Monday, January 30, 2012

Busy at the Gers

Hello again!

Okay, a few more of Dad's questions answered.
In the new apartment, laundry is like in the last with the usual laundry "stirrer" (aka washing machine).  It spins your clothes in water for awhile.   
Yes, we have hot water.   
No, there is no way to regulate heat in the apartment. 
How Mongolians in the gers take baths in the winter? .  .  .  I want to know so bad, but I don’t want to sound insensitive.  I'll ask this week.
This week began where we left off last week, trying to contact as many members and less actives as possible in our area.  On Tuesday we took a bus an hour outside of town to work in the farthest part of our area.  Unfortunately the addresses were even more out of order than usual and we had a tough time tracking anyone down.  So we just street contacted some people (it's legal as long as I don't say anything until we are in the house) and we were able to teach the Restoration a few times.  On Wednesday we went out as a district in that same area to visit a less active member on her birthday.  The day really got going when we visited a family who we contacted while moving coal last week.  By about 7:00 we were out of people to meet with. We were walking around and were ready to call it quits (owing to the fact that we were about to lose appendages in the cold) when we stopped by a church member's house.  They contacted a less active friend and we were able to meet with her and the member family together which was wonderful because it's very hard to get lessons with members in Khialaast right now.  The sister had had incredible faith to be baptized.  The only member in a family of shamanists, she's been basically disowned by her family.  We shared scriptures Mosiah 4:11 and Alma 26:27.  We invited her to church and she was there on Sunday smiling the whole time!

Thursday brought English class and then straight back out to the gers.  We were able to meet with the three sisters who we met after we met with the grandmother last week. (Are you able to follow that) and teach the message of the Restoration.  It was the best that we've ever taught it together.  We passed the topics back and forth seamlessly and the spirit was able to testify of the truthfulness to them.  When we finished we invited one of them to pray, as she did she began to cry.  It was a wonderful experience that really highlighted the week.  It was a moment that takes you back for a moment and helps you realize "that's right, this is why I'm here."

Friday was tough as we took our branch list into the far reaches of the area.  All day the addresses were wrong.  We would knock; someone would come to the gate and we would ask for the member.  (multiple people live in one fenced area) The constant answer was either they moved or they've never lived there.  Well....can we share a message with you?   Nope...  Oh well, it was cool because it was a like "loophole" tracting.  That is we weren't technically "tracting" because we were looking for people at those addresses. No slamming door stories, but tracting-ish none the less.

On Wednesday night we got a call from the AP's saying that my companion had been invited to participate in the Mongolian Priesthood Leadership Conference on Friday night (I told you he was awesome).  There was an member of the seventy there (Elder Gong) and all the priesthood leadership from Mongolia.  My companion did a demonstration with another Elder on how to invite people back to church.  The entire room was impressed when they finished.  It was really cool to sit in on the meeting which was in English and then translated.  We had a meeting later with a man with a baptismal date.  After that we were late to meet with the three sisters who I talked about earlier.  To our good fortune there was a Relief Society activity going on and they had gone in and sat down.  It was on family history and the sisters of the branch lovingly included our investigators in the discussion on family history.  It was so well done and such a blessing because we had been a half an hour late to meet.  Lastly, that night we met with a family who have been members for ten years!!!  That's pretty much forever in Mongolia.  They have a  son who served a mission in 2001 and two that are preparing to go now.  We shared scriptures on enduring to the end and reminded them that just like in Lehi's dream  (1Nephi 8:28ish)  even of those who had partaken of the fruit some still fell away into forbidden paths.

Sunday was our church power day.  Five hours of meetings and a fireside left us with no time to meet with anyone else.  The fireside was on the topic of the week -- family history.  President reminded us that missionary work and family history work are exactly the same work just on different sides of the veil. 

I feel like this week's letter was to "outliney" and not enough experience filled.  I'll try to do better next week!

Always smiling!
Elder Neuberger

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Lots of Hills

First an attempt at answering your questions:
My companion is from the city (Ulaan Bataar).  We see people that he knows all the time. It’s pretty funny.
Elder Bayrtsogt and me
He probably knows 20 English words.  Mostly church related.
We live alone, just the two of us.  The apartment is not as nice as that first one, but it works just fine. We live on the sixth floor with no elevator which is hilarious.  
We live kind of far from our area because there are no apartments in our area.  We live on the edge of the main city and take the bus up to the ger districts.
The church building is super nice.  Like something from America which is in stark contrast with its surroundings.  But because of this everyone knows it.
About sixty people attend sacrament meeting at the branch.
The church music you sent for Christmas is great, plus I got more from Elder Jolley.  My companion loves the music even though he has no idea what it says.
Of course I’m wearing my boots.  And the rest of the winter stuff works great.  It gets really cold walking around the gers all day. Staying warm consists of boots, huge socks, leggings, UnderArmour, my suit, big coat, and gloves and walking really fast!
Mongolians live for P-day basketball.  It’s ridiculous.
Yes, Preach My Gospel is in Mongolian as well as a lot of other church manuals and such.  

I can’t believe that it’s already been another week!

A view back toward the city
I think I told you that Elder Bayrtsogt (that’s my companion) and I are both new to the area. So, this week we got a list of members in the branch from the sisters in our area and set off to introduce ourselves to members, find less active members and contact all of the investigators on our board.  A tall task, but where else could we start?  Many of the addresses were wrong and others were unfindable due to the interesting organization of addresses in Mongolian ger districts that is no organization lol. However, it all led to some very cool experiences.  Monday was difficult and it was immediately apparent how much more real the poverty is here in Khialaast.  Many of the people we met had faces creased with years of difficulty and they listened only hesitantly, skeptical from years of living in difficult situations.  But we continued to teach and testify (maybe my companion much more undeterred than myself).  

We began Tuesday the same way working our way through names on the list, slowly and surely. Midway through the day we found the house of an 80 year old lady.  When we entered her home we found out that she was the only church member in her family.  She had been a church member for almost ten years, but in August had become ill and unable to attend church.  She had been confined to her bed for the last 5 months.  Crying she told us how she felt alone and forgotten.  We asked her if she wanted a priesthood blessing and she agreed.  Afterwards we shared scriptures and assured her that she was never forgotten and never will be forgotten by the Lord.  We were able to pass her name along to the branch president this week.  While we were visiting with the grandmother her 16 year old grandson watched from a chair in the corner of the room.  At the end of the visit he asked if he could visit with us later. We excitedly wrote down his information and gave him a restoration pamphlet.  As we left the house it was hard to say anything as the Spirit was so strong.  Not 50 yards from the home a man stopped us in the street and asked if we could come to his house.  We followed him up the road and he explained that he had visited with the missionaries before in another city.  We visited with him and his friend and then were invited to the next door neighbors’ (relatives) where we introduced ourselves to 4 more people.  We invited everyone to church and were on our way.  That night we meet with a less active member who has a son and a daughter on missions and we testified of the blessings that come through missionary work. Her daughter is serving in San Francisco.  

Thursday I taught English in the morning into the afternoon, but we still made visits with some new members and investigators.  At about 7:45 we were out of people to meet with.  We called about 20 people .  .  . all busy.  So we prayed and continued walking.   We got a call 10 minutes later from a new member who lives at the top of a mountain about three miles away.  She wanted to meet.  My companion and I looked at each other and started laughing so hard, but we told her we were on our way.  In the darkness we slipped and fell the whole way laughing until we made it to her house.  On Thursday night we had the opportunity to go out with a ward missionary for our lessons. Bat-erdene is 4 foot 10 on a good day and great to be around.  He would try to say things in English and then start laughing for 10 minutes.  He brought a wonderful perspective for our investigators in all of our lessons.  

Friday was service day. We started by cleaning the church.  Elder Bayrtsogt and I volunteered for the bathroom which was making the whole building smell like an outhouse.  It took us an hour to work that all out and then we headed to the same new member’s house to help move coal.  In Mongolia you buy your coal by the metric ton and the truck comes and drops it off as close to your ger as he can get.  Which in this case was about 100 yards below this sister’s ger.  We shoveled the coal into 50 pound flour bags and carried them up the hill.  About half way through a car tried to pass the heap of coal.  The roads are kind of like switchbacks with tires laid down and covered with dirt to prevent erosion. Two of his tires slid of the side of the road and the car bottomed out on these anti-erosion tires.  We felt terrible, so we tried to help.  After 10 minutes of pushing, most of the surrounding neighbors had assembled to watch.  Enlisting their help we were able to lift the car back onto the road. Fortunately most of the kids agreed to stay and help move the coal up the hill which helped us finish much faster. Nevertheless, Elder Bayrtsogt and I are still sore.  

Sunday was great!  We had our meeting with the branch president followed by church and our branch missionary meeting.  I got to translate once again in investigator class for the senior couple which often times turns into a sort of Pictionary where I try to follow diagrams and words written on the board.  Fortunately, the Richardsons are very patient. What a great week! The Lord has guided our efforts as we do our best to learn this new area.  It’s been tough and a little lonely at times, but a wonderful challenge that has tried both faith and courage and leg strength (holy cow that’s a lot of hills).  It’s wonderful to look back on the week and see how the Lord has blessed us in so many ways.  As we petition for his help he will provide a way for every righteous desire.  The branch in Khialaast is truly like D&C 49:25 and Matt 5:14-16. 

Have a wonderful week,

Elder Neuberger

D&C 49:25  Zion shall flourish upon the hills and rejoice upon the mountains, and shall be assembled together unto the place which I have appointed.

Matt 5:14-16  Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
 15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Happy Birthday Ali

(Last week's letter was found, so there are two separate postings.  See the entry below as well.)

Hello again!
and happy birthday to Ali!

If I tried to fill you in on the entire week it would take more than a week to tell you.  And I have 30 minutes...
Everything until Saturday consisted of: a lot of splits with other Elders to teach English, a lot of work on transportation, quite a few late night and early morning runs to the airport and the bus stop to pick up and drop off Elders and a lot of good times with Elder Jolley

On Saturday (transfer day) we picked an Elder up from the airport at around 5:00 in the morning and then made it back to the church before everyone else arrived.  It got pretty crazy at that point when everyone from the mission showed up to switch companions and make their way to their new areas.  My new companion came and before I knew it we were in a  taxi on our way to our new area, Khilist, or however you spell that in the Roman alphabet.  We got to the apartment and started looking through the area book and on the white boards to see who to meet with.  We're both new to the area so it was a bit harder than usual.  We immediately decided it would be a good idea to go on splits with the other companionship in the area.  From about twelve to 6:00 I was with Elder Nymbayar.  We met with three investigators and I basically taught all three of the lessons.  Not because Elder Nymbayar was lazy, but he just told me teach about this, and I went.  I'm not sure they were the most instructive lessons, but it was a wonderful learning opportunity.  Aside from that the area is just amazingly cool.  Sansar where I just served is in the main city, where as Khilist is straight north of the city in the mountain canyons with only gers .  .  .  awesome!!!   The only way I can describe it is like "Doc's Run" at Canyons ski resort.  You can see the entire valley below and canyons and mountains to each side all covered with gers.  We spent the day climbing straight up mountains and down the other sides.  We finally met back up at a member's house where we did some service carrying coal in bags from the bottom of a hill to the top where her ger is.  The best part was that the hill was straight ice so we fell repeatedly in the attempt.  This family literally has the greatest view from their front door that I have ever seen.  You can see everything.  She fed us and we shared some scriptures before we left.

On Saturday we woke up and had some wonderful personal and companionship study.  The study becomes a little tougher with a native, but it makes it all the more fun to overcome the language barrier.  Elder Bayartsogt is amazingly patient and humble.  He is open to any kind of ideas on how to make our study and planning more efficient.  He shares my eagerness to be obedient with exactness.  Church was great!  There are a lot fewer members than in Sansar, but we shook hands with everyone in the building .  .  . twice.  Elder Bayartsogt's smile never left his face.  We met with our bishop and our ward mission leader trying to get prepped for a packed week of lessons.  There's not much else to report on the work.  Today we're playing basketball and my companion has  his patriarchal blessing interview.  Then we're teaching a family home evening and an ALA.  Should be a great start to the work!
Times up!
See you next week,

Elder Neuberger

Monday, January 9, 2012

Lost Letter Found

The letter was lost in cyberspace and Travis re-sent it with this week's letter, so it's a nice bonus.

Hello Everyone,
Getting right to it, this will be my last week in Sansar.  This upcoming Saturday is transfers and I'll be headed to Kailist which is an area comprised of only ger (yurt) districts in the very north of the city.  It's actually the area Elder Jolley came from before he became AP.  Elder Jolley will head to Selbe, the only area without a ger district where he will be zone leader.  He'll be companions with Elder Quinton from my group.  Everyone in my MTC group is staying put this transfer.  All but one (Elder Williams) have new companions.  My new companion is Elder Bayartsogt, who entered the mission just a few days after we did.  He's part of my "group" in that we'll leave the mission at the same time.  I've met him a few times and he is an amazing Elder.  Extremely hard working and extremely humble.  I can't wait to tear it up with him.  I can't wait to apply all of the amazing things that Elder Jolley has taught me this last twelve weeks as I begin in this new area.  Both my self  an Elder Bayartsogt are new to the area (some say "whitewashed") so it's going to take some extra effort to jump start the transfer. To be continued .  .  .
This past week went something like this

On Monday we had an FHE (Family Home Evening) at the Church which was attended by many of the young people.  There were about 40 people who came and half of them were investigators.  It was amazing to see everyone participating in the games together as if they had been best friends forever.  We played several charade games where I was judge for who raised their hand first (about all I'm good for in a super fast Mongolian game).  And then we played "Do you love your neighbor?"  We ran from that event out to our ger district to meet with a young girl at the family of a church member.  We had planned to teach all 5 points of the gospel of Jesus Christ but quickly realized that anything more than a  discussion on faith was going to be over the top.  It was great as we talked through their knowledge of the Bible and Jesus Christ.  We asked them to read Alma 32 and are working on a follow up visit before we transfer to  our new areas.

On Tuesday after district meeting we had a tuna fish party at our house and then taught English at Elder Jolley's hotel (his visa sponsor).  Wednesday night we made pizza at the Elder and Sister Hunt's apartment with Elder Quinton and Elder Wilson.  I'm pretty sure I was laughing about 75% of the time.  We were just cracking jokes across the table the whole time.  And then I shared Matthew 24:44-48.  Progress and salvation come through the doing.  We're either moving closer or further away from our celestial home.  There is no idle on the vehicle to heaven.

On Saturday we worked on getting the transfer list out to all of the missionaries. It took a while to rearrange the phone list and what not.  But we were still able to get to Purev and Nymsuren's house to teach about temples and family history work.  We brought two of the ward missionaries with us which was a really good fellowshiping opportunity.

We ate pancakes and then steak for our last Sunday in Sansar. We bore our testimonies in ward missionary meeting and Elder Jolley gave all of them some really good instruction on reactivating and retaining members.  I bore my testimony the best I could and we sat the rest of the meetings.  Even though I don't know half the names of people in the ward it was kinda of sad to be leaving a place.  Sunday night we tried three different plans that all fell through.  However, we did get to cross a frozen river and climb a few sweet hills.

I'm so grateful as this transfer quickly comes to an end for the wonderful people in Sansar.  I'm especially grateful to Elder Jolley who has been the greatest trainer that anyone could ever ask for.  In teaching though companionship study and through action he has shown me what it means to be a true representitive of Jesus Christ. I'm excited to go and try to be the kind of missionary that he continues to be.

I hope everyone is having a great new year in what I've heard is a pretty warm winter.

Elder Neuberger

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!!!

One of the more difficult holidays to celebrate as a missionary seeing as we go to bed at 10:30, but there was excitement this week as I did get to eat wolf (but that's a story for another cards on the table, it tastes just like mutton яах вэ?)

Other new experiences this week also include getting picked up by a drunk man on the bus and my first trip to the жинхэнэ zax.  Elder Jolley, Boyd and I all went down to get some material for Deels (google it) which is traditional Mongolian clothing that we will wear for tsagan sar in February which is a multiday holiday celebration.  The zax was amazing, kind of like the outdoor market we went to in Brazil this summer, but three times the size.  Picture two covered football fields full of little stalls and then thousands of other stalls in the open selling anything you can possibly imagine.  Seriously, it's huge.
Yes, I got the Christmas packages this week, and wow you way out did yourselves.  There are so many amazing goodies.  I'm going to be eating candy for a year.  For my birthday which is ridiculously near, I really don't need a package. 

I just got John's letter with the Harry potter thread starters .  .  . amazing and I got an amazing letter from Leslie.  Someone tell her I loved it because it was from three months ago and it will probably take me that long to get one back to the states.

I'm not really sure where this week has gone. It feels like yesterday that we were waking up to talk to our families.  Amazing investigator of the week goes to Batcaxain.  This week we were able to meet with him a couple of times and teach about some of the commandments.  In one particular lesson we asked him about his testimony of Joseph Smith.  His response....I know Joseph Smith was a prophet because Nephi prophesies about him in the beginning of the Book of Mormon.  I'm not sure I even completely picked up on that until seminary.  To be able to read and understand that was such a testimony to his faith and desire to learn.  Just another instance where the investigators have taught me as much as we have taught them.

We met with a couple who just had a baby this week and gave him a blessing.  It was an amazing opportunity to share the story of the Christ child and testify of His life and ministry.  We read from Luke 2 and then I was able to bear a simple testimony of my love for the Savior. 

We spent the end of New Year's Eve with our new members who fed us more buuz, potato salad and bread then we needed, but I was extremely grateful.  While we were there the other good people of Ulaanbaatar had an awfully hard time holding on to their fireworks until midnight.  After about 9 oclock it seemed like there was a display every minute.  Fireworks just started erupting from between every building in the city.  I'm not sure what the fire codes are, but what can you catch on fire at -30 degrees anyway?

Best way to spend New Years day? гэвэл  Sit and listen to the wonderful testimonies of members for an hour and a half, at which point the bishop had to turn away about five more people that were headed toward the stand. Then go to another ward and do it all again.  We went to the khailist branch with the president where I sat next to the cutest family with a ten year old girl.  She was so excited to share pictures of her family with me and to see mine.  And we played some wonderful Mongolian pictionary.

This week we taught several lessons on faith and I was able to devote time in my personal study to the subject.  The concept of faith is much like the passing of light through a prism.  When we focus a light on a prism we find that it comes out the other side tranformed into a rainbow of color.  Likewise, when we focus our faith on Jesus Christ through Him we can gain faith in every principle of the Gospel.  Through the transforming power of the Savior's atonement we can gain faith in a rainbow of gospel topics that encompass the spectrum of truth.

Elder Neuberger