Monday, January 28, 2013

Tsagaan Sar Boloo

Well it felt measurably warmer here in UB this week and the smoke levels were down considerably.  I remember Elder Jolley telling me that he was sure the Lord would bless us because of service despite the smoke.  This year the doctor decided to bless us all and vouched for and got masks for us all.  I was a bit apprehensive at first because they aren't the most fashionable, but they sure get the job done (also Doc Stewart put together a very convincing power point presentation). Also great for face warmth!

Last night we went with our branch mission leader to visit a family, but they weren't home yet.  I called and they said they were on there way and to hold on just a minute. We had a fabulous discussion on how the mission leader is trying to improve his dating life, but after an hour we had to call it quits and head home .  .  . cold.  In fact once we got off the bus I just took off running the 1/2 mile to our apartment from the bus stop just to make sure the blood didn't altogether stop flowing before we made it home.  Bit of a runny nose this morning, but nothing terrible.  Great memory!

Other awesome moments from this week include helping the world's shortest grandmother off the bus and across the street (cutest lady ever) and also making over 500 khuushuur with our young single adults.  I've got buuz pinching down, but my khuushuur skills weren't as fantastic.  Gave it a solid effort and had some great coaching from Sister Erdenesuvd. With Tsagaan Sar comimg if anyone has a copy of Joey Chestnu'ts work out and training schedule I could really use a copy for the upcoming month! It's all about the "marathon not a race" mentality.

We ended up with four new investigators this week from a variety of sources. The first was a straight up referal. We get around ten a week from other missionaries and what not. In the recent past we haven't had the most success with them so we weren't super pumped.  We called and Mandah seemed pretty interested in meeting so we set a time and he asked if he could bring his girlfriend. Fantastic, right?  It ended up being a  crazy story.  He lived in a Darkhan and she lived in Erdenet. Two cities not super close to each other or to UB.  They had separately found the church in both cities and started going for a couple of weeks at this point not knowing each other.  Then they both came to the city around the first of the year to study and met each other.  Crazy right? They are both very interested and just wonderfully humble people. His girlfriend, Nergui (literally "means no name" in Mongolian. A way to common and a bit regrettable name given to children by lams in Mongolia because giving them actual names would bring bad karma gene more on that later) was excited about the upcoming young single adult activities as well.

The second investigator was a bit of a stretch; an old investigator from when Elder Huff and Naef were here a year ago, but we were calling pretty much everybody and anybody in the area book last week.  To be honest I kinda forgot that I had called him.  He had said he was pretty busy and if it was possible to meet he would show up at the free English class that we do every week at the church building (awesome class by the way.  I teach the advanced class with Elder Lloyd and it's crazy. One of our students is reading Gone with theWind and we get on tangents about words like discrepancy and demographic. Plus one of the guys is like this 65 year old grandpa with great English).  After the class ended the investigator had ended up sitting in the beginner class across the hall and was waiting to meet with us which was awesome. We didnt have much time, but there was a prepared feel about him as he accepted the commitment to read the Book of Mormon and pray.

Lastly we were happily surprised to run into an old investigator of mine (I've been in Songino for a while now) who had burned us 5 times in a row and we had decided to drop. We ended up getting her as a referral again and she came to church.  She seems ready to go and we were able to set a baptismal date.

We are still working hard with all the new members here in the area and Bayarbold gave an insanely good talk in church today throwing down the gauntlet for every other young man giving talks. What an impressive new member!  

Just filled with gratitude for the opportunity even when its hard .  .  .  especially when its hard.Its amazing how fast the time is going now. What happened to January?!

I've learned more and more that repentance, change and becoming who you want to be, as much as they are lifetime pursuits, aren't meant to take lifetimes to develop.  It takes exactly as long to acquire any of the three as it takes to say I'll change .  .  . and mean it.  Its about saying yeah, I'll do that and making the same resolve tomorrow.  We don't have to wait till some arbitrary point to say that we have achieved patience, charity or wisdom if we are making them a part of our lives everyday.
You all are so wonderful!
Have a wonderful week!
Elder Neuberger

Monday, January 21, 2013

Just That Fast

Good Morning Everybody!

I can’t believe it’s almost Tsagaan Tsar again and we've already started the 4th 9 (that’s the coldest nine weeks in Mongolia).

Crazier than that is that the Bishop’s daughter came back from her mission this Friday, which is only crazy because she was in the MTC in Provo with us.  Is the time really going that fast? We had dinner with her family on Friday night and talked for about an hour about missionary work and everything.  It was crazy to realize that practically every other mission in the world is proselyting (no clue how to spell that)  and knocking doors. It’s also crazy that the average lessons taught in a week for her mission was only around 5 or 6. That’s tough!  What a blessing to be in Mongolia (although I'd secretly love to knock on a couple of fences every now and then).

This week was packed with splits and baptisms and some great times with my English sponsor.

This Thursday was splits with the Zone Leaders which had me with Elder Amartuvshin in our area for the back half of the day.  Wonderful day beginning with him getting his patriarchal blessing.  And then off to a lunch appointment with the Sisters.  Probably my favorite RM from the ward made us an incredible meal of pizza and sushi and some crazy good pasta.  We knew that it had to be quick in and out to get to my English sponsor.  We had about 20 minutes as we finished up eating and were getting ready to leave the house.  Of course we shared a scripture and had a chance to sit and talk with the father who isn't a member.  After being originally resistant about the whole idea of talking to missionaries we ended up talking with him for about 40 minutes which had us running to English which was close enough that we weren't terribly late.  My sponsor just got elected as some sort of governor or something for the neighboring state of Khetii, so he’s now out of town for the weekends, but says the only reason he comes to the city during the week is to meet with Travis.  Great guy!  It’s amazing how much my English teaching has become less and less of a burden since being in Mongolia.  I actually spent an extra 20 minutes with one of my classes this week because we lost track of time.  There’s only one class whose picture I would write "The Alternative" underneath (Dad might be the only one getting that joke).  English has really turned from a burden to a blessing and a wonderful experience.  Elder AT and I still had time after that to get to a new member’s house which is probably my favorite new member, Bayarbold, who is 20 and thinking to some degree of serving a mission once he becomes eligible in a year.  We had a wonderful discussion on missionary work and asked him to read Alma 26 and pray about it.  What a fantastic new member, excelling in his calling as a member of the young mens presidency and doing his home teaching.

Best part of the week and what makes the top spot as often as there is one was our baptism. Badral Ax who we’ve been working with for just shy of 4and a half months was baptized along with one of the Sisters’ investigators.  The highlights included an amazing musical number by the branch missionaries "I Know That My Redeemer Lives" (which brought the number of dry eyes way down) and Badral himself who had a  fresh white shirt and a new tie to change into and looked and more importantly sounded great as he bore his testimony.

Alright closing out the week I read a great article by Elder Jefferey R Holland this week. He referenced the first vision and countless spiritual encounters where people have endured great trial before the inspiration comes, and then turned around the opposition that comes after illumination.  Referencing the Jews fleeing Egypt, who when faced with the Red Sea in front and the Egyptians behind feared and were ready to turn back, he reminds us that in times of great peril it is important to remember what has been.  For the Jews it was the plagues and the locust and the fire and the deaths of first born sons. How quickly they had forgotten.  Then this quote from Hebrews:
32 But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great afight of afflictions;
 35 Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward.

In times of great trial realize the the Lord has blessed you before and will bless you again. Wade in to the Red Sea with both feet and have the faith and the confidence to receive your own personal revelation.

Have a spectacular week,
It’s gonna be warming up

Elder Neuberger

At the baptism

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Happy Birthday Ali

It’s hard to believe Ali turns 16 this coming Wednesday!

I realized my gratitude this week for Mom’s constant use of the microwave as it has allowed me to wow companions on several occasions. If boiling water and warming things up in the microwave are magical, making an egg in the microwave this week was nothing short of a miracle to my companion.  “You can make an egg in less than a minute?!” Although afterwards we also had to review fire safety and microwave use after trying to heat up canned fish. lol However ,that’s better than Elder Lloyd’s companion who accidentally burned three rolls of toilet paper after forgetting to put out an incense stick. Good times!

 This week’s priesthood lessons (and let me say that our priesthood quorum is amazing) diverted to the Word of Wisdom. Far removed from drugs alcohol or tea the biggest point of concern for everyone was meat.  Mongolians are huge into meat.  If you suggest a meal without meat they'll say yeah that’s great,but when are we actually eating.  We spent 20 minutes discussing what is the appropriate amount of meat. Because Mongolian livestock only eat the purest wild grasses, it was decided that we are in fact allowed to eat just a bit more meat than usual here.  The brother who spends a lot of time in Italy and I were laughing the whole time. It was great.

Well the best part of the week was our investigator Badral passing his second baptismal interview.  After a small set back we had to postpone him two weeks ago and it was pretty hard for him.  He spent some time in the countryside over the last week and made some changes especially in the friend category.  One of the Unur Elders’ investigators is also getting baptized and the bishop has set up a special program with a couple of special musical numbers.  

This week we started teaching the younger sister of our two new members.  We showed up for the first lesson and the three of them were waiting and ready to go.  Before we could start Ankhbayar said: "well I’m going on a mission in two years so I need to start preparing, could I help teach the lessons?"
ahh, yeah
We ended up giving him and Jargalmaa our name tags and having them teach the first lessons with our help. You could not ask for better new members.  They're awesome and were all there on Saturday to clean the church with the youth group (the investigator was there as well).

I know its hard to believe, but this email is the result of two hours in the internet cafe...Elder Lloyd was here.  Sorry the letter is so short, but it’s been a hilarious two hours.

Have a wonderful week and stay warm!
Elder Neuberger

Monday, January 7, 2013

Happy New Year

Well, unless I've missed my guess, this week and next will bring the beginning of second semester for just about everybody except maybe Ole Miss who if I remember start again sometime in March(lol).  In any case have a great semester. Go listen to a Jeffery R. Holland BYU speech before your class load gets you down.

As for us here in Mongolia  .   .  .  being honest I’d have to say it was a slower week than usual that left us with a few less lessons taught and people met than we would have liked; but as I look back at the week and at the beginning of another, as always there are enough wonderful things to fill ten emails and put to rest any doubts that we were blessed this week.

After the few weeks that I spent out of my area at the end of last transfer the main push has been to revive the work especially in the new investigator category (I’m sure I told you that last week).  Because tracting and street contacting are illegal in Mongolia’ our form of such is taking the ward list out and checking addresses, a practice we resorted to this week.  We walked up and down small back streets and side roads in the ger districts all day, but it appeared that all the less active members in the ward had taken a page out of Harry Potter and invisabilized their homes.  We couldn't find a house.  A bit discouraged (although we did take a number of pictures which we considered a success) we headed back to the center of our area where we were scheduled to eat dinner with a family that evening. We were not in the door for more than, I kid you not, 20 seconds (my shoes were still halfway on) when the mother of the family rushed us into a side room and told us there were some people that we needed to meet. It turned out that this family (probably the best in the ward if not Mongolia) was hosting another family (a close friend) as their son was being treated in a nearby hospital. We spent the next ten minutes to get to know them and set a return appointment before the food was ready.  The father is apprehensive but the mom is motivated; ready to read the Book of Mormon pray and get an answer. We set a return appointment and with that the buuz tasted that much better.  What a blessing and a tender mercy.

While we continued contacting passed referrals and old investigators our biggest struggle was getting people to stay committed to the times and places that we had set. But we pressed on and were excited for the prospect of fast Sunday to fast for the specific needs of the area.  Again the blessings came.  Our new member of two weeks brought with her a friend and another member who I'd actually never met before brought her boyfriend who just from a few minutes of talking seems golden.  We received as well from the AP's the names of another investigator.   The moral of the story being that missionary work in general and especially in places such as Mongolia is almost impossible and in the very least less profitable if not for the help of the members.

Another highlight of the week was a dinner appointment with an RM who served in my district in Khailaast.  She's now living with a few other members from the Khailaast area who it were great to see.  Added bonus the AP's were there.  Elder Bayartsogt and Elder Stranski.  What great people!  After a great meal and some reminiscing, Elder B did what I've seen him do on countless occasions and brought it all together with a fantastic scripture that brought everyone from laughter to thoughtful contemplation. To bring in the New Year he shared 3 Nephi 12:47
47 aOld things are done away, and all things have become bnew.

And so it is with the new year, what’s done is done and everything is new. In like sense it’s best to remember as the Savior exhorts Lot's wife, who looked back longingly at what had been and was unable to have faith that what the Lord had in store for her was far greater that what she had had. In the words of Robert Browning "The best is always yet to come." It’s up to us to have the courage and the faith to learn from the past but not live in it. 

Don't look back!
Elder Neuberger