Monday, November 30, 2015

Moving Day and Senior FHE

Moving day at the Cambodia Self-Reliance/PEF offices. We were surprised the build on the "tree-house" came together about as fast as we projected. Over the years we have learned that if you do not rely on what is promised, but instead on what is realistic you will not be disappointed.

We were able to move all of our stuff in one load in our Corolla.  The toughest part was up and down the stairs so much, our previous office was up one flight of stairs and so is our new one. Our old bones do not like the up and downs as much as they went today, especially carrying a load.

The Service Center hired a truck to move Phanna & Sameth's furniture since they were bringing their desks, chairs and several other pieces of furniture.  We moved their computers, printer and more fragile items.  Our office is already well organized and they are getting their office together.

Once a month we try to do a Family Home Evening event with the other Senior Missionaries here in Phnom Penh. Tonight we went to a Cambodian Cultural Dance program at the national museum. When Pol Pot took over Cambodia one of the groups that he focused on destroying were any artists, including dancers.  Over the years since the Khmer Rouge the various art forms have rebuilt.  It was so interesting to see the traditional dances and to see the explanation of them.  It was also fascinating to recognize that in the big YSA event several months ago we saw similar dances, including the Peacock Dance.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Cambodia Phnom Penh South Stake Conference

This weekend was the Semi-Annual Conference of the Cambodia Phnom Penh South Stake. These are always inspiring to attend. Elder Oveson has participated in the planning for the past several weeks, giving suggestions and guidance to these young leaders. It was rewarding to see it all come together.

Saturday afternoon was the leadership session, with the theme of "Love and Service".  All the leaders were invited instead of just priesthood leaders. There were 63 in attendance for this meeting. Elder Oveson was one of the speakers, having Bishop Kang as a translator for his message. Brother Kosal, President Touch, and President Uk were the other speakers.

Saturday evening Adult Session focused on "Hastening the Work", and had about 100 in attendance.  President and Sister Christensen spoke and encouraged the members to be actively engaged in the missionary work. They encouraged everyone to look around and fellowship the investigators and new members. They also encouraged each to bring people to the missionaries to be taught. Other speakers were a member of the High Council and President Uk (Stake President), and President Touch (First Counselor).  The High Counselor told of serving as a missionary in 1998 and being led to a family of a widowed mother with four small children. He told how the gospel had made a vast difference in their lives. He saw that sister again in recent years and he was happy that the family were all still active members in the church. He encouraged us to look around and see who needs the gospel, and help them receive the blessings of the gospel.

The Sunday morning general session was attended by 310 people. We were blessed to sustain a new counselor in the presidency, the former second counselor now lives in West Valley City. The new counselor is Ul Phornn who has been serving as the bishop in the Steung Mean Chey 2nd Ward. The speakers included a broad range of ages from a primary child and a young woman to the oldest member of the stake, Brother Him Hen who is 85 years old and serves on the High Council. Following the rest hymn we heard from all three members of the presidency. We were uplifted and blessed for attending today.

The church parking lot was full, and the overflow parking lot was open and had several vehicles parked there as well. The motos and bicycles were parked in neat rows, which you don't often see here. The members in Steung Mean Chey had the option of riding on a bus that was chartered for the day,

The afternoon and evening were quietly spent at our apartment writing letters and blogs. It seemed a bit different without our weekly drive to Steung Mean Chey.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Thanksgiving Continued - Dinner at a Members

Yesterday was such a full day that we were not able to list everything, so we decided to leave part of it for today.  We were invited by our friend Ellen Clark to have a turkey dinner at her home.  She is the member that owns Flyworks, the fly tying company, she lives on the third floor of the manufacturing facility.  The General Manager, Eng Bun Huoch, and his family also live on the same floor, he is the Stake President in the Phnom Penh North Stake.  President Eng has four little boys that Ellen has nicknamed Peter, James, John and Daniel.

We had an official Thanksgiving Dinner with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, salad and soup, and of course pumpkin pie for desert.  It was a combined Thanksgiving/Christmas celebration, so naturally we also had to have hot chocolate, even though it was still over 80 degrees here, and marshmallows.  President Eng's family also put on a Family Home Evening for all of us.  As you can see from our pictures of the day, it was a very good time.

We had our Institute class this morning with seventeen wonderful participants.  We love teaching this class.  After a quick trip to the grocery store, we came home and Skyped and FaceTimed with part of the family.

This afternoon was the Leadership Meeting for Stake Conference and this evening the Adult Session.  Elder Oveson was asked to speak in the Leadership session, which was good because then he could relax a little after his talk.  We made it through day one of Stake Conference with just the General Session tomorrow morning to go.

Life is busy, but very good.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Thanksgiving, Missionaries, and Blessings

Thanksgiving may have been Thursday on the calendar, but we found a full day of celebration giving thanks today. We spent the morning in the office making preparations for Stake Conference tomorrow and Sunday, but more important was the blessing of gathering with missionaries, remembering all those things we are thankful for this year.

We have mentioned our plans for lunch at the Tonle Bassac II Restaurant for a lunch buffet. There were 50 missionaries, including Elder and Sister Meinzer, President and Sister Christensen, and the two of us. When we asked if they had found things that they were thankful for, these amazing young missionaries expressed gratitude for so much, such as "drinkable running water," taking a BATH, friends and family, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and being able to serve as missionaries in Cambodia.

The buffet was a great way to feed so many young appetites. Elder Meinzer said with as much as our group ate, the restaurant lost money on our group. We didn't keep track of how many times they went through the food lines. One elder asked how long he could stay and eat. He wondered if he could stay and keep eating until 5:00? (It was about 1:00 at the time.)

The message we gave them included "GIVE THANKS" and this scripture:
Luke 6:38 "Give and it shall be given unto you, good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over. ... For with the same measure that ye metw withal it shall be measured to you again."

Today we are feeling blessed! Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Water Festival - Down By The River

Most three day holidays are a great excuse for the people in Phnom Penh to head out of town to the Kaits, but the opposite is true about the Water Festivals, those in the Kaits head to Phnom Penh.  Most of the real action is down by the Tonle Sap River.  Even with the boat races canceled that is still where the action is for this holiday.

With Elder Oveson fighting his cold, we have avoided going down by the river, but today after being at the office to take care of a few items we decided to brave it.  We had two options, across the bridge to Diamond Island, or along the river front by the Royal Palace.  The traffic crossing the bridge was really heavy, so we chose the river front instead.  It was amazing to see the different vendors as we inched along with the stop and go traffic.  The various fruits looked delicious, we saw them selling corn several different ways, there were several carts where we wondered what they were selling.  We did decided that the Minions are definitely the most popular balloons, based on what was offered by the vendors.  Our short drive was over an hour and we did not leave the car, but we got the flavor of the festivities and were happy to retreat by another route to our apartment for another round of fireworks from the roof.

We had our weekly Skype call with Hong Kong, emails, working on our Institute lesson, Elder Oveson had a meeting with the Stake Clerk and Assistant Executive Secretary to work on the 2016 calendar, an unscheduled meeting with a PEF participant and several other minor items.  Even with a holiday it is nice to be in the service of our Heavenly Father.   We even FaceTimed with part of our family.

Since it is Thanksgiving in the U.S., we are so thankful for our family, friends and fellow servants of Our Heavenly Father.  This has been a completely different year, but we have learned a completely new gratitude serving here in Cambodia.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Bon Om Touk - Water Festival - Day Two

It is good to have a holiday every once in a while. Today was a welcome reprieve as Elder Oveson is fighting off a bit of a cold. We were able to take it a little slow this morning, which gave us a chance Skype with family, to do some laundry, ironing, and a few housekeeping items we don't seem to get to during our regular weeks. We also altered another pair of pants for Elder Oveson. We still need to alter his belt.

We had an Internet meeting to attend with Asia Area Self-Reliance Team, so we headed to the office about noon. We could have connected at our apartment, but we also needed to do our lesson plan for our class on Saturday and that is more easily done at the office. As we finished our meeting and creating our lesson notes, Elder Oveson was ready to call it quits and go home to rest.

Phanna and Sameth took advantage of the office being closed and enjoyed their own Water Festival. They went with a few of their friends to the water and did some fishing. From the pictures we saw, it looks like they had a successful Water Festival!

It is amazing how many gates are closed and Windows shuttered when a holiday comes to Cambodia. Traffic is much lighter, even the little barber shops are closed and shuttered. No haircut this week, unless they happen to be open on Friday. With holiday traffic it only took about five minutes to get between the office and our apartment. We only have a few more days to enjoy the short distance, then we move to a different office which will significantly increase our commute time.

This holiday is big enough that there are fireworks every night. There is a great advantage for scheduling fireworks here! The sun goes down at about 6:00 p.m., so fireworks start about 7:00! We heard the first "booms" at 6:45 tonight. That is much better than having to wait until 9:00 or 10:00 p.m. to start!

For dinner tonight we decided to try something new. We had some chicken we had cooked in the crock pot, cut up a mango, and created Chicken and Mango Salad Sandwiches. They were very tasty! We ate them and totally forgot to take pictures. We will likely make these again!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Bon Om Touk - Water Festival - Day One

We have often heard that when the moon is full strange things can happen.  In Cambodia they have one of their three day holidays when the moon is full in November, called the Water festival. Reading the history about this holiday there are several reasons given for the holiday.  In the ancient Khmer Dynasty the Kings relied upon the rivers to get to the battles and this holiday was kind of a military parade of their readiness and might.  It also marks the end of raining season when the Tonle Sap River begins to flow South instead of North.

Our office is closed for the next three days so we just stayed and worked from home today.  In many ways that was good for Elder Oveson because he is now fighting his first Cambodian cold.  We have fortunately found a good Pharmacy where we were able to pick up some cold meds that we recognized.

Sister Oveson put her donated sewing machine to good use again today taking in one of Elder Oveson's suit pants.  Now he won't have to keep them up by cinching his belt as tight as it goes.  Elder Oveson worked on his talk for Stake Conference, he is speaking in the Leadership Session on Saturday.  Since he will have someone translating for him he wanted it all written out, he will send it to the translator to give him a chance to look at it ahead of time.

This afternoon we ventured out to take care of some errands, including going to the Pharmacy.  We had to go to the bank, really ATM, to get some more cash.  Then on to our favorite french bakery for a treat, almond croissant. We only go there every so often we are still trying to lose weight.  Then on to one of the grocery stores that has the best cereal selection.  Last time we went to this store they were out of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, but we had our emergency supply at home, three boxes squirreled away.  We were pleasantly surprised to find it back in stock and we still have a spare.  We also found Vanilla Chex another wonderful change for us.  More important was out front were two competing vendors selling fresh Mangos.  We have had some from the store recently that were not very sweet.  The ones we bought today were fabulous.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Tying Up Loose Ends

It seems many of the projects we have been pushing forward so hard with are finishing up, so today was a slower pace as we worked on tying up loose ends. We are waiting for a final decision from the attorney in Hong Kong letting us know our next step with Self Reliance. The preferred jobs list has been compiled, so we went over it with our Self-Reliance team and had it ready for Phanna to submit to the Area Manager. Elder Oveson has been getting things ready for the South Stake conference, and finished with a few correspondences concerning the stake. We held our weekly staff meeting, since we have Water Festival for the next three days. So this afternoon we were able to slow down and take it easy, which is a good thing since Elder Oveson is trying not to get a cold, but the cold seems to be getting him.

We received word today that our new office space will be ready for us to move by Friday. We requested that instead we move on Monday because we have other obligations on Friday. So we are set to move on Monday! With all the packing and moving we went through the past couple of years we decided we should get started. Fortunately we went through everything in our office when we first got here and got rid of a bunch of stuff. We went through it again the past few weeks, so things are pretty well cleaned up. We packed a few boxes and we are ready. We won't need to move any of our furniture, so we should be able to load all our stuff in one load in the trunk of our Toyota Corolla.

Some of our pictures today were borrowed from other missionaries. They highlight a sunset silhouette with sugar palm trees that are typical throughout Cambodia, as well as some of the varieties of chickens you might see here. We just have to say we have seen some pretty scrawny chickens.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Chaktomuk Sisters

Over the last nine months of attending the Chaktomuk Ward we have seen about nine baptisms.  There was a mother and her teenage daughter, three single YSA men and four older women.  In Cambodia, as in other areas of the world, retention is one of the biggest concerns, only about 35% of the converts are still active after a year and the majority fall out in the first two months.  So far Chaktomuk as done fairly well in keeping the recent converts coming, primarily because of the wonderful sisters in their ward.

In a typical Sacrament Meeting in the Chaktomuk Ward 80% of the members present are sisters.  There are not many children, or Young Men or Young Women.  The majority of the brethren are young single adults, and most of the sisters are way older.  We have learned to truly love this ward that struggles, but is so loving in many ways.  Our picture for the day shows some of these wonderful sisters.

The other Ward that we have been assigned to attend is the Stueng Mean Chey 3rd Ward.  This is part of the poorest area in Phnom Penh.  They have not had has many baptisms as Chaktomuk, and unfortunately most have fallen away.  There is a significant alcohol problem here in Cambodia, especially among the poorer population.  We are advised to be off of the roads before 8:00 p.m. whenever possible.  That is one of the problems that they face.  There are also
a lot more who ride bicycles to church or walk, so this discourages some from coming also.  It just means that we have to fight harder to keep them coming.  Again we have a great love and appreciation for the members in this Ward also.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Feeling Blessed

This morning as we gathered with our Institute class we once more had 20 students. Dawath, one of three siblings we have gotten to know since we first started teaching, has not been able to attend recently because of a conflict with his schedule. He was there today and told Elder Oveson he really didn't have time in his schedule, but has so missed coming and learning from our class. As the hour progressed we could see the spirit working on him and witnessed a change in him. We are grateful for Dawath and all the others who we feel blessed to call our friends. We hope to continue to see Dawath, and pray that we can make a difference, even if with only one person.

Last Sunday as Sister Oveson was in Relief Society a Khmer Sister presented her with a gift for good luck. We have seen this beautiful sister several times, but really have not gotten to know her. She is either a recent convert or an investigator. The gift she gave was a lovely piece of teal colored fabric. After considering options, with having recently received a sewing machine, Sister Oveson decided to create a new skirt. Elder Oveson had meetings all afternoon, so this was a perfect project for today. Using one of her skirts made a few months ago by a local seamstress, here is the finished article product. And, yes, this made her feel lucky! Lucky and blessed to be surrounded by such wonderful gracious people.

We learned a new trick to be able to keep in contact with each other. We only have one cell phone here, although we also have our iPhone and iPad that we use with wifi to Skype or FaceTime. We realized we can use one to call the other using FaceTime. We simply use our one account and call ourselves. It works!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Preparing For Thanksgiving

Our office was very quiet today. Phanna and Sophorn were both gone to the provinces, and Sameth was busy getting end-of-the-month work done. The internet has been so-o-o-o s-l-o-w recently and we have all had to be connected, which didn't help. Today with less people online Sameth was excited because it was moving faster than it has in a long time. That was great, until we had a few power bumps. We told him he needs to be careful not to cheer about how fast it is. It doesn't work at all without power. Surprisingly enough the internet came right back up when the power came back up.

For Thanksgiving just next week we have an assignment to host the South Zone for dinner. Elder and Sister Meinzer are hosting the East and Central Zones and have a great idea of having dinner at a buffet restaurant, and our Zone had chosen to join together with them, so we went along with the Meinzers to check it out today.

Three zones together means a group of about 50 people. The Tonle Bassac Restaurant is equipped for such a group. We won't expect traditional turkey and dressing or any of what might be served at home, but they will have lots of options of Khmer foods. We tried a few new foods today, such as crocodile (which tastes like chicken). We wandered through the buffet options before we picked up our plates. One nice thing about this kind of a restaurant is the local missionaries will be able to find foods they like as well. They may not be as satisfied with our traditional banquet spread.

This afternoon we had a visit from young missionaries who needed to use our office for an approved Skype call to Hong Kong. While they used the computer, we went across the hall to get the classroom ready for tomorrow's institute class. It seems like there is always something we are preparing for upcoming events.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

End of Raining Season

We are sure that there are plenty of foreigners that roll their eyes at the holidays that we have in the United States, but the ones here in Cambodia are definitely different for us.  Earlier this year we told about Plough Day when the Royal Oxen pick what crops should be planted.  They plant then because it is the beginning of Raining Season.  Next week there is a three day holiday called the Water Festival because it is the end of Raining Season.  We can tell that we are at the end of raining season because we no longer get the rains in the afternoon that the locals take advantage of for a quick shower.  During Raining Season almost every day the forecast states that there is an 80% chance of rain, now there is only a 20% chance of rain.  As you can see from our picture for today, we no longer have the big bellowing clouds in our afternoon sunset pictures.

As we were working on a project to help Phanna we got an URGENT message from Marco in Hong Kong that he needed a report from every nation before midnight.  He attached an Excel spreadsheet with a list of 180 names and over 90 were from Cambodia.  We quickly regrouped and went to work on that report.  With three of us, Sameth, Sister Oveson and Elder Oveson focused on it we were complete by about 3:00 this afternoon.  We did not want to stay up late doing it.

We had our weekly Skype call with Hong Kong Senior SRS Missionary, today it was Sister Roberts who is taking it over for the Powells.  We also had the Area PEF Operation Meeting via the internet.  It is always good to learn what others in the area are doing and to learn from them.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Khmer Phsaa - Cambodian Market

The sameness of what we experience from day-to-day has settled in a bit. We see much the same kind of traffic on the same streets with the same crazy motos and tuk-tuks that swarm around us. One of the elements of "same" that we don't often mention is the markets.

There are a number of markets throughout Cambodia. Driving throughout the city, we don't have to leave the road to feel we in the middle of a market. Roadside shops or more collective markets are a common feature everywhere.

We have shown collections of produce in previous posts. Fruits and vegetables are just one segment of the market. You also see fresh meats hung, fresh fish, dried fish, fresh and dried herbs and spices are on display as well.

Maybe you are looking for something to throw into your pot for dinner. Fish heads? Chicken claws? Squid? Or maybe just the fried crickets or tarantulas? Yep, you can find all of this and much more in the Khmer Phsaa (Cambodian Market) is full of interesting things.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

That Is Why You Came To Cambodia

Even missionaries need to be reminded why they were called to serve.  We were told a couple of times today, "That is why you came to Cambodia."  This afternoon Sameth, the Perpetual Education Fund specialist that we work with, said you are here to help PEF, Self Reliance, Institute and the South Stake.  He told us that we were very needed.  Also this afternoon we met with Samnang, the Service Center Manager, after the meeting he told us that he knew why we had come to Cambodia.  It is so nice to feel appreciated and to have Heavenly Father help us see why he needed us here.

We have not attended the Missionary District Meeting for several weeks, we have been busy with to many other things going on.  Today we had a very good reason to attend, we needed to talk about Thanksgiving.  President & Sister Christensen asked us to make sure that the missionaries in the South Zone got a good Thanksgiving dinner.  Elder & Sister Meinzer were asked to do the same thing for the East & Central Zones.  The Meinzers had found a buffet that they were going to take their Zones to and they had even found out that Friday was better than Thursday because of the Water Festival.  We asked the District Meeting if they wanted the buffet or to have something at the Stake Center that we ordered in.  They all wanted to join the other Zones and have a big group dinner, that should be fun.

We continued working on the project for Self Reliance Services with Phanna today.  We have to have the preliminary done tomorrow, because he goes out to the Kaits on Thursday and Friday.  Sister Oveson is a lot faster than Elder Oveson and Phanna, her spreadsheet is almost the same size as the other two combined.  We are lucky to have a speedster helping us.

Even though it is in the 90 degrees fahrenheit range here and only 3% of Cambodians are Christians, the Cambodians never want to miss a chance for a party.  We are already seeing signs of Christmas here in Phnom Penh.  We saw the first signs a couple of weeks ago in an office supply store where they were fully decorated with trees and displays, and playing Christmas music.  Tonights pictures are the Christmas tree in the office of our apartment building and a sign at a new coffee shop on way home.

Monday, November 16, 2015

One Not-So-Typical Day

Today was not what we have found to be a typical day. We went to our office as usual. We didn't have any errands away from the office. We worked on Self Reliance projects instead of being pulled into other random stuff. Elder Oveson went to a meeting with the South Stake presidency while Sister Oveson wrote letters and took care of other "housekeeping" matters with the computer. Traffic was nothing to write about. So, all in all today was a very calm day.

That having been said, we corresponded more with attorneys, both locally and in Hong Kong. We are hoping to be able to start using our Self Reliance Initiative completely SOON! It seems the licensing we have been working on does not appear to be an issue, which is what we thought from the beginning. The various government entities are now saying we don't need a license, since there is no cost to participants. We do, however, have to analyze what are preferred jobs which will help guide people to jobs as well as to what programs to encourage for education.

Our collage today is a variety of large Moto loads. These loads come with many different combinations of passengers and cargo, all of which leave us shaking our heads, or simply being amused. We wonder how they all manage to fit so many or so much on such a, such a small seat, then maintain balance on two wheels as they bounce down the road.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

We Are Grateful For The Young Missionaries & Others That Translate For Us

When we received our mission call it stated that the language for our mission would be English.  That is so wise of the Lord and leaders of the Church, there are no missionaries that served here forty years ago to return as Senior Missionaries.  With the encouragement of our Mission President, David Moon, we took advantage of Skype tutoring to learn a little Cambodian and we are always trying to learn a little more here.

With that introduction we are thankful for the Elders and Sisters that are so willing to translate for us in the various meetings that we attend.  In the Chaktomuk Ward there are two sets of Elders and a set of Sister missionaries that are always there to help translate in all three meetings of the block.  In Steung Mean Chey there is only one set of Elders and they try their best to help us but often they are playing the piano or at the Sacrament table.  We have been blessed by several returned Cambodian Missionaries and others who have stepped in and tried to help at times.  We are truly blessed to not just be left on our own to understand a few words here and there.

Our picture for tonight is part of these wonderful translators from the recent Zone Training Meeting.  The six in this picture are Sister Young, Sister Uresk, Elder Denkers, Elder Jarvis, Elder Rom and Elder Cook.  We are also grateful to the Assistants to the President, Elder Neuberger and Elder Elieson for their aid.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

40th Anniversary!

We have been asked what we planned to do for our anniversary. Our response has been "Go to Cambodia!" What better way to celebrate 40 years of marriage? They have been 40 amazing, wonderful years!

Since we are having such an adventure, we decided we might expand our horizons a bit. Elder Leavitt asked us if we would like to go to a movie at the VIP theater in the Aeon Mall close by to see the new James Bond movie. It really is not our first choice of shows, but we decided we would join them. $15 tickets included a VIP lounge to wait for movie time. The theater has extra large reclining seats, popcorn and beverage. A pillow and blanket were included! Now if they would just turn down the volume and not kill so many people it would have been better. We might have to try this again with a better movie choice. The theater was great.

Tonight we went to Tell Restaurant for dinner. This is a nicer place which always seems quiet and not too busy. It is maybe five miles away, which means it can take a while in the crazy traffic here. It took us about 35 minutes to drive there and another 30 minutes for the return commute. We were very surprised to have ordered our meals, be served, the be completely finished in 20 minutes. We both ordered Vienna Schnitzel with mashed potatoes. The food was great! A shorter commute would have made it perfect.

Driving home we couldn't help but notice the lights along the road. It looks almost like Christmas! As we approached the Monument this lighted display helps us understand the lights are for the holiday later this month -- Water Festival!
The spotlights are for a Grand-Opening of the new Mazda dealer as seen last night from our balcony. We drove past on our way home and they really celebrating. The showroom was full of women in formal gowns and men in tuxedos, flowers, backdrops and decorations, and of course the new cars on display. It looked like quite the party.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Our New Office/Tree House

This morning Samnang, the Service Center Manager, called to tell us that our new office is ready to move into and that we should come and see it.  We did not go over this morning, we were busy, but we did venture that way this afternoon.  As you can see from our picture for today it is not ready yet.  The top row shows the space before they closed it in, then a few pictures from a week ago and today.  As we looked at the pictures we decided that it looked like they are building us a tree house.

 Elder & Sister Meinzer whose office is on the ground level of the Service Center, walked up with us to see how it looked.  Elder Meinzer, who was a contractor and is LDS Charities here, guesstimated two weeks.  The only problem with that is there is a three day holiday coming the week after next, so it may be longer.

This morning the music from the wedding tent across the road started at 5:00 a.m. and it got progressively louder until 6:00 when it sounded like they were out on our balcony.  That is one thing that we have not, and may not, gotten use to, is how early they start with the music and chanting for weddings and funerals.  It is wedding season here in Cambodia, so we may get woken up even more before that is over.

We worked on our new project part of the day today, but we also had correspondence to answer, our office to go through before we move, we started that after Samnang's call and before we went to the Service Center, and preparation for our Institute class.  We always have a variety of projects to work on every day.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

One Assignment Complete and A New Project Begins

We have been busy enough lately that we have joked it has been a long month this week. It is amazing how we are lifted and strengthened even as we have our Super-Weeks. This week making the preparations for the visitors, then the follow through and implementing the plans, opened up to a much calmer day today.

We made a quick run to the mission home this morning to retrieve a care package. Thanks, Ellen, and all the rest of you, for your love and support! This package came much quicker than the one sent in September from Becky and Marla. The recent holidays have not been quite so extensive as Pchum Ben. One day off instead of five makes a huge difference in the mail service still  functioning!

We continue to see interesting new things here. Our collage today includes a few of those items, such as the interesting sense of fashion we see everywhere. My children would never let me out the door wearing the fashion combinations we see here.  Not only is the woman in the first picture making extremely fashionable, she is also being the connection between the moto and the trailer. The extra large bag on the back of a moto is recyclables. Bottom left is another fashionable lady, but this picture also shows the spring suspension of a moto trailer. This trailer is likely used for some heavy loads. Next, this is the first horse we have seen in the city here. Finally, this evening we could hear some noise outside so we went to investigate what it was, only to discover tents in the alley across the street from our apartment. The music we hear coming from the tent tells us this is a wedding and not a funeral.

Our days are full and wonderful. Now, since we have finished our most recent assignment, today picked up a new project, helping Phanna with Self-Reliance resources.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Gathering All The Missionaries Serving in Phnom Penh

As the leaders of the Church visit Cambodia they always want to meet with the full-time missionaries.  Today all of the missionaries that serve in the Phnom Penh area gathered at the South Stake Center to be taught by Elder Randy Funk, Sister Neill Marriott and Sister Cheryl Esplin.  It was an extraordinary opportunity for them to learn from these faithful servants of Our Savior Jesus Christ.

The Funks, Esplins and Marriotts have all served as leaders in missions, so they knew exactly how to talk to and teach the missionaries.  They are more willing to be a little more casual with the missionaries also.  Sister Marriott is not very tall so as she got to the podium she pulled out the little step for children to stand on, so that she could see the missionaries better.  She taught the missionaries about the importance of love.

As Sister Esplin stood up, she said that she was going to hum a Primary song and as soon as we recognized it, we were to stand up and sing.  It took about four notes for most of the missionaries to be singing with all of their heart, "I Belong To The Church of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints."  The only ones not standing were the Cambodian missionaries that did not grow up in Primary, the Church is so new here and many have only been members a couple of years.  Again a wonderful teacher spiritually fed the missionaries.

It would not be a missionary gathering without a group picture, so after the meeting we went to the Cultural Hall for that.  Naturally that is our picture for the day.

We were invited to go with the visiting leaders for lunch at one of our favorite places, Brooklyn Pizza and Bistro.  After that we said goodbye to them as they went to visit Trash Mountain and Cambodian Children Fund.  They left this evening to go to Hong Kong and then on to Mongolia.  What a blessing to this part of the Lord's vineyard to have these great leaders come for a visit.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Sisters Esplin and Marriott Visit Cambodia

We have been working hard for about three weeks in the preparations and planning for Sister Esplin and Sister Marriott to visit Cambodia. Events rarely go just as planned, and today was no exception. We were disappointed in some who were invited to participate who didn't attend, but we were very pleased with those who came and participated.

We met with President Christensen last night for one final check on rolling out the plans and assignments. He asked us to meet with the group this morning as they made preparations to leave for home visits. Sister Marriott and her husband went with one group to visit families with Young Women age girls in the Phnom Penh North Stake, while Sister Esplin and her husband went with another group to homes in the East District where there are Primary age children. There were sisters assigned to go along as translators with each of them. We also had Elder Funk of the Asia Area Presidency and his wife. They divided efforts and one went with each group.

As we gathered and met these incredible people this morning we felt almost like parents coming along as their children head off to camp, then wave goodbye and go home. We waved goodbye and went back to our office, but we still had those final touches that needed to be finished for the other meetings this afternoon and then this evening. We needed refreshments for the VIP group, so that took us to Erek Keiser Bakery. They have some of the best pastries in town!

When it all was said and done, it was a good turnout! About 180 Members in the meetings, and as they split into groups there were 100 in the Primary meeting and 80 in Young Women's. There were also priesthood brothers included in the training, and they were divided among the groups as well. This has been a successful visit! And tomorrow we will get to gather with the missionaries to hear Sister Esplin, Sister Marriott, and Elder Funk. We are feeling blessed!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Last Minute Preparation

Today is Independence Day here in Cambodia, the first of four holidays this month.  We were grateful to have things to do, so it did not feel like a holiday at all for us.

The internet at our apartment went out Saturday shortly after we sent out our weekly email, and it was still down this morning.  We needed to get some things done so we headed to the office at our regular time today.  The traffic was not as good as during Pchum Ben, but it was significantly lighter than usual.

Today our oldest grandson, Jaren, became an official teenager, so we FaceTimed with him to wish him a Happy Birthday.  We had an email from our daughter Marla wondering if we were still alive since we did not post on our blog last night.  We decided to FaceTime with her and Connie and assure them that we were fine.  We got a great screenshot to use for one of our pictures for this evening.

Most of our day was spent preparing for the visit of Sister Esplin and Sister Marriott.  They should be on the ground here in Cambodia right now, and the real work begins in the morning.  There are two stakes and two districts here in Phnom Penh, each were asked to invite members to participate in Focus Groups and two were invited to set up home visits.  We finally got the last of the information that we needed today.  Sister Oveson has worked on lanyards for the Focus Groups, our other picture this evening.  We met with President Christensen this afternoon to try and make sure that all of the bases were covered.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

New Assignment/Calling for Elder Oveson

Three weeks ago, on October 19th, Elder Randy Funk of the Asia Area Presidency came to Phnom Penh to meet with Elder Oveson, giving him an assignment to serve as the Executive Secretary for the Phnom Penh South Stake Presidency, along with his other Self Reliance and PEF responsibilities. Today he was sustained to that calling in the wards of the stake.

Cambodia has only had stakes for about a year and a half, and the leaders are still trying to understand what that means. Before they were districts, functioning under the direction of the mission president. Not only have they not had stakes in the past, they have not seen how stakes and wards function. They are trying to learn for themselves what a Stake President does. Bishops are just as new, and have not seen the examples of generations of leaders to follow.
This new assignment has added a variety of additional meetings for Elder Oveson. His responsibility is to help train, along with Elder Funk and Elder Khanakham the Area Seventy, President Uk Sophal how to be a Stake President. Seeing President Uk's expression changing from being overwhelmed and unsure of what he should be doing to more of a calm assurance was worth it.

Elder Oveson meets with President Uk every Thursday for them to go through the Church Handbook and to give instruction. He creates an agenda according to the needs and their discussions. On Saturday they meet together again before Presidency Meeting, going over the agenda and getting ready for the other meetings.  They have also been working on the calendar for 2016, and preparations for Stake Conference later this month. It is good to see the light of hope in the eyes of this young leader. 

We hope our service will make a difference not just for this Stake President, but for others who will serve as leaders of the church here in Cambodia!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Touring Cambodia Through A Camera Lens

We have been in Cambodia for eight months, but we don't have as many opportunities to travel around the country as some of the other senior couples we associate with. Tonight we thought we would spotlight some of the pictures Elder and Sister VanBrocklin have shared on their blog.

Elder and Sister VanBrocklin are the Public Affairs couple here in Cambodia. He has a nice camera and knows how to take great photos. With their assignment they also have occasion to travel through the country much more often than we do, and go into areas we have not yet seen.  As a result, we enjoy touring the country vicariously through their camera lens.

As you scroll through the blog posts of our friend's pictures you will see a pretty good representation of Cambodia. The people. Angkor Wat. The animals. And so much more.  If you want to see Cambodia, but are not able to travel here, follow this link and you can take a tour with the help of Elder VanBrocklin's camera lens and photography skills.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Happy Birthday Sister Oveson and South Zone Training Meeting

We have been asked several times over the last week or so if we were going anywhere fun for Sister Oveson's birthday and we always answered Cambodia.  This year Sister Oveson has had more than fifty people sing happy birthday to her, twenty-four (24) at the South Zone Training Meeting today.  We definitely miss being with family for birthdays and holidays, but we are so grateful for those who help fill in the gaps, our friends and new family here in Cambodia.

Our day started off out in Steung Mean Chey at the Phnom Penh South Zone Training Meeting.  We have the very best missionaries in the whole Church in our Zone and we are so thankful to be able to serve with them.  We always marvel at the profound and great teachings that these young missionaries give during these meetings, there is only one Senior Couple per Zone and some Zones do not have a Senior Couple.  Since it was Sister Oveson's birthday we brought them all a little treat, little pre packaged cake snacks.  Of course our picture for the day is the young missionaries as promised.

For lunch today we went with Phanna, Sokhom, Amy, Sameth and Yuri, to Mama's New York Deli.  The others brought a birthday cake and sang Happy Birthday to Sister Oveson again.

We spent the afternoon tying down loose ends for the visit of Sister Esplin and Sister Marriott next week and finishing our Institute lesson for tomorrow morning.

This evening we went to Brooklyn Pizza & Bistro for dinner.  That is our favorite restaurant here in Phnom Penh.  Sister Oveson had B-B-Q ribs and Elder Oveson had a pulled pork sandwich, along with smoothies.  Today was a great day!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Renovations and Alterations

We are getting a little tired of the renovations at the South Stake Center. Today they started into a new project as they took the bathroom stalls apart in preparation for paint. It is a good thing they have the front gate closed so there are not very many people coming into the building, but what about us? After taking things apart they just left the project, so we could use the bathroom, but we thought it best to stand guard.

We are still moving forward with our projects, but today seemed a bit slower than we have had recently. We took a few minutes for a walk around the building just as they were installing plexiglass panels on the front gate into the building. We guess this is an effort to keep the little birds out of the open courtyards of the building and maybe keep things a little cleaner.

We tried a new project tonight as well. With so many changes for us our clothes needed a little alterations. Last week one of the senior sisters gave us a sewing machine that had been left by another sister when she went home a few months ago. Sister Oveson decided to try her hand on taking in a pair of slacks for Elder Oveson. After struggling with the machine a little, alterations are complete on one pair. We think they will fit much better now!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Understanding The Meaning Of Feet On The Ground

Over the years we have learned to be patient and see what happens, then if nothing happens it generally means the Lord is waiting for us to do something, so get to it.  On Monday we got an email from the local attorneys about one of the projects that we have been working with them, the Hong Kong attorneys and the attorneys at Church Headquarters.  To us it was a lot of legalese covering all of the potential issues that may or may not apply.  We waited to see if the Church attorneys would indicate their preference, but when they had not we decided to see if we could nudge things along again.  We are starting to understand that the meaning of "feet on the ground" means they need someone to keep things moving and not stall out.

We are continuing to work on and have meetings about the visits of Sister Esplin and Sister Marriott. President & Sister Christensen are headed out to the Kaits tomorrow and will not be back until Monday about noon.  President wanted to make sure that there are no loose ends as he leaves town.  We promised to email, and call if necessary, with any last minute concerns or issues.  The biggest problem right now is having families for Sister Esplin to visit Tuesday morning.  The assigned District gave us names but they live so far away that all the time would be spent traveling.  We are pleading for new families, we have to have them tomorrow.

We really need to do more pictures of the missionaries, but we promise those watching our blog that we will do more of them soon. This Friday is Zone Training Meeting, and next Wednesday Sister Esplin and Sister Marriott will be meeting with the missionaries.  Tonight's picture is more things that we see as we are driving around.  It was raining as we went out this afternoon, so the first one is a young man in a trailer standing up probably because there was no dry spot to sit down.  The car wash at a local gas station was being used as shelter by moto drivers and riders.  This week they have been putting cement barricades down several of the roads that we frequently drive on, to keep traffic on their own side.  But that only works for those who do not cross over to the wrong side before the barricade starts.  It is so common for motos, tuktuks and even cars to drive down the wrong side of the roads here.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

More Random Moto Loads

Today was the most "Normal" day we have had in a while. We went to the office and worked for the day. We took a trip to the Service Center for a weekly devotional, then returned to office for the rest of the day without taking any little side trips. We managed to make a FaceTime call to tell our granddaughter, Ariana, Happy Birthday! We had reports to work up for our team and loose ends to wrap up before next week's visit from Sisters Esplin and Marriott.

We received some very sad news today as well. A young man from our old ward in Magna lost his battle to a rare blood disease. Charlie Shaw was in his early twenties and has been our friend for a lot of years. Charlie was born in Hawaii, and removed from an abusive home when he was very young. Ken and Karen adopted him when he was only about four. He was pretty laid back, but always gentle and kind. Our prayers today are for the comfort of the Shaw family. We will miss Charlie!

We decided for our picture today to show some more random moto-loads. Fresh coconuts are a popular street vendor item, sold as a refreshing drink. This was a pretty large load complete with  a passenger on top.  The second moto was having a hard time traveling straight and steady. It appeared his "saddle bags" were not evenly balance for his load. Then there was the huge load of bananas. We wonder how long it takes to grow a crop. One of the most random moto pictures we caught this week was the load with the driver wedged tight to the handle bars, and the passenger facing backwards against the loaded oversized basket. If you look carefully you can see the passenger's legs in the rear facing position. There must be a whole lot of garlic used in cooking around here as it is a common load of cargo we see going to market. You might notice there is another passenger here as well. And finally, we are not sure why these seats are being hauled down the road on the moot-trailer. Maybe because so many passengers just ride on the cargo load. We are just surprised there were no passengers on the more comfortable seats load. Welcome to Cambodia!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Understanding Changes And Rolling With The Flow

This morning as we arrived at the South Stake Center the gate was closed, but with a little beep of the horn the guard quickly opened it up.  As we went through he shut it behind us, that is not normal, the gate is usually open and stays open.  Likewise, as we got up to the building it looked like the gate into the building was locked, but the gate was just closed with the lock only through one part.  As Elder Oveson had to go back to get something out of the car, this time the gate was locked with us inside.  Again the guard had to come unlock it to let him out.  This afternoon one of the FM employees brought us a key to the locks on the front gates.

We have mentioned the efforts of President and Sister Christensen to encourage the young missionaries to keep their apartments cleaner.  There is also an effort to keep the Church Buildings cleaner and more like a Church instead of another public building.  The buildings have been open to whoever wants to walk in and take advantage of a place to sit down or whatever.  That has been neat in many ways, but in other ways individuals and groups have been coming in and leaving a mess.  The restrooms have been really abused by tuktuk drivers and motodops, and people even come and eat in the classrooms and leave a mess.  So the leaders here have decided that they want to lockup the buildings and not leave them to be abused.  that is sad in someways but very understandable.

We are still working hard in the preparations for Sister Esplin and Sister Marriott's visit next week.  We were suppose to have names turned in to Elder Funk in Hong Kong today, but we did not have them all yet.  We did turn in what we had.  This afternoon we had another meeting with President Christensen, Samnang (the Service Canter Manager) and Tay (the FM Manager).  We thought it would be a quick meeting, but an hour and a half later we finished for today, we are meeting again on Wednesday afternoon.  We just want everything to go right, and with Heaven's help it will.

Tonight's pictures are interesting signs that should have been checked for translation and spelling before they were put up.  In the top sign it says Bebe Confort (Baby Comfort) and in the bottom sign look below the LS at the bottom, Constraction (Construction) Supplies. Someone could create a job of proofing and editing signs before they are posted!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Another Baptism In The Chaktomuk Ward and Today's Visitors

We were told that we have more out of town visitors than most Senior Couples.  I guess the Church is just trying to keep an eye on us to make sure that we do not mess things up too bad.  Today's out of town visitors were Elder and Sister Spencer, they went to the Chaktomuk Ward block with us before heading back to Battambang.  Well we thought it was to go with us until they ran into an Elder and a Sister that had served with them in Battambang.  We Senior Missionaries love the young missionaries that we serve with and it is always a joyful reunion to see them again.

There was another baptism today in the Chaktomuk Ward, a young man affectionately called the Dairy Queen boy.  There is a Dairy Queen not far from the Mission Home that is visited frequently by the missionaries.  On a visit there President Christensen got talking to Seyha, his real name, and encouraged him to learn more and asked the Chaktomuk Elders to contact him.  President and Sister Christensen were there for the baptism.

We also made it out to the Steung mean Chey 3rd Ward for their meetings.  It is amazing how much we miss the members, even when it was only two weeks ago that we were out there.  We are always greeted so kindly and with respect.

This evening we had more stuff to do related to the visits of Sister Esplin and Sister Mariott.  We are only nine days away from when they have their training meetings here and we want everything to go as well as possible.  You can always expect that something will come up, but we want to avoid as much as possible.