thorough and yet so simple) and asked to read it and bring it tonight.  Either way it should be a fantastic devotional.
see ya next week!

хайртай шүү
Elder нюубэргэр (yup I get the fish in my name)

                              This is from the night before Travis left for the MTC
                                  The District along with two Mongolian friends
                                 The Provo Temple and Travis' current name tag

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

чи энийг уншах чадагүй

би чи эиэ захиас сахин олоосой гэж хүсч байнй,

First off, the rumors are true...The mail room is closed from last Friday till this Thursday so if you've sent a letter via Dear Elder, I probably haven’t read it.  However, this will make for an epic mail run on Thursday.  Guesses from the district range in the mid fifties to sixties for the number of Dear Elders that will arrive for us on that day. Should be exciting!

Answering a few questions/comments
Last to receive their call in the District was Elder Naef in May or June.
The next district of Elders going to Mongolia doesn’t come until next spring, April or May
We won’t hear about visas (bad or good) until a week and a half before our scheduled departure
Nana, I got you package and everything was still delicious.  Thank you thank you.
When we go to Mongolia they will phonetically spell our last names on our tags so mine will show up as нюубэргэр or нүбэргэр.  That’s pretty cool!
Who gets the most mail...Elder Lloyd got mail straight for the first 4 weeks.  And has since then started another streak that is active.  One missed day.  It’s a bit excessive, especially because they are mostly handwritten.

Sounds like everyone’s pretty much settled into the new school year.  Glad to hear John, Kevin and Brian are keeping their golf games polished.  The good people of Old Miss seem to be slowly recovering from the (as I heard it) BYU comeback.  All your letters are fantastic!
This week we've started to really crack down on speaking our language as much as possible.  It’s fun to try and say things in the language but it is extremely hard to express yourself.  And one liners...forget it. Friday marked our halfway point in the MTC making us older than almost everyone here as things start to turn over.  We’ve gotten closer to the other Elders in our zone this week, which is basically everyone on the floor that our classroom is on.  Across the hall are three districts of French Elders.  Next door we have Malagasies (Madagascar) and Malaysians. The last two entered three weeks after us so they will leave on the same day as us and we'll probably all fly out on the same flight to LAX.  We played the French in soccer this week and tied at three a piece which is pretty respectable considering Mongolia is one star to the French four or four and a half (this joke is for FIFA fans).

Fun Mongolia Facts:
Everyone is a taxi.  In Mongolia there is a set rate that everyone follows for "taxi rides'  When you want a taxi you just flag down any person on the street and pay the fee.
Mongolians are afraid of water (who didn’t see this coming).  No one can swim and there is maybe one pool in the country. Probably doubles as an ice rink 11 months out of the year.
The names in Mongolia are awesome!  They translate to things like golden warrior, perfect steel, eternal hero.  Our investigators are real people portrayed by our teachers whose names are rising fire, double joy and eternal son.

We taught for 40 minutes in the TRC to returned missionaries.  That was a lot of Mongolian.  It turns out that the investigator’s wife’s dad had died the day before and we had planned to teach on the plan of salvation.  It was amazing to teach to someone’s needs as we talked about eternal families and the perfect plan set in place to return to Heavenly Father.

Sister Gampurav (from Mongolia) came into our class on Thursday night to find a dictionary and our teacher had her bear her testimony.  I KNEW WORDS!  It was tough to tell what she was really saying because she was speaking way faster than I could listen, pick out words, rearrange the entire sentence into English grammar, and keep going.  It was fun to see how excited she was for us to serve in Mongolia and get a taste of authentic Mongolia. 

Seriously, nothing really new happens here.  It’s a lot of the same so if my letters seem really boring, I’m sorry.  Give me a month and then you can read about how I lost a toe to frostbite and fended off some wild dogs.  That is if there is a computer.  Take a second to look at some of the cities in Mongolia on google maps,  you can see all the gers (yurts) on the satellite images and you can see how small some of the cities are.  If you go through lds.org/tools/maps  it will show you where all the meetinghouses are which gives a pretty good idea of the possible areas I could be serving in.

Elder Stimpson arrived at the MTC this week.  He’s headed to Chezk Republic and will be here 9 weeks.

Let’s see....
The devotional on Sunday was a tribute to 9/11.  We watched a few videos including the Music and the Spoken Word presentation.  If you didn’t see it, Tom Brokaw and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir with interviews and video segments.  It was extremely well done.
I also found an awesome scripture in Ecclesiastes this week. Chapter 4:9-10. It relates so well to missionary work and the need for companionships.  When there are two, one has the ability to reach down and pull up the other physically or spiritually. I also watched President Uchtdorf's conference talk, “Waiting on the road to Damascus" in preparation for Sunday’s talk topic of faith.  What an amazing talk.  If you have 17 minutes watch it (http://lds.org/general-conference/2011/04/waiting-on-the-road-to-damascus?lang=eng&media=video).  Or you can read it (http://lds.org/general-conference/2011/04/waiting-on-the-road-to-damascus?lang=eng).  Great stuff!

Other than that, hop on dearelder.com, write me a letter and ask me anything you want to know and I'll write about it. 

You’re Great!

Elder Neuberger

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Nooooo! Phew, that was close!

So I wrote a great letter and then it all got deleted at the end.  This is horrible!  Ill try to write something later.  I'm really sorry!
Know I love you,
Elder Neuberger

So earlier I typed my email and right at the end the entire thing erased itself.  That was rough.  Fortunately, Elder Boyd and I are on splits while the others are at choir so I can write my letter.  Sorry if this email becomes really scattered. I promise the other one was way better.  

This morning I met an Elder Newmann who apparently was one of the five swimmers who swam with Kyle every morning last year and went to nationals  in Mesa, AZ.  I met him while doing laundry at 5:30 (great time of the day).  He's in my branch actually.

Alright, so in order to better understand future letters let’s see if I can paint a visual of the people I spend the entire day everyday with .  .  .

Elder Call is my companion.  He studied electrical engineering at Utah State this past year and loves to program computers.  Apparently he spent 16 hours a day working on his website the entire summer before he entered the MTC.  He’s from Springville and we're pretty sure he could send a paper airplane to his house from here.  He loves to sing out loud a lot and has forced me to feel a lot less awkward about anything.  Unfortunately,  he hates sports, but we're trying to turn that around.

Elder Lloyd and Elder Quinton are companions
Elder Lloyd spent last year at the U of U.  He's from Draper and loves to talk to people.  If we're not walking places at a brisk pace we'll lose him to conversation.  He also loves pop culture especially Seinfeld.  Basically exactly like an Uncle Scott (this reference did nothing for most of you)
Elder Quinton is from Las Vegas and is studying Civil Engineering at the University of Washington.  He's a big basketball fan and a fan of the Rams.  Unfortunately,  he's a big Kobe fan but that alright.  He and I are probably the biggest advocates of gym time.  We talk tactics before and after gym soccer every day. 

Elder Williams is companions with Elder Stranski.  Williams is 6'3'' or so, redhair and the nicest guy ever.  A little shy, but that’s fading fast.  He basically could be Hyrum Shumway’s twin (another reference that does nothing for most of you)
Elder Stranski is a  stud.  He keeps us focused and on track.  He studied two years at Utah State and is from Morestown, NY.  He could probably take anyone in the district in just about anything in that he played football and baseball in high school.  For all other personality traits see Andrew Larson. seriously...same person.  It’s awesome!

Elder Naef and Elder Boyd round out the district.
Elder Naef is from the Portland, Oregon area and studied at BYUI before the mission.  He wants to be a nurse or PA.  He played lacrosse in high school, so naturally he has no coordination.  It’s amazing that he hasn’t hurt himself or anyone else during gym time yet. Reckless abandon.  Loves talking about Oregon (everything somehow relates) and he’s extremely animated.  Fun to be around.
And best for last (shhh don’t tell anyone I said that) Elder Boyd.  He was at BYU with me last year so we knew each other (Facebook friends).  He’s from the Denver area and studied PD Bio/ premed.  We study vocab together whenever we can and are always the first ones ready in the morning.  He loves to play all things sports so that’s a win.  Easily the best one at the language so far and he just got a great haircut. 

Elder Holland was here on Tuesday.  After the first 15 minutes of his talk, Elder Boyd and I each had two pages of notes which is more than we usually have for a whole talk.  At this point he said, "Well I guess I should probably start now."  That pretty much sums up how awesome the entire experience was.  Something about being at the MTC allows apostles, and especially Elder Holland, to speak with a little more boldness.  He said "For all intents and purposes all meaningful missionary work will be done in this dispensation.  Frankly, all missionary work done before was done in small geographical locations to not very many people."  He said so many things that were so amazing I’d write it all if I had time.  He answered questions from missionaries at the MTC.  One was "what is the most important thing Christ wants us to know right now?"  He said, "That he told the truth. That everything is true.  That you can trust in the Lord.

Sorry this was short. I’m glad I got it in at all.
See ya next week.

Elder Neuberger