Monday, February 6, 2012

Onward through the snow

Well where were we .  .  .

First, answers to your questions.
How's the journal going?  Haven t missed a day.

How many church buildings in UB?  How many missionary areas in UB?
Five buildings and they are building a stake center. There are ten areas.

How do we eat once we leave our apartment for the day and go to the ger district?
That's a great question. We eat after study at 11:00 and if we eat before we come back at 9:30 its because some wonderful person has fed us during the day.  But whatever! When you're working you're not hungry and we occasionally stop to get snacks at the little shops.  I've lost the weight I gained while in the MTC.

When is my companion's birthday?  Can you send him anything? (even if it's not his birthday)
My companions birthday is 4/5.  We may still be companions and then it would be really cool if you sent him something.  More on that later.

Am I hearing from any friends via Dear Elder?
John consistently writes. He's amazing. I've had a few others, but few and far between.
(Note from the editor (i.e. Travis' Dad):  It's really easy to write.  Follow the directions in the right-hand margin.  Even just a few lines are appreciated.  At -40 degrees and 10,000 miles from home, letters warm you up).

Where do I go to write letters?  Does my companion write an email to his family or write them a standard letter? There are little internet places all over.  My companion doesn't write his family by email because there's no computer for them to use regularly.  He hand writes a letter which makes my email time hard because he's sitting and waiting patiently and I feel bad.

I have been asked several times if we wear something to cover our faces when we are out in the cold.
That full facemask/shield from skiing usually does the trick.  If it's windy it doesn't really matter either way lol.

Okay, this week the smoke cleared out of the city on a number of occasions leaving the air clean and the views spectacular.

This week I set a goal to really focus on needs of the people we teach and to listen hard for the Spirit and to say things that needed to be said.  It was tough and required a lot of effort not to think about the things I was going to say and to focus only on what my companion was saying.  The results were fantastic! On three or four occasions I found my self saying things that I would not have otherwise said.  Things were brought to my remembrance from companion and personal study.  I was able to say things with more power.  And I felt the Savior's love for the people we taught stronger than ever.

On Monday, on our way to an investigator's house we saw an old man taking his buckets to the well for water.  We quickly asked if we could help.  We did so and somehow got all the water back to his ger before it froze, miracle.

On Tuesday I read the article in this month's Ensign by Elder Bednar about the tender mercies of the Lord.  The little things day to day in life that the world will take for mere coincidence.  Indeed it was a tender mercy that I had read the article because later that day I began to better recognize and appreciate  these blessings.  In my English class I had my students read poems for pronunciation.  I had randomly selected 3 from a stack in the English library.  When we read them out loud later on Wednesday, I realized that one was "The Touch of the Master's Hand"  The last stanza was a tender mercy to me that hit me not so tenderly like a ton of bricks.  It references those whose lives are battered with years of sin and difficult times.  Those people that the many consider already "gone."  In Khilaast we come across many of these people everyday.  It helped me realize that the Lord never sees them as "gone."  He sees them as his children and so should we.  Because we never know how the touch of the Gospel can change a person's life.  The love and light of the gospel are for everyone.

News flash of the week: Ice cream is super cheap when its -40 degrees! This week I took to eating 10cent ice cream everyday.  My companion just laughs and laughs.  But its really good.

On Wednesday we met with three less active members and a drunk man who continually asked me if I understood in a part of the area we had never been.   We came to the backside of a mountain that was more covered in ice than usual and my companion took off sking in his boots down the face.  He stopped half way down and I decided "well that looked super easy."  Unfortunately, I lack the correct technique that comes with growing up with Mongolian winters.  By the time I was halfway to my companion I was going 20 miles per hour easy and was pretty sure I was going to end up in the emergency room.  My companion seeing the fear in my eyes struck an athletic stance (all 150 pounds of him) bracing for impact.  And was there ever impact.  It doesn't take a physicist to explain that his lack of velocity put his momentum much below mine.  We ended up on the ground and my pants ended up at the tailor.  We got a good laugh out of that.

Well Friday brought my first birthday in Mongolia.  Beginning with a phone call after companionship study from the President and the office staff who sang me "Happy Birthday."  It took me completely by surprise. They day continued with 6 hours of English teaching.  All you English teachers out there - greatest English listening activity ever:  bring in your MP3 player and have them listen and write down words they know.  It made the hours fly.  I spent the evening the best way possible: at a baptism.  A 4 foot 85 year old grandma was baptized.  She was great. but didn't quite understand the microphone on the pulpit using it instead as an earpiece during her testimony.  During the baptism my district leader had mail for me so I received Nana's card exactly on my birthday.  Awesome!  After the baptism my district surprised me with a pizza party which they had made.  I'm pretty sure Mom tipped them off.  The pizza was amazing and we invited everyone in the building to have some.  Once we got home the calls started rolling in.  News spreads like wildfire because I got a call form everyone in my MTC district within 20 minutes of each other. An amazing birthday!

Sunday was tough as only two of our potential ten investigators came to church.  But we had a wonderful testimony meeting none the less and finished the day with a lesson.  The wind was so intense and the snow so piercing that my companion and I walked backwards up a hill as not to lose our eyes.  But the lesson was fantastic we talked about sacrifice and shared this quote from Neal a Maxwell:  "Consecration is the only surrender that is also a victory"  How true is that?  Whenever we give anything in the Lord's cause we have his promise that he will bless us.  And as we donate of our time, money, and talents let us not forget that no sacrifice no matter how great, compares in the least to the sacrifice of the Savior's  (2Nephi 9:21-22) whose sole mortal purpose was to suffer for the sins of all mankind and to break the bands of death.  Truly "sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven."

I love you all,

Elder Neuberger

Touch of the Master's Hand
The Auctioneer held up the old violin and,
surveying the crowd, he asked with a grin,
"What am I bid for the old violin?"
And he held it up with the bow.

"A dollar or two? Who'll make it three?
Perhaps it has no real value," said he.
"But what am I bid for the old violin?"
And he held it up with the bow.
No one spoke and the auctioneer sighed, 
and took the old fiddle to set it aside,
when far in the rear there arose an old man,
and walked to the front of the row.

He lovingly brushed the dust from it's face
and tightened the strings, put the bow in it's place.
The drawing the bow with a move sure and slow,
the old man began to play.

With the touch of the master's hand
the old violin sang a song from within,
and the list'ners began to understand
the touch of the master's hand.

The old man concluded and shuffled away,
and the auctioneer looked where the violin lay.
Then raising it up, he turned to the crowd
with a voice that was humble and low,

"Who'll start the bidding? A thousand," said he.
"Two thousand once, and who'll give me three?
Three thousand going and three thousand gone,"
he whispered, then turned away.

Well, some in the crowd were confused and amazed.
What changed the value from night to day?
Was the old violin not the same as before?
It seemed they could not understand.

For many a life scarred and battered with sin
can find a great change, like the old violin,
When our eyes are opened, our hearts touched from within
by the touch of the Master's hand.

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