Monday, April 30, 2012

Please Don't Cry

Dear Everyone,

Great week as the weather warms up here in UB.  

Dad wanted to know about my MTC district, so here’s the update on people from my group:

Elder Boyd is with Elder Woodward in Chingeltei, that’s the area right next to mine and they meet in the same church building.
Elder Stranski is companions with the only other Mongolian elder in our church
Elder Neaf who is on crutches for the last three weeks and still going (unfortunately unable to work) has been bouncing around with a couple of companions.
Elder Williams is with Elder Verdusco, an American who is in his last 8 months.
Elder Call is in Bayanzurkh.
Elder Lloyd is with Elder Haas who is another older American elder in Suchbataar.
Elder Quinton (also crippled at the moment) is with Elder Reeve which means that he has served with three of the four oldest Americans and the only Elder to not have had a Mongolian companion. Strange ith daa.

Anyway .  .  .  This week we had a wonderful baptism of an 11 year old boy, Sharxuu, whose understanding of the gospel and the lessons we taught was only overshadowed by the testimony he gave after his baptism.  Because both of people assigned to give talks bailed at the last second, I and another church member filled in.  Five minutes before the service began I was frantically preparing a 7 minute talk on baptism.  Luckily, it’s pretty much what missionaries do everyday, so it wasn’t that bad.  He was baptized by his neighbor and uncle who got back from the temple in Hong Kong on Tuesday. They went with their whole family (two kids ages 3 and 1) and were sealed for time and eternity.  It was amazing to meet with them this week and see their renewed sense of focus on the things that matter most.  It was a testimony of the need to get new members to the temple.  They were practically glowing as they talked about the two week adventure to Hong Kong.  Because it’s cheapest, the group (two groups go
together each year) takes a train which takes about three days both ways.  Worth every minute they said.

Took a moment on Saturday night to cheer for Dad as his race started. dijgwee shuu!

We spent some time with a part member family this week.  The daughters are members of the Church and the mother is not, as is the case with so many in Mongolia.  The youth are extremely strong here.  Elder Bayarstogt, who comes from the same scenario, lit up the tiny room with his testimony of the power of families in the church.  There was a tangible spirit as the daughter through tears shared her testimony of the restored gospel.

Lastly, Sunday was branch conference, two hours of Sacrament Meeting and then a third hour Priesthood and Relief Society meeting.  Because all the adults met together the third hour, Elder B and I were left with 17 screaming children and an impromptu primary lesson.  We only lost one kid lol.  Nursery teacher is hard work, but harder when kids are screaming in a different language.  Great experience!

This week I studied up on prayer in an effort to improve my personal prayers and avoid the repetition and normality that can come due to the number of prayers missionaries say every day.  I figured the best place to start was one of the greatest examples.  I noted that the brother of Jared in the Book of Mormon illustrates the key points applicable to any prayer.
Ether 3:1-6

1 And it came to pass that the brother of Jared, (now the number of the vessels which had been prepared was eight) went forth unto the mount, which they called the mount Shelem, because of its exceeding height, and did molten out of a rock sixteen small stones; and they were white and clear, even as transparent glass; and he did carry them in his hands upon the top of the mount, and cried again unto the Lord, saying:
 2 O Lord, thou hast said that we must be encompassed about by the floods. Now behold, O Lord, and do not be angry with thy servant because of his weakness before thee (1. Humble); for we know that thou art holy and dwellest in the heavens, and that we are unworthy before thee; because of the fall our natures have become evil continually; nevertheless, O Lord, thou hast given us a commandment that we must call upon thee (2. Obedient), that from thee we may receive according to our desires.
 3 Behold, O Lord, thou hast smitten us because of our iniquity, and hast driven us forth, and for these many years we have been in the wilderness; nevertheless, thou hast been merciful unto us. (3. Grateful in the face of affliction) O Lord, look upon me in pity, and turn away thine anger from this thy people, and suffer not that they shall go forth across this raging deep in darkness; (4. Prayed for the benefit of others) but behold these things which I have molten out of the rock. (5. He had done his part before going to the Lord for help)
 4 And I know, O Lord, that thou hast all power, and can do whatsoever thou wilt for the benefit of man; therefore touch these stones, O Lord, with thy finger, and prepare them that they may shine forth in darkness; and they shall shine forth unto us in the vessels which we have prepared, that we may have light while we shall cross the sea.
 5 Behold, O Lord, thou canst do this. We know that thou art able to show forth great power, which looks small unto the understanding of men.  (6. Exercised exceedingly great faith)

And what was the result of applying these six simple principles in his prayer?

 6 And it came to pass that when the brother of Jared had said these words, behold, the Lord stretched forth his hand and touched the stones one by one with his finger. And the veil was taken from off the eyes of the brother of Jared, and he saw the finger of the Lord; and it was as the finger of a man, like unto flesh and blood; and the brother of Jared fell down before the Lord, for he was struck with fear.

These principles are not complex, but they allowed the brother of Jared to see through the veil.  As we pray daily I hope that we too pray with such diligence and faith that the veil cannot hold us back.

Have a wonderful week,

Elder Neuberger

Monday, April 23, 2012

Roller Coaster

Tegvel, an absolutely exciting week for meteorologists here in UB.  A couple of days without coats, a few with relentless wind and one massive dust storm.  Although it’s all felt relatively warm.  Apparently it’s just a normal spring in Mongolia.  The Mongolians say "mongol khaver khaverag nevt" which is to say Mongolian springs will tear through your ribs.  True that!  The wind is phenomenal.

Either way we had a great week despite losing Elder Wilson on Monday to Elder Naef whose companion finished his mission last week.  And Elder Wilson is now on his way to Khovd where he's going to do great. 

We picked up two outstanding new investigators this week.  One is the sister of a former less active member and she has already been to about three church activities this week.  We've meet with her twice this week and her understanding of gospel principles is great for someone who has had no background knowledge of religion.  The best part was having her older sister there to help her understand and to bear testimony.  Teaching lessons with members, especially friends or family, increases effectiveness by infinite amounts.  The other new investigator, Sereglen, had a friend who joined the church about a month ago and told her she should go. Even though her friend attends another branch, she showed up to our branch (of which she lives in the boundaries) on Sunday.  She like so many Mongolians was impressed with the hymns that we sang in sacrament meeting. She actually met once with Elder Jolley last week and he passed the referral on to us.

On Monday we visited the home of a recently returned missionary and his family.  When it came to share a thought we shared one and then he did.  As I listened to him reflect on the best two years of his life, I could immediately see the change that it made on his life and the path that he is no forging for the eternities.

Wednesday it snowed all day, with winds over 30mph. It was like something out of a movie.  We met with another less active member’s son who is turning eight and preparing for baptism.  Even though the mom became less active he has been faithfully going to church every week for the last 4 years.  What a great example to his family. 

I taught “America the Beautiful” to my English students on Thursday and I will not be sending any recommendations to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir lol.  Tone deaf doesn’t begin to describe.
Friday we went to the young women’s’ activity outside of town with special permission because the young women who went were made up of three of our new members, two of our less active members and three of our investigators.  Wow, the young women of the church are so much spiritually stronger than the young men (sorry guys).  At the beginning of the activity not everyone really knew each other and by the end they might as well have been friends for life.  It was also cool to testify of the inspired programs of the Church and explain that both of my sisters back home are working with the same handbooks.

Man it was a good week!

On Sunday we had a full investigator class and after church we met with a ten year old who we found out later lives outside our ward boundaries.  She was hilarious.  When we started talking she told us that her dad’ss Christian, her mom’s Buddhist, but she was unsure about her 3 year old brother.  This had me and the member that was in the lesson almost on the floor because she said it so straight forward.  I think what made this week so great was the abundance of meaningful lessons with people who are excited about the gospel, ready to learn and willing to change.  There is such a stark contrast in ITL referrals and those from members.  Working with members is the only way to do successful missionary work, which is definitely something I didn’t understand in the least before my mission.

In closing I had this thought during personal study this week.  In Preach My Gospel on the section on charity it attests that through charity we realize among other things the potential of others.  And we recognize that it is the same as ours.  So here is my thought: Physical potential energy is almost always determined by the distance of an object from the earth or the source of gravitational pull.  In a like sense our spiritual potential energy can be measured by our distance from God, the source of spiritual gravity.  As mortals on this earth we all begin the same distance from God or with the same SPE (spiritual potential energy).  The purpose of this life is to turn the stagnant SPE into spiritual kinetic energy (SKE) on the pathway back to our Heavenly Father.  Although some have turned more SPE into SKE than others, it is impossible for one to have more total energy than another because PE+KE= the total energy. In effect we are all equal in the sight of God.  When we realize this and we reach out and help others we increase both of our SKE on the way. 

Have a great week,
Elder Neuberger

PS HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD!!!!!!!!!!!!  And best of luck in the marathon this week.  Also my companion is tapping me on the shoulder and telling me that if I don’t tell you an absolutely huge thank you for the jersey he'll be upset.  Seriously, you made his life.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Pickle Juice Explained

So looking back at last week’s letter I didn’t say really anything, so I'll try to catch up .  .  .
Last Friday we had the baptism of our two new members, Tsend-ayush and Khulun.  We had just picked up Elder Wilson at that point and we ran to the church to start filling the baptismal font.  Unfortunately, the water wasn’t flowing very fast so we were a bit worried about it from the start.  But while we waited for the water to fill we taught some lessons in the church.  One to a man whose only day off for the week is usually Sunday.  He comes to church every week but it’s been really hard to meet with him otherwise.  He has been our investigator for three weeks now, but we taught the first lesson.  It was cool to see Elder Wilson who had been in the country three days bear his testimony and to see the power in its simplicity.  By six o'clock (a half hour before the baptism was to begin) we were getting worried about the water problem.  We prayed...hard.  Then we got to work filling the font with buckets that we filled in the bathroom and then ran to the font.  It helped somewhat, but as we started the baptism there was only about a foot and a half of water in the font.  The meeting started and the turnout was another good one by the ward.  The mother of one of those being baptized is also the Relief Society president of the ward and she gave the talk on baptism.  She was so grateful the entire evening and just kept saying thank you over and over again.  As for the baptism, after a couple of tries, those doing the baptizing had success (that is they were finally able to fully immerse the converts).  The water didn’t even reach the knees of those in the font, so it wasn’t an easy thing.
Now over two weeks ago in the US and a week ago for us was General Conference which was an amazingly peaceful ten hours for everyone who attended.  All of the Americans sat in a large room in the central building and watched it in English.  My thoughts  .  .  Of course all of the talks were amazing and I watched conference like I’ve never watched it before. (Links provided for easy reference.  Read the talks).
Elder Hallstom’s talk on the difference between the church and the gospel (i.e. culture vs doctrine) was timely, because the church buildings in Mongolia are so beautiful it’s extremely easy for people to be excited about church just for the opportunity to go inside.  While the church and its organizations create a wonderful atmosphere for conversion to the gospel, it cannot be mistaken for true testimony and real gospel conversion.

President Eyring ( Wow! There’s not much more I can say.  When you’re faced with a problem realize it’s a hard thing; know you have to do it; and then do it!

Which brings us to Elder Holland and my pickle juice reference last week that some have wondered about (  When others receive blessings, recognition and praise resist drinking the pickle juice.  Feel happy for them.  Be grateful for what you have received, and don’t be jealous because God has chosen to be kind.  And don’t hyperventilate about what happened at 8 am!

Priesthood session is always amazing
Pres. Uchtdorf ( If we lose sight of the why, we soon lose sight of everything.  From the why’s come the motivation to do anything of any worth.  Be transformed by the why!!!

Pres. Monson ( The story of the wounded soldier was amazing.  I think Pres. Monson took it another direction, but I learned the importance of helping another when you are also wounded.  Even though we are in the midst of our own trials it’s important to be focused on the welfare of others .  .  .  always! 
Secondly, don’t be discouraged.  This month might be the month!  You might need to read the talk to get that.

To hear the words of a living prophet is unlike any experience we have.  It is direct revelation from God for the good of those living on the earth today.  It’s available for everyone because it’s intended for everyone.  Listen, read, ponder, and most of all live what you learn.  For it is in the doing that we show our faith and love for our Heavenly Father.
Khamgiin golen Love your family!  Do your duty and try your best!  This week I’ve been struggling to know what "best" really is.  At what point do we allow for our own human error.  How much is truly enough.  I’m not sure I have a real answer.  But as we counsel with the Lord and try our best to never be passive no matter the time of the day, the Lord will accept our service.
I’m so grateful for this tremendous opportunity and the burden of responsibility through which the Lord is “shaping my back”.  I know this church is true and that things it teaches will bless the lives of any who experiment on the Word.
Do something nice for someone else this week.  Forget about yourself and press forward to eternal goals.  I feel so privileged to know so many of you.  Please read these letters as if they were addressed especially to you and know if I could, I would write you each an individual email every week.

Love, Elder Neuberger
PS Leslie, John, Kevin, Jack, Grandma, Nana and everyone else who has written - I love your letters and am trying my best to respond!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Riding the Fridge of Pickle Juice

Dear Family,
Pretty much everything has happened in the last week.  New missionaries, baptisms, General Conference, what else is there.  This week was pretty normal until Friday morning when Elder B and I were informed we were getting three-d up with one of the new missionaries from the US.  He is headed to Kovd in two weeks, but for the time being he is with us, which is quite a fun experience.  His name is Elder Wilson and he's from near Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  He's doing great and his Mongolian is great for just getting here.  However, it's weird to see that I have actually learned Mongolian a little bit in the last 5 months.

This Friday we had a wonderful baptism for our two investigators.

Conference was great, but I'm getting kicked off the office computer so I'm done writing for the week.

Internet is really stressful!

Have a great week!
Elder Neuberger

Editor's Note:  No idea where the title of the blog entry comes from.  Maybe next week he will get us caught up.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Expect the Unexpected

So this week’s letter comes from one half of the only missionary companionship in the mission that will not change this coming Friday.  After thinking it an almost shoe in that Elder Bayartsogt and I would be split, it was shocking (albeit awesome news) when we found out Saturday that we will be together another 6 weeks in Khialaast.  We are pumped to go hard for another 6 weeks and do whatever the Lord has in store for us here.  The transfers were as massive as expected.  In the most interesting news one of the new American Elders is headed straight to Khovd the furthest area (3 hour plane ride west of UB).  He will be the first American Elder serving outside the city in over a year.  There are a ton of American-American companionships this transfer which should make the English teaching scheduling a bit more of a problem (gratefully I won’t have to deal with that).

While we're talking about English teaching, it was great this week.  I had my students do news reports and we did a mock up of a news station.  I wish I had a video.  They all did great with highlights coming from the groups that reported on NBA games.  My companion and I were laughing the whole time.

Because Elder B is staying, we will both be in attendance for the baptisms we have scheduled on Friday which we are thrilled for.  We are the only ones in Mongolia with baptisms scheduled that day. The rest being cancelled because of conference weekend.  We obtained special permission from the President last Tuesday.  What a special day it is to have them on the day the Church was restored, and Good Friday.  Also, the day after Elder B's birthday.  He received the Tabernacle Choir CD you sent and was ecstatic and so grateful.  It was such a cool moment.  I think the jersey is here too, but I’m not sure.

Lastly, in temporal news we got in a pretty interesting traffic accident on Wednesday.  Two buses and a car.  Our bus tried to pass another bus with a car coming across the road.  Our bus took out all the windows of the adjacent bus and destroyed the car, but I think all of the participants are alright.  We had to climb out broken windows to get out of the bus.  All in all an interesting experience that I’m grateful wasn’t any worse.

Our new member Cyvdaa is still trying like crazy to get her parents to church.  When we met with her this week she was more than distraught that they weren’t getting it.  Elder Bayartsogt whose family member is not all members, bore powerful testimony of patience and the ability to wait.  And how sometimes the only thing that we can do is to be a good example. If we are doing our part the fruit from the tree of life will taste just as sweet no matter what others are choosing to do with their agency.

We met with the mother of our soon to be new members this week who have shown insight and understanding beyond what I could have hoped.  One has been investigating for years and her family are all members.  But her waiting has proved to be a strengthening to her testimony and understanding.

I’m teaching district meeting tomorrow on study and learning.  The basis of the lesson will come from Mosiah 12:27 where Abinidi tells the wicked priests that they have not yet applied themselves to understanding.  In our own lives it is important that we do not only read or seek for understanding, but also really apply ourselves to understanding.  This requires consistent study and action.  Because the Lord gives us line upon line precept upon precept (2Nephi 28:30) it is imperative that we receive our “daily line” so that the entire “chapter or book” will make sense.  If we miss a day/line the entire meaning of what the Lord is trying to tell us can be lost.  Be patient.  Revelation comes not all at once.  Indeed we may often find ourselves as Oliver Cowdrey who was rebuked by the Lord in this way:

7 Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.
 8 But, behold, I say unto you, that you must astudy it out in your bmind; then you must cask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your dbosom shall eburn within you; therefore, you shall ffeel that it is right.

We must do our part in the revelation process to know what it is we must say, teach, and do.  In summary: read the scriptures, treasure up the word of God and keep the commandments.  Then when you ask the Lord diligently for the answers he will answer and you will recognize. 

Have a great week!

Elder Neuberger