Monday, April 29, 2013

Let Try That Again

So last week's letter, as noted by a few viewers (Kyle) was a poor effort.  In an effort to make amends, let my take it back to the week before and add a few details about the 20th anniversary celebration.  Where the letter started dying was explaining the end of the week, particularly the last couple of firesides and the circus event.  Both firesides on Wednesday and Thursday night were wonderful.  Having all the old mission presidents come back was such a sight on the stand and there was such a power in their presence.  They all gave unbelievably uplifting talks inspiring the Mongolian saints. 
The only event that was really scheduled for Friday were the baptisms.  Throughout just the city area alone there were over 25 baptisms.  Everyone was excited and there were good turnouts everywhere.  At our building however there were just two baptisms.  Ours and one of Elder Bayartsogt.  As expected, Narmandakh was amazing.  She showed up thirty minutes early and was ready to go.  For the first time in Mongolia we had legitimately no water problems which brought all the stress levels way down. We were however, missing our speaker who showed up as it was his turn to speak, quite literally running into the building and on to the stand.  After a bit of out-of-breath huffing and puffing he gave a wonderful talk on the gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end.  Elder Muldowney preformed his first baptism and had no problem with any of the words.  It was neat to stand and watch, thinking of myself just a year and a few months before.  I led the music, the best part of that is just seeing how many people in the audience you can get to smile.  Then Narmandakh got up and bore her testimony of the Savior.  She said she has a lot of testimonies but the most important and the biggest one she has gained is that of the Savior. She went on to explain how her life has been filled with greater joy and love for others.  It was great and as an example to all of us she brought one of her schoolmates to the service. 
Saturday brought the finale of the week long celebration and quite a bit of practice before hand.  We practiced at the church building in the morning and then moved it over for one more dress rehearsal before the performance at the circus.  On the way we went to one of the very few places here that sells anything close to resembling a "burger".  The good thing is that after a year plus in Mongolia it tasted like something up there with Five Guys to those from my group.  To those who have just recently arrived here, it was a little less than anticipated, lol.  The practice was going great until we ran out of time to get all the curtain calls practiced.  Fortunately, we winged it all and it went great.  The famous Mongolian LDS opera singer sang and they showed a video presentation of when she went to sing with the Tabernacle Choir.  We should get a CD copy of the whole event so I won't go into too much detail .  .  .  but most of the people are referring to me as "that one dancer guy." Good times! The best part was President Clark's duet at the end with an RM. After all the applause the lights went out and they started singing "A Young Boy Prayed" while scenes from the restoration went on the big screen in the background.  It was such a great way to end not only the event, but the week as well.
On Sunday we got an early call that Elder Bayartsogt's companion wasn't going to make it out of bed due to back problems .  .  .  poor guy.  But it did result in me spending the day with Elder Bayartsogt which was a blast from the past as we served the day in both my area and his, which both sandwich the area we served in together just a  year ago. The day was a blast and we spent most of the day reminiscing about fun stuff that happened while we were together. We taught two great lessons the second reminding me just how awesome of a person/missionary Elder B is. When he was finished talking I wasn't even sure what to say. It was like trying to speak after Elder Holland in conference lol. What was going to be a two hour split together turned into 12 hours, but my companion was able to support Elder Bayartsogt's companion seeing as they are from the same MTC group and that was a plus.
Last Monday was a blast!  We spent the day as a zone holding eagles and riding camels.  Eagles are really heavy.  We took tons of pictures and Elder Lloyd sat and chatted with me for the bus ride out and back. The Chinggis Khaan statue was awesome just for the fact of how far outside the city we got to travel and for how in the middle of nowhere we were.  The museums inside and the giant shoe were also great fun.  All the pictures I took are on Elder Lloyd's camera, so hopefully he sends a few to you today and I'll get the rest from him later. (Sorry no pics)
The rest of this week went amazing, without Elder Muldowney having to teach English, we were able to PR in lessons taught and help invite a number of people to be baptized.  We climbed a mountain to teach a lesson to a less active member.  Elder Muldowney also took a bit of a swim after falling out of a tree into a river. Fortunately it was shallow .  .  .  I tried to stop him, I promise Sister Muldowney! The lack of English teaching was such a freedom and gave us two completely unobstructed days to work. With the combination of waking up early every morning for a little basketball we are worn out in the best way possible.
I enjoyed a scriptures from Moroni and Paul this week in my personal study:

Why are ye a
ashamed to take upon you the name of Christ? Why do ye not think that greater is the value of an endless happiness than that bmisery which never dies—because of the cpraise of the world?

For God hath not given us the spirit of a
fear; but of bpower, and of clove, and of a sound mind.
 Be not thou therefore aashamed of the btestimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;
 Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy acalling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and bgrace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,
12 For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not aashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.

When phrased in Moroni's question above, it seems obvious what great joy and lasting happiness that we can gain from our testimony in Christ.  And yet as Peter knows only too well, refraining from shame in your testimony isn't always that easy.  Which is why in the words of Elder Holland, I guess there really can be no "casual Christians", because in the heat of battle they will be come "Christian casualties."


Have a great week!

Elder Neuberger

Monday, April 22, 2013

20th Anniversary

So we are going out to see the giant Chinggis Khan statue and riding camels and holding eagles today so we're writing early.
For the what seems like the hundredth time on my mission, I'd have to count this week as the fastest yet.  With dance and singing practice for the anniversary celebration, other anniversary events on everyday of the week, English teaching and of course some missionary work, we were out and about from about 9:30 to 9:30 everyday.  
The beginning of the week, just after I wrote my last email, was what I guess you could call the opening ceremonies of the 20th anniversary.  After a basketball showdown with the students from the college where I teach (how many missionaries can say that?) we walked over to Zaisan Hill (the big hill with the statue that overlooks the entire city) for the reading of Elder Neal A Maxwell's dedicatory prayer.  Because of the April snowstorm the attendance at the top of the 1000 stair path wasn't the best, but it was great being there with fellow saints and singing the "The Spirit of God."
Tuesday was our day of straight English teaching.  
Wednesday night and Thursday night were the firesides each two hours long.  The first was all the mission presidents from the beginning until 2000 and then 2000 till now was the second night. Almost all of the presidents for the first night were there, but the 2000's were a bit lacking.  The Harlen Clarks weren't there, but everyone who wasn't able to make it sent in videos and we watched those.
Friday was an amazingly good baptism. 
Saturday was our two hour event of dancing and singing at the circus (downtown theater).
This was a terrible email but we really have no time.
Have a great week!
Elder Neuberger

Monday, April 15, 2013

Generally Amazing!

Although it's nothing compared to the 12 inches St. Louis got on Palm Sunday, the 5 inches or so that we have accumulated today has felt like feet in contrast to the amount of snow I've seen to this point in my mission, plus its April 14th and I don't think they were shoveling the fairways at Augusta this weekend.

It's been another crazy week of fan dance practice and singing with sporadic English teaching and missionary work thrown in.  Then we had Asia Area General Conference weekend which proved to be another absolute masterpiece.  The shinning moment of the week was Wednesday when we had a whole day with unobstructed missionary work.  Because we knew it was probably the one day of the week we were going to get, we planned the absolute best we could.  We were on the board for a perfect game early on in the day.  With all of our study done we got out the door early. Our first visit was a long way out in the back of our area and was successful with a member lesson.  1/1.  Early on we lost the perfect game to an investigator who was out and about, but were able to salvage the no-hitter as we met with his ala wife and daughter. Then our big three, our best three investigators at the church for discussions and all with members present. Our investigator who is getting baptized in this coming week had recently been telling us about how if she became a member she probably wouldn't be able to serve a mission . We had assured her that that was alright and that it was a decision she could make for herself.  Then she came into the lesson and told us "there's something that I need to tell you."  heart sinks a bit .  .  .  "When I become a member I have had the very strong impression that I need to be a missionary."  I was so relieved that the news wasn't bad that I almost forgot to be excited at first. To finish the night we got to one more ala's house to finish off a 6/6 day of lessons.  Celebratory ice-cream was well deserved .  .  . we ate 2 liters. Elder Muldowney may rival my sister Ali if not for love of ice cream, at least in total consumption.  lol

The rest of the week went great especially the ten hours of General Conference on Saturday and Sunday. Talk after talk of just wonderful spiritual insight and uplifting messages. I enjoyed Elder Craig A. Cardon's talk on forgiveness. There are always such gems amongst the Seventies' talks.  President Eyring's talk on drawing close to the Savior echoed his last conference talk of breaking down the pavilions.  I really enjoyed Elder Scott's as well on families and the point he made on parents becoming friends for their kids' freinds .  .  . check for Mom and Dad there. A lot of other great stuff as well, including as always Elder Holland!
He just makes it unfair for everyone else. How do you follow that?  Rhetorically and emotionally he goes pretty unmatched. I love General Conference.
Sorry. Times up.
Have a great week!
Elder Neuberger

Monday, April 8, 2013

Blind Ladies and John Mayer

Dear Everybody,
Great week capitalized by not having to worry for days about fixing my own schedule for school.  High fives for Dad!

Secondly, during our weekly visit to Sanzai we met with our favorite blind lady who actually has a piano in her house.  She asked us to play some hymns for her so she could just listen.  In the moment all I could hear was Mom's voice telling me I should have learned to play the piano.  But luckily I did have one song up my sleeve.  I sang and played John Mayer's "When Your Dreaming with a Broken Heart" to her while Elder Muldowney took a video.  She may or may not have thought it was a hymn.  I can't send the file because it's too big, but you can all have a good laugh when I get back.

The rest of the week was spent running from missionary work to English teaching to song and dance preparation for the 20th anniversary celebration.  We spent about six hours this week practicing an awesome rendition of "How Great Thou Art" and the fan dance that we did at the talent show on which I've picked up a second solo...  must have been all that elementary school talent show skill.  English has been nice, although Elder Muldowney's sponsor has been trying to get me to teach some classes.  My sponsor is still wonderful and says hello.  He's sad that I'll be leaving so soon and that we won't be able to go out to the countryside together.  He's given us rides several times this past month and his wife makes us lunch everyday we teach. 
We met with our golden investigator four times this week to get her prepared for her baptismal interview.  We had several meetings with members present which was fantastic fellowshipping and just makes every lesson 10 times as successful.  She was excited about tithing and fasted three times  after we taught her about it on Sunday.  She passed the interview with flying colors on Saturday evening, but we have decided to push her baptism back a week because of General Conference.  It's going to be pretty special because it will be during the week of the 20th anniversary of missionary work in Mongolia.  There should be baptisms from every branch in our building and great turn outs from members because it is one of the events on the schedule.  Sunday night we were stuck with a hole in our schedule when we got a call from or investigator, Narmandakh.  She was headed to the CES fireside at the Byansurkh, but didn't really know anyone, so she was hoping we'd be there.  We dropped everything and ran over there introducing her to everyone we could before the event started.  What a great talk from Elder Bednar by the way.
We also picked up several new investigators this week, which were needed.  We have a lot of old investigators at the moment.  Old as in years as investigators.  So it's been nice to meet with people dedicated to making changes in their lives and coming unto Christ.  One of the new investigators was a young lady who the branch president's wife works with.  Seeing the difference that church has made in her fellow employers life, she like many others inquired to know more.  She has actually attended church twice, but due to her busy schedule we hadn't been able to meet with her.  This week she and we both finally had a free blick of time that coincided, and we took the opportunity to meet with her.  It was one of the best first lessons ever and she asked so many awesome questions.  At the end we were able to bear testimony and give her a Book of Mormon and asked her to pray about it.  We left feeling great, but it wasn't until Sunday when we meet with the branch president's wife that we got the best part.  She told us that Naranchimeg has been reading the Book of Mormon nonstop, and the pamphlet at work.  She actually stayed the night with the branch president and his wife one night and they all read scriptures together.  The best was that in referencing the lesson with us she said, "Those two young men said they know that it's all true.  Do you know that?" After the branch president's wife confirmed that she did,  Naranchimeg responded, "That's what I want." What a wonderful blessing it is to not only know for ourselves, but to testify of this wonderful truth to others. 
I love you all!
Have a wonderful week!

Elder Neuberger

Monday, April 1, 2013

Happy Easter

How wonderful a time of year is Easter?! It always gets a little underplayed by Christmas as far as having its own holiday season.  But the advent of Holy Week is truly a holiday season in itself.  It wasn't the traditional Easter here in Mongolia without the Neuberger traditions, but it was still great to spend a few hours this week with the last couple chapters of the gospels and the Neuberger Easter packet.   Unfortunately we didn't pull off any "ring and runs" of Easter treats left on doorsteps or being on temple grounds on Good Friday, but it was wonderful reading and then reflecting throughout each day what happened in Jerusalem 2000 years ago.   Catalyzing the study was the assignment to speak in church on Sunday for 20 minutes coming from the bishop on Friday evening (funny how if the bishop gave me only a week's notice back home I was upset).
Easter, like Christmas, isn't very well known in Mongolia, so much of my talk was based toward just on explaining the holiday in general.  The biggest problem being that at somepoint someone translated the word for Easter into Mongolian as "the red egg holiday" which isn't helping anyone know what it's about. Visiting with members this week, most people just thought it was some Russian holiday where people eat red eggs.  It was cool to help people understand that we celebrate not only the birth of the Savior, but of course his life and resurrection through the Easter holiday.
When you think that the Savior's life and ministry are condensed down to around thirty or so chapters in the book of Matthew and then that 10 of those 30 are dedicated to the final week it brings in to prospective the importance of the holiday.
Some thoughts that jump out as they always do when thinking about Easter would be 
One: The absolute and remarkable love, patience and compassion of the Savior.  In obvious reasons for the atonement and what he endured.  But it also occurs to me, that at the Savior's very word his captors would have been destroyed.  He had displayed such supreme control over creation in times past.  And yet throughout the final 48 hours of his life and the moments before that, his love was beyond the verbal rebuke, but must have also encompassed even control over the ill thought toward those bent on his destruction.
Two: The oft cited idea of the absolute juxtaposition of light and darkness between the crucifixion on Friday and the resurrection on Sunday morning.  Of course for those that were closest to the Savior, the events must have been incomprehensible.  Their King, who had spent much of his ministry teaching of eternal life was now gone as quickly as he had come.  He had saved thousands from illness, several from the grave and yet at the final hour had not saved himself.
45 Now from the sixth hour there was adarkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.

And yet when Sunday came, in sharp contrast to the darkness of the previous 48 hours, an angelic messenger was sent to proclaim the news  and "His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow.

And then the culmination of the week, and the life of the Savior came in a singular phrase: "He is not here: for he is arisen, as he said."

The verse that stuck out to me the most this week was from Abinidai:
 And now Abinadi said unto them: I would that ye should understand that aGod himself shall bcome down among the children of men, and shall credeem his people.
 And thus the flesh becoming subject to the Spirit, or the Son to the Father, being one God, asuffereth temptation, and yieldeth not to the temptation, but suffereth himself to be mocked, andbscourged, and cast out, and disowned by his cpeople.
 And after all this, after working many mighty miracles among the children of men, he shall be led, yea, even aas Isaiah said, as a sheep before the shearer is dumb, so he bopened not his mouth.
 Yea, even so he shall be led, acrucified, and slain, the bfleshbecoming subject even unto death, the cwill of the Son being swallowed up in the will of the Father.
 And thus God breaketh the abands of death, having gained thebvictory over death; giving the Son power to make cintercession for the children of men—

He Lives!!!! And so will we!
Have a great week full of spring sunshine!
Elder Neuberger