Monday, June 24, 2013

2013 Ulaanbaatar daxi nomlogchiin delkhiin avraga!!!‏

Well this letter comes after a personal victory of somehow organizing a 22 missionary, city wide, 2 zone soccer game.  It took us since last Wednesday to get all the details worked out and the go ahead from President, but it went off with out a hitch.  The only disappointment being that we weren't able to put up the W.  A late hand ball in the box derailed our comeback efforts.  Everyone seemed to have a great time and we even organized for everyone to wear their teams' colors so we all looked super professional as people were walking by.  My entire group was there and fortuitously ended up on the same team. Elder Naef had brought an American football as well and that got a few tosses at the end.    A quick visit to the dentist for my companion's fallen out molar and then to the seamstress (unrelated to the dentist don't worry). That brings us to the Internet cafe and then to some shopping before getting out and meeting with two investigators this evening.
Looking at the week ahead mark your calendars for Tuesday where we will be teaming up with the khan uul elders to demolish a house.  I've been looking forward to this service for two weeks now and we are pretty excited.  It works out really well because we will run a quick zone training near the to-be-torn-down house right before the project.  If it's as awesome as it sounds like it is going to be, I may have to find a way to send pictures.  This Wednesday brings the elections for your next Mongolian president.  Odds are in favor of President Elbigdorj staying in office for another four, but I'm personally pulling for the 12 time Nadaam wrestling-champion-turned politician, B. Baterdene.  He's a student of my sponsor and they are really good friends. In the event of a victory it could mean a quick trip to the government building to take some pictures.  My sponsor has educated me on politics in Mongolia so that I can and "wow" people when I start talking about political parties and what not .  .  . good times, lol.
Looking not much further past that to the next Monday and then Wednesday brings the arrival of the new mission president and the leaving of President Clark.  As always the turnover will be quick.  They won't spend more then a few hours together, just enough to turn over the keys to the Land Cruiser. It's hard to believe that President is really leaving.  Seeing missionaries come and go is one thing, but the President has always been there and it seems like something that just shouldn't get changed.  Because one of our investigators was meeting with President Clark this Sunday I was able to visit with Sister Clark for a moment.  They'll be booked until the moment they leave working all the way down to the wire.  As far as meeting the new mission president goes, there are no major mission events for another month or so, but I imagine we will get to interview with him for a brief moment.  We will have a zone leader meeting the day after President Clark leaves on the 4th of July. (hope Sister Benson makes burgers, lol)
Speaking of food I didnt really know where to fit this in, but in response to a question I haven't really eaten much fruit besides bananas, apples, and oranges. Anything outside of those are only available if you're really looking and they are all way more than a missionary budget would allow.  A bag of grapes goes for about 15 American dollars.  Fruits is awesome.
Our investigator Naranchimeg has passed her interviews and is set to be baptized this Friday.   It actually works out perfectly because our branch president, who is her best friend's husband, will be back in town this week for the event.  It's been a long time coming for her and she has shown unwavering faith despite some difficult setbacks.  From experience I've learned that a friend in the gospel is the largest defense against inactivity.  With the help of the wonderful ladies of the Relief Society we have been able to surround Naranchimeg with wonderful friends and acquaintances.  Elder Bayrtsogt also has a baptism that night and we are going to throw together a musical number for the evening.  Everything looks good to go.
We have a couple other investigators poised for baptism including a young man who lived for 10 years in America.  I LOVE preaching the gospel in Mongolia, would not trade the experience for anything.  However, there was a special something in bearing my testimony and sharing scriptures in my native language as well as his.  He's 19 and planning on attending the University of Chicago in the fall.
A great experience I had this week was going on our first splits as zone leaders.  This week we worked with the Songino elders and I took Elder Odd out in my area for the day.  He has just experienced his first weeks with a native companion and the stress and anxiety was a bit visible on his face.  As we had a closing interview at the end of the split I smiled inside as he listed a number of things that had bothered me in the same way a year and a half ago. As we sat and spoke of ways to overcome the problems he was facing I could see so clearly in my mind the way that each problem was to be resolved through my own specific experiences and the promptings of the Spirit.  After the many missionaries who have blessed me in my service in Mongolia, it was a wonderful experience to turn back and lift another just beginning.  
A lady had us over for dinner this past evening and served us the gel that gets boiled off when you boil sheep bones. You mix it in with your boiled water as a drink.  The surprise on peoples' faces when you tell them that you have had some unusual Mongolian food before and that no, it won't make you throw up if you drink/eat it, never gets old.
Still loving Mongolia,
Elder Neuberger  

Monday, June 17, 2013

Happy Father's Day

I think being on a mission and mingling among those from every kind of background has opened my eyes for the inestimable worth of good fathers.  Not that a loving mother isn't just as important, but it seems that they are somehow much easier to come by. Mothers seem more willing or able to be good mothers.  But a good father, one willing to sacrifice for their family and put off their own desires for others, are as Elder D. Todd Christopherson describe in conference, they run at a premium.  
Our mission has added a new key indicator in the numbers we make goals for every week. It tracks the total number of people we meet who are over 18 years of age and who are eligible for or have received the priesthood.  Not only are strong fathers necessary for keeping their families rooted in the gospel, but they are also a major statistic as to whether or not any given location is ready to receive a temple.  One in every 18 or so active members must be an active, worthy Melchizedek priesthood holder.  This week we found ourselves meeting with fathers from both sides of the spectrum.  There are several fathers on our investigator board who's families have shown the faith to be baptized, who have gained testimonies and know the church is true but can't quite kick an addiction thus keeping their families from being sealed for eternity.  Now with that in mind there are several other fathers within the boundaries of Sukhbaatar, members and non, who lead their families unselfishly in the best way they can.  Who work long hours at low pay to keep food on the table.  In all of this, it would not however take much of a social scientist or survey team to find out quickly that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the greatest help to building the foundations of strong families. Not that there are no other ways to strengthen family relationships and find happiness, but for tried, tested and foolproof there's simply no better way...Which simply increases my gratitude for the special home that I was lucky enough to be raised in, supported and surrounded by gospel principles and lead by an amazing father.

This quote from this month's Liahona about sums it up:
“When we have sampled much and have wandered far and have seen how fleeting and sometimes superficial a lot of the world is, our gratitude grows for the privilege of being part of something we can count on—home and family and the loyalty of loved ones. We come to know what it means to be bound together by duty, by respect, by belonging. We learn that nothing can fully take the place of the blessed relationship of family life."
We had a great week this week with lots of meetings with investigators, a run to the Zakh and soccer in the mornings (4on 4 my MTC group vs.)  We are looking forward to Naranchimeg's baptism on the 28th.  I ran into a new member from Songino on Thursday at a random bus stop.  He stopped me and we were able to exchange a few words before jumping on the bus. He told me how he had graduated from seminary and thought he might see me when he got his diploma at the main building.  He then told me about the upcoming trek for the youth and how excited he is for that. It really is a happiness you can't describe when you see others that you had the chance to help in some small way, growing and developing in the gospel.
I can't believe that Scott is home (what a great guy). Although the pictures from the airport did bring me to the stark reality that I will no longer be average height anymore come September... Everything else sounds great from all of you back home. Give your dad a hug!

Elder Neuberger

Monday, June 10, 2013

Wearing the Onion Belt

So with a little more information and the transfer now several days behind us, let me try and explain how everything turned out.  Elder Muldowney is now companions with Elder Lloyd in Khan-uul across the city, but as you know that means not really that far at all.  I'm still in the same area, but my companion and I are now the zone leaders for the Songino zone (one of the two zones in the city).  My companion is Elder Mainbayr. I think that I at least told you that much last week.  He has been out a year and 7 months and has never served in the city.  He is 25 and was raised by his grandparents in the countryside before studying in the city and graduating college.  He wants to continue his studies in business after the mission.  As for things of more importance, he is the humblest ready to work missionary ever.  Always happy and yet able to be completely serious when he needs be.  And he even knew what the green jacket was and named some golfers!!! haha  He knows a lot about sports which is a rarity.  It should be a great 11ish weeks.

I don't think you can really have a transfer that goes completely smooth and this week proved to be as such.  After spending all Tuesday building a fence with the Khailaast Elders, we received a call early the next morning that Elder Williams companion had to leave the city early the next morning and we would be a threesome for the day.  By 8:30 we were out the door to the busstop to drop off Elder Chingunjav.  After wating around there for a while it was back to the apartments to pack up and clean not just the one, but both of them.  By the time we got Elders Muldowney and Williams ready to go and the apartments looking livable, my sponsor had called and wanted to have our English lesson before Elder Muldowney left.  So the three of us trundled across the city to my English sponsor.  Turns out that a famous classical music group in Mongolia uses the rooms of our school for their rehearsals and as a recording studio.  We got a free concert and they told us to come in and listen whenever we want.  We took some pictures and I didn't even know they were famous until I showed my new companion later.

We put together our first successful meeting with the branch missionaries this week.  Even though we don't have a ward mission leader we decided to run it and we were able to get the ball rolling.  Hopefully by this next week we will have all of the new members meeting with ward missionaries at least once a week.  That would be a tremendous load off our shoulders and really free us up to focus on less actives and investigators.

We found some success this week taking the branch president with us to the home of some less active members that live outside the city.  Though the numbers for church attendance wain during the summer months, there are still several strengths in the ward including the Elders quorum president who presided on Sunday because the entire bishopric was out of town.  Our efforts are definitely focused on working with ward members and leaders.

On Friday we had zone leadership council where all the zone leaders get together and get the unique opportunity of listening to President Clark talk about the  conditions of the mission and then work together to see how we can fix any pressing problems and prevent against arising ones. I've said it before, but anytime you get to spend time with President Clark in a more private setting it's always a privilege.  Elder Osorjamaa is also a zone leader right now, so I got to spend some time with him as well, bonus!  Plus Sister Clark made lunch...double bonus.
The work is plugging along here in Sukhbaatar and with less English teaching, we're just getting started.  With the presidential election and naadam in our sights nothing is going to slow down.  I'm so grateful for the bonus month that my group has been gifted.  Its a pleasure as always to be in the greatest mission on earth with the greatest mission on earth.

Loving every moment,
Elder Neuberger      

Monday, June 3, 2013

Climb Every Mountain

Well we've already started this week off with a bang when after morning study six of us (Elders Boyd, Odd, Muldowney, Titensor, Robbins and myself) spent the morning and the early afternoon climbing the mountain that overlooks the south side of UB.  We all met at the bus stop at 10:45 and we summited by 1:00 and got back down by 2:00.  The greatest part was the incredible 60 to 70 mile/hour winds that we were climbing against near the top.  The view from the top was amazing with the whole city in front of us and forested mountains out the back.  We climbed down to a small clearing out of the wind where we pulled out the lunch we had packed.  Today was actually Elder Titensor's last P-day. His parents come in tomorrow and he flies out next Wednesday.  Took some great pictures and got down with plenty of time to write email and .  .  . wait for it .  .  .  Go to KFC!!!  Yes, it's arrived, the first American fast food chain in Mongolia.  Its been a topic of conversation for weeks in the city.  Probably similar to the Big Bob trips of Elders in Brazil 30 years ago.  We'll probably finish  up P-day with my sponsor who wants to take us shopping.  Not your typical missionary P-day activity, but considering that we were also able to go with my sponsor into the government building and take pictures this week as well, I'm going to count ours as not a typical mission as well.

The big news of the week here is also the transfer. For the first time in ten months I won't be training (still trying to get ready for that).  I'll definitely miss companionship study out of the "first 12 weeks missionary guide" that I have now finished 4 times, but I'm also excited to finish out my time with a native companion.  Elder Mainbayr, who is just a bit younger than me mission wise, is coming in from the countryside.  We'll being leading the zone for the next 11 weeks or so.  It scares me that I have less time left in Mongolia than I just spent with Elder Muldowney!  The zone leaders for the other city zone are Elders Neaf and Williams from my group.  Virtually everyone else is training. Should be a good week with the fireside on Thursday and all day zone training on Friday.  (Where I get to see Elder Osorjamaa!!! the countryside zone leader)
This last week Elder Muldowney and I set an epic goal to teach 20 lessons, a goal that's been just out of our reach due to a 17 hour a week English teaching schedule that we have been running. We came within a couple lessons of our goal, sidetracked only by a difficult Saturday where everyone was celebrating Children's Day and were less then available to meet with us.  However, that was also the day that we go out to Sanzai, the beautiful resting place 45 minutes out of the city.  By chance we ran into a few RM's on some lonely dirt road who informed us that all of Songino and Unur wards were up in the area for an activity.  Because we had to wait another 40 minutes for the bus anyway, we took a ride from them to the place where everybody was and got to say hi to everybody from my last area.  Including one of my new members Bayrbold who is still doing amazing.  A fun blessing!
This week was highlighted also by our first English speaking investigator.  Bumbayr, who lived in the US for 10 years when he was 6 years old, was a referral from another missionary and we were able to meet with him on Tuesday.  It was quite strange to hear a Mongolian use words like freeloader, pozer, and accomplice with perfect fluency.  We had a great lesson that wound up going over an hour and a half because of all the questions he had.  Get this: He lived in Oklahoma and drove through STL all the time in route to his mother's house who lived in Illinois.  Small world.  
Times ticking so I'll pick one of a thousand other amazing parts of the week.  Another lesson with our golden investigator, the friend of the branch president's wife, Naranchimeg.  We met at the branch president's house again and that was again the best decision ever. We all taught parts of the lesson and the testimonies of the members/friends of the investigator made all the difference.
We also spent Monday evening at the home of the past district president and gave a wonderful object lesson balancing 20 nails on one to talk about families.  Go back and read Elder Perry's talk from two conferences ago about families and rethink what it means to be a member of one and your own duty.  Hint: Its not about the flowers or the extraordinary efforts, but the small everyday things that are too often seen as to unimportant to worry about.  
What a great week and only signs of another good one in the future.
Stay safe and far from tornadoes please,
Elder Neuberger

Editor's Noted: Photos shamelessly lifted from Elder Farmer's blog