Monday, May 27, 2013

Late Snow, It's All Good

We were really feeling a turn towards summer until it dropped 20 degrees and started snowing this afternoon.  It,s really coming down, massive flakes like a spring snow in Utah.  We taught English this morning and spent the rest of the afternoon trying desperately to make it back across the log jammed center of the city.  This is the last week of Elder Muldowney's English class so we are keeping our fingers crossed for a real Pday next week.  Tonight we have a quick appointment with the grocery store before heading up to the old District President's house (the nicest man in Mongolia).  His son served in the Salt Lake City South Mission and has unbelievable English.  Should all be fantastic if we can make it through this evening's snow storm It reminds me of a wonderful campout from back in the day.

Side note: apparently the 20th anniversary made it big in the Church News both the printed and online copy.  Yes, that is my face in the middle of the giant 20 formed by the fans. 

This week was crazy with two service projects, zone conference, and a cultural event that our zone did together the day before conference.  It was President Clark's last zone conference and the last for Elders Titensor and Woodward who each have less then a few weeks here in Mongolia.  The highlights included President's pep talk on getting a temple in Mongolia faster and of course the Stake President coming in and backing it all up with the why it was necessary to have a temple close.  The cultural event was great with some amazing horse head fiddle players. The service this week consisted of a day of shoveling dirt and a day of cleaning a house in the middle of nowhere, both were super fun.

One of the best parts of the week was the dinner we had last night at an RM's house whose family is part member.  She talked to us for 20 minutes about how really trying to become like Christ consists of knowing him and then knowing how to become like him.  Reading between the lines in the New Testament, and understanding in depth the reason for each of the commandments he gave.  This week I've also been finishing Jesus the Christ.  It's been really hard to put it down at the end of the night when 10:30 rolls around.  It's amazing how real the book makes the events of the Savior.  Not that the New Testament is vague, but there are times when you don't really feel you have the whole scope of what's going on in the stories, like your watching them all through a keyhole.  And when you read Jesus the Christ it's as if Elder Talmage has swung the door open and allows you to see more vividly what is going on around the Savior in each moment of his ministry.  The insights and testimony left in the book are witness to the divine aid that Elder Talmage received while writing its 700+ pages in the temple. 

My testimony has been strengthened that the Savior lived and does live, that his love was deep and abiding beyond our mortal realization and such that no one could find their way outside of it.  I love the Gospel. I know its true.

Have a wonderful week,
Elder Neuberger

Monday, May 20, 2013

Graduation Speech . . . Check

I think Dad may have jinxed the weather last week on Skype as the cold weather set back in and we got hit with some high winds and snow fall on Saturday.  In case you were keeping track that does indeed beat out last year's May 16th snowfall for latest snowfall in the year. It's really hard to imagine heat and humidity at the moment.
This week we focused on three investigators in particular who are all preparing in quick succession for baptism.  We met with all of them at least twice and some more than that. Combined with my last scheduled week of English teaching at Jonon Institute of Technology (can you believe that) and the week seemed like it was over before it began.  
Because it was the last week of school, I promised all my students cake and a movie Unfortunately, we couldn't get the movie to work in either class, but the cakes turned out great and holding them for the the ten stops on the bus each morning has my forearms looking great as well.  In the class on Thursday we just ended up talking about the past 18 months and the class presented me with a cool CD with pictures of the class and their performance from their New Year's celebration.  They all signed it and then we all took a picture together.  That was great and that's about how I figured the last day for my other class would go on Friday, but I was dead wrong.  On Fridays I always teach one on one with my sponsor first and then go teach another class.  He informed me that all classes would be cut short and that after 30 minutes we would all watch the graduation ceremony for the graduating class.  So we quickly ate the cake and all went upstairs.  This is where it got ridiculous.  Allow me to paint the scene .  .  .  About 60 or so parents jammed in the back of a small room; many of them wearing their traditional deels having just come from the countryside and probably never having seen a white person before.  The graduates were lined up in the front of the room and there was an MC.  The MC was extremely tan. I seriously thought he was black when I first saw him. And he had curly, long hair in a ponytail.  I'm pretty sure he thought he was invited to announce a sporting event up there.  It was unclear if he was announcing the names of the graduates or the starting lineups for an NBA finals game. He was pretty enthusiastic.  I was contently watching from the outside of the room when I get the nod from the sponsor to come on in.  It took more than one nod, but I did make my way up to the front where I was immediately given the mic and asked to give a speech.  I'm not sure how it went, but everyone smiled and clapped.  The climax of the hilarity was when after I spoke we all sang a song and that was the end.  The only thing before me was a guy who read a poem.  I had literally been planned in as the graduation speaker.  To top it off, afterwards the class that I had been teaching before the ceremony had prepared a few gifts to give me, including a miniature light-up ger, a framed morin khur with four golden ankle bones, and a few hand painted leather pictures.  Elder Muldowney also received flowers and an assortment of other goodies.  It wasn't until reviewing the events later with Elder Muldowney that we appreciated how memorable of a day it was.  Riding the bus home with bouquets of flowers was also pretty memorable. lol

I took a  bit longer on that story than I would have liked but let me just switch gears and share another small moment from the week away from English teaching and a lot closer to our real purpose in Mongolia.  It came in the small class gathered for the investigators' lesson at church on Sunday.  The teacher who is a returned missionary, taught a wonderful lesson on the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ and closed with this analogy which was new to me: It is difficult for us to
comprehend for obvious reasons what it must have been like for our Heavenly Father to sacrifice his son on our behalf. Our finite understanding of every concept including that of love, limits our ability to imagine the grief and the difficulty of the situation.  But to bring the idea just a bit closer, picture a railroad worker in charge of switching the tracks for the incoming trains in order to send then safely in the correct direction. One night as a train comes bustling down the tracks, he sees with horror his only son wander onto the tracks.  Quickly he checks other options, other ways that he can send the train in order to avoid the loss of his son and the passengers on board the train.  In a split second search he finds that all the other tracks are blocked by other trains and unable to accomodate the incoming train.  His choices are limited to two: Allow the train to run its course and allow his son to die in order to save the passengers on board or deviate the train and lose all of those on board  In this fictionalized account and in our own lives, we know the choice that the Father made. He sacrificed his son for the benefit of us, the passengers on the train.  Unfortunately many will never know, nor even fully appreciate  the significance of the sacrifice, but two thousand years ago a loving father counted the cost and paid it, paid it in full. Bent solely on the purpose of bringing us safely home. Amazing!
Have a wonderful week,
Elder Neuberger

Monday, May 6, 2013

Seis de Mayo

Elders Odd, Boyd, Neuberger and Muldowney with Sister Farmer
Now, I know the sudden outburst of Spanish might have some suddenly wondering if I've been transferred to the Spanish branch here in UB. To quiet all the trade rumors, no I'm still in Suhbaatar where the Farmers and the two of us Elders will be celebrating Mexican independence day (or whatever it is being celebrated) on behalf of all of Mongolia.  Bring your own sombrero...
Looking back at this week in my planner, it's jumping off the page, not so much in the form of days, but in the form of five individuals with which we had wonderful experiences this past week. Let's see if I can recap it all .  .  .
Starting way back on Monday with our new member Narmandakh who is now two weeks past her baptism and strong as ever. We've been working on teaching the new member lessons, but it's been difficult because of her curiosity on other subjects the latest of which was the atonement.  In efforts to prepare for the lesson I spend my entire personal study time reading from True to the Faith, the conference talks and Preach My Gospel.  It was easily the most prepared I've been for a lesson in my life. (Believe it or not that even includes deacons quorum lol).  Just in case, Elder Muldowney had also prepared another lesson on service.  It ended up that we spent an hour talking about the atonement and marking scriptures.  I've never met anyone with such thirst for gospel learning. Inspiring!

The second came later that same night.  We had planned to meet with Naranchimeg, the friend of the bishop's wife at 7:30, but a disappointing text had come through while we were meeting with Narmandakh that she wasn't going to make it and had gotten busy.  Then miraculously we got a call at 7:45.  She said she knew it was a little late, but if there was anyway that we could still meet.  Our member who was coming to come to the lesson was still in the church building, so we assured her that there was still time and that we would wait for her to come.  When she made it a short time later we quickly moved into the lesson because time was no longer on our side.  We started into the Plan of Salvation and it just went wonderfully.  Our member was so in tune and shared wonderful insights from his own life as well.  The end of the lesson had us speaking of changes that he had seen in his life as a result of the gospel.  Then after we finished she began to tell us that she felt she had seen some of the changes as well even in this short time.  She told us that earlier that evening she had cancelled with us because some friends had invited her over to a party.  When she entered the party (where the environment fell a little short of "For the Strength of Youth" pamphlet) she politely told her friends that she needed to leave and meet with someone, and that's when she called us.  I'm pretty sure I ran home to write in my journal.  The Spirit from the meeting was such that it was like you wanted to trap it in a jar and save it for later. 
The third great encounter was an ALA that we've been trying to meet with for awhile and as it turned out he was home alone when we showed up on Sunday afternoon.  A member of 10 years, he was the first to join the Church in his now mostly active member family.  When they moved to our branch from Sansar Ward last year he had found it difficult to continue going to church.  As we stepped in the ger we just began to talk.  Turns out he watched the World Cup as fanatically with his friends as I did with mine and we talked about sports for 20 minutes.  Then as the topic of conversation moved more spiritual we spoke of his conversion and the courage it took to become a member without his family and also about what was making it difficult to return to church now and what it would take to come back.  There was a moment where we were pretty much quoting line for line the talk given a few conferences ago about a less active member who was struggling to come back,  worrying about friends and who will remember you and what people will say. We were able to help him see, as Elder Bednar used to do with less active members, the blessings that he was forfeiting by remaining on the sidelines. What struck me the most was his comment that even though he had distanced himself from the Church, he new (just like those who were shown the plates and later fell away) that it was all true.  To end it on a happy note we have challenged him to come and meet with the branch president on Sunday.
On Saturday we were able to go with one of the members in our ward to do his home teaching with him.  Because of the low percentage of home teaching in Mongolia we counted this as a great success and so did the member.  But adding to the success was the genuine caring of the member.  He wasn't trying to just cross some small item off a "laundry list."  He went with the vision and the heart to serve.  He asked and sought the needs of the families and then responding to them he organized the service projects the next day at church.  Included in the success was the attendance of the other member and his wife at Sacrament Meeting on Sunday.  As we left the house Chimed Ah (the member) openly exclaimed that he hadn't felt happiness like that in awhile and that he felt he had done real good, something of real purpose and value.  Home teachers like missionaries are truly on the Lord's errand.
The last event was one that I was not in attendance for but I was able to hear about from several sources over the following days.  Sometime on Sunday morning I received a text from Elder Williams that my new member from last year from Sansar was bearing her testimony in Sacrament Meeting.  I knew that it had to be Sister Nymsuren who was Elder Jolley and my convert from my first couple of months in the mission.  I heard later that she spoke of her conversion story and the love and concern that Elder Jolley had shown during the teaching process.  She spoke of how they had for a time become a little less active, but they were ready to come back and that they had set a temple date and were working toward it.  All because I was blessed enough to run into her on the bus.
The Lord asks most of us, except for a very precious few, to go about his work in very silent, very unextraordinary ways.  And yet the accumulation of such seemingly small acts is in the words of the Lord "the foundation of a great work"
Have a great week of wonderful foundation laying!

Elder Neuberger

The final fan dance at the 20th Anniversary Celebration

Taking a bow