Thursday, April 6, 2017

Mission Reunion

Friday March 30th we attended the Cambodia Phnom Penh Mission Reunion hosted by President and Sister Moon. It was great to see so many of our friends from the mission and learn what post-mission life has brought to each of them. President Moon spoke for a few minutes giving counsel and encouragement to remain engaged in the Gospel and use the skills learned on the mission to help in our lives.

Here are a few photos from the gathering.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Cambodia Adventure - Book

Cambodia Adventure Book

We put together one more book using some of the photos from our blog and newsletters. We thought we would share with you.

Our blog will remain here, but with having returned home our new posts will no longer be daily. There will be occasional posts as we have events related to the mission.

Thank you for your support of our amazing Cambodia Adventure! We learned so much during our two years on the other side of the world.

Any comments you may make will still reach us.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

A Warm Welcome Home

Friday the 13 January 2017 was one of the longest days we have ever experienced. After 22 hours of travel, our flight landed at Salt Lake International airport just 10 minutes later than scheduled. We were down the gangplank fairly quickly and headed for the exit.

When we rounded the corner and walked through the final security gates heading toward baggage pickup we could see a large group of familiar faces, including a dozen children holding balloons and several held signs. After two years away from home and family this was a very warm welcome!

Our hearts are full of gratitude for so many who have shown their love and support as we have served in Cambodia. And how happy we are to be back with such a wonderful group of family.

As we gathered at our home to visit and for oriental food for dinner, complete with the noise of our happy grandchildren. Four year old Kate insisted on having Grandma sit next to her.

Our Friday lasted about 36 hours. We finally made it to bed about 10:00, exhausted and happy.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Goodbye Cambodia!!!

It feels like it was only a couple of months ago that we arrived in Cambodia. At that time it felt like Twenty-two and a half months seemed like such a long time. Now as we look back it feels so very short.

We did sleep for a little while last night, We both probably got about five hours of sleep before getting up to finish getting ready to go. There were still a few things that we needed to pack and put away and we wanted to load up to head to the airport about 5:15.

Our plan was to go and checkin before visiting with those who came to say goodbye. We were surprised that President Ul Phornn, 2nd Councilor in the South Stake Presidency, and In Tithtara, the Stake Clerk, were already there. We were in to check our bags and get our boarding passes just before 6:00, but it took us a little over a half hour.

We were so surprised to see so many wonderful members that came. including at least eight from our Institute Class, at least five from Service Center, six Senior Missionaries and several wonderful families. There were over thirty people there to tell us goodbye. As you can see from the picture we even received a Cambodian flag as a gift.

On our flight from China to Los Angeles we sat by a very interesting man named Jian Chen that is going to be a visiting researcher at the University of Utah for a year. He reads English fairly well but does not speak or listen very well yet. We encouraged him to visit Temple Square and the Conference Center while he is here. He gave us his phone number, so we will have some of our friends that speaks Chinese contact him.

We'll tell about our arrival in Salt Lake in our blogpost tomorrow night.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Hardest Part of Leaving

Even with exit interviews we have known that we would see our friends again before we leave Cambodia, but it is oh so different when you get down to the very last goodbyes. Our office has been in the Cambodia Service Center for the last thirteen plus months and the employees there have become very good friends in many ways. We had promised our friends that we would be in until our last day, which meant we did not have to bid them fond farewell before today. As we decided to leave around 3:00 and say our final goodbyes it was not really easy, but we did survive. As we left the Service Center we went to gas up the car and picked up some bread, that is when we realized we had forgotten our computer and iPad. This time Sister Oveson stayed in the car and Elder Oveson made a mad dash in and out real fast.

We took our last warm walk, for a while, this morning. We enjoy saying hello to so many on our route every day. There were some that we tried to let know that today was our last day, but with our limited Cambodian and their limited English we are not sure they completely got it. We also spent some extra time this morning at the apartment getting things ready, so we did not make it to the office until around 10:00.

The Material Management Manager, Neth, at the Service Center agreed to go with us to Orussey Market to look for some last minute items. Some of the markets cater to foreigners, but Orussey is not one of those, so it was very helpful to have a Cambodian speaker with us. We also ended up going over to Central Market, but we were not able to find what we were looking for there.

This evening we went to Mama's New York Deli for dinner with Elder & Sister Thurston and President & Sister Christensen. We needed one more time of Mama's fish and chips, we have always enjoyed them very much. She told us tonight that she will be moving at the end of this month to a new location where the rent is cheaper. She promised to Skype us so we can see when her new location is set up. We miss Cambodia already!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

"Last" Experiences and Exit Interview

Our mission is so close to the end, but we are just fine. There are no butterflies, just a peaceful feeling of a mission complete and a little anticipation and excitement to return home. Cambodia will be forever in our hearts. The people and experiences of the past two years have changed our lives. For any who are considering a senior mission, we highly recommend it!

During our mission adventures we have learned things we didn't know that we needed to know, such as "you cross the road one inch at a time". We have felt God's love for our brothers and sisters on the other side of the world.

Today's schedule included more "last" experiences. There was one last Asia Area Self-Reliance team meeting. This gave us a chance to say goodbye to many of our friends we have worked with in the area. Then this afternoon was our exit interview with President Christensen. What an amazing mission president! President and Sister Christensen have become some of our dearest eternal friends. We look forward to future reunions with so many amazing couples who have shared our Cambodia Adventure experiences.

Tonight we did a little of our "last" housekeeping, preparing our apartment for our departure. There has not been another couple called as yet to take our place, so the lease on our apartment will not be renewed as the contract expires the end of February. This has required us to separate the items furnished with the apartment from the items we brought with us.

As we leave Cambodia we will miss the beautiful sunsets and our tropical morning walks. We will especially miss the people. But we look forward to whatever adventures that are just ahead.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Service Center Devotional & Lunch With The Staff

Prior to moving offices to the Service Center we got ourselves invited to the monthly Area Devotionals. As we moved to our new offices we were included in the rotation to conduct, pray, give thoughts and training for the weekly Service Center Devotional. We have felt fully accepted by the staff, even though we are the unpaid volunteers.

When Elder and Sister Meinzer went home they took the full Service Center Staff to Tonle Bassac Restaurant. We told them that they had set some high expectations for us. About two weeks ago we asked the Service Center Manager, Sea Samnang, if we could take the whole staff out for lunch. We knew that they had been given directions to not go out or have the Christmas party catered so we wanted to comply with what the Area Leadership desired. After thinking about it, he told us that they could go, but they had to be there and back in less than two hours. Tonle Bassac is about a twenty minute drive from the office. It was a great gathering and everyone completely stuffed themselves. We are amazed at how much some of our skinny Cambodian friends can eat.

This afternoon we had a final Skype call with Chad Furness, the Asia Area Self-Reliance Manager. Over the last eighteen months we have come to be friends with Chad, not only as the Area Manager, but also when he came with his oldest son, Christian, and one of his friends to Cambodia. When we were the Communication Couple we had a monthly Skype call that lasted for about an hour. He also has a home and extended family in Utah so we told him that we want to meet his wife and daughter next time they are in town. There are those that we work with that are so much more than just fellow workers, they are friends for an eternity.

We have whittled down the amount of food that we have left at our apartment. We have either eaten it or shared it with the other Senior Couples, especially the Thurstons across the hall. Sister Thurston is so gracious, she knows we don't just want to throw food away so she has been willing to take so many little things.

Monday, January 9, 2017

"We Must Leave It In His Hands"

About three years ago in preparation for a move from our home of 35 years we evaluated our "stuff" that had accumulated over the years to decide what to keep and what to let go. It seems much the same now as we are completing our mission and prepare to return home. It might be different if there was a couple coming to replace us, but instead much of what has been accumulated to make a mission apartment a home is being given to others who will stay and serve in Cambodia. We have attended the two wards here twice as long as we had lived in our current home ward. In spite of all we see ahead of us, it is time to time for the change. We have learned so much. It's time for new adventures.

We have been experiencing so many "last" things for our Cambodia adventure, yet looking forward to the "firsts" that are just around the corner. There are so many friends to tell goodbye among members and missionaries. We have seen amazing growth in our young adult friends, and look forward to seeing the changes in our grandchildren.

Tonight was the "last supper" with the senior couples. It made us think of the parallels between a mission and life. Coming to the end of one adventure means you are beginning another.

Thank you to so many who have given of their time and efforts to serve missions, especially those we have been blessed to know in Cambodia. We miss you already! Just a few more days to finish those final details before we board a plane and take Cambodia home with us, always in our hearts. "God alone knows when we shall see each other again. Then we must leave it in His hands."

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Church, Dinner Guests and Goodbyes

With picking up the Thurstons last night at the airport we did not make it to bed until 1:30 this morning, but our bodies are not used to sleeping in so we were still up by 6:00. It felt real nice to have a leisure morning, since our first Ward did not start until 1:00 p.m. We were able to read some conference talks and do some final preparation for our dinner this evening.

It has always been hard to gauge how long it will take to drive to Steung Mean Chey, and since we believe if you cannot be on time be early, that is what we try to do. Traffic flowed really good today so we were out there by 12:40, but that gave us chance to hand out some of our departure cards to our Cambodian friends. We have been attending the Wards here in Cambodia longer than we attended our home Ward in South Jordan. They had their Fast and Testimony Meeting today so we both took the opportunity to share our testimonies and to say goodbye. After Sacrament Meeting we handed out some more cards and got some pictures with one of our favorite couples.

Traffic was a lot more congested on our way to the Chaktomuk Ward, so we did not have as much time before Sacrament Meeting to hand out cards. That was alright since we were staying for the full block and had time to catch our friends between meetings. Chaktomuk Ward did their Fast and Testimony Meeting last week and they had speakers assigned so we thought we were safe. But we were still called on to share our testimonies and to say a few words. We have made many dear friends in this ward as well. Again we had to take pictures and say goodbye.

This evening we invited Sameth and Phanna's families to our house for dinner. We cooked chicken breasts yesterday and mashed potatoes this morning. We also got asparagus, salad with Mama's Ranch dressing, and of course rice. It was a great meal and we have really grown to love these little families.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

One Last . . .

Today we woke early and got started on a very busy day. First on the agenda was writing yesterday's blog, then head out the door to teach our last Institute class. There were enough competing activities for our class members we were not sure how many would be there. With all that, it was exciting to have 16 there.

After giving our farewells, we left Institute and made a quick run home where Sister Oveson was dropped off to make calls to family, and Elder Oveson headed back to the Church for one last Stake Presidency Meeting. After calls Sister Oveson took a Tuk Tuk back to the Church to join in Stake Council, where we were both invited to share our feelings. We have learned to truly love the leaders of the Phnom Penh South Stake and the members. Following Stake Council, we joined them for lunch at a Khmer restaurant. Several of our friends made sure we were able to order foods we would enjoy. One of the leaders asked us if it was our last meal. We assured him we have several more meals with friends before our return home.

This afternoon we were able to focus on completing three photo books of our adventures in Cambodia. We were excited with how they turned out, but a little disappointed the vendor did not give the option to share our project. These books will be on display at our open house to give a glimpse of what we have seen in our two years in Cambodia.

We volunteered to pick up the Thurstons from the airport tonight as they return from their trip to the Manila Temple with a group of members. The flight is scheduled to arrive around midnight. It is a good thing we don't have early church tomorrow!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Our Time Here Is Just Flying By

We are a little late in posting to our Blog for the 6th of January. Yesterday went by so quickly and we were so focused on completing some projects that it got forgotten completely. You would think that after writing every day for almost two years it would be like breathing or eating, something that you just do without being reminded.

One of the highlights of our day was a Skype call with Elder and Sister Chandler, the new Asia Area Self-Reliance Communication Couple. This was our first and last call with them, and they told us that we were the first couple they Skyped with in their new assignment. It was a joy to chat with them and reflect on the opportunities and blessings that we have felt as we have served in Cambodia.

Elder Oveson also had a Skype call with Steve Yang, the Area Operations Manager, about the Perpetual Education Loans. Elder Oveson has been helping review them for the last nine or ten months, but that will now fall on Steve to do. He is trying really hard to talk us into going home for a few months and then coming back to Taiwan to serve another mission. We also found out today that one of our friends from back home has been called as a Mission President. They also are trying to recruit us to serve in their mission when we are ready to go again.

Sister Oveson is still taking the lead on preparing three photo books to be published. We have most of the pictures that will be used in them pulled together and one basically done, but there is still a lot to do before they go to the internet publisher. It takes hours go through the thousands of pictures we have taken and deciding which ones to us. Today's collage is another one of the pictures that will be used in the photo books.

This evening we decided that we needed to go to Mama's New York Deli for dinner. We now have less than a week to go and she is one of our friends that we will miss when we go home. We love her fish and chips, but they were out of french fries. She told us that a bunch of the young Elders had been in and she used up her complete supply.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Wrapping Up Our Cambodia Adventures

It has been a while since we have seen any of our Senior Missionary friends during our morning walks. This morning as we crossed the monument to the park there was Sister Christensen stretching out for her morning exercise. It was such a joy to walk and talk with her for a few minutes. President Christensen caught up with us on his morning run just before we parted with Sister Christensen. They are such wonderful friends and amazing leaders for this mission. How blessed we have been to have them lead us!

Things at the office are in wind-down mode. Elder Oveson met with Phanna to help with his personal goals for 2017, as well as a report for Area and Headquarters on how the country goals relate with the Area and Headquarters goals.

Sister Oveson had to get her computer fixed for the second time in less than a month. Some of the programs have not been responding properly and blocking her from access. Thankfully the IT employee assigned to our area was able to do a remote access, uninstall then reinstall the program. Hopefully now it is fixed.

Our food and supplies in our cupboards and refrigerator are getting low. Hopefully things have been gaged about right to not have too much left over. One thing for sure, we won't be taking the supplies home with us!

With all the photos in our files from two years of adventures, it is difficult to choose which photos will come together to represent our time in Cambodia. Our photo collage is one for the books.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Bump, Hump, Slump and Dump

We have mentioned before when Elder Oveson served his first mission a common slang term that was used by the missionaries was bump, hump, slump and dump. Bump meant they had been out six months, hump was twelve months, slump was at eighteen months and dump was going home. Hopefully we have not done that here on this mission, in fact it feels like we have gotten even busier the longer we have been serving. Even with that there comes a time to wrap things up so that there are not a lot of loose ends when we go home. We are definitely in that wrap up phase.

One project that we were asked to do was update the preferred job list. We have entered job postings into an Excel spreadsheet to get a feel for which jobs have the most openings, what the pay is at various levels and the job requirements that employers were seeking. Elder Oveson thought that it was interesting that Accountants had the second most job postings but he was not interested in the pay scale of $200 to $1,000 per month.

Over the last twenty-two months we have taken literally thousands of pictures, many have been used in our daily blog. Sister Oveson got an offer for get two free books when you purchase one so she has been pulling together some collages to use in the books. She has twelve out of the sixty plus covers that she needs, but based on the past she will get them done. Tonight's collage is one that will be in the books.

This afternoon we had a little visitor at our office, Sameth's oldest daughter, Yuri. She goes to two different schools, a Cambodian school in the morning and an English speaking school in the afternoon. The English school did not have classes today so she was Sister Oveson's little friend today. Yuri will be eight years old on the 21st of January and will be baptized that day, so she is the same age as our granddaughter Ari, who just turned eight and was baptized. Ari had sent a picture she had drawn and a couple of photos to Yuri, so Yuri was reciprocating with some butterflies and other pictures that she made this afternoon.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Temple Trip to Manila - Unfortunately We Had to Pass

Three or four months ago we were invited to travel with a group of members who were going to the Manila Philippines Temple. Originally they thought the trip would be November, which would work for us. When they went to schedule the trip the temple housing for November was fully booked, so the group was changed to January 3rd - 7th. With our upcoming departure from the mission we decided it was just too close, and too much travel in such a short time, but Elder and Sister Thurston and Elder and Sister Dowd were available. Sister Leavitt, who did so much planning and preparation for the trip, met the group at the airport to see them safely on their way. We volunteered to take the Thurstons to the airport then pick them up about midnight on Saturday night. In exchange they are planning to take us to the airport for our long transfer home on the 13th.

There is always some major construction around Phnom Penh, and the road to the airport has gone through more than its share. Today didn't seem too bad as we went through a segment where a "fly-over" bridge is being built. The Thurstons may be here long enough to see the bridge completed. One thing with construction season in Cambodia, they don't have to work through snow, and rainy season has ended now.

While Elder Oveson attended a presidency meeting, Sister Oveson went shopping for a few last requested items. She explored areas of IBC (International Book Center) she hadn't seen before. She found a couple of books that we hope our grandchildren will enjoy, written in both English and Khmer.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Our Visit To The Khenna's Home

A couple of weeks ago one of our favorite families here in Cambodia, the Khennas, invited us to come and visit their home. The mother, Peak Vannah, is the Stake Relief Society President and all three of her children have been in the Institute Class that we teach. They are a remarkable family, the oldest son, Dawath, is in the Stake Young Mens Presidency, the second son, Vatanak, is the Ward Clerk, and the daughter, Monikeo, is the Ward Young Women President.

As we looked at the calendar, today looked like a perfect fit since it was a holiday and they would be home. They invited us to come at 5:00 p.m. We did not know what to expect, but we were treated like a king and a queen. They treated us to a meal of Cambodian food that was absolutely delicious and way more than we could ever eat. We thought that we would be eating with them but they wanted us to eat and they just sat and visited with us. They told us that they usually eat later and they had fixed all of the meal for us. We assured them that it was impossible for us to eat all that they had prepared. We had several dishes that we had never tried before, including two different desserts. All three of the Young Adults plan on serving missions in the next one to three years. We told them if they go to the Provo MTC we get to pick them up at the airport and take them down to Provo. All three speak very good English and will be a blessing to whatever mission they are called to serve.

With it being a holiday here and Sunday evening back home we decided to take advantage of that and call all of our children again. We got to speak to all of our children, son-in-laws and all but one of our grandchildren. Even though we will be home in just eleven days, it is always good to talk to them and find out how they are doing.

Also with having a holiday we finally pulled out our suitcases and started packing them. We packed all of the gifts that we are taking home, along with stuff that we do not expect that we will need in the next ten days. Right now it looks like we will be under the weight limit, if we do not buy much more to take to our family.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Welcome the New Year 2017

Watching the changing of years is always a time of reflection and evaluation of the past year, as well as setting goals and making plans for the new. 2016 was a good year of service and adventures in Cambodia, while 2017 is a clean slate with adventures we cannot even imagine. The one thing we know is our time in Cambodia is coming to a close and we look forward to being together with our family once more.

New Year's Eve is always a good time to gather with friends to celebrate. Elder and Sister Thurston hosted the senior couples for snacks and a few games. All of us are getting old enough that having the party from 6-8 p.m. was late enough for us. There were even party hats for the occasion!

With the new year comes changes is meeting schedules at Church. Both wards are now in the afternoon with Steung Mean Chey at 1 and Chaktomuk at 3. This meant  Sunday morning was a good time for gospel study and to create a letter to friends and family about our return home on January 13th, and an open house for friends the following Saturday. No word yet as to when we will be speaking in Church.

The addition to the Steung Mean Chey building is coming along nicely, but it will not be completed until after we are gone. We had the opportunity to walk through the new stake offices and cultural hall. This adds significant size to the building.

Transfers this week meant changes to the young missionaries in Steung Mean Chey. We are excited to welcome Sister Hall to join Sister K. Chin, while Sister Clark moved to Chaktomuk Ward and Sister Winder moved to Battambang to get to know Elder and Sister Spencer.

Starting later also means we were not out of Church until 6:00 p.m., but only for one more Sunday.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Our Institute Friends

Each Saturday morning as we go to teach Institute we never know what to expect. There was the time that the classroom that we teach in was flood along with that wing of the building. At times the room looks very well taken care of and other times when we just have to say, "Really!?" This morning was one of those times. Someone had taken styrofoam christmas decorations and shredded them all over the floor. We spent fifteen minutes sweeping up the mess before we could start setting up for the class.

Another unknown each week is how many will be there when we start and by the end of the class. As the time to start arrived we had no participants, so we started without them and sang an opening hymn. Before we finished singing the first two arrived, so one of them offered the opening prayer. By ten after the hour we had more than ten present and the last one walked in with five minutes left of the class. There were a total of twenty-one participants and the four year old daughter of one who came with her this morning.

As the class ended Rathana, who works at the Service Center and attends our class, asked what time Elder Oveson had meetings today. We told them that he did not have any meetings this week but next week he did. She said good because we have a surprise for you. They had planned a going away party with food and drinks. I guess we have to forgive them for being late since they were preparing for the party.

This evening Elder & Sister Thurston hosted a gathering for any of the Senior Missionaries that could come to their apartment. Since they live just across the hall from us we could not use the excuse that it was too far to go on a New Years Eve. It is always fun to get together with the other Senior Missionaries and we will miss this group when we go home.

Friday, December 30, 2016

It's All About TIME

Time is an amazing thing. It can't be hurried or held back. You can't see it, smell it, or taste it. Clocks and calendars are tools to help measure it's passing. According to our time-tools, it has been 672 days since we came to Cambodia. There have been some days that have been similar, but no two days have been the same. We have learned so much and had some amazing adventures. As time winds down there are less than 10 days to work in the office, and on Tuesday we will be under 10 days remaining in the country. This gives us a moment to reflect on all the people we have come to know and love, places we have visited. We hope to make good use of the last few days here to leave things better than we found them. Tomorrow will be the final count-down for the end of 2016 and the start of a new year. We can hardly imagine what adventures to expect in 2017.  Best of all will be spending time with our family!

Today was our last internet meeting with the senior missionaries throughout Asia. It is bitter-sweet encountering all the "lasts" and saying goodbye. We hope to meet each of them in person as they complete their missions and find time to visit Utah.

Tonight we made one more visit to Brooklyn Pizza and enjoyed ribs for dinner. This has been one of our favorite "taste of home" restaurants.

Driving home after dinner we noticed so many changes that we have seen over the almost two years we have spent in Phnom Penh. We wonder what changes we are going to find have happened in the two years we have been away from home!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Winter In Cambodia

The coldest part of the year in Cambodia is the end of December and first part of January. The daytime high only got up to the low 80s today and over night it got down to the low seventies. As we took our morning walk there was definitely the smell of charcoal in the air. The homes do not have heaters in them so when it gets cold they burn the charcoal that is normally used for cooking. We enjoyed the cooler temperatures but we are in for a really big shock once we go home. As we passed the marshal arts group that daily works out at the monument square area the main instructor had his jacket on to keep warm. You would think that with the physical exercise they would not need that, but they are use to the warmer weather.

After a few quick calls to family back home we made it to the office just a little late. For the last twelve plus months we have been talking to Sister Roberts on Skype most Thursday mornings. We figured why stop now even though we are no longer the communication couple, there is a friendship with both Sister and Elder Roberts. It was really good to chat with them and catch up with what they are doing. They only have about two and a half months left of their mission and they are going home to Arizona. They have homes in both Utah and Arizona, but this time of year is way too cold in Utah for them.

We are in the process of deleting stuff out of our computers and files out of our desks that will not be needed and will not mean much once we go home. Over the years we have always found it interesting how often people walk away from a calling or a job without dejunking, leaving it for the next person to figure out. We want to leave things as clean as possible, even with that there will be a time in the future someone will probably say, why did they leave that? Oh well, we are trying.

Tonight's collage are random signs from around Phnom Penh, including their very own Home Depot.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Death Cards and Obituaries

The young missionaries talk about where they were "born" on their mission (their first area), their "mom or dad" (first companion), their "children" (those they train), and when and where they "die" (finish their mission). Shortly before they die they create what they call "death cards" to hand out with home contact information and a picture. They are also given a paper to fill out for their "obituary" (a little about where they served and what they accomplished). This week we were given our paper to fill out our obituary so it was time to create our departure cards.

We struggled with what photos we might use, then we received the completed painting of the Oquirrh Mountain Temple which was created for us by a member. The photo of us with our Christmas present was just the right one to choose. Then we happened upon another picture in our library which was taken during a visit to Siem Reap.  The logical place to get the cards was printed was at "The Picture of the Pleasant Digital Service". They had them ready in an hour.

Our morning started with one last apartment inspection, complete with donuts for a reward. And this afternoon it was exciting to hear Elder and Sister Spencer come into the service center. Their son and his family have come to visit Cambodia. The Spencers are busy enough in Battambang, and it is far enough we don't get to see them very often. They are just two months behind us the next time we get to see them will likely be after they send out their own death cards, and come find us back in Utah.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Rice Distribution At Ampil

Before we came on our mission we were told that if any of the other Senior Missionaries invited us to go somewhere with them to go if at all possible. Too many Senior Missionaries don't go because they feel like it is not in their missionary job description. Several weeks ago Elder & Sister Thurston invited us to go to a Rice Distribution with them at Steung Mean Chey or possibly Ampil. The Steung Mean Chey distribution was on Sunday when we needed to be at Church. And originally if we went to the one at Ampil it was going to have seven of us in one vehicle, so we were going to bow out. That changed when one more was added and they decided to take two vehicle.

We are so glad to have been able to go for numerous reasons. We got to ride with the Thurstons for about seven plus hours and just have a great time to talk and get to know more about each other. In addition we got to see a new bridge that opened about a year ago over the Mekong River that is called the Japanese Bridge because they donated 100 million dollars to build it. The bridge is beautiful and the Cambodians have to stop part way across it to look at the view and at the bridge.

The main reason that we are glad that we went was to be part of the rice distribution ceremony. LDS Charities gave 50 kilograms (about 110 pounds) of rice, six bottles soy sauce, six bottles of fish sauce and a two litter jug of oil to each of 1,200 Cambodian families. This is a very poor area that is not very far from the Vietnam border. The ceremony was suppose to start at 1:00 p.m. but the last government official did not arrive until just before 2:00 p.m. Fortunately they kept the ceremony short and sweet and it was done by 2:30. Elder Thurston explained to the people gathered there that members of the Church around the world had donated money to give them rice. He then asked them to go find others that they could help in some small way. As we left we saw some of that help as some who carried out their own rice went back in to help others who needed help.

Our lives have been truly blessed to be able to see the beauties of Cambodia. To many they consider the beauties as Angkor Wat, the sunrises and sunsets, the lush vegetation of the countryside or the sugar palm trees. All of those are beautiful, but we have learned the true beauty of Cambodia are the wonderful children of God who live here.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Our Christmas Present

Christmas in Cambodia was busy with attending meetings and gathering with missionaries. Because our time here will be finished in less that three weeks we had our family keep any gifts they may have for us to open when we return home. One gift we bought for ourselves to take when we return home is a painting of the Oquirrh Mountain Temple, specially created for us by an amazingly talented artist, Sopheap Nhem. In 2015 she submitted an entry into the Church’s art contest, and was a Purchase Award Winner. [Here is a link to see that painting.] Sopheap's brother-in-law works at the service center, so we worked through him to have this painting created.

Most missionaries are able to make two calls home during the year, one on Christmas the other on Mother's day. The "gray hair" seniors are not restricted to the two call limit, but that doesn't mean our Christmas calls are any less important. We were able to call two of our children for their Christmas morning and the other four in the evening (which means opposite for us as there is a 14-15 hour time difference.) It was wonderful to talk to each of the grandchildren and see their excitement for the day.

While our family gave reports of 8-10 inches of snow back home, we woke to a tropical winter of mid 70*'s and sunshine, and the high of the day was 89*.  When we fly home on January 13th someone will have to bring us a coat to the airport. Our summer clothes just may not be enough as we transition to our first cold winter in two years.

With time getting short we recruited a friend as a translator and went to the Olympic market. This was our first time to this market, which is more of a wholesaler market. It seems much cleaner than the more tourist oriented markets.  There were things we still needed from one of the other markets.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Feeling The Christmas Spirit

Merry Christmas to all who follow our blog, whether you are family, friends, follow missionaries, families of missionaries or just stumbled across our blog. We have written in this blog every day of our adventure over the last twenty-two plus months and we are grateful that you follow even in a small way.

Yesterday we wrote about the Christmas Party that did not feel like Christmas at all, but today was completely different. We can truly say that we felt the true meaning of Christmas in many ways and we are so grateful for each experience.

What a blessing to have Christmas fall on a Sunday when we turn away from many of our daily tasks and focus on Christ and His gospel. To give more time for families the Church instructed the wards throughout the world to only have Sacrament Meeting. They also gave the option for wards within the same building to combine. That is what the Chaktomuk and Twol Thom Pong Wards did today. The nice part was the attendance felt like a lot more.

President and Sister Christensen asked us to be in charge of the gathering for the Phnom Penh South Zone, similar to Thanksgiving. The difference was that instead of just a desert they asked us to help with a light meal. We decide to crock pot fifteen pounds of chicken breasts, have green salad, bread, rice and, the most requested item, gravy. There was three quarts of gravy and it was all gone along with everything else. What a great way to feel the Christmas spirit than to serve others.

This evening we went to a Christmas devotional at the Stake Center sponsored by the Phnom Penh East District. There were excellent musical numbers, including some of our friends and missionaries. We definitely heard the Christmas songs that we are used to hearing, even if most were in a language that we do not understand, the English words are written in our hearts from past Christmases.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve In Cambodia

We have often shared that we do something here on what is a holiday back home that we will probably never do again on that holiday. Today was another one of those days that we can honestly say we did things that we have never done before on Christmas Eve and will most likely never do again.

With it being Saturday we started our day teaching Institute to twenty wonderful Cambodians that have become our friends. They are always so eager to learn about the gospel and in many ways about Christianity, since only 2% of the population here are Christians. Before our class started one of those dear friends asked us what some of the symbols of Christmas meant, like the tree and star. We were able to share what we could in our limited time before class.

Right after Institute we headed across town to the Phnom Penh North Stake Center to attend a wedding. Both the bride and groom have attended our Institute Class in the past, the groom more than the bride. Weddings are not a normal Christmas Eve activity, but we had time and wanted to attend.

Tomorrow we are hosting a gathering of Missionaries for Christmas, so we had to get the major preparation for it ready. There were four Crock Pots of chicken breasts to cook, about three quarts of gravy, pick up bread, desert, napkins and water. Likewise we decided to give them a little Christmas Tree ornament and candy as a gift from us. Sister Oveson came up with a great idea to use a half of a legal envelope for a little gift sack. We think that they look good, we hope the missionaries enjoy the dinner and gift.

This evening we went to a Christmas Party that was for two of the Wards from the South Stake that meet in the Stake Center. The only thing that looked anything like our Christmas in the U.S. was the costumes for one dance, but the music was not familiar at all. We will most likely never see another Christmas program like that in the future, especially on Christmas Eve.    

Friday, December 23, 2016

Marathon Days

Today was one of those days that seemed to be a marathon from the time you get up until time to go to bed. We started with our "normal" schedule of a morning walk before going to the office. There were several Christmas projects that needed to be completed before noon. About 9:30 the zone leaders brought us 15 kg of fresh chicken they had purchased at the market for Sunday's missionary gathering. That meant we needed to make a quick trip to the apartment and find space in the fridge. 

Back to the office and Sister Oveson finished putting together a bookmark handout for Institute, as well as Christmas Pockets for the missionaries by printing a nativity picture and Christmas greeting on legal size envelopes then cutting them in half, then filling them with a few pieces of candy and a small gift with an encouraging message. There were also preparations for teaching Institute tomorrow, and reading scriptures. 

This afternoon we had lunch with Sister Schwab and Sister OrMax. With transfers next week, Sister Schwab returns home to Star Valley Wyoming. These two valiant missionaries have been our translators in Chaktomuk Ward for several months. Two weeks may not be enough time to break in someone new. 

After lunch we had to pick up produce from Mama's which she purchased for our missionary lunch Sunday, back to the apartment and find more space in our small fridge, then to the church for a Stake Presidency meeting.  Driving through traffic before 5:00 rush hour made it possible, where 10 minutes later would have taken about twice as long. 

The Stake Presidency, their wives and children wanted to take us out for dinner to thank us for our service in the Stake. We went with them to Tonle Bassac II, a buffet restaurant that we have written about before. The biggest problem with going to a buffet is eating way to much. In the past we have gone at lunch time, the evening the price is a lot more but there is also a bigger selection. They even have the meat, pineapple and vegetables on skewer like Brazilian restaurants that we have been to in Utah. As so many times before, the food was good but the company was even better.  

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Last Apartment Inspections

As our mission winds down we find more things we are doing for one last time. Today was one of those as we made our rounds doing apartment inspections. There is one last apartment to inspect on Tuesday. President and Sister Christensen have emphasized the need to be Deliberate Disciples, including keeping their apartments clean. The apartments are still much better than when we started doing inspections, but the training has been long enough ago that they are slipping a little. They were still good enough that they all earned their donuts. Each apartment was decorated for Christmas, including trees and presents, stockings, and paper snow-flakes and "missionaries" (including name badges) in one apartment. It is such a joy to associate with these wonderful young missionaries.

Next Wednesday, the 28th, is the last transfer of the year, with some of the elders we met at the MTC taking their last long transfer home. The rest of "our" group will finish in February. The group split for this last transfer because of a change in the length of training at the MTC, causing a modification in the schedule of missionaries coming, which also created a modification in arrivals and departures.

Because of inspections we didn't get to the office until after 11:00. When we logged into our computer we found that several of our children had tried to call us. With a 14 hour time difference these would be some late calls for them. Lunch didn't happen until about 1:00, but that was okay.

The most exciting thing today was the delivery of our Christmas present, which we will tell more about after Christmas. There may not be many gifts under our tree, but our hearts are full of love for the amazing friends we have made in this little Kingdom of Cambodia, the Land of Wonder.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Cambodian Wedding In The Morning

We have been to Khmer wedding ring ceremonies (the Church part of the marriage) and receptions before, but until today we had not been to the morning part of a Cambodian Wedding. Hang Ladin is a returned missionary that lives in the Chaktomuk Ward that we have been attending for the last twenty-two months. His bride is a recently returned missionary from the Steung Mean Chey 1st Ward. We were invited to the morning traditional portion of a wedding about a year ago but did not go. This time Sameth, that we work with, encouraged us to go and see what this part of the ceremony was like.

In Phnom Penh few of the streets, other than the main thoroughfares, have street signs. Likewise, most of the buildings and houses do not have their address listed. On top of that we were headed into a part of the city that we were not really familiar. Even with a map a lot of times it is impossible to find the location you are headed for, but we decided to try any how. Needless to say we did get lost, but miraculously we found where we needed to go and we were only a few minutes late.

As with the evening receptions, the bride, groom and wedding party are all dressed up in traditional Khmer outfits which they changed at least once in the hour and a half that we were there. The first part of the gathering was the food parade. Each guest is given a fancy bowl of primarily fruits to carry, then they follow the groom and the wedding party a short distance from the wedding tent. The groom, the wedding party and guests then carry the food to be presented to the brides parents as a dowry for their daughter.

Then everyone sits down for a breakfast of rice porridge. It is a soup with rice, mushrooms, meat and vegetables. We were then invited into a ceremony with the parents in receiving the food brought by the procession. It was a very interesting and educational morning.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Sleepover Across the Hall

Elder and Sister Thurston have 7 family members visiting, and rather than booking a hotel for the short time in Phnom they decided it would be more fun to just have one big sleep-over. We offered our spare room, since we are just across the hall, but instead they borrowed a stack of extra towels, bedding, and the mattress and pillows from the extra room.  This morning as we were almost back from our walk we met Sister Thurston, her sister, and two teenagers heading out on a walk of their own. They are making a quick trip to Battambang and Siem Reap, then will be back to spend Christmas eve and Christmas morning in Phnom Penh. Then the visitors leave for a quick trip to Vietnam, then on to Hawaii. They started with a couple of days in Japan before their arrival in Cambodia. That is really one whirlwind Christmas vacation.

This morning we took Elder and Sister Curtis for a quick trip to Russian Market before they headed back to Kampong Cham. It is always an adventure to find what you are looking for when you don't speak the local language and things seem to be quite random in their layout. The hard part is the disappointed looks from vendors when they try so hard but you still don't buy from them. Many of them have such a large inventory for how little it would appear that they sell.

Our time at the office is being spent wrapping up projects and helping with year-end reports. There are frequently questions brought to us that start with something like, "Since you have lived in the US for so long ....", or "What does this word (or phrase) mean?" Then there are those who visit our desk for the candy dish.

These brave watchdogs were sitting in a basket on a moto during our early morning walk. The chickens were on display along a busy road. This load of workers were headed home about 9:00 at night, some of them holding on so they didn't fall off the load. And on the grill are skewers of bananas. We have tried them before and didn't care for the smoked flavor.

Monday, December 19, 2016

CICFO Orphanage Visit

Almost twenty-two months ago, shortly after we arrived in Cambodia we went with the other Senior Missionaries to CICFO (Cambodian International Children Friend Outreach). It is an orphanage run by a member, Bothevy Keo, that lives in the Phnom Penh North Stake. The interesting thing about orphanages here in Cambodia approximately 85% of the children who live in orphanages have at least one parent that is still alive. The parents are often so poor that they cannot take care of their children so they send them to an orphanage to live. Bothevy is a Khmer Rouge survivor that loves children and wants to help those that are in need. We have been to the orphanage three or four times and each time they put on a show with traditional Khmer dances. Also each time as we arrive and as we leave each one of them has to come and give hugs to everybody. What a great Family Home Evening opportunity for the Christmas season.

This morning we had to make some FaceTime calls with our children who we did not get to talk to last Saturday morning, their Friday night. We spoke to four of our children, two son-in-laws and six of our grandchildren. What a great way to start the week. That meant we were late getting to our office and holding our early morning planning meeting. We not only came late, but we left early to go to the orphanage visit. Elder and Sister Curtis, who serve in Kampong Cham, came down to go to the orphanage as well. One of the missionaries serving in Kampong Cham grew up at the CICFO orphanage so they had a very personal reason why they wanted to go. Since they do not know Phnom Penh very well we invited them to ride with us.

As we look ahead at this week it is already stacking up to be very busy. In fact tomorrow night is the only night that we plan on eating at our apartment, we have something every other day. We feel like we are sprinting as fast as we can to the finish line with a lot to be done before we get on that plane and fly home.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Lok-Taa and Lok Yiay

Sunday again, and each week that goes by brings blessings and opportunities. We feel so blessed to be able to get to know the wonderful members of the Church here in Cambodia. Previously we have shared that we are known as "Lok Taa" and "Lok Yiay" or Grandpa and Grandma. They have become our friends and greet us warmly with such respect. They follow our example as we take a few minutes to tidy the church before meetings.

After Sacrament Meeting in Steung Mean Chey we needed to attend the International English-Speaking Branch for their branch conference. It was good to hear speakers and lessons in English and not have to go through a translator. Between meetings there we happened to meet one of our favorite families who live in another ward in the stake center. Three young adults in this family have been in our Institute class since we started, and the mom is the stake Relief Society president. The mom expressed how sad she will be when we leave, and they want us to visit their home before we leave. We have scheduled a visit for January 2nd.

Christmas is just a week away, we found a couple more trees to post. The Steung Mean Chey building has their tree outside on the front steps. No need to worry about snow on this tree, but it shows they are ready for Christmas. The artificial tree from previous years is looking like an even better option when the fresh-cut trees were tagged as $168.00 at Lucky's yesterday.

Traveling to Steung Mean Chey has always brought interesting photos for our blog. Ladders being carried on a moto are common, but this one looked more like a javelin. Watching how they carry their loads we can only imagine the strength they develop in their arms. The other moto has a large stack of egg crates strapped to his.

One of the other senior couples asked us for photos of motos with a load, which compelled us to go through our files from almost two years in Cambodia. We will have to create a book of just the motorcycle loads. The best have been part of our blog.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Institute, Baptisms and Meetings

Each week we wonder who and how many will show up for the Institute Class that we teach. There are some weeks where they start arriving ten minutes early and others, like today, when the first one shows up just minutes before 7:00 a.m. It is also very interesting to see the mix that are there, some weeks the young sisters show up first and other weeks the YSA males arrive first. Today there were five female and five male as we started teaching the lesson. We had a total of twenty come today, fourteen sisters and six brethren. One of the joys of teaching is when they ask us profound questions. This is literally the first generation of membership of the Church here in Cambodia, so we are teaching them how to bring up the second generation as an Eternal Family. There are some of the YSA sisters who compete to see who can get the most hugs from Sister Oveson at the end of the class. They say they are storing them up for when we go home.

This evening we went to the baptism for two young adults, one from the Chaktomuk Ward, that we attend, and the other from the Tuol Thom Pong Ward. The one from Chaktomuk is a YSA sister that the Sister Missionaries taught, her mother, that is also taking the lessons, came for the baptism. The other baptism is a YSA brother that Elder Maurer and Elder Burnett taught. That was a great birthday present for the two of them, Elder Burnett's birthday was last Saturday and Elder Maurer's birthday is tomorrow.

This morning we only Skyped and FaceTimed with two of our daughters and their families. The others were off with other activities, this is a very busy time back home. We will have to catch the rest on other days.

This afternoon Elder Oveson had to go to Stake Presidency Meeting and Stake Priesthood  Executive Committee Meeting. With the end of the year coming up fast they still need to compllete the Stake goals, calendar and planning for next year. The goals have to be submitted by Tuesday and we are still waiting for some from one of the units. Hopefully we will get them tomorrow.