Tuesday, March 31, 2015

We Have Been in Cambodia For One Month

When we started this blog, we wanted to see how long we could go with a post every day.  As many of you know, we got behind a few days a couple of times, due to travel and just being busy, but we caught back up.  We have been here in Cambodia now for a full month of the 22 and a half that the Lord has given us and it has been very interesting.  This a great place to be with some of Heavenly Father's most choice children.

We participated in a seven nation video conference again today. There was Hong Kong, Mongolia, Pakistan, India, Thailand, Indonesia and Cambodia.  The Church has secure video conference software that you have to promise to never abuse before they let you download it.  Today's video conference was additional training on the new PEF software that came out last week.  There is a learning curve to it, but we are getting there.

We also continued to work on the Excel spreadsheet project for Hong Kong. We are at the point now that we need some information and input from Phanna and Sameth before we can finish it up, hopefully by the end of the week.

Even when we are in our office we see very interesting things.  Yesterday as we looked out our window we saw that a cat had found a safe and secure place to take a nap.  It was more than fifteen feet off of the ground asleep on a air conditioning unit.  It used the Church fence and a pile of lumber and debris to get up there.  So it is our picture for today.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Farewell Elder & Sister Zemp

When we were in Battambang about ten days ago we met Elder and Sister Zemp for the first time.  They faithfully served in that area their full eighteen month mission and they fly out this evening for Edmonton, Alberta Canada. They will be greatly missed in Cambodia!  As a last farewell get-together, the senior couples joined them along with President and Sister Moon for dinner at the Titanic Restaurant. It was good food, a great environment, and wonderful company.

Today at the office we were quite productive. We worked more on the report for Hong Kong. We also had a great coordinating meeting with Phanna and Sameth. These are wonderful for us to plan and prepare what we have going in the office for the week.

The weather has been hot and muggy today.  The sky was gray and overcast this morning, but only seemed to put a lid on the area. We might expect the humidity to be up for the next while, along with the temperature. The car told us it was 37 celsius (which is 98.6 fahrenheit).  Sister Oveson remembers putting on her missionary application that she didn't do well with the heat.  The Lord seems to have a sense of humor.  Even though it is plenty warm, we are doing just fine.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Every Day Things Just Feel a Little More Settled In

During the week we have our safe little haven in our office and we mainly interact with Phanna, Sameth, Sophorn and an occasional PEF student.  Sundays are completely different.  We go to two different wards, and if the young full-time missionaries are not there to translate for us we only understand the few words that we have learned so far.

At first that felt strange, but now that is just fine.  We follow the class lessons on LDS Library, and even though it is not the same language we have a better idea of what is going on.  In fact in both wards today they asked if we had any other comments, and thankfully we had interpreters there to help us.

With transfers last week, we have a lot of new young full-time missionaries to meet and get to know.  In the Chaktomuk Ward, we mentioned in a different post that Elder Gardner has a new companion, Elder Hall from Texas.  They also changed one of the Assistants to the President.  Elder Brewer is now with Elder Eppley who is from Texas as well.  In the Steung Mean Chey 3rd ward Elder Long is still there, but his companion is Elder Morgan.  We also have Sister Missionaries in that ward, Sister Jepsen and Sister Spangler.

Since it took us so long to get home last time we went out to Steung Mean Chey 3rd, we asked others if there was a different route to take.  There was, but it was a little longer and not as straight of a shot.  We figured that since we were trying a new way we better leave as early as last time.  To our pleasant surprise we made it there in thirty minutes, exactly the same amount of time as the other way two weeks ago.  On the way there we came across another of those purely Cambodian picture opportunity, a whole group of workers working up a power pole.  Coming home was still really congested, but at least it was moving and it only took 50 minutes, half the time of two weeks ago.    

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Four Weeks In Cambodia

Four weeks ago today we landed in Phnom Penh, Cambodia! Really?  It has been four weeks? There has truly been a lifetime go by in that four weeks!

Today started early with another first for us.  We have been asked to teach a Saturday morning Institute class. Elder and Sister Hollenzer had been teaching this group since the Wylers left last fall. Their workload has increased and something needed to give for them. We are grateful for the opportunity to be with these marvelous young adults, even if it means getting up at 5:00 on a Saturday morning.  We had 8 students in attendance this morning. We felt the discussion and lesson went very well. We look forward to teaching them again next week. (In fact, next week we have been asked to substitute for the Friday night class at the PP North Stake Center as well!) One of them had a question for us, though. He asked if we would provide an Easter egg hunt for them, since next week is Easter! We really had not thought that far in advance. We will see what pulls together this week.

After the Institute class we took a few minutes for Skype calls with each of our family. It is always good to visit with them.  Sameth, the Cambodia PEF Manager, was in this morning so we spent a little more time doing some work before we were off to take care of our P-day shopping.  Sameth brought his 6 year old daughter, Yuri, with him. She spent time coloring and entertaining herself. We were blessed with two pictures and a butterfly creation as gifts from her. She is such a cutie! (Too bad I didn't get her picture.)

As we left the office this morning we were privileged to come across a threesome of young Vietnamese missionaries, Elder Lee, a new Elder from Argentina, and Elder Thai, who were waiting for an investigator.  One of these elders, Elder Hall, just arrived this week. He had been at the MTC with the group we met there.

Some of the other senior couples have told us about places to shop around Phnom Penh. We decided to shop at some of them today. First stop: Dan's Meats. Here we found sandwich meats as well as some fresh cuts of meat to put in our freezer, planning ahead for some future meals.  Next stop: Tous les Jour Bakery. Here we found fresh baked breads, pastries, and rolls. Hopefully we have enough to last for a week.  On our way home we stopped at Thai Huot Market.  It is pretty hard to count on getting everything at one shopping stop around here.  There really are not markets quite like the supermarkets back home in the US. Thai Huot has a variety of American products.  With these three stops we were able to check off most of our list. There are still a few items to look for later.

The parking garage at our apartment is always an interesting adventure of its own. With the Institute class starting at 7:00 this morning, we headed out at 6:15.  That was great, except for the red Ferrari parked just inside the entrance, as well as a black Lexus sedan parked directly behind our car. (Both are owned by the landlord).  Unfortunately this meant the garage attendants had to wake the landlord to get cars moved so we could go.  We almost resorted to calling a Tuk Tuk, but cars were moved and we made it to the church by about 6:35.  The return to park after shopping was not too bad, since several of the cars had left the garage.  The parking is tight enough, however, that you can never just pull straight into a parking stall.  Parking requires what I have come to call the parking engineers!  These garage attendants are great at directing us to pull forward with only and inch to spare, then back up (including hand signals for what direction to turn the wheel), then forward again, etc. until we are safely parked in our parking space. Sometimes we have to maneuver past a large Lexus SUV, two Ferraris, and a variety of other very nice vehicles.  All in all there are really only 12 parking spaces, which really has about 10 autos and about a dozen Motos.

One last note of the day:  It is RAINING IN PHNOM PHEN!!! This is the first rain we have seen here. We think it is just a prelude to rainy season, but it left the air smelling nice and clean! We may not be so happy for rain in a few weeks.

Friday, March 27, 2015

We Are No Longer The Newest Missionaries In Cambodia

Elders Hall and Gardner
It is nice to not be the greenest missionaries in the country.  Yesterday the group we ate meals with at the MTC arrived in Cambodia, and as we left the Stake Center this evening we ran into some of them.  Elder Gardner who serves in the Chaktomuk Ward and sometimes translates for us, has one of the new Elders as his companion, Elder Hall from Texas.  And Sister Fife, who will go home in a couple of months has a new Cambodian Sister, Sister Hum.  It is great to see the new young missionaries come into the field and begin their labors.

Most of our day was spent working on the special project for Hong Kong.  We have been asked to put together a cash flow analysis for the PEF Loans so that we know how much will be going out and coming in on the current loans. Sameth, the full-time PEF employee, has been a great aid to us by helping Sister Oveson understand the computer program so that we can complete this project. Elder Oveson worked on the format for the cash flow analysis,.  He was having way too much fun being back in his accounting element. We are at least 60% done, which is great. We will finish it up next week.

We have already shared that the gospel is very young here in Cambodia.  They celebrated their twenty year anniversary a few months ago.  The first two stakes were created on the same day last year, that was only the second time in Church history that the first two stakes in a country were created on the same day. Tomorrow is an important day for the people here in Phnom Penh, they will be sustaining their very first Patriarch ever here in Cambodia.  There is a Stake Priesthood Meeting tomorrow in the Phnom Penh North Stake, where they will make the announcement and sustain him. The members are very excited to have a Patriarch here in Cambodia.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

It is Nice to Feel Needed and Appreciated

Just when we thought we could catch our breath from the non stop agenda we have had for the past month, we were given additional projects to keep us going. We are part of a team who has been assigned to put together a Power Point presentation to be used during a Self Reliance training for the Asia area. We have done more Skype sessions in the past few days, working with Jitender in India and Elder and Sister Powell in Hong Kong, along with Phanna in our office. We are truly amazed at the technology that allows us to be in three different countries, but work together as if we were in one office.

Our Skyping was not limited to preparing the Power Point. We also were pulled into Skyping with Marco and Candy in Hong Kong regarding the PEF segment of our responsibilities. We have been asked to put together an Excel spreadsheet report for the area office showing the aging of the PEF loans in Cambodia. Elder Oveson is right in his element with this project.

After all the reports and Skyping, our brains were in need of a bit of a break. Since we were in need of a few groceries, we took a quick trip to Lucky's. When we got back to the office we were informed Marco needed one more Skype with us to add another element to the details of the PEF Analysis. (We must be trying to make up for not having the craziness of Tax Season).

Our photo today shows some of the unique characteristics of Khmer traffic, as well as the power lines we see throughout the city. Motos seem to be the family vehicle of choice here.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

All of the Little Blessings of Heaven

Over the years we have learned that the Lord carries you in a new calling until he knows that you are ready to take your first steps.  Little by little He lets you take more and more steps and before long you find yourself running.

The first two weeks in Cambodia were spent trying to get our arms around what we are suppose to be doing.  Last week was full of opportunities to train the leaders and members about Self Reliance.  This week we are off and running with multiple assignments in both Self Reliance and Perpetual Education Fund.  We have spent more time on Skype calls in the last two days than we did in the first three weeks.

This morning the internet was still down at the Stake Center, and Hong Kong still had not been able to get us into the site to work on the project we were assigned yesterday.  Since we have so much to do and learn with the new programs, we went to the Stake Center and got some training videos loaded on my laptop to watch.  By time we got back to our apartment they had worked out the kinks and we were on the PEF site that we needed.  The project they asked us to work on is to use Excel to gather and sort information on the loan participants.  We got that project about half way done today.

We spent more than two hours on Skype with Jitender from India to prepare the PowerPoint for the presentation that we worked on yesterday.  It is getting closer, but it is not quite there yet, but we will have it polished before they have to present it to the group of Country Self-Reliance Managers here in Asia, via Skype.

We are so grateful for all that are looking at our blogs and for your prayers, which are greatly appreciated and felt.  We need all the prayers and faith of our family, friends and loved ones.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Computers - Can't live with 'em -- Can't get your work done without 'em

Tuesday 24 March 2015

This morning seemed to be going quite well at the office ... that is until about 10:00 when the internet went down. We did all we could to get it back up, but to no avail.  Before lunch we worked on other training that had been downloaded and didn't require the internet.  We finally took our lunch break, hoping it would be back up after we ate.  (No such luck!)

One of the projects we needed to do today required internet to Skype with Jitender, the Self Reliance Manager in India. We are assigned a team project with Phanna, Jitender, Elder and Sister Powell, and Elder and Sister Oveson.  This is to be done together and will be presented in a web training in a few days.  Since the internet didn't work at the church, we retreated to our apartment for the Skype session.  While using our internet, we received an email requesting a Skype call at 4:30 with Sameth, Marco in Hong Kong, and us.  We returned to the office hoping that the internet would be back up by then. Nope! Sameth hooked his cell phone to his computer to become a hot-spot. It worked! Marco was late to the Skype because he had computer trouble as well.  The  call with Marco gave Elder Oveson an additional assignment, but he was not able to access the program he needed to do this work either.  (We think someone really doesn't want us to get this work done today!)

Thanks and Goodbye to Elder and Sister Powell

23 March 2015

Mark Twain said, “I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.”  Elder and Sister Powell became our very good friends as we traveled with them throughout Cambodia. This morning we picked them up at their hotel and took them to the airport. We said good bye for now, but it is more of a "'Til We Meet Again" departure. We were glad we would not be traveling today.

We had a few errands to run. Our pantry and refrigerator were pretty bare, so we stopped at two different stores for a few groceries. At Lucky's we picked up some croissants and pastries along with fresh meat and some produce and boxes of milk (the closed process variety that does not require refrigeration). Chicken and pork chops were $8 a pound. Beef is $15. The bananas we find here are about finger size. The mangos here are sweet and juicy and taste wonderful. We stopped at Thai Huot on the way home to pick up a few boxes of cereal. We were able to find Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Shredded Wheat, Honey Bunches of Oats, Blueberry Morning and something called Weet-Bix Bites (from Australia). Thai Huot was cheaper than Lucky's, but the cereals were still $6-$8 a box.  After spending the afternoon at the office, we were glad to be back in our apartment, eating dinner at home, getting laundry done.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Our Fourth Sunday and Our Fourth Ward/Branch We Have Visited

22 March 2015

We went to church today at the Siem Reap 1st Branch.  It was interesting because they had headphones setup for translation before we got there, but we found out that it was not just for us. With Angkor Wat being a tourist area they end up with English speaking members stopping in for Sacrament Meeting on a regular basis.  We met a member from Virginia and two from Utah that were on vacation.  There were two other families that were definitely not Cambodian, but we did not get to talk with them, so we do not know if they live in Siem Reap or if they were just visitors.

After church Sister Belcher caught Sister Oveson to talk about the Steung Mean Chey 3rd Ward that we are now assigned to visit.  They served in Steung Mean Chey before being transferred and she was concerned about their Primary.

We had to hurry back to Phnom Penh right after church because we had more training scheduled there at 6:30.  It is only a 145 miles drive, but it took over six hours, and with the rough roads, it felt like a lot more than that.

This evening we taught the Phnom Penh East District Self Reliance Committee about the initiative.  It started out a little iffy because the High Counselor, that is also their Specialist, said that he only had a half hour before he had to leave.  There was no way that we could properly train them in a half hour.  But the spirit was so strong, that he did not leave and we had a great training meeting.

Wow, what a full week of teaching the principles that we were set here to share.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Battambang and Siem Reap Self Reliance Services Training

21 March 2015

When we received our call to serve as full-time missionaries, our specific assignment in Cambodia was PEF (Perpetual Education Fund)/Self Reliance.  Before we ever made it to Cambodia the name was changed to Self Reliance Services (SRS) and PEF.  Education is one of three emphasis that is taught.

The Church has provided wonderful and inspired printed material for us to use, starting what is called "My Path."  The My Path booklet is the basis for a two hour devotional where the spiritual and temporal principles of self reliance are taught.  At the end of the devotional the participants decide if they need Starting and Growing My Business, My Job Search or Education for Better Work.  Right now we only have the first three lessons of Starting and Growing My Business translated into Cambodian, but the rest of the lessons are promised by the end of the month.  There are twelve lessons in the manual and there is a small manual called My Foundation which we use with all three options.   Without a spiritual foundation and other basic principles, like budgeting and time management, they will not have a firm foundation to build on.  You can see these manuals at  SRS.LDS.org, then click on Self Reliance on the left of the screen and then manuals and videos, the videos are great too.

This morning started off with a My Path Devotional in Battambang taught by Phanna, the full-time Church Employee who works with Self-Reliance.  There were twenty-three members there who were anxious to learn and that they would commit to attend all twelve sessions and learn from each other.  If they attend ten out of the twelve classes they receive a certificate from LDS Business College stating they understand the principles of self reliance.  There was a great spirit in the devotional and they are a humble and willing people.

We drove back to Siem Riep this afternoon so that Phanna could present the My Path devotional there also.  We had about twenty for My Path in Siem Reap.  There were also ten non-members who had come to learn English that ended up getting invited into the devotional, along with six full-time missionaries.  It was a big group, but less than ten committed to attend the twelve week course.  Next time we will not invite in those who are not there for the devotional, but we may ask for the full-time missionaries help in the future.  Live and learn.

What a full and rewarding day.

Angkor Wat and More SRS Training

20 March 2015

The most famous tourist destination in Cambodia is Angkor Wat.  A Wat is a Buddist or Hindu Temple, and Angkor means City.  Angkor Wat was a Hindu Temple that was built in the 12th Century, starting in 1,112 a.d. Their temple took 37 years to build.  This area of Combodia was the center of the Khmer Empire, which covered what is now Vietnam, Loa, Thailand and Cambodia, so it was a great empire.  The kings built a large capital city and over two hundred Wats in that part of the country.

This morning we hired a tour guide who is a member to give us short tour of part of the restored Wat. We only had six hours. Many tourists take three or four days. We went early to see the sunrise over Angkor.  Tomorrow is when the sunrise would be better as it is Summer Solstice, and the sun will rise directly over the center spire.  It was an amazing tour, but very hot! Temperatures were close to 100 degrees by the time we left.

This afternoon we drove to Battambang to train the SRS Committee tonight and then to do a My Path devotional tomorrow morning. These member only speak Khmer so it was up to Phanna to do the training.  Phanna also met with a member that would like a PEF loan to be trained how to make banners.  We are struggling with this loan because the teacher wants too much to train him.  Phanna also trained the local member that will facilitate the SRS. We were blessed to meet Elder and Sister Zemp who have spent their mission in Battambang and return home to Canada in just over a week.  They are a very humble couple working with a very humble people in that province.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Road Trip

Thursday 19 March, 2015

Training new self-reliance leaders in Siem Reap and Battembang is the agenda for this week. That necessitated a road trip. with Elder and Sister Powell in town they came along to help and to train us. With a hired driver and Phanna, we made our way North toward Siem Reap. With roads that are under construction and low speed limits, it took most of the day to get there. Phanna scheduled training and visits with very little down time.

Rice Drying along the road to Siem Reap
As we got to Siem Reap we needed to find a school. Phanna had no idea where it would be. We stopped and asked some tuk tuk drivers, but they didn't seem to know. as we continued down the street were amazed to see the sign for the school we were looking for. What was even more amazing was Phanna, Elder Powell and Elder Oveson were able to meet with the school director.

After checking into our hotel we had some training at the church with the District Presidency. This gave us the opportunity to meet Elder and Sister Belcher, a full time missionary couple serving in Siem Reap. Elder Belcher is also serving as the District President. This was a very good meeting! We will follow up on Saturday with additional training with members of the Siem Reap District.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Another First: Our First District Self Reliance Training

Elder & Sister Powell took a Tuk Tuk from their hotel to the PP South Stake Center this morning and Sister Powell came in so excited about the ride.  She actually told me that she would rather take a Tuk Tuk than ride with me, no offense intended, or taken.

This morning we continued with the training which they came here to Cambodia, to give us.  It has been extremely helpful. They sit in the Area Self Reliance PEF Committee meetings and understand the concerns and what they would like us to do.  The four of us and Phanna met together and then Sister Powell met with Phanna for his annual review.  Elder and Sister Oveson met with Brother Powell and went over a lot of different items that he felt would help us (and it will).  We also sat down with Saphoran Touch, the Seminary & Institute director for Cambodia, to talk about Self Reliance.  He is a counselor in the PP South Stake and has Self Reliance as one of his responsibilities.

One of the current Senior Couples in Hong Kong served as a Mission President in Cambodia a few years ago, so he told the Powells to make sure to go to Mount Everest Restaurant and say hello to the owner.  We went and found it for lunch today and it was very good.   On the way back, we tried to go the wrong way on a one way street, but quickly realized our error, and we survived.  We also went to the "Russian Market" to pickup some items requested by various Hong Kong staff members.  There are several "Markets" here in Phnom Penh, they are a lot of small booths a common roofed area.  The problem with that is, when it is already hot outside, it is even hotter in side.  Sister Oveson did get a new top and we got a little nick-nack for our apartment. We figure we have done our turn at visiting the Russian Market and it will be okay if we don't go back again.

This evening we went with the the Powells and Pannah to train the Phnom Penh Central District, or also known as the Vietnamese District.  There are three Vietnamese Branches in the District.  We met with the District President, one of his Counselors, the District Relief Society President and two of the Branch Presidents.  Brother Powell did the training and the counselor translated into Vietnamese. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Our Hong Kong Visitors & Our Trip to the Airport

Welcome, Elder and Sister Powell from Hong Kong!

This morning we went to the SR/PEF office to get things started for the day. Then about 9:45 we left to find our way to the airport to meet Elder and Sister Powell. The airport was off the map, but we felt we would find it. We were surprised by how far off the map, but we did find it. When we arrived at the airport the board indicated that their flight had landed, so we were surprised as we waited about a half an hour before they came through customs. Apparently the authorities had taken Sister Powell's passport and entrance papers, then asked for them again. It took some talking for them to return her passport, but the entrance papers were not included. They did finally make it through, and we were glad to welcome them to Cambodia.

Elder and Sister Powell had never been to Cambodia before, so it was interesting that we were their guides. I guess the fact that we had been here 2 1/2 weeks longer than they had qualified us for the job. They were intrigued by all the little things: the power lines, the mass of traffic, the loaded motos and more. Even the traffic impass we encountered along the way as cars, buses, motos and Tuk Tuks all tried to move through one intersection in different directions at the same time.

After stopping at the office for a bit we went and found lunch. We chose an oriental noodle place none of us had experienced before, then back to the office for an afternoon of training. We had an appointment to introduce the Powells to President Moon. We had a longer visit than expected, but it was a great meeting. He discussed some of the things we needed to be aware of as we go into the provinces later this week.

The highlight of the day for Sister Powell seemed to be driving through this unique city. The electric lines are just a jumble of wire that are strung above the streets. You would never see such wiring in the U.S.

Fortunately we had a map and were able to easily find the hotel where they are staying, then a short trip to the TELL Restaurant for dinner. TELL is Bavarian cuisine, and Sister Powell was excited to have Escargot for her appetizer. She had lived in Germany years ago, so this was an excellent choice for her.

The Powells are prepared for more adventures tomorrow. Phanna has arranged for a Tuk Tuk to pick them up at their hotel in the morning and drive them to the office. I think we are in for a week of great adventures with our new friends!

Monday, March 16, 2015

As The Work Rolls Forward, Changes Always Happen

Last Saturday Sameth told us that the PEF software would be down for a week starting today.  Since the PEF Staff cannot work on loans, they were asked to go through training on the new software. Sameth received an email this morning with the link to the new software training. The problem is, only one of the links actually works.  We are hoping that they will get the rest up and that we can go through the training so we can learn our duty.

From our Living Room Balcony
Since we will have visitors from Hong Kong, tomorrow until next Monday, there were some things that we needed to get done today.  What we thought would be an hour or so of errands ended up being almost three hours.  We got the car washed, clean inside and out for $2.50, we finally found a fan to help the clothes dry faster, we got some more bath towels and found something to work as a drain stopper for the kitchen sink (something that you can find in the U.S. that was not easy to find hear). Our errands were successful!

The View From Our Bedroom Balcony
We decided that we will be eating out most of the rest of this week, so tonight we are just eating at our apartment.  We also need to get some laundry done and see how the fan helps. (Hopefully it will.)

It is hard to believe that a month of our mission is already gone.  We have had slow days and busy weeks.  With a week at the Provo MTC, almost a week at the Church Office Building for training and now over two weeks in Cambodia, wow! It has been a long year this past month!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

We Now Have Two Wards That We are Assigned to Visit

 Sundays are great!  We get to go to Church and partake of the Sacrament.  That is so very important to us, we do not need to know the language, the prayers and spirit are still the same.

We are still attending the Chaktomuk Ward at 8:00 a.m. on Sunday morning.  Today they had six speakers for Sacrament Meeting, which was good because they were all really short.  The only one that would have gone longer was Elder Lao, the Assistant to the President, but he kept it short to give the last speaker some time.  Elder Brewer, the other Assistant, translated for us and we really enjoyed his editorial comments as he went along.  We now know what lessons they are on and we were able to follow the manuals in Sunday School, Relief Society and Priesthood, so with a little translation we were able to understand.

Now that we have a car, we have another Ward to attend that is about 7 km or 4.35 miles away from our apartment.   The additional Ward is the Steung Mean Chey 3rd Ward.  Their building is West and then South of where we live.  One of the other Senior Couples told us to leave early because the construction could slow us down.  It only took us a half hour to get to the building.  The Stake Center has wooden pews, this building has stackable chairs in the Chapel.  There is one set of missionaries assigned to that Ward right now; Elder Long, a Cambodian, and Elder Lauritzen from the USA.  They only had two speakers lined up for Sacrament Meeting and they only took about ten total minutes.  We got called on to bear our testimonies, but that only took a few minutes, the same one we bore in Cambodian before our mission.  One of the counselors in the bishopric took the rest of the time.  Going home afterwards was drastically different, it took an hour and forty-five minutes.  We are learning new lessons in patience hear in Cambodia.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

P-Day Does Not Mean You Have The Day Off

Saturday is Preparation Day for the Senior Couples in Cambodia, but that does not mean that you have the day off.  In fact we were up earlier today than normal.  We normally get up at 6:00 a.m. That way we are to our office by 8:00. Today we had to be up by 5:00 and to the South Stake Center by about 6:30.  The couple that we are officially replacing had to go home last October, due to some health problems.  One of their assignments had been to teach an early morning Institute Class, but with them leaving early, the Hollenzers had taken over the class.  This morning we went to meet the class and we will start teaching them in two weeks because next week we will be out of town on some visits.

We are still looking for some of the things that we need to have our apartment fully setup for us. This afternoon we ventured out to do some shopping at two stores that cater to foreigners here in Phnom Penh.  We did find a few more items but there are still several things on the list.  We will have to try going to the Aeon Mall that caters to the Japanese. That may be a little more expensive, but hopefully we will find the other items.

At 4:00 we ventured all the way across Phnom Penh to the North Stake Center for a Starting and Growing My Business class at 5:30.  Phanna was out of town today, so we volunteered to cover the class this week.  It is good to see the local stake support the Self Reliance Initiative and hold these groups as encouraged by the General Authorities.  We were blessed that two full-time missionaries were invited to come and translate for us, Elder Choi, from Ogden Utah, and Elder Vuah, from Cambodia. By the time we got home it was 8:00. At least dinner was ready in the crock pot, but there were still things to do to be ready for Sunday.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Blessed are the Flexible: They Shall NOT be Bent Out of Shape

We begin our day by planning what we will be doing at the SR/PEF Center. Today was no exception. However,  as careful as we are to plan things don't always follow the schedule we had in mind.  For instance,  today we set our schedule beginning with planning and study.  After checking in with family via Skype, we intended to read and study some of the materials for upcoming training.  We also ended up skyping with Sister Powell in Hong Kong, getting ready for next week's visit to Cambodia, and giving us a little training for our job here. We are learning how to support and work with the SR Manager, Phanna, a full-time Church Employee that will be here after we go home.

Another of the side-tracks we found today was visiting with Marco again before his return to Hong Kong. He had invited us to join the team for lunch at the New York Steakhouse just down the street. What a wonderful group of people to be with.

The young missionaries in Cambodia are not allowed to proselyte so their methods of finding investigators differs slightly from some other missions. One thing we typically see them doing is "flipping signs" telling of the free English lessons they teach at the chapel.  It seems to be something the Cambodian people want, they told us that they average about 30 people a night in the classes.

We decided to leave the office a little bit early to avoid some of the traffic on our way home. We made it across the busy street and made it home with no problem. Then finally sat down to study the lesson we intended to read and study this morning.

What a great opportunity to serve some of Our Heavenly Father's children.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Everyday a New Adventure

One of the things the PEF Administrators have to do is visit the various universities to make sure they are legitimate and give proper training.  We went with Phanna, Sameth and Marco out to make one of those visits to a school today.  It was very interesting to see Sameth and Phanna in action, they were very professional and handled it perfectly.  We also visited a locksmith that went to school using a PEF loan, he is making a lot more than he did before his schooling. That was a very good visit also.

This afternoon we received an email from the mission office letting us know that Elder Oveson's temporary license had arrived.  When we called to see when we would get the car, they said they would let us know.  Less than an hour later we were on our way to the Service Center to pick up the car.

That was 5:15 and rush hour traffic was a real mess right then. This was not the right time for our first Khmer driving experience. Understanding that, Brother & Sister Hollenzer, the Office Couple, invited us to go out and eat with them.  They took us to Brooklyn Pizza and Bistro. It was American food and was very tasty.  After that we picked up our car and ventured back to our apartment, and we made it there just fine.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Finish cleaning up and training

Last night as we went into the Master Bedroom we could not get the overhead lights or plugs to work for us.  We worked around that because we were staying no matter what, and it was alright.  We asked the office to fix the lights, and they brought us up and showed us there was a switch by the bed, hidden by the curtain, which controlled the other switches.  We will have lights tonight.

We stayed home from the Self Reliance PEF Center this morning to finish cleaning up the treasurers from the storage unit.  After we cleaned the items that we found, we had to cleanup the counter that got dirty from them.

The Area Self Reliance PEF, in Hong Kong, has a weekly Skype training meeting, which was today at 10:30.  We made it to the PP South Stake Center in time to participate and learn.  The group in Cambodia (Sameth, Phanna, Marco (from Hong Kong), Samson (from India) and us) was the largest group today.

We also did a Skype call with the Senior Couple in Mongolia this afternoon.  Marco wanted to introduce them and also have them explain how they help their PEF Specialist, their equivalent of Sameth.  They are currently reviewing all PEF applications before submitting them to Hong Kong to help avoid questions or issues.  We are excited to help out any way we can.

This afternoon the PEF group went to a local mall and came back with some snacks for us to try. They found fried crickets and cooked butterfly cocoons.   Needless to say, they did not get us to try them, but they are young and enjoyed them.

Move In Day and Team Dinner

March 10, 2015

This afternoon our friends, the Meinzers, ventured out with us to the mission storage unit, which is really a warehouse where missionaries have an apartment of sorts in the back. This is where all the random left-overs from previous missionaries are taken. Nothing was really organized, and most things were covered with a thick layer of dust. As we rummaged through the piles we were able to pull out some useful items to fill our apartment. We got a rice cooker, a slow cooker, a blender, and a variety of other kitchen items. We didn't find everything that was on our list, but we were able to acquire much of what we needed. Then we delivered it to the apartment (unfortunately, dust included).

We didn't have time to put things away before we had to head back to the church to meet up for a Team dinner with the PEF team. Marco (from Hong Kong), Samson (India),  Phanna and Sameth (Cambodia). We also invited the Public Affairs couple, Elder and Sister Vanbrocklin, to join us. We ended up at a French restaurant and had a wonderful evening. We had a great visit, great food, and learned a lot.

The Vanbrocklins were kind enough after dinner to take us to the store for a few items, then home again. We tackled some of the worst of the dusty pile in our apartment. The rest will have to wait until tomorrow.  We did sleep in our apartment for the first time tonight.  Home sweet home for the next 22 months.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Women's Day in Cambodia

Last week the part-time Seminary and Institute secretary asked us if we were going to work today or not.  She let us know that everybody else would be gone because it was a holiday, Women's Day. When we googled it, we found out that it originated in New York City when the women protested that they had to work more hours per week than men.  It is interesting that this is a holiday from the U.S.A., who does not celebrate it with a day off.  But Cambodia does.

The mission phone we got last Saturday decided not to work yesterday.  Because of that we decided we would try again to unlock Marilyn's IPhone. What I thought would be a ten to fifteen minute project turned into an hour and a half.  We stayed at the Meinzers while we got it unlocked.  We also FaceTimed with Chris, Melissa and Lizzy this morning since we did not talk to them on Saturday. Because we were so late in leaving anyway, we decided to walk over to the Mission Home to take care of a few things.  It ended up being about an hour stop, but now we do have another cell phone that appears to be working just fine.

We finally made it to the Center, and since we were all alone, I was able to go through all of the rest of the files on the computer.  I found some very interesting training manuals that I had never seen before.  We also went through some of the training that we wanted to review.

This evening the Meinzers took us to a German restaurant for dinner. That was definitely my favorite food here in Cambodia.  I am so full tonight.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Each day has it's own amazing twists

 Our second Sunday in Cambodia, and since we are now seasoned Tuk Tuk riders this morning we went to the Chaktomuk Ward which we are assigned. It starts at 8:00 a.m. in the Phnom Penh South Stake Center, where our offices are. There are two sets of young Elders also assigned to that Ward; the Assistants to the President, and what we call the tall Elders (one is 6'9" and the other is about 6'4").  Both companionships were very kind in helping translate the meetings for us.  We studied hard and practiced our Khmer so that we would understand at least a little bit once we got here. It is amazing how little we know.  The prayers didn't even sound close to what we have been practicing, the difference in a child's prayer, our simple prayers, and the adult prayers of the faithful members.

After church we walked over to our new apartment where we got a few things put away, had lunch, then kicked back for a bit. It felt nice to be in our own place, even if for only a little while. When we headed back toward the Meinzer's, we were pleasantly surprised to have a Tuk Tuk just outside our door, and with Sunday traffic being nothing like week day traffic, it was a very quick ride.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Our First P-Day and it was exciting

Saturday is Preparation Day for the couples. It is our day off since most of us have office jobs the rest of the week and assignments in the various Wards and Branches on Sunday.

WE FaceTimed with five out of our six children and their families this morning.  Morning in Cambodia is the previous night in the U.S. so that works very good for us to catchup on what is happening back home.

We are moving forward with finally getting settled into our new assignment and our own place.  We received the mission cell phone today and got it setup and working.  We went and purchased some more food to stock our apartment.  And we now have a time when we will be going to the storage unit to see what is there, so we can determine what we will have and what we need to buy to get out own apartment finally setup.

This afternoon we went with the Meinzers to an Orphanage that is run by a member.  She has 31 children at the orphanage right now, and even though they are not all members they go to church with her every week.  All the children greeted us with warm hugs and hellos as we arrived, and goodbye hugs as we left. They fed us beef and vegetable stew and put on a program for us. It was very touching.  The Church is going to help her put together a garden.

We also went to our first Cambodian wedding tonight, it was quite the event.  It was held at a big hall with around five hundred guests.  In Cambodia, the bride and groom change their outfits several times, all very glamorous and formal.  The groom told Sister Meinzer that he had four different formal suits and the bride had six or seven.  It was a dinner that never seemed to end.We had fish, duck, chicken, rolls, soup, etc. We decided that we had another important meeting before it was over and left.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Another Day, Another Tuk Tuk

March 6, 2015

Another day, another Tuk Tuk ride to the office, and almost a week spent in Phnom Penh. This is the view from the Tuk Tuk as we made our way through Phnom Penh traffic. The streets are packed with autos, then fill the space between with Tuk Tuks. The inch that is left is filled with hundreds of motos. To cross an intersection you have to get your nose out there and be bold. Just don't make eye contact! Top speed is about 20 mph if that. Welcome to Cambodia!

After spending the morning working in the Self Reliance PEF (SR/PEF) office, we went to pick up keys for our new apartment. We finally have our home, but we still need some supplies before we move in. 

We will be just a few blocks from the Phnom Penh South Stake Center where the (SR/PEF) office is located.  Our 2 bedroom furnished apartment is on the 6th floor with a balcony that looks toward the church. There may be furniture and dishes, but there are lots of things we still need to acquire.  There were enough other things happening that moving in will have to wait until tomorrow. 

One of the highlights of the day was a Young Adult fireside with Elder Garrett Gong of the Seventy, Area President of the Asia. Elder Gong taught of the importance of laughing together. He referred to D&C 90:24 in relation to marriage. "Search diligently, pray always, and be believing ....." and that if they follow this counsel in your marriage there is a promise, "and all things shall work together for your good, if ye walk uprightly and remember the covenant wherewith ye have covenanted one with another."  Keeping the covenants are key. If we do these things, marriage will work best.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Zone Conference with Elder & Sister Gong and President & Sister Moon

Elder Garret Gong, the Asia Area President, came to tour our mission this week and to hold Zone Conferences.  They started out in Vietnam and Northern Cambodia and then on to Phnom Penh for two and then close out in another Province.  The one that we were invited to was held at the building where our office is located.  There were about 54 or so missionaries there at the Zone Conference today.

Elder Gong shared with us that there are approximately 3.5 billion people of the total 7 billion world population are in the Asia Area of the Church.  Of that number, 95% are not Christian, so we have a great work to introduce them to Christ.  He taught the missionaries that there are four important things to do:
     1- If you want more people to teach, talk to more people.  He shared stories about Elder Ballard and President Moon talking to more people.
    2- Great teachers study together to address investigators questions, and to take investigators to the next step.
     3- Find where you teach and teach where you find.  Ask those whom you teach for referrals, they know other potential members.
     4- Be spiritually bold.  We need to be bold through the spirit, angels are backing us.

President and Sister Moon taught us how to use The Book of Mormon to answer the questions that our investigators have.  We were taught that in a survey of recent converts, only 5% had a meaningful experience with The Book of Mormon.  We need to get those that we teach to experience what it is all about.  Read with them and get members to go and read with them.

It was an excellent conference and we felt like we had several revelatory experiences.

In other news; The mission signed the agreement on our new apartment today.  It is only about four blocks from the South Stake Center, so we can walk to it, even if we do get a car.  There is still a lot of stuff that we need to gather up to have the apartment ready for us. We need to go and see what is in storage, that will likely be on Saturday.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

On our own in the Self Reliance(SR)/PEF office

Phanna and Sameth were at the office for a couple of hours this morning, then they left to do some My Path Self Reliance devotionals in the Provinces today and tomorrow.  That means that we were the only ones there to man the SR/PEF Office most of the day.  That was alright because this is the slow time of year for PEF, but we did have one of the participants come in who we got to meet. Unfortunately he had questions that we could not answer so we had to ask him to come back.

Elder Oveson found some Excel file lists of the PEF participants, so he was in second heaven, sorting and analyzing a variety of aspects and scenarios.  It was interesting that the number one course of study was Accounting/Auditing, which was 17% of all the participants.  A graduate with an accounting degree makes about $500 per month, which is a good wage in Cambodia.

We spent a lot more time going through files on the computer and there are still more to go through in the future.  We are starting to plan our days better, to give a little bit more variety, so we do not get bogged down with going through stuff.

Solo in a Tuk Tuk

Tuesday 3 March 2015

This morning we took our first solo Tuk Tuk ride, venturing to the Self Reliance(SR)/PEF center on our own. We did just fine and didn't get lost at all.  There are two Stakes and Two districts in Phnom Penh, our office is in the Phnom Penh South Stake Center.  The office that we have been assigned is in a wing with the Seminary and Institute, there are two offices for Self Reliance/PEF, we have the one that does not have a window in the door.

When we arrived, we learned there would be an internet training meeting with all the Asia SR Managers. It took about 30 minutes to get everyone together online. There were representatives from Hong Kong, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Mongolia, India and Malaysia. It is amazing what we can accomplish with technology!

Other than the internet training, we spent the day at the center going through files, drawers, cabinets, ..... just snooping around and becoming familiar with what was there. The previous SR/PEF Senior Missionaries went home last September, do to some health problems, so we are on our own to figure out what is still relevant and what is not. We also enjoyed getting to know Phanna and Sameth better.

We have continued to meet more of the young missionaries serving here, since the South Stake Center is a central location and easy place to congregate. At 5:30 we took our return Tuk Tuk ride to the apartment. When Elder & Sister Meinzer returned home, we ventured out for dinner, then to the mall to find bread. I guess you can get anything at the mall .... (except the salad spinner Sister Meinzer was trying to find)!!!

Our First Day at the Self Reliance/PEF Center

March 2, 2015

Phanna Yi (Self Reliance) and Sameth Meas (PEF)
Our day started with meeting the realtor at 7:30 to look at one more apartment to consider.  Elder Hollenzer wanted us to go at that time so we could see how congested the main road would be where we would have to cross.  As we were going to the apartment the realtor kept saying there must be an accident this is very slow.  He asked a Policemen that was on the side of the road, and was told there was not an accident, just normal traffic. We decided that apartment was not a good option, so then we went back to the one that we like the best and laid the ground work for the lease.  The lease has to wait for President Moon or Elder Hollenzer to sign on Thursday or whenever.

The Meinzers and VanBrocklins picked us up at the center for lunch at a Vietnamese Restaurant.  We had a very large crepe like pancake stuffed with chicken and vegetables.  It was really good.  After lunch we went to try and get Sister Oveson a simcard for her I-phone to get local service.  We went to three different places without luck: the phone was locked and nobody could (or would) break the lock.

This evening we took our first Tuk Tuk with E&S Meinzer to a security briefing at the U.S. Embassy.  Our new friend from yesterday, Sister Dockery, was in charge of the meeting. It was interesting to hear what to be aware of here in Cambodia.  The U.S. has a very large embassy here in Cambodia, Someone said that we were trying to compete with the Chinese.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

March 1, 2015 - Sunday The Day of Rest (Sort of)

Sunday March 1, 2015

With our LONG day yesterday (it was about 50 hours from getting up on Thursday morning and going to bed Saturday night in Cambodia, with only a few short hours of sleep on the airplane), we slept pretty well for our first night in Khmer.  Even though our internal clock thought that we should be up and going, we were so exhausted the rest of our body over ruled it, at least for part of the night.

This morning just as Sister Oveson got her Iphone connected to the internet, a Skype call from Wendy and her family came in.  It was great to chat with them and see the snow that had fallen, way different than our 90+ degree days here in Phnom Penh.  Before we went to Church we Skyped with Janeene & Israel, Becky, Paul and their family, Brenda and Marla.  What a fun morning.

We went to a 10:00 a.m. Sacrament Meeting, in the International Branch .... and it is TRULY International. Elder and Sister Meinzer had meetings starting at 8:00 a.m., so Elder and Sister Hollenzer were our ride to church, then they had family coming for a visit so we were on our own. We thought we would have our first tuk tuk ride to find our way home after church, but instead a member couple, U.S. Embassy Employees, graciously took us on a tour of the city and delivered us back to the Meinzer's apartment where we spent the afternoon decompressing. The Meinzers are treating and feeding us very well. Today we had grilled salmon for dinner. (YUM)

Sunday, March 1, 2015


February 28, 2015 

On our way to Hong Kong we flew over some very interesting areas of the world. We crossed the Pacific Ocean, flew over Japan and Taiwan. It was interesting to look out at times and see the lights of cities far below as we soared at about 40,000 feet. The sunrise over the Pacific was quite beautiful!

As we approached Hong Kong, we descended below the clouds. The sky was overcast so we couldn't get a good view of the city.

At the airport in Hong Kong we had to go through security again as we changed airlines for our final leg of the journey.

The temperature began to climb. Hong Kong was probably high 60's when we landed. By the time we left, it was in the 70's.  We were no longer in the 30's which we left behind in Utah! As we landed in Phnom Penh the thermometer was somewhere in the 90's.

We landed in Phnom Penh at about 11:00 a.m., collected our luggage, went through customs, and were greeted by a very friendly group. Our Mission President and his wife, along with the other couples who are serving in Phnom Penh.

(L to R - Elder and Sister Oveson, Elder and Sister Meinzer, Elder and Sister VanBrocklin, President and Sister Moon, and Elder Hollenzer. Sister Hollenzer was not feeling well this morning.)

After an interview with President and Sister Moon and a wonderful lunch,  Elder Hollenzer took us out to look at apartments. After seeing about a dozen apartments, we were sooooo tired, we decided to wait to make a final decision. We had narrowed our selection down to two apartments.

Elder and Sister Meinzer are hosting us until we get into our own place.  After dinner with the Meinzers this evening, the Phnom Penh couples gathered to celebrate all the February birthdays. President and Sister Moon were not available as they were on their way to Vietnam for Zone Conferences.

After an extremely long day we finally went to bed at about 10:30 p.m. (I'm not sure how many hours it has been since we got up at home in Utah, but we are more exhausted that we remember ever being this tired before!)

Travel to Cambodia

February 27th 2015

Most days are 24 hours long.  ...  Unless you happen to be traveling West by jet and cross the International Date Line. We are not sure how long today really was. It could have only been about 5 or 6 hours.  (It was probably flew by during that short nap we took.)

It is very difficult to sleep on a jet plane. You have the roar of the engines, the times of turbulence, and those times you really need to just get up and stretch. However, our seats were the window and center. That meant we had to wait for the oriental woman on the aisle to be awake so we could get up. She was very nice, but we still felt bad asking her so often to just let us out.

Off to Cambodia

Thursday 26 February

The BIG day is here! As many of our family as were available met us for breakfast at Mimi's. They thought we needed that one LAST MEAL in Utah!

We have had a dry winter with not too much snow.  We have even had unusually warm temperatures. We had given our family a hard time that it was going to snow when we left. Sure enough, it DID snow today! We came out from breakfast to find flurries of white stuff falling from the sky!

Then we went home to finish packing and get ready to fly to Cambodia.  We thought we were almost packed, but it still took more time to finish.

We were surprised we did not use our full 50 pounds allowance for our large suitcases. In fact the heaviest was only 42.5 pounds, which was under the 44 pound limit for the final leg of our flight. Even our carry-on bags were pretty light. Not bad for packing for two years!!!

Since our daughter, Wendy, is buying our Honda CRV from us, she volunteered to take us to the airport. She also helped us take everything in to the terminal to get checked in at the counter.  Thank You Wendy! Enjoy the CRV!

As we entered the TSA security line we received a pleasant surprise. Unbeknownst to us, we had been pre-screened and did not have to go through the regular line! (They made up for that later at all the other airports we went through.)

We left Salt Lake at 3:30 p.m. MST and arrived in LA at 4:20 p.m. PST. Then we had over six hours lay-over before leaving just before 11:00 p.m. for Hong Kong. What do you do in LAX for six hours? LOTS of walking, sitting, and drinking water to keep hydrated for the LONG flight.

We love home, but we also love the Lord and look forward to serving Him in Cambodia for the next two years!