Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Extra: CAMBODIA - It's Complicated

When we were new here we asked President Moon about the country. He told us, "When you have been in Cambodia for a month you could write a story. When you have been here for six months you could write a book. But when you have been in Cambodia for over a year it only takes two words: It's Complicated!"

This book was put together as a tribute to President and Sister Moon. We borrowed pictures from other missionaries for a more complete view of the country. This is only a small portion of what one might see in Cambodia, and yes, it truly is Complicated!

CAMBODIA - It's Complicated  <<Click Here to view the book

They're Here! President and Sister Christensen Arrive

Today was an odd combination of happenings. The work is progressing quite nicely in our wing of the church building, and the tile has been laid and is mostly complete. They have just a few tiles to finish. They have the grout work started. There is hope that the construction dust will be finished, hopefully soon.

At 10:00 we went downstairs for district meetings. The tile was still too newly laid to plan on having so many people in our wing. Besides, they were only about halfway down the hall with tiles "floated" in their place.  After the meeting we had to make a quick run to the mission office and to the Hollenzer's apartment, before we were back for our weekly staff meeting with Phanna and Sameth.

We stayed late at the office, waiting for Elders Le Nguyen and Morris to come use our computer with an investigator for a Skype call with missionaries in Japan. This is the same elderly Japanese gentleman they have taught in our office several times before. Tonight, however, they were about 30 minutes late. 

This evening all the Senior couples, along with President and Sister Moon went to the Phnom Penh airport to meet our new leaders, President and Sister Christensen. We are excited to have them here, they are already our dear friends. At the same time we are sad to see President and Sister Moon leave. They, too, have become dear friends. This makes us think of the couplet, "Make new friends but keep the old. One is silver and the other is gold." These are definitely Golden friends!

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Fruits of Being Patient

This morning while we were sitting in our office there was a knock on the door, that is not unusual it is generally Sameth or Phanna.  We replied with our normal, "Come in, mog."  But we did not recognize the young Cambodian that opened the door.  Last week when we were calling the Perpetual Education Fund participants one promised that he would come and see us today.  We have already had many promises like that with no follow through, but this young single adult did keep his promise. We had spoken with Buntry, our new friend, every month for the last three months, but this month he decided it was time to get back on track with his payments.  He has already graduated and is now just paying back his loan, but has gotten behind.  The PEF has a plan for those who are behind to give them "Renewed Hope."  If they make their regular payments for four consecutive months, then they are consider current and qualify for payment incentives.  Today before he left, he gave us a payment for June and one for July.  Today's picture is Elder Oveson and Huot Buntry, our new friend.

They also started laying the new tile in the hall outside of our office.  We were right, they did not sweep up the dust, it just got mixed into the new cement under the tile.  By about 3:30 they were almost to our door, so we had to leave and come home to work and finish out our day.

Sister Oveson has been working hard on the photo book for President and Sister Moon.  It has a total of twenty pages and she has spent all day and evening working on it every chance that she can.  She only has one more page to finish it up, but it is looking very good.

We did go and get our hair cut late this morning and then on to the U.S. Embassy to pickup our tickets for this Saturday's 4th of July Celebration. While we were out we also caught some lunch at Mama's New York Deli and bought a couple donuts at Big Apple donut.  I think that we now have a new tradition, hair cuts, Mama's and Big Apple, we have done the three together the last two months.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

We Love The Humble People of Cambodia

Each Sunday as we arrive at the building to attend the Wards that we are assigned by the mission president, we are always greeted by the humble members here.  The normal greeting is hands together near their chin and a cumreapsua, which means hello.  Followed by sok sabay tee?, which is asking if you are healthy and happy.  They respect the full-time missionaries so much, because the church here is a generation of converts.  Very few are second generation members, they were taught and baptized by the missionaries.

Today in the Chaktomuk Ward one one of the older sisters that was recently baptized was the very first speaker.  Her talk was completely written out and she read it all, but she did a great job and she bore a very strong testimony.  The other recent convert in that ward gave the closing prayer in Sacrament Meeting.  She looked scared but likewise did a wonderful job.  Sister Oveson was delayed in coming out of Relief Society today because a non-member sister that has come to church several times wanted a picture of her with Sister Jepson, so that is toaday's picture.

The members in the Steung Mean Chey 3rd Ward are such a kind and humble group.  As we pulled up to the building today the bishop was sitting out front on a chair like he was watching for somebody.  He did come in for Sacrament Meeting right when it was time for it to start, and he was in Sunday School and part of Priesthood.  As we left he was again outside sitting on the chair again it appeared that he was watching for someone.  What a wonderful shepherd.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

One Last Later Start Saturday - Sleep 'til 6

Today was the last week without having to teach our Institute class. That means we didn't set the alarm, but we were still awake before 6:00 a.m.  The chanting outside our window didn't help, but we are hopeful that they are done with their funerals for a while now.

Sister Oveson spent some waking hours in the night with her brain working on a project she didn't know she needed to do. Yesterday she ordered a photo book with many of our Khmer photos, and about 1:00 this morning her brain went through how she should put together a book for President and Sister Moon as a farewell gift. It took a couple of hours for the different scenarios to play through her head before she could sleep.

We have been trying to come up with something appropriate without it being one more souvenir. Well, a few months ago President Moon told us that if you have been in Cambodia for a month you could write a story. When you have been here for six months you could write a book. But after you have been here over a year it only takes two words. It's Complicated! So, we need to give him a book with that title!

This morning we were able to do FaceTime calls with most of our family before going to Lucky's for groceries. It is getting difficult to find mangos right now. We need to find something else to take their place while we wait for them to come back in season.  This afternoon we had a Self Reliance group meeting in the Phnom Penh South Stake, so we went to be support fo Phanna. We were blessed to see several of our Institute students. They miss having class and are excited we will meet next week.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Life Is a Continuous Circle

Last night was our most restful sleep all week.  We actually slept until the alarm went off, with occasional wake ups because we are getting old.  When we got home from the office today and went into our bedroom, we could hear the music  out the patio door.  We looked out and sure enough there is another tent on the road below.  This time the music is a lot more joyful, so we figure it has to be a wedding.  They do have someone directing traffic around the tent who loves that he has a whistle, because he sure is blowing it a lot tonight.

The construction outside our office door started about midmorning today, but it only lasted part of the day.  They did take away all of the big chunks of cement that they had pulled up, but they did not even attempt to sweep up the dust.  It will be interesting to see if they just mix that into the new layer that they have for the tile to go on.  The painters finished stripping the walls by our office today, so by late afternoon our hall was quiet again.

A few weeks ago President Moon shared with the Senior Couples that Elder Jeffrey R. Holland will be coming to Cambodia.  He asked us not to discuss it with anyone until the Stakes and Districts started talking about it.  We did hear it mentioned last Sunday in Steung Mean Chey, so we feel that we can put it on our blog now.  We are excited for the members here in Cambodia to have an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ coming.  For many of them this will be their first time to hear an apostle here in their own country.  We know that he is coming in August, and we will share the details of his visit as they are announced.

Next week is starting to fill up with a lot of exciting opportunities for us.  Our new mission president and his wife, Jim & Char Christensen, arrive Tuesday night, and we are going with the other Senior Couples to greet them.  Wednesday night we are going to dinner with President & Sister Moon, President and Sister Christensen and the other Senior Couples.  Then that evening President & Sister Moon fly home, again we plan to go to the airport to say goodbye.  The next day is a Zone Conference for the young missionaries to meet President & Sister Christensen.  On Saturday we teach our institute class and go to the U.S. Embassy for an Independence Day celebration.  Sounds like a fun full week already.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Farewell to Elder and Sister Belcher

Work is progressing on the ground floor at the Phnom Penh Stake Center, it looks like they are ready to start painting. They continue to close in on our office space, the dust and noise are invasive. As one crew is still chipping out concrete, another started stripping paint off the walls in our hall. We stayed inside with the door closed, but the walls act as a sounding board and amplify the sound.in our office. It is at least progressing and not just sitting for another day.  We stick out the day, but we will be very grateful when the renovations are done.

Tonight was a Senior Missionaries Get-Together, saying goodbye to Elder and Sister Belcher. They have completed 23 Months of wonderful service here in Cambodia and it is time to return home to Park City Utah. The Belchers served in Steung Mean Chey and Siem Reap, they even filled in at our office to help out between couples.

We met up with the others for dinner at Titanic Restaurant, where we have had several other Senior gatherings. This is along the riverfront and was a wonderful evening of visiting and eating together. There will be more gatherings again soon as we see others coming and going. We have learned that the one thing you can count on is change! And with every Hello we have Goodbyes.  President Moon said that it is easier to say hello than good bye.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Our Week Continues With Some More and Some Less

We were awakened at 5:00 this morning again by the chanting and music of the funeral.  We have been told that funerals can last for a full week, but on our way home this evening when we looked the tent is gone.  Tomorrow morning will be the test of whether it is over or not.  Then we are told that we will go through something similar 100 days after the funeral.  We are in Cambodia, so we have to learn to accept their culture.

There is only a small section of our hall that still needs to be broken up, so we figured that they would get it done this morning.  The only problem was no workers showed up this morning or even this afternoon.  We just hope that it is not like the internet, now going to just sit like it is for three weeks.

When we received our mission call it said that we would speak English on our mission.  We did have a tutor for about four weeks before our mission, but the first couple of months while we were here we  were busy enough that we did not study our Khmer very much at all.  We have now gone back to studying the language, since we will be here another nineteen months we need to learn as much as we can.

The Perpetual Education Fund has come up with incentives for the participants that graduate, have good grades and pay off their loan early.  We have been waiting for headquarters to update the computer program so that it calculated the incentives, but it still is not done.  We had one participant payoff a month and a half ago and another one this month.  Headquarters had one of their staff hand calculate the incentives and payoff amount for the one this month.  It came out exactly the same as Elder Oveson figured it should be.  Good to know.  Now we are pushing them to get the other one calculated.  It will be nice to have these resolved.

Tonight was English classes at the Stake Center.  They had twelve missionaries, so we were just crowd control for the first forty-five minutes or so.  The parking lot was full of motos as we went to leave, so that is our picture for today.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Jack Hammers and the Roneat (Khmer Xylophone)

This morning was a repeat of the 5:00 a.m. chanting, singing and xylophone music. The tones were less ominous, but still a disturbance to our sleep. As we were getting ready for the day the Khmer Xylophone (or Roneat) music reminded us of the entertainment we had seen at the Titanic Restaurant, but we were not amused and entertained at that hour.

The renovations in our building are getting closer and closer to our office.  Yesterday the crew started taking out carpet and using a small Jack Hammer to remove a three inches layer of the concrete in the hall of our wing. They were back bright and early again today. Between the noise and the dust we knew our stay in our office would be short.

District meeting is usually in the classrooms across the hall from our office, but when the Elders came to our office door we suggested they would want to use the rooms downstairs instead. Considering the noise and dust, they agreed with us. With transfers, the districts have been shuffled a bit. We attended the district with Elders Christensen (the new District Leader), and Myers (his companion);  Eppley and Neuberger (the AP's); and Sisters Jepsen and Kuon. This is a powerful group of young missionaries, and we feel honored to associate with them. After the meeting Elders Le Nguyen and Morris, Olsen and Osborne joined us for a picture.

After District Meeting it was obvious we would not be comfortable staying in our office for the afternoon. By that point the crews had made it down the hall almost to our office door. We took our weekly Self Reliance/PEF Staff Meeting with Phanna and Sameth downstairs and came back up to find the work had progressed just past our office door.  We packed up our work to finish at our apartment.  And ... there we found the chanting, singing and Xylophone Music was continuing.

One more trip to the office this evening, the workers had called it a day. The piles of rubble lined the wall all the way down our hall, but the noise had stopped. Elder Le Nguyen and Morris had an appointment in our office with the Japanese investigator again for a Skype teaching session using our computers.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Streets Are Not Necessarily For Driving On and President Vichit

This morning both of us woke up shortly after 5:00, we quickly realized that what woke us up was a low chanting voice we could hear over a sound system.  Here in Cambodia when you hear chanting over a sound system it means that there is either a funeral or wedding going on near by.  We were told if the chanting is mournful it is a funeral, but if it is happy then it is a wedding.

Even though we stayed in bed until about 6:00, we did not sleep much.  We were already up and going when the volume of the chanting and now singing increased at 6:00.  As we left for our office we were on the look out for the tent in the street to determine where it was.  We discovered that the tent was on the next street over basically below our bedroom window.  Hopefully they will get the funeral over with today and we will not have the chanting and singing tonight.

As we made the turn to go onto a little alley we take to the main road on our way to the office, the street was completely blocked by another large tent, another funeral or wedding.  We had to take about a two block detour, but when we looked on our way home that tent was gone. No detour tomorrow. (We hope!)

This morning we got a call from the Branch President of the International Branch, Ith Vichit, who
wanted to come and talk with us about a couple of brethren in his branch.  He arranged to come at 4:00 p.m. to our office to talk.  What an absolute delight it was to get to know him better.  He is Cambodian, but his wife is from Singapore and his primary home is in Singapore.  Because he has business here in Cambodia he spends a lot of time here and was called to lead the International Branch.  He joined the Church twenty-nine years ago in Singapore just before he got married.  He was very influential in helping the Church get permission to be in Cambodia.

Another thing that impressed me about President Vichit is that he is the first priesthood leader to ask us for help.  We brought Phanna into the discussion and we do have a path for one of the brothers in the branch.  What a good feeling to see the Lord's initiative work to help change a life, now we will see how it works over the next nineteen months while we are here.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Father's Day and the Road to Steang Mean Chey

Father's Day is a wonderful day to celebrate Fathers. As we talked with several of the young elders today they told us they thought Father's Day was last week. We assured them they had a reprieve and should write emails to their fathers! We were surprised, however, that there was no mention of Fathers Day in either of our wards. We received wonderful messages from our children wishing their dad a Happy Father's Day!

We may not have had the whole family together, but we had a nice Sunday dinner: Roast beef, mashed potatoes, fried tomatoes and fresh home made bread. We have learned new methods of cooking. Bread in the slow cooker only took about an hour! We will definitely make that one again!

We did make it to all three hours at both of the Wards that we are assigned to visit today.  More and more they are turning to look yiay and look taa, that is grandma and grandpa which is what they call us,  for answers.  It is good to feel accepted by the members here.

We have learned to watch for our random Khmer pictures on our way to Steang Mean Chey every Sunday, so here are a few of our photos for today. When we were growing up the "nightmare" we remember was dreaming of going somewhere in public wearing our pajamas. In Cambodia we often see people wearing their pajamas on the street, in the stores, and even in church. This is one of the things we can't quite get used to.

We also thought we would include a few typical Khmer "loads" and very young moto drivers, or the market rotisserie meals along the road.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Saturdays Are Better Than Holidays

Saturdays are Preparation Day for the Senior Couples.  It is the day when we get to FaceTime with most of our children and their families back in Utah.  We call them in the morning here, so it is still Friday night there.  One of our young granddaughters likes to ask if we are sleepy when we call, we always tell her no, but she needs to to go bed soon.  I think that there was only been one week while we have been here in Cambodia that we did not get to talk to all of our children and grandchildren.

Saturday is also the day that we go grocery shopping.  We usually go to Lucky's for most of our groceries, but there are several other small stores that cater to the Americans and Europeans which we go to also.  The items that we have to really hunt for is breakfast cereal and good chips.  The first two months that we were here it was easy to find Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal, then we noticed that they were starting to run out so we bought some extra.  It has now been more than a month since we saw any in the stores at all.  We have learned when you see what you like, hurry and grab it because it will be gone next time.  That is especially true of Crispy Cheetos, they only lasted one week and we only bought one bag, we will buy extras next time we see them.

It looks like rainy season may finally be starting here in Cambodia, and the temperatures are finally no longer in the 100s everyday, they are in the low 90s.  We have seen rain most afternoons this week, even though it does not last very long.  The forecast today says that there is 100% chance of rain and 80% tomorrow.  We really need the rains here, so it is good that they are finally coming.  The bad thing about rainy season is that most people get around on motos, so if they do not have their rain ponchos they get wet.  One of our friends suggested someone should develop the 3-4 person rain ponchos for the family outings. We did see how the Superman cape might come in handy here as well, see the moto picture above.

Shoes, Smoothies, Burgers, and Ribs

Today was officially transfer day for the mission. With transfers, the local missionaries who were "transferring" home have a meeting at our offices, taught by Sameth, preparing them for their return into life after their mission. Today's group consisted of 6 Sister.  Sister Jepsen came to drop off her companion for the meeting and was to have met another sister for the trip to the Mission Home, but the other sister didn't get the message, so we had the blessing of going with her to the Mission Home.

The Mission Home is always a busy place, especially on transfer days. As you approach the door there are many pairs of shoes left lined up on the front steps. The "Shoes-Off in the house" is a great part of this culture, and the Mission Home is no exception.  This is always a joyful place to be!

Another blessing for today was seeing our friend Chad, his son (Christian) and his sons' friend (Easton).  They have eaten enough Khmer food so we suggested they join us for lunch at Brooklyn Pizza and Bistro.  We invited Phanna and Sameth to join us as well. We figure we can count this as our weekly staff meeting that had been postponed every day this week. Besides, we had already recorded our weekly report information, and we had our leader, Chad, in town. We needed to take advantage of the moment.  

These two teenage boys came with hearty appetites. Fortunately, Brookyn didn't disappoint.  Easton stated decidedly that the Mango Smoothie was worth coming to Cambodia for. And the burgers ... they had not eaten the equal of these burgers before. Sameth and Phanna were equally impressed. And the ribs, which Chad ordered, led him to state he will be back to Cambodia and will definitely come back to Brooklyn. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Some Unique Things About Our Phnom Penh Apartment

Last week we had no visitors or holidays, so this week is making up for that completely.  We have already posted about our visitors, Chad, Christian and Easton, so today is the holiday, it is the King's Mother's Birthday.

Since we are at home today we thought that we would share some differences about our apartment compared to what is seen in the U.S.

One of the first things that we learned about was the differences in the bathroom.  In the corner of the shower is a floor drain, that was a little bigger than in the U.S. but we did not understand the other difference.  On about our tenth day here in our apartment the shower was not draining and we did not know why.  Upon examining the drain we discovered the cover turns and comes off.  There is a trap down inside that was completely clogged with hair. After cleaning it out the water drained like normal.  We figured it just must not have gotten cleaned out for a while, but we soon discovered that every seven to ten days we have to clean it out.  It is now on our weekly list of things to do.

As you can also see in the shower pictures the shower head is different than we are use to seeing in the U.S. and is attached to a hose to detach from the wall.  The shower head works fine, just not the same direct spray as we are use to.

Another unique item in the bathroom is the hose with a sprayer next to the toilet.  We will not go into all of the details how it could be used, but it does help keeping the toilet clean.  In talking about the toilet, another interesting difference is the toilet seat. You do not need to worry about it crashing shut, it is a slow closing lid.

We do have our own laundry facilities here in our apartment, just a little different than our ones at home.  The washer is a top load without an agitator, but it does have a great spin dry.  In fact if you want you can use the spin dey cycle to get the clothes dryer, because there is no dryer.  Our dryer is the drying racks in the spare bedroom with a fan to help them dry faster. Our washer here does, however, play the same "tune" as the one back home, letting us know the wash is done.

This evening Chad put on a devotional about self-reliance at the Phnom Penh North Stake Center.  There were about forty members there and a lot wanted to talk to him after the devotional.  He taught them about attitude and being pro-active.  It was a great opportunity for those that were there to learn important principles.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Painting Our Building is Not a Small Project Here in Cambodia

Today's normal routine was not so normal.  Our SRS/PEF Staff meeting that was scheduled for Monday,  and delayed Tuesday so we could go to lunch with Chad, was postponed again today because Phanna couldn't make it. Phanna stayed home today with a sick son. We still didn't lack for things to do.

Our office was pretty quiet, but the building was not.  Besides changing out light fixtures, the South Stake building is also being painted and other renovations that are needed. So there have been crews sanding and scraping walls in preparation for paint, etc. After we ate our lunch we took a walk to check on the status of the building. Seeing the mess we called the office Elders to recommend that the English classes which are held on Wednesday be moved up to the second floor (our area) of the building.

Then mid afternoon we noticed the skies getting dark with cloud cover. As Sameth prepared to leave on his Moto, sure enough, the skies had opened and the rain had begun to fall. The rain today was gentle, not the torrential rains we have seen at times. But the rain continued the rest of the afternoon.

With the rain falling, the young missionaries cancelled their "sign-flipping" event of the afternoon. That gave us the opportunity of visiting with some of them in our wing of the building. We have truly come to love these wonderful friends.

With the English class this evening, we stayed late to see if we were needed to help teach. There were enough young missionaries that we were not needed in the classes, but we stayed to help guide students to the changed classroom assignments.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Chad, Christian and Easton

We recently told about our new Self Reliance Area Manager Chad Furness.  Several months ago he planned a trip to Cambodia with his sixteen year old son and one of his friends.  They arrived in Phnom Penh yesterday and we went to lunch with them today.  Chad was the Self Reliance Manager in Taiwan and has done a phenomenal job there.  He is married to a Taiwanese that he met while they were both going to Salt Lake Community College.  He previously had a printing and box manufacturing company in China which he sold.  He is very talented and will be a great leader for the initiative.

Chad, his son Christian and their friend Easton have been helping out at the orphanage we went to the first week we were in Cambodia.  They showed us a great video of Christian and Easton teaching the children how to dance American style.  After lunch they were going back to help put dirt in some grow pots for them and then Christian and Easton promised the boys at the orphanage that they could play basketball.

Missionaries count time by transfers, which happen every six weeks.  This is transfer week, we have missionaries going home, missionaries coming from the MTC and just a general shake up happening.  As we stuck are heads into the two districts to decide which one to attend, one urged us to stay there because this is their last week for many of them here.  It was nice to be wanted, so we stayed.  We try not to say too much, but that is hard sometimes when you have lived as long as we have and want to help these young missionaries grasp important truths.  We truly hope that we are helping and not hindering.  We will miss those that are being transferred, but look forward to making some new friends next week.

We have been getting some rain this week, but Phanna and Sameth keep telling us that it is not like they usually got in the past.  The rain is important this time of year for the farmers and their crops. We can hope and pray that rainy season finally will kick in.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Kuntheavy and Changes

We have mentioned Phanna, Sameth and Sophorn in our office, but there is one more we have neglected to mention. With all these men around we need a little feminine touch to equal things out. That is where Kuntheavy comes in.

Kuntheavy is the secretary for Seminary and Institute and does a marvelous job of keeping track of S&I records. She is the one we give our rolls to after we teach Institute. (And she reminds us if we forget!)  She is in the office every day until noon, then she heads off to school. She is also an Institute teacher. It has been fun getting to know Theavy.  This cute girl served a mission several years ago in the Nevada Las Vegas Mission.

Today was a full busy day, we had a wonderful Skype call with President and Sister Christensen as they were with their family for one more reunion at Bear Lake. What a dynamic couple! We will miss the Moons, but we are excited to be able to serve with the Christensens!

With Candy Lau leaving the Asia area office, she is trying to get all the loose ends wrapped up. This translates into another report (or three) for Phanna and Elder Oveson to complete.

Today is also the day transfers were announced. We don't know all, but we were sad to hear that Sister Jepsen is being transferred from Steang Mean Chey. Then just before we headed for home we learned she is moving to Chaktomuk Ward! Just yesterday we were told by the Elder's Quorum President there that Chaktomuk needs sister missionaries. The number of sister converts and investigators in Chaktomuk has been amazing, and Sister Jepsen and her new companion will be a great boost to the ward! This means we lose Elder Hall, but it was time for him to serve in another area.

With this transfer we will say goodbye to several who are returning home, and hello to a few who will arrive. This group will just serve a week under President Moon, and be here to welcome President and Sister Christensen. One more evidence that the constant thing we can count on in the church is change!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Being With The Saints in Cambodia is a Look Back to the Early Saints

The saints here in Cambodia have been called Pioneers and I believe that describes them very appropriately.  Just like the early saints in the Church, they are converts to the Church that sometimes bring with them the teachings from their former religion.  When that happens they need to be reminded of the correct teachings of Christ's church.

In one of the Gospel Doctrine classes today, a dear sister declared that the scriptures talk about three Gods, but they were all just one individual.  That doctrine was quickly corrected by explaining that they are one in purpose, but truly three distinct individuals.

The priesthood lesson in both wards was about Patriarchs and Patriarchal Blessings.  That is very appropriate topic since the first two Patriarchs were called in Cambodia just a couple of months ago.  There were some real mis-concepts that the young full time missionaries and Elder Oveson got to address.  The sad part is they never really got around to the meat of the lesson that they really needed.  One of the young Elders said that they need Gospel Essentials in Sunday School and Priesthood, and that may be true, but they also need to continue to grow.

We have previously mentioned the various modes of transportation here in Cambodia.  Those same modes apply to members coming to Church.  As we were leaving the Steung Mean Chey building this evening we passed a young mother getting her third child behind her on her moto to head home.  We had also passed a Tuk Tuk full of group waiting for their ride home.  Most Sundays we are one of the very few cars in the parking lots.  This will especially become a bigger challenge when there are rain storms.  We did have a good downpour during Church, but it had cleared up by time we headed back to our apartment.  We are so blessed and watched over.  

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The power of ...

There are two stakes, along with two Districts, here in Phnom Penh.  The one stake we have a very good Self Reliance Group going, but we have struggled to get things going in the other stake.  This evening we had a great training meeting with the Self Reliance Committee for that stake.  We are hoping that they get a group started by the end of June, but it is still up to the stake not us.  We know that a Self Reliance Group will be a blessing to their members.

The Power of... has been been a subject we have been observing for over three months while we have been in Cambodia. We have joked that we have seen three powers regularly used in traffic here.

First: the power of the Hand. This power is displayed by moto drivers, pedestrians, and parking guards. It seems when the hand is held out all traffic including cars and large trucks are suppose to stop.

Second: the power of the Horn. This is just what you might expect. When those wrong way drivers are coming at you in your lane, the horn is to announce you are in their way.

Third: the power of the Whistle. If the hand and the horn are not enough, the whistle is put into action.  Again if a parking attendant blows his whistle, that is suppose to stop all traffic, but doesn't necessarily work every time.

In recent days we have come to recognize another power: The Power of the Word! We think of a President Packer quote, as well as scriptures that teach of this power. We have watched this change that comes from studying the doctrine. We were privileged recently to sit in on discussions with Victoria and Weston. They tenderly talked of reading the scriptures together every day. As they looked at each other they both saw each other as looking more beautiful.  What a wonderful change we attribute to the Power of the Words of the Gospel.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Changes in Our Area Self Reliance Services Manager

Here in Cambodia we are part of the Asia Area.  This area has about a third of the world population. Cambodia may not have a large population, but when you consider that China and India are part of the Asia Area it is easy to understand.  Both China and India have a population of over a billion people.  There are a little over a million members of the Church in Asia, so we have a long way to go.

About a month ago we were speaking with the Self Reliance Manager for the Asia Area, Candy Lau, and she told us that she had resigned her job.  We were sad about that until she told us that she resigned because she just received her immigration visa for the U.S. and wanted to live in Utah. Today we received an email letting us know who the new Asia Area Self Reliance Manager will be, and we had guessed correctly.  The Self Reliance Manager in Taiwan is a real sharp member that had owned his own factory in China and sold it off a few years ago.  His name is Chad Furness.  He has done a great job in Taiwan and will be very good for the Area.  He will actually be here in Cambodia next week on vacation so we will meet him them.  He has been in on some of the internet conferences that we have participated in.

We can tell that Candy is trying hard to make sure that everything is in order before she officially leaves at the end of August.  We have had a half a dozen requests for information this week that we worked with Phanna on today.  Some of the information was provided previously, but they are trying to get it all together to make it easier to access for the future.

Today we ventured out on errands again.  We had to go to the Service Center to drop off mail that needs to go to the Bishops/Branch Presidents about the Perpetual Education Fund.  We stopped at one of the grocery stores to pick a up a few items and see if there was any good cereals on the shelf.  Then it was back to the office supply store, we like the name of the store, Peace Book Store, to get some big envelopes.  Our pictures for today were while we were out today and are some of the common views here in Cambodia that you would not see in America.  We cannot believe that it would be very comfortable to sit on containers of vegetable oil or on top of a truck.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Note: It Is Easier To Work Without Lights Than Without Computers

As we returned to the church yesterday to attend the English class, there were men changing out some of the lights in the building. Thus, all the lights in the halls had no power, but at least the lights still worked in the classrooms.

7:45 a.m.: we arrived to the building to find all the lights were out in our wing of the building. Just the lights! All the fans and air conditioning units still worked, as well as the computers. Brother Sophorn in the office next to ours said he had called the Service Center and the lights should be back on soon.

Cambodian Lawnmower
About 11:00 a.m.: still no lights. (Thankfully we have a window in our office so we are not in complete darkness.) Sameth called the Service Center again, and was told they were trouble shooting an electrical problem and trying to isolate it and should have the lights on shortly.  Walking through the building, including going downstairs, there were still no crews to be seen working in the building. (Maybe they were hiding somewhere out of sight?) We did see the grounds keeper clipping the grass. We found it interesting how they mow the grounds here.

About 2:00 p.m.: still no lights. Sameth called again and received the "lights will be on soon" message. There were a few men working, including Mory, one of the Physical Facilities employees, but still no lights.

3:45 p.m.:  still no lights. Clouds rolled in and the skies became gray, and the rains began to fall.

5:00 p.m.: The lights finally flickered on ... for about 5 minutes. Off for another 10 minutes, then on again. Apparently what it came down to was a bad breaker, and they finally have it fixed!

It is truly easier to work without lights than it is to work without our computers, and we had our air conditioner, so we were just fine.  We felt like we had a full productive day in spite no lights.  We are so grateful to serve in Cambodia!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Helping With English Class

Today was another wonderful day serving Our Heavenly Father and His children here in Cambodia.  Even though we have been here in Phnom Penh for over three months we had some new adventures today.  Sameth had asked Sister Oveson if we would go and buy some more copy paper, he blamed Phanna saying that he likes to print too many things.  We have been in an office supply store in the Mall but we did not want to go that far, and Sameth knew of one not far from the Stake Center.  It is amazing that we are able to go and pick up items at a store with our limited Khmer and their limited English.

Yesterday Sameth gave us a new list of Perpetual Education Fund participants that speak English well enough that we could call.  There were thirteen on the new list, but as we compared it to our old lists, we found that seven were duplicates, so there are only six new ones.

We had a Perpetual Education Fund participant come in today wanting to payoff his loan.  He has been wanting to pay it off for a month but we are waiting for headquarters to fix the incentive program on the computer.  We calculated what the payoff should be and told him that it should be correct, but we will verify the amount and let him know.  Since he paid it off at our office we had to take the payment to the Service Center, we did not want that much cash at our offices.

Since we were over to the Service Center, we stopped by the Mission Office and had a nice surprise.  Marla had mailed some pictures and letters from Roman and Hudson on April 11th, they finally got here.  Packages are faster than letters.

We finished out the day helping the young missionaries with their weekly English Class.  We went into the beginner class and helped Elder Myers and Elder Christensen.  They had a big class, there were thirty in their class tonight, from the very young, six to eight years old, to the very old, a Japanese man in his sixties.  We helped them learn the "RL" and "L" sounds tonight.  Some were able to pick it up and others struggled.  By showing up to help tonight, we probably have a new responsibility going forward.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Beautiful Blossoms at the South Stake Center

Today's District Meeting was with the two districts we routinely attend combined. That made the decision of which to attend much easier. Elders Eppley and Neuberger were still out of town with President Moon having gone to the provinces for Zone Conference, but we had a great meeting.

After lunch today we decided to take a walk. We grabbed the camera on the way out the door, and we are glad we did. The flowers around the building are still pretty amazing. We have enjoyed a continuous abundance of blossoms since we arrived three months ago. The Plumeria have been particularly beautiful in their varieties we see around the grounds. There are other varieties of blossoms we are not so familiar with, but all were beautiful.  The biggest Plumeria trees have slowed production, but still give fresh blooms regularly. The color varieties have been as amazing as the variety of types of flowers. We enjoyed the flowers enough that we made two trips around the building noticing different flower varieties as we went.

We couldn't help but think of a list, we have mentioned before "Ellen Clark’s…101 Insights [so far] About Life in Cambodia…." 
           # 20: " Crippling poverty and abundant wealth live side by side."

Even walking the grounds of the church we see this statement in its fulfillment. The neighboring buildings to this beautiful church consist of beautiful villas as well as simple shacks built of bricks and reclaimed materials. We have posted previously showing the use of a table to complete a wall, with the legs sticking out and all. All over the city you see the contrast of the rich and the poor; the villas and the hovels; the Lexus and the hand carts in the streets. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

Little Things That Are Amusing

This morning we had to finish up our normal Sunday tasks that did not get done last night, like our email to friends and family and our Blogpost for yesterday.  Also, we had not spoken to all of our family, so we finished up the last of the FaceTime this morning.  We were still finishing up the monthly reports today, it is especially hard when they add a new report that is due by the 10th.  We will do the best that we can, that is all that we can do.

There were so many new things when we first got here that we could not mention all of them.  Today was one of those days that we did not have a lot happen to write about so we will go back to observations about Cambodia, the little things that are amusing.  We have previously mentioned that flip flops are the predominate footwear here, and that motos are the main form of transportation.  At times those two do not go together very well together. We have actually been behind a moto and watch a flip flop land on the pavement.  Flip flops in the middle of the street are so common that you just get used to seeing them.

We know that we have already written a lot about the traffic, but it is still by far the most amusing thing each and everyday.  As you come to a stoplight, even if you are at the front of the line, you will not be for long.  Motos wind their way through the traffic until they are at the front, but then they seldom wait for a green light. If there is a break in traffic of any kind they dart through the intersection.  And those who do not dart through on red always take off before the light turns green.

Another thing that makes no sense to us is when you are at a stoplight the oncoming traffic gets so impatient that they fill up your lanes.  That makes life very interesting as you have to dodge them as you go through the intersection.  One of our friends described it best, "You go across the street (or intersection) one inch at a time."

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Our String of Conferences Continued

What a busy wonderful day! We attended the Chaktomuk Ward at 8:00 a.m. and discovered our usual translators would not be there. Elders Eppley and Neuberger were gone with President Moon to the provinces for Zone Conferences, and Elder Gardner was transferred after Zone Conference on Thursday to Pursat in the Battambang District, and Elder Kim is now here with Elder Hall. The elders had an investigator they were with during Sacrament Meeting, which left us on our own. We were doing okay, but not understanding any of the speakers, when partway through the meeting a young sister return missionary (Amina Set) came up behind us and asked if we would like her to translate for us. It seems Bishop Kong was looking out for us and texted Amina asking her to translate for us. We are thankful that he took care of us!

After the 3 hour block of meetings there was a baptism. Ouk (Aunt) Ban Sok has been attending meetings for several weeks. Sister Sok was told her name, Baan Sok, translates to "Always Safe". What a wonderful name!

Following the baptism we hurried home to fix lunch for brother Touch Sophorn and his family. Brother Touch is the Seminary and Institute Director for Cambodia, as well as a counselor in the Phnom Penh South Stake Presidency. His office is next to ours at the South Stake Center. Such a great family! Coming to our home for lunch worked out very well for them today. They planned to attend the Steung Mean Chey 3 Ward this afternoon. It was so good to visit with them and get to know them better.

Today was Ward Conference in the Steung Mean Chey 3rd Ward.  Sacrament Meeting was fuller than we have ever seen it, but there were stake visitors attending also.  The Bishop and all three members of the Stake Presidency were the speakers.  President Heng Sokom taught both Gospel Doctrine and Priesthood meeting today.

By time we got back to our apartment we had been going for eleven hours.  What a blessing to be in the service of our Lord.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Our Groups of New Friends Just Keep Growing

It is so amazing and humbling to be invited to serve our Heavenly Father's choice children here in Cambodia.  One of those extremely rewarding ways that we serve is as Institute Teachers on Saturday morning.  We always worry about who will come and who we will be missing.  It seems like on an average week six make it to our class, the problem is that it is seldom the same six.  There are two that are very faithful and seldom miss, a young sister named Monicao and a returned missionary named Reaksmey.  Monicao has two brothers that generally make it and Reaksmey's sister came for the first time today.  We were blessed to have twelve at institute, today was the first time for three of them.  It is interesting to have three new class members on the last day of the course.  We will have the next four weeks off and start a new class on July 4th.

About eighteen months ago there was a Senior Couple called to serve in India, but they could not get visas so they ended up here as the Office Couple.  They ended up going home early for some family emergencies, so the Hollenzers have been serving as Office Couple.  Today a new Senior Couple, the Leavitts, arrived to be the new Office Couple here.  They were originally called to serve in India but could not get their visas, so we are blessed to have them here.  We went to the airport to greet them with the other Senior Couples today, President and Sister Moon are out of town for Zone Conference.  We went as a group out to lunch at the Titanic, a good restaurant were we can all sit together to visit and get to know each other.

We also said goodbye to some friends today, Ty and Melissa flew out today to return to the U.S.  They are a great young couple that were likewise a joy to get to know.  We know that their visit to Cambodia will definitely change them in many ways. You cannot visit a place like this and not go away changed.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Cambodian Mass-Transit and Expanding Our Service

One would think that with as many people as there are in Phnom Penh that there should be some sort of Mass Transit system to get around. As far as we can tell, it is a fend-for-yourself system. Besides the swarms of motos, the Tuk-Tuks, and the amazing number of luxury vehicles and SUV's, there are a few other options.  We occasionally see buses (these are mostly large vans), or the occasional open bus.  The more common method of commuting to work seems to be to ride on the load. Of course if you have a large crew you may need to just load the truck. But to truly ride Khmer, you may just have to HOLD ON!

Today gave us another new experience. Brother Sophorn, the Seminary & Institute Director for Cambodia, had a student who needed to take the Michigan English Proficiency test in order to be admitted to BYU Hawaii. Our task today was to proctor this test. We were given the testing packet and very clear and strict instructions to set up a room as a testing center. As this young man arrived he was so-o-o nervous. He had taken a different test recently and didn't do very well on that one. We told him we would pray for him. He did seem to calm down, and finished with about ten minutes to spare.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Zone Conference Is Like Christmas For Missionaries

The other day we told someone that we got to go to Zone Conference today and they told us that Zone Conference is like Christmas for missionaries.  After attending the Zone Conference we agree completely with that comment.

Here are some of the ways that today's Zone Conference was like Christmas for us.  Christmas is a time to gather as a family.  The other missionaries are like family to us already, we claim them all and thoroughly enjoy seeing those that we have not seen in a while. Add to that the great tradition of having a family meal together, the mission had Mama's New York Deli bring Chicken Parmesan Penne Pasta.  We got to eat with President and Sister Moon and Elder Hibbert and Elder Chhouk. What a joy.

Christmas is also a time to enjoy wonderful goodies that usually add more to your weight than you really want.  Sister Moon had cooked homemade chocolate chip cookies for the first break, and it did not take long for the missionaries to wipe them all out.  Another tradition that the Moons have done is banana bread for the missionaries when they have interviews with President Moon.  Sister Moon also baked small loaves of banana bread for everybody at Zone Conference.

You cannot forget the gifts for Christmas.  Again President Moon has had a tradition as missionary leaves to go home, of giving each a copy of a book that he wrote titled "To Thine Own Self Be True".  He decided to give all of the missionaries a copy of his book as a final gift as the Moons go home.

Zone Conference is really about training the missionaries on their duty, and plenty of that happened today also.  Sister Moon taught us about work. We are here to work hard and wise.  She used the scriptures and testified boldly.  President Moon taught us that the Church has changed the way that Sacrament Meetings are to be planned.  The Brethren have asked that they be planned in Ward and Branch Council Meeting now.  President Moon emphasized that the missionaries are suppose to be invited to the Ward and Branch Councils, and that they need to be actively involved in deciding what should happen in Sacrament Meeting.  There is suppose to be a special emphasis on the Sacrament and reverence. It was a fantastic Zone Conference as always.

At 4:00 p.m. we went to a meeting at the U.S. Embassy about healthcare here in Cambodia.  It was a very frank discussion about Malaria, Dengue Fever, and which hospitals to go to and which ones to avoid.  It was good to be on U.S. property, even though it is in a foreign country, and
to see a U.S. flag and a U.S. Navy Medical Officer in uniform.  We went out to eat with the Meinzers after that meeting, again it was great company and good food.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Change Comes Slowly to Cambodia!

Change comes slowly to Cambodia. We have been expecting a change in internet providers for almost two months now.  About six weeks ago workers came in and pulled wires, made messes, left lines hanging from the ceiling, and made things look like they were working on changing our internet.

Then it just sat there, and we waited, ..... and waited, .... and waited.  Three weeks ago they finally came and put connectors on the ends of wires and installed a containment box for a large bundle of the wires, This was followed by more waiting.

This week crews came and started making noise, pulling wires and creating messes again. They removed the black containment box and have a new white box sitting here to put in its place. What it comes down to is that no office in our wing has been protected from the mess.

At least for today we still had the old internet and were able to use the computers. Fortunately the ladder is not in front of our office, but Brother Sophorn, the CES employee, has less traffic through his door. We will see how much more waiting we will have before our internet is changed and our office is back together again. In the meantime, our desks are in the middle of the room and we are still working.

The "improvements" displaced us from our office enough that we left early. We figure what work we needed to do can be done at our apartment. We will be out of our office most of the day tomorrow because of Zone Conference, so we can hope things will be put back together before the weekend. We'll see!  We have been waiting long enough to know we can't count on speed!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Some Things That We Like About Cambodia: Sok Sa Bai, They Are a Very Modest People & They Speak Quietly

There are many things that we have learned to appreciate already, but there are some things that especially stand out in our minds which we enjoy about Cambodia.  After you greet a Khmer, they will often say, sok sa bai tee?  The word sok is short for soka phiap which means health and sa bai in Cambodia is happy.  To answer them you reply soksa bai, and they are genuinely pleased that you are happy and healthy.  They are a kind people that really care about each other in many ways.

One thing that we immediately noticed when we arrived is that the Cambodian people as a whole dress a lot more modestly than those in the U.S.  That is amazing since it is so much hotter here than back home.  When you go to Anchor Wat, the Kings Palace, Tuol Sleng and other places that are sacred to them, there are signs with a dress code spelled out.  Women are suppose to have sleeves, no shorts, etc.  In fact I have read articles where some of their leaders have spoken in disapproval of the way that foreign leaders have dressed.  It is so nice to be in that kind of an environment.

Another amazing thing is how quietly the Cambodians speak.  If you speak too loudly they think that you are mad or something.  Now they do know how to laugh loudly, but in general they are a very quiet people.  There are times that we have to strain our ears in order to really hear what they are saying to us.

This evening the Office Elders asked if they could use our office for a Skype call with one of their investigators.  He is from Japan and is here in Cambodia teaching Japanese.  They had arranged for some Japanese Missionaries to teach him via Skype, so that he could understand the lesson better.

Before we left our apartment to go back to the office it rained pretty hard for a few minutes.  With most Cambodian's using motos that means the rain jackets and umbrellas came out.  We got a great picture of a women on a moto in high heels with an umbrella and a towel across her back so that is our picture for this evening.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Welcome Elder and Sister Hassell to Cambodia

Today was (of course) another holiday; International Children's Day! I'm not sure why we do not celebrate this holiday back home in the U.S., but this gave us another day away from the office. With it being a new month this also meant we had a car report to complete. The signals, lights and horn all still work, tires are in good condition, fluids are all full, and only one new scratch to report. Not bad for all the driving conditions here in Phnom Penh!

With our office closed we were not missed as we went to the airport to greet another senior missionary couple, Elder Lewis Hassell and Sister Mary Hassell to our mission. Their travel plans originally showed them arriving this Wednesday evening, but they were selected to travel with a mission returning home to Malaysia from the MTC on their way here. They have been to Asia many times, but never to Malaysia, but it was still a long day of travel for them.

Elder and Sister Hassell will only be in Phnom Penh temporarily (at least in theory) while they wait for visas. Their assignment is to serve in Vietnam. Their call was originally as LDS Charities Missionaries, but was changed to MLS (Member Leader Support). With this change, they were given training in both areas of focus. They should be well prepared for their assignments in the mission.

President Moon, Hassells, Meinzers,
Elder Hollenzer, Ovesons, VanBrocklins.
After their arrival, our group went to lunch at the Khmer Surin Restaurant. This was a new place for us to try featuring Khmer and Thai cuisine. We stayed within our comfort level of new foods and found Pineapple Fried Rice (which was served in a half-pineapple), and Stir Fried Vegetables With Pork. Both were very tasty, and there was nothing left for "Take-Away" (their way of saying Take-Home.)

Elder and Sister Hassell are about our age, so now we are not youngest seniors in the mission. Elder Hassell is a Pathologist, and has taken a leave from his practice for 2 years. What a wonderful addition to our group of Senior Missionaries! We will have to wait and see how long the Lord chooses to let them stay here before they move on!