Monday, March 25, 2013

The Almost Countryside

Looking back at the journal for the week we have been all over the place.

Tuesday began with Elder Muldowney leaving the house in jeans and a jacket for his date with immigration.  The only thing weirder than the pday clothes on a Tuesday was the fact that he had to go solo to the immigration office with the lady from the service center.  I was paired up with Elder Boyd for a few hours after an awesome district meeting by Elder Farmer who counseled us on how to talk and communicate with our companions.  Elder Robbins and I got to have a fake argument as an example....pretty awesome.  When Elder Muldowney got back it was off to my sponsor for a couple hours that ended up with us going out to see where his really big house is being built instead of English teaching.  We even had time to run back out to our area to meet with someone who unfortunately wasn't home, but we met with his mother and two nephews instead.  The night ended with a drunk guy confronting us at the bus stop telling us he played guitar and then air guitaring in almost perfect English three Beatles songs.  It was pretty amazing and we helped on the harmonies.

We had the annual "you are teachers not missionaries as far as the government is concerned" meeting on Wednesday which was probably good for everyone to hear again from the stand point of playing within the rules and keeping ourselves in the country.  Plus an extra bonus of being with the MTC group was great.  We then spent the next 4 or so hours with Mongolia Paul.  A member from the Chigeltei branch who spends all his free time going around with the Elders.  Fantastic missionary!  Also his high squeaky voice and short stature fit the description. More English teaching.  And then a three bus one taxi ride to the top of a mountain to eat with a just returned missionary and her family for dinner.  I was actually her last district leader. The Chingeltei Elders and Sisters were also there which meant Elder Bayartsogt, great to see him!  They made a ton of food and then we all had to display a talent before we left.  Turns out her Mom is an amazing guitarist.  Which isn't very common in Mongolia.  She blew all the rest of the talents out of the water it's safe to say.

On Thursday we met with Enkhbayar an investigator of several years, but because he was at home alone we had the opportunity to talk for a while and get a feel of what's really going on in his life.  I'll take a brief moment here to say how cool it is to see some things come full circle with me directing the conversation just as Elder Jolley did a year and a half ago.  Didn't think I'd ever make it that far. We gave a blessing with our Branch president later in the day which gave us some wonderful time with our branch president as we waited for someone to find us at the bus stop.  The wind chill must have been around -30 unfortunately, which was more than a match for my white shirt and windbreaker combo.  Then in "memory-moment-of-the-week," Elder Muldowney and I headed out to our area where we had to stop at a  small main street and switch buses.  We were so cold at that point that we stopped in a small store and took a few laps to get feeling back into the extremities.  Because we hadn't really eaten all day (if Sister Muldowney is reading this, I promise I'm not starving your son!) we bought a 50 cent loaf of bread and passed it back and forth tearing off huge chunks.  It may sound like "whatever", but it was for sure a "smile and enjoy the moment" kind of experience.
Blessed twice immensely on Friday.  The first was running into of a new member from Sansar on the bus.  She was probably my first new member with Elder Jolley named Sister Nymsuren.  We talked for a moment and she actually lives in my area! so we are set up to go and meet with her this evening!  Then at the house where we were going the family informed us they couldn't meet because the father's younger brother was drunk and on his way over.  We convinced them to let us at least share a small spiritual thought. They obliged and literally seconds after the closing prayer the brother came in.

Saturday had us out in Sanzai which is a good hour bus ride outside of the city.  With a few inches of fresh snow it was an absolute gorgeous day.  We met with a blind lady who was a doctor before she went blind and had a  wonderful conversation which was uplifting for us as well as her.  Then we found the other house we were looking for with an 83 year old new member who lives alone.  The most together 83 year old I've met on my mission, full of energy and even milks her own cows every morning and I'm pretty sure cuts her own wood.  Some how that night we ended up eating pizza with Elder Quinton after getting burned on an appointment at the church.  Elder Quinton had his appendix out last week and he and Elder Morris ( a new Elder with a bit of a back problem) have been on bed rest ever since.
This letter is all over the place, sorry.
Id feel bad if I missed Sunday.  We got there early and met with the branch president which went great and he gave us a few assignments.  Then we were able to chat with a bunch of members and get to know the branch better before the meeting started.  We actually had to ditch out after the first meeting because I was giving a talk in the virtual branch at the Bayanzurkh.  That's the branch held on-line and through the phone for those members in the countryside who are unable to attend regular church services.  It was a fun experience then we ran back to our building to meet with an investigator.  That evening we spent an hour looking for a house.  We talked to over 7 people trying to find it, knocked on a bunch of wrong doors and then right before we were going to give up we found it.  It turns out it's a family of AlA's and half were excited to see and meet with us.  We exchanged albums, shared a scripture and finished the week with success.  Such a good week!

Elder Neuberger

Editor's Note:  We are curious if any of the new missionaries' families are keeping a blog and/or reading this one.  Leave us a comment and let us know. Also, couldn't help but re-post the photo below from Elder Farmer's blog of camel polo out by the Chinggis Khan monument. It appears that you have to have a two-hump camel to play.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Baatars of Sukhbaatar‏

Any week with significant change tends to make it seem way longer as you look back on it and this week was full of it.  Beginning with the hour and a half meeting with my group and the president to figure out what's going to happen this upcoming summer.  The best part being having the entire group in the room at the same time (group hug did ensue).  Just looking around the room and seeing how far each of us has come and what we've all accomplished in the last year and a half was awesome.  I have so much love and respect for each one of them.

The rest of the week got pretty hectic.  With the sisters gone on Wednesday we tried our best to visit with as many people as we could before we were off on our own.  Wednesday night we had dinner with the Richardsons who are leaving this week and are the last senior couple that were here before my group. (sidebar: had green beans for the first time in 16 months).  Sister Bolortuya shared an awesome  spiritual though on becoming meek and submissive like a little child.  She shared an experience of hers when she was meeting with a woman whose child was around two years old. The child ended up being scolded by the mother and treated a bit harshly until she began to cry. Remarkably several minutes later the young daughter was able to laugh and play with the mother as if nothing had happened.  As a demonstration for how we are to forgive forget and move passed obstacles and difficult times she then likened it too our relationship with our Heavenly Father.  As we struggle through difficulty and trial its rather easy to cast a steely glance toward Heaven and wonder why me.  But if we can look up with the same meekness as little children and accept what has happened, and rejoice in what we have been given, how better off will we be.  Sister Bolortuya is amazing and definitely a loss for the mission.

This Thursday was the missionary fireside.  The first one ever not on a Sunday which was a cause for a little concern as to whether or not people would be able to make it.  The turn out ended up being great and due to technical difficulties each member of our group took a different senior couple and translated the meeting for them.  It was fun looking around smiling at each other at the things that were tough to translate and that which was easier.  Elder Lloyd kept leaning over and making side comments which was fantastic.

Friday left us with our first day on our own and had us moving to our new apartment (the sisters old one).  Luckily it was the next building over so it wasn't too bad and the sisters left it immaculate.  Never seen a  cleaner apartment.

We've struggled a bit mostly in just the finding of the houses in our new area. All of the gers get grouped in what I guess you could call neighborhoods, where all the gers have the same street name with different numbers.  What we didn't know was that some of the neighborhoods in our area differed only by a T on the end.  Also ger khoroolols have never been know for there trustiness in numbering.  As in, 234, 235, 236, 576.  Either way we are having a blast as we go about it and we have already had a number of successful meetings with investigators including one with a branch missionary that I don't have time to describe right now but it was awesome!

This Saturday and Sunday was district conference where Elder Boyd and I assisted in the translation. There were a dozen good talks of course not the least of which being President Clark's three.  I'm pretty sure one of them was impromptu.  How does he speak so well?
Elder Muldowney has to go to immigration tomorrow so we'll figure out his English this week. 
Running out of time..
Have a fantastic week.
Elder Neuberger
Editor's Note: Travis has been asked to stay a little longer, so his return is now tentatively scheduled for Aug 22

Monday, March 11, 2013

Whole New Ballgame

What a great week of transitions and excitement.  I left you last week on the brink of it all and I feel like so much has happened from then to now.  Let's see if I can't bring you up to speed in the next couple of minutes.  So last Monday night after taking a picture with our zone it was off to the office to meet my new companion.  The trainers for the new transfer are me, Elder Boyd, Elder Lloyd and Elder Bayartsogt.  As we walked into the President's house for the meeting it was half deja vu from a year and 4 months ago and half "where has the time gone?" After a small talk with the President we paired up and I'll be training Elder Muldowney this upcoming twelve weeks in Sukhbaatar which is going to be and has already been a  wonderful experience.
Elder Muldowney is from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  The 9th in a twelve children family.  I can't say I quite pass the test on remembering who is who yet but I'm working on it.  Straight out of high school he was 18 when he got to the MTC in December.  So humble and ready to do great work.  He's thinking about being a horse trainer when he gets home.  Just a great guy, already feel like we've been friends forever.
We've been moving along quickly this week as we try to learn the entire area from the sisters who leave this upcoming Thursday.  That's had us at at least 5 houses a day meeting and getting to know people.  The area is massive so I'm not sure if Ive got it all down yet, but we're hoping we can get close and fill in the gaps as we go along.
We are actually living with the Khailaast elders for the time being and it's been crazy having four in one apartment, but been great to be with Elder Williams.  There's only two beds, so we are on the floor, but we have great heart to hearts before passing out each night. I'm pretty sure I fell asleep mid sentence last night. 
The coolest part of the week had to be Saturday when we took a taxi 45 minutes outside of the city to a little collection of houses in our area.  There's a few members and an investigator out there so we go about every Saturday. It was gorgeous and the air was so clean. 
However, the best part of the week was probably the first house that we went to on our very first day with the sisters.  We met with a sister who has just been called to be the new visiting teaching coordinator.  I think that's probably the most difficult calling in Mongolia.  She was talking a little bit about selecting counselors and trying to figure out how to get started.  As we shared a spiritual thought I felt impressed to share out of D&C 8:2 "Yea, behold, I will atell you in your mind and in your bheart, by the cHoly Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart." and then I talked in part about how the Lord will tell us spiritually in our heart and in a real and very physical way through our mind.  The most important part of our seeking revelation is that of our own personal effort.  We are far more likely to receive personal confirmation on an idea that we have studied out in our mind than an epiphany of what to do.
After we shared the scripture the sister said, "That's exactly right! That's exactly what happened. I prayed for confirmation about an impression I had and I thought I felt the guidance of the Holy Ghost...but then you shared that scripture and I knew that I had felt the confirmation of the Holy Ghost through what you described."  It was a great moment and a moment where I could truly see the Lord put into my mind what to be said.  It was also a demonstration of the principle that the Lord will only bring to mind that which we have studied or ponder out before hand.
There are about a thousand other elements to the week that made it so awesome.  Not the least of which was seeing so many people I know from the Khailaast Ward and about half my MTC group at the baptism on Friday night.

I'm pretty sure that my letters probably come off all rainbows and butterflies which of course is not always the case, but I feel so blessed for the people I've met and the relationships I've formed.  If Elder Wilson were to make a top ten for hardest missions in the world this one would probably make the top five, but that also makes it number one for most rewarding!

Have a wonderful week,
Elder Neuberger

Monday, March 4, 2013

Moving and New

Well for the first time in over 11 month foreign missionaries (i.e. Americans) have made it to Mongolia!  As I sit writing two have made it and four are about to be picked up at the airport.  With new missionaries coming in, it also means the this transfer is quickly coming to an end and beyond that so is my time in Songino.  We were notified last Thursday by the AP's that the transfer would be cut just a bit short by the arrival of Americans and than on top of that there will be another transfer within two weeks when the new Mongolians get back from the Philippians. 
Even though I was almost assuredly leaving Songino this transfer, it was still super hard.  Luckily we had just enough time to meet with the new members and put things in order before I had to leave.  Sunday ended up being a lot like Tsagaan Sar with the sisters and us going around to 3 houses to say goodbye to people.  It also happened to be a fast and testimony week, so I was able to bear my testimony for one last time which was great. I hope I left the area a little better than it was when I got there, but that's hard to say because there are so many people in the ward who already make it so great.  At the end of the day and the end of the week I just felt myself being grateful to serve in such a great place for such a long time.

So that brings us to this next transfer and what will probably be my last area and maybe my last companion.  The time is going way too fast!!!  President Clark is gone is less that 4 months!  Since American Elders don't leave the city, the transfer is never that big of a deal because you know wherever you go you're going to be within a 5 dollar taxi of where you just were.  I'll be back in the same building that I was last year at this time out in Khilaast.  But instead of the left side of the road Ill be serving on the right side of the road in Sukhbaatar (side note that's where the Farmers attend Church, so that's really fun).  And I'll find out who my companion is this evening at 7ish.  Even though I just trained back to back this should be a totally different ballgame training someone who speaks my native language. I'm excited and I'd say a little bit on the nervous side.  I just hope that I can be and have been half the trainer that Elder Jolley was for me in my first three months.  It's crazy that all but the last transfer of my mission are now decided.  The thing that excites me the most has got to be being with someone for whom it's all new.  And seeing it again through the excitement of a new missionary's eyes.  Things that have just become very normal because of being here for a while will be new again.  I'm sure there will be a lot to report next week and I'm sure that my next companion will feel a greater need to sit at the internet cafe. Should give me time to get everyone caught up.
I love all of you so much and I'm so grateful to be in this beautiful country. 
The work is true and there is literally no better place that I could be for the next 5 months.  How cool is that?!
Have a great week!

Elder Neuberger