Monday, March 26, 2012

Gonna Be Crazy

Well the excitement in the mission is rising as we come up on the most packed weekend/biggest transfer ever.  This next transfer on the 6th of April there will be a total of 32 missionaries either going or coming including eight from America.  Almost all of the leaving missionaries have filled leadership positions.  Adding to the confusion will be the fact that it will be Easter weekend and general conference weekend in Mongolia (we get to see general conference in English a week late).  From Friday till the end of Sunday that week will be packed with transfers, special choir concerts, general conference and the missionary fireside where all 32 will bear their testimonies.  (the missionary fireside alone will probably be at least three hours)

In any case, until then Elder B and I are working hard till the end here in Khilaast.  It’s pretty much impossible that we will stay together here for another transfer.  He will need to fill one of the many vacancies and probably in the countryside.  It’s been a blissful couple of months with a missionary who is going to do amazing things.

In temporal news, dish of the week: ridiculously good kebabs or gyros.

This week while walking down a goatamj (dirt path in the ger district) we were stopped by a drunk man yelling over a fence at us.  After telling me how he felt about religion, he invited us inside.  We were a bit reluctant, but how do you dissuade a persistent drunk.  You can’t.  He proceeded to give me a Mongolian name (the difficulty in saying the name Neuberger enhanced by inebriation) and tell us about the sky and the earth and something else (slurred speech still out of my league).  My companion and I laughed about it for the rest of the day when we finally made it out.  (It took several attempts to leave).

In the success column for the week we had several lessons with a family whose daughter is not a member, but the mom and the other daughter are.  She was completely against anything we had to say the first couple of visits having built up some sort of resentment toward missionaries and the Church in general.  To be honest I was scared to speak.  If my companion was having trouble getting her to listen what could I possibly say?  Looking back it’s hard to say what happened mostly because it’s difficult to understand how the Spirit works in others.  But last night after she had tried to leave twice before we started the lesson, she listened.  My companion had me start.  I began to talk slowly and timidly.  She was sitting across the ger and as I spoke she moved closer to hear, I was so surprised that I almost stopped talking all together.  I talked for probably five minutes and then my companion expounded.  She didn’t break eye contact until we were finished. As we left the ger after she made a baptismal commitment, Elder B and I could scarcely talk all the way to the bus stop.  We just smiled.

Our new member Cyvdaa has been trying to share the blessings of the gospel with her family and they consented to have us come visit this week.  It was amazing to see the change that has been made in her.  Hard to see over the week to week.  But it was the first time we had been in her house since we first meet with her two months ago.  When we got there she told her dad to turn off the TV and made sure that her family was paying attention the whole time.  She practically taught the lesson.  It was amazing to see her excitement for the gospel and her wanting to share it.  The gospel can change peoples’ lives like no other physician, school work, circumstance, or experience can.  It’s a wonderful thing to be able to teach a whole family.

Finally as we get ready to enter Holy week, I hope that we increase our focus on the life and ministry of the Savior, his atoning sacrifice and the meaning of each in our lives.  I have been reading from Jesus the Christ recently and am slowly working my way through its pages. This week’s thought comes from pg 142 the forth point entitled “Come and See.”

“The spirit of our Lord's invitation to the young truth seekers, Andrew and John, is manifest in a similar privilege extended to all. The man who would know Christ must come to Him, to see and hear, to feel and know. Missionaries may carry the good tidings, the message of the gospel, but the response must be an individual one. Are you in doubt as to what that message means to-day? Then come and see for yourself. Would you know where Christ is to be found? Come and see.”

He lives and through his mercy we too can live again!

Have a great week,
Elder Neuberger

PS I never did give an answer about winter time bathing for ger residents. Okay, so there are places called hot water, where you go and take a shower.  They're not super common so it makes for minimal bathing.  Nobody smells terrible though.  So there must be some science behind it. Fortunately, there's a shower in our apartment.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Heat Wave

So after reading letters of Elder Holmes and Elder Stutz  this week (both serving in Mexico) I can’t agree more that summer is here  .  .  .  relatively.  haha  I don’t know how warm it got this week but warm enough to shed the winter coat and put the summer shoes back on.  Editor’s note: still hasn’t been above freezing since November.

This week started off about as best as it could with an all mission conference with Elder Grow of the Seventy (Elder Bednar was already booked elsewhere, right STL?).  It was amazing to see all 86 of the elders and sisters in one room, including a lot of whom I had never seen before because they serve in the countryside.  Elder Grow was so personable the entire two days and just so easy going as he taught with power and love.  The over arching message of the entire conference was working with and finding  less active members.  He helped us realize the importance of less active members who have already made baptismal covenants who are now at this time cutting themselves off from the blessings of exaltation.  He helped us realize that bringing someone back into activity can be just as joyful as bringing someone into the church.  Elaborating on the importance of less actives he taught us that they are truly our greatest source for new people to teach.  Many times we enter the homes of members and ask for referrals only to be told that they have only member friends.  It becomes obvious that those who are less active probably have non member friends who we could teach about the gospel.  As we re-activate, we actually enhance our ability to find teach and baptize.  Along these lines, Elder Grow also highlighted the idea of real growth.  Though membership records in Mongolia have steadily risen, in order to see real growth we need to make sure that new members and old members alike progress to the temple. 

Tuesday night was a mission talent show which had a several awesome cultural numbers and songs, including yes my first live throat singing experience complete with horse head fiddle.  (Google Mongolian throat singing and watch a clip) The entire thing was well done and a great bonding experience for the Mongolian and American elders.

On the second day of mission conference Elder Grow took a few hours to answer questions.  Because so many of the Mongolian elders and sisters come from part member families many of the questions were directed to families and how salvation will work in such cases.  In other words, difficult questions.  It was amazing to see Elder Grow answer each question with such poise and grace.  Not avoiding questions but helping people to realize what is important and what we need to focus on.  Both days I was able to sit on the front row with my district and as Elder Grow spoke it was amazing to be so close and to almost tangibly feel his testimony.

As we finished conference Elder Grow gave us all a copy of Elder Bednar’s “Chose Not To Be Offended” talk translated into Mongolian (I’m almost positive he didn’t translate it, lol).  He gave us the charge to share it with less active and new members alike.  My companion and I were able to use it 5 times in the ensuing week!  As we talked about the concept of being offended, we also learned.  It’s interesting to note that the word for “to complain” and “to be offended” are the same word in Mongolian.  I didn’t really get that at first.  How are these words even related?  As we continued to teach through the week it became apparent.  It stands to reason that he who complains, he who finds the glass half empty and the fault in another will also be the one that will find reason to be offended.
Take home message.  It should be literally impossible for us to be offended.  People all around us will give us reason to take offense.  As members of the church at one time or another someone will say or do something that leads to an opportunity to be offended.  But it is always our choice to be or not be offended.  To act or to be acted upon.  When such circumstances arise it is my prayer that we answer in the words of Pahoran to Moroni  "It matterth not" Alma 61:9.

Have a wonderful week and look for the ways the Lord has blessed your life.  I know He has mine!

Elder Neuberger

PS  OK so I promised pictures and then I forgot my camera at home this morning  yack uu?  fail shuu dee

Monday, March 12, 2012

Better Yet

Last week’s P-day did not include basketball in the morning which left the day wide open. We ended up getting in some basketball outside the central church building in the parking lot. It was probably ten degrees below zero at that point.  No one had basketball stuff because the game was impromptu.  Fortunately,  I had shorts on under my slacks, so I was able to rock Adidas b-ball shorts with a white shirt and tie combo along with the dress shoes and long socks.  Elder Stranski took some great pics that I’ll send along  .  .  .  someday.

So I spoke too soon on how awesome the sister missionaries were. They got moved around this week and out of our area leaving us (Elder B and me) and another American companionship. We have been left with the monumental task of taking on their area book plus ours which has been a blast.  We have been all over our area (which might be the biggest in the city) tracking down investigators and new members. Between those people and the new investigators we’ve picked up, we now have 7 people with baptismal dates set and we plan to up the number this week.

All of the Elders from areas outside of UB are in town for mission conference tomorrow and Wednesday.  We saw all of them this morning at basketball which was so wonderful.  A lot of them were trainers of the other Americans.  Such great elders!  The next two days should be fantastic with Elder Grow from the Seventy.  Plus he knocked out an English teaching day. Up top, Elder Grow!

This week was Mother’s day in Mongolia. I cant tell you how much I appreciate my Mom and all the amazing things she has done for me!  bayriin mend khorgii

One of our new investigators from this week  is the next door neighbor of a member, which makes visits with a member present a breeze. She is the calmest down to earth person I’ve ever met. She listens amar intently and then asks the most thoughtful questions. Its been a joy to meet with her and teach her about the restoration and just religion in general.  Biciglan maybe I’m not sure how to spell it in this alphabet.

Dorjsheeder another investigator of ours has listened  to a few of the lessons with tangible skepticism. He'd often laugh at times that he would feel uncomfortable in the lessons. This week we passed him on the street and invited him into the church for a church tour. Again skeptical he came. Mid way through the lessons he told us about some of the health problems he has been dealing with. My companion immediately offered a priesthood blessing and the brother accepted.  As the blessing concluded his giddy skepticism had turned to calm understanding.  We'll be keeping up with him this week.
Back to English classes this week, which as much as I joke I really do enjoy (just no as much as missionary work). The classes are fun and all the kids are my age which makes it fun to just talk to them. On Thursday we had district leader splits and I was with Elder Woodward all day. We taught a combined 7 hours of English. Not sure why I added that, put it on the stat sheet.
This weekend was District conference so we had three sessions of that on Saturday and Sunday.  Its amazing to see how young the church really is in Mongolia (next year in April it will be the  20 year there). Most of the sessions of conference  were on how to successfully organize quorums and hold meetings such as BYC and leadership meetings. Sunday included some wonderful talks about not taking offense. Each member was given a copy of Elder Bednar’s talk  "And None Shall Offend Them."  Great talk!  Sister Clark talked about the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee? The Dead Sea is dead because it hoards the water it takes in from the same source (the Jordan) as Galilee.  If we worry about only ourselves it’s easy to become discouraged and caught up in the “thick of thin things.”  When we give service and genuinely love others we bless not only those we serve, but ourselves in the process!

I read through the commandments and lessons 5 several times this week in Preach My Gospel in preparation for Elder Grow. If you have a copy read it and count the number of blessings the Lord promises to those who keeps the commandments.  It’s phenomenal!

Finally. Wow what a great week!  There have been so many moments this week that I have been filled with the happiness of the mission.  If you think that missionaries are always happy you’re crazy. If you think we're never discouraged you’re out of your mind.  But you could pile up a thousand bad days and given one good day it would all be worth it. The happiness that comes from serving the Lord full time or otherwise is incomparable.  It’s a kind of happiness that fills you up!  It takes every worthless care and casts it aside.  I bear testimony of the truth of this gospel and all that it teaches.  Have a wonderful week!

Elder Neuberger
PS Tell Nana that I got her recipes.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Curt Schilling and Breakfast Burritos

Well, Elder Bayartsogt and I are enjoying the last few days until I go back to English teaching on Wednesday.  After over a month off, it feels like I never taught English in the first place.

Last Monday we finished off P-day by grocery shopping. When all was said and done we had dropped 45 American dollars on food (which is a small missionary fortune).  But fortunately we've been eating really well this week and have invented a few new companionship favorites on the way.  After rushing to get our hair cut we taught a family home evening to two brothers who are preparing to serve missions.  The new sisters in our district took the lead and did a wonderful job.  One sister is in her last five months and is amazingly proactive about the work and the other is a “mini missionary” (amazing Mongolian opportunity where church members who are usually youth, go on a “mission” for a full transfer with a real missionary.  It’s like a really long split.  Way cool!)  Anyway, she’s been a member for only 4 months which is also amazing.

Tuesday morning we walked the 5 miles to our area because the buses and meakers were not coming (still haven’t figured out why). It was a great walk and I got to see the bus route that I usually can’t see through the frozen bus windows.  Unfortunately, our last visit of the day told us he’s now dead set on Buddhism after having met with the missionaries for 5 months.  After talking with him we realized that the root of the issue is that Buddhism will continue to let him smoke.  Undeterred, we plan on continuing to contact him.  Tuesday night we needed to drop something off at another missionary apartment so I threw on my summer shoes and we headed off.  Outside the apartment a snow covered slab of cement grabbed the back of my heel and that started a week of “Curt Schilling socks.” I’ll leave it at that.

On Wednesday we saw the biggest dog in the world on the bus.  Probably 200 lbs no joke.  Anyway, our best lesson of the week came on Wednesday evening with our new member who was baptized on the previous Friday.  We taught about baptismal covenants with a branch missionary and a returned missionary.  It was one of those lessons that you don’t want to end.  We passed the lesson around almost seamlessly and you could feel the power in the voices of those sharing testimony including Cyvdaa the new member.

Wednesday night we met with our branch president to discuss the status of the branch.  The biggest problem being that there just aren’t enough people to run a branch.  We discussed callings and a plan of attack for the large less active list.  Fortunately, we have an amazing branch president who sees more solutions than problems.

On Thursday we went out to contact less actives, but ended up teaching three lessons to new investigators.  Upon the arrival to one of the less active members on our list we met a man who was visiting the family. When the conversation turned to the gospel, he displayed a significant understanding of Christianity which almost doesn’t exist in Mongolia. With his background we were able to discuss more in depth our loving Heavenly Father and the plan that he has outlined for us.

Friday’s plan was altered when the sisters called and asked us to visit a member who just moved into the ward.  The family lives an hour bus ride and then a 3 kilometer walk through the woods away ( We passed the summer homes of the Mongolian well off and wow) .  .  .  The family was amazing and excited to get involved in the ward and receive callings. On Sunday they were at church in their Sunday best and smiling.  What a sacrifice it is for them to make the journey to church each week with 3 kids under 4 years old.  After meeting we needed to get back to the church to prepare for the baptism.  It might have been the highest attended baptism ever in Khilaast.  We had half the branch come out and we had selected two amazing speakers.  It was just a wonder peaceful happy event.  Truly the happiest moments in life come in times where we are sharing or experiencing the blessing of the Gospel.

In an effort to make a great day not end (just kidding) I left the key in the house that morning.  When we made the six flights up to our apartment that night and realized it, it was a bit of a bummer.  The Assistants were unfortunately out of town in Darkan so the possibility of getting the key that night was out of the question.  We showed up at Elder Wilson’s house and they graciously let us stay the night.  Again, Elder Wilson - - Great Elder!  I arranged with the Hunts (a senior couple) to get the key to the mission office early the next morning.  Through a series of Jason Bourne like events we made our way into the bayahzurkh through the mission office door, into the supply closet after finding another key and into the key safe.  Fortunately, the day wasn’t adversely affected in the least.  As we taught 7 lessons, street contacted 3 people and collected 12 referrals.  Record breaking day for our companionship.

On Sunday, Cybdaa (the new member) received the Gift of Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands and then during Fast and Testimony Meeting promptly got up and bore her testimony.  Our next goal is to get the rest of her family baptized. Her mom and dad work all day but have shown relative interest in receiving the missionary discussions.

We broke our fast at 8:30 that night with none other than breakfast burritos.  We made tortillas from a pizza dough recipe and you know the rest.  Elder Bayartsogt was extremely impressed and I assured him that all the thanks goes to years of campouts with the Frontenac Ward.

It was a wonderful week to be a missionary and I’m excited to do it again this week.  Also Elder C. Scott Grow of the Seventy is coming next week for an all mission conference which everyone is looking forward to.  He spoke in the 2011 April conference.  Also quite memorable by his name.

That’s it, that’s all!
Have a great week!

Elder Neuberger