Monday, February 25, 2013

So Fast

I can’t believe it’s been almost three weeks since I sent a decent letter.  The biggest problem now is that I have no idea where I left off.  I’m pretty sure I finished up Tsagaan Sar and where my district went to 8 houses on the last day and probably ate a solid 200+ buuz that day alone.  The only problem with Tsagaan Sar is that it really doesn’t end. You just keep counting the new 1st day, 2nd........13th.  Fortunately, we were able to break the Tsagaan Sar slump with a beautiful baptism on Friday (that was the new 5th day if you’re keeping track).  Again we had the hot and cold water problems, but we weren’t expecting more or less.  Because it was still technically the holiday, we were severely worried about who would turn up including the people who were assigned to give talks.  By the time we were about to start we were fortunate enough to have a decent amount of people and the bishop. Then, coming straight from school Maralmaa (the girl being baptized) showed up right on time with who else then her mom who has been working in the Gobi desert for the past year or so.  Excited and a bit shocked we welcomed her in.  Even with the few people we had everything went very smoothly.  Hats off to my companion who performed the baptism in only about two feet of water. The talks were great and then afterwards there were some refreshments set up. Maralmaa is 12 and probably the most golden of investigators.  And to prove it she got up and bore the best testimony I've heard at a baptism.  She went into a story of how an incident at school reminded her of a story from the Book of Mormon and then started quoting and citing scriptures from the middle of Alma.  The other youth in the ward  have got to watch out because she has been going to seminary more faithfully then any of them and I’m pretty sure her and her sister have memorized all of the seminary scriptures.

It’s amazing that Elder Ganshagai and I are in our last two weeks together. Where has the time gone?  And on top of that has it really been 8 months in Songino!?  I think I’ve said it before but it bears repeating that the thing I’ll probably miss the most from this ward is the returned missionaries.  They are absolutely incredible.  Talk about never leaving your mission. Amazing! We'll see what happens, but odds are I’m out of here on the next transfer. 

I think yesterday was a bit of a microcosm (don’t know that one in Mongolian) of the last couple of weeks.  We had a great meeting with our ward mission leader and then a beautiful Sacrament meeting.  Even our ward  missionaries were awake and alert for our meeting after church.  Then the day was left open.  We had madea fantastic plan the night before, but one by one we watched our appointments cancel. The hardest part being that we were taking along our ward missionary who is on the fence about serving a mission.  After church let out we then helped the primary president with a song they were learning using  my limited right hand piano skills.  I then tried to call probably ten people with no luck(somebody anybody).  We resorted to checking a few houses baihgui baihgui.  But then as we were walking back to the church a lady stopped us on the road from her car.  She was yelling a little bit so I was a bit confused.  But she got out of the car and introduced herself as a member who had just moved to the city and needed to know how to change her records from her old branch. And also her 10 year old daughter hadn't been baptized and is it possible that she could meet with the missionaries.  Yes and yes.  I feel like at the beginning of my mission I wouldn’t have taken it for much, but know and especially on Sunday where it felt like nothing was working, the small exchange felt like somewhat of a "thanks for trying, and keep going" from a loving Heavenly Father. We did finally get a meeting in with someone who lives behind the church and then as the CES broadcast was about to start (yea we're kinda of behind) three guys of about 20-25 years of age showed up and start asking questions about the Gospel.  So we took them aside and decided to take a quick moment to answer a few questions.  And hour and 20 minutes later we finished answering some well thought out and profound questions from what are some very prepared investigators (the fireside had begun and ended).  This was a classic example of how being a missionary is awesome because your defending something that defends itself.  It’s amazing to me that I can sit calmly in a room teaching in a different language and know that there is literary no question that they can ask that the Gospel doesn’t have an answer for. In fact, more commonly then not people will ask questions that are based on doctrines that we intended on teaching in the lesson. There must have been three or four times that my companion and I stole looks at each other and just smiled when questions were asked.  

We had about an hour till it was time to go home and we were able to feel that amazing thrill of pushing for one more house at the day’s ending.  We showed up to teach our new member Khasnavch and her uncle ended up sitting in on the lesson.  We taught an impromptu lesson on charity and it went amazingly.  After we read from Moroni 7 my companion said something pretty profound and I think it’s where I’ll leave the letter this week. You could bring in the intellects from every university, institution or organization together and they could not produce a better description or powerful understanding of what it means to be charitable.  And so it is with all the scriptures.  There really is no other source of such profound understanding and perfect knowledge.
Have a wonderful week,
ali bolokh ikheer bichsen shuu

Elder Neuberger

Monday, February 18, 2013

Way Too Many Buuz Later

Well i guess I'm two weeks behind because of the short email last week.  But let me hit the highlight reel .  .  .

Greeting the New Year
About a week and a half and a go I fell in a six foot hole .  .  . not lying.  We were walking down the road to the bus stop and I was talking to  some other missionaries in my district on the phone.  Because the lights from the oncoming cars were so bright I couldn't really see where I was walking, but being on the edge of the road you figure there shouldn't be any holes.  The moment before I fell I saw my companion stumble in front of me and the next thing I know I'm six feet down hanging from some wire.  Not sure how I grabbed the wire but it kept me from falling any further.  The first reaction was that my leg was broken and I would have to go home.  I took all the impact on my left knee and I could not feel it at all.  The second thought, I kid you not, was: "how awesome will this memory be!"  My companion and I limped out of there about 10 minutes later.  The worst part was that I was wearing my new suit.  The best part was that even though my knee was ripped open my pants weren't! 
Buddhist Totem for Tsagaan Sar
The rest of the week was spent making buuz for the elderly women in the ward who were super cute and reminded me of Nana and Grandma.  The sisters in our district ditched us twice, but my buuz skills were good enogh that my companion and I knocked out 500 on our own.  
And then came to the eating buuz part.  (Before I start, this week's letter is again going to be cut short cause the zone is going bowling today.) 
Celebrating Mongolian Style
Tsagaan sar was amazing.  We spent about 4 days visiting 15 families and eating over 120 buuz.  On the third day I'm sure we set some sort of seasonal record visting 8 houses.  I'm pretty sure that even Joey Chestnut would have had to tip his cap.  It may not sound that amazing, but keep in mind that it's Mongolian custom (almost law) to make at least one set of buuz for everyone who comes in your house.  

and out of time. 
Ill catch up on three weeks next week
estoi uuchlaarai
Elder Neuberger

Mongolian couple greeting the New Year
The MTC group (Elders Williams, Stranski, Quinton, Lloyd, Neuberger, Boyd, and Naef)

Ger district at dawn

Coal smoke from ger district

What's the deel?

Practicing for the Talent Show


Greeting the New Year

Sunday, February 10, 2013

If I had a dollar for every email written wearing a deel

Sar shiindee saihan shiinshlij baina uu?
Well if your not close to a lunar calendar it is in fact the first day of a new lunar year.  And although I'm sure there's probably nothing going on in the States besides last minute preparations for Valentine's Day, today is probably the biggest day of the year for the 3 million people living in Mongolian.  If you're having trouble remembering from last year Tsagaan Sar lasts three days plus a Tsagaan Sar eve like celebration called Bituun.  It's three days of visiting family and friends and eating ridiculous amounts of buuz, meat and potato salad.  Last year I was pretty much just a follower as we went about visiting with all the families and what not (not a clue what was going on) so it's been a lot of fun being a part of the preparation and planning this year.  By Friday night Sister Erdenesuvd and I were getting all the families and ward members organized and a schedule set up for the coming week.  Our plans for the week also include getting together with the elders from Unur and Khan-uul to go around to houses.  I'm also going over to my sponsors house at some point which should be a blast.  All in all we have about 25 houses to knock out in the next three days.  After I finish writing this email we're going straight out to start meeting with people.  We picked up three houses last night which was a blast and I'm at a 18 buuz running total.  With good day today we should be up in the high fifties by the time it's time to head home.  Because all of the internet places are closed down today we are all writing from the office while our Mongolian companions call their families (they don't call at Christmas).  Not much else to write. It's been a quiet week with a lot of practice for the upcoming missionary talent show.  Something with fans and it should be great.  Beyond that and on a more spiritual note our investigator Maralmaa past her baptismal interview and is set for next week as the holiday starts to wind down.  A great time for a baptism!
The biggest thing is going to be getting everybody back out of the holiday lag and back into missionary work this upcoming week, but I think we can do it.  That's about all the time there is for this week.
Have a great holiday!
Elder Neuberger

Monday, February 4, 2013

18 months and 21 years

Woke up this morning and got a call from the President which caught me totally off guard because it’s the day after my birthday.  After a bit of a scare and trying to guess what could possibly be going on I picked it up and it was the President and his wife calling to wish me a happy birthday.  No one classier than President Clark. The mission will miss him for sure this coming July.

This past week I was reading through the conference edition of the Liahona again and was hit hard by President Uchtdorf's "Joy of the Priesthood” talk.  As a back half missionary things are supposed to get easier and they do.  But with the greater ability in the language and everything else comes a greater feeling of expectation if not from the President and others then definitely from yourself.  At this point I should be able to do this and this with no problems.  There should never be a dull moment.  All my investigators should be progressing and I should be able to solve any problem in less than two seconds.  With all that sitting in the back of your mind it’s quite easy to lose the childlike wonder of missionary work that comes as a young missionary fresh off the plane and unable to do anything but follow your senior and drink it all in.  The trick is about balancing the two;  Accepting the responsibility without losing the fun and the joy.  Or in the words of President Uchtdorf, “.  .  . no matter what your responsibilities or circumstances may be, you and I know there is always a special joy that comes from dedicated MISSIONARY service. Yes, there is always something imperfect in any situation. Yes, it is easy to find things to complain about. But brethren, we are MISSIONARIES, after the Order of the Son of God! Each of us had hands laid upon our head, and we received the priesthood of God. We have been given authority and responsibility to act in His name as His servants on earth. Whether in a large ward or a small branch, we are called upon to serve, to bless, and to act in all things for the good of everyone and everything entrusted to our care. Could there be anything more exhilarating?"
(Okay, I may have changed a couple of words there)

There really couldn't be anything more exhilarating and what a commitment it is to find the joy in whatever we are doing because truly the joy in missionary work is noticing the joy of missionary work. Such as the lesson we taught in the back of a small shop this week to a young boy and his aunt.  The four of us crammed in a small room (maybe 7x7) talking about the gospel and restoration.  What are the odds of having such an opportunity?  Speaking in a language I’d never heard of 18 months ago about topics the two of them had never heard of in their combined 50 or so years. 

Then on Tuesday we found ourselves at the Baynzurk to drop off baptismal forms when we ran into the Briggs, a senior couple that I hadn't seen in a year because they were assigned to a different city for 18 months (not UB).  But about two years ago we had met in the parking lot of Helaman Halls at BYU knowing that we were going to Mongolia.  By coincidence we ended up at the office at the same time on Tuesday with them leaving the next morning for home.  It was an amazing tender mercy to tell them goodbye and especially to send my congratulations on to Lauren who has put in her papers for a mission.  (can’t think of anyone who would be a better missionary then Lauren Cochran)

This week we met with our newly found, but relatively old investigator Tsogtgerel who has kicked alcohol, but is struggling with smoking.  I don’t know of anyone who likes to talk more than this guy.  My companion and I will say about three sentences and then he is off on something. It’s almost comical, but you can tell that he is open to tell us anything.  I've learned more than anything that nothing can break up a family faster than alcohol.  The man was pretty much living a double life for years hiding his drinking from his wife.  Conversely, what ease living the gospel brings to living life.

Saturday after English class we had a magical day.  Two of those who sat in the English class wanted to meet with the missionaries.  One of them has been coming to English for more than a year now and asked some fantastic questions.  One of the investigators that you can see has enormous potential.  Then after leaving for a meeting with another investigator and coming back we had two young guys walk in and tell us they were looking for a new church.  There old one had just fallen apart and ours seemed to be the closest.  We assured them that it was a good choice.

And that brings us to Sunday and a decently uneventful birthday.  There's literally no way for anyone to know it’s your birthday, so aside from the elders in my group who were all over it (our group is soooooooooo close) it was pretty low key.  We had dinner with the Hunts, the greatest senior couple in the history of senior couples.  By happy accident we were 45 minutes early and so we were there to help Sister Hunt get ready.  It was me and Elder Lloyd by the way.  We had spaghetti and just enjoyed talking with the Hunts.  Elder Naef and his companion were also there and it was super fun.  Sister Hunt who had been tipped off surprised me with a birthday cake and everybody sang.  What a great birthday!  To top it off Elder Lloyd and I had prepared a spiritual thought about missionary work that went fantastic.  The close was a quote from Paul (who’s got to be #1 on lists of top ten missionaries) and what I would say sums up my thoughts about missionary work, my last 6 months and continued service throughout life. From Hebrews chapter 6:
 10 For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.
 11 And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:
12 That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

Have a wonderful week, all the way to the end,
Elder Neuberger