Sunday, January 31, 2016


We are truly humbled by the response of family and friends to our request to help us celebrate our half way mark of our mission by viewing our blog. Prior to today the most views in a day was 135, as of right now we are at 557 page views. There is still time to look at more posts even today. We also invite you to continue to follow our blog over the next eleven and a half months of our mission.

As we went to the Steung Mean Chey 3rd Ward today we were excited to see that Sister Killian and Sister Sung are now assigned to both the 2nd and 3rd Ward. That will keep them hopping, especially on Sunday, but they will be a blessing to the 3rd Ward. Sister Killian translated for us in Sacrament Meeting which was greatly appreciated.

After attending the Chaktomuk Ward we had to cut across town to the Phnom Penh North Stake Center. We were assigned by President Christensen to work with the stakes and East District in considering some new Groups. Today we had a meeting with the North Stake Presidency to update them on our efforts. Our meeting went very well, they are a great Stake Presidency and have a deep love for their members.

The picture for today is more random Cambodian shots. We pass such a variety of motos on the way to the market with produce, the top middle is a load of watermelons. We also think it is amusing to the bonuses that we get in the shots like the sign "Winner Restaurant" that is closed, they must not have won. Also check out some of the fashion statements of some of the moto riders. The child on the top row in the Tuk Tuk has his own "car seat" his toy car to sit on. The middle far right picture is a typical way for pedestrians to cross the road, anywhere they want and as a swarm. The ukuleles and cases are for our daughter Marla. And the last is something that is a personal taste, we are sure they think they have "good beef soup" we just have not found any to our liking.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Whole Armour of God

As we visited with some of our family on FaceTime or Skype calls today we made a request that they hold a Family Home Evening. We have been thinking about the tidal wave of evil forces moving through the world today. The scriptures give council of how to stand strong against this evil day, by "Putting on the Whole Armor of God". We open this invitation to all who might be reading our blog.
We have come to recognize how much protection the Gospel of Jesus Christ is. There are promises in these verses that we can hold on to. You can find these admonition in the New Testament as well as in the Doctrine and Covenants.
  • Ephesians 6:10-18
  • Doctrine & Covenants 27:15-18
We saw a quote from President Henry B. Eyring this week, "Heavenly Father and the Savior are our perfect examples. …They never force righteousness because righteousness must be chosen."  If we understood the power in following these key things like praying and reading scripture, maybe we would be more willing to choose righteousness. 

We have made another request for this weekend. Please look at our blog sometime Sunday January 31st. It will register on the day's count Utah time from 5:00 p.m. Saturday until 5:00 p.m. Sunday. Elder Oveson is trying to see how many page views we can get on that day, which marks the mid point of our mission in Cambodia. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Please Remember January 31st For Us

In on our post on January 15th we made a special request to those who read our blog. On January 31st we will have made it half way through our twenty-three month mission, and what is more amazing is that we have not missed a day of blogging so far on our mission.  Our request is for our friends and family, which is all of you, to please read at least five of our blogs on that day to help us have our most views in a day so far on our mission. One important thing that you need to know is that you can start reading on the 30th after 5:00 p.m. Salt Lake City time, but the day turns over at 5:00 p.m. on the 31st Salt Lake City.

In addition to making January 31st our biggest view day ever, it will also make January our biggest month so far. With just two days left we only need 89 views to be more than July and we have been averaging 51 views per day so far this month, so we better have at least 90 more this month.

One of our friends told us that with Elder Oveson being a CPA he should be able to make the number whatever we wanted. We explained that it is a computer doing the counting and we need someone to hack the system. Since we don't know anyone that can do that we will have to rely on our family and friends to help us out instead.

This afternoon we had an interview with President Christensen at the Mission Home. He wanted an update from us on some of our assignments. We love and support our Mission President and know that he was called by Heavenly Father. As we went to leave we asked Elder and Sister Leavitt if they wanted to go out to eat. They had a new place they wanted to try out, but unfortunately we were there forty minutes too early, so we went back to Fat Boys.

The picture for today is one of the biggest motorcycles we have seen here, driven by a young caucasian woman next to a small moto driven by a Khmer. It was just an out of the ordinary sights on a fairly ordinary day.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Winter is Over ... Back to Work!

Winter didn't last long in Cambodia. After three days of cool temperatures, the thermometer was back up in the 90's today. It was still very pleasant. One thing we have noticed with it being so much cooler outside and having a strong breeze chilling the air, we even had "cold" water from the tap. Usually it is no colder than lukewarm, with the water tanks on the roof we don't have much chance of real cold water from the faucet.

Today was a busy day right from the start. Elder Roberts has been here covering a variety of legal challenges. We took him first thing this morning to catch a flight back to Hong Kong. Since we are never sure how long the trip will take to the airport, we left early to give plenty of time with rush hour and all. We made it in record time by being there in about 40 minutes, which meant Elder Roberts had about two hours before his flight time to sit and wait. We all figure that was better than being even a few minutes late.

As we returned to our office before we could even check emails we had visitors come to see us from CJF (Cambodia Job Foundation), which is a Non-Profit NGO run by our former mission president, President Moon. They have a variety of things they do to help Cambodians improve their lives, and they wanted to talk about how they could combine their services along with our Self-Reliance Services to better help the people. Kong Phean works for CJF here, Chloe Litchfield served a mission here in the Vietnamese program, having returned home a year ago. She is working for CJF doing a variety of coordinating tasks for the company. This was a great visit and we all came away with hope for a great working relationship, with both focusing on increasing Self-Reliance for the members here.

Top that with a Skype visit with Sister Roberts in Hong Kong, another Skype visit with Chad Furness in Taiwan, a quick run through our Institute lesson plan for Saturday and more. The day was gone before we could hardly turn around.

Our photo collage today includes Kong Phean and Chloe, as well as the mattress we saw doubling as a Moto seat, and other random scenes from our drive around the city today.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Another Day To Count Our Blessings

It is amazing to us how different each and every day is as we serve Our Lord on this mission. We may have been disappointed yesterday, but that completely changed today and we are so grateful for the blessing of heaven. We do not want to beat a theme to death, but this week seems to be our count you many blessings week.

The Director of Temporal Affairs for Asia, Joe Crandall, and the Area Operations Manager, Robert William, were in town to train the local employees. We joined that meeting for about a half hour before we left to have a Skype call with the PEF Manager for Asia. The PEF program is not available in Vietnam but we are working on ways to bless the members that need education over there also.

We have spoken previously of being allowed to help with some legal matters. With Elder Roberts being here in Cambodia on some other legal issues, we piggy backed off of that opportunity. The lead attorney that has been helping us, gave him permission to go with us to visit the local attorneys. After that visit we walked out of the meeting with hope and a whole new way to view how to resolve the issues that are being faced.

This afternoon there was an Area Self-Reliance Services Skype call that we were only able to be in for a short time. The number of full-time employees and missionaries are increasing here in Asia, it is exciting to see the growth.

Our picture for today is a collage of a variety of experiences. The security guards at the Service Center are basically the same as before but they now work for a new company. One of the guards today was so proud of his new uniform, including a hat so he had to salute as we took his picture. As we were out and about we were again amused by what they carry on the back of motos, today it was a power massager. We caught some lunch at a place we heard about but had not been before, Fat Boy Burgers, it was okay but we like another place better.


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Winter in Cambodia

Apparently winter does come to Cambodia. Temperatures have been in the 70's, which is much cooler than people here are used to. Sameth told us his 6 year old daughter was so cold on her way to school that her lips were turning blue. We thought that yesterday was our one cool day here in Phnom Penh, now we know that their winter is at least two days long. Apparently all the snow everywhere else is cooling temperatures here.  We have seen photos of the snow in the Eastern United States and we are grateful we don't have the snow. Then some of our friends here said they want it to snow in Cambodia. We told them that would make the traffic even worse. The houses here are not sealed or insulated, and there are no heaters. There are many who don't likely even have blankets. No, Cambodia would not do well with snow.

Things were a bit discouraging today. First we tried to FaceTime with family, but the calls wouldn't connect. Later we were hoping to move forward with somethings that we were not able to do. Traffic on the way home put us in gridlock. We are trying not to let it get us down. We just have to trust in n the Lord and try to move forward the best we can. Missionary life can even be hard on Senior Couples at times. It is a good thing that we got the package yesterday with dark chocolate mints and strawberries, hopefully that will help make things better.

Last night as we looked out of our bedroom window there was a beautiful moon over Phnom Penh, so that is our picture for the day.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Counting More Blessings - A Package From Home

Today's weather was quite different for us, it actually got down to 19* celsius, which is about 68* fahrenheit. As our coworkers came in this morning they were cold and not used to these temperatures. We normally turn on the air conditioner as soon as we get to the office, it did not get turned on until this afternoon. It only got up to about 82* F by the end of the day, which is 10* F below yesterday.

Mondays are always a full day, with our weekly staff meeting, catching up on emails from over the weekend, preparing for the coming week and the normal everyday activities.

As we have mentioned before, now that we are at the Service Center we get to see a lot more people than we did at our former office. We had a group of the sister missionaries stop by on their Preparation Day to pick up some items from the Distribution Center. Our friend, Elder Roberts, was back today from Hong Kong to handle some more legal matters here in Cambodia, we are lucky to have him serving here in Asia.

Just as we were finishing up our day we got an email from Sister Leavitt telling us that a package had arrived for us. Nothing can brighten a day like a package from home with yummy chocolate mints, dark mint M&Ms, dehydrated strawberries, other wonderful goodies and our meds for the next year.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

When the Ox Is In the Mire ... Count Your Many Blessings

As missionaries we have received so many blessings, both large and small. Often it is small things that are evidence of who is in charge and who takes care of us. Today was one of those Big-Little blessings.

My Path at Steung Mean Chey
With our assignment to attend Steung Mean Chey 3rd ward we travel about five miles from our apartment to the church building. We went to Steung Mean Chey last night for a My Path Devotional, and arrived home about 8:30 p.m. This morning we went back for meetings starting at 8:00 a.m. then we have almost two hours before Chaktomuk Ward starts at the South Stake building at 1:00, which gives us enough time to go home for lunch and a short break.

As we arrived back to our apartment, anticipating ample time for lunch, we pulled into the garage to find our space was taken by a big black SUV. The guard motioned for us to pull into a different space, so we did, and turned off the car. Then we were motioned to move the car to a different space. The car wouldn't start. The battery clicked, but the engine would not engage. Completely dead!

Being that this was Sunday and all the other Senior Missionaries are busy attending their assigned wards, we were in a quandary what to do. The guard pushed our car into the other space, then Elder Oveson and one of the guards did their evaluation. This guard offered to go to the market to get us a new battery, which he did while we ate our lunch. The new battery arrived, was installed, and we headed to church, arriving with almost five minutes to spare before Chaktomuk ward started. We were amused as we looked at the songs posted for the meeting. "Did You Think To Pray" and "Count Your Many Blessings" seemed to be just for us. Yes, we prayed, and we did indeed count our blessings. Having the battery die in our own parking garage with a willing parking attendant to rescue us and help pull the ox out of the mire seemed to be no coincidence today.  We are so thankful for our many blessings!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Institute, My Path & Basketball

As we arrived at the Phnom Penh South Stake Center this morning for our Institute Class we were surprised to find a group of Sister Missionaries just leaving. This morning was the first time we had seen a group there and as we talked with them we learned they had come to play basketball. Now that was very unique, the Sisters going to play early morning basketball and not the Elders. We will have to get there five minutes early in the future so that we can get a picture of them playing.

This morning we had either nineteen or twenty in our Institute Class depending on how you want to count it. One of our class members brought her little three year old daughter with her to class. She was a perfect little angel and just sat and colored. We had a great class today about the importance of The Book of Mormon. We not only taught about the translation and printing, but also that it is the keystone to the Church. These are wonderful members that need to be strong as future leaders, members and disciples, and The Book of Mormon is key to that strength.

Elder Oveson had Stake Presidency Meeting this afternoon. One of the counselors, President Touch, was out of town, but they still had a lot to meet about. There are changes in the International Branch tomorrow and meetings that are coming up that needed to be planned.

We have been attending Church in Steung Mean Chey for about ten months now. It is probably the poorest area in Phnom Penh and definitely needs the Self-Reliance Services. A couple of weeks ago when Phanna trained the bishops from the South Stake, he set up a My Path Devotional for this evening out in Steung Mean Chey and taught the bishops how to invite their members. We promised that we would go and help out including taking the supplies and projector with us. We had two bishops, a member of the stake presidency, the stake clerk, a high counselor, the stake primary president, a ward relief society president and fourteen other participants. There were twenty-one total there. That is a good group.

Friday, January 22, 2016

New Adventure: Visiting the Cambodian Dairy Farm

Several months ago, back in August, as we were sitting in our office there was a young couple who stopped by to see who might be there. Kenny Matthews had served a mission in Cambodia, returned home, and had recently been married. He and his new wife had just returned to Cambodia to start a dairy, and for his wife to teach school at the Zion school. This has been a slow process, but Kenny's dream is finally moving toward fulfillment.

Forward to today and the dairy is moving forward in the test phase. They have purchased twelve cows and have created a cattle barn in a rented warehouse. Five of the cows have delivered calves with the rest progressing that direction. They plan on starting milking the cows in about two or three weeks. Their concept is still growing, but they will probably work toward milk delivery.

With the dairy in operation we arranged to visit today, along with Elder and Sister VanBrocklin. They picked us up at 10:00 a.m. and we took a drive to Ta Khmau to check out the new dairy. We will probably go visit again when they are closer to production. For now it was good to see that they are keeping it clean, and to watch the little ones as they played in the sand and straw.

After stopping for lunch on our way back into town when we got back to the office no one was in sight.  It seemed all the employees were in the conference room in a meeting so we were alone in our area. This made for a very quiet afternoon.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

"Rastaurant", SRO and Little Ants

It is so fun thinking back over this last year. Just a year ago we were trying to learn a little Khmer so that when we got here we could say hello, goodbye and bathroom. It feels like our language skills have not improved much, other than the people say we speak very clearly. That is probably okay because our call said that we would be speaking English on our mission. In many ways that is good so that the full-time employees we work with know that we are not here to take away their jobs. We are here to be the wind beneath their wings.

It continues to feel like the Service Center staff appreciates that we are there and ask for our help in different ways. Today the Service Center Manager came to Sister Oveson to ask with help changing some of the framed posters on our floor. They still have the Area Vision from 2013 posted and he wants it updated to the one we were given last Saturday. She was more than willing to help.

We have been at the Service Center for almost two months and Elder Oveson had not completely gone through the stuff that got moved with us. He spent some time this afternoon organizing his area, he even found some empty folders Sister Oveson had been looking for. We definitely feel settled into our new area and are happy to serve wherever the Lord would have us.

Our photo for today is more random Khmer pictures. We pass a "Rastaurant" on our commute home. The truck loaded with people has at least 50 in it, definitely Standing Room Only. A young man eating his snack on the way home. One thing that is very Khmer that a picture would not do just in showing are all of the little ants. We keep our apartment very clean but all that you have to do is slip up and leave something out and they find it. Elder Oveson left a wrapped cough drop on the counter and they got into it. We love the people and dislike the ants.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A Possible Moving Experience

Today was a bit different than our usual routine, that is if we could say we have one. We spent much of our time wrapping up loose ends by sending emails, writing reports on apartment inspections etc. about mid day Sister Oveson pulled out the laptop to go through pictures. We have an offer for a free book, but we need to only use a small fraction of the photos we have taken over the past year.

With coming up on our half way point, we figured we can do a year in review. Even scanning through the pictures brings back memories of our months in Cambodia. We have met so many people and visited so many places, not to mention all the adventures. We have learned so much about this country in the past year. We feel so grateful for the opportunity to be here.

As we were gathering our things to head home for the night Elder and Sister Leavitt came to find us. They have been looking for possible apartments closer to the Service Center that might be a better location for us. They found one for us to look at which is brand new, just getting the finishing touches, within walking distance. We were impressed! We like our apartment we are in, but we think this one might work for us. We are not packing yet, but we are considering. Elder Leavitt is looking at the contract and has asked for some concessions that need the owners approval. We will have to wait and see.

Sister Leavitt liked the Asparsa figures that were next to the pool. She figures if we move there we could practice our Khmer dancing, and we just might have to have a Senior FHE as a pool party.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Farewell Skype With Sister Powell

Every Tuesday morning at 8:30 there is a weekly devotional at the Service Center. It is really for the employees but we started attending them shortly before we moved to our current office. We are now accepted like everyone else and we are even on the rotation to give thoughts, prayers and training. This morning it was Elder Oveson's turn to give the thought, so he used the Area Vision taught in the training meeting last Saturday. It meshed perfectly with the training that Samnang had prepared for today.

After the meeting we got to go back to our office, but the employees had to stay and come up with their 2016 Accountability Talent Improvement (ATI) goals. We had a PEF Conference Call at 11:30 so Sameth escaped the employee meeting to come and do his presentation that he has worked so hard on.

Samnang came and asked if we wanted to join the employees for lunch just as we called Sister Powell on Skype. Elder & Sister Powell finish their mission next week, so this will be the last time we get to talk with them as missionaries. They are dear friends and we will miss them.  As we finished our Skype call we called Samnang to see if we should still try and make lunch or not and learned that the group were on there way back to the Service Center. The restaurant was so full they decided to order in pizza, salad, chicken wings and cheese bread, so we did get to join them.

Our area was very quiet this afternoon because everybody was still in their all day meeting. We were very happy that we got excluded and we were able to get some work done instead.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Projects, Hair Cuts, and Plenty to Do

We have commented that since our office moved to the Service Center we see a lot more people. Today was no exception. There were several Church employees visiting from Hong Kong who came by to say hello, and Sister VanBrocklin stopped in to visit while Elder VanBrocklin was in a meeting with the visitors and Samnang, the Service Center Manager. It is such a privilege to get to know so many people here in Cambodia.

Sister Oveson had let her hair grow a little too much and needed a haircut. It was not so much that her hair was too long as it had gotten to where it needed to be shaped again. She made an appointment at a French styling salon with Jerome who came highly recommended by several of the senior sisters. The cut and style took almost an hour, but she was quite satisfied with the cut. Now the test will be how well it styles for her tomorrow.

This afternoon we worked with Sameth as he practiced a PowerPoint presentation he has to give tomorrow with the Asia Area PEF team, via an internet meeting. As he started he sounded a bit nervous, but by the time he went through it with Elder Oveson then with Sister Oveson he was much more comfortable and relaxed. We think he will do a great job tomorrow.

Today was one of those days where we did not have one big project, but with a variety of small assignments we were busy all day. The day goes so much faster when we have plenty to do.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

A Holy Sabbath Day

Today was definitely not a normal Sunday for us. With Elder Funk still in Phnom Penh he wanted to visit a ward in the South Stake, go to a class in that ward, meet with the Stake Presidency and attend a Ward Council. After talking with the members of the Stake Presidency we chose the Toul Tom Pong Ward, because it meets in the Stake Center (close to where Elder Funk was staying), their meetings start at 8:00 a.m. and they are one of the stronger Wards in the Stake.

There were three assigned speakers in their Sacrament Meeting. A sister who finished her mission here in Cambodia this week, the Stake Relief Society President, and the 84 year old member of the High Council. Then they gave Elder Funk about ten minutes to share his testimony and thoughts. They all did a wonderful job. The return missionary broke our hearts when she said that she did not know where she was going to go after her mission, but a friend offered to let her stay at her apartment. We wonder how many of these Cambodian missionaries are exactly the same as her, not knowing what is ahead of them after their missions. For eighteen to twenty-four months they probably live in a place better than they have ever lived before and eat better than they have in their lives. At the end of their mission they go back to a very uncertain future. That is why the Self-Reliance and Perpetual Education Fund is so important here.

As Elder Oveson went to the Ward Council Meeting, Sister Oveson attended a convert baptism for a young lady in her mid-twenties who is in a wheelchair and has no use of her legs or feet. It was heart warming to see that she had a LDSC wheelchair. Because of her disability she had to have one of the Sister Missionaries in the font with her to assist her with the baptism.

We were able to get our weekly letter to family and friends done and sent off, read our scriptures, take a walk to the roof our building and look around and have a quiet Sunday. That was a needed break after a very busy Saturday. It was truly a holy day and a day of rest.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Elder Funk and Elder Woo Training in Cambodia

Most days our alarm is set for 5:45 a.m., but Saturday it goes of at 5:00. We will not complain as we love teaching this group of Khmer young adults. Today was the beginning of a new Institute course, "Foundations of the Restoration."  We began to wonder if this would be our smallest class when there were only three there as we were ready to start the class. By the time we sang a hymn and prayed, more filed in. We ended up with sixteen in attendance. What a great group with some wonderful discussion.

Institute was just the beginning of our marathon day. As soon as class was over we hurried home to make Skype and FaceTime calls to our family. We didn't have time for shopping this morning as we had to be back to the church for a Leadership Training meeting that started at 10:00 a.m. and lasted until 4:00 p.m.

Leadership training was for all the Stake/District presidencies, Bishops and Branch presidents, Mission President and Senior missionaries, as well as the Stake/District Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary presidents from Phnom Penh and the District Presidencies from the kaits. This four hour training was focused on the Asia Area Vision and Goals, and was presented to us by President Randy Funk, the Asia Area President, and Elder Leonard Woo, the Area Seventy assigned to Cambodia. This was a powerful meeting focused on councils and the importance of Sabbath Day. Even though the meeting lasted most of the day, it was well worth being there.

After the training meeting, Elder Oveson had another meeting. Sister Oveson was able to catch a ride home with Elder and Sister Leavitt. Tomorrow looks like it will be a Marathon Sunday, just a different cluster of meetings to attend instead of our usual. It is a good thing we have learned to be flexible!

Friday, January 15, 2016

A Special Request For All Who Read Our Blog

As we prepared for our mission we decided that a blog would be fun to try and do every day as our journal. With it being on the internet our family and friends could read it if they wanted and we would not have to send it as an attachment to our letter.

We were surprised our first full month in Cambodia that the page views were over a 1,000, but the next month it went down to barely above a thousand. We figured that the novelty had worn off and so we needed to be happy that we had a history of our adventures.

Then something amazing happened. The page views started going back up and peaked out in July at over 50 a day, and more than 1,500 for the month. The number of views per month went down gradually until October it was again barely over 1,000 for the month. Again our page views went back up in November and December, and so far for January we are over 50 page views a day again.

Now for a special request. January 31st is our hump day, half of our mission will have slipped by. We would appreciate it if you would put on your calendar the 31st to look at five blog posts, even if you have looked at all of them already like our daughter Marla. We want the 31st to be our largest day ever. That will help us feel the energy to keep posting every day for the last half of our mission.

It would not be a normal blog post with out the picture for the day. Even after being here ten and a half months we still see interesting things on the roads as we go through the crazy traffic of Phnom Penh. In the top left corner is a couple carrying cages of birds to go and sell at the Wat, you release them for good luck. Next is a picture of the vehicle video system, a moto with a old tube style TV strapped to the back. There are lots of fruit vendors and the fruit always looks so good, but we still have to wash them before we can eat them. The street vendor on the bike cart was right out in the middle of traffic effectively blocking both lanes as we tried to get through a busy intersection. And finally, we have no idea how they stack the loads so high, it is not heavy because they are styrofoam containers, but notice the guy standing next to the load, it is probably at least fifteen feet high.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Climate in Cambodia

We continue to learn more about Cambodia, so we thought we would share some more interesting facts. Today's search taught us more about the climate of this country.

Cambodia is a tropical climate which is warm and humid. There are three main seasons:
-          Cool Season: November-March (22*-28* C or 72* to 82 * F)
-          Hot Season: March -  May (28* -  38* C or 82* to 100 * F)
-          Rainy Season – May- October (24*- 32* C or 75* to 90 * F, with humidity up to 90%)

The city temperatures range from about 22* to 38* C.  The heaviest rainfall is September and October, with the driest period in January and February. The weather has been very pleasant, with no rain, and temperatures have been comfortable. We are amazed at how many we have heard complain that it is cold. We see people wearing their heavy jackets, gloves and hats, along with their face masks.  Today's temperature is 33* c (91* F). We took a walk after lunch and were quite comfortable. We don't expect to be cold today!

We continue to have plenty to work on as we go through the our day at the office. A large part of today was spent working on a PowerPoint presentation that Sameth has to give next week.  We also looked at another apartment near the Service Center, it was not as good as the one yesterday, so we are still not sure if we will move or not.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Checking Out Four Missionary Apartments

Tomorrow is a transfer day so we were asked to do some quick apartment inspections, just to make sure that the missionaries are keeping them clean and taking care of them. Since we last inspected two of the four apartments have moved and the new apartments are very nice. One of the Elders told us that it is hard to live in an apartment nicer than the members can afford to live in. The apartments here are nicer than the ones Elder Oveson had when he served in New Mexico forty years ago and the ones that we have been in in the Salt Lake Area. Overall they are doing a good job but there were some things that we asked them to cleanup better. We told them that we are not mom and dad, we are grandma and grandpa and they are a lot harder on keeping the bedrooms clean. They all really seemed to enjoy the cream puff treats that we brought to them.

This afternoon we went to look at an apartment in the same building as Elder & Sister Meinzer live in. There are pros and cons to moving. If we move we can walk to and from the Service Center, which is a lot better than the crazy traffic both ways. We would also be a lot closer to the Mission Home and the other Senior couples. A con is that we really like where we are living right now, our current apartment is smaller but newer and more functional for the way we live. We have to decide in the next couple of days what we want to do.

We began helping Sameth with a PowerPoint presentation that he has to give next week as part of the Area PEF Conference Call. We want him to look good, so we plan on sprucing up the slides and adding some graphics.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

One New Year Celebration Down, Two to Go!

Have we ever mentioned that Cambodia likes to celebrate holidays? It seems one New Year celebration is not enough. These people are getting ready for two more. The Christmas trees and displays for International New Year are still in place, they might as well just keep adding. The next holiday will be Chinese New Year, February 7th - 14th, thus the Chinese lanterns are going up all around us. The pictures really don't do justice to how grand these lanterns are. These are about 18" to 20" in diameter, and we have seen other sizes around town.

Our day today was varied between projects at the office, Service Center Devotional, and District meeting at the South Stake Center. Then after a few hours at the office this afternoon, we left the office early to pick up Cream Puffs for tomorrow. Transfers are this week so we will be making inspections on some missionary apartments in the morning. We were told about some cream puffs at "Beard Papa" at the mall. So many of the pastries we have tried at the stores have had so little cream filling inside that we were quite impressed as we watched them inject the cream inside these puff pastries, then weigh them to make sure they had enough. They were very tasty! We hope the apartments are clean and missionaries are deserving of such a treat!

Monday, January 11, 2016

CICFO - Orphanage Visit For Family Home Evening

The Senior Missionaries try to have a Family Home Evening activity once a month. In December a visitor from the U.S. invited us to go to an orphanage that he helps raise funds for, which is run by a member here in Phnom Penh. Tonight was the evening when all of us could get together and go. This was our second visit to this orphanage, we went to it back in March.

As we got to the orphanage all of the children came out in their costumes and want to give us a hug. There are about thirty-two, so by time we had hugs several times by each of them we felt well loved. Since they knew it was Family Home Evening for us they sang A Childs Prayer for us, and had two of the children share a scripture and bare their testimony. Then we had a very Khmer meal of Green Curry, bread, spring rolls and fruit. The children all performed for us several dances in their various costumes and ended with all of us on the stage doing the chicken dance and the Macarena. As we went to leave, the children all wanted hugs again. That is when Elder Oveson used high fives and fist bumps to satisfy most of them, but still half needed hugs as well.

Prior to going this evening we had a full day at the office. What is amazing is how many little things come up that give us things to do to feel productive and needed. Even when scheduled responsibilities fall through there are other projects that pop up to take their place. It is amazing all that we have to do is look for work and it finds us. We love being on the Lord's errand, he is a great boss to work for.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Steung Mean Chey Baptism - Alika

Several weeks ago as we were at Steang Mean Chey Ward for meetings, there was a young sister who came into Relief Society and sat next to Sister Oveson. As she speaks English the teacher had this girl translate for the lesson. At the end of class the teacher asked Sister Oveson a question about baptism. That is when we first got to know Alika. It turns out Alika was being taught by the elders, and she has become friends with Sister Oveson. Today was Alika's baptism immediately following the meeting block. She is such a sweet girl. We love her glowing smile.

With having changed time schedules for church we are finding our Sunday routine has changed. Steung Mean Chey is now at 8:00 a.m., and we have to say the morning commute is much better than our evening trips home used to be after church. We arrived in less than 20 minutes! And the return trip home at 12:00 noon was no problem!

There is not as much lag time between blocks now. Chaktomuk Ward starts at 1:00 p.m., but that means we are out of church by 4:00 in the evening. Tonight we were done with dinner including clean up by shortly after 5:00. No complaints here! We think we will enjoy this year's schedule!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Saturday Meetings and a Khmer Wedding

Saturday is our Preparation Day when we are suppose to be able to take care of personal matters. There seem to be a lot of Saturdays that are as busy or busier than the other days of the week. Today was one of those where we did not slow down from before the sun came up until after it went down again.

The Seminary and Institute program decided that just showing up for class 75% of the time is not good enough to get credit for the class. They now have a project that they need to do, for this last semester they were to write a short essay about what they learned. Today we met with the class to discuss this project and help them with it. Since it was not an official class we figured that only about ten would come, we were pleasantly surprised to have seventeen.

We were able to Skype or FaceTime with five out of our six children this morning, we call the other one on Wednesday. It is always great to talk to them and catchup on what is happening back in Utah.

Elder Oveson's stake meeting starts at 1:00 on Saturday. Today Sister Oveson had series of Self-Reliance Training Meetings that began at 1:00 also. At 3:00 we both had the same meeting, since the Self-Reliance Training then was for the Phnom Penh South Stake.

This evening was the reception for the wedding that we went to yesterday. As we walked in we saw President Uk and his family and sat by them, that was very fortunate because they taught us a lot about the food. We actually stayed for all of the different courses of food that was brought out, a first for us. The first foods served were five different items cashews, cold chicken and kale, fish cakes, egg rolls and pigs ears. We tried them all but the pigs ear. Next they brought a beef dish with mint and garlic, which was interesting and good. The first hot dish was fish (complete with the head, tail and fins), then chicken (again with the head and legs) and a seafood dish (shrimp, octopus and vegetables). No Cambodian meal is complete without rice and they also had fried rice. There was a special Cambodian soup that included beef intestines (which we did not try). Finally was the Cambodian desert try with a variety of different jelled squares and sticky rice (including black rice that we tried). We are still completely stuffed.

Friday, January 8, 2016

New Mission in Vietnam! Congratulations President and Sister Hassell!

As we woke this morning we found an interesting email with a link to a press release today announcing three new missions. One of which is Vietnam, being split off from the Cambodia Phnom Penh Mission. The news report even named the new mission president and his wife as President Lewis Hassell and Sister Mary Bliss Hassell. We can't say we were completely surprised, although we had not heard anything leading up to this. When we met Elder and Sister Hassell as they arrived in the Cambodia Phnom Penh Mission in May, we sensed they were here not just as missionaries, but to prepare the way for a mission in Vietnam. Today's announcement proved our intuitions to be correct.

We didn't make it to the office this morning, instead we Skyped with Sister Roberts in Hong Kong, then headed to Steung Mean Chey for Zone Training. When we arrived we found no missionaries, and THEN noticed a message on the phone that the meeting was changed to the South Stake building.  Okay, so we went back across to the South building and met with the South Zone.

We left the training early because we had an appointment to meet with missionaries in the North Zone at noon, which meant heading across town to the North West. We put this group of young missionaries on task with a project in their area, then headed out again.

We ate a quick lunch at Mike's Burgers, then drove back to Steung Mean Chey for a wedding. The ceremony was scheduled for 2:00 this afternoon, but the bride and groom were not even there at that time. It finally started about 3:15, and lasted until about 4:30. We made our exit as soon as we could, as we still needed to go to our office to pick up all the things we need for Institute in the morning.

Can we just say we had a long week today! And tomorrow?!? It looks like it is stacking pretty tight. At least most of the destinations for tomorrow are at the South Stake building.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Holidays Are For Remembering

We often point out the many holidays that they have in Cambodia. It seems like most of their holidays are an excuse to take a day or a whole week off of work. Today was a holiday, if properly remembered, is very significant to the people of Cambodia. It is The End of Genocide Day.

Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge only ruled here for three years eight months and twenty days, but in that very short period through their cruelty killed 25% of the population of this nation. Phnom Penh today is a city of a little more than two million people, when the Khmer Rouge took power over forty years ago there were two and a half million living in Phnom Penh. We have been told that he emptied the city in days. The people were told to go to the provinces where their families were originally from and then they would be allowed to return in weeks, but that was a lie and never happened. The Khmer Rouge wanted to return Cambodia to an agrarian society, but those from the cities did not know how to farm. If they did not work then they were taken, beaten and eventually killed. If they stayed and tried, they worked many hours with little food and many starved to death. Others were affected by the wide spread diseases that spread through the population.

Today we did not go anywhere but we still worked from our apartment. Elder Oveson had a couple of letters that he needed to get done and out today. We are currently reading the Doctrine and Covenants for our gospel study. We are also reading novel series about World War II every evening called the Zion Covenant by Brock and Brodie Thoene. There is nothing to watch on TV except CNN, and stations where we do not understand what they are saying.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Goodbye Kuntheavy!

We learned recently that Kuntheavy would be leaving us first of the year. She has been engaged for quite sometime to a young man who lives in Kentucky. They have just been waiting for an immigration visa. On December 28th she had an appointment with the US Embassy for an exit interview to be able to receive here visa. Her fiancee came to Cambodia just for this interview, which she passed with flying colors, then he boarded a plane to return to the US the next day.

Today was Kuntheavy's last day of work. Tomorrow is a holiday, and Friday she has to pick up her visa and take care a few last minute preparations. She will fly to the US on Sunday night, and the two of them will be married in the temple on January 23rd.

Another project was brought to Sister Oveson this afternoon. Samnang, the Cambodia Service Center Manager, needed an Organization Chart for the church in Cambodia. He put together the basics, and Sister Oveson put it together in the computer. It is still a rough draft format, but it is in a manner that can be sent to Hong Kong for approval.

With a little farewell party at the end of the day for Kuntheavy, we were almost an hour later than usual heading out the door to go home. We expected to find traffic in the heavy rush-hour gridlock. Instead we faced a fairly reasonable commute home. And so it goes with Phnom Penh traffic you never know what you will get.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Small Business In Cambodia

Our mission call was to serve in Self-Reliance Services/Perpetual Education Plan and anything else that the Mission President asked us to do. There have been some very broad assignment and we have been invited to help in many interesting ways.

Since Self-Reliance Services is our primary assignment, that is where the majority of our time is spent. There are some interesting aspects about Self-Reliance here in Cambodia. At least 65% of the population in Cambodia is under the age of 30 years old. Also, there is a greater percentage of the population that feel like they have to have their own business. It seems like the Young Adults are especially anxious to start their own business, to them it is a sign of success.

As we pass through neighborhoods it is amazing to see the little convenience stores setup in the front part and out front of the homes. Likewise, we see a lot of street food vendors. There are little carts that go up and down the street all day with very small fresh water river clams and snails. Everyday as we go to our office we pass vehicles packed with merchandise headed to set up a stall at a local market. There are some motos that pass us with loads that we can only imagine what kind of business that they are in, and where they are headed.

One of the classes that is taught in Self-Reliance Services is Starting and Growing My Business, which is absolutely one that many need. Unfortunately too many of those who need to attend are so busy trying to survive that they do not take time to find out how they could really do a lot better. That is part of why they sent us here, to convince them that they need to slow down and learn.

Monday, January 4, 2016

A Day Of Reports and Motos

This morning we settled in at the office with lots of things to catch up. Being the first of the month, as well as the first of the year we have reports to be done. Elder Oveson had a project to finish for the stake calendar and goals so they can be submitted to the Area Seventy, then to Hong Kong by tomorrow. We also had our team meeting to make plans for our Cambodia Self-Reliance team for this week.

Before we knew it the clock was at 12:00 and it was time for lunch. (We have learned that you don't mess with lunch time for the Cambodians, and they "Never Don't eat rice.") As Sister Oveson went to the break room to retrieve our loaf of bread and jars of jam so we could make peanut butter sandwiches, Elder Meinzer invited us to take a walk and get some lunch. Sounded great to us! We chose Magnolia, which is a Vietnamese restaurant. We ordered a Vietnamese Pancake, which is like a crisp crepe filled with meat and bean sprouts, and we tried something new called Cup Cakes. These were small, not really a muffin but about that size, with chicken in them. They were pretty good and we will probably try them again in the future.

Back at the office we felt like we put a little dent in our projects of the day, and quickly found the work day had come to a close.

As we traveled home we were just wondering what we might use for our picture of the day when a moto crept past us loaded with a mattress. This brought our attention to the traffic around us where we also saw a tree moving down the road (pulled of course by a moto), and as we prepared to turn on our little alley we had to wait for a ladder to move out of the way (you guessed it, on a moto). We rounded out our pictures with one more moto we saw on our way to the office, we guess they were headed to market. What we see around this city is always quite entertaining. We may be tempted to close our eyes to get through traffic, but if we did we would miss so much that we would never see at home in the states.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

It Is Nice To Be Missed

With the new year the wards that we attend have a new times for the Sunday Meeting blocks. We now go out to Steung Mean Chey 3rd Ward at 8:00 a.m. and the Chaktomuk Ward starts at 1:00 p.m. We have been told that the 8:00 a.m. block has the best attendance and the 1:00 p.m. has the poorest attendance and based on what we saw today that is true. The people here get up early, the sun is up by 6:00 a.m. so are they, so 8:00 a.m. is perfect. Another thing that we have learned is that you do not mess with their meal times. There are no Khmer wards that meet during the noon hour and obviously even 1:00 is a little too close for many.

We actually like going to Steung Mean Chey earlier, there was a lot less traffic both going and coming. As Sacrament Meeting began the numbers were smaller than at 3:00 p.m. but it did not take long for the numbers to be more than normal. We were pleased to see so many come, including those that we saw at Trash Mountain during the week.

In the Chaktomuk Ward we had several ask us where we were last week, it was nice that we were missed. A couple months ago a sister gave Sister Oveson some fabric that she made into a Khmer skirt. That same sister gave here another piece of fabric today, they are to kind. After Sacrament Meeting another sister came up and gave Sister Oveson a scarf and as one to Elder Oveson, what many missionaries refer to as a sweat cloth. It is called a sweat cloth because it is so hot here and the missionaries sweat so much they carry them around to wipe of their face and arms before making contacts on the street. The tender mercies of the Lord, even for Senior Missionaries.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Modern Handcarts

A new year has started and we are ready for new adventures. This morning was the last lesson for our Institute class, with 11 in attendance. It was decided we will hold class next week to talk about the final assignment for the class. The following week we will begin a new course of instruction on the restoration of the gospel.

All the travel and rigorous schedule has caught up with Elder Oveson. Even with being under the weather, he had meetings to attend with the stake presidency setting goals and laying out a schedule for the year.

It has been a while since we have posted some of the random things we see around us. Here is a look at some of the handcarts we see. Handcarts are not just something from the past. They are actively used today to haul goods around town. Some are vendors selling their wares, while others are used to collect recyclables from the streets. They are quite clever with how they pack their load.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year

Last night we decided to just stay home and avoid all of the crowds and potential intoxicated drivers. Beer and alcohol consumption is a big problem here in Cambodia, and we know how bad their drivers are when they are sober, so we did not want to be out on New Years Eve. About 8:00 p.m. there was a knock at our door, that was very unexpected since you have to get past the parking guards to get into the building. It was our landlord, her husband and little son, they brought us a fruit basket for New Years. It had delicious and expensive strawberries, a mango, apples, a melon and an Asian apple (more like a pear), and topped with Ferrero Rocher chocolates. That was so very kind of them and made our day.

This morning we FaceTimed with one of our daughters and her two boys, until the youngest announced he was bored and wanted to watch his movie and we were taking to long. After cleaning up the apartment we went to our office to do some work, even though it is a holiday. With everything that we have had going on this week we did not have our institute lesson done. Elder Oveson wanted to check out the numbers for the Perpetual Education Fund,. It was our best month so far for collections and incentives, that sure feels great.

The Senior Couples, including President and Sister Christensen, decided to get together for dinner this evening at Fox Bistro, unfortunately Elder Leavitt had a bad foot and was not able to come, but Sister Leavitt took him dinner back with her. We love getting together with our friends, they are the next best thing to family and we won't see any family members for a while.

When we were up in Siem Reap we got the Sisters a fan hat like Sister Oveson had, we did not know what to get the Elders so we gave them a Snickers or Mars bar. It seems we are always late on giving out our Christmas gifts. We walked from the Mission Home, it was a nice evening, still in the eighties. It still gets up to the 90 degree fahrenheit during the day and the low 70s at night.