Monday, July 30, 2012

Happy Olympics

Unfortunately our hot water has been out all week which has made for the need for some extra hard workouts to counteract the glacier that flows from the faucet. Hysterically cold water!  Our other loss this week was our refrigerator which has knocked down the variety in our meals.  However, this was quickly remedied by my sponsor giving us 8 cans of peas, 16 boxes of spaghetti noodles and 5 lbs (I kid you not) of honey. I was extremely close to laughing as we packed it up. We haven’t tried them all together (I’m not sure if that was the intention), but individually they've been delicious.

As the number of people we know in the area and in the ward has grown I have become increasingly aware of the absolute necessity for using the inspired forms and techniques found in chapter 8 of Preach My Gospel. Without the organization of names, numbers, and notes in folders, planners, and phones it would be a nightmare to keep track of everyone and even the best effort wouldn't be enough to keep some from falling through the cracks. There is a certain confidence that comes from organizing information and keeping track of details.

This week we continued to work with investigators and were able to have three come to church on Sunday including a friend of a new member who says she has been searching for something more for her family for awhile. I think the greatest joys in missionary work come when we invest our lives in the lives of our investigators. When we know where they are from, where they want to go and what they are doing. In this transfer I’ve learned the importance of building relationships with investigators that allow the spirit of understanding to flow more freely during our lessons. As I hear and think about each person’s personal situation it fills me with an increased love and understanding for them. And at times a certain glimpse at what our Father in Heaven must feel.

This Wednesday became a microcosm of missionary work in Mongolia. We started with normal study in the morning and our weekly planning session before heading off to Elder Robbins’ English teaching. Once we finished up there we headed out to Narangin gol (a part of our area to check on some addresses.  When we arrived at one address we found a grandma, Delger egch, who had been meeting with the sister missionaries who were in this area before us and so she had heard the first few lessons.  In preface, there are people in Mongolia that no matter how you speak, refuse to understand a word you say because they don’t believe you can speak at all (Elder Jolley and Wilson are hopefully nodding right now).  As we began to teach it was apparent that she couldn’t remember anything that the sisters had been teaching.  She was probably only picking up about 50% of what was being said at all.  We began to get frustrated and did what we could to help her understand what makes our church any different. Despite our attempts her interest level just wasn’t there.  I left the house frustrated with myself that I couldn’t do a better job. As we continued down the road we found the house of a new member that we have been trying to meet with for three weeks. They were again not there. Legitimately deterred for the first time in a while we pressed on.  Finally, we came to the house of a young investigator,  Javkhaa, who had been in the countryside for the last month and it was great to finally make contact with her.  Although we weren’t able to meet with her because her parents don't allow the gospel discussions to be taught in their home, she told us how she had been reading daily form the scriptures and praying.  It came as needed relief. Next we found another investigator, a single mother, Uugii who lived in Germany for the last 11 years or so. She is without a doubt the wittiest, quickest Mongolian I’ve ever met. We talked to her in her yard, sitting in the sand box while her child played for a 1/2 hour.  Before we could get to our scriptures, her slightly inebriated neighbor made his way over to talk to us.  That led to a 45 minute discussion with him where he praised our missionary efforts but told us he couldn't believe in God. Although after the time was over it was clear that he wasn’t going to be swayed by anything but the beer he had, it was a testimony builder for me as I defended to the best of my ability the greatest truth I know.  To close the day we rushed to the house of a new member, Munhkbaatar, who is struggling to keep his testimony alive. To our pleasure he had read from the Book of Mormon and prayed telling us that he had felt in small part the feelings he had felt before baptism.  While he inst completely back I could feel his determination to know for himself which is the greatest start.  We had to run a little bit to get home on time, but at the end of the day I felt an overwhelming gratitude to my Father in Heaven for the blessings and most importantly the trials and the struggles of the day.

The Savior lives. He has fulfilled a perfect plan set in place by a loving Father in Heaven. While not everything that occurs day to day seems to go according to His will because of because of the agency he has given to each person, know that there is no experience from which we can’t learn something for good. I think the biggest thing I’ve learned in this first year is to look for the learning opportunity in every experience. That no matter where we are, we can learn from anyone in any circumstance. There is unlimited room for improvement and how great is that!

Have a great week!

Go team Mongolia (every sport that has some relation to fighting)
Go team USA (.....every sport)

Elder Neuberger

Monday, July 23, 2012

Finishing the White Wash

I think on your mission you recognize more than ever the truth in the words of King Benjamin when he speaks of unprofitable servitude:

20 I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another—
21 I say unto you that if ye should aserve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.

The more I try to push a little harder and be just a little bit better the Lord pushes hard with increased blessings. It is then when we realize that in this zero sum game the only way to keep yourself from going more fully in debt  is by helping others.  Truly saving souls is of the greatest worth to our Father in Heaven.

We started the week by meeting at the end of P-day with the greatest family of all time.  On our records the family was less active, but it became immediately apparent that it was only their work schedule that was keeping them away from church. After talking for 45 minutes about their small business and their lives we turned the conversation to the gospel and read a few scriptures from the Book of Mormon. The wife got excited and started talking about how much she loves church and especially paying tithing.  At this point she is talking a mile a minute and just beaming.  I’m also beaming as she talks about the blessings she has received in every aspect of her life from paying tithing.  Now at this point it may just seem like an awesome tithing story/testimony, but it’s not over.  She then started talking about the tithes and offering slips in general and all of the other donations that it is possible for church members to make.  She said and this is pretty much word for word except she wasn’t speaking in English, "I figure the general authorities of the church wouldn't include them on the slip if they weren't important, so I just donate to all of them!" 
The rest of the week included Elder Robbins catching a bug for a couple days that put him under the weather. I also started teaching English again this week which was a bit of a surprise, but has turned out pretty good.  I’m teaching three times a week to my sponsor’s husband who is in parliament.  He loves talking and is anxious to learn English, plus teaching just the one person is so fantastic the time goes very fast.
We met with more and more members from the new ward and were aided again by the help of the branch missionaries who are lifesavers in white wash situations.

Oops! The internet dropped and I’m trying to finish before it does so again...
In closing I just want to include some experts from a Bishop Edgley talk entitled "Faith, The Choice is Yours"  (read the whole thing!)

“Because of the conflicts and challenges we face in today’s world, I wish to suggest a single choice—a choice of peace and protection and a choice that is appropriate for all. That choice is faith. Be aware that faith is not a free gift given without thought, desire, or effort. It does not come as the dew falls from heaven. Choose faith. Choose faith over doubt; choose faith over fear; choose faith over the unknown and the unseen; and choose faith over pessimism. We are responsible for our own faith. We are also responsible for our lack of faith. The choice is yours.
While I don’t know everything, I know the important. I know the plain and simple gospel truths that lead to salvation and exaltation. I know that the Savior did suffer the pain of all men and that all repentant people can be cleansed from sin. And what I don’t know or don’t completely understand, with the powerful aid of my faith, I bridge the gap and move on, partaking of the promises and blessings of the gospel. And then, as Alma teaches, our faith brings us to a perfect knowledge (see
Alma 32:34). By moving forward into the unknown, armed only with hope and desire, we show evidence of our faith and our devotion to the Lord.”

Like Bishop Edgley I also "have never witnessed the removal of an actual mountain. But because of faith I have seen a mountain of doubt and despair removed and replaced with hope and optimism. Because of faith I have personally witnessed a mountain of sin replaced with repentance and
forgiveness. And because of faith I have personally witnessed a mountain of pain replaced with peace, hope, and gratitude. Yes, I have seen mountains removed."

Through our faith--And because of my faith—even in the seemingly worst of times—I recognize with peace and gratitude that in reality it is the best of times.

Have a great week

Sorry for how short this was
Elder Neuberger

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Nadaam. My 1st, Their 91st

Saikhan Naadsan uu?   Bi ch gesen 

Opening ceremonies for Nadaam
So the week started off with a bang as we attended a family home evening put on by President Clark's family and some others on Monday night.  They were all in town for Nadaam and played instruments and sang. Also a local church member came and played the horse head fiddle which was gorgeous.  Unfortunately,  the video I took is way too long to send. All of the missionaries went as well as all the church members from my first area, so I was able to see a lot of friends again.

Tuesday brought district meeting and Elder Robbins’ English teaching.  Although we didn’t teach his student, I was able to talk to his brother about the economy, elections, some crazy dream he had, and speeding tickets in America for an hour and a half.  (heads up everyone - that was all in Mongolian haha). That night we began checking addresses and found some great members before they headed to the countryside with the entire city for Nadaam.

The wrestling event
Wednesday began Nadaam which pretty much puts everything on hold for the next three days. The city just shuts down, mostly cause everyone leaves for the countryside.  Nadaam is pretty much like the Olympics for Mongolians and another big holiday mixed together. It’s three days of wrestling, horse racing, and archery.  It all gets started with a giant opening ceremony at the stadium. Elder Robbins and I got invited by his sponsor to attend it (score one for English teaching). So we woke up and then headed down to the stadium at 11. It was about two hours of dancing, singing, and culture. The president of Mongolia came and opened the games. The whole thing was spectacular and we even watched some wrestling for a while.  

After the opening we walked through the city of tents that were selling khuushuur.  While buuz is the food of Tsagan Sar, khuushuur dominates Nadaam.  We ate our fill and started heading back into the main city when we ran into a group of other missionaries. We spent the next couple of hours with them and went to the main square in the middle of the city. When that was over Elders Quinton, Boyd, Williams, Woodward and our companionship decided it was time to make our own khuushuur so we did varying the traditional recipe of mutton and onions to chicken and hot wing sauce. Great khuushuur!

The next day was a planned trip for all the missionaries who are in the city.  We took a two hour bus outside the city with the senior couples  to a kind of campsite.  It was right next to a river, with a giant field and mountains surrounding it.  In summary, gorgeous! Unfortunately my camera was dead so I'm working on getting the pictures from other missionaries on that. We spent an hour playing soccer and then Elder Boyd and I converted that to some ultimate Frisbee which took some explaining to the Mongolians ("No, you don’t throw it like a baseball"), but it turned out great. We also ate kharkhug which is a whole sheep boiled in a giant 30 gallon drum over a fire with carrots and vegetables to taste.  And what would a Mongolian holiday be without a little mare’s milk…not gonna say it's my favorite.  Sidenote: the senior couple the Farmers from St Louis came this week and he was wearing a Cardinals’ shirt .  .  . Cardinal nation still exists!

After all that it was back to the "white wash" of the new area. Since  Friday was also Nadaam we struggled to find people actually at home, but by the end of the day we were able to find a less active man who lives with his family as the only member of the church. He was ecstatic to see us and spent time showing us all his pictures and sharing his testimony with us.  It was neat just to be able to give someone the attention they deserve as a child of God. That’s how it’s been this week. We’ve walked into almost every house not knowing at all what to expect and have come out with smiles almost every time. 

Saturday night I called everyone on all of our new member, less active, and investigator boards in the newest invented missionary game “Saturday night sumd yvakh  showdown." The white wash will surely take you out of your comfort zone that’s for sure. It’s way hard and way exciting at the same time. On Sunday we were lucky to have an RM show us some houses and teach us the area.

It’s been a great week!

Elder Neuberger 

The MTC group. Final P-day event before the departures of Elder Neaf and Elder Call
Caught in the rain

Monday, July 9, 2012


Still in Mongolia (no small thing)!

In risk of writing yet another letter  that seems more like a newspaper/history book, let me try to fill you in on what has happened in the mission since last week.

Seven days ago: Elders Jolley, Wilson and Huff finished their missions and left along with Elder Naef who left a few days before.  It was tough, but we knew it was coming. Elder Boyd and I were combined together temporarily, but indefinitely while waiting for our new companions to come from the MTC in Provo. During this time five of the American missionaries had been put on a ten day "must leave the country order".  However they had been on this before and we were sure that the mission would just appeal to a higher court as had been explained by the mission leaders and all would be good. There was no anxiety or real urgency there.

And so the next three or so days with Elder Boyd were fantastic.  We spent a couple of days in Khialaast and some time in his area of Chingeltei.  It rained for the entire time we were together.   Wednesday morning Elder B was in for zone leader council and stopped by for lunch and it was so great to see him.  We talked for a while and then parted ways.  It was drizzling as we started the day, but we went without jackets anyway.  We met with a new member which went great because Elder Boyd and I were just thinking on the same wavelength the whole time.  Our second investigator wasn't home and unfortunately at that point the clouds unleashed fury.  Since there is no drainage system the dirt roads were instantly a river and we were more than wet.  In a panic we ran to a member's house who wasn't home, but we were able to stand on her "porch" and wait it out.  The rest of the day went along the same lines with a free taxi ride at one point from a lady who felt bad for us.  By the end of the day we had mud up to our knees.  One of the best days ever!

The evening was not as fun.  We found out that a less active member's ger had burned down and their youngest child had been lost in the accident.  It was crushing. I had been in their house on tens of visits over the past 5 months.  Elder Boyd and I immediately found the house to where they moved and talked to the father while trying desperately to say anything consoling. Later we returned with the branch president and the sisters and a few members to again try and comfort the grieving family.
While we were there President Clark called trying to get a hold of Sister Ouynerdene's companion who was teaching English. When I talked to him he said the news wasn't good and we could tell that something was up. Later that night we found out that the five on "must leave orders" would have to leave and even more shocking they had to leave by Friday. That led to an emergency transfer/impromptu devotional on Thursday night where the five all received new mission calls essentially and bore their testimonies. There was such a unity of spirit and emotion in the room like I've never felt;  a strength as missionaries and members of this worldwide church.  When Sister Berg got up to finish the meeting she sang "I Stand All Amazed" wetting every eye in the room.  The five are headed to Oakland, Chicago, and Washington DC.  Elder Call my MTC companion is one of the five heading to Oakland with Elder Wilson who stayed with Elder B and me before going to Khovd two transfers ago.

Then in the most bittersweets of bittersweets the President came and found me and Elder Boyd after the meeting to tell us that our visas have been renewed and we are almost certainly clear till next year.

So where has the emergency transfer landed me .  .  .  Songino, on the very western part of the city with Elder Robbins an Elder who got here in April. Because the center of the city really sits very far to the east we are extremely far from pretty much everything.
We have gone at it hard this first two days to just figure out where everything is, walking like crazy and checking so many addresses.
The ward is so amazing! The bishop met with us before church and was just telling us how excited he was about missionary work and how he wanted to go out and work with us. Wow!Then after I blessed the sacrament (first time) and bore my testimony a returned sister missionary got up and gave the greatest talk on member missionary work of all time.  Several times she talked about the difficulties of expressing her feelings in English during her mission.  But seeing her speak helped me realize that so much of your mission is about what kind of member you will be when you go home. 

These first couple days in this new are have been a blur.  But we should get our feet on the ground soon enough.  Maybe next week because this week is Naadam! (a huge festival and holiday. Google it). I'm pretty sure we may be going to the opening ceremonies with Elder Robbins' sponsor and then Thursday is an all mission celebration outside the city.

Friday before I moved, I was also able to preform a baptism for the Sisters which let me say goodbye to so many awesome people in Khailaast including five new members.  Elder Boyd also had a baptism, so we had an awesome experience.  Also the President Clark came.
Wow what a week!

I'm promising pictures and amazing spiritual experiences for next week, but that's all for now.

Elder Neuberger
Note from the Editor:  We are so grateful for the blessing of the renewed visas while so sorry for those that had to be reassigned.  So many of you were praying with us and we truly believe it has been divine intervention that has resulted in the extension.  Thank you so much for your prayers.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Delays, Elections, and Boyd

I'm not really sure how well the epic saga of visas, people coming and going, and transfers is being understood on your end, partially because I feel at times I only know about 50% of what's all going on myself.  Hopefully 50% of that 50% is making sense to you .  .  .  Pretty much everything and nothing happened this week in these regards.

The week started with a sweet group activity of our full MTC group at a member's house way outside of town.  There was a full fenced in basketball court and we played some basketball and soccer.  The President even came out for a minute to say hi.  We pulled it all together for Elder Naef  who left early Saturday morning and is now safely in Oregon.

Tuesday we spent the entire day putting up wallpaper and painting a small house of a new member.  I'm pretty sure I had no qualifications for that work, but it turned out alright.

On Wednesday we got stopped by an undercover cop who told us we needed to go straight home and stay inside for the next two days. Our experience resulted in all missionaries staying inside for all of Thursday and Friday while the elections went on. As far as the elections are concerned everything seems to have gone pretty peacefully and we are good to go for work in the upcoming week.  Thursday and Friday were hard, but we did get special permission to go to the dentist both days so at least we got out of the house.  We also made pizza with Elder Naef and so we got to see him a bit before he was out of here.

The one thing everyone was allowed out of the house for was Friday night baptisms of which the sisters had one.  When we got the the church the water was completely brown.  I'm not sure I've ever been a part of a seamless baptismal service, but what fun would that be anyway.  We drained the font once and refilled it .  .  .  still brown water.  Again .  .  .  same result.  We eventually found a hose that was giving clean water; the only downside was that I'm pretty sure it was water left over from winter .  .  .  really cold. We got started a little late, but everything from that point went well.  From the minute I stepped in the water to perform the baptism I could not feel my legs at all. I felt bad for the girl who entered the water after me.  Even though it was so cold she seemed rather unphased.  She was so excited to be baptized that the temperature of the water made absolutely no difference to her. Later this week I had the opportunity to confirm her and give her the Gift of the Holy Ghost during Sacrament Meeting which was my first time in Mongolian and a fantastic, experience. 

So the transfer right .  .  .  I'm not leaving Khailaast which was a bit of a shock, but I couldn't be happier.   It also turns out that I'll be training a new American this transfer as will Elders Boyd, Lloyd, and Stranski from my group.  The city now is pretty much all American Elders as the rest of my group is pairing up with Americans from the group that got here three months ago. The downside of the whole thing is that the Elders haven't actually gotten to Mongolia yet.  Their visas have been delayed for what is being approximated to be three weeks. Elder Titensor from the group ahead of us is the new AP and the new city ZLs are the two that are leaving in February.  

So what is going on while we wait .  .  .
In the greatest unexpected mini transfer of all time I'll be spending the waiting time as companions with Elder Boyd. Definitely pumped about that.  His branch meets in the same building as us and we'll be working both of our areas for the next couple of weeks.  We are looking forward to dominating both areas so they will be great when our new companions get here.  We also attended 6 hours of church on Sunday which was a bit long, but church service is easily the best part of the week anyway.  We even had a new investigator just show up and show interest in the church. 

Last night was the fireside for those going home.  Elder Jolley, Wilson, and Huff all got up and bore their testimonies.  All were amazing.  It's really tough to see them move on, but its definitely exciting to have a chance to step it up and become a leader at the same time.  We have been looking up to the three of them for so long that it seems impossible that they could leave.  They actually leave Tuesday morning so I hope to see each of them at least once more before they're gone.

It's been a pretty quiet week for the work, but loud in every other sense. 
Have a great week!

Elder Neuberger