Friday, July 31, 2015

More Bamboo Climbers -- More Rain

 As we arrived at the church this morning we noticed workers moving the pile of bamboo scaffold material to the back of the church building. This afternoon we went out for a bit of a walk and found where they were working. It is quite entertaining to watch them work. Tight-rope walkers and circus performers really have not put their full skill to work. It takes great skill to climb the bamboo poles while holding their paint roller, let alone standing suspended on a limb and rolling the paint on the walls. Just amazing! (One more of the things we see in Cambodia but would never see back home!)

As we finished our short walk the skies began to fall again. The rain is refreshing and welcome. Sameth tells us he hopes it is also raining on his rice fields in the provinces. It rained enough a few months ago, but has been so dry the crops are drying up instead of growing.  Pray for rain in Cambodia!

As we checked our Weather Chanel app we were assured it was gently raining here in Phnom Penh. That gentle rain was enough for those who live in the alley behind our office to go take their showers in the runoff. We were amused and amazed as a young woman stood under the flow and washed her hair, went under a canopy to lather with shampoo, then returned to the water to rinse. (Sorry, no pictures this time.) Apparently we have not been here so long to have this seem commonplace to us. Yes, we are on an adventure.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Blessed Are The Flexible

Each Thursday we have a Skype call with the Senior Couple in Hong Kong that we report to, it is usually at 8:30.  This morning that call got delayed until 10:00, which turned out alright because a meeting that we scheduled at 10:00 got moved until this afternoon.  We had an Area Perpetual Education Fund video conference scheduled for 11:30, but when we tried to log into it, it wouldn't work.  They switched to a different system, but part of those that were suppose to join us, never made it to the new site.  In other words today was a classic example of the phrase, "Blessed are the flexible for they shall not get bent out of shape."

This afternoon we went to the Cambodian Service Center to meet with the manager to get some information for the project that we have been working on for Headquarters.  Samnang is a great man that received his masters degree in Hawaii, but then came home to help his people.  Many that go away to school never come back, they get use to another way of life and cannot see themselves back here.

Along with being flexible, we have learned that there are always new reports that need to be prepared and analyzed.  Today's was an economic survey that they want completed for each stake and district. Because of that, Phanna has scheduled another trip to the Kaits.  While he is out visiting he will check on the various Self Reliance Groups and make sure that they are being run the right way.

One thing that we have learned here in Cambodia is that pink is not just for girls.  We often see men driving pink motos.  When it rains the thin rain ponchos come in three basic colors, blue, green and pink, and you often see men in the pink ones.  You see men wearing pink shirts and shorts.  Elder Oveson is glad that he can use the dress code as an excuse to not wear pink.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Farewell Dinner for Elder Ken and Sister Salli Hollenzer: Missed but not forgotten

Just as with our families growing old and moving on to the next phase, as we began our mission experience we thought this would stay the same. We are left with a joy of having our lives enriched with friendships, and the sadness of losing the close association we have had.  This week we send off our friends, Elder and Sister Hollenzer, to their home in Oregon. They have completed their 23-month mission in Cambodia, and have the mixed emotions of leaving behind those they have learned to love here, and the excitement of returning home to family and friends.  We wonder if these are some of the same emotions we will experience as we complete our earth mission and return to our heavenly home, being able to again be welcomed by friends and family who have gone on before?

Elder Ken and Sister Salli Hollenzer came to Cambodia as the Family History couple. Their work here has been varied and not quite what they thought they would do. They have seen the groundwork for Family History to move forward in projects that are just taking traction, and they hope to return to Cambodia as this project moves forward. 

There had become a great need for an office couple about seven months ago when the office couple had to return home unexpectedly, and the Hollenzers graciously filled the role. They were our first contact in the mission, and have become great friends.  Now the mantle of Most Senior Couple goes to Elder and Sister Meinzer (LDS Charities), who will complete their mission next March. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The One Sure Thing in Life is Change

Life as a missionary is slow and very fast.  Six weeks sounds like a long time, but it sneaks up so very fast and then those young missionaries that you love to serve with get transferred.  We were told that there were not a lot of changes this time, but there were enough to affect our little circle of missionaries that we have come to love.  Sister Jepsen who we have really loved serving with, first in Steung Mean Chey and then in Chaktumok, goes home in about three weeks, so we thought she would stay in our area until then, but she moves to a new area on Friday.  Elder Le Nguyen one of the Office Elders and District Leader in one of the Districts we attend is being moved to Stueng Mean Chey 1st Ward.  We will still see him when we are out that way.

Because of the transfers we invited Sister Jepsen and her companion Sister Kung to go to lunch at Mama's New York Deli.  Neither of them had eaten there before and loved the fish and chips and the corn beef sandwich which they shared.  We both went for the fish and chips, they are oh so good and very filling.  Like we have said before, great food but even better company.

We have mentioned that we have been working on several projects that relate to Cambodia, but involve working with Church Headquarters.  We sent off the report on one of the projects last week and we are now waiting to see if it was what they wanted.  Today we got some
additional information on the other project so we can move forward with it in a significant way.  We feel very strongly that part of the reason that we were sent to Cambodia was to help with these projects.  It is great to feel needed and used in a productive way.  As with most projects they are hurry up and wait, so they feel like they go so slow.


Monday, July 27, 2015

Our Full Little Office

Today started off like a normal Monday, Skyping with the last of of our family for the week, getting to the office about 8:00 a.m and trying to plan out our day.  Just after 9:00 a.m. that all changed.  First Kuntheavy came and asked if she could borrow Sister Oveson's computer and printer about 10:00 a.m. and we assured her that was fine.  Then Phanna came in and asked if he could sit in our office, they were changing out the air conditioner in his office. Before long Sameth retreated to our office for the same reason.  It wasn't long before we had five of us working away in our little office.

And while we were packed in with the five of us working, two more came knocking at the door wanting to visit.  There have been some health interns here from BYU for the summer, and their student leader was at our door with a health science professor who wanted to talk.  We decided seven in that little office was just to many so we went across the hall to a classroom.

Phanna's and Sameth's air conditioner was finished just before lunch.  After lunch Sophorn, the country CES director, came and asked if he could sit in our office, they had moved on to his office to do the air conditioner in there.  He spent the majority of the afternoon in with us and we had some great time discussing the wards that we attend, he is also in the stake presidency.  He is a good man and it was good to chat with him.

We can't help but wonder when we will be displaced from our office and have to take refuge with the others. Then about 4:30 we realized our air conditioner was not working as they had shut off the power to our A.C. unit.  When we had brother Sophorn ask the workers when it would be back on, they basically told us we should go home, and not to expect it to be back on for today.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Please Pray For Chaktomuk and Steung Mean Chey 3rd Wards!

Sunday seems to have more of a "same routine" quality than most days of the week. We get up at 6:00, Chaktomuk Ward 8:00 - 11:00, mid day break and lunch until after 2:00, Steung Mean Chey 3rd Ward 3:00 - 6:00, then home for a light dinner and the Sunday evening letters and blog writing. Yup, that's what we had today!

Bishop Kong
With that sameness we see some differences. Both wards are struggling with activity level, including (and maybe especially) the leaders. Both have seen people move away. Chaktomuk happens to have the ones who are moving be the bishop and some of the other strong families. They are all moving to an are Elder Meinzer calls "Mormon Acres!" Meanwhile there were only 40+ in attendance at Chaktomuk, and about 50 in Steung Mean Chey. Last week while we were away, it rained enough that church attendance was in the 30's in both wards. This is a concern because these are wards, not just branches.

The dwindling attendance is enough of a concern that President UK Sophal, the Phnom Penh South Stake President, came into the last few minutes of Sacrament Meeting at Steung Mean Chey and spoke of his concern. He has called a special council meeting for next Sunday prior to the meeting block with the ward leaders and some of the strong members, including the full time missionaries (old and young). We have been praying for these wards, and invite our friends and family to pray for these wonderful people in these Cambodian wards. They need the gospel in their lives.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

It Is a Joy to Teach Our Institute Class

This morning the alarm went off way too early, but we climbed out of bed because we love to teach our institute class.  The first student, Seyha from the Chaktomuk Ward, arrived around 6:40, the class starts at 7:00, and nobody else came until around 6:55.  We started the class today with ten or eleven students, but shortly after that we were up to twenty.  What a fantastic group.  We enjoy this class because they are the future (and in some cases current) leaders of the Church here in Cambodia.  They are so willing to participate and answer the questions.  Elder Oveson is always worried that we do not have enough to fill the time, but the reality is we never get around to everything that we have prepared.

Since we FaceTimed to part of the family yesterday we called Wendy first today.  Our timing was perfect because four out of our six children were at Becky and Paul's for a 24th of July picnic.  It was great to be passed around to various members of the family and enjoy their gathering.  Gabby even tried to give us some apple crisp through the FaceTime connection, but it just did not work.

This afternoon we went to the Phnom Penh South Stake Starting and Growing My Business group.  They were on lesson four of the twelve for this course.  There were fourteen of the original sixteen there today, so we were pleased with the turn out today.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Another Random Friday

Today was full of random service and random happenings. When we arrived at the office we made a few FaceTime calls, not knowing what the family would have planned for Pioneer Day tomorrow. Projects have come to a wind-down phase, so we didn't have as many demands on our morning schedule.

Khuntheavy, the Seminary and Institute secretary, had a stack of certificates that needed to be printed, but her printer has been down for a couple of weeks, thus she came to use Sister Oveson's computer and our printer. The paper she was trying to print on was not a standard size, so we also helped 'Theavy fix the layout of the page. As we started printing and had everything just right, our printer ran out of ink. Uhhg! We have had a hard time finding the correct printer cartridges sometimes, so we told her to pray for us as we left to try to get them. With a quick trip to the Aeon Mall about ten minutes away, we found the cartridges in the first store we checked. Someone was looking out for us this time!

We had a simple lunch today: Peanut Butter and Jam sandwiches! Not only did we enjoy them, but both Sameth and Phanna came to make sandwiches for their lunch as well. We had offered for them to share our jar of peanut butter and the loaf of bread we had put in the fridge. We were pleased that they both took us up on the offer.

This afternoon Elder Oveson spent time making PEF calls. He had talked to about 5 different participants, and we had a surprise knock on our door. We opened to an unfamiliar face, but quickly found Elder Oveson's calls have helped us gain another new friend.  He has talked to Vibon each month for the last five months, but today we told him about some translation work, so he came to see us about that opportunity.  Like everyone before, it was great to meet him and he is so friendly.  Vibon is our picture for today.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

For Some Must Push and Some Must Pull

Today reminded us of a Primary song about the pioneers, "For some must push and some must pull as we go marching up the hill, so merrily on our way we go until we reach the valley-o."  Back home in Utah our families are preparing to celebrate Pioneer Day, or the 24th of July.  We are among the pioneers of the Church here in Cambodia, and sometimes we feel like we are pushing and pulling along with them.

When we got to the office there was an letter on our church email that we have been waiting for on a project that we are acting as liaison on here in Cambodia.  That was just the beginning of a very busy day in our office.  Along with the letter was an eight page report to read and digest and then share our feelings and questions about where we need to go with this project.

In addition we Skype with the Senior Couple, usually just the Sister, in Hong Kong that we report to. It was a great video call and we were able to talk about a lot of important matters concerning our duties and responsibilities.  We were also able to share success stories and concerns.

In a previous post we shared about a report for the Perpetual Education Fund that we have been working for the area office in Hong Kong.  Today we put the final touches on the report and sent it off.  Now we wait to see if it meets their expectations or if they have any questions about it. It feels good to finish a big report and send it along.

We got to the office about 7:30 a.m. and headed home about 5:30 p.m. with only a short break for lunch.  It felt like we were pushing and pulling all day long. Even though we are tired, we are also very happy in the service of our Lord.  

Our picture for today had to be a Cambodian cart.  Here is an older woman resting in a hammock as she goes down the road in their loaded cart.  :-)

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Another Cambodian (or Asian) Thing - Bamboo Scaffolding

We mentioned a couple of days ago that the church now has new "scaffolding" around the front. Today we saw the workers shimmy up the bamboo as they worked on repairing the plaster and cracks on the face of the building. As we were taking the picture we noticed not only the two on the bamboo, but another hanging over the roofline making repairs at the top. The BYU Tuk-Tuk driver was there and asked us if we had the bamboo scaffold back home. We assured him there is nothing like this in the states. We couldn't help but wonder why they would use bamboo, unless maybe because it wouldn't get as hot as the metal scaffold would. In any case, this our picture for today.

We received a message yesterday that the ties we ordered were at the mission office so we made a quick trip after lunch to pick them up. Now we just have to work out the details of getting them shipped home.  If mailing a package home takes as long as receiving one from home, we might expect them to arrive in about two months. We'll see what we can work out!

As we were just leaving the mission home President and Sister Christensen came in. Sister Christensen said of the three weeks they have been in the mission, 10 of them have been spent on the road. They just returned from Vietnam yesterday, which completed their mission tour. They decided it was good to be "home" and try to get settled in.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

We Love Helping Others and Meeting With The Young Missionaries

Today we had a lot of opportunities to help others.  We helped the Sister Missionaries print a talk from Elder Bednar in Cambodian, Sister Kung is a native speaker and has trouble reading General Conference talks in English.  While the Sisters were using our computer,  Elder Myers remembered that he promised a recent convert that he would help her with a talk she will give on Sunday.  Elder Myers was able to look up some material and print it out so that he can give it to her.  Next was Kuntheavy, the Seminary & Institute secretary, her printer was not working correctly, so we were happy to let her use the one in our office.  Finally the Office Elders needed to use our office for another Skype call for the investigator with the Elders in Japan.  It is so nice to be able to help out in so many ways.

We also participated in our two regular weekly meetings today,  Missionary District Meeting and our Cambodian Self Reliance Team meeting.  In the past the District Meetings have been in the rooms across from our office, but with the remodeling they have moved around some.  Since everything was put back together in our hallway we figured that they would come back up here, but nobody showed up.  When we went downstairs to check and see if there would be District Meetings today, the one had enjoyed the High Council room so much they have permanently moved there.  The other District was still gathering, so we joined them today.  In our Self Reliance Team meeting we had to go over the report of the Perpetual Education Fund report.  It took us almost two hours to go through the 100 plus name list that we had.

At the end of the day we are plenty tired, but it is a good tired.  It feels so good to know that you are making a difference, even in a small way.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Back to Phnom Penh - What An Interesting Excursion

This morning before leaving Kampong Cham we drove by the new Chapel so that Sameth could see it.  Sameth's wife, Thida, is from Kampong Cham, her father who is one of the Branch Presidents there, asked if we would like to go and see their home.  Thida's parents raise beautiful flowers that they sale on their property, they have about two acres.  The flowers were gorgeous and of course they attracted some lovely butterflies.

After we got back to Phnom Penh we went to see Phanna's home and where Sameth's new home will be.  There are already four active LDS families living in this little area that are basically townhouses, but over the next couple of months that number will go up to eleven.  One of the other Senior Missionaries has named it "Mormon Acres."  The families that live there are very active in the Church, and so are the new ones. This little area will be one of the strongest areas here in Cambodia.

We also dropped Sameth off at his current apartment and got to meet his mother.  Sameth is a good son that takes care of his mother, even though their apartment is not very big.  Sameth & Thida's new home will be about four times bigger than their current apartment. We are happy for them.

After returning to our apartment and unloading the car, we found that Sameth had left his phone in our car so we took it to him at the office.  The remodeling at the Phnom Penh South Stake Center shifted into a new phase today. Outside of the building they were putting up bamboo scaffolding around the front.  It looks like they will be painting that next, we will have to see if they just paint it, or scrape
and re-plaster it like they did inside.

It is only Monday and it has already been a busy week.  Like we have heard many times in our live, it is nice to go away, but it is nice to come back home.   Phnom Penh is our home for the next eighteen months, so we are back home.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Kaits Part 2 - Kampong Cham

It is fun to get to see more of Cambodia. There is nothing like taking a drive out into the country! Driving down the small country roads looking at the little shanty homes and green plantations was almost like going back in time.

We even went into a Cambodian home for the very first time today.  As we traveled from Kampong Thom to Kampong Cham, Phanna asked if we could stop by his parents' home and see where he grew up.  What a joy to meet his mother and father and nephew.  Phanna called them shortly before we got there, so they apologized several times for not having water and fruit ready for us when we came. They are a humble couple, living in a humble home who wanted to give to us. That is so kind and touching.

This morning we went to Sacrament Meeting in Kampong Thom.  They have a strong branch and the speakers today did a very good job.  We were blessed to have Phanna translate for us.  Since we had our first appointments in Kampong Cham at 1:00 we could not stay for the whole block, but it was good to see their beautiful chapel and to feel of their wonderful spirit.

After we got to Kampong Cham we hurried and ate lunch so we could be on time for our first meetings there.  As we ate it started to rain really hard.  Sameth looked at us and said that with the rain, no one would come to the meeting.  We were suppose to meet with some of the PEF participants here, but he was right, nobody came.  We were also suppose to visit a Self Reliance Group this afternoon at 4:00, but the Facilitator was ill so he canceled the group.  We ended with a PEF fireside at 5:30.  Again that was affected due to the rain, it has rained off and on very hard all afternoon.  Cambodia does need the rain, but it sure messed up our scheduled meetings today.

There is a big beautiful chapel being built in Kampong Cham, so we went by there as well. We were told the plan is to be completed by October. We wonder if that is too optimistic. In any case this will be a large beautiful building and will be a great blessing to the church members in Kampong Cham.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Visiting The Kaits (Kites) - Kampong Thom

The Kaits (pronounced "Kites") are the Provinces, kind of like Counties in the states. Cambodia's area is about the same size as the state of Oklahoma. As part of our mission assignment, we had the opportunity to travel, along with Phanna and Sameth, to Kampong Thom and Kampong Cham for Self Reliance and PEF meetings. This our first time venturing out of Phnom Penh with Elder Oveson as the driver. At least we had two navigators who know the area.

Phanna explained that "Kampong" means a higher place, and these are the highest elevation areas of Cambodia. "Thom" means big. As we drove through the country on our way the area is definite big, and the road had some slight climb. As we traveled the rains began to fall, washing the foliage clean and bringing out the brilliant green colors around us. My little camera really does not do justice to the beauty of the scene before us.

The drive to Kampong Thom took us about four hours, so we were ready for a break, but didn't get very long to stretch before we went to find a restaurant Sameth knew of that serves Western food. After a couple of wrong roads we found the Sambor Village, and again the scenery was wonderful. This place was along a river, with green forested paths. The food was good enough that after our Self Reliance and PEF meetings at the Kampong Thom Branch, we made another visit there for dinner. Sameth talked us into trying the ice cream for dessert, and we were not disappointed.

Kampong Thom has a beautiful chapel. There were 10 participants who came for the class, and several of them were new so instead of holding "Starting and Growing My Business," Phanna facilitated "My Path."  Sameth also held a PEF fireside, giving information to the members about PEF loans.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Another Friday, But Our Work Week is Not Over Yet

This morning we were greeted by a Perpetual Education Fund participant when we got to our office around 7:30.  She was looking to renew her loan for her final year of school.  We tried our best to help her, but it quickly became obvious that we needed Sameth, so she had to wait until he came just after 8:00.  We didn't feel so bad, when he told us that he spent an hour with her but was unable to get it all done.  There were logon issues, so she has to come back next week to try again.

We have a weekly staff meeting for the Cambodia Self Reliance Team, we use to have it on Mondays, but changed it to Tuesday because Phanna is not in the office on Mondays now.  Phanna had the Human Resource (HR) meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday and then Phanna and Sameth had an HR meeting yesterday for more than half of the day.  We finally had our weekly meeting this morning, but we had a lot to talk about, so it was important to hold.

We finished the basic report that we have been working on for the Area Office, now it is ready for us to all evaluate.  We also did some reports to get ready for our trip to the provinces this weekend, we are going to Kampong Cham and Kampong Thom. That should be an adventure.

We have watched a couple of small and very large building projects out on our balcony.  There were two small projects on the buildings next to ours. One they tore off the tile roof and eventually replaced it with a metal one.  On the other one they started from scratch and added the metal framing and sheeting to the roof and sides to create additional living space. We do not know if they are renting it or just enjoying it.  In the center of the collage is the skyline of Phnom Penh, there are a lot of buildings going up right now.  They are mainly foreign investors or what are referred to as tycoons in the local media.  As we have said before there are the very rich and very poor here in Cambodia.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

A Quiet Day With New Adventures

This morning we were up before the alarm so we were out the door earlier than usual. The wi-if  at our apartment was still down so we figured being early would give us a chance to check our email before starting our work. We were all alone in our office area most of the day because all the others were in meetings at the Service Center with the visiting HR team from Hong Kong.

We had planned to Skype with Sister Powell in Hong Kong about 8:30, but before we managed to connect with her Elders Christensen and Myers knocked on our door and asked if we would be able to sit in on a discussion they had with a 20 something young woman. We made quick arrangements to modify our Skype appointment and happily went to join the young missionaries.

One inconvenience we have been experiencing at the church lately is the continued renovations, both sets of stairs have scaffolding blocking the way, so we have to duck through as best we can and try not to get in the way or get paint or something on us. Just when we think they are done with an area we find they have started something different in that area. One of our favorite renovation pictures recently is finding where they take their nap after lunch! Seriously the scaffold plank is only about 15 inches wide, but maybe it's more comfortable than the hard floor.

We have been working on another project for Hong Kong helping with the PEF loans for Cambodia. After we put together this new report we will look at the information as a team to prepare recommendations for how some of the delinquent PEF loans can be remedied. We have seen some real success since we have been here. All these things add to our adventures!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Lunch with Elder and Sister Hollenzer

One of our first contacts in Cambodia was with Elder and Sister Hollenzer  who were serving as the mission office couple.  We traded emails back and forth several times as we were preparing to come here.  One of the most pressing matters was where we would be living.  Since the couple we were replacing had already gone home, the apartment that they had lived in was no longer under lease.  Our hope was that they would pick an apartment and have everything setup for us.  The reality was President Moon wanted us to pick our own apartment.  The Hollenzers were real lifesavers for us when we first got here.  They spent several days going with us and a realtor to see different apartments near our office.  They also introduced us to some of our favorite places to eat, including Brooklyn Pizza and Bistro.
It is hard to believe that we have to say goodbye to them at the end of this month.  They have
faithfully served their twenty-three month mission and will go home on July 31st.  Today we went to lunch and talked more than we ate, what a wonderful opportunity to visit with them.  They have become dear friends. 

On our way to lunch we got in a real downpour.  We have watched some heavy rain from inside, but not while we have been out.  Fortunately we went to the mall to eat and they have covered parking.

This evening it was our apartments turn for the internet to be down, thus our post is being done on Thursday morning instead of Wednesday night.  At least we live in a day of computers and wi-fi, and not just at a time of snail mail. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

It's a Jungle Out There! Really!

Today seemed like it might be just another day at our office, but we are not quite sure what that really means here in Cambodia. We had work to get done, then District Meeting at 10:00 a.m. There are two HR (Human Resources) people here from Hong Kong, so Phanna was pulled into an all day long training meeting across from our office with all the in country Managers. That meant we had to reschedule our afternoon staff meeting until later in the week.

With the Managers Meeting in the rooms by our office, we figured we needed to recommend that the young elders hold their district meetings on the ground floor, so we headed downstairs a little before 10:00 and found quite a surprise. The main stairway has been blocked with scaffolding since yesterday morning, so we had to duck through that to go down, but to our great surprise the gateway approach to the parking lot was entirely blocked by tree limbs, branches etc., and the beautiful trees that line the front fence of the church were completely cut back to the trunk with just a few green limbs remaining here and there. Wow! It was just a good thing we didn't have plans to go anywhere today!

As we stood in the parking lot waiting for the young missionaries come to the gate (just to be told to go around the mess and make their way through a tiny alley we hadn't realized was across the street, go around a little block and enter a gate on the South of the building that is usually locked). We also watched as some men in the trees did their work with the chain saws, taking the entire canopy off the trees. At least they were anchored with safety lines, and many of the huge tree limbs had cables on them to keep them from crashing through the power lines on their way to the ground. No wonder the internet was down on the weekend from being cut with the tree pruning. With the bulky mess of power lines that run under and through the trees it is just amazing there are not more fires or other electrical problems, or maybe we just don't hear about them.

By the time we finished our district meetings the gate was cleared, and when we left about 7:00 there are still loads of tree trimmings piles at least 10 feet tall that line the street. It will take a few more days to clear the rubble.

Monday, July 13, 2015

FaceTime and Skype are a blessing to us here

We always try to FaceTime with each of our children and their families at least once a week.  Due to scheduling we do one of those FaceTimes on Monday morning before heading to our office.  We love being able to visit with our family and catching up on what is happening back home.

This morning we also had to two Skype calls, one with Hong Kong and the other with Salt Lake City. Last Friday we received an email from a Self Reliance Services employee that wanted to Skype with us sometime this week to see how the initiative was going here in Cambodia.  We scheduled a half hour call which ended up going fifty minutes instead.  Obviously we had a lot to talk about.  We learned some interesting things from him about how Self Reliance was going in other countries and he said that he learned some new things from us.

Right after the Skype call with Salt Lake we had one with Marco, the Asia Area Perpetual Education Fund Manager in Hong Kong. Last week we had five PEF participants ask for a payoff amount with the new incentives. We prepared the calculations and sent them off to Hong Kong. Initially Hong Kong said only one of the five qualified for the additional incentives, but after looking at them more they approved three of the five.  Now they go on to headquarters and hopefully they will agree with us.  It is such a joy to watch these participants and their desire to pay their obligation. The two that did not qualify for all of the incentives are still receiving more than their original payoff. 

One of the real success stories here of being self reliant is a Cambodian Sister that makes ties.  Elder Oveson has four of them in his collection.  She sells them at the mission home and at a small store at the Russian Market.  She even has her own label. 

Today was a good day and we felt like we were able to make a difference in the Lord's initiative here in Cambodia.    

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The eighty-four year old High Counselor in the Phnom Penh South Stake

This morning in the Chaktomuk Ward it was High Council Sunday for Sacrament Meeting.  There were two scheduled speakers, an 84 year old member of the High Council and the Second Counselor in the Stake Presidency.  The High Counselor was the first speaker and he spoke for thirty minutes, so there was not time for the second speaker.  After Sacrament Meeting when I was speaking with the member of the Stake Presidency he told me that he was just the back up speaker if needed, he really wanted the members to hear from this great High Counselor.  He is right, how many eighty plus year old High Councilors are there in the Church?  I am sure that it is not many.

When we tried to connect to the internet during the Chaktomuk Ward block, it was still not working. We called Phanna after Church and found out that someone had cut the cable when they were trimming the trees on the street out front of the Church.  We are wondering how long we will be without the internet at work this week.  We may be working from our apartment some days if they do not get it fixed.

This afternoon while we were home between the two wards we received an email from Elder & Sister Hassell in Vietnam.  They wanted to know if we are able to help with Perpetual Education Fund loans in Vietnam, since they are part of our mission.  We explained that PEF has not been authorized for Vietnam yet and we copied the Asia Area Self Reliance Manager on our response.  He responded to them shortly there after.  Who knows, we may end up visiting Vietnam before our mission is done.

As we went into Sacrament Meeting in the Stueng Mean Chey 3rd Ward, one of Institute class members was there with her little family.  Her husband was one of the assigned High Counselors to speak in that ward today.  He is also the High Counselor in the South Stake that we have worked with for Self Reliance.  After Sacrament Meeting they asked if they could take a picture of us with their family, so that is our picture for today.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Internet is wonderful! (But we miss it when it is down)

It was difficult to get up at 5:00 a.m. for our early institute class this morning, but it was well worth the effort. We had 19 come to our class today! What a wonderful lesson and great participation! Our lesson was on Becoming Good Shepherds.

After class we started our weekly FaceTime calls. Earlier this week the internet provider was traded, so in theory we were to have faster, better service. We were just finishing our first call and lost the internet. We tried for several minutes to reconnect but to no avail. There had been plans for a call to Salt Lake with Sameth and Phanna, but that wouldn't happen without the internet! We resorted to plan B and went to our apartment to finish our calls.

We finished our morning with our weekly grocery shopping and lunch. Then we had a Self Reliance Group Meeting with the South Stake at 2:00 p.m. which we planned to check on. Since it is taught in Khmer we planned to use the internet while we observed the group. To our disappointment there was still no service. The provider had been called but we were still blacked out. 

We spent our Saturday evening preparing for the Sabbath. Sunday's are always busy so we have to get a head start on Saturday.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Tribute: President Boyd K. Packer

 With the passing of President Boyd K. Packer this past week, we have had occasion to reflect on our personal interactions with this great man.  He has given so many years or leadership, guidance and teaching, he has had powerful influence on many, including us!

Sister Oveson had the opportunity to be served and rescued by him, along with one of his colleagues  31 years ago.  "It was January 10, 1984 and we had experienced a very cold winter. The snows had fallen and left everything iced over. We had been in a deep freeze with the daytime temperatures about 5 degrees F,  I was about 9 1/2 months pregnant and after a doctor appointment had to go to the Cottonwood hospital for a Non-Stress-Test. As I parked on a two inch thick sheet of ice, I knew I wouldn't easily move the car when it was time to leave. I figured it would have to wait until I was done with the test then worry about the car."

"When I returned to the car a couple of hours later, I still was not able to do anything but spin the tires on the ice. I stepped out into the cold to look for some possible help and saw two men in suits and overcoats who willingly came to my rescue.  These two valiant men along with another passerby were able to push the car out of the parking spot and I was able to get traction and return home. These two apostles, Elder Boyd K. Packer and Elder David B. Haight, were heading to visit another apostle, Elder Mark E. Petersen, who passed away the next day. They set the example to me that two apostles are willing to help others in their every day needs, and I was blessed."

When Elder Oveson was a stake president he had to have several vertebrae in his neck fused.  The next stake conference only a week or so before the date, he was told that President Boyd K. Packer had decided to visit their conference.  In the first meeting with the stake presidency before the general meeting,  upon learning about Elder Oveson's surgery, he said "another stiff necked leader."  He then explained that he had gone through a similar surgery himself.  That stake conference was wonderful and it was a treat to sit knee to knee with a humble apostle of the Lord.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Skype with Hong Kong, Zone Meeting at Steung Mean Chey, and Brooklyn Pizza

Today was not a typical day. But most days are not typical here in Cambodia! We had a broad range of happenings. Shortly after we arrived at our office, Sameth knocked on our door to let us know he was there. He said, "Hello! It's raining outside. Sister Oveson, don't you want a picture?" Because it was raining he was wearing his simple rain poncho along with his helmet. He knew we love to post on our blog! We love it!

Our morning included a Skype call with Sister Powell in Hong Kong. We had a wonderful visit. We have enjoyed having the Powells as friends and it is a blessing to work with them, and report to them. After our call we hurried to Steung Mean Chey where the young missionaries were having a Zone training meeting. We had told them we would be late. It is such a joy to meet with these young missionaries and watch as they grow their leadership skills! We were told Cambodia is considered a Green Beret Mission, and these are definitely Green Beret Missionaries!

This afternoon we stopped by the mission home and picked up a package from home. We always appreciate the thoughtful support our family gives to us.

With our unusual schedule, we really didn't spend much time in the office before meeting with Elder and Sister VanBrocklin and another friend, Ellen Clark, to go to dinner at Brooklyn Pizza. Elder and Sister Meinzer were happy to join us there as well. What a wonderful group to get together. Ellen Clark and her partner own a fly tying business that has a factory here in Cambodia. When we visited with her a few weeks ago we invited her to join us for dinner some evening. We finally made it work. She was not disappointed by the food at Brooklyn. We are sure she will be back, and maybe she will invite us to join her again!

So, today was not typical, but still very satisfying and enjoyable.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Getting To Know Elder and Sister Leavitt Better

A couple of weeks ago we told Elder and Sister Leavitt, our knew office couple that we needed to go to lunch with them sometime soon.  With all of the coming and going last week we knew that it would not work then, so we scheduled it for today.  Our original plan was to pick them up at the Mission Office and take them, but last week we invited the Christensens to join us also.  Our little Corolla will not accommodate six people, but the Leavitts have a 15 passenger van that they drive, so they met us at our office.  We went to Mama's New York Deli, so the food was great, but the company was even better.

The Leavitts were originally called to serve in India, but the Indian government was really restricting the number of visas, so we were blessed to get them instead.  They are from Cardston Canada, but they lived in Calgary most of their married lives.  Both Elder and Sister Leavitt are the most upbeat people that you will ever meet.  They are funny and just plain fun to be around, they had us all laughing at lunch today.  We had originally planned on a one hour lunch but it quickly turned into an hour and a half.  The Cambodia Phnom Penh Mission is blessed to have the Leavitts as the Office Couple.

This week we have been doing a lot of correspondence trying to get the whole Self Reliance Services initiative authorized for Cambodia.  We better understand the hoops that the leaders have been jumping through since before we ever left for our mission.  It is interesting to see the Lord's hand in what is happening.  We probably were not ready for the full blown Self Reliance package before, we had to get the stakes and districts up to speed on one of the groups, now they are ready for the rest of them.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Renovations Update: Making Progress

A few months ago we watched as renovations began in the South Stake Center. We thought it was just new internet service for us, and some paint on the walls. The internet change is still pending, and the paint project was not just putting on a new coat of paint. Instead a whole crew is systematically going through and completely stripping the old paint layers to the raw walls, then new plaster smoothed over all the wall surfaces, before primer followed by color. All this is manual labor with very little modern equipment.

The ground level seems to be progressing, the paint in the halls had been scraped and color going on, then today we heard new demolition noises, and found they are removing the tile and stalls in the rest rooms. WOW! They are really getting into this remodel project!

Up on the first floor (we would call it the second floor), our wing is progressing. We have gone from the demolition of the floor and piles of concrete rubble and scraping the paint off the walls to floating new tile floors, and today new paint on the walls. We are just not sure if they intend to go into classrooms and office, but the hall is showing promise. We are optimistic that in a year from now they should be done and the building should look amazing! (We hope it won't take that long. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland is coming to visit Cambodia in August and we are hoping they plan on the building looking wonderful by then.)

Monday, July 6, 2015

Tell Me About A Typical Day For You

Yesterday after the baptism we were showing the Leavitts our office, and Brother Leavitt asked what a typical day is like for us.  After some thought for a moment we said that we do not know what a typical day is like since every one is unique and different.

There are some days that have more structure than others, like Tuesday when we go to one of the District Meetings and hold our country staff meeting.  The first week of the month we help out with reports that have to be submitted to Hong Kong before the 10th.  The last couple of weeks of the month we help call Perpetual Education fund participants that just need to know we care and encourage them.

We try and read our scriptures in the afternoon at the office. If things are too crazy then they have to wait until we get home at night.  We also try to do some Cambodian language study every day, we are still working on increasing our testimony phrases and prayer language.  Likewise, we take some time to work on preparing our institute lesson.  We have had at least five more members tell us that they want to come to our class, we will see who really does on Saturday.

Every day there are the unexpected items that come up.  A new report or information that headquarters would like, most of the time we have not been tracking the item they ask for, so we have to go back and give it our best shot.  A Perpetual Education Fund participant who shows up that we get to meet and talk to, we love talking to them.  We even have Institute Students show up at our office and they are always welcome. Today we were introduced to one more student who wants to participate in our class.

In the evening we write our daily blog, do our laundry and catch up on what is happening back home on FaceBook.  Even after writing this blog we are still not sure what a typical day is for us.

There are maids that work here at the apartment where we live, they keep the hall floors mopped, usually two or three times a day, and they do a light cleaning in each apartment twice a week.  We have observed several different ways how they spend there down time, from sleeping on the hard floor to sitting downstairs with the guards.  Tonight's picture is our favorite, laying on the floor charging her phone and reading her messages.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

We're Tired! What a busy Sabbath!

Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest, but when you are assigned to attend two wards, have a convert baptism at attend, have visitors over for lunch, and finish the day with a Self Reliance meeting, it makes for a very long, tiring day. But What a wonderful day it was!

Shortly after we arrived for meetings at the Chaktomuk Ward, President and Sister Christensen arrived with Elders Eppley and Neuberger. Since President Christensen doesn't have his driver's license yet they tagged along with the assistants. We were grateful! They had plans to stay for the entire block, then attend the same convert baptism for Victoria which we were invited to at 1:00 p.m.  We hope they are not totally getting tired of Elder and Sister Oveson. We have been with them almost every day since they arrived in Cambodia.

After the Chaktomuk Ward meetings we asked President and Sister Christensen what their plans were for lunch. Our lunch had been prepared last night in the crock pot, and we happened to make enough for what we thought would be two meals for us. We were grateful to have them accept our lunch invitation. We know we appreciated having Elder and Sister Meinzer look out for us when we first arrived in the country.

As we returned to the church for Victoria's baptism, we couldn't help but think of another baptism we were not able to attend this week. Since we couldn't attend Roman's baptism, they did send some great pictures of our cute red-headed grandson.

Our drive to Steung Mean Chey had less Classic-Khmer photos today, however we only stayed for sacrament meeting today because we needed to attend the Self Reliance group in the North Stake at 6:00 tonight. There are two main roads to Steung Mean Chey, and both have construction. After church we took the other road back and found the construction there was definitely worse, but we didn't encounter any major traffic jams like we did our first time going home from Steung Mean Chey.

Finally the Self Reliance group was great. The North Stake was the first group to meet for their Self Reliance course. They were on lesson 9 out of 12 tonight. As we entered the church building one of the participants stopped us. He is the Bishop in one of the wards. He just wanted to tell us how much this Self Reliance group has meant for him and his wife. He talked for almost ten minutes of how this class had inspired him, and how he felt this is very much teachings from the Lord and not just from man. What a wonderful message of success in our Self Reliance calling! All these wonderful blessings outweigh the discomfort of sitting all day on the hard chairs at church! We are tired but we are happy and grateful to be in the service of the Lord!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

4th of July Independence Day Celebrations in Cambodia

Today was the beginning of a new Saturday morning Institute class. We have been asked to teach "Principles of Leadership", and what a wonderful group of young people came for our class today! We had 13 participants, with at least 3 others who told us they will come in the future but had a conflict for today.  After class, we had enough time for short FaceTime visits and a quick grocery shopping trip before going to meet President and Sister Christensen at the mission home for a fun outing.

With the change in presidents, we arranged to pick up tickets for President and Sister Christensen to attend the Independence Day Celebration with us at the U.S. Embassy. Since there are no parking lots, the tickets suggested attendees come in a taxi or Tuk Tuk. We opted for the latter. We arranged for the BYU-UofU Tuk Tuk, owned by a church member, Seyha Haem, for our trip today. This was the first time our friends have traveled in the Khmer Tuk Tuk taxis, and they thoroughly enjoyed the ride.

The Embassy was dressed up and decorated for the occasion with the traditional red white and blue buntings, and flags. There were about 3,000 people there, including the other senior missionary couples and church members from around Phnom Penh.

We enjoyed visiting with so many people, and introduced the Christensens to several people they will have more opportunities to get to know in the community. The entertainment was a U.S. Navy Band. There was a children's choir that sang the Cambodian National Anthem before the U.S. Ambassador, William Todd, spoke to the crowd, then a Cambodian Circus. There were several vendors selling food: We chose Mike's Burgers!

The more important event we are missing at home is the baptism for our grandson, Roman. We made a special FaceTime call this evening just for Roman. We are proud of him and are thankful we can still keep in touch with each of our family while we are away. As we attend a baptism tomorrow we will be thinking of Roman.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Another Way to Count How Long We have Been Here

We mentioned  in one of our other posts that the rainy season is finally starting.  Today was the
rainiest day so far.  It rained a little bit this morning, but it was just fine at lunch when we took a little walk outside.  In fact it was quite interesting that in the parking lot there were spots that were dry and then there were some puddles.  Shortly after lunch it clouded up again and rained a little bit more.  Then about 4:00 p.m. we had the heaviest downpour during the day while we have been here.  As we looked out the window there were still people walking around enjoying the rain.  You can tell that the Cambodians understand how important the rainy season is for them.

We were told that when the rain starts the amount of traffic decreases significantly to about a third of normal.  With the rain this afternoon we are sure that it decreased even more than that.  As we headed home the rain had stopped, and the traffic was significantly busier than normal.

We have the greatest, gentlest and kindest dentist in the world, Dr. Bruce Pyper.  In our final checkup and cleaning before our mission, he told us that since we would probably not see a dentist for two years, he wanted to make sure that we took care of our teeth while we were away.  So he gave us enough toothbrushes and floss to last for two years.   What he did not know was that there would be things we found here that would definitely incentivize us to brush really hard.  The first thing that encouraged us to brush was the little dentist office on the alley to our apartment.  Next was when we saw a commercial for Colgate charcoal toothpaste, it looks like regular toothpaste with a charcoal stripe through the middle of it.  When we mentioned it to one of our Cambodian friends, he said that he brushed his teeth with charcoal when he was young.  The final was a newspaper article that indicated that there are at least 2,000 doctors and 300 dentists practicing here with
out proper licensing.

Now for the other way to count how long we have been here, Dr. Pyper told us to switch toothbrushes every three months.  With the extra incentives it is only taking two months to wear them out, so we have already worn out two toothbrushes, only ten more to go.  

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Getting To Know President & Sister Christensen Better

Even though we had Zone Conference just four weeks ago, today was a special Zone Meeting for President and Sister Christensen to introduce themselves.  We had some things that needed to be done in our office first thing so we hurried and got them done.  As we went into the chapel we just kind of watched President and Sister Christensen interact with the young missionaries.  They mingled among them and just shook hands and chatted, that is exactly what they needed to do, to put them at ease.

The Christensens came in to the meeting without a script and just shared their stories.  President Christensen shared the miracle that happened when he was transferred to Vietnam as a young missionary and had to learn a new language.  He truly felt the gift of tongues while he was on his mission which gift left when he went home.  They shared about how they met and the process of dating and getting married.  President Christensen is six and a half years older than Sister Christensen.  Then they ended on a spiritual note that was perfect, they shared some of the teachings of the prophets and apostles from their training last week.  Sister Christensen shared with us about Peter and the great missionary that he became after his trials.  She shared the last verse of 2 Peter 3, "But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen."  President Christensen shared with us his feelings of being called by President Eyering to serve here in Cambodia.  What a wonderful meeting.

This afternoon we helped out with the monthly reports that are due by the 10th.  Sister Oveson has her report in already, no need to remind her twice.  We also helped look at the budgets for Self Reliance Services for Cambodia, and also the Seminary and Institute budget.  It feels good to be needed and to be able to make a difference.

We have also been working on our institute lesson for this Saturday.  The lesson manual is great for those if English is their first language, but we are dealing with Young Adults that English is a second language and most have been members less than ten years.  We feel so blessed to be able to teach these great sons and daughters of Our Heavenly Father.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

God Be With You 'Til We Meet Again

Today was a typical day at the office, but not a typical day in our mission. With the arrival of President and Sister Christensen late last night, they spent the day meeting with the Moons, receiving the pass of the baton. Then this evening all the Senior Missionaries in the country gathered for dinner and a good visit.

The chosen restaurant for this evening's dinner was Tell. This is a wonderful Bavarian restaurant, and one of the best parts of that was the private room that set us away from any other distractions and gave us the space to visit to our hearts content.

At dinner we shared the book, "CAMBODIA - It's Complicate", which we had created for President and Sister Moon, as well as a Cambodian flag Elder Hollenzer had acquired and all the senior missionaries had signed for them. As we looked through the book with the Moons, we mentioned that the sun sets in Cambodia and the new day dawns at home, President Moon said, "You mean the Moon rises at home!?" We had totally missed that metaphor in putting together the book.

And they are off!
President Moon told us that he calculated that there had been about 320 young missionaries and 60 Seniors who had served under his direction. We each had the opportunity to tell of something we had learned or observed of the Moons. And we had a wonderful introduction to the leaders President and Sister Christensen are as they step into their new roll here.

All the Seniors went to the airport for our last goodbyes and found a wonderful crowd of members who came to give their love and say farewell to the Moons. What a wonderful example they have been. What a wonderful legacy they have left. They came to Cambodia, touched many lives, and changed so many forever.