Sunday, May 31, 2015

Elder Perry, Stake Conference, Another Missionary Discussion and More Friends For Dinner

Yesterday the Church announced that Elder L. Tom Perry had terminal cancer.  This morning when we got up we had several texts and emails letting us know that he passed away while we were asleep. We had met or seen Elder Perry several time over the years, cross the street by the Salt Lake Temple and when we were out for dinner at Little America, he always had a big smile.  He always looked happy and acted happy.  Just less than two months ago he gave a powerful talk at General Conference.  He almost seemed invincible at 92 years old.

Elder Woo, Victoria, Weston, Ovesons & Palmers
Today was the General Session for the Phnom Penh South Stake Conference.  We picked up Ty and Melissa Palmer on our way to stake conference, this was their third and last Sunday here in Cambodia. My favorite talk was a little primary girl that was about eight years old that got up with out any notes and talked about prayer for five minutes.  Elder Woo said that you could tell that she must have a great mother because of how well that she did.  He invited her mother to stand so that we could all see her.  President and Sister Moon were asked to speak again today. They were hoping that they were through since this is a stake and not a district.  It was a very good stake conference.
Yuri, Sameth & Thida

After stake conference Elder Le Nguyen and Elder Morris asked if we would help them with a missionary discussion again today.  It was the same part-member family that we helped teach last week, Weston is a less-active member that is coming back and his wife Victoria.  They shared with us some of their history, they are from the Philippines and they have both been married several times.  She is committed to being baptized on June 20th.

After church Ty and Melissa came to our apartment for lunch, we did not fix anything fancy, we just had salad and sandwiches.  Then we had a fun visit catching up on what happened to them this week and sharing Khmer photos.

This evening we had Sameth, the full-time PEF employee here in Cambodia, and his family over for dinner.  When we asked what he wanted for dinner, he wanted the exact same thing that we fed Phanna and his family last week.  It was great to have them over for dinner.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Stake Conference, Perspectives, and Fire Drills

This weekend is the Stake Conference for the Phnom Penh South Stake. It has been one year since the creation of the first two stakes in Cambodia.  Presiding at this conference is Elder Leonard Woo, Area Seventy from Singapore.  It is always a treasured opportunity to sit in conference with such wonderful leaders.

Tonight’s meeting gave us some interesting perspectives. Elder Woo taught many in Singapore are busy chasing after things to make their lives more comfortable, but are not finding happiness. There are five C’s that we need avoid making our main focus and love: cash; credit cards; cars; condominiums; country club membership.

In contrast, he taught, there are five C’s that will make you rich: Christ; Covenants; Church; Callings; and Charity. Elder Woo said, no matter how much money, power, or position a person may have, “The poorest member in Cambodia can sign the same Covenant Contract as the richest member in New York. Many people in the world have money but no happiness, and no eternal life. The Scriptures say 'He who has eternal life is rich.' Remember, he who follows Christ is rich."

This teaching made us think about one very small three or four story building, the little green one, nestled in the middle of many large impressive structures. This little home has as great a value to those who live there at keeping them safe and warm as those in the more spacious elaborate buildings.

 After our meeting we returned to our apartment, and ate a simple dinner of left-overs. We had just finished when we heard a fire alarm sound in the hall. We dutifully grabbed our computer bag and walked down the 6 flights of stairs . I guess this is one way to get to meet the neighbors. After about 5 to 10 minutes, the alarm stopped and the all clear was given to return to our apartment. I guess they needed to test their fire drills.

Friday, May 29, 2015

We Are Truly Blessed and Motos, Tuk Tuks & Khmer Weddings

In March we were asked to put together a cash flow analysis for Hong Kong for the Perpetual Education Fund here in Cambodia.  The Cambodia Government limits the amounts that "non-banks" can loan.  We wanted to make sure what we needed to do to stay below those limits and still help the Cambodian members to receive the education that they need.  We are now two months into the projections and so far we have beaten the projected loan pay backs both months.  Yesterday we were way below the projection and the number of participants that paid, but today was incredible.  We have been calling the participants to check on them and encourage them to pay on their loans and we have been praying very hard for divine help.  We would have even had more, but we are waiting for headquarters to give us a payoff figure for one loan that has some incentives that they need to calculate.

When we first got to Cambodia we were so busy trying to understand our calling that we did not get around to studying the language.  Now that things are settling in a little bit we have gone back to trying to study daily, some days are better than others.  We are still focusing on prayer and bearing our testimonies, since we feel that is what we will need the most.

Friday nights over the years have generally been our date nights, so we have tried to continue that here also.  Tonight we decided to go to Sunrise Taco which is just up the street from the Stake Center a little less than a mile.  It took about a half hour to travel that short distance this evening.  Between Motos, Tuk Tuks and a Khmer (Cambodian Wedding), the street was a real mess.  Often for the big Cambodian Weddings they setup huge tents that even take up part of the street.  That narrows the tight two lane road down to two very tight lanes.  They were even making the big trucks turn off that road before they got to the wedding tent.  We read an interesting statement on the U.S. Embassy website today, it said, "Most Cambodians lack driver training, can be extremely negligent, and often drive at excessive speeds. Basic traffic rules are routinely violated, to include driving into oncoming traffic, failure to stop at intersections, failure to turn on lights at night. Lanes may also be obstructed by vehicles that are double or triple parked. As traffic congestion diminishes, speeds dramatically increase, very often with the driver under the influence of alcohol, which contributes significantly to the large number of vehicle accidents and fatalities."  That explains Cambodian driving very well.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

We See The Sun Set as You Watch It Rise!

As we grew up it was often said that if you dig a hole deep enough you would come out in China. We did not dig a hole, and we are not in China, but we are in Asia, on the other side of the world from our family. Many days when we watch the sun set we have come to think of our family who are looking at the same sun shining on them as it rises in the morning skies.

Just as that thought makes us feel closer to home, we are grateful for modern technology that allows us to visit with family and friends easily, even thousands of miles apart. This morning as we were starting our day we received a FaceTime call from some of our family. It is a blessing to visit so easily.

We had our monthly Skype call with the Asia PEF team. We are able to come together from all over Asia as if we were in one room. As we talked with Samson in India, we learned of the extreme heat there that has taken its toll with over 1,400 deaths because of the temperatures up to 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit).  During our call Samson's electricity went out for several minutes. (Please pray for Samson and all those suffering in the heat wave in India.) Our Skype meeting also included Mongolia, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Malaysia. Those from the Pakistan office were not available for our meeting today.  We are truly blessed to live in such a day as this.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

One Hundred Days on Our Mission, More Phone Calls and Mangos

Elder Oveson is always doing numbers in his head and it is usually unique and does not match what most normal people would think about.  We mentioned in an earlier blog post that seventy days equaled one tenth of our mission.  Well, we have now surpassed the one hundred day mark of our mission, which is one seventh.  If you look at our mission as a week, we have now completed our first day.  In some ways that first day was very long, especially the flight from the U.S. to Cambodia, and some days have flown by, the busy and very productive days.  We are no longer the newest Senior Couple, and we can find our way around town most of the time.  We feel like we are making a difference with the Self Reliance Services\Perpetual Education Fund.  We even get to interact and work with the young missionaries.  Life is good.

Because of the economic conditions in Cambodia, most people do not have the internet at home.  We see many of the YSA hanging around the Stake Centers, we believe it is to use the Wi-Fi. At least with the Church Wi-Fi they cannot get into the bad stuff on the internet.  It is also interesting, even with the youth, most do not have email addresses and if they do they never check them.  The only real effective way to get a hold of the Perpetual Education Fund participants is by calling them.  Since there are only three days left this month we are trying to call some of the participants and see how they are doing and encourage them to continue to make their payments.  Today we worked on contacting those on our list.

This is a wonderful time of the year to be in Cambodia, it is Mango season.  Even on many of the main roads you can watch Mangoes being harvested from the trees.  They use a long, ten to twenty foot bamboo pole with a wicker basket on the end, that they reach up and pluck the Mango out of the tree.  We have had some very good and some not very good Mangoes.  We have learned some important lessons, the Cambodians know which are the best type to buy, so let them get them for you.  This time of year the people love to give the missionaries, young and old, Mangoes.  We have seen the young missionaries walking out of the buildings on Sunday with bags of seven or more Mangoes. Sameth and Phanna have been making sure that we get the very best.  Last Sunday Bishop Kong showed us some Mangoes that he had which were as big as a melon, there is a picture of one in the collage picture today.  We will miss when Mangoes are no longer in season.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Sister Fife Concludes Her Mission Life and Evaluating our Self Reliance Team

Today for District meeting we decided to join District C with Elders Gardner, Hall, Brewer, Eppley, Bostrom, and Olsen, and Sisters Fife and Ham. We made the decision of which group to join based on the fact that this is Sister Fife's last week in the mission. Half of this district "were born" in the same MTC group. The missionaries refer to beginning their time here by being "born" and completing their mission they "die", so Sister Fife "dies" next week.

As Elder Gardner led the district discussion he asked each person in the group to tell of their reaction as they received their call to serve in Cambodia. All the stories had one thing in common; the need to learn the language. Even Sister Ham, who is Cambodian, is from a different province and has some language differences, as well as her need to learn English. The discussion ended in a challenge to set goals and do more towards learning the Khmer language. We have recently started doing more language study and trying to refresh out studies, so we are hoping the lesson today will help us progress.

One thing we were asked to do in our Self Reliance office is to report to Hong Kong on three things are doing well in our office, and three things we need to improve. With this assignment we gathered as a team to consider these questions. Here is what we concluded:

   Our Accomplishments:

  • More PEF Participants are Paying Off Loans -- we have been helping them understand the available incentives that reduce their loan balance.
  • Each Stake and District are ready for Self Reliance groups. We have been working with the priesthood leaders in helping them understand the Self Reliance needs. As a result, the Phnom Penh North Stake has opened their Stake Self Reliance Center.
  • We work together well as a team. We hold weekly meetings and coordinate what we are doing and how we can help each other.
   Areas Needing Improvement:
  • We need to get committees in the Stakes and Districts to meet together monthly, and help them understand their responsibilities in regards to Self Reliance Specialists and Facilitators.
  • We need to improve our contacts (phone calls and in person) with the PEF participants in our efforts to encourage them to pay their loans regularly and on time.
  • Cambodia really needs the government approvals and licensing to be able to completely implement the Self Reliance Services Initiative and move these services forward.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Mondays Always Feel Busy and FHE With The Other Senior Couples

Weekly we send an email to family and friends and another to the Powells, the Area Self Reliance Senior Couple.  We try to get them done on Sunday, but yesterday was so busy that we did not get them done.  This morning Sister Oveson went to work on the email to the family and friends, as Elder Oveson tackled the Hong Kong email.  Add that to our Monday morning Self Reliance Staff planning meeting, and it equals a good busy morning.

This afternoon we had to tackle the project that came in at the end of the day on Friday.  We received an email with 12 attachments, new Training Guides for Self Reliance.  Hong Kong asked for our feedback on them, along with questions and suggestions.  Elder Oveson and Phanna took on that project as Sister Oveson made some phone calls to PEF participants.  The problem with having Elder Oveson analyze anything he will definitely over think the project.  We did get the email off,  hopefully we provided relative feedback.  

The Senior Couples in Phnom Penh have been trying to get together for a monthly Family Home Evening and a meal.  Tonight the Meinzers were the hosts and they are great cooks.  Sister Meinzer made a wonderful pasta dish and Elder Meinzer grilled Salmon on their little Cambodian clay bar-b-que.  We had all five couples, including President and Sister Moon for dinner, but the Moons had to leave shortly after dinner.  We had a great Family Home Evening where we watched one of the Church's New Testament videos and talked about how Christ taught.  We also talked about today being Memorial Day and what that meant to us, especially considering that we are here in Cambodia, which was part of the area in the Vietnam war as we were growing up.  We had a wonderful meal and great company.

We mentioned yesterday that the Chaktomuk Ward did a picture of the Ward that we were invited to be part of.  We did not include it as part of our blog yesterday, so here it is today.
Chaktomuk Ward  25 May 2015

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Today Was an Incredible and Busy Sunday

Today was one of those days that you wanted it to just keep going, but you are completely worn out in such a good way.  We started off our day at the Chaktomuk Ward at 8:00 this morning for Sacrament Meeting.  After their Sacrament Meeting they wanted to take a Ward picture, so everyone went to the Cultural Hall.  As with anything in the Church it took a while to get everybody in there.  By time we were through with pictures we had to hurry to go pick up Ty and Melissa Palmer, we promised that we would be there at 9:30.

Ty and Melissa wanted to go to the International Branch because they had invited one of their co-volunteers to Church today.  After getting the Palmers we went and found their friend at a different guest house.  Their friend, Thu, pronounced Too, is a 31 year YSA that had come from Vietnam to help teach English at the same orphanage as Ty & Melissa.  She is a Catholic, so she has a Christian background, which helped in explaining so many of the things that was happening at Church

We attended the International Branch the first week that we were in Cambodia, so we knew some of the members there.  Because of that we were asked to offer the prayers in Sacrament Meeting.  A little bit later Elder Oveson and Ty were asked to help with the Sacrament, Elder Oveson blessed the water and Ty helped pass.  We went to the Gospel Essentials Sunday School Class the full-time Elders assigned to the International Branch taught.  They had a combined Priesthood Relief Society class today.  After the block the full-time Elders asked if Thu would like to learn more and hear a Missionary Discussion, which she agreed to.  The Elders already had another discussion scheduled so we went with one of the Elders and the Palmers went with the other Elder to teach Tno.

The discussion that we taught with Elder Le Nguyen went really well.  It is a part member family, the husband is a member and the wife is Catholic.  The sister we taught had been reading and praying and the discussion about The Plan of Salvation was wonderful.  At the end of the discussion Elder Le Nguyen committed her to be baptized on June 20th.  The discussion with Thu went well also and she even said the closing prayer.  They gave her an English Book of Mormon and contact information for when she goes back to Vietnam.

After church we invited the Palmers and Thu to our apartment for lunch.  We had put a pork roast in the Crock Pot before going to our meetings.  The only problem was we were gone longer than we expected  and it got a little bit over cooked.  We were able to salvage most of it, and with the leftover potatoes from last night, broccoli and some bread we had a great lunch.  Everything got eaten, so it must have been good.

This evening we went with Phanna to Ta Khmau (TuckMau) for a My Path presentation out there.  They have a nice small building similar to Steung Mean Chey.  There were eighteen
that came tonight, some were very late which is not unusual, from what we could tell and from what Phanna told us afterward, it went really well.

What an incredible sabbath.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Visitors to our 6th Floor Apartment

After our typical Saturday morning routine of Institute class and FaceTime home, and of course getting a few groceries, we returned to our apartment and found that the elevator being serviced. The alternative is to hike the 6 flights of stairs to our apartment. In Cambodia, the ground level is not counted in the number count for floors or a building, so we have a pretty good hike from the garage to our apartment. After our quick evaluations we decided what items we could and could not leave in the car. There was one bag of groceries with sealed boxes of juice and our computer bag that could wait until later. The rest of the food needed refrigeration and couldn't just wait for the elevator.

So we took a gulp, gathered our packages and started the climb. We frequently walk down the stairs, no problem, but up with our loaded bags is another story (or maybe 6). By the time we reached Level 3 we were beginning to get a bit winded, shifted the bags and kept going. By Level 5 our legs were telling us we out of shape and it was a good thing we only had one flight left to go. We Made It! And because of how hot it has been in Phnom Penh the past few days, our apartment was not as cool and welcoming as we might have hoped. Fortunately after a few minutes rest, and we got things cooled down, we were just fine. Then, of course, after lunch Elder Oveson had to make another hike down to the car for the computer and, you guessed it, the elevator was still out of service.  Fortunately the elevator was fixed before our company came this evening.

This evening we had Phanna and his family come over for dinner and a very nice visit. We have met his cute family but it was wonderful to get to know them better. This was the first time that we have had them over to our apartment for dinner.  Phanna and Sokhom lived in Hawaii for a few years while they attended BYU Hawaii, so that is where Amy and Ammon were born.  They returned to Cambodia in September for Phanna to work as the Self Reliance Manager. Amy especially has had a hard time adjusting to the different foods, so for dinner we made American food: Crummy Chicken, Mashed Potatoes and Broccoli. Amy is two and called us Grama and Grandpa, and made herself right at home. Ammon is 16 months old, and was shy for a few minutes, but quickly warmed up to us. Amy said the blessing all by herself. What a smart little cutie! We guess we just claimed two more grandchildren!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Self Reliance Service History Lesson and Date Night at Brooklyn Pizza & Bistro

When Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden, they were told that they would have to earn their bread by the sweat of their brows.  Throughout the history of the earth mankind have been reminded about this important responsibility.  Likewise since the restoration of the gospel in the latter-days the members have been taught the doctrines of Self Reliance.  In April 2001 President Gordon B. Hinckley announced a new opportunity for members in the developing world to borrow the funds to go to school to better provide for their families.  Three years ago the First Presidency directed a merger of the Perpetual Education Fund and Employment Resource Services in international areas to create Self Reliance Services.  With the initiative only three years old, much of the training guides or support documents are still being developed.

Now for the reason of providing the background above; about 4:30 this afternoon we received an email from the Area Office.  There were a dozen attachments that were recent training guides for us to review and comment on "in the next few days."  So, serving in the Church is similar to working in the business world; Friday afternoon is when the most important projects come in.

This week Elder Oveson has been calling some of the Perpetual Education Fund participants that speak English.  He focused on the ones that he did not speak to last month, and had an amazing 60% success, which was wonderful.  It is also amazing how kind they are on the phone. There is a real respect for Senior Missionaries.

Over the years we have tried very hard to make sure that we have a date night, where we go out for at least dinner.  There is no reason why that should not continue, even if we are on a mission.  We decided that Friday nights should be the night we go out to eat here in Phnom Penh.  One of our favorite places to go is only a few blocks from our apartment, it is call Brooklyn Pizza and Bistro.  They have the best pork ribs that we have tasted here and tonight we found out that they have the best smoothies too.  Sister Oveson had a yummy coconut smoothy and Elder Oveson had a delicious pineapple smoothy and when you combined them you got wonderful pina colada smoothy.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Our Role in Cambodia and Another Senior Couple Outing

Recently when we were speaking with one of our leaders in Hong Kong we were told that we are Moses for the Perpetual Education Fund in Cambodia.  That could be taken several different ways, but we will take it as meaning to lead the Cambodians to the promised land of education.  Our reply was, if we are Moses, then Sameth and Phanna are Aaron.  That is so true, they are truly the spokesmen, they know how to share with the members what they need to know in a way that they can understand.  We are here to help Sameth and Phanna if they have any questions and to strengthen them.  Lately we have been counseling them on a lot of different issues, we feel like we are making a difference.

Our first Sunday in Cambodia we met an American named Rainy Riding. She is part owner of a company that ties flies here in Cambodia and in Thailand.  We met her partner, Ellen Clark, at General Conference with the International Branch and then with the Special Multi-Stake Conference a few weeks ago.  The Public Affairs Senior Couple, Elder and Sister VanBrocklin, are a lot braver than us and asked if we could go and see their operations here.  Originally it was planned for May 6th, but she forgot that they would be closed because it was the Plough Day holiday.  Last week did not work because of the King's Birthday holiday, and the YSA Conference. After our patient waiting we were invited to go today.

The Hollenzer's have a fifteen passenger van, so they volunteered to drive again today.  There were only three couples that could go (the Hollenzers, the VanBrocklins and us). It was a fun group to be with.  The manager at Fly Works is the president of the Phnom Penh North Stake, President Eng. (We need to get to know him better.)  The Cambodia factory is only a year old, so it is a new venture for the main company.  The main company is named Rainy's Inc. after the one owner and who has designed a lot of the flies.  Their manufacturing plant in Thailand has been operating since 1999 and they have been the owners of it since 2002.  They have a beautiful catalog with over three thousand different flies that they tie and sell, you can see them online at Rainysflies.com.  They sell to some major retailers, like Cabela's, and small individual shops.  We got to take a tour of their entire facilities, which was very interesting and enlightening.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Another Haircut, Big Apple Donuts, and Senior Birthdays


Wednesdays are not as busy as many of the other days of the week. There were no scheduled meetings at the office, and no major projects we had to work on today. We did work on some of the little details today. Elder Oveson started on another round of phone calls to English speaking PEF loan participants, and was successful in talking to three. They were all great contacts.

Late morning we left the office for some errands. It has been about 6 weeks since we had our hair cut, so we really needed to have more than just a trim. We set out with the address of a different salon we wanted to try. We found the location, but the salon was closed. This change of plans sent us looking for the salon we visited 6 weeks ago. We were going from memory, but memory only goes so far. We had some heavier traffic than we expected on some of the little roads. The narrow roads are more constricted by vehicles parking along the side of the road, leaving only one narrow lane that is to narrow to handle two-way traffic. We were just ready to call to get more clear directions through the traffic mess when we happened to find the right street. Fortunately the salon even has a parking area, with an attendant who covered the windshield to help shield the car from some of the heat. This was definitely worth the 37 1/2 cent tip we paid as we drove away.

After haircuts, we took a short walk across the street to buy US style donuts. Our granddaughter, Gabby would like Big Apple Donuts. We decided to try California Almond and Mango as our donut selections. They were a yummy dessert later. After Big Apple donuts, we had lunch at Mama's New York Deli. I guess we were on a New York theme for the day.

Today was the birthday for two of our couple missionaries.  Fortunately Elder & Sister Hollenzer, who serve in the Mission Office, planned a celebration for them and we were on the invite list.  Dairy Queen Ice Cream Cake at the mission home was a great way to start the evening.  Elder VanBrocklin has reportedly reached the ripe "old age" of 89 or something, while Sister Moon has celebrated her 29th birthday again.  We wish both of them a Happy Birthday! (Notice the crown molding and recessed ceiling which are common features here in Cambodia.)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A Self Reliance Principle Works When Practiced

There are twelve principles of Self Reliance that are taught in each of the various groups.  The second one is to use time wisely, and teaches about planning out our day with priorities.  A very common excuse to not plan out a day is that we never know what is going to really happen so why plan.  In many ways we have also used that excuse, but we are now trying to plan the next day at 5:00 p.m. every day.

No, I am not going to tell you that everything went as perfectly planned, but I will tell you that Heavenly Father blesses you when you plan.  Our plan for today had some loose spots and was pretty rough, because we did everything that we could to plan, we were blessed with plenty to do all day.  To be honest, there were several things on our schedule that got pushed to tomorrow, when priorities take precedent other things can slide.

Elders Myers, Christensen, Morris, Le Nguyen, Oveson,
Sisters Oveson, Bui, and Mathews
The last two Tuesdays we have gone to the Chaktomuk District Meeting, so today we went to the Tuol Tom Poung District Meeting, since they both meet right across the hall from our office.  The Tuol Tom Poung District Leader is Elder Le Nguyen, one of the office Elders, who serves with his companion, Elder Morris in a Vietnamese Branch in the Central District.  Sister Bui, Sister Mathews, Elder Myers and Elder Christensen all serve in the Tuol Tom Pong Branch in the Phnom Penh East District.

We also had the opportunity to Skype with Candy Lau, the Area SRS Manager in Hong Kong today. She told us that she had resigned from her employment with the Church.  At first we were unhappy about that until she told us that she got her immigration visa for the U.S. and will be moving there in August.  She is going to live in the Salt Lake City area, so we told her that we will need to get together when we get back from our mission. We told her we wouldn't mind having her as our neighbor.

NOTE: We have added a slide show to our May 14th post, "YSA Conference: Stand In Holy Places". It is worth going back to look at the addition.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Monday, Monday

It was good to get back to the office after the long holiday last week.  A lot of what we do is helping Phanna and Sameth as they deal with the members here in Cambodia.  The Perpetual Education Fund is a Church program that has to have rules to make sure the funds will provide the benefit desired.  That is when it becomes tricky because their are members who feel that the rules should be changed for them.  Sometimes that can happen and sometimes it can't.  We have been working on one of those situations last week that kept going today. It will be interesting to see how it all finally works out.

One thing that we keep forgetting is how new the Self Reliance Services initiative really is.  Phanna has only been a full time Church employee for seven months.  When you add that to how new the Church is here in Cambodia, just a year ago they celebrated the 20th anniversary.  Then added to that the first stakes were created just a year ago.  So the Stake Presidencies and Bishoprics are all still trying to figure out what their roles are, compared to when they were Districts and Branches.  They had never even seen Stake Presidencies or Bishoprics function before. Because of all that we have to be patient and realize that they are being asked to do a lot more than just what we have on our agenda.

Yesterday we talked about our visitors, Melissa and Ty Palmer. We failed to mention much about their "special delivery" package. They brought a few things from our family, including a mother's day gift for Sister Oveson, but the highlight of the package was the bag of treats. We received a new variety of M&M's, as well as a bag of delicious Pumpkin Pie Almonds. We have treats to ration for a while now.

One random picture we could pull together for today. Common everyday things here are often slightly different than the common, everyday items back home. Here is a picture of the standard brooms we find here.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A Sunday When We Were Able to Finally Attend All Three Hours in Both Of Our Wards

With the various conferences and extra meetings that we have had lately it felt like it had been a long time since we just attended the full three hour block for both of the Wards that we are assigned to visit.  There are times that we are clueless about what is going on, when we don't have a translator, or when our translator forgets to translate.  But we do our best to look interested and try to follow the lessons at least in English.

Today in the Chaktomuk Ward Elder Oveson got asked to say the closing prayer in Gospel Doctrine class.  He did his best in Khmer and the class members seemed happy and surprised that he did it in Khmer, but we are sure they were just being kind.  Sister Oveson had previously prayed in Khmer in the Gospel Doctrine class in the Steung Mean Chey Ward.  Now we can both say that we have offered our first public prayers in Khmer.

Our daughter Brenda works in a dental office in Utah, and a couple of weeks ago she found out that some of their patients, Ty and Melissa Palmer, were coming to Cambodia for a humanitarian trip.  We corresponded with them several times before they left the U.S., and they arrived in Cambodia yesterday.  The place that they are staying is not far from where we live, so we picked them up on our way to Church this morning.  They stayed for all three hours of the block and then we invited them over for lunch.  That let them chill out for a little bit because their place does not have air conditioning.  They were kind enough to bring us some things from home.  It was fun visiting with them and telling them about Phnom Penh.  They are planning on going to church with us again next week.

Our picture for today is the cement drive from the main road into the parking lot at Steung Mean Chey Building.  There is a story behind this beautiful new cement drive.  Three weeks ago as we went out to Steung Mean Chey it had been raining and the approach which was just dirt had turned to mud.  As we drove through it, we wondered if we were going to get stuck or not.  The next day I spoke with Touch Sophorn, the coordinator for Seminary and Institute and First Counselor in the Stake Presidency, about the mud puddle.  He immediately call the FM group and told them that Elder and Sister Ovesons had a new car and they did not want it getting stuck. When we went out last week the concrete had been poured. Today the edges had been added.  The power of the right person making the call, but we are grateful that we may have had some influence in getting it fixed.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Cambodia is more than a little bit Random

Our Saturday routine includes rising early to teach an institute class. Today was no exception! We arrived at the church about 6:30 and got the room ready, then waited for these amazing young adults to arrive. We waited.  And waited.  And waited! We began to wonder if anyone would come because of the holiday, even though all we had talked to during the YSA conference assured us they would be there. Finally at about 7:02 our first student arrived. About 2 or 3 minutes later a second; then three more. We ended up with 9 students in attendance. They all seem to enjoy being there, and discussions include everyone.  This is a great way to start a Saturday! (Followed by FaceTime with the family!!!)

Every day as we go about we are surrounded by some amazingly random things. We often mention some of them, but here is a collage picture of the recent randomness we have observed.

We have mentioned ladders on motos; well here are three different ladder shots. Motos are also a major vehicle for transporting goods here. The container strapped to the moto in the center was as wide as a car, and piled about as tall as it was wide. It is amazing how well he could balance this load and still maneuver his way down the road.

You want a ride? Why not ride as a passenger in a Rick-Shaw. Or maybe you can have your load be pulled by a team of oxen.

But if you want a really good burger, stop by "Mike's Burgers" for lunch or dinner.  This is far from the entire randomness we have seen, but these are a few we were quick enough to take a picture!


Friday, May 15, 2015

A Cambodian LDS Wedding and The Final Day of The King's Birthday Holiday


As we have mentioned previously in our Blog, the Cambodians really go all out for their weddings. One thing that was really emphasized at the YSA Conference was to change that culture and to move to more realistic weddings.  It is common place in this very poor society for the groom to pay a dowery of $5,000 to $8,000 to the parents of the bride and for that money to be used on the wedding. Instead they are telling the members to tone back the cost and use the money to go to the temple and be sealed instead, and to not go in debt.

Chbar Ampov and Kean Svay Branch Building 
Last week as we were going into the Mission Home one of the guards, Try (Tree), asked us if we were going to his son's wedding.  We had not heard about it, but the Holenzer's thought that they had emailed us about it.  Today's wedding was a complete break from tradition. It was held at the Church, with President Moon, our Mission President, officiating.  They had a light Khmer meal after the ceremony and we only saw the couple change outfits once.

What was interesting to us again today is the respect that they have for Senior Missionary Couples. The groom and his parents kept pulling us into the various pictures being taken after the ceremony.  It is truly humbling to realize the kindness that they have for the Senior Couples, whether they really know you or not.  We were encouraged as couples to go and support their efforts to brake from tradition and to help with a gift, which is always cash. All five Senior Couples, including the Moons were at the wedding today.  It seems like and feels like we have spent a lot more time with the other Senior Couples lately.

This afternoon we took the opportunity to just lay back and take it easy.  We did have to finish the preparation for our Institute class tomorrow morning, but that was most of the way ready.  This time of year in Phnom Penh it is way too hot to just go outside. Every day is in the high 90s to over 100 and the humidity is starting to rise.  The rainy season will be here soon enough.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

YSA Conference: Stand In Holy Places

This morning we had an early start and made our way across town to the Phnom Penh North Stake to help with the YSA Conference 2015. This is really a big event here, with participants traveling from all over Cambodia to attend. They arrived in buses, vans, or autos, as well as on motos and bicycles, and probably some even came in Tuk Tuks. It is amazing how dressed up many of them were! They definitely looked like they planned on this being a major social event!

video
As everyone arrived they were welcomed with a sandwich for breakfast, then divided into groups. Everyone had received colored lanyards yesterday, so today the colors indicated the groups they would meet with for the workshops. Our lanyards were Yellow. We were amazed with how many were excited that their yellow lanyard put us on their team. Even with dividing into four groups, the rooms were very full. The chapel and the cultural hall were about the right size for each group, but the other two rooms were not quite big enough for the groups. Even with that, they were amazing at their participation.
The four workshops were: Preparing and Going To The Temple led by President and Sister Moon; Dating led by Sister VanBrocklin (one of the senior sisters); Self Reliance/PEF/CES led by the Sameth, Phanna and Sophorn; and Patriarchal Blessings led by President Heng Sokom, a counselor in the South Stake Presidency.


Following the workshops the entire group gathered into the chapel and cultural hall together for a testimony meeting and devotional. Elder Wisit Khanakham, our Area Seventy, was the keynote speaker. (He is from Thailand). He told these young adults that they need to modify their culture to embrace the culture of the Gospel. Modesty in dress and planning and preparing for the temple are important elements. One of the Asian cultural things he told them they need to change is the expensive wedding and dowery traditions. Their traditions need to include planning for the expense of the temple in their wedding plans. He told his own story, how he was a son of a farmer, but his wife was from the upper class. He was brave enough to tell her father he loved her and ask if he could marry her. They planned a very simple wedding, and spent only about $3,000. He encouraged the group to move forward towards marriage and to be wise in not having an expensive event. Instead of having the moment that would cost a lot of money, they should focus on the temple and the eternal priorities.

As the conference concluded everyone gathered outside for a very large group picture, then ate lunch before leaving for their homes. We opted for lunch at Mike's Burgers with two other Senior couples. After errands we made it home. It really was a wonderful day!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The King's Birthday, YSA Activity and Studying at Our Apartment

May 13th through the 15th is King Norodom Sihamoni's Birthday celebration. That means that the next three days are a holiday here in Cambodia.  King Sihamoni was born in 1953, and is the current King of Cambodia. Strangely, he is unmarried. Who will he pass the throne to?  

In Cambodia, as in a lot of other countries, the king is more a figure head leader. The first few years after becoming king he was also Prime Minister, but that changed.  Cambodia is a multiparty democracy under a constitutional monarchy.  Which means that they have a Prime Minister and a legislature, similar to other democracies.  The big difference is that the same Prime Minister has been in power for more than 30 years.  They do have a minority party that claims they will take power next election, which it sounds like they have been saying that for a long time. Most of the church members that have talked with us about politics are members of the opposition party.

With the three day holiday the Church decided to hold their annual YSA conference today and tomorrow with all the Young Single Adults in the country invited.  Today's activities started at 3:00 p.m.  They were expecting about 650 at the YSA Conference, which is a huge group, as of this evening it was over 550, there will be some that come tomorrow that were not there tonight.  There are two stakes and five districts here in Cambodia and the first event was a cultural activity put on by each of the units.  Some were really well done and some had been put together at the last minute.  The two that were the most interesting to me were, a harvest, clown, and Peacock dance by the Steang Mean Chey Wards and one that was put on by a big group from the Siem Reap units about the history of Angkor Wat. 

The evening ended with a dinner and dance.  In Cambodia the people do not date, and even in church at times it is hard to know who is married to who, because they do not always sit with their spouses.  Dancing is alright if you don't have to touch the person you are dancing with.  Still you see groups of males dancing together and groups of females dancing together.  That physical contact is just something that they do not do here.  In fact when we arrived in Cambodia President Moon let us know that couples do not hold hands here in Cambodia, and he was right.  That was so hard for us at first, because we have held hands our whole marriage.

What was really interesting was how many of the YSA wanted to take pictures of and with the Senior Missionaries.  There were a lot that we did not even know that wanted a picture with us. There were some we met one time when we first were here who came up to us as asked if we remembered them.  It is very humbling who we represent. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Another District Meeting, Helping President Moon & Flat Cambodia

Elders Eppley, Elder Brewer, Sister Fife and Sister Nam.
We have settled into more of a routine. Get up at 6:00, be to the office by about 8:00, check emails and take care of correspondence, and Tuesday at 10:00 is District Meeting. With transfers last week, there were lots of district changes. Our district had changes as well. Our district includes Elder Gardner, the District Leader; his companion, Elder Hall; the Assistants to the President, Elder Brewer and Elder Eppley; Elder Bostrom, and his new companion Elder Olson (who we met at the MTC); Sister Fife and Sister Nam (pronounced Num), also new in the district. We have worked with all of these wonderful missionaries before.   The focus of teachings this morning was The Plan of Salvation, particularly Agency, and how to teach people not lessons. Elder Gardner did very well, and the discussions were very productive.  As they broke into groups we stepped back and watched to keep the groups even. That gave us a chance to truly watch them in action.

Elder Gardner, Elder Hall, Elder Olsen, and Elder Bostrom.
You know that Stakes have a Stake President, that report to Area Seventies as their Priesthood line leader. But the Districts have the Mission President as their Priesthood line leader to report to. That means the mission president is not only responsible for the missionary work in these units, but all welfare issues (among other things) fall back on his shoulders. First thing this morning President Moon contacted us for help with a welfare issue for a member in one of the districts, which included PEF.  Many emails went between us and President Moon regarding this problem. We had been working on the PEF questions and were concerned with some issues there as well. It was good to have his input, and we are hoping that by working as a team on this we will be able to resolve the issues.

As we are living the Cambodian experience, we have a few observations. Let's just say we miss the mountains. Cambodia is really quite flat. That is probably one reason we see motos loaded so full. I think they figure if they can still move it they are not too full.  Even when we took our trip to the Northern provinces there was very little elevation change. Around the city the only rise in the road is the "fly-over" bridges, most of which just fly over another road instead of over a river.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Meetings, Emails and Reports

Since we had a busy weekend, that meant we had a lot to start off with first thing this morning.  We made it to our office before 8:00 and started working on the emails, blog posts and stuff that we did not get done last night.  We try to send an email to Elder and Sister Powell, the Area Senior Couple over Self Reliance, every Sunday night.  Likewise, we try to get our email to our family, friends and loved ones done on Sunday also.  Our nightly blog post got started so that it had the right date on it, but not finished.  Last night by time we got home and had a bite to eat it was time to get to bed.

We started right in to finishing up the yesterday stuff until there was a knock on our door about 8:30.  There are two very special days for the young missionaries, Christmas and Mother's Day. That is when they get to Skype, FaceTime or just call home.  We invited Elder Hall to use our laptop to talk to his family and he took us up on our offer.  Elder Gardner Skyped with his family last night so that he could be on with his twin brother that is serving in Italy.  Nevertheless, Elder Gardner did jump at the chance to email while Elder Hall was Skyping.

This morning we had our Self Reliance/Perpetual Education Fund staff meeting.  Those are always so helpful for us to understand what is going on with everyone and to make sure nothing drops through the cracks.  Phanna reminded Sister Oveson that she had a report that was due yesterday that had to go in, which is quite ironic since we are suppose to make sure he gets his reports in timely.  This was the first month it was due and it has now been submitted.

Afternoon was full of finishing the emails that were not finished yesterday and additional ones to the Area Staff in Hong Kong.  We were able to return and report on some assignments that Elder Funk of the Area Presidency had given to us and also verify where we are on other projects, and where they are headed.

Tonight's pictures are some of those typical Khmer pictures.  As we pulled into the North Stake Center last night we saw a member that we know on a moto with something on the back that we did not recognize.  He told us that they gave out ice cream for Mother's Day and that was the container to keep it cold.  The second is another crazy power pole picture on the road from Steang Mean Chey.  We showed it to Sameth and he said that was so dangerous, so many get hurt doing that kind of work. We did point out that the worker is wearing a helmet!

Mother's Day, Church and Phnom Penh North Stake's Self-Reliance Group

As we have gone about this last week we did not see a single thing in the stores that would suggest that they celebrate Mother's Day in Cambodia.  The Chaktomuk Ward that we attend in the morning only casually mentioned it in passing, but the Steung Mean Chey 3, which we attend in the afternoon, really emphasized it.  They had all of their Young Men and Young Women sing two songs and they had handmade cards and roses that they gave to each mother as they called them up to the stand.  We are known as Look (Loke) Yiay and Look Taa which is grandmother and grandfather, we probably were the oldest people there today.

After the Chaktomuk Ward we attended a baptism. The elders told us the story of this sister. Elder Gardner and Elder Hall were going down the street and noticed this woman taking out her trash. They stopped to talk to her, and asked if she would like to hear about Jesus Christ. She said she is a Christian and had been attending a different church, but it was a long ways away. She had just been praying about what do do and the Elders came, and invited her to hear the lessons. She has been attending the Chaktomuk Ward faithfully for several weeks. She was very happy to be baptized.
PP North Stake Self Reliance Group
Even though we are in Cambodia for Mother's Day this year Elder Oveson ended up making the one Sunday Meal that he has fairly well down; beef roast, potatoes and carrot in the Slow Cooker (aka Crock Pot).  By time we got home from our morning ward it was ready to eat.  We knew that we would be out late because of the Self Reliance group, so a larger afternoon meal was perfect for today.  The leftover roast will make some great rollups later this week.

Elders Carter and Sok
After Steung Mean Chey we had another Self Reliance meeting to attend in the North Stake. We were very pleased to see the full group of 14 participants arrived on time and the group went very well. We were blessed to have our translators, Elder Carter and Elder Sok. This is truly giving us the chance to get to know more of the young missionaries. As we waited for time for the group to begin, Elder Long, who used to translate for us, and his companion stopped in to say hello.  It is fun to have them seek us out just to say hello.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Today Was A "Typical" Saturday (if there is such a thing!)

Saturday has come to have a bit of a pattern to it. Get up early, teach Institute, FaceTime with family,  and go shopping. Afternoons and evenings have claimed their own niche. Today, for instance, we had an appointment to meet with President Uk Sophal, the Phnom Penh South Stake President. We have met him a couple of times, but we wanted to get to know him a little, and let him know we are in Cambodia to help him as well. We had a wonderful visit! We invited him to help us get the Self Reliance groups going in the South Stake, and to participate in the devotionals. We feel confident these Self Reliance principles will help the leaders as much as they will help the members.

One of the things we commonly see here is the Buddhist Monks as they make their rounds, receiving food from, and offering prayers for the people. Also, with more coming and going on Saturdays we have more times to use the services of our "Parking Engineers" (aka parking attendants). We are so impressed with these young men. The one on the right is new, and started about 2 weeks ago. The other has such a fun personality. Neither of them speak English, but the Asian way of showing deference and respect with a little bow is so endearing. This young man is often singing, or skipping as he helps us with parking our car in a very tight space.



This evening we went out for dinner. With tomorrow being Mother's Day we figured we should do something more than just pancakes. We went to a restaurant called "Tell", which we have been to a few times before. We were there on the early dining, and we were the only customers. The service was good, the food wonderful, and we left with full tummies and enough food to eat another meal.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Transfer Day, Good Bye to Some Cambodian Missionaries and Training With The Spencers

Every six weeks things get all shook up with transfer day.  Six weeks ago we had twelve new missionaries come to our mission, today nine went home, eight native Cambodians.  That puts a big dent in our local missionaries and next month another five native Cambodians go home.  When the locals go home they meet with Sameth to talk about going to school and what are they going to do with their life moving forward.  The meeting was straight across from our office so we got some pictures of the group, so they are one of our pictures for the day.

Today we met with Elder & Sister Spencer, the new couple heading to Battenbang, to help train them about Self Reliance Service and the Perpetual Education Fund.  Phanna trained them on Self Reliance and then Sameth trained them about how to setup an account for a new PEF participant.  Sophorn, that is over Seminary and Institute in Cambodia, whose office is next to ours, then spent some time talking with them.  We finished up with more training on Self Reliance Service, Perpetual Education Fund and some of the tools available to them.  We felt sorry for them because it was like drinking out of a fire hose for three hours.  They are real troopers, so they are our second picture for today. Elder and Sister Spencer may be MLS Missionaries, but they have now been trained to do just about anything!

After training the Spencers we took them back to the Mission Office. They are staying with the Hollenzers, the office couple that live three doors West of the Mission Office.  We like going to the Mission Office and rubbing shoulders with the Moons, the Assistants to the President, the Hollenzers, the Office Elders and whatever missionaries are there.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Odds and Ends

It should be noted that the Cambodian Daily gave the report of yesterday's Plough Day ceremonies. It seems the Holy Royal Ox made his rounds of the piles of grain and selected Corn and Beans as the chosen crop for 2015! This is an important decision, and we are certain the people of Cambodia are grateful the Royal Ox did not select grass!

Our day included making preparations for a meeting tomorrow with Elder and Sister Spencer, our new Senior Missionaries. Their enthusiasm for being here in Cambodia and being assigned to Battambang is amazing. Their service in Battambang, however, will include helping with the PEF and Self Reliance, thus we need to do some training before they head North. They are an important part of the Mission Team!

As we worked up some of the materials to give the Spencers, it gave us a chance to create a concise sheet on the PEF, as well as a list of the PEF participants who are in Battambang. We are hopeful this will be a new resource for updating as well as contacting these members. We will also give them an overview of the Self Reliance materials and how to access these wonderful resources.

Our picture of the day was viewed on our way to the office this morning. These are not nearly as common in Phnom Penh as the Motos and Tuk Tuks, but we had this right next to us today. This is just one more option in the variety of transportation here.

P.S.: We updated the movie clip for our Crosswalk Entertainment post on 4-29-2015 with a better video.  You may want to check on the change to the post!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Plough Day, New Grocery Store and We Are No Longer the Newest Senior Missionary Couple in Cambodia

It is amazing to us that in a country where the majority of the population work seven days a week, just to put food on their table and a small roof over their head, they would have so many holidays.  Most of the little holidays, like last Friday and today, as we have gone out on errands it has felt like a normal business day to us, so we are not for sure who took the day off.  There was one business that we were going to visit today that was closed for the holiday.  There is a fly tying business located in Logan, Utah that has one of their manufacturing plants here in Cambodia, so we were going to go and see it, but they were closed.  We will update you when we finally get to go and see it.

Hollenzers, Moons, Spencers, Meinzers, Ovesons, VanBrocklins
For those of you that truly know Elder Oveson, you understand how little he really likes shopping, but you need to know he is learning to tolerate it.  A few weeks ago we were told about a new American style grocery store called Super Duper.  We have looked for it two or three times based on directions from an American member who had been to it, without any luck.  We finally got the address and we were able to find it, after all that looking we still like the ones we have been going to in the past.

Dinner at the Titanic
This afternoon Elder and Sister Spencer, from Orem Utah, became the newest Senior Missionary Couple in Cambodia.  They will be Member Leadership Support Missionaries in Battambang for the next twenty-three months.  It is hard to believe that it was almost ten weeks ago when we arrived.  One thing that we really appreciated when we arrived was seeing all of the smiling faces of the other Senior Missionary Couples at the airport.  Because of that we went to the airport to greet the Spencers, and then out to dinner with the group.  We went to the same restaurant, Titanic, that we went to as the Zemps were leaving.  They have great food and we throughly enjoyed the company this evening.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

District Meeting and Transfer Week

We have been here for over 9 weeks, and this past week we received a letter from President Moon telling the senior missionaries we should attend district meetings if possible. There is more than one district that meets at the South Stake Center, so we can take our pick. The one district that meets just across the hall from our office happens to be the district with the elders who translate for us each week in the Chaktomuk Ward, so that is where we attended today.

Elders Oveson, Gardner, Hall, Brewer, Eppley, Nhoem, and Myers
Sisters Oveson, Harris and Bui
This district includes one set of sisters and three sets of elders: Elders Brewer and Eppley, the Assistants to the President; Elders Gardner (District Leader) and Hall; Elders Myers and Nhoem; Sisters Harris and Bui. We have been blessed to interact with all of these wonderful missionaries over the past several weeks, and they are definitely being prepared to become future leaders. They had news of transfers this week. Sister Harris is transferring to Kampong Cham, and Elder Nhoem is completing his mission and transferring home.  When Elder Nhoem was asked who his new companions would be, he said "It will be Sister ... ?"  Everyone laughed.

At the office we worked on reports and odds and ends. Looking back on the past month, Elder Oveson took another accounting tactic to evaluate the progress. Khmer New Year really hurt our numbers. We hope the next line up of holidays won't keep the trend going.  (There is a holiday tomorrow and another three days next week). We just need to keep working, and continue making phone calls.

From the looks of the clouds today, we are heading into the rainy season for sure.  According to the forecast there is an 80% chance of thunderstorms every day starting on Friday and going the rest of the ten days out.  Maybe it will clear out some of the junk from the air. Between all of the motos and charcoal cooking the air is fairly thick with pollution.