Monday, November 26, 2012

Organized Chaos

Dear Everyone,

Another fantastically busy week with more exciting possibilities at every turn.  The week started Tuesday with the Sisters needing another baptismal interview over Skype before district meeting.  Unfortunately, one of the candidates had been drinking tea the day before completely on accident. It was a tough spot to be in, but I asked for a moment to say a prayer and then call the Sisters back.  I was nervous, desperately wanting to make the correct decision according to the Lord’s will.  I prayed for five minutes, but was unsure. Then I changed my prayer.  I brought my own idea, what I thought was correct and asked the Lord for His assurance.  There was no overwhelming feeling, but I felt calm as I called the Sisters and asked them to push the baptism back a week.

After that it was off to district meeting where the President was going to be.  Because he was coming we ended up holding it in his office.  Let me paint the picture of chaos.  There’s the ten of us in the office...the AP's, the zone leaders, the Unur Elders and the President and his wife.  Elder Titensor, one of the AP's, is translating for the President. Then over Skype we have the Elders in Murun along with the senior couple who is serving up there. They are getting translation from a member as well. Then the Sisters join in over the phone. Needless to say it was a bit nerve-racking, but it all worked out alright. From there we rushed to English teaching with my sponsor till seven or so and after our dinner appointment got canceled I ended up taking my companion out to dinner because after all it was his birthday.
Wednesday morning we were at the Bayanzurkh building  to fix up English  schedules. Because Elder Stranski is only teaching two hours a week right now, he’s going to take my Wednesdays at Jonon which is awesome and will free up a lot of time for real missionary work for me.  We then spent most of the day getting doctor forms filled out on my companion’s missionary application, plus dentist and other hospital what not. 

Thursday was Thanksgiving, right?  Just kidding.  We had a dinner appointment with a family who's children all served missions, so I figured they might have known it was Thanksgiving, but it was just a happy coincidence. Being unable to leave awesome family traditions at home, I wrote out the Mongolian alphabet on seven pieces of paper and brought them along.  The “ABC Thankful” game was a hit. (My family will understand what I’m talking about.)

Friday was a testament to how amazing the members of Songino are. For the baptism that started at 6:30 people were showing up by six o’clock.  After the service went off without a hitch one of the sweet sisters had prepared refreshments for afterward.  The support and love from the members here is amazing.  Erdenebat was fantastic and even brought some family members with him to the baptism.  A few late comers asked who had preformed the baptism because Erdenebat is a rather large guy.  And when I told them it was me, nobody would believe me.  Hey, they don’t make morning workout part of the missionary routine for nothing.  We were all going to get a little dinner afterwards but the place had no buuz or khuushuur so we called it a night.

Our new members are still amazing as always. The one in high school is going to seminary and everyone is participating in ward choir.  By the way, the per capita participation in choir is ridiculous here.  I’m pretty sure it was the whole ward.  There’s going to be nobody in the audience for the performance lol. 

Saturday was filled with baptismal interviews.  Four over Skype for the Sisters and one fabulous 45 minute conversation about the Gospel with one of Elder Stranski’s investigators. I know to those back home it’s just common that Elders go out and learn a language.  But considering a year ago right now I could barley say my name in Mongolian, it never ceases to amaze me that I’ve been blessed with enough language (my language is not fantastic by any means) to do what has been required of me.  And so it is.  If we open our mouth the Lord will fill it.  

Love you all!
Enjoy the holiday season,

Elder Neuberger

Sunday, November 18, 2012

eniig unshaj chadwal nadruu zakhia bicherei

Good Morning!
Ping-pong has now become the weekly P-day tradition much like basketball is when it’s above freezing. Thanks to the hours of jungle pong we played a few summers ago, I've still got enough skill to be undefeated against my companion and get the best of some others. The official rankings haven’t come out yet but I’ve got to be close to the top ten for white people in Mongolia. Lol

Last Monday we met with erdenebat as he preps for his baptismal interview this Saturday. And then at 8:00 we stopped by navchaa's house who we hadn’t seen in a week and who wasn’t answering her phone or texts.  I was a little bit on edge, but when we got there she was happy to see us and told us that she had lost her phone so she hadn’t been able to contact us...relief. (She also got her first calling in her young womens presidency this Sunday)
Streetside barbecue

Tuesday was our second attempt at Skype district meeting.  We managed to get both countryside branches  working for about 30 minutes before their internet went out.  They called us on the phone at that point to finish the meeting.  It was somewhat like a press conference with me holding a phone and talking to a computer and to the other 5 people in the room.  On top of that the Elders in Murun were at the senior couple’s house who also participated with their translator translating everything that was going on.  Miraculously we got through everything just in time to run to English class at four. Because Wednesday was chiggis khans (Gengis Khan) birthday (sidenote nobody actually knows when his real birthday is so they decided to guess and picked a random date) we didn’t have class on Wednesday, but my sponsor had me come in on Tuesday. That evening we had dinner with a great member family who has the cutest three kids, one of which looks like a little Spanish boy.  If you try hard enough you can get him to say "como estas?"...fantastic!

Wednesday night we met with one of our investigators who lived in khaan-uul during the elections.  It was way further than my companion or I expected, but we made it in time to teach a lesson and eat some bainshtai shul.  Unfortunately we had to postpone his baptismal date a few weeks as his friends convinced him to go out drinking.  His wife was irritated and angry at her husband, but you could tell it was all out of love. 
Friday was our last meeting with Erdenebayar before his baptismal interview on Saturday. We reviewed all the questions and made sure he was ready to go on all fronts. Even though he’s not the fastest learner and we've had to review some things multiple times he has a heart of gold and a great testimony.

Three weeks ago we got a referral from the sisters of an investigator who had moved in from khovd.  We have tried for days to get a hold of her but her phone wasn't connecting so on Friday we just went straight to her house.  Her husband answered the fence, and let us in. In typical Mongolian fashion before we could introduce ourselves we were eating some budaatai khurag.  And then before we could say anything else they were ready to start the lesson.  We had been expecting to meet with two people and there ended up being almost 8 in the ger and 5 of them sat and listened including the neighbor and the husband.  It was just fantastic to be teaching a family and as we left the ger my companion and I were jumping up and down. 
I always look forward to meeting with bayarbold.  And this meeting was no less awesome. He’s just great to talk to.  I can’t remember what about, but we were laughing as we left and we all learned the word for shoehorn in italian “calsascarpe”...long story.

Skipping first to Sunday, church was great with an RM singing a beautiful rendition of, “How Great Thou Art” in sacrament meeting.  Then after the block of meetings there was a ward choir rehearsal for a special musical number on the 1st of December.  Erdenebat and bayarbold stayed and sang so we did also.  It was great trying to write down and then memorize the words to “Dearer My God to Thee”,  but everyone really bought into the idea so it was very successful.

And back to Saturday where we had English at the church (teaching the upper language English class is the greatest thing ever!) and then met with Miiga who I’m sure I’ve mentioned before.  She’s the one who asked awesome questions last time and again this time.  She herself brought up the important difference of feelings and knowledge.  As missionaries we  can give people through the lessons all the knowledge they can handle about doctrines and principles of the gospel, but it’s not until they pray to know for themselves that they can receive true light and knowledge from heaven through feeling the Spirit.  At the end of the lesson she asked "If no unclean thing can live with God then God must have some way of determining what is clean and unclean right?”  As we started to introduce the commandments she wanted to continue and learn them all right then and there.  It was something I’d never experienced as a missionary, but we ended up explaining that all things must be learned line upon line.  In closing we asked her to read the Book of Mormon and ask if it is true.  She responded with something like "I have no reason to doubt it, why do I need to ask?"  I assured her as I would anyone that through asking Heavenly Father in prayer she would be able to gain a sure witness of its truthfulness.  
Great week!
Hope yours was as well

Elder Neuberger

PS I feel terrible for missing Kevin Kramer’s and Kyle’s  and Nana's birthdays last week!
Hope they were great!   

Monday, November 12, 2012

Interviews, Vegas, and Felllowship

Well in the span off the last week it’s gone from just warm enough to play basketball last P-day to "my companion will lose an ear on the way to the bus stop if we don’t get him a hat today."  Everything starts to go in slow motion as the weather gets colder.  People don’t walk as fast; the traffic increases and the bus drivers start to drive with some sort of caution of the ever present black ice.  Even the internet and power suffer as the cold causes frequent power outages.  And then I think of the poor Elders in Brazil who would trade every sweat stained shirt they own for a day under 90 and then I’m extremely grateful to be in Mongolia!

Last week began with a great P-day where by shear happenstance all the missionaries ended up at the central building at the same time, plus the weather was over 32 degrees causing some impromptu white shirt and tie basketball.  You would think the lack of basketball clothing would bring down the intensity level just a bit but I still managed to somehow lose a pocket and rip my pants. That evening we met with Erdenebat and our new member Nacantogtox which were both great and with me literally in charge of all the small talk it brought me closer to each of them.  Erdenebat who has now gone over two weeks without a cigarette and is preparing to get baptized on the 23rd.  

Tuesday morning after study we headed over to the church to get all of the Skype accounts prepared for the days district meeting.  We also had a baptismal interview for one of the sisters’ investigators in Khovd.  I was really hoping that we would get the Skype up and running and do the interview over Skype, but after 45 minutes we ended up calling it quits on internet failures and reverted to just using the phone.  Which I felt would lose some of the personalness of the interview process also phone quality is such here that a lot of times Mongolians can’t understand what they are saying to each other on the phone.  I was a bit nervous as I had her say the opening prayer and began the interview, but it became increasingly evident after the first couple of questions that this lady was golden.  An investigator of over 3 years, her frequent trips to the countryside had sidetracked her plans to get baptized on several occasions.  As I closed the interview I felt impressed to ask what the word testimony meant to her.  Her response was not a definition out of a dictionary or something the sisters had told her, but a series of three experiences that had strengthened her testimony and brought her closer to the Savior.  I could feel her excitement and love for the gospel and the Savior through the phone.  It was a blessing to be a part of her baptismal interview.

The rest of the week went by really quick as Wednesday we taught lots of English and had meetings with our SWAT member and our new member Bayarbold.  Thursday we had to get to the Bayanzurkh to fill out some baptismal forms and take back baptismal clothes and such. Do to the centimeter of snow that had fallen the traffic was crazy.
(I’m trying to write this letter and keep my mini-mission,  non-Elder companion off YouTube  .  .  . I’m losing haha).

Anyway Friday I had a split with Elder Quinton before leadership training at the Bayanzurkh.  My sponsor was super excited to talk to a real live Las Vegas citizen. He asked some great questions and I sat back and listened for most of the lesson.  Later at the meeting President gave some amazing advice and more than anything the man knows how to lift people up. (BTW being with your mission president is awesome!)

This weekend was stake conference which was amazing. The first two sessions on Saturday were at the Bayanzurkh building and the final session was at a huge auditorium in the middle of the city that held over 500 hundred with a large balcony.  It was pretty much the Mongolian version of the Fox theatre in St. Louis.  Our new members were in attendance and before I had the chance to sit next to them, members of the ward did.  That is all except for Bayarbold who walked in, shook my hand and was then followed by 5 of his friends who he had brought to see the conference  .  .  .  awesome!

The conference was great and the choir was fantastic. President spoke on the importance of spiritual preparedness.  He likened it unto selling cork.  While it would be tough to sell 45 kg of cork to us right now, the value of the cork would greatly increase if we found ourselves drowning in the ocean.  The point being that the cork can’t be bought in the ocean, only on the shore.  And all though things like food storage and spiritual preparedness may seem unnecessary in times of plenty, if we haven’t invested early we won’t have them later.

Have a great week!

Elder Neuberger 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Baptisms and Batalgaas

Hello everybody!

First of all I hope everyone's doing alright on the East Coast.  Sounds like quite the storm. We're praying for you.

This may have been one of the busiest weeks of my mission.  We were pretty much everywhere every day.  A wise missionary (Elder Jolley) once told me that you will find true success and joy as a missionary as you "immerse yourself in missionary work and not just missionary things."  The difference you ask  .  .  .  much like the principle of good better and best, there are many things that need to be completed as a missionary, things that need to be retrieved from the mission office and from storage, things to get for your investigators and members and many other things that can fill your time.  These are missionary things.  The trick is to fill your schedule with missionary work.  Being in the homes of people, teaching people and bringing people unto Christ.  This week was full of both which much like what happened on the east coast (is it too soon) made for a perfect storm of business.

Well starting from the beginning, last Monday after email and just before P-day ended we went with the son of my sponsor to tour the national treasury of Mongolia in the central bank.  It was a lot of gold gevch uneh helehed americag guitsehgui.  We saw all sorts of things from old kings of Mongolia and collections of coins from the beginning of Mongolian history including those from the time of Chinggis Khan.  It was above all very interesting and my companion was super psyched to be there so it made it all the better.

I taught my last district meeting to this district. Tomorrow I’ll be teaching 5 districts including two in the countryside over Skype so that should be quite the adventure.  Plus this week I’ll do my first baptismal interview via the phone which should be doubly adventurous.

How’s the member eating schedule you ask?  WOW.  The best part is just getting to know all the members a little bit better (actually remembering people’s names).  And sharing scriptures to strengthen families.

My companion got his patriarchal blessing this week just before he left which is great, and should be a blessing to him throughout the rest of his mission. 

English is English, nothing new on that front except that my sponsor surprised me with Gatorade!  First Gatorade in over a year was fantastic! I also told them how the drink got its name and they got a kick out of that.

The new companion  .  .  .  not Elder Williams.  The President found mini-missionaries right before the transfer ended and that puts me with temporary Elder Enkhdorj for the next 6 weeks.  This will get ya, he’s shorter that Elder Osorjamaa.  I’m pretty sure he’s not quite 5 feet and there’s no way he busts 100 pounds.  He’s a good guy with a big heart, but it’s tough for him to just start living by the missionary guideline,s so we are working on that a little bit.  It’s a little strange because he hasn’t been through the temple or received the Melchizedek priesthood.  Kind of like rolling around with a member of the local priest quorum. I’ll be back with a full time missionary in mid-December, but I’d wager a guess that I’m here in Songino for a bit longer. 

But on to the best part of the week.  I don’t even know how to describe how awesome this Friday was.  The turnout was fantastic, the best that I’ve seen for a baptism here in Mongolia and those who gave talks were amazing.  We had an RM who got back over the summer and the father of one of those getting baptized give talks.  Everything went without a problem and there was a wonderful spirit the entire time. At the end each of those baptized shared their testimonies (the best part). Bayarbold, an investigator of almost a year, got up and spoke of the long road that got him here and the spiritual confirmation that he received that brought him to this point.  He was so nervous as he got up to speak but what a great testimony. Nasantogtoh spoke of the confirmation he got when we asked him to pray about his baptismal date.  Lastly, Navcha spoke about the feelings she got when she prayed after our first visit and new that the Church was true. Definitely three of the strongest testimonies I’ve heard at a baptism.

Saying good-bye to Elder Osarjamaa
Afterwards one of the members had brought three cakes and drinks and there was a small social to further integrate the new members into the ward family.
Saturday had Elder Osopjamaa off to Zuunharaa early morning and Elder Enkhdorj and I with the afternoon to meet with people.  I pretty much ran the transfer from the bus station getting everyone on the busses.  It was tough to not just jump on a bus and go to the countryside  .  .  .  just kidding, but it definitely crossed my mind. Excited and definitely more than a bit nervous for the next transfer.  We'll see what happens

This week one of our investigators asked us the common question: "if there was a loving Father inHheaven, why does he allow so many bad things to happen to his children who are choosing the right here on earth?
I love the scriptural response of 1 Nephi 21:14-16

14 But, behold, Zion hath said: The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me—but he will show that he hath not.
 15 For can a awoman forget her sucking child, that she should not have bcompassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may cforget, yet will I not forget thee, O house of Israel.
16 Behold, I have graven thee upon the apalms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.
Many times during our short turn here on earth we will ask the same question as this week’s investigator.  Things will seem unfair and not right and we may even question the existence of deity.  But what we need to remember is that he truly has engraved us on his hands, he has paid the price.  As PMG says: all that is unfair about this life will be made right through the perfect atonement of our Savior.  He loves us.  And he wants us to be happy.  Face fear with fortitude.
Have a great week!
Elder Neuberger