Monday, June 25, 2012

Curveballs, Crutches, and Courage

I’m not on crutches.  Hold on let me explain an absolutely crazy week, that yet at the end feels like we know about as much as we did at the beginning.

This week is the Mongolian national election. What are they electing? Everyone in their entire parliament.  This pretty much means that everyone but the president will be switched.  Last time the election like this went down 5 people died and hundreds were injured.  Hundreds were injured as an angry party burned a building.  This results in us needing to keep a low profile and possibly go home a little bit early at night. Other than that we'll receive more information as the week progresses.

Next transfers are coming up this week.  The saddest part being that Elders Jolley, Wilson and Huff head home next Tuesday. However, at this point the transfer call has not gone out due to the fact the Elders coming from America have been delayed a bit.  But they should still be coming.  It will make it a pretty big transfer.  Apparently they were going to send a lot of Americans to the countryside, but we faced some more issues and that’s resulted in the transfer calls also not being here yet.  

Which brings me to my visa which goes in for renewal this weekend.  Hopefully we hear good news before the first of the month.  It’s all really in the hand s of my sponsor at this point.  Just praying the hardest I can.

To the crutches .  .  .
In the most crushing news of the week, Elder Naef from my MTC group will be headed home this Saturday due to a malignant tumor in his ankle.  He injured his ankle in the MTC and has since experienced pain. For a while they thought it just wasn’t healing but after more tests and pictures they've come to this conclusion. I know that the President has faced many sleepless nights working out the solutions, but it still hurts like someone is taking a piece of your mission from you. Especially because of how close our group has become.  We all serve in the city, and there just aren’t that many Americans. He'll go home and it could be anywhere from 3 to 6 months, and of course there is the huge probability that he never comes back.  But amidst the gloom, the happiest most positive person of all is Elder Naef himself. I have never seen anyone face any problem with more fortitude or courage. His attitude is uplifting for everyone around him. I truly believe there is no one in the mission who could have faced such a significant blow. What an amazing Elder!

This brings me to the spiritual part of my letter and I pose this question .  .  .
How could anyone possibly face any hardship in life without a belief in Deity? 
It just doesn’t seem to be possible.  In the face of hardship there would be no reason to go on.  If you faced a trial there would be nothing keeping you from giving up and stopping the fight.  
I found this quote by CS Lewis in a May 2009 ensign this week:

What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could ‘be like gods’—could set up on their own as if they had created themselves—be their own masters—invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come … the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”

If there is one thing that I have learned on my mission so far it is that there is no happiness, no true and lasting happiness outside of God. Some may suppose, and say that many in this world are very happy with the lives they lead oblivious to their Creator. But in the end all this will crumble and their money just paper and their gold just stone. May we continually lay up our stores in heaven where nothing can corrupt.

I love you all!
Elder Neuberger

P-day in the countryside and the last one with Elder Jolley

Monday, June 18, 2012

I'll Trade Five Months of Freezing If It Never Breaks 90

Hey everyone,
I’m not sure how much time I have to write today because in a bit we are meeting Elder Jolley and Elder Haas to go out to the summer home of one of our new member’s from Sansar. That should be a blast!
Why is Elder Jolley now with an American companion rej yy? Good question.  The two Americans in Khovd got kicked out this week and had to come back to the city causing a mini transfer before the large one this upcoming two weeks.

Happy father’s day Dad!!! and good luck to Kyle in Mexico.  No city park popcicles (few will get that one).

Anyway .  .  .  It’s sad that Sister Berg and Elder Wilson had to make their way back from Khovd early, but it was sure great to see them and welcome Sister Berg into our district.  Both of their attitudes are nothing but positive and optimistic and what Khovd loses we sure do gain in the city.   This week we have continued to teach three couples that have not only been accepting of the lessons, but have repeatedly shown real interest through the questions they ask.  One of the three was able to make it to church this week and another promised that he would do everything in his power to keep the Sabbath day holy from now on.  Along with continually checking addresses and trying to find new investigators we had a wonderful opportunity to dig a 10 foot hole for a member’s investigating mother.  Repeatedly throughout the rather long digging process she told us it would be ok if we wanted to stop. But then someone would jump in the hole and continue the digging.  It was a neat experience and I’m grateful for all who represented the church so well.
In other happenings we found a few new investigators including one who is related to the first ever missionary from Mongolia.  She was excited and interested to learn what the Church is about and most importantly how it had made such drastic changes in the life of her relative.  It was a great lesson up until her 2 year old mistook a razor for a lollipop .  .  .  enough said there.  Apply pressure
For the benefit of those who played basement soccer all last summer: Thursday we were walking by a schoolyard where some kids were playing soccer and they began to heckle us a bit.  My companion having none of that decided we would stop.  Ten minutes, a hat trick and a header later we made our way to our next appointment. 
Our best lesson of the week ended up being a little longer than we initially planned.  It was with the man who I previously talked a bit about who knows the bible really well.  We taught him and his wife the plan of salvation this week.  After introducing the plan with a cool visual aid that Sister Clark made for all the missionaries, we answered questions for the next two hours.  Their interest level and the truthfulness of this perfect plan filled the room with the Spirit.
This week’s letter has been all over the place, but to add another cool experience.  We were walking to the bus stop when a guy we passed threw a large piece of PVC at the back of my leg.  In such an instance I find it best to follow my companion’s lead and he chose to keep on walking and pick up our pace.  Not 30 meters later as we were rounding a corner and a car pulled up and told us to get in.  Because everyone is a taxi driver in Mongolia it wasn’t incredibly weird, but we skeptically got in.  Once in the car the man told us he was a church member from another branch and that he was going to take us home.  I know we were in no real danger, but I also know it was no coincidence that the church member showed up either.
In closing, this story was shared by President Clark this week:
The story is told of a teacher who brought to school one day a large jar and two cups of
khyaram. When class began, he picked up the large empty jar and proceeded to fill it with ping pong balls. He then asked the class if the jar was full. They agreed that it was. The teacher then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the ping pong balls. He then asked the class again if the jar was full. They agreed that it was. The teacher next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The class responded with a unanimous “yes.” The teacher then produced two cups of khyaram from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The class laughed. “Now,” said the teacher as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The ping pong balls are the important things—your family, testimony, worthiness, temple work, missionary work, strengthening others—and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car. The sand is everything else—the small stuff. If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the ping pong balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are really important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness, the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.” One of the class members raised her hand and asked what the khyaram represented. The teacher smiled. “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a cup of khyaram with a friend.”

PS Khyaram is the local steaming hot milk water and salt drink

Have a great week
Elder Neuberger

Monday, June 11, 2012

Another Fast Week

Another week full of small blessings and wonderful opportunities!

On Tuesday, right after district meeting, we went to a local hospital with the sisters to administer a priesthood blessing to a church member from the ward.  She had been having heart problems for the past while and entered the hospital on Monday.  I have to confess the quality of the hospital broke my heart a bit as we walked past a few overcrowded rooms.  Because Elder Naranbat is somewhat new to the area and since I knew the member somewhat well, I was asked to give the blessing.  At first a bit nervous, I did my best, not sure of how much of it was making complete sense.  The “third personness” of blessing giving was throwing me off a bit.  But as I finished there was an overwhelming feeling of peace from knowing that if nothing else I had used the power of the priesthood righteously and to the best of my ability.

High on a mountain top
Later that afternoon we had barely enough money to make it up to a house and back by bus.  In our haste we got on the wrong bus which took us past where we wanted to be.  Because we had no money we had to climb over a couple of mountains just to get back to our area.  As we came down the back side of the last mountain someone started calling Elder Naranbat’s name.  As we got closer he recognized the family as a family from his home ward in the countryside.  It turned out that they had moved in to the city, but hadn’t made it to church since they had been here.  We met with them and pleaded with them to come to church and they more than happily obliged.  The week continued in just this way.  We would have no luck contacting or finding addresses and then while we were trying, we would meet with a non progressing investigator who would start progressing again. We would get stood up for an appointment and then find a less active member who was trying to find their way back to church activity.

One new member we met with this week has already read the Book of Mormon three times in his first year as a member of the church.  When we related that President Hinckley had said, "I’ve read the Book of Mormon three hundred times and I’m still gaining understanding," the new member responded, “Well I guess I’ll have to read it 301 times,” and smiled.

Later this week when we gave a Book of Mormon to a new investigator, he asked us to please write our names and a little message in the front.  I felt bad that we hadn’t  done it before.  He said he wanted to remember who gave him the most valuable gift that he'd ever received.

The sisters had a baptism this week of a person who was actually taught by Elder Quinton and Elder Reeves before the last transfer.  Since it had been those two that had taught most of the lessons, Elder Quinton came back to perform the baptism which was a cool moment.  Also ,the President came and presided at the baptism which is always a blessing.

Planting potatoes
On Saturday we went on splits with the zone leaders.  I went with Elder Sugar (He’s Mongolian, but it doesn’t  sound like sugar when you say it in Mongolian) and my companion went with Elder Wilson.  Elder Sugar and I had  a day of service.  We got to the Bayanzurkh building at 9:30 to head to Customs with the Richardsons and some other missionaries.   There we unloaded 280 wheelchairs from a railcar.  Luckily there are no enforced traffic laws in Mongolia so we were able to stack them 25 feet high in the back of some trucks.  We took the wheelchairs to several rehab centers around the city unloading and storing them for each center. By the time that was over the sisters called us and told us to hurry up to our next service appointment.  You guessed it  .  .  .  planting potatoes.  It’s that time of the year.  We ended the day by building a sweet greenhouse in a member’s yard.

And of course it wouldn’t be a week in Mongolia if  we didn’t get a little horse liver and intestine at a member’s house.  I’m not sure what the plaque was in the intestines but no worries I was reassured that it’s good for your health along with the marrow in sheep bones.  Someone check webMD for me. lol

That’s all for this week cause I’m gonna try to send some pictures.

You guys are the best!
 Elder Neuberger

Preparing a ger site

Monday, June 4, 2012

Love is T-I-M-E

The close of this week leaves me with probably four more here in Khailaast.  It’s hard to imagine that I would be staying for another transfer and the President may or may not have hinted at me moving on in our last interview after zone conference.

This week was pretty tense as some visa problems evolved that could have sent 4 American missionaries out of the country.  On Tuesday district meeting was cancelled and the President held a special meeting for all of the missionaries in the city.  It was amazing!  He talked about the blessings that Mongolia has already received.  He talked about the blessings that could come from the visa problem.  If the problems are resolved, it could open more doors including sending more missionaries to the countryside.  At one point during the meeting he read the blessing that Elder Holland gave to Mongolia exactly a year earlier.  As he read, and Jiiguur the office secretary translated, they both began to cry which resulted in the tears flowing for about everyone in the room too.  It was a tough week as we waited for more news. On Friday we found out that the 4 would not have to leave, but there hasn’t been much more news than that.  From the meeting and interactions during the week my testimony has been strengthened that our mission president is called of God and receives revelation specifically for the problems the mission is facing.  Despite the problems I’ve felt an unbelievable calm about the whole situation as the problems unfolded.

The middle of the week found us planting a thousand potatoes in a rainstorm.  Elder Naef from my MTC group was there so we had a great time (the lady yelling the whole time about how his holes weren’t deep enough. lol)

We continued to meet with our new investigator, but his previous knowledge began to get in the way of us teaching him new truth.  I thought of Dad talking to patients before surgeries.  Sometimes patients will research things and poke around on the internet and as a result think they know everything about the situation as to what will be best.  Just like that, instead of being able to use the Gospel to build on the knowledge that he already has, his knowledge has created a bit of barrier.  Throughout our multiple visits this week I found that he would ask two kinds of questions.  When he listened to what we had to say and tried to understand it would provoke questions of the soul that would almost always be answered by the next thing we were going to say.  If he chose to be distracted from the foundational points of what we had to say, his questions would be scattered and focused on things of little importance and off topic.  In any case, it’s been really fun to meet with him and his family this week  They are such wonderful people.

Church was great on Sunday.  Fast Sunday is always great because translating testimonies for the senior couples makes you feel fluent.  Especially when the kids get up.  Anyway, the Richardsons are great and they would be grateful if I only translated five words the whole meeting.

We had a sweet Jason Bourne experience this morning where my companion got taken by the police.  But that’s a story for another time.

So we got our conference issues of the Ensign this week which, in the words of Elder Jolley "made it really hard to go to bed on time at night."  If you haven't started in on your copy yet the second time is just as good as the first.  Especially if you go at it with a couple of highlighters.  Anyway I especially loved all that was said about families.  On my mission I’ve been blessed to really never feel any sort of homesickness. Mostly because of how profoundly secure I feel in the love of my family and my love for them. 

In remedy for strained and healthy relationships alike, Elder Packer and Elder Eyring both spoke on the subject.  I especially loved the point that the ultimate end of all activity in the Church is to see a husband and his wife and their children happy at home, protected by the principles and laws of the gospel, sealed safely in the covenants of the everlasting priesthood. Husbands and wives should understand that their first calling—from which they will never be released—is to one another and then to their children.  From Elder Packer’s talk and Elder Eyring’s the principles to a loving home:  The best being to enlist the whole family and the need for love between all of the members of the family especially siblings.  Man, I love my siblings! 

I know families are ordained of God and I’m grateful to be a part of such a great one.  Be grateful for your family this week; help a family member in need.  Truly, in family relationships as Elder Uchtdorf said, love is spelled T-I-M-E.

Have a great week!

Elder Neuberger

Editor's Note:  The visa issue is a serious matter.  Travis' visa expires in July.  If it is not renewed he would have to leave a year early and be reassigned.  Although he is happy to serve where ever he is asked, we know that he very strongly desires to remain in Mongolia. He truly loves the people there and everything about his experience.  Please join us in continuing to pray that everything can be worked out.  We believe strongly in the power of prayer and in the strength of numbers.  Thanks for your prayers.

Ger on a hillside

P-day basketball