Wednesday, September 30, 2015

We Would Still Love Being Here

Seven months ago we arrived in Cambodia, if we knew then what we know now, we would still love being here and the wonderful children of Our Heavenly Father that live here.  It has not even been a year since we received our mission call, but that was a lifetime ago.  On Monday Elder Oveson was telling one of the Sister missionaries about one of his former coworkers, and could not even remember her name.

Last Sunday in the Steung Mean Chey 3rd Ward we were asked if we would teach Gospel Doctrine this coming Sunday.  Our Cambodian is not even close enough to give a talk let alone teach a class, that means we will be using a young missionary to translate for us.  Because of that we have to be thoroughly prepared and give the Elder a little bit of forewarning about what we will teach.  Most Sundays whoever is teaching gets up and writes the title of the lesson and the related scripture references on the board and they end up reading those.  Most of the members really need the Gospel Principles class instead of Gospel Doctrine, but that is for the Bishop to decide, ours is but to do our best.  We did get the lesson fairly well planned today, and tomorrow we plan to see if we can find the lesson in Cambodian to print for our interpreter.

We also finished working up our Institute lesson and figuring out who is going to do what part.  Now we each need to polish our own sections, since this is the first lesson for this course we are hoping to have some new participants come.  We may only get one shot at them, otherwise they will go to an easier class that is taught in their own language.

This afternoon we had several correspondence from headquarters and local advisors on some issues that need to be worked out.  After looking at the various correspondence we did not see any new work for us, but we need to be prepared in case they ask for our help.

We feel that we are making a difference here and are grateful to be part of a great work.

We have not posted any sunsets lately, it has been raining too often, so that is our collage for tonight.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Reports, Meetings, and Raincoats

After spending the day yesterday visiting missionary apartments and talking with them about what needs to be done to put things in order, we spent much of today putting together reports on our visits.

We shared with them a scripture from Mosiah 4:27, "And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order." With this we challenged them to put things in order, and that "expedient" meant first or extremely important. We are hopeful they will take the challenge to heart.

Besides working on apartment reports we also attended District Meeting. It has been a few weeks since we were able to attend a district meeting, so it was great to be there and learn and be uplifted with the teachings of these amazing young missionaries. Elder Cook taught about Prayer and gave us a challenge to improve our prayers.  We find that even old people like us can use some improvement.

We have begun preparing our lesson material for our new Institute course. We will be teaching "Jesus Christ and the Everlasting Gospel." It is exciting to learn and teach more about Jesus Christ.  Since we only meet once a week, we will need to cover two lessons each time to get through all of them by the end of the semester.  That is alright, we love teaching this class and we love the humble members that come each week.

It is still the raining season, we still get rain every day, fortunately it is often while we are in our office or at home.  We have had our times out in traffic and when we have got more than a little wet. Tonight we opted for a quick dinner at Mama's while the Elders used our office for their Japanese Skype discussion. We had just placed our order when the rain started to fall. Mama was quick to put out her Raincoat Bouquet hoping to bring in a customer or two. We asked her how much they are, and learned they are 2000 Riel (or 50 cents). She gets about 30 percent profit from that. As we talked with her tonight we asked if she owned her building, she answered, "No, I don't have money. They would ask 3/4 Million dollars for this property." So even in Cambodia real estate is unreasonably high. She used to live in New York. Maybe it's not so different here.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Missionary Apartments - Preliminary Inspection and Plan

Today has been a very busy and full day with the young missionaries.  We have four apartments that we have been assigned to work with the missionaries to make sure that they are clean and reflect the way that missionaries should be living.  We arranged with all four groups to visit their apartments today and do a first walk through.  They are suppose to have them throughly clean and ready for a final inspection by the 12th of October.  To any parents that may read our blog, we were pleasantly surprised by the apartments that we visited today.

We had two apartments to visit in the North and Central Zone area, that is where we started our day.  We arranged to meet Sisters Fields and Loftus at the Phnom Penh North Stake Center and have them guide us to their apartment.  They are the only two in the apartment, but it is not big enough for any more than two.  They are on the third floor (that is the fourth floor in the U.S., they just count it different here) and there is no elevator, which is alright we can climb that far.  They had some typical issues, stuff that previous missionaries have left when they transferred out.  President and Sister Christensen gave them permission to get rid of anything that was not their's.  That was even a bigger problem in the second apartment that we visited, only with this apartment some Elders have left boxes of stuff to pickup later or at the end of their missions.  Those two apartments took our whole morning, but that was just fine with us.

We did spend a few hours in our office before heading for Stueng Mean Chey.  We had two apartments with four Elders in each apartment there to visit.  We again arranged to meet them at the church and to guide us to their apartments from there.  The first one had a few issues that they need to cleanup, but overall not bad.  One of the mission rules is to have ten twenty-liter water battles per companionship in each apartment, for current use and in case of emergency.  Most of the apartments had the bottles but many were empty, we reminded them that an empty bottle would not do them any good in an emergency.  The second Stueng Mean Chey apartment is a great location, easy to get into and out of and easy to find, but the apartment itself has some issues.  The landlord will need to get them fixed or we will recommend that these Elders be moved.  They have a few areas that they need to take care of, but overall they are trying.

When we got our mission call it said that we would be working in Self Reliance Services/ Perpetual Education Fund and anything else that the mission president asks us to do.  Today was part of the additional "anything else" but we are more than happy to help with. Even with the extra assignment we felt we were teaching Self Reliance.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Steung Mean Chey Baptism

This morning before we went to the Chaktomuk Ward we watched the first half hour of the Woman's Conference live on the Internet.  As we keep saying, we live in an amazing time where we can see and hear things from the other side of the world almost instantly.

We were able to go to all three hours of the ward meeting blocks in both of our assigned wards today.  Elders Cook and Rom, in the Chaktomuk Ward, told us that they have a baptism next Sunday.  Elder Jarvis and Denkers topped them by telling us that they had four baptisms today after church, a seventeen year old, a fifteen year old, a eleven year old and a nine year old.

The baptism in Steung Mean Chey was a part member family, where both of the parents were members, but their children were not baptized.  That is very unusual for Cambodia, there are more part member families where the mother and children are members and the father is a nonmember.  The parents had been inactive so their children were never baptized.  Originally the father did not want to do the baptisms because he felt like he is to stern of a dad, but they finally convinced him today to do perform the baptisms.  On the first baptism it took him about five times to get the prayer correct, but by time he got to the last one it only took once.  What a super experience to be there and watch this family become a complete member family.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Saturday: "Get Ready for Sunday!"

Our Institute Class on Saturday morning is a great way to wrap up a week. Getting up early for the blessings we see poured out on so many is hardly a sacrifice. Today was the last of our "Principles of Leadership" course, and we were quite pleased to have 20 students in attendance. We are encouraged that they want to keep coming to learn more of the gospel. We shared Pass-Along-Cards (in Khmer) with  the information for all the institute classes being taught in Phnom Penh this next semester. We will see what results we get from these wonderful young adults sharing with their friends. We can hardly wait to see how many will be there next week.

We had our typical Saturday Skype and FaceTime calls with the family. We were afraid that as we left the church we would be blocked in. As we left the office yesterday there was a funeral tent in the street close from the church, and the guards had to push a car out of the way so we could get out. That is one of the crazy things here. There are really no parking lots and little street parking to be found. So many people must have seen the church parking lot as a public place to park while they went to a funeral. They leave the car in neutral so it can be rolled to allow other cars to maneuver around them. With being trapped yesterday we were relieved that there was only a small handful of cars in the lot today.

After our weekly grocery shopping we were able to have a little leisure time to relax at our apartment. We can hardly remember when the last time we were able to have a Saturday afternoon with no meetings or appointments or something scheduled. We even had a simple dinner at Brooklyn. So, since Saturday is the day to get ready for Sunday, we got ready today because we won't likely get to have a restful Sunday.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Zone Conference - South & East Zones

Normally we attend the Zone Conference for the Phnom Penh South and East Zones, which was today. We were invited to attend the one yesterday with the Phnom Penh North and Central Zones to help with our new mentor and inspection assignments. We likewise needed to attend today's conference for the same reason.

In life it is always easier to grasp something the more times that you hear about it and then contemplate the message. It was very good to hear President Christensen's message of his vision for this mission, we wish every missionary had that opportunity.  

Before explaining his message President Christensen told the missionaries they are the most important thing to him. Yes, converts and members are important, but the very most important thing was each of them. He understands his responsibility to make sure everyone lives up to the covenants that they have made. If the missionaries are becoming "Deliberate Disciples" then everything else will fall into place, baptisms will happen, rescues of less actives will increase and the work will go forward. He explained that Preach My Gospel was not created to convert investigators, it was to convert and train the missionaries.

We did have to skip part of the zone conference for some Skype calls with Hong Kong.  We have a weekly Skype call with the Self Reliance Senior Couple in Hong Kong to keep them appraised of what is going on here.  We also spoke to the Asia Area PEF Manager about a missionary from Vietnam that will be going home next month.  PEF is not authorized in Vietnam yet, but we are looking for ways to help him with school after his mission. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Zone Conference: President Christensen's Vision

Today was the North and Central Zone Conference, the first conference tour for President and Sister Christensen since coming to Cambodia. Because of assignments we attended the meeting today and will attend South and East Zone Conference tomorrow.

It is always such a great blessing to gather along with the young missionaries. We sometimes forget we are missionaries, too, and this is not just the young missionaries that are blessed by these conferences. We have the opportunity of watching the growth of these young Elders and Sisters as they take the teachings they are given and put them into their lives.

President and Sister Christensen started by explaining that from the time they were called, they had been given council to catch a vision, and inspire the young missionaries with that vision. They have struggled, studied, and tried to find what that vision would be. About ten days ago while they were away from the Mission Office for a couple of hours taking care of some business, the vision became clear and they understood what they were supposed to teach.

They shared their Mission Vision with us. They challenged us to be "Deliberate Disciples", not just Accidental Disciples. President was told the missionaries who have been and will be called to Cambodia are called to come to him and to be taught by him. He invited each to take responsibility and deliberately choose to follow Christ, to make and keep covenants, and to be converted. There was great instruction and discussion. We came away uplifted and inspired by this wonderful leader.

After lunch we went back in for the final phase of instruction. The missionaries were challenged to improve their surroundings, keep things clean and take care of their apartments and all they have been given here. Here is where the seniors come in. We have been assigned to oversee apartments for some of the young missionaries, mentoring them and inspecting their apartments. We met with the Elders and Sisters who we will be checking on, and scheduled to visit their apartments on Monday. We are optimistic about how this will ultimately improve the mission. They were reminded that by taking care of the little things, the bigs things will be easier and will fall into place.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Another New Experience - Meeting With Attorneys

As we watch the other Senior Couples here in Cambodia we are amazed at how well the Lord has taken their life experiences and used them for his kingdom here on earth.  It feels like every couple is handpicked for their assignments.

When we applied to serve as a Senior Couple we figured that the Lord would put us to work doing some new exciting work.  Boy were we surprised.  We had not even been here a month when they had Elder Oveson putting together a cash projection for the Perpetual Education Fund in Cambodia.  Sister Oveson makes sure that his reports look nice and the emails make sense.  Elder Oveson may know numbers, but Sister Oveson knows grammar.  When the first project was done there were additional requests, that have continued.

We knew that the Church has to be very careful to comply with local laws through out the world, but we had no idea that we would be involved with that either.  Over the years Elder Oveson has worked with a number of attorneys professionally, but he thought those days were over when he retired.  Today we had our first appointment with a local law firm to finalize some licensing that the Church needs to have the full Self Reliance Services initiative here in Cambodia.  It was an interesting meeting and they were impressed with every thing that we had ready and presented to them.  As with most government related issues this will take three to six months to get the licenses that we need.  We will continue to fast and pray that it will go faster, instead of slower.

As we took a walk around the outside of the building to get a breath of fresh air, we found that there is more scaffolding up around the building.  This time the scaffolding was a combination of metal and bamboo.  There was one that was mostly metal, one completely bamboo and one that was a mixture of metal and bamboo.  On the South side of the building there are three areas of stone facade that were starting to deteriorate, which
they had pulled off.  It will be interesting to see what they put back up over the next few weeks.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Little Rain . . . A Lot of Water!

This morning we spent quite a bit of time catching up on computer items. Yesterday the internet was not very reliable. We had the internet working, but Skype wouldn't work. We thought we would check it out at our apartment to see if it was just the system at the church, but the internet didn't work at all there.  We finally just gave up and left the computer work until today. 

As a result of internet issues yesterday, this morning was spent taking care of other correspondence. Elder Oveson worked with the computer tech over Cambodia who is actually in Thailand and worked through diagnostic with our computer issues.  We hope they can work things out that our internet will be faster and more reliable.

This afternoon the rains started again. We were startled by some very loud thunder, booming for several minutes. What was more surprising was it was all noise and no rain, then about 15 minutes later the skies opened up and the rain poured. When the rains fall it doesn't take very long to see the people in the alley take advantage of the water. They come out with their clothes to be washed, their shampoo for their hair, and the children run in the "lake" that is up to their shins. It is clear to see some people don't hate the rain.

With the heavy rain we have often seen it makes a big mess with traffic. We decided rather than wait for rush hour to create some of the gridlock we have seen, we headed home at 5:00 instead of waiting until 5:30. We were pleasantly surprised at how light the traffic was.  Every little shop and cart quickly puts out their raincoat displays, so the bright colored clusters are an invitation to passing moto drivers. We were very happy we went home early when we turned onto our road and found a lake to drive through to get home. Thankfully it was not backlogged with other cars trying to get in or out. After parking we couldn't resist taking pictures of the "river" out front. Today it was still light enough to get some pretty good shots, just more evidence of how a little bit of rain can sure produce a lot of water.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Our Day Started and Ended with Wonderful Meetings

This morning we went to the Church Service Center here in Phnom Penh to watch an Area Devotional with the Church Employees.  They have these once a month, but this is the first one that we have attended.  Last Monday when we were to lunch with Samnang, the Service Center Manager we asked why we were not invited, so of course he invited us.  The devotional originated in Hong Kong and more than half of those in attendance there were Senior Missionaries, so we felt completely comfortable being at the devotional.  Elder Sam Wong, a Seventy in the Area Presidency, was the speaker, he taught us about "Remember, remember."

We made it to the Service Center just as it started to rain real hard.  He only got a little wet going into the Service Center, but as we left the water in the gutters was four feet wide and three or so inches deep, we just had to slosh through them.  Gratefully we had on shoes that it did not matter if they got wet or not.

This evening we had a gathering of the Senior Missionary Couples at the Mission Home.  President and Sister Christensen provided dinner, including fresh brownies and ice cream as desert.  They wanted to solicit our aid in working with the young missionaries to help them understand the importance of having clean apartments.  It is amazing that some things remain the same through the years with missionaries, this was an issue when I served my first mission to New Mexico.  We only have four apartments to inspect and teach them how to clean better.

The internet has become such a vital part of our daily work and activity that when it does not work, we really feel the difference.  The internet at our office has been acting up and the internet company tells us that the signal is perfect.  This afternoon we tried to contact one of the Church IT personnel to ask for her help but Skype would not work.  We figured that we would try tonight at home, but when we got home the internet was down.  That also meant that Monday's blog post had to wait to be postponed until Tuesday morning.  Maybe things will work better today.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Are things becoming common place here? Nope!

Today was one of those Marathon Sundays. Besides attending our regular wards, we had been invited to speak in the International Branch. We were given the assigned topic of Self Reliance. That worked out great. We used materials from the "My Foundation" Self Reliance pamphlet to give information on the 12 Principles of Self Reliance. This is information we will keep on hand for future reference. We are confident this will not be the only time we give this talk.

Elder Oveson had one more talk to give as we attended the Steung Mean Chey 3rd Ward. We planned ahead and took a copy of the talk to one of the young missionaries yesterday so he would be better prepared to translate. This talk was on "You are a Child of God." The attendance was up today. There were 81 in attendance today compared to 33 a month ago. It was exciting to see so many members who have not been to church for a while. We could feel the message Elder Oveson gave was the right one for the ward as the reverence increased as he spoke, even though he was the last speaker. This was another talk to keep for future use.

With our drive to and from Steung Mean Chey we are most likely to see some interesting photo ops. Today was no exception. Elder Oveson had just asked if what we see here
was becoming common place to us. Almost on cue we approached a cart being pulled by a moto, or more specifically, pulled by the moto passenger. Nope! Things are not common or normal in Cambodia, at least not compared to what we would see back home.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Eating At A Real Cambodian Restaurant

When we received our mission call we decided that we wanted to try some Cambodian food, so we looked for a Cambodian restaurant in the Salt Lake Area.  We found Vietnamese and Thai food, but no luck on Cambodian.  We have an American friend that gave us a list of things that she has learned here in Cambodia.  One of the items on the list was that she now understands why there are no Cambodian restaurants in America.

Most of the times that we have gone out to eat have been at places that may have some Cambodian food on their menu, but they also have Western food.  We have eaten at mainly Cambodian restaurants out in the Kaits, but those we travel with usually find a Western Restaurant for us.

Today there was a training for the Institute and Seminary teachers for the coming semester.  Brother Sophorn told us that we did not need to come to the training but invited us to go to lunch with them.  He rode with us to the restaurant so that we knew where to go, and explained that we were going to a real Cambodian restaurant.  They order family style, there is a lot of food that is ordered and everyone just takes some of whatever they want.

We had already been warned about one thing about Cambodian food, that is that fish, chicken, pork, beef and any other meat, comes with the bones still in.  They cut the meat with a big clever so watch out for the bones.  Some of the dishes were spicy hot, some were sweet, some sour.  Our favorite was the sweet noodles, even with the bones.

Today in our Institute class we only had eighteen, which was still a good group.  We would teach the class even
if only one came.  We love this class, the participants are willing to share their feelings and are learning how to be leaders.  Secondarily they are learning more English.

We Skyped with family, went shopping, washed some clothes and put the final touches on our talks for tomorrow.  I was a great Saturday.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Deadlines Are Part Of Life

As we arrived at the office this morning we were very surprised to find the gates into the building locked. As we got out of our car and headed in the direction of the main gait, the guard intercepted us and redirected us to a side gate. Since we don't speak much Khmer and he speaks even less English, we were able to understand his hand signals as he showed us a broken key in his hand. I guess that is the drawback to having the building so secured and only one key available. Fortunately they were able to get the lock opened later in the day.

The pressure of so much to do in our office slacked off just a bit today.  It is always a joy to put a face with a name and that happened again today.  We had another visitor to our office that Elder Oveson has called on the phone for the last six months.  He wants to catch up his PEF loan, so we taught him about renewed hope. He dropped out of school and really needs to get back and finish.

We have been encouraged with our biggest project getting traction and receiving a go-ahead from the Area Office. Now we have to wait a few days for the next phase to kick in.

Even with less pressing for Self Reliance and PEF, we face a weekend deadline with preparing for our Institute class and talks for Sunday. Elder Oveson has two talks for Sunday.  We spent quite some time today making preparations and planning. Talks for the International Branch will be in English, with Self Reliance as our subject. We will plan to keep these talks on hand for our just-in-case emergency back-up plan. There have been times we thought we were going to have to talk on a moment's notice. Now we'll have something prepared.

As we considered what pictures we might put together for today's blog post we went back through some of our recent photos. Just this morning we noticed these large snails trying to go over the wall, maybe they were trying to escape. We saw some very beautiful scenery, greenery, flowers, and trees on our recent trip to the Kaits. As we went to see the people who have been becoming more Self Reliant, we were blessed to see some of God's beautiful creations, and we continue to feel greatly blessed!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

There Is Work Enough To Do . . .

Work is one of the blessings of the gospel.  There is temple work, missionary work, welfare work, humanitarian work, Relief Society work, priesthood work, so many different types of work.  When Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, they were told that they had to work and work hard.  There was never any mention of stopping when they reached retirement age.  Elder Oveson may be retired, but we feel like we are about an important work and we feel like we are working hard.

This morning we had our weekly Skype call with Sister and Elder Powell in Hong Kong.  It is always good to talk to them to find out what other Self Reliance Missionaries are doing and what the Area Presidency wants us to do.  We realize that the various countries in Southeast Asia are all different, but the work that we are about is the same and we can learn from each other.

Sister Oveson was asked by Touch Sophorn, the Cambodian Seminary and Institute Director, to proctor a Michigan English Proficiency Test for a member that lives here in Phnom Penh. To apply to go to BYU or BYU Hawaii the candidate has to prove that their English is good enough to understand the classes.  This same member took the exam three months ago but did not pass, so he tried again today.

Elder Oveson tried his hand on helping a PEF participant with applying for a disbursement for tuition.  We are still learning and the system had problems today, but each time we try we understand a little better.

This afternoon we got a text from the International Branch inviting us to speak in Sacrament Meeting this Sunday about Self Reliance and PEF.  Elder Oveson is already speaking in the Steung Mean Chey 3rd Ward, but this one would be in English, so we agreed.  We do not want to turn down opportunities to reach out to the members here.

We felt like we were busy again today from the time that we arrived, until it was time to go home.  We love the Lord's work.  We are so blessed to be allowed to serve with some of his choicest children.

Today has been a random day, so tonight is a random Khmer collage.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

What do you have when the boss goes home? Extra work!

When you spend a week away from the office you find there is extra work to be done when you come back. That is what we found today. Chad Furness had been with us for a week, keeping us extra busy checking on Self Reliance around Cambodia, then he flew out yesterday. Today we had to write success stories to send to Hong Kong before some high power meetings there, Chad included. This week there were many of the top Self Reliance Initiative team from HQ, as well as leaders from all of the Asia Areas, converging on Hong Kong.

This afternoon was our Asia Area Self Reliance Team meeting. It is still quite amazing to think we can sit in our own office and link with seven other countries to participate in a meeting. The area SR managers were each assigned to tell success stories from their country. Phanna was prepared to tell about the pig farmer we visited in Battambang as part of our visit with Chad. We were impressed with his presentation.

This evening as we left the office we stopped in to see how the young missionaries were doing with their plans for English class. With the most recent transfer the missionary numbers have come up a bit. They were in great shape to cover all the different levels. Since they were well prepared, we didn't stay, but we did get a photo of their English Class preparations.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

It Is Always Nice To Hear That We are Doing Things Right

When we were called to serve as Self Reliance Services/Perpetual Education Fund missionaries in Cambodia, we had absolutely no idea what we were suppose to do.  We did go to the MTC in Provo for one week, but they only taught us about Preach My Gospel there.  We then had a devotional about the Self Reliance Initiative by Elder Sitati of the Seventy on Sunday at the MTC, and three days worth of training on Self Reliance at the Church Office Building before flying to Cambodia.

Upon arriving here we realized that the initiative was so new and due to the laws in Cambodia we could only do part of the initiative's curriculum.  Likewise, we had no idea at all how we were suppose to help the Perpetual Education Fund participants.  Over the last six plus months we have been doing our best to make a difference in the lives of those that we have the privilege of getting to know.

With Chad Furness coming to Cambodia we had the opportunity to find out a little better how we are doing and if we doing what is expected.  We were so humbled as Chad told our team more than once every day how pleased he was with our progress and the things that we were doing right.  He was especially pleased with our progress in getting the PEF participants to make the payments on their loans, and the way we work as a team, specifically in holding our weekly staff meeting.  We were given some areas that we still need to work on, but that is important in a visit like this also.  We are so glad that Chad came to help us for a eight days.  He left this evening for Hong Kong for high level meetings there during the next few days.

It was nice to be back to some of our normal routine today.  We had planned to go to District Meeting with the young missionaries, but one of our PEF participants wanted us to teach him how to research about businesses on the internet.  We are always willing to help, that is why we are here.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Back to Our Office in Phnom Penh

Even though it was less than a week since we had been in our office, it felt good to be back and to get back to some projects we have been working on.  We did take care of part of our emails while we were out in the Kaits, we got back to our hotel so late most nights that we needed to get to bed.  The first couple of hours in the office was spent cleaning up correspondence that we needed to get done.

We also needed to Skype with our youngest daughter, her best friend and room mate, and basically our adopted daughter, had her gall bladder removed, so we had to find out how things were going.  So please pray for Connie Cripps to get better soon.

Chad is still in town but had some phone conference calls to handle before he came to our office today.  We had talked several times about going to lunch with Samnang, the Service Center manager, we had also spoken about a team lunch together at Brooklyn Pizza, so we combined the two today.  It was great food and we got to know Samnang a lot better.  After lunch Chad had another phone conference, so we went back to our office and read our scriptures.

We went to visit two companies in the Phnom Penh North Stake area, Flyworks, which we have blogged about before, and a driving school.  The General Manager of Flyworks is the Phnom Penh North Stake president.  We wanted Chad to see what they are doing and to hear their story.  The driving school is owned by the wife of one of the counselors in the Phnom Penh North Stake and she had participated in the Starting and Growing My Business group.  She told us that what she had learned had increased her business by 40%.  What a great testimonial of the power of these groups.

We actually had a nice quiet evening at home and even got to read some of our book, most nights this week we have not had time.  It has been great having Chad here, he has truly made a difference for Cambodia.  He flies to Hong Kong tomorrow evening.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

New Missionaries and "Self Reliance Week" in Cambodia

Today was a continued visit with Chad from the Asia Area Self Reliance office. This has been a wonderful week to visit throughout the country and see how Self Reliance is helping the saints become Self Reliant. Today Chad visited Chaktomuk Ward with us, then joined us at our apartment for a simple meal, and went with us to Steung Mean Chey Ward as well. It has been great to have the focus on seeing how much progress Cambodia has made since we have been here.

There is a new group of missionaries who arrived this week from the MTC. We were impressed with one who is new in Chaktomuk Ward. He is from Georgia, but his parents are Khmer. His time at the MTC took him from a mid-range language ability to being quite proficient. He even stepped it up and translated for us during Sunday School.

We also were able to get an update on the Oms from Battambang. They came to Sacrament Meeting in Chaktomuk before heading back home in Battambang. It was good to see them. The doctors found that the Om Srei had an aggressive bacteria in her stomach. They have given her medicines with a ten day regimen then a followup regimen for six weeks. We are hopeful this will help her health improve.

Elders Jarvis and Denkers, Sisters Young and Colloins,
and Sister and Elder Oveson at Steung Mean Chey.
This afternoon in Steung Mean Chey we found more of the new missionaries. Sister Young's new companion is Sister Collins from Orem. Elder Jarvis has a new companion as well, Elder Denkers. Elder Denkers received a great welcome to Steung Mean Chey 3rd Ward. He seemed right in his element playing piano before and during sacrament meeting. Then since he was the new missionary in the ward, Bishop Chan Po invited him to take five minutes to speak to the ward. He bore his testimony and did a marvelous job. Today was high council Sunday, but only one other speaker was there today.  After the high counselor had been speaking for about 20 minutes Elder Denkers questioned about this speaker having to take so much time. We assured him it was because he didn't speak long enough. We are confident he will have many opportunities to speak in church during the next two years. We tried to catch up to another new Elder in Steung Mean Chey, but Elder Hinds was out with his companion, Elder Hall, doing the work.

After sacrament meeting Sister Oveson was not feeling well, so Elder Oveson and Chad dropped her off at the apartment as they went to the North Stake Center for a My Path meeting.  We are continuing to see the influence of Self Reliance helping the lives of members in Cambodia.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Decision Making and Additional Self Reliance Meetings

After four heavy and long days with Chad and Phanna, today was a normal Saturday as we taught our Institute class and took care of some Preparation Day activities.  Our lesson in Institute today was about Decision Making. It is such a blessing to teach this class about Leadership Principles.  We had twenty wonderful participants come to the class this morning.  Some weeks we have a good group there at the beginning of class, and other times, like today, we wonder if this week would be the smallest class so far, but then they all show up. They may be late, but they are there.  We love our Institute Class Members.

We were able to Skype or FaceTime with a most of our children after Institute.  It is such a joy to know what is going on back home and to talk with our loved ones.  We look forward to those calls and know that we are blessed to live at a time when we can communicate so easily.

We did our weekly grocery shopping and some laundry. With having been out of town most of the week, we have to get things done when we can.  This afternoon we were able to do our scripture study before it was late at night, like it has been most of this week.  We are reading the Book of Mormon again, It seems like that is what we are led back to read several times a year.  Reading Jesus The Christ by James E. Talmage together was very insightful, but The Book of Mormon is just so powerful.

This afternoon we went to the Phnom Penh South Stake Self Reliance Committee Meeting.  The chairman of that committee is a member of the Stake Presidency.  The only problem is that member of the Stake Presidency left last month to go to the United States. The training still went very well.

This evening there was a Self Reliance Devotional for the Phnom Penh South Stake and East District.  Chad was the speaker at the devotional.  It was raining just before and when the meeting started, but there were still at least 33 that made it there, and those who showed up were truly blessed.  

Friday, September 11, 2015

Battambang Self Reliance Successes

After going to the fields and farms yesterday, our visit to Battambang continued this morning as we went out first thing to visit three business. These were all participants from the Starting and Growing My Business Self Reliance Group.  It was exciting to see how they had applied the Self Reliance principles to their business. We learned from their stories how quickly they improved and increased their successes in their businesses.

The first stop was a small shop in the city, but down a little alley. They were surrounded by beautiful children, several of whom were their grandchildren, who quickly came to greet us and give "fives" and hugs. With using the principles they had learned in the group, they were now keeping their business money and personal money separate. As they used this principle they could see they were able to increase their inventory and variety of products they sell.

The second shop was another shop which had been set up in a typical home in Battambang. They had created a tented lean-to in front to display inventory goods. They also had chickens they raise and sell, which of course means fresh eggs. This home included several children and teen-age youth. Two young men there have received mission calls and will both report soon to serve in the California Oakland Mission. A third young man is working on his papers for his mission.

We boarded the van for one more stop. This was the home of the facilitator of the Self Reliance group. This young man who is 25 learned the Self Reliance principles and facilitated the group, teaching them to the other. He has been married for almost a year, and has set up a successful business raising pigs, ducks and chickens. He used his first earnings to pay for his wedding. Since then he has been saving money, planning for a trip to be sealed in the temple. He was such a great facilitator he has been asked to lead the new group that will start soon.

Chad Furness, the Asia Area Self Reliance Manager, was so excited with the things he saw in the lives blessed and changed with the Self Reliance program in Cambodia, but especially in Battambang. There are several leaders scheduled to come to Asia very soon and Chad plans to share the Cambodia successes with them, hoping to model what others do to the successes we have seen in Cambodia. We have seen the Lord's hand in this work and are humbled to realize how we have been blessed to be a part of it.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

On to Battambang

This morning we did not get away from Siem Reap as early as we expected, because we were finishing last minute reports, they were due today, and taking care of emails.  We got to Battambang a little after noon.

This afternoon we went with one of the Branch Presidents, a High Counselor and the Self Reliance Committee Chairman for some visits. Chad had indicated that he wanted to see some farms while he was here.  The first one that we went to was growing sweet potatoes, it also had a little pond that the owner wants to raise fish in.  We next visited a rice farm, the member has six hectors, a hector is 2 1/2 acres, and his parents have fourteen hectors that he farms.  He gets two crops of rice a year.  It was interesting to learn about the rice fields and see so many of them all together.  There were a lot more rice fields than those grown by the member, they literally went on as far as we could see.  In Cambodia we are often asked if we have eaten yet, but the question is more literally translated as, "have you eaten rice yet."  Rice is a portion of most meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner.

We also visited one of the member's small roadside store that carries a variety of small groceries, water, soda, etc.  He is also the rice farmer and he has applied the principles that he learned from attending the Self Reliance Group here to improve both businesses.  What a fruitful and entertaining afternoon.

This evening Phanna and Chad trained the local leaders as we took care of some administrative items for Chad.  Chad has a conference call tomorrow night and he needed some information on our efforts to encourage the Perpetual Education Loan participants to pay on their loans.  We were able to get that done, read our scriptures and write our blog while they were training.  We felt like we used our time very productively.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Kaits: Meeting the Members at the Markets

Our trip to the Kaits (Provinces) is not a tourist trip. We started out from Kampong Cham and headed toward Siem Reap. Having Chad with us gave us the opportunity of talking about Self Reliance in Cambodia. It was nice to be able to have a Self Reliance Team discussion, evaluating what we have been doing and get more perspectives on how we can improve. It was good to hear that we are doing pretty well working together as a team here in Cambodia.

Along the way we made a stop at a market (Phsaa) in Kampong Thom district to visit a member and talk to her about her shop. She has been a participant in a Self Reliance group in Kampong Cham. It was a great experience to walk through the market and see what their market are like. This market is not as big as Central Market in Phnom Penh, and it is in a poorer area of the country. We found the shop belonging to the member where she sells used clothing. Her husband is blind and sat in the background of the shop. She unrolled a mat and we were invited in to sit and visit with her. She said she has been very blessed with others looking out for her. Because her husband is blind they are charged a significantly lower rent than others in the market. There are also those who buy food for them and help them in many other ways.

As we sat in the shop and visited with her and two of her daughters, we learned that her youngest daughter is about 11 years old and is in the 3rd grade, but has not really learned how to read. Her sister is seventeen years old and is in 11th grade and helps in the shop as well. They buy huge bags of used clothing which they turn around and sort and sell. We were surprised to hear that she can sell one bag of clothing in about 3 - 5 days, earning about $75 and paying $50 for each bag. She has 5 children to support as well as her husband. We went away thinking of ways we might suggest to help her grow her business and in the process help the other family we visited yesterday in their sewing business.

In Siem Reap we were able to visit with the Self Reliance Committee. This was a great meeting with the District President, the Branch President from one branch and the counselor from the other, as well as a sister from the District Relief Society Presidency.  This was a wonderful and productive meeting.

We finished our meeting about 7:45, then went to visit the Night Market to visit another member owned shop, CJF. We actually made a purchase of a nativity and a miniature Cambodian Xylophone for display. We found other treasures to consider for another visit to the market. We finally made a stop for dinner then back to the hotel for the night. It is just a good thing we don't travel like this all the time.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Back To The Kaits

Our first visit to Kampong Cham was only a month and a half ago, so the memory is still very fresh to us, but now we are creating new memories.  Part of the new memories is having the Asia Area Self Reliance Manager, Chad Furness, with us this time.

The three hour trip from Phnom Penh went by very fast as we were able to talk about so many different things about Self Reliance.  Chad was the Country Manager for Taiwan, so he has a very good idea of what the other country managers are facing.  We used the time to pick his brain about how headquarters and the Asia Area vision is for us as managers and  senior couples.

After lunch we went to the building for the Kampong Cham 3rd Ward and met with the Branch President and a member to answer their questions about how to improve their businesses.  It was fun to make suggestions and watch the wheels in their head just move.  We spent about two hours with them.  Then we went to visit the Second Counselor in the District Presidency and his family.  They have a home sewing business where they sew children's clothing.  When we asked how much they sell the shirts and shorts for, we were shocked to hear $1 U.S. for a shirt and $0.50 for the little shorts.  They cannot sell them for more because they only have single needle machines so they cannot do the finish of a multi needle serger.  We came away very humbled after visiting this family.

We finished the day in a District Training Meeting with the District President, his second counselor, and the three Branch Presidents in Kampong Cham.  It was scheduled for one hour, but went two, they had lots of questions and comments.

We are tired and need to go to bed.  It has been a long day and we have three more on the road.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Ready to Go to the Kaits? and Khmer Skirts for the Senior Sisters

We wonder what we might write when we have been running around finishing things up so we can leave town tomorrow. There were still plenty of things that needed to be done, whether we were leaving town or not.

Our weekly Skype call with Elder and Sister Powell was delayed from last Thursday until today. We had a great visit with them, as always. Our visit with them today brought back memories of the first time we took the trip to the Kaits [Kites], going to Siem Reap and Battambang on a road trip with the Powells. We had been in the country about three weeks. What a great visit! This trip won't include the tourist sites, but we will have Chad visit from the Asia Area to travel with us. We are looking forward to the visit, but not so much the long drive.

One other item we had today was a meeting with President and Sister Christensen and Elder and Sister VanBrocklin. President Christensen has asked the four of us to work on a project looking at the feasibility of creating a group or branch in a new area. It is exciting to be asked to be detectives looking for the required information. This also seems to be quite a daunting task, trying to find people with the kind of addresses available (or NOT available) in Cambodia.

Tonight we met with the Senior Missionaries who are in Phnom Penh. Sister Oveson had set an example to the other sisters of having Cambodian skirts made, so three of them went on Friday with Sisters Spangler and Uresk to the market and to the seamstress to order skirts. The sewing was completed today, so we picked the finished product up from the young sisters to deliver "Christmas Presents" to the seniors at our Family Home Evening. They were all very pleased with their new skirts. The members here will be pleased that they now have Khmer skirts. Sister Oveson has had many of the local sisters tell her how pleased they were to see her new clothes. They told her she now looks like the Khmer.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Little and Big Blessings of the Sabath

This morning in the Chaktomuk Ward there was a special occurrence, a baby blessing.  The bishop had not arrived yet and it was definitely a first for the father and probably for the counsellors in the bishopric.  After discussing how to do it for a minute the father did his very best.  The gospel is still new and members are still learning, what a little blessing to see a father use his priesthood power.

Also, in the Chaktomuk Ward one of the recent converts got up and bore his testimony about joining the Church.  We were completely surprised when he mentioned that he was grateful for the way that looktaa and lookyiay, that is us, treated him at Church. He even remembered that it was June 6th, and that we treated him like an equal.  We remember greeting him, but nothing out of the ordinary.  That just proves you never know when others are watching and the affect that you are having on them.

This afternoon there was another special Ward Council for the Stueng Mean Chey 3rd Ward that we attended.  After that one of the great older members, asked Elder Oveson to give him a blessing.  This is great strong member that has been a Branch President and is currently on the High Council, what a privilege to give a blessing to such a great son of Our Heavenly Father.  Then he asked Elder Oveson to help him give his wife a blessing, he was the voice for that blessing.

There is currently a threesome in Stueng Mean Chey to cover multiple wards, so for meetings today we were Elder Jarvis's companion, while the other two attended meetings in one of the other wards.  After Sacrament Meeting the Primary President asked Elder Jarvis to play the piano for Primary because they wanted to practice songs today.  They even sang I Am A Child of Good in English, what a great blessing.

Today's picture is what happens after a brief heavy rain during Church.  This big puddle is between the Church building and the bikes and motos.  We are sure that some saddles and flip lops came off to go across to get the transportation home.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

A Fantastic Ordinary Saturday

Saturday is easily one of our favorite days of the week.  We start off with our extraordinary Institute class.  We were blessed to have twenty-three participants there today.  They are so smart and have such wonderful comments, we are so blessed to teach them.  These are current and future leaders of the Church here in Cambodia.  We taught them about proper delegating, the difference in just getting an assignment off of you and onto somebody else and blessing the lives of others by training through delegation.  Elder Oveson is always afraid that we are going to run out of material for our lesson, so we prepare extra and never get to it.  It is better to have more than plenty, instead of not enough.

This morning we Skyped or FaceTimed with all of our family back home in Utah.  What an absolute blessing to be able to spend a couple of hours talking to those we love so very much.  We learned about climbing trees, eggs and omelets, lego blocks, new cars, that babies will crawl over to play with computers and ignore grandma and papa, trumpets, school, credit cards that do not work at the gas station, new windows in the playhouse, backpacks that get stolen at school, new shoes, baby showers and more.

We were invited to attend the seminary and institute graduation this afternoon, and were told
that at least four of our Institute members were graduating.  This morning one of the four came and asked if we were coming, that was enough incentive to say sure.  We actually had at least of ten of our Institute participants receive certificates tonight.   What a great blessing, the Area Seventy, Elder Khanakham, was there to preside and speak and President Christensen was one of the other speakers.  They also had various seminary and institute participants and their parents speak.  This is such an important part of the training of the members here in this nation where the gospel has only been for twenty years.

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Calm After The Storm

Today was less dramatic. Reports were finished and sent off to Hong Kong. No floods. Only a few sprinkles instead of downpour. No young missionaries to entertain today. No trips away from the office and across town in the crazy Cambodian traffic. We can handle this drama level.

Elder Oveson appreciated being able to sit at his desk this morning and listen to the U of U vs Michigan football game, live stream on the computer. It was nice for the game to take place in the morning instead of late at night.  The best part was that the U of U won.

We finished preparation for our Institute class for tomorrow and started looking at next week's lesson.  We will be out of town four days so we have to get things done now before we go.

Since we had less drama and less events today, we looked back over recent days to put together a Random Picture collage. These pictures were taken along our frequent path on our daily commute. We hope these can give a little glimpse of what we see every day.

Tonight we relaxed for dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Brooklyn Pizza and Bistro. With a little bit of calm today and tonight helped make up for the hectic events of last night. Then we'll start early tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is Saturday and we will sleep in until 5:00 a.m. instead of our every day 6:00.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Phnom Penh Heavy Rain Part 2

A little more than a month ago we were in the heavy rain storm where the water was above the floorboards of the car.  Today it rained real hard while we were still at our office, the sheets of rain were so intense that we could not see familiar landmarks out of our office window.  Four of the sister missionaries were at the church and when it slowed down a little they headed out, that may have been a mistake because it rained even heavier a little while later.  While it was still raining real hard we watched as two of the Elders and a member rode into the Church parking lot on their bikes.  As they came into the building, they took off their shoes and dumped the water out.

As we left the office it wasn't raining so we thought it would not be bad driving home, that was not true.  Many of the roads that we had to go on, including our own road, were flooded.  On the two roads by our apartment we are sure that the water was again deeper than the floorboards.  We are glad that the weatherstripping on the doors kept the water out.  We only live about a kilometer from the stake center, but it took us over an hour and a half to drive home.  Phnom Penh traffic is crazy, but it is really crazy when streets are flooded.

Today we were able to get our monthly reports worked up, we were waiting on various others for information that finally came through.  As far as we know we have our part done, unless we find out about a new report that we had not heard about before.  Phanna was told that they simplified his reports for him so now he has only three reports instead of seven.  They probably will be simpler once we get past the learning curve.

We have used this disclaimer before, but Elder Oveson is a number person and we cannot explain how his brain works.  So here is his most recent number to share, today is number 200 of our 700 day mission.  Again his way of thinking, if you consider our mission as a week, this would be the equivalent of the end of day two of our time here.  And we also have to remember his toothbrush analogy, he is now on his forth one since landing here, the first three were completely shot.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015


We have settled into our Cambodian experience such that many things are becoming more common, such as sharing our apartment with chirpy little creatures like geckos. That said we are still a bit surprised when we find a gecko hiding in the drapes, maybe even keeping an eye on us. That is exactly where we found this little critter this morning.  As we returned from our office today he was still in the window, but this time just above the glass. He was more shy and scurried away when we got very close. Later we heard him chirp at us, like he was telling us he didn't appreciate us finding him.

I guess in the drapes is not as surprising as the gecko we saw in the kitchen a few days ago. That shy little guy was more inclined to hiding under the microwave. When we got too close, however, this shy guy disappeared up into the bottom of the microwave. Really? That little guy who was only abut 3 inches long was holding our microwave hostage!?

Telling of our gecko visitors makes us think of one more gecko missionary story. A few weeks ago Sister Leavitt told us of one who surprised her. The mission office, where her assignment happens to be, was being reorganized and painted. On this particular day she opened her desk drawer to find a gecko holding her desk hostage. She screamed, bringing the office elders running to find out what was the problem. She described how the gecko had jumped out at her, baring its fangs and claws. We're not sure they bought her story, but these little guys are pretty much everywhere. We have seen some tiny ones (less than an inch long), but the one in our window today was about five inches or so long. Our hope is that these guys are taking care of our less appreciated visitors. We have to say we really haven't seen as many bugs. That said, the geckos are welcome to stay!

Most months we have until the 10th to get our monthly reports done and submitted, but Chad is coming next Monday so we need to finish them this week.  Add to that, we spent most of to
day helping the older couple from Battambang at the hospital again today.  And the Finance Manager at the Cambodian Service Center left last week to go to school in Utah, so his former assistant is doing the work that two people use to do.  That meant we had to wait a couple extra day for some of the information that we needed.  We still have two more days, tomorrow has to be a major day it getting the reports done.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Love Multiples When You Share It

Today turned into a very abnormal day for us.  Brother Sophorn came in this morning and asked what we were doing today.  His eight year old daughter was with him at work and he had to go to a meeting at the Service Center and he wanted to know if Chandy could stay with us.  We explained that we had District Meeting at 10:00 but she could go to it with us.  Sister Oveson made her some coloring pages and she was perfect during the whole meeting.

As we were in District Meeting we got a text from the Jepsens asking if we could help take a dear little sister to the hospital.  Dr. Jepsen had looked at her with a doctor in Phnom Penh yesterday and they felt that she needed additional testing.  Sister Jepsen had met this sweet little sister in Battambang and knew how sick she was and asked her parents if they could help her. The newest hospital in Phnom Penh is called the Royal Rattanak Phnom Penh Hospital and is owned by a Thailand hospital company.  That is not only the newest hospital but is considered the best for most procedures.

As we got to the hospital we had to go up an escalator and it was very interesting to watch this sister and her husband.  It was the very first time that they had been on moving stairs and they were not sure about them at all.  Sisters Spangler and Uresk were there to act as a aid to the sister and later as a translator as we gave this sister a priesthood blessing.  The husband held the Melchizedek Priesthood but had never given a blessing before, so he wanted to do the anointing.  Sister Uresk had a little instruction sheet in Cambodian to help him know what to say, he did great.  Then Elder Oveson sealed the anointing and pronounced the blessing.  We could tell that the Lord really loves this member and it was a wonderful blessing from her Heavenly father.  

Love is when someone else's safety and satisfaction is equal or more important than your own.  We felt loved as we showed love today.