Monday, August 31, 2015

This was a "Moving" weekend for Sameth

Monday comes marking the beginning of another new week at the office. Just like every other day recently, you can count on it being different. We were pleasantly surprised when Phanna came in today, as Monday has become his day off. He even beat Sameth there this morning.

When Sameth arrived he told us how tired he was from moving over the weekend. He and his wife, Thida, were so exhausted from moving that they couldn't even move to get out of bed. So after such a tiring weekend, when he got to his office there was more moving to be done. On Friday their office was put into a bit of turmoil when new desks were delivered. So today was spent cleaning out and moving around the office. At the end of the day, their office had been put back together, before Sameth walked out the door we had to reassure him we would make sure we find something for him to move tomorrow.

Our morning started off kind of crazy. We were just getting started when Sameth had two PEF students come needing to do loan renewals. Since his office had been taken apart, his computer was not even hooked up, he came to our office. We were happy to help and gave them access to our computers. Right about the same time, Marla called on FaceTime because she was having a rough day with car troubles. We took the call outside. Then after we finished talking with Marla we took a quick trip to the Service Center to get some PEF payments in before the day's deadline so they would be posted today.

One other project Phanna has taken to task was to create a bulletin board display for Self Reliance. With the remodeling and painting in our building in recent months, the bulletin board had been cleared and waiting for something new. We suggested the covers from the Self Reliance manuals would be great posters, so he took it a step farther and had posters printed. Not just for our building, but for each of the buildings throughout Cambodia. Now we just need to deliver them and get them posted. Maybe it is good thing there is a trip planned next week to make the circuit around Cambodia.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Speaking in Church and Another Baptism

Two weeks ago Bishop Kong in the Chaktomuk Ward caught Elder Oveson and asked him if he would speak in Sacrament Meeting today.  He tried his best to get out of it by using the "I don't speak Cambodian" excuse, but that did not work, he said the missionaries could translate.  At District Meeting last Friday he asked the Assistants if they would translate and they told him that they would.  Forward to today, as Sacrament Meeting started the Assistants were not there, and when the Sacrament was over they still were not there.  Elder Oveson grabbed Elder Cook, the District Leader, and asked if he would translate for him, he said that he just got a text and they would be right there, just then they walked in the chapel door.  He did bear his testimony in Cambodian at the end of his talk.

As we arrived at the Stueng Mean Chey 3rd Ward Elder Jarvis let Elder Oveson know that the bishop wanted him to speak in their ward today.  That was a total shock, so he started to quickly pray and figure out what he was suppose to talk about. He knew the talk he gave earlier was not the right one for that ward.  Now for the rest of the story, when they announced the speakers Elder Oveson was not one of the announced speakers. He was greatly relieved.

Today after the Chaktomuk Ward there was a baptism for a sister and her daughter that we have known for about three months.  She was one of the Sisters that wanted a picture with Sister Oveson one Sunday which we posted to the blog.  She is engaged to a member that lives in Eagle Mountain Utah, he was here in Cambodia to visit her about six weeks ago.

We were blessed to be with Sister Jepsen's parents most of the day.  They came to our apartment for lunch while Sister Jepsen went ahead to Steung Mean Chey 1st Ward.  And they came home to eat dinner with us after the Stueng Mean Chey 3rd Ward, while Sister Jepsen went to visit a member at the hospital.  Now we know why we like Sister Jepsen so much, she has great parents.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Saturday, "Preparation Day"?!

As with most Saturdays, we were up before dawn and off to teach our Institute Class, which was wonderful, with 22 participants (counting one who came early but couldn't stay for class, and one who left at 7:30 for other obligations.) Like most Saturdays, after teaching our class we spent time on Skype or FaceTime with family. That is always a wonderful way to finish a week. That is where our typical Saturday diverged from our day today.

During our Skype calls, we received a phone call from a PEF participant wondering if he could come visit us at 2:30 this afternoon. We told him we would arrange to be at the office this afternoon. Sameth normally works on Saturday, but took yesterday and today off to move into his new home. Phanna was there, however, and was busy working on one of many reports he is asked to compile. This report was on an economic profile of church members in Cambodia. As we finished our visits with our family Phanna was there asking for our help reviewing the information on his report before he submitted it to the Asia Area office.

After helping tweak the report, and eating Nutella and jelly sandwiches (just as Sisters Spangler and Uresk, her companion, stopped in), we ran a quick errand before hurrying back in time to meet with the PEF student. It is always great to meet those we call and put names and faces together. It turns out we really had met him once before, about three months ago.  As we finished with the PEF visit, we opened the door to find Sister Jepsen outside our door along with several other missionaries. Sister Jepsen has been touring Cambodia with her parents and returned today to Phnom Penh. They fly home to the US on Monday, but had a few last visits in Phnom Penh for the weekend. We have invited the Jepsens to join for lunch and dinner tomorrow, as well as tag along with us to Steung MeanChey in the afternoon. They were grateful for the invitation, not having settled on what they would do for meals on Sunday.

Finally, about 3:00 we left to get groceries. (So much for having Saturday off from the office.) After taking care of a few things at our apartment and going out for a quick dinner, we came back to cook Sunday Dinner in the crock pot. (We have found it best if we cook our Sunday meal on Saturday instead of counting on the crock pot meal waiting when our Sunday schedule has proven too long for our crock pot.)

As we were out and about on our errands this afternoon, we were aware of several children playing on the corner. These children are usually quick to walk through traffic waiting for a traffic light and beg for money. Today as we watched, the boys were doing typical boy games, tussling with each other, wrestling, or climbing a tree. Other than the poverty that has forced so many children and families into begging for a living, they seemed like any other children you would find anywhere in the world.

We always enjoy People Watching especially in Cambodia!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Thank Goodness it is Friday - For at Least This Week

With missionaries going home on Monday, Preparation Day for the young missionaries was moved to Tuesday and District Meetings were moved to today.  We love going to the District Meetings and watching as the Spirit moves these young and faithful servants along and down the paths that is so hard to imagine.  These are young eighteen to twenty-plus year olds that are having an experience that the world could not give them.  They are trusted and allowed to teach and train each other and then go and serve.  Today Elder Cook, the District Leader, led a great discussion about how can you know when the investigator is ready to be baptized.  I wish every priesthood leader could have been a fly on the wall to hear them and know that they really understand.  There was no talk of meeting numbers, only about recognizing the fruit of their repentance and the importance of conversion.  What a wonderful Friday for a grandma and grandpa to see that when the spirit is strong miracles happen.

Sister Oveson used her designing skills to help Phanna put together a poster to hang in all of the Church Buildings here in Cambodia talking about Self Reliance.  We have the Asia Area Self Reliance Manager coming to town on the 7th of September and we want to put the posters up as we tour the provinces that week.  Elder Oveson helped Phanna finish the country economic analysis for Cambodia.  We were shocked by the extremely low income that most member families live on monthly.  As we looked at the analysis, Phanna profoundly stated that it will take ten years to really make a difference, and he is right.

We had another real heavy rainstorm this afternoon, but it only lasted for about an hour, so there was no real flooding today.  One great advantage of the rain is how clear the skies are afterward.  The sunset tonight was completely different than others we have posted, but oh so beautiful.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

"Mormon Newsroom: Elder Holland Visits Cambodia"

We have often said that the most amazing part of our mission so far has been the people that we have met.  A group that we have really bonded with are the other Senior Couples serving here in Cambodia.  They were at the airport to greet us as we arrived, they have been there to say, it has been to long let's go out to lunch or dinner.  They are our best friends and family all rolled into one.  Tonight we want to share with you the fantastic work of Elder and Sister VanBrocklin, from Centerville Utah.

Mormon Newsroom: Elder Holland Visits Cambodia
Elder Holland with President Eng of the PP North Stake
 This link will take you to the Mormon Newsroom where you can find Elder VanBrocklin's photos of the amazing weekend with an Apostle, and their article which has completely captured the messages we received at the feet of Elder Holland.

Our friends and fellow missionaries, Elder and Sister VanBrocklin, are the Public Affairs Missionaries here in the Cambodia Phnom Penh Mission.
Their responsibilities, among other things, include meeting with dignitaries, taking pictures, and writing up stories for Mormon Newsroom, which is where many of the stories are submitted which are eventually printed in church publications or other news releases. You might guess Elder and Sister VanBrocklin have been kept busy the past few weeks with Elder Holland's visit to Cambodia. They were busy long before he made it to the country. They were also part of the group that went to Vietnam for his visit there the Monday and Tuesday before coming to Cambodia.  Our thanks to them for their dedication and the wonderful work they are doing here in the mission.

VanBrocklin Cambodia Blog Link  will take you to some amazing photos Elder VanBrocklin has taken during their Cambodia Adventures. We hope you enjoy their talents as much as we have.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Joy of Sharing

In the morning we leave our office door open just a bit so that we can say hi to Sameth and Phanna as they get there.  This morning as Sameth came he told us that he had a friend to see us, it was Hout Buntry, one of the PEF participant that Elder Oveson talks to every month on the phone.  Two months ago he made his first payment in over two years.  With his payment today he qualifies for Renewed Hope next month. He still owes the same amount but he is now considered current.  That is important because he now qualifies for incentives and he wants to payoff his loan.  It is so fun to share with the PEF participants the opportunity to qualify for a program so that they can keep their promises.

This morning we had our very first Asia Self Reliance Senior Couple video conference call.  We have had video conferences with all those involved with Self Reliance Services and those involved with the Perpetual Education Fund, but this was the first just for the Senior Couples.  Right now the Powells, our leaders, are in Hong Kong, Francoms are in Mongolia, Elder Seppi (his wife is a Health Missionary) is in Thailand, and us in Cambodia.  It was good for us to hear what they are doing and for us to share what we are doing.

This afternoon we had to finally do the grocery shopping that we were not able to do on Saturday.  We were out of bread, peanut butter, Nutella and jam, for lunch sandwiches.  We generally have sandwiches only a couple times a week, but we share with the others in the office.

We started writing in our blog everyday as a journal for our mission, but we love sharing our posts with family, friends and whoever wants to view them.  Yesterday the mother of one of the missionaries serving here invited Sister Oveson to join a FaceBook page for families of missionaries serving in Cambodia.  We did a couple post there, including mentioning our blog.  Last night we had 148 page views.  We thank each of you that have looked at our blog, it makes us feel like our motives are not just completely self serving.  We love sharing our Blog.

Today's picture are random Khmei pictures.  Today was a random day, thus a random collage.  Among other things, we can't help but notice the open umbrellas or full awnings driving down the street as part of food carts. We are not sure how the drivers can see through the carts that are attached to the left of their motos. These are all things we would never see at home.


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A Big Little Missionary Miracle

Today was a busy day at the office, continuing to work on the big project for HQ. We are making progress, and are ready to submit all of the material that we were asked to provide.

We enjoy working as a team with Phanna and Sameth, and Tuesday is our scheduled staff meeting, unless, of course, something else gets in the mix. Today we actually met as planned.

Today also brought to light one of the big little miracles one of our missionaries received. A few days ago one of the senior sisters was injured in an accident as she was a passenger in a taxi, leaving her with a broken wrist. At first she thought it was just sprained, but finally sought help at a clinic here in Phnom Penh, and she was scheduled to have the wrist cast today. Here is where miracles happen. Sister Jepsen, who completed her mission yesterday, was met by her parents and they have plans to tour Cambodia before returning home to Idaho in a few days. Well, Sister Jepsen's father is an Orthopedic Surgeon. He was asked to look at the x-rays, and didn't like the position of the bone at the break. Long story short, he went with the injured sister to her appointment and was welcomed as he offered to assist the local doctors in treating our friend. He was able to correct the way the bone was set, giving a better chance for the bone to heal and not leave permanent pain and damage.

With this tender mercy of Dr. Jepsen coming to Cambodia just as there was a missionary in need, we thought of the Apostolic Blessing given by Elder Holland in conference on Sunday. He left a blessing on each of us. "I bless you with all the righteous desires of your heart. ... Those who are sick, this is that blessing as if my hands were on your head. ... You will see miracles on your left and on your right. ... God who hears you in private gives you blessings in public." These are some of the wonderful blessings pronounced on the people in that conference here in Cambodia. We trust in those blessings, and find it no small coincidence our friend had the doctor arrive in the right place at the right time.

Our photo for today is the office elders, Elders Olsen and Bostrom with the Japanese investigator as they borrowed our office for a Skype discussion with elders in Japan. Just one more evidence of blessings in moving the work forward in Cambodia. We are always willing to help with the Lord's work, even if it is just staying late so that a son of Our Heavenly Father can be taught in his own language. One of those marvels of technology that the world has been blessed with to allow the gospel to go to all.

Monday, August 24, 2015

With Every Calling There Comes a Release - Even For Missionaries

The Sunday after we were given a car to drive, we went to the Stueng Mean Chey 3rd Ward for the very first time.  We met wonderful sister missionaries serving there, Sister Jepson and Sister Spangler.  For the last five months we have served in the same Ward, first Stueng Mean Chey 3rd and then Chaktomuk with Sister Jepson.  Despite her best efforts to stay even longer, today was the last day of her mission.

Sister Jepson's parents were coming here to Cambodia to pick her up, the Van Broklyn's had agreed to pick them up at the airport this morning.  This afternoon we got a call from Sister Christensen asking if we could get ahold of them, they are staying at a hotel across from the Stake Center, and ask them to wait until 5:30 to come to the Mission Home.  We walked over and spoke to them and then they asked if we had any ideas of what they could do for a little while.  We told them they could take a ride with us to the Service Center, which they were more than willing to do.  It started to rain just before we went and the streets were a little flooded, but not even close to the storm three weeks ago.  We also offered to take them to the Mission Home later to find their daughter.

We have been working on a project for here in Cambodia under the direction of Church Headquarters and Hong Kong.  We got notice today that due to so much happening it has all been moved to Hong Kong.  We try to practice the phrase, blessed are the flexible for they shall not be bent out of shape.  We always try to be flexible and roll with whatever we have to and trust that everything will work out fine.

Liz and Ella
One little side story from yesterday. There were two cute girls, Liz and Ella, visiting Cambodia from Manchester England, who were quite determined to attend church. They set out, and stopped at every LDS chapel they could locate in Phnom Penh, only to find them all locked and no services at any of them. They finally learned of the conference with Elder Holland, but arrived as everyone was leaving. Somehow President and Sister Christensen found them, so Liz and Ella were invited to join our missionary meeting and luncheon at the South Stake Center. These two gorgeous girls were welcomed and had a wonderful visit with all the missionaries, and even had opportunity to shake the hand of Elder Holland. As we were introduced to these girls, Sister Oveson took the initiative to ask for them to perform Paparazzi services when we gathered for pictures. They had a wonderful adventure to add to their Cambodia Adventure. So, that is how we managed to get pics of our meeting Elder Holland.  So, now you know the rest of the story!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

A Special Sunday with Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

In the history of the church in Cambodia there have been very few visits from an apostle. Today was a wonderful opportunity for all the members to hear an apostle. There was a large hall rented for the occasion with seating for 2,000 people. Most of the missionaries sat at the back of the hall to allow the members the closer seating. That allowed us to see that it filled up almost to capacity. It was wonderful to see faces from the Chaktomuk and Steung Mean Chey 3rd Wards, as well as our institute students. They all came in with love and enthusiasm for the opportunity to be taught.

We were taught by so many wonderful leaders. We heard from two Sisters who spoke, the East  and Central District Presidents, the two Stake Presidents. President and Sister Christensen bore their testimonies, followed by messages from Elder Khanikham (the Area Seventy), Elder Gong (Asia Area President), Sister Gong, and Elder Holland. As Elder Holland took the podium, he invited one other brother, Ith Vichit, to come bear his testimony. We have written about Brother Vichit a few weeks ago, but he was very instrumental in the LDS Church coming to Cambodia.

One story Elder Holland told was directed to the children and youth in the congregation. He said that when he was a child about 9 years old he had gone camping with his family. During that outing, when others were not looking, he strayed away and became lost. The longer he looked for his family and the camp, the more frightened he became. He looked to the North, the South, the East, and the West. He became hungry and thirsty, afraid and alone. Somehow, his father found him and brought him back safely to the family.

Elder Holland taught that God is our loving Heavenly Father. Without him we are lost. God loves us and He will find us. God has come to our rescue the same way his earthly father came to his rescue. He has given us prophets, temples, and teachings for gifts for us. We need to accept the gift God has given.

It is impossible to give a full report of all the wonderful teachings we received today. After the meeting with the members in Cambodia, the missionaries were blessed to have another meeting with Elder Holland, Elder Khanikham, Elder Gong, and President and Sister Christensen.

Being Taught at The Feet of Elder Holland

Elder Holland is one of the most kind, loving and sincere men that we have ever listened to at General Conference.  That is without actually being in his presence.  There is a warmth that cannot be explained when you have the privilege of being in the same room and feeling of his spirit along with being touched by his message.

We started the day teaching our Institute class at 7:00 a.m., where we had 21 members there today.  The lesson was about Honoring Priesthood and Womanhood.  We talked about the Sister Auxiliary Presidents being added to the main councils of the Church.  We love this class they are so eager to learn and to serve.

As we were Skyping and FaceTiming with our family we got a call from President Christensen letting us know that Elder Oveson was invited to a Priesthood Leadership meeting and that we needed to be there by 11:00.  That meant that we did not have time to go shopping or any of our normal Saturday activities.  We went home and Elder Oveson changed into his suit and off we went.

Sister Oveson was helping with fruit for the break during the four hour Priesthood Leadership Meeting, and for the Pizza for after the meeting.  She had been asked to setup some extra special items for Elder Holland, Elder Gong and Elder Khanikham.  After she had set it all up she was able to briefly greet Elder Holland.  He told her he had a present for her a flower lei, that had been intended for his wife who had not been able to come with him.  At the break Elder Holland saw sister Oveson and she did not have the lei on and he asked about it.  She explained that she was allergic, so he inquired about what she did with the lei.  He was pleased when she explained that she passed it along to another Sister Missionary.

This evening we went out to eat with all of the other Senior Couples at the Titanic restaurant.  The company was great, the food was good, but it took way too long, they were very busy.  We did not make it home until 9:00.  Today was a very long day.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Red Sky At Night . . .

Today was a "preparation day" of sorts. We are preparing for the visit of an Apostle, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, who will visit Cambodia the next two days. We have been given an assignment to help with a snack during Priesthood Leadership Training. This is a team effort, and many others are working on their assignment. We needed to go pick up small bowls and forks as well as a few snacks for Elder Holland, Elder Gong, the Area President,  and Elder Khanikham, the Area Seventy over Cambodia.

As we parked by Thai Huot Market we couldn't help but take a picture. We have commented before that they have been our best source of breakfast cereal. Maybe that is why they showcase their cereal so completely in the window of the store. That said, we did not buy any cereal today, but we were able to find cheese, crackers and nuts, bowls, and forks for tomorrow. Someone else is preparing fruits to be used for the snack for the Priesthood brethren as well as for Elder Holland's group. Elder and Sister Meinzer have taken the assignment of picking up water to go along with the snack, and pizzas and drinks for the conclusion of the meeting.

This evening as we cleaned up from our dinner we were drawn outside to enjoy another beautiful sunset. The Lord's paintbrush and pallet of colors is truly amazing. We thought of the saying "Red Sky at Night, Sailors' Delight." We may not be sailors, but the sky gave delight. We stood and watched for about 15 minutes as the colors changed and the city grew dark. Then after we finished our clean-up and washing dishes went up on the roof for another view of the city with the deepening tones of the night. We marvel at the beauties of this wonderful world that we are privileged to see and enjoy. We are feeling very blessed!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

An Apostle Coming Is An Exciting Thing

This morning Sister Oveson decided that it was time to try out one of her new Cambodian skirts.  It was definitely the hit of the day.  Everyone that saw it loved it and several said that they needed to have a Cambodian skirt.  We did not get a picture of it earlier so we got one while she was ironing shirts this evening.  Elder Oveson is so lucky, a beautiful wife, in a beautiful new skirt, that is willing to iron his shirts for him.

With Elder Holland coming this Saturday the leaders in Cambodia are very excited and they want to make sure everything is just right.  President and Sister Christensen have been in Vietnam with Elder Holland since Sunday, so the Cambodian Service Center Manager has been anxious to make sure that everything is ready for Saturday.  There is a four hour Priesthood Leadership Meeting at the North Stake Center Saturday.  The Service Center Manager asked Sister Oveson and some of the wonderful Cambodian Sisters to help with a snack at the break and then pizza at the end for the attendees.  Sister Christensen is back today, so Sister Oveson talked with her and she did have everything under control, but Sister Oveson is still helping.

Today was one of those days that was just full of stuff that we needed to do and help with.  This morning we had our weekly Skype meeting with Hong Kong.  It is good to return and report and get a sense of what others are doing in the Asia Area.  First thing this morning the Seminary and Institute Director and his wife came in to talk with us about a member that they are trying to help that has some different ideas.  They want to have some discussion meetings with him and a group to help him get off of the mysteries of the Church that he wants to focus on.  Phanna's wife Sokhom came to eat lunch with him today so they invited us to join them.  It is always fun to sit and just chat.

With Elder Holland coming, Elder and Sister Spencer came down from Battambang today.  With them in today the Senior Couples decided that we needed to go out to dinner this evening.  We sat by the Spencers and caught up on what they have been doing.  Elder Spencer is on the High Council, there are only four of them because there are only three Branches in the District.  They have been so busy and they love the work.  This mission is blessed to have them serving here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Of Traffic and Assignments

We were awake long before the alarm this morning. In fact we have only heard the alarm a couple of times in the past month. So sleeping until 6:00 a.m. May truly be sleeping in.

As we carefully make our way to and from the office it is a short distance, but we make sure to keep the camera handy. Often we are still not fast enough to capture the random moments we see here. This morning we followed this moto for a couple of blocks, but other motorists ran interference until just as they were turning left and we were turning right. We imagine this would be a more comfortable load to ride than most, and being on top of the load would give a better view of the traffic ahead. Just one more only in Cambodia moments.

Then on the way home as we cross over a major road without a traffic light, moving our one inch at a time, if there is one inch left between cars and tuk tuks the mottos swarm in to fill it, causing a gridlock. We are always amazed at how they can wiggle their way out of the tight traffic. Let's just say crossing the road has become a matter of prayer every day. The photo doesn't really show how locked the traffic was, but maybe you can see the motos and cars just mesh together every direction. If they would just follow a few basic traffic rules we think everyone would get around much quicker.

One out of the ordinary thing from today was an assignment for Saturday. We have been asked to help with some behind the scenes items when Elder Holland is here. During a Priesthood Leadership Training we will help with food for the break, then pizza after the meeting is finished. We will see how that goes, but we are excited!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


We have been reading Jesus the Christ by James E. Talmage for our gospel study.  His depth of understanding of Our Savior is so phenomenal, and his vocabulary is definitely greater than ours.  Reading it out loud together really does help us understand the message that is being presented.  One of the true messages of Jesus the Christ is that of service, and today felt like a day of service.

A member in the Phnom Penh North Stake, who was the facilitator for the Self Reliance Group in that stake, asked if he could come and talk with us.  He is starting a new business and wanted our ideas on what he needs to do to make it successful.  We had a great chat for about an hour and we hope that it does help him.  We told him that we are here for another seventeen months and he asked if he could contact us when we go him.  He is definitely looking long term on this new venture.

Today was the biggest District Meeting that we have ever attended.  The District is normally eleven missionaries, counting us, but today the Sisters were gone to Siem Reap but we had two extra sets with us today.  One of the sets is suppose to go to another district but they did not want to bike that far today and the other was in town because one of them needed to go to the doctor.  We had a great discussion about Elder Holland coming and how to get the members to go and see him.  It was profound and they are great missionaries.

This afternoon we had committed to stay late so that the Office Elders could use our computer for their investigator to Skype with Japan.  Unfortunately their investigator cancelled because of rain.  It rained real hard for about an hour.  The Office Elders served us by giving us an umbrella so that we could make it to our car, and we ended up giving Sokhom, Phanna's wife, a thin rain poncho that we had in our car.

We love serving and we are grateful for those who serve us and serve with us.

Monday, August 17, 2015

A Little Bit (tik-tik) About Monday

As we start our day at the office it is common for the others to come by and say good morning. Monday is Phanna's scheduled day, so we were surprised for him to stop in and stay the day. We were happy to learn that his son, Ammon, who has been sick too many days, is doing much better. He was getting concerned enough to even consider finding a way to take him to the U.S. for a doctor. Instead he took Ammon to a different clinic here, and was very impressed with how thorough the new doctor was in evaluating and diagnosing. What it seems to have come to is allergies. By discontinuing the soy milk he has been on he is well now.

Sameth came in for a short hello about the time as Sophornn. Sameth told of one of his ward members whose father had been killed in a moto accident this morning, and Sophornn realized the details fit an accident he had passed. In Cambodia, the funeral is often within 24 hours, so at the end of the day Sameth said he would attend the funeral tonight.

This morning Sameth had a private Skype meeting so Phanna spent some time with us, but this turned out very helpful because he was able to help Elder Oveson review some information he was working on for the big project we are working on.  We received more information and put more things in order. Getting closer to being ready to submit it to legal counsel.

Our photos for the day are some of the random things we have seen recently. We have not yet tried the green oranges. The moto with the bags of garlic totally came out from our right to skirt around the cars in the lane and make a right turn in front of the traffic lined up for the light. This is way too common here. There are a variety of recycle vehicles that seem to be very large loads on small motos, tuk-tuks, trucks, or trailers. The truck is hauling a load of metal wires. The piles of brick are everywhere, showing the construction under way in this city. And of course there are a large variety of food carts. The peddlers walk their carts in and through traffic as the sidewalks are already occupied with parked cars and other peddlers.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Standard of Truth

There are some days that are just perfect reminders of what we are really doing here in Cambodia, and today was one of those.  We had a full, but likewise a very fulfilling day.  With our two ward assignments, you would think that going to three our blocks in each would be more than enough, but it wasn't.

Today after the Chaktomuk Ward there was a baptism for a Single Young Adult man that has been there almost every week that we have been.  He has even gotten up in Fast and Testimony Meeting and shared his testimony.  We were told today that he has been going to Institute for the last five years.  It would seem that it was about time that he got baptized.  With the baptism we were with their Ward for more than four hours.  

President Uk is continuing to hold the special Ward Council Meetings for the Stueng Mean Chey 3rd Ward each week.  Today when it was time to start there was only President Uk, Bishop and us there.  That gave us a chance to really just talk about the Ward and hear the bishop's feelings.  He shared that they are a poor people, with many of them not having a way to come to church, other than walking.  Because they are poor they move around a lot looking for better work and a better place to stay.  The members that do come are relatively new members of the Church, so there is not a real depth of experience in the Ward.  That was good to understand.  But similar to the Chaktomuk Ward they had their own little miracles.  The First Counselor in the Bishopric that has not been there for a long time, came today.  And the Elders Quorum President that made it for the first time in months last week was back and taught Priesthood today.

Thank you to all of you that have been praying for the Chaktomuk and Stueng Mean Chey 3rd Wards.  Their Sacrament Meeting attendance is up a little bit and good things are happening, so please keep praying.  These miracles remind us of the Prophet Joseph's The Standard of Truth.  "The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; … the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.”

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland arrived in Vietnam today.  He is visiting several Southeast Asia Countries and will be in Cambodia next Saturday and Sunday.  Our picture for today is the invitation to the conference next Sunday.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Saturday Is Always a Unique Day

It seems like the only day of the week that our alarm really wakes us up is on Saturday.  The alarm is normally set for 6:00 a.m. and we usually are awake about 5:45 and up and going before the alarm would go off.  Sunrise is around 5:30, and our bedroom is on the Eastside of our apartment, so the morning light helps us wake up.  On Saturday we are up before the sun and we get to enjoy some beautiful sunrises out of our window.

What a blessing it is to teach our Institute Class.  This morning at 7:00 a.m. when class starts we only had about ten students there, but right after the opening prayer and shortly there after they seemed to just pour in.  We ended up with twenty-three today, our biggest class so far and none of them were new this week.  With todays lesson we are half way through the thirteen week course.  Today's topic was Putting First Things First, which is so important for these future leaders to understand.  In many ways the Cambodian culture teaches them that the most important thing is to succeed and become rich.  That is very understandable because there are so many poor here.

Saturday morning after our class is when we FaceTime with five out of our six children.  It is a true joy to be able to see them and talk to them.  We have grandchildren that want to hog the camera and others we get very few words out of.  We love them all.

Sister Oveson has been talking with the Sister Missionaries in our area about getting some Cambodian skirts made for several weeks.  Today Sister Jepsen and Sister Spangler went with us to the Central Market and picked out some fabric.  After some additional wandering of the market we went to a taylor down the street from their apartment to arrange for the sewing.  The new skirts are suppose to be done next Tuesday.  We promise a showing of the completed product next week.

Another week has rushed by, and today was another busy and full Saturday/Preparation Day.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Perspectives: What Do You See?

Today was a different day. We were working on our big project and were making progress. Sister Jepsen and Sister Spangler called yesterday and scheduled for us to go with them about 11:00 to visit another of the sisters who was in the hospital, then go shopping at one of the markets. We planned for about 3 hours, which would include lunch. The actual timing was different as they were delayed coming by almost an hour. So we went for lunch first, and while we were enjoying Brooklyn, we learned of a need to pick up the sister from the hospital and take her home instead of just going for a visit. By the time we finished the other errands, we did a quick re-schedule for the shopping until tomorrow.

After spending a little more time at the office getting things ready for our Institute Class tomorrow and a few other needful things, we headed home for the evening. We can't help but notice the contrast of things around this city. The streets are so narrow and close that from the ground all you may see is the traffic that is close and crazy, or the gates and store fronts along the edge, with cars and motos parked in front. Sometimes all you can see is what is right around you.

With this perspective we have notice from our balcony quite a lovely view, where all the rooftops blend together. Again, changing perspective, we focus on some of the distant views and see where our street-level view rise. From our balcony we have singled out two buildings that look quite different from the 6th floor than they do on the ground. Our perspective of Cambodia has had some shift of perspective in the almost six months we have been here. It has taken some time, but we are starting to see a little more detail. There are things we have looked at every day and finally have noticed new details we never noticed before. Those things have been there all along, but we just had to shift our focus to see them. Today, we stood on the roof of our building and watched the sun set over this city in Southeast Asia. We could never have guessed we would travel to Asia, or Cambodia, let alone live here for two years. But here we are, looking at some little details on a little country on the other side of the world, and feeling blessed.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Dad and Mom Meinzer

In Cambodia the missionaries call their first companion either ?ovpuk, meaning father, or mdaay, for mother.  We stayed with Elder and Sister Meinzer for the first eleven days that we were here in Cambodia, so we have told them that they are our Cambodian parents.  Last night Elder Meinzer called to see how us kids were doing and to see if Sister Oveson could help them with some Word and Excel documents. Sister Oveson was more than willing to help any way she could.

We have always kidded the Meinzers that they know every good restaurant in Cambodia, and since we were getting together anyway we decided to go out to lunch first.  They took us to an old villa that has been converted into a hotel and restaurant, we were the only patrons at the restaurant.  We decided to split a salad and sandwich and it was one of the best salads that we have had here and the sandwich was good also.

While Sister Oveson was helping the Meinzers, Elder Oveson went in to help Sameth.  This is the time of year when there are a lot of new and renewed Perpetual Education Fund loans. Before they go to Hong Kong for the area approval, it has to be reviewed and approved here first.  That helps cut down on the loan applications being sent back for additional information.

For our pictures for today, we chose two very Cambodian photos.  The first a small Cambodian family on a moto, the woman in a dress riding side saddle with a young child standing up.  And the second a street peddler carrying his merchandise on his shoulders.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Asia Area Self RelianceTeam

There are times like today that we are amazed with the marvels of technology, when you can meet with all of the Asia Area in one meeting without leaving the office.  In a matter of moments we were connected with the entire Asia Self Reliance and Perpetual Education Team. Six months ago we didn't really know anyone in Asia, and now we know people all over the continent. We met with Elder Seppi in Thailand, Samson in India, Ricky in Malaysia, Bobby in Indonesia, Chad in Taiwan, Baatar and Elder and Sister Francom in Mongolia, Jitender is also in India, and the area office in Hong Kong including Jaymi, Leon, Marco, and Elder and Sister Powell. Then of course our Cambodia team with Sameth and Phanna sitting behind Elder and Sister Oveson (that's us!).

This meeting gave us a chance to learn of changes that are coming to Self Reliance in the near future, and learn of success stories for each country. It was great to hear how the work is progressing. There is a new Stake in Thailand, Self Reliance will soon be functioning in more countries in Asia, and that the needed items for Cambodia are progressing and moving forward at headquarters and in the Asia Area office. Let's just say we have an amazing group of incredible people that we get to work with, and this is an inspired work!

If any of you have not checked out what the Self Reliance manuals and videos have to offer you are missing out. My Foundation is one of our favorites.  Here is a link: My Foundation Self Reliance Manual. Here is one of our favorite videos: He Polished My Toes Video. We hope you watch this and many other of the Self Reliance Videos.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

We Wear Many Hats on This Mission

This morning as we were getting ready to go to District Meeting with the young missionaries when there was a knock on our office door. As we opened the door we were greeted by one of our Institute Students that we have known almost the whole time that we have been here. We could tell that he wanted to talk to lookyiay (grandma) and looktaa (grandpa), that is what we are often called here. This is a 27 year old returned missionary, who is still single (like most others his age here in Cambodia), who is going to school on a Perpetual Education Loan, working two jobs and is the Stake Sunday School President. His father passed away when he was fourteen and he is the oldest of four boys in his family. He always seems happy and talks real fast even in English. This is the first time he has come to our office to talk to us, he has caught us after Institute and at YSA activities. He really needed to talk and just have someone listen, he was there for an hour and a half.

Another hat that we have been wearing for the last month has been quasi-legal assistant. We have been asked to help gather some of the information that the local attorneys need for the government.  It has actually been quite fun and we have learned more about the LDS Church buildings here in Cambodia and the lots that they sit on than we would have otherwise.

Every Tuesday we hold our Cambodian Self Reliance Services Staff Meeting.  It was Elder Oveson's turn to conduct and Sister Oveson is the report keeper, she needs the information for her monthly report. So this was our SRS hat.

The final hat we tried on today was that of Institute instructor.  We always start early in the week to prepare our lesson for Saturday, so that we are ready and can do the best job possible.  That allows us time to pull other material to help us teach.

Tonight we decided our picture for the day is the various uses of Tuk Tuks. They are not just for passengers. They are delivery trucks, produce vehicles, they deliver furniture, they are a package delivery service, and there is nothing like the very first ride in one (President & Sister Christensen).

Monday, August 10, 2015

Contrasts: Before and After

We have watched over the past few months as renovations have been under way at the South Stake Center. We have wondered what would be next, or when they might be finished. With only two weeks left before Elder Jeffery R. Holland comes to Cambodia, the work finally seems to be nearly complete. When we arrived today the bamboo scaffolding had been removed and was laying in a pile by the building. That pile was completely gone as we took a walk this afternoon. We could hear workers somewhat in the building, and could smell paint, but the only work we found outside was cleaning up after the painters on the bamboo.

Our picture collage today shows the contrast from our first look at the building to the way it looked today. We like the renewed look. The inside picture shows during the work and again shows the contrast. We love the inlaid marble work in the open areas.

Just as the building has gone through a transformation, so have we. We are no longer the youngest or newest missionaries here. We have settled in and found our purpose in coming to this little place. We have forever been changed by our service here.  Just like the new paint, our colors seem to change as well.  Even our language skills seem to be a little better as we understand a few more of the words people say to us.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

84 Year Old High Counselor - Part 2

Last month on High Council Sunday we wrote about an amazing 84 year old High Counselor who spoke in the Chaktomuk Ward.  This month the same High Counselor was the speaker in the Steung Mean Chey 3rd Ward for High Council, but we learned a lot more about him from the Stake President.  He is the oldest member of the Phnom Penh South Stake.  He has been a member of the church for twelve years, how many 72 year old converts have you heard about?  Most of his family had already joined the church when he was baptized.  He did as good or better of a job keeping the congregations attention than most younger High Counselors.  After church we asked if we could take his picture for our blog, and somehow we ended up in the picture too.

Compared to last Sunday this week was a very easy on us.  We only had our two three hour blocks and an extra meeting before Steung Mean Chey 3rd Ward.  As we went to leave our apartment we saw the building owner and she asked if we work seven days a week.  She sees us dressed up every day, so Sunday is no different than the rest.  We explained that we go to church on Sunday.  There is not a set day of the week for worship for Buddhist, they have services at the Wats every ten days. 

For those who really know Elder Oveson, they understand that he is a number nut and loves numbers of all kinds, that is essential to understand the next observation.  With our mission being 23 months, that is basically 700 days, today was number 175 or in other words a quarter of our mission has already slipped away.  There have been times that have slipped by so quickly and other times when it has seemed to drag.  Regardless we are so thankful for this opportunity to serve and to be here in Cambodia, half way around the world from our earthly home.   

Saturday, August 8, 2015

O What A Beautiful Morning

One of the blessings of rising early is being able to see the beautiful sunrise. The storms of last night gave way to such a marvelous display this morning.  We have more often been able to see the sunsets, but due to our early schedule on Saturday proved beneficial.

Our institute class was smaller in numbers today as many of our class attended a funeral instead. We missed them but we understand the importance of support they were giving to others as well.

Today was not as packed with events. With the pace we have run in recent weeks, it was a welcome reprieve to have a slower day. We were able to FaceTime with family, get our grocery shopping done, visit a Self Reliance group, and stay home for the evening. That gave us a chance to get caught up on letters and reset for the Sabbath.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Counseling With Councils For Missionaries

The Lord changes those in charge to allow for a new perspective that comes with a new leader.  Good new leaders slowly make the changes that they have high on their minds, they realize the previous leader also was inspired by Heavenly Father to do what they were doing.  On Tuesday in the Mission Leadership Training President Christensen focused on the importance of councils.  He then asked the leaders to go teach the other missionaries.  He is only making small changes right now.

Today there was a Zone training for the Phnom Penh South Zone and after reporting on areas and how the zone did last month, they taught about councils.  The specific assignment was to discuss how to keep recent converts active.  Only about 35% of the recent converts are still active and 80% of those fall off in the first two months.  It was a great council and the missionaries came up with some wonderful action items or goals for the next month.  They decided that they need more member involvement as they teach the recent converts, to help them have more friends and to emphasize the Book of Mormon in all of their teaching, to help strengthen testimonies.  It will assuredly help if they focus on those and follow up.

As we got to the Church building this morning they were putting up a tent in the parking lot.  We knew it was a funeral or a wedding, but that is the first tent we have seen in the church parking lot. It was a funeral for a member in one of the other units in that building.  They held the visitation or viewing in the cultural hall and they had the traditional food out in the tent.

This evening the skies darkened and it began to rain, thankfully not like it did last Saturday, but enough for some beautiful pictures from our balcony.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Faith In Every Footstep

Today was one of those days that seemed very full from the start, but just like the young Elders and Sisters, often things don't happen like we imagined.

A recurring item on our Thursday calendar is a Skype call with the Senior Couple over Self Reliance Services that we report.  This morning we got our laptop all plugged in ready and then we found out that the call is postponed until tomorrow.  That was alright, we had several things to do anyway.  Elder Oveson had an eight page legal document to digest and Sister Oveson needed to cleanup her computer again.  It is amazing the random things that happen on the desktop in three months.

We had planned on getting our hair cut yesterday, but with the construction out front of our building we had to delay that until today.  While we were out we went and picked up some donuts and lunch to share with one of our favorite Sister missionaries who has been ill.  We wanted to try and brighten her day.

This afternoon we met with Brother Touch Sophornn to talk about our new Institute curriculum  next semester.  We still have half of this semester to teach but he wanted to introduce a new Institute policy for the students to graduate.  There are four new classes that are referred to as the Cornerstone Classes that each Institute participant needs to take in order to graduate.  He wants us to teach the first one to our group of students.  The first one focuses on Jesus Christ, which is truly a cornerstone of the gospel.

This afternoon we went with Phanna to help give a blessing to a member from Taiwan that is the controller for a garment factory here.  We did not know anything about her, but we got to talk to her and understand her needs and then pronounce a blessing.

Even though our days do not go as we may expect, as we walk by faith and take a step into the dark and just trust that it will all work out.  What a blessing it is to serve.

Since we had a random day, we decided to put a collage of random Khmer pictures.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

More Construction Around the Church?!

Just in case anyone was wondering ...
As construction inside the Phnom Penh South Stake Center has calmed, we had hopes the work would be wrapping up some time soon. Even the bamboo scaffold shows progress and is currently in the back of the building.  Then this morning we headed out to run some errands and found this new project under way. The work (as is the Khmer way) was all being done by hand. At least we know there are people who are not afraid of physical labor.

This is the only driveway in and out of the parking lot, and we did not want to drive across this trench, so our only other option was to turn around and plan the errands another day.

This project looks like it may actually be for the power lines to be under ground instead of strung through the trees as power poles. That would be wonderful progress. By 11:30 the men were not to be found around the trench. Instead we found one taking a nap in the shade and cool of the church balcony. They had the trenches filled and the driveway usable again by 3:00.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Watching Missionaries Grow

Some days seem so ordinary we wonder if there is really anything new or exciting to report. Then we have the blessing of seeing the young missionaries. Today they had Mission Leadership Council. We saw just a few of them as they arrived early for the 8:00 meeting, but we were surprised to find they were still going at noon. We came back down about 12:30 just as the A.P.'s and office elders came in through the gates, then went in to greet the group where they were tucked away eating lunch. These are such cheerful, upbeat young people. We wonder if their families can imagine the growth they have achieved in their short time away. What we see truly amazes us and we count ourselves blessed to serve alongside them.

We had a productive day putting together reports. Phanna commented that all the reports came down to a number, but admitted that each number represents a person and progress. Seeing the progress is made more clear with the evaluations reports can give. We continue to see additional items we can do better as we track the report data.

Tonight was our late schedule as the office elders come for their Tuesday night Japanese  investigator to Skype with elders in Japan. Again, technology is wonderful. Then after we were home Elder Oveson Skyped with our son-in-law Spencer to answer some questions about a firm client. 

Before we left the office about 7:30 we could hear the rain falling again. We are amazed at how the rains are such a part of life here we rarely hear people complain about the rain. We actually hear them say how they are thankful for the much needed rain. We hope our co-worker Sameth's rice fields are getting the rain they need as well.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Reporting Is Part of Heavenly Father's Plan

Over the years it has been easy to grumble and complain about having to do monthly reports.  At times it has felt like it got in the way of what we really want to be doing instead.  But if you stop and think about it, returning and reporting is something that Heavenly Father wants us to do.  We are asked to pray every morning and every night.  In the morning we pray for those things ahead of us that day and at night we return and report about how the day went.

With today being the first day of August that we worked in our office it was report day.  Since we have a mission car, we have to report to the Mission Office and the Service Center the condition of the car.  Likewise, we do several of the reports that go to Hong Kong, the Asia Area Office, about the Perpetual Education Fund and what we have been doing as a team during the last month.  It felt like we took all day working on reports, but it is also good to see the progress that is happening here.  We are definitely on an upward pattern on the aspects that we are asked to report about.

In the newspaper today it said that Saturday's storm was a record breaker at 103 millimeters, about four inches.  That makes sense why the streets were so flooded when you flow everything off of the roofs into the street that is at least two feet and then it drains all down hill.  One benefit of the rain storm was the skies were a beautiful blue today.  Often the city is smoky and so it was nice to see the sky, so it is one of pictures for today.

As we took a walk this afternoon to get a breath of fresh air and stretch our old legs, we watched as they added more bamboo scaffolding to the back of the Church Building. If you look close you can see the men rolling paint as they stand on the bamboo.  It is amazing how strong dried bamboo is considering how fast it grows.  We hope that you are not getting tired of seeing the scaffolding, we are still fascinated by them.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Self Reliance: The Fruits of Our Labors

Sunday's can be very rewarding, and today was a great Sabbath.  We were grateful the rain had stopped and the roads were mostly dry as we went to our meetings. Transfers happened on Friday and Chaktomuk Ward was blessed with some last minute transfer changes. Sisters Jepsen and Spangler will be in Chaktomuk Ward along with the A.P.'s, Elders Eppley and Neuberger. Then Elder Wyatt Hall and his companion Elder Cook were also brought in to Chaktomuk instead of staying in Siem Reap. He was only away one transfer, so he felt like he never left. We told him he just took a vacation! (Isn't that the top vacation destination?). It was good to see him back in Phnom Penh. We missed the sisters today as Sister Jepsen was sick. We are praying for her to be better.

As we made our way to Steung Mean Cheyenne we could see remnants of last night's storm.  This gave us a better understanding of areas to avoid during major storms. We learned that the Steung Mean Chey building had about two to three feet of water in the parking lot. We are glad we missed it. We found some areas that still had water up to our doors as we made our way from Steung Mean Chey to the North Stake building. One of the Elders told us if we stayed home every time it stormed we would not go anywhere for the next three months. We just better get used to it!

We attended a special Ward council meeting in Steung Mean Chey which had been
called by the stake president. He is very concerned for the Ward and wants them to come up with ways to build the attendance. The discussion went well, so he called a follow up meeting next week, inviting all Ward members who would like to participate.

We also had a Self Reliance meeting to attend in North Stake this evening. This was a celebration meeting, concluding the 12 week Starting And Growing My Business group.  The group started with 14 participants, and ended with 12.  Elder and Sister VanBrocklin, our Public Affairs couple, joined us there to take pictures. They were excited listening as each participant told what the class had meant to them. We were happy to see such wonderful fruits of the Self Reliance labors.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Driving in The Driving Rain

Our Institute class continues to amaze us.  Last week we did not have any new members join the class, but today we had three new participants.  We have a core of about twelve to fourteen that show up every week.  Then there are the others that are hit and miss.  We have a total of 32 on the roll and today's attendance was twenty-one.  Everybody keeps telling us that is a very big class, so we are honored to teach it.  It felt like it started off slow but by the end the spirit was extremely thick.  Oh what a blessing.

We were able to FaceTime with five of our children and their families this morning and then we went to get our weekly groceries.  While we were at the store President Christensen called. We had tentatively scheduled to visit today, and they were available at 11:30.  We hurried home and unloaded the groceries and then went to meet them at our office.  We had a wonderful visit for over an hour telling them about what we do.

We also had an appointment with President Uk of the Phnom Penh South Stake at 2:00.  We have been invited to a meeting tomorrow out in Steung Mean Chey about the 3rd Ward that we attend.  We wanted to share our thoughts about the leadership out there in a private meeting.  It was great to talk to him and feel of his love for the people.

The Phnom Penh North Stake had a special choir program this evening at 6:00 and a member of their stake presidency had specifically invited us.  Just as we were getting ready to go, the sky got very dark and it began to rain very hard.  We felt obligated to go because of the special invitation, so off we went.  We did not even make it half way there before we found ourselves driving in a river and found our way back home.  There were several times that the water was up to the floorboards of our car.  We now understand about the streets being flooded during rainy season.  After many prayers, we did make it home safely.

After reaching the safety of our sixth floor apartment, we looked out at the flooded streets below. The "river" was flowing over the bumpers of most of the cars that ventured down the water ways, and the motos looked like wave runners if they had not stalled and had to be walked. As we look at the city it is no wonder the streets are rivers. The city blocks are covered with tall buildings that have roofs sloped for the runoff to go into the streets. The natural lakes and runoff basins have been drained to allow for additional land to build more homes. One would think they would have better plans for rainy season runoff.