Monday, October 31, 2011

Easily the best week ever!

Hey everybody!!!

Right before we left the MTC it was becoming difficult for me to think of things to write in my emails, but now that we have arrived in Mongolia there’s such an overload of information that I could write a book on my first four days here.  Here’s my best effort on a recap. 

We flew into Ulaan Baatar on Friday.  Because of the way we flew, we never experienced Thursday the 27th.  Everyone was at the airport to greet us, the President and his wife, the Assistants and such.
We immediately headed to Zicon Peak which is the highest point in UB where there is a fantastic view of the entire city.  We read the prayer that was offered to open Mongolia to missionary work and then we sang "High On A Mountain Top."  Amazing experience!! It feels like a year ago.

We all got our companions some time later and headed off to work.  My companion, Elder Jolley was and continues to be one of the Assistants to the President which is amazing because he finds time to have the most spiritual companionship studies with me and also run half the mission.

The first full day I was here was transfer day for missionaries already serving.  We woke up at 6:00 and picked up Elders from the train station.  We proceeded to drop off and pick up missionaries throughout the day.  It was awesome! I got to see so much of the city on my first day.  

It’s really hard to remember everything that happened especially because I don’t really understand what’s going on half the time lol.  Yesterday was Sunday and our new member who was baptized the day I arrived, was confirmed and received the gift of the Holy Ghost.  Before the meeting started I was invited to pass the sacrament which was great, but not as fun as bearing my testimony about five minutes later.  The only reason I knew I was supposed to go up was because Mongolians struggle saying Neuberger.  So I proceeded to stumble through 3 minutes of extremely slow Mongolian.  Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure I told everyone that through the atonement they can give up.  Great experience.  It didn’t matter though because afterwards it felt like everyone in the ward told me how great of a job I did.  Mongolians are way too complimentary.  I had a blast shaking everyone's hand and not understanding half of their questions.

Last night was a mission fireside for all the new and leaving missionaries.  Before the fireside all the finishing missionaries had a meal with the presidency and the AP's.  Because Elder Jolley is my companion and Elder Boyd is the other AP's companion, Elder Boyd and I went to a missionary apartment to make ourselves dinner while the two AP's attended that farewell dinner.  It was great.  I cooked some chicken; threw some pasta in and then mixed an onion soup mix in it.  It tasted amazing which was nothing short of a miracle. Afterward, Elder Boyd and I took 15 minutes to figure out how to get back out of the apartment.  We were pretty sure we would be locked in until someone came for us.

At the fireside we all bore our testimonies and chatted with all of the other missionaries. We ran from there to a lesson we had with a church member. We taught on blessing homes and then gave their baby a blessing.  I’ll tell you what, remembering Mongolian names is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  I had my first herem which is milk, water and salt.  I’d explain it this way: If you made macaroni and cheese and left out the cheese and noodles that’s it.  I destroyed my tongue because it was crazy hot.  However, I’ll throw in a plug for Mongolian food: it’s fantastic!

Phewww!  That brings us to today.  We woke up and ran down to Sukbatar Square about a mile from our apartment and back.  Just picture two white elders running around in the dark with a bunch of people staring at them, that was us.  Running hasn’t caught on in Mongolia probably because the air quality is black lol. We studied and got some things done in the office and made our way to a member’s house where we made tacos of all things for lunch. They were really good though.  And I fielded a few questions and probably got laughed at more than once, couldn't tell you.

Did I mention how amazing my companion is.  I’m not sure what I did to be so blessed. I've learned so many incredible things already. Being a missionary is the opportunity of a lifetime.  To be able to dive into the scriptures for hours each day and to bring the joy of the gospel to real people is blessing to me daily.  I’m so grateful to be here! I love everything about being a missionary!

Have a great week!


Elder Neuberger

Lyrics to "High On A Mountain Top"
High on a mountain top
A banner is unfurled.
Ye nations, now look up;
It waves to all the world.
In Deseret's sweet, peaceful land,
On Zion's mount behold it stand!

For God remembers still
His promise made of old
That he on Zion's hill
Truth's standard would unfold!
Her light should there attract the gaze
Of all the world in latter days.

His house shall there be reared,
His glory to display,
And people shall be heard
In distant lands to say:
We'll now go up and serve the Lord,
Obey his truth, and learn his word.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mongoth row yava xoo?‏

Alright, let’s catch up.  Two weeks ago we were supposed to get our travel plans, but were told that we would be delayed at least a week.  Since then we've checked with the travel office at least twice a day to the point where they probably aren’t too fond of us.  We were told at the end of last week that 4 of the visas had been approved; however, President Clark (our Mongolian mission president) didn't want us coming in separate groups.  So we continued to wait. 

We got news through the travel office on Friday that they thought that we would leave by Tuesday or Thursday this week. Naturally everybody got extremely excited over the weekend and Monday was highly anticipated.  Then on Monday we made our way to the travel office to have them tell us that there was still no news.  They said that the visa process was going really slowly and that if the second set of four visas didn’t come by Friday that President Clark would probably want us to come separately.  HUGE LETDOWN! They told us don’t come back till Thursday and there may be some news.  Last night when we made it back to the residence halls we had a district prayer, asking for the opportunity to leave as a group no matter the timeline. 

Well, today is P-day so we woke up at 5:30 to do our laundry and then made our way to the temple around 10.  All the companionships went to the temple at different times this morning so we were all separate leaving the temple.  Elder Call and I ate lunch and then made our way to the mailroom to check for any mail before we would write our emails home.  We found an ecstatic Elder Lloyd literally running down the hall through a mass of people with 8 blue slips.  We were supposed to report to the travel office as soon as possible.  You've probably guessed by this point in the story, but yes .  .  .  WE"RE GOING TO MONGOLIA!!!!  We got our travel plans and we leave tomorrow at 8:12pm.  We fly to LAX and then to Beijing and finally to Ulaanbaatar!!!!!!!!  By this time on Friday we should be in the President’s home.

Naturally the events of the day make it extremely hard to remember anything that has happened outside of an hour ago, but here’s my best effort .   .   .

This week because we had no idea when we would be leaving, we had culture day.  Pretty much 6 hours of learning the history of Mongolia (amazing history),  learning about the culture and all of the religions that exist (99.3% Buddhist).  We learned all of the social taboos which are a ton including take your glove off whenever you shake anyone’s hand no matter the temperature.  A lot of really random things like the proper way to eat and drink and politely decline which I will have to review on the plane.  We also learned a lot about really different Mongolian remedies for illness which frankly almost always included the urine of various animals.  It’s interesting that they can diagnose diabetes and appendicitis and yet still feel that fox excrement will heal them.  I still think I'll head over to the real doctor on these occasions, but that’s just me.

We also dressed up in all sorts of Mongolian clothes and took a lot of pictures.  Hopefully I can attach them in my first Mongolian email.  That was extremely hot. 

This all took place on Saturday before any of the crazy roller coaster of emotions. Then yesterday we looked through a lot of pictures from our teachers’ missions as they related some incredible stories.  I can’t wait to have some of my own stories and pictures.

We all got incredible letters from one of our teachers (Brother Margetts) which brought everyone pretty close to tears.  Leaving our teachers is probably the only bad thing about heading to Mongolia.

This past Tuesday we heard from another apostle, Elder Richard G. Scott.  His message was on prayer and real intent.  A lot of his talk was a Q&A session with the audience.  Except for that he was doing the questioning.  We weren’t seated in a place to get to the microphones, but that’s OK because we were in the fourth row!  It’s been amazing to be in the presence of so many general authorities here at the MTC.  Rumor has it that we may here from another tonight at our last devotional. 

The Lord answers prayers.  Not in our time and not in our way, and sometimes when we least expect it.  He will never give you a challenge to great (you know the scripture :)  )  In the times that we are brought to our knees we can learn the most.  As my relationship with the Lord has strengthened here in the MTC I have more profoundly seen his hand moving in my life.  Pray always.  And never forget to give thanks.  Prayer is a fantastic gift. Use it.
I love you all soooo much.  Your letters and encouragement mean so much to me.

Love ,

Elder Neuberger

PS  Kramers, your package and card were both amazing!!!!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Still Here

Hey Everybody,
Well...we're still here. The good news is that we all know that are visas are cleared and are making their way through the US Embassy.  Where in that processes they are? We have no idea.  Our days generally include multiple checks at the travel office where they tell us there is no news.  They still expect us to leave on the 24th but we won't get travel plans until they have the visas in hand.  We all wish we were sitting in the Beijing airport right now but another week of Mongolian study never hurt anyone.  39 Branch members left this week, which makes it us and a whole bunch of new Elders on Sundays.  We took a lot of pictures at the temple on Sunday with both sets of Malaysian groups that left yesterday.

A brief explanation of the English teaching that we will be doing in Mongolia.
We all are hired on by Mongolian companies because that's the only way that we're allowed into the country.  We are pretty much free English teachers for these companies.  We will probably teach 8-12 hours a week in any setting you can imagine. Some people will teach in small schools or large classes with a bunch of adults.  You can also teach in the police and fire stations.  Some people teach in the hospitals and the universities, or to business executives.  Seriously, we could be teaching any rung of the Mongolian social ladder.  They set you up with the classroom and some materials and you just go at it I suppose.  We really don't have that much information on how that works, since the system is already in place, someone knows and I'm sure it will all be clear when we get there.  It will definitely be a great learning experience and I'm sure ill pick up some great grammar jargon.  Watch out Kramers! You'd better stay sharp on you grammar!  From what we've heard we will be helping build and move yurts constantly.  Seriously cant wait.
There are two Mongolian Holidays that are apparently unreal.  In the summer Nadam goes on for three days where everyone eats as many bodz as they possibly can (so we've heard) and walks around to everyone's houses and chats it up.  In the winter there is a eight day holiday where the food is even better and you eat even more. lol   If you google it you'll probably know more than me.  
Even though we didn't leave this week we went to the infield training on Friday.  Basically 8:30am - 9:30pm straight workshops set up like youth conference.  Except all the teachers were recent RM's so it was amazing (not to say that the youth conference speakers aren't)  There were a lot of role playing activities and we learned a lot about how we actually do things in the field besides teach.  Because we've been learning to teach for the last 12 weeks.  
What else...
This morning we had an MTC wide fire drill which was nuts.  All 2700 of us had to go up to the field which is off campus and some how find and report to our zone leaders.  Absolute Chaos.
More fun news we added 2 new elders to our room.  They had to move in another set of bunks.  Its pretty interesting because there are only 4 desks and closets and six elders.  Its pretty much a constant traffic jam.  Elder Lloyd is freaking out, but I think the whole thing is hilarious.  They're renovating a bunch of the buildings here and there are 400 Brazilian elders here that can't get visas.  Its pretty sad.  When I ever feel down about our visa situation I realize that they have it much worse.  Most of them are here 9 weeks and then are instantly reassigned.  Apparently the Brazil MTC is empty right now.
This week's fireside was Julie B. Beck which is funny because I guess she was in St. Louis a few days later.  She shared some fantastic stories about growing up in a mission home in Brazil. and some advice on obedience.  She then shared a  story about two brothers who served in the same mission whose missions overlapped four days.  For that four days the mission president made them companions.  In that four days the older "companion" through several experiences taught his younger brother to love his companions, his president and the people. (which we've heard several times this week)  I couldn't help but think back to this summer where my older brother taught me the same three lessons in a few days in Brazil.  
Its been another great week. The spirit is so strong here and I can't wait to take some portion of it to Mongolia.  I love the gospel and I feel the spirit every time I teach it in Mongolian or English to investigators or members.  I'm so grateful for this opportunity to serve the people of Mongolia and my Heavenly Father.
Love ya.
Elder Neuberger 

FYI  There have been several people ask about the blog this week.  Travis doesn't actually make the posts.  He sends us an e-mail and then we cut and paste the e-mail on to this blog that he created before he left.  We are late with the posting this week because we were busy getting some last minute items ready for him.  Hopefully next week there won't be a posting because he will be traveling.  There is a good chance the next  entry will be his first letter from Mongolia.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Not Yet

ᠠᠰᠳᠹᠳᠰᠹᠳ ᠰᠳᠹ ᠰᠳᠹᠹᠡᠰᠣ?
So  .   .   .   Thursday came and went without travel plans.  We've talked with the travel office and we've been delayed a week......probably.  However, all of our visas have been paid for by Mongolian sponsors (the companies we will be teaching English for).  So the question isn't if but when.  We know the visas are coming and that it won’t be more than an extra 1 to 2 weeks.  Still it was pretty rough to see 2 districts get their travel plans on Thursday and 2 other districts leave on Monday. 

The districts in the hallway where we have our classroom are mostly the same as the ones in our branch.  Seeing as we spend about 9 hours of the day on the same floor and have the same exact schedules (class, gym, meals, personal time)  we've gotten to know them extremely well.  On Sunday night our district, the Malagasies (who left Monday), the French (who left Monday) and the two Malaysian districts (who leave next Monday) all crammed into a room and song all three verses of "God be with you till we meet again."  What an amazing experience.  It’s amazing to see the Church carried to so many countries on the earth.

This week we taught a great lesson in the TRC (that’s where volunteers come in and we teach in Mongolian).  We all switched companions this week and Elder Quinton and I got to teach together.  We taught 40 minutes on developing a testimony of the Book of Mormon.  Elder Quinton brought in a small white board and we taught using Alma 32.  We built on the analogy of a seed and shared scriptures to coincide with all the elements that are needed for a plant to grow.  30 minutes went by like they were 10.  Our Mongolian has improved so much even in these last couple of weeks.  Although most of my vocabulary lies in gospel vocab, which may be a slight problem for the first few days in Mongolia. 

We started to SYL (Speak Your Language) in full swing this week with the implementation of an SYL rock.  If you speak English you have to carry the rock around until someone else speaks English.  It’s a really heavy rock.  There was a lot of flipping through dictionaries this week and even more silence lol.  As long as we just try to have fun with it, it’s not that bad. 

I ran into a senior couple this week who served in Mongolia for three years.  They were so excited to see us headed there.  We talked for about ten minutes straight about how we are going to absolutely love it.  And we all know we will when we finally get there.

We got new nametags this week with our names in the Cyrillic alphabet which has led to increased attention in the hallways and the lunchroom lol.  I’ve literally had 3 people come up to me and want a picture of my nametag which mostly makes me laugh.

LET'S GO CARDINALS.  I can't beleive they pulled off the upset in Philly vs Halliday!!!  Thanks to John for all the updates this far.

We finally have persuaded out teachers to spill the beans on some of their Mongolian stories.  Last night we spent the last 45 minutes asking as many question as we could to Brother Stephenson who got back last summer.  We also have talked a lot to the sister who is from Mongolia and headed to Korea.  She said and I quote, "The first week in Mongolia you will hate the food and probably throw up every day, and then after that you will love the food"  .   .   .   all right.  Bring it on!  Our teacher described his first day as stepping onto another planet.  Can’t wait!
Needless to say it’s been way harder to stay focused since our visas have been delayed, but we all police each other to stay on task.  Either way I think the saying from the slopes is just as true here and will be in Mongolia:  “There are no bad days serving the Lord.”  A speaker in the devotional this week put it this way: "It won’t be a perfect experience, just a perfect learning experience"  True That! Double True!!!  Every day here is a learning experience
It’s amazing how many things I have learned about the gospel just being surrounded by so many wonderful leaders and peers.  I know that we need to soak it in as much as we can now because once we get to Mongolia it becomes up to us to provide the spirit.  It’s a little rough that we won’t be leaving this Monday, but we can all admit that more time with our teacher can only be a good thing.

I found this quote in a Ensign this week..."He came to wipe away our tears, not to ensure that we would never weep."  Life tests everyone.  As we face difficulties in our lives we need to pass our backpack to the Lord.  He wants to take it; He has taken it, but we need to give it to him first.  When sore troubles came upon you did you think to pray?  2 Nephi 2

Have a great week!

Elder Neuberger

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

13 More Days

Hey everyone!

This week has been extremely fast.  We started off by sitting front row for the devotional on Tuesday.  Elder Boyd knew the speaker and apparently that was good enough to land us in the best seats in the house.  We were all freaking out because we were sure one of us was going to be called up to say something, but we ended up just giving him a name tag at one point during his talk.  Thumbs up! OK! (if you get this reference I’d love to hear from you). 

Half of the zone got travel plans this week.  That’s the Malagasies and a lot of French elders.  And we should be receiving ours on Thursday.  I’m pretty sure they give you the travel plans even before you have the visas, but there’s no guarantee there.

Two new sisters from Mongolia entered the MTC today.  We talked to them in the cafeteria, and they, like the other two Mongolians, were extremely excited that we were headed to their country.

We taught for 40 minutes yesterday on receiving inspiration through church attendance.  The lessons flow rather easily now if we prepare enough beforehand.

On a less positive note, our district has transformed into a sick bay this week.
Elder Naef rolled his ankle playing volleyball on Wednesday.  It was looking like a baseball by the next day.  The entire district held its breath as he spent the day getting x-rays and seeing doctors.  Fortunately, all results were negative and he should be able to leave on time if he takes care of it.  So he’s on crutches.

Elder Williams had a terrible case of plantars warts start to plague him this week and so he also left Campus to see a  podiatrist who he will visit again before we leave.  I think everything should be fine for him. Also, I know nothing about plantars warts.

And Elder Call who has been suffering from headaches, dizzyness and seeing white dots decided it was time to get that checked out.  Which led to an extremely exciting Monday.  We went to the Health Clinic on campus at 8:30 am and saw the doctor for an hour.  He then promptly sent us off campus to an ENT.  That’s right, I left the campus.  It was extremely weird riding in a car and even weirder to see people not wearing shirts and ties.  Although it wasn’t that weird because the lady sitting next to me in the waiting room had her scriptures and another gentleman had served two senior missions.  Nonetheless it was really fun to make conversation with people from the outside world.  We were there for an hour and a half.  The doctor had done his medical school at SLU and finished in '88 which is right about the time Dad would have been starting residency.  We proceeded back to the MTC health clinic for an hour to debrief with the doctor.  I’m not sure there was any real diagnosis, but they started him on a steroid set. 

The rest of us are feeling great though which is pretty amazing because people have been passing around some nasty colds.

This week I recieved an amazing package from the Olsens, which I and the District were very grateful for.

Uncle Chad, thanks for the fantastic letter, with its timely message.

It’s hard to say who was more detailed in their analysis this week.  Kristi Lee with the day by day of her life or John with the play-by-play from the greatest night in baseball history

This week’s fireside was given by Chad Lewis, former BYU and Eagles tight end.  He showed the blessing that serving a mission has brought him and then shared a story about climbing Kilimanjaro with some wounded veterans.  There was a slideshow to go with it and it was an amazing presentation.

Finally, General Conference was this week!  Every six months the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (you’re welcome Elder Ballard :)  ) hold a two day conference sharing talks on gospel doctrine and messages on how we can just be better people!
Needless to say my hand was numb from note taking.  Here are a few things at a glance:

Elder Uchtdorf’s parody was phenomenal.  The way the adversary plays to both of the extremes is so true.

All the missionaries sat up when Elder Arden quoted PMG and talked about using time wisely.  I worry everyday about not having enough time left, to learn the language to teach the people.  But if we use our time wisely our allotted time will be enough.  Planning effectively for anything allows for efficiently completing it.  Alma 34:31-35

Elder Cook’s reminder that it is always better to look up I’ve found to be true as I try to speak and think only positively

Elder Waddell might as well have been standing in the MTC.  He strengthened my testimony that there are companions and investigators set in my path for a reason.  I know that this mission will give me more blessings than I can bring home in my suitcases.

I loved Elder Hales message on exercising agency and waiting on the Lord.  The Lord’s timeline is not ours . . . neither are our thoughts His thoughts.  He has a plan for each and every one of us and he knows what we are capable of and what we are capable of enduring.

Elder Callister’s visual of the Bible and the Book of Mormon working together to testify of Christ and his Gospel was something I’m sure I will share with many investigators in Mongolia.

Fantastic Conference! I’ve already watched several talks again during personal time.
If I had to pick overarching themes, I would have to say 1) missionary work (although that’s to a fairly biased ear) and 2) sharing the Gospel (okay I’m very biased). 

I have a testimony of Jesus Christ the Savior of the World.  I know the Book of Mormon and the Bible work hand in hand to testify of His sacrifice.  I have taken Moroni's promise (Moroni 10:3-5). Nephi’s words sum it all up (2 Nephi 33:10-11)

I can’t believe we're almost in Mongolia!!!!!

I hope everything is going well for everyone where ever you are.
Have a great week!

Elder Neuberger

Link to General Conference:

Link to National Geographic article about Ulan Batar:

Scripture References for Travis’ letter

Alma 34:31-34
31 Yea, I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer; for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation ; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you.
 32 For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.
 33 And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.
34 Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crises, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.

Moroni 10:3-5
3 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.
 4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
 5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.