Monday, December 31, 2012

On to next year

It’s hard to know where to start after the mid week Skype session with the family on Christmas.

Well the weather outside surely felt like Christmas and there was enough going on church wise to get into the Christmas spirit.

After I spoke with the family of Wednesday morning we had a zone party at the central building which was very well done and put together by the zone leaders.  The senior couples made lasagna,  (first time I have had that in a year and a few months) and the whole thing ran very smoothly.  There was a fun white elephant present exchange and a game.  Then Elder Lloyd played some insane piano numbers and we bore testimonies of Christmas. 
Unfortunately, Wednesday morning a sister from our district (erdenesuvd) had her appendix removed, but she seems to be doing OK and should be back sometime next week.
My companion and I this week and the next are working like crazy to get investigators back in the pool. (it’s tough cause the pool keeps freezing haha)  We found a few new people this week and we are really pressing hard to set baptismal dates for before we are separated at the end of February. 

Today we went to the Zakh which was great.  There’s really nothing like this big open market in America.  And there’s just something electric about it every time you go.  Plus everything is super cheep.  You could go in and spend all your money before you knew what happened.  I bought a new suit which I have needed for a while, but have been neglecting because no one sees the jacket anyway when I’m layered up.  Trying on suits is definitely a summer time thing I’ve decided though. I sincerely thought the lady was half-kidding when she asked if I wanted to try it on.  I talked the lady down to less than 50 dollars, and it looks great!

Best part of the week was easily the baptism on Friday night. Unfortunately there was no hot water when we got there at 4:30 so we started immediately boiling water on the stove and adding it to the font.  What’s the specific heat of water again? I don’t think the efforts did a lot but enough that our new members with -.5% body fat each were able to make it through.  We knew before hand that the mission president was planning on being there so of course it’s a little nerve-racking.  But the wonderful members pulled through again in the clutch with outstanding numbers and support.  Ankhbayar and Jargalmaa were baptized by their cousin and their uncle was there also (a member of the stake high council and drives a hummer wow). The people giving talks showed up and in the tenderest of mercies from the Lord everything went off really well including refreshments afterwards. 

This week in district meeting President Clark gave a brief thought at the beginning from Luke 27:22.Where Pilate is before the masses and asks the question"what shall I do with Jesus?" The President pointed out first that one day that exact judgment would be replicated, but with the roles reversed. He then continued that we too must ask ourselves the same question of ourselves every day. As the year ends and a new begins we too must look at our priorities and see where the Savior fits in our lives.
What will we chose to do with the love, gospel and sacrifice that he has gifted us?
Don’t be like Pilate. Don't wash your hands!

Elder Neuberger

Editor's Note: Travis looked fantastic on the Skype call.  He's doing great and just laughs off the hardships while marveling in the miracles. The time on the all went too fast, but it was wonderful to feel his presence.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

Well I hope this letter finds everyone enjoying their Christmas Eve and Christmas week
Its getting colder faster this year, but we have started the four coldest weeks of the year.  The cold has got to be great for missionary productivity though.  Nobody's saying, "hey lets go take a break on that park bench." Keeping moving is pretty much necessary. 
This morning we got a call from the AP's to run down to a hospital where a non-member mother of an RM was asking for a priesthood blessing .  .  .  I don't think I've ever given a better Christmas gift in my life.
Tuesday was our first real day of missionary work with my new missionary.  We started after district meeting with three long burns in a row .  .  .  rough!  However, we ended up contacting about ten people and staying warm in the church for an hour.  The back half of the day was a blessing.  Sometime in the afternoon a random man walked in the church and said he'd like to meet with the missionaries. Next we were able to meet with both of our baptismal candidates that were scheduled for interviews later in the week.  On top of that we had to show the sisters where a house was that is way out in our area.  I'd been there once in the daytime three months ago, but I didn't tell the sisters that because they probably would have lost a bit of confidence in the guide.  As a certain tender mercy from the Lord, I was able to find the house by recognizing just enough landmarks to get there.
On Wednesday we met with our baptism khurtekh rej baigaa people again in anticipation of Thursday and Friday.  That's ankhbayar, jargalmaa, and badral in case you've forgotten. The former two are a great story. They are the brother and sister who didn't pass their interview two months ago.  However, because of the strength of the ward they were introduced to seminary and every acivity that was going on with young women or young men.  Their baptism is a result of a great ward way more that the result of the missionaries. Be a member missionary! The other investigator, Badral, is the funniest 55 year old Mongolian I know.  And his wife is a saint and a rock. Shes been helping him every step of the way!
Thursday and Friday passed quickly with long English teaching days and three successful baptismal interviews.  We spent Thursday night passing out tickets for the stake choir performance at the circus which was Friday and outstanding.  The choir was as polished as always and there were a number of guest performances including "The Lords Prayer" by a  famous Mongolian opera singer, and of course the President rocking a duet with another famous singer/church member. We had several investigators and new members there and all the missionaries got to sit by each other which was great. PS Elder Lloyd and I are know in the same church building which was been a blast so far.
Saturday was our caroling party which turned out fantastic.  I know one Mongolian returned missionary even posted our pics on facebook.  Unfortunately, I forgot to compensate for being outside all day and may have gotten a sweet bit of frostbite on my nose that left me looking like Rudolph.  The young women thought it was hilarious on Sunday.  Best part about caroling in Mongolia is that no one has any idea what's going on. A lot of the houses were of less active members and so some of the addresses were wrong. So when people open the door their immediate reaction in seeing two white guys in the group is, "What's wrong? What happened?.  Why are there two Russian police officers here?!"  It was a lot of fun for everyone.
Sunday was the First Presidency Christmas Devotional here in Mongolia and it started an hour late which was a result of Mormon standard time combined with Mongolian standard time .  .  .  lethal combo.
Tonight we're going as a district to RM Munkhbaatar's house (yes that Munkhbaatar) to make pizza and chicken for Christmas eve.  Wednesday morning is Skype with the fam and it should be an all around great week.
Have a great one!
Elder Neuberger

Monday, December 17, 2012

This is gonna be quick

This week ended up a lot like last week as we finished the transfer as a three-some: me, Elder Williams and Elder Gantogtokh.  
This morning we ended taking the sisters to the bus station for the AP's so our P-day got cut a little short.
My new companion is great, 26, and from baynzurkh branch, and a super humble guy.  He's been a member for about three years and the only member from his family. 
It's gonna be a great transfer!
Highlight of the week was me leading the music for the incoming/outgoing missionary fireside. (broadcast to all the outlying branches).  I think that fulfills some sort of ironman Duty to God requirement.
I'm really out of time, but I promise a sweet letter this week.
Read the "Christmas Towel" from the December Liahona!
Have a great week,
Elder Neuberger

Monday, December 10, 2012

All Over the Place

I remember Elder Wilson was always a big fan of top ten lists as a missionary.  I'd have to say that this week may top the charts of top ten craziest/strangest weeks of my mission.

We started the week on Monday with Elder Williams (who’s in my district and in my same church building) losing his mini missionary   A personal problem came up and he needed to be done immediately.  That was just fine and the President was able to find him a replacement for a couple of days without any problems.  

Then on Tuesday:  If you were wondering what the Mongolian word for tuberculosis is its curye.  We got a call Monday night from the doctor that said he would need to see us at 10 sharp the next morning.  We knew that there had been some trouble with Elder Enkhdorj's  mission physical, but we weren’t sure how serious.  When we get to the office the President came out and gave me the slow two hand handshake, looks me in the eye and says "we're going to get this all worked out.  Don’t worry about anything."  So of course that gets me a bit freaked out.  Pretty much everyone who works in the office knew and was saying the same kind of things.  When we got to the doctor he told us that my companion’s chest x-ray was positive for tuberculosis and we needed to get to the hospital immediately.  He has to wear a mask and the doctor told me how my living with him for the past 5 weeks might have put me in some sort of danger.  We went to a few hospitals and finally found the right one.  Then in the biggest plot twist we got to the hospital and the doctor looked at the x-ray and said there’s no problem.  So I’m trying to explain for the Canadian doctor that we had sent the x-ray to Salt Lake and they had called it positive. But he said there is nothing they would do so we tried another hospital.  Same thing. Apparently everyone in Mongolia responds positively to TB tests and it’s no big deal. Using the “better safe than sorry” principle my companion was still released from his mini mission and I was immediately put with Elder Williams and Elder Gantogtokh who is supposed to be finished the next day so he can go to his home branch and get the Melchezidec Priesthood (more on that to come)

This is where the week gets awesomely crazy because on top of covering two wards and two areas we now have two English teaching schedules, 4 baptismal interviews to conduct and Elder Gantogtokh has 2 hour choir rehearsals every other night at the Bayanzurch.  Although we weren't able to meet with a large amount of people this week the fact that we were able to get everything else done was nothing short of a miracle. Also I had some tests for TB and it’s all good. I was completely negative.

The week went pretty much like that with the most excitement coming on Sunday. Since Elder G went to his own ward with Elder Williams for the a fore mentioned reasons I was left with ward member for the first half of the day as the only missionary for both wards and  the entire west end of the city.  I had to keep explaining to people that I really had no companion. By the way, the choir sounds amazing as always and they are singing at the circus on the 21st (tsag gargaj chadwal ochoroi). The circus is a large indoor theatre venue in the city.

This week the senior couple the Gardners decided to visit both the Unur and Songino Wards which meant translating for them for each service which was fine and I was super lucky because both wards had their annual primary programs. As long and the kids don’t completely eat the microphone it’s the easiest thing to translate ever.  I’m pretty sure each of these primary programs rivals the cuteness of any of those back home. And it’s amazing how some things are always the same: the primary president is there to whisper in  the ears of those who get a bit frightened, and there’s  that one kid who is singing with a few extra sharps and flats, but also manages to be the one singing the loudest, and there are smiles on everyone’s face for the entire meeting.  Enough to brighten everyone’s day.  To top that, our new member Erdene-bat was 45 minutes early yesterday to sacrament meeting to fulfill his new calling as a greeter.  He nailed it.

And that brings us to the transfer  .  .  .
Now two weeks ago the President in an interview told me "I really see you as a trainer,” so there wasn't much shock in the call, but my group has now officially usurped the mission.  Elder Stranski is in as the new AP. There could not be a greater more humble person/elder in the world. Can’t say enough. Anyway  .  .  .  Because we can’t leave the city, my group now fills pretty much every DL and ZL spot here. There are two new missionaries coming this transfer and the other will go to Elder Lloyd who will now be serving in the same building as me. The best news ever is that I’m staying in Songino which means I’ll totally be here for tsagan sar!!! I’m extremely excited about that. We also are getting Sisters added to the ward which is a bit of a burden off for me. It’s going to be awesome working tag team with them!

Well the time is far spent
Have a wonderful week full of Christmas fun
Read the 12 month liahona its fantastic!
Elder Neuberger

Monday, December 3, 2012

Zone Conference

So I was preparing to leave a house this last week when the dad walked in and asked who in the world was wearing the summer shoes. My companion immediately threw me under the bus.  I conceited that it was a bit cold outside.  "A bit cold! It’s negative 30 Celsius outside!"
What? Really?! Not sure when it got so cold, but I may have to switch to the winter coat at some-point this week.  Although I’ve been studying the art of layering this past few weeks and the findings are in the positive. If you go undershirt, white shirt, sweater, suit jacket, Omnitech rain-jacket you can take -30 Celsius no sweat (emphasis on the no sweat) haha
Happy Holiday season to everyone back home. Its amazing how fast the holiday season moves along. 

With Elder O and Chingis Khan
This was a wonderful week highlighted by Zone conference which is always accompanied by an interview with the President.  My interview was actually the day before and a testament to how much the President knows about what is going on to every Elder in the mission at all times.  We talked for about twenty minutes (interesting sidebar: President Clark goes home on the 1st of July, two weeks before my release date, kind of sad). If you've been on a mission you know that there is no person more kind, understanding, uplifting, or supportive than your mission president during your mission.  It proved to again be the case.

This last few weeks with my mini missionary has been such a blessing for my language. Since he has no real background in gospel teaching, I teach the bulk of the lessons and answer all the questions.  A fun little confidence boost that maybe I am learning Mongolian.

Zone conference was awesome including a 10 meeting teaching demo that I wasn’t aware I was a part of until it happened.  A bit nerve racking, but Elder Quinton and I were able to make it through fine with a little help from Moroni 7:20with an “investigator” who was too busy.  The theme of the entire meeting was seeing ourselves the way the Lord sees us.  During all the breakout practice sessions Sister Clark went around with a camera and filmed us and then would show them afterwards.  Fantastic idea!

I loved a comment the President shared: There are a number of kinds and other people mentioned in scripture that are given but one verse to sum up their entire live or reign.  (Editor’s note: Ironically Travis makes the comment about his improving Mongolian because this letter had at least three sentences that were so twisted in English that there must have been some Mongolian sentence structure affecting his writing.  The preceding sentence is an example.  We think that we straightened out the others while correcting his other typos.) President Clark gave a few examples.  He then challenged us, if there were just one verse written about your entire life...what would it say?

Conference went amazing with four companionships viewing via Google plus and a handful of awesome stories form President and Sister Clark.

Jonon English Class
Next week we are looking forward to the baptism of Badral who has now been coming to church and meeting with us for over two months.  His wife and daughter have been members for awhile and he has finally caught the fire and is excited for his own baptism.  We taught in his house a few weeks ago and their goal to get to the temple in a year was evidenced by the 20+ pictures of temples filling their wall.  The coolest part was that right in the center of all of them was the St. Louis temple. Pretty awesome!

Our new member Bayarbold blessed the sacrament this week (very nervous baisan). It was a very “icing on the cake” amazing moment.  Also, I’m happy to report that all three of our new members have now received callings!  The ward has made a huge movement for home teaching (usually a goose egg in Mongolia) and they even included Badral who’s not quite a member! What a great ward!

This morning as my companion decided to take a nap for study I was allotted a little extra time for personal study.  I planned on reading one of the stories that my family had sent me from the Christmas stories we read every year .  .  .  I ended up reading all of them. haha
Above all it made me extremely grateful for my family and this wonderful celebration of our Savior’s birth. A standout quote from one of my favorite stories is as follows:
"To love people, to be indispensable somewhere, that is the purpose of life. That is the secret of happiness."
Christmas is indeed a time for giving and as we reach out and love and give to those around us we find ourselves surrounded by those who love us in return.
Do something good for someone else.
Make yourself indispensable!

Have a wonderful week,

Elder Neuberger