Monday, February 29, 2016

The "ME" Group

Mondays tend to be a busy day, and when it falls immediately after a road trip weekend, and heading into a week with lots of events planned, we found that today was a Monday in a true sense of the word. We started our morning with a couple of Skype meetings and our weekly Self-Reliance staff meeting. By the time we finished we looked up and found it was almost noon. We might say it was Monday Morning on the fast-track!

We learned as we gassed up the car today that it cost us about $45 round trip for our car to drive to Siem Reap. The roads were much better this trip than they were at Christmas. Looking forward, our next trip will probably be even faster because there are several new road sections that are just getting finished that bypass the little towns and busy narrow roads. Maybe the road trip is worth the drive instead of flying between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Besides, a flight would not give the beautiful views of driving through the country.

We had our Self-Reliance group with Phan Cam My (Me), which we are facilitating on Monday nights for the next few weeks. Tonight's Self Reliance Principle was "Use Time Wisely", and the lesson from Education for Better Work we discussed was "What education will qualify me for my work?" These are some great principles to learn and follow. My is preparing to take an education course that she hopes will lead to a better job for her in the future.

With everything else tonight we had laundry to do and packing to move tomorrow morning. We are thankful we won't have to move on a Moto or a Tuk-Tuk We don't have any furniture to move. We have acquired a few apartment items over the past year. We are also happy to be sending part of that to mission storage. We have come to appreciate that sometimes Less is More, especially when moving!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Back To Phnom Penh

Phanna has a young family, Amy is 3 and Ammon is about 2, so he wanted to get home early today so he would have some weekend with them. The breakfast at the hotel started at 6:00, so we wanted to be there when it opened and then get on the road.  We got up at 5:00 and headed down to breakfast just before 6:00, as we knocked on Phanna's door we woke him up. He hurried and got ready and we were on our way by 7:00.

We did have some congested traffic in Siem Reap and some of the small cities as we went through them, but overall we were able to maintain a real good speed and we only made two bathroom stops. We dropped Phanna off at his house around 12:30. That was a very quick trip from Siem Reap.

Since we did not stop to eat on our way back to Phnom Penh we needed to go home and find something to eat before going to a Sacrament Meeting. Sister Oveson has learned the wisdom of doing extra and freezing some, which makes for a quick and convenient meal. We found some great leftovers for lunch. This has made Sunday meal preparation much less work overall.

Since we missed both of the Wards that we usually attend, we went to a Branch in the Phnom Penh East District that meets in the same building as Chaktomuk Ward. The Branch President works at the Service Center with us and is the country Facility Manager. Just as we pulled in President and Sister Christensen also pulled in, and Sister Christensen ending up sitting by us.

Our picture for tonight shows the beautiful red sun from this morning, the sky was smoky because of cooking fires and to stay warm, it got down into the low 70s last night. There was also a very interesting backlit cloud formation that was fascinating, the bamboo hut and Phanna in the hammock is were we ate lunch on Saturday and did one of our stops today, we always see cows on the roads out in the khaits, but this time there was a herd of water buffalo, sugar palm trees and a typical Khmer hut.


Saturday, February 27, 2016

Siem Reap, Bamboo Bridge and Dear Friends

Phanna asked us about a month ago if we would like to go to Siem Reap for a My Path Devotional today, which we agreed to and volunteered to drive. It is about a seven hour drive and the My Path Devotional was suppose to start at 4:00 p.m. so we headed out of our apartment about 7:40 a.m. That also meant that we could not teach our Institute Class, but gratefully the Leavitts agreed to cover it for us.

As we were talking with Phanna on our way up we asked about the Bamboo Bridge, it is bridge that they build as a tourist attraction in Kampong Cham, from the river bank to an island. It was also about that time that we found out the devotional would not start until 5:00. Since we had some extra time we decided to take a detour and go and see the bridge.

Often the My Path Devotionals really get started 30 minutes to an hour late, but tonights started almost right on time. There were almost twenty there as it started and another eight came in late. That is a great turn out and they should begin a Starting and Growing My Business group in the next few weeks. We have not had a completed group here in Siem Reap yet.

Some of Elder Oveson's former clients, Lynn and Karen Beckstead, were in Siem Reap today on a vacation before they leave on their mission in October. We were able to meet up with them for some dinner and a stroll through the Old Market tourist area in the evening. They had spent most of today at Angkor Wat, Bayon and Pinky Lady. Two of their sons and their wives arrive tonight and they are going back to some of the other wats tomorrow. The Becksteads will the Public Affairs Senior Couple in Hong Kong over the Asia area. They will do great. It was a fun evening just chatting and catching up on what has been happening in their lives.


Friday, February 26, 2016

Seniors, Dinners, and Birthdays!

Another week has come and gone. We continue to work on Self-Reliance and PEF, along with preparing for a move, and celebrating birthdays, among other various activities.

We were missing our daughter, Wendy, again today as Sister Oveson was in need of another haircut. The French Element salon has become our reliable back-up for this job. Their prices are a bit more, but Jerome is very meticulous in shaping each layer. We were pleased with the cut and style.

Today was Elder Meinzer's birthday (we joke that he is now 87), so we had another Senior Missionary gathering for dinner, visiting another new restaurant. This one, Black Bamboo, happens to be right next door to the Cambodia Service Center. That was convenient because we didn't have to find a new address (which is usually an adventure all by itself), and we didn't have to fine a parking space (another adventure). Addresses are not laid out here like they are back home. There is a house number, but it has no correlation to the street numbers. And we have mentioned the lack of parking is often problematic here.

Elder and Sister VanBrocklin were missing from our group as they were on a Public Affairs assignment in Vietnam. The new Vietnam Hanoi mission officially gets underway on Tuesday, March 1st. President and Sister Christensen returned to Cambodia today after one last quick trip  completing a final hand-off and the last transfers of missionaries between the two countries.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Missionaries Coming and Going

These are exciting and sad times in the Cambodia Phnom Penh Mission. Next Tuesday on March 1st the new Hanoi Vietnam Mission will officially be the newest mission in the Church. It seems like President and Sister Christensen have been to Vietnam more in the last month than in the last six months. The last big hurdle of the preparation happened this week with transfers. Those Vietnamese speaking missionaries in Vietnam with this transfer will be in the new mission, with a new mission President on Tuesday. And those Vietnamese speaking missionaries still here in Cambodia after the transfer are assigned to serve only in Cambodia. In the past the Vietnamese speaking Missionaries could serve in either country.

Along with the new mission there are nine wonderful missionaries that are returning home, and about seventeen new missionaries that have arrived. Of the nine departing, six of them are sister Missionaries and we have interacted with all of them. Three of them have served in Wards where we attend and have translated for us. The missionaries leave tomorrow morning and had a free evening, so we invited them out to dinner. One of Sister Christensen's favorite restaurants is The Corn, a vegetarian Cambodian restaurant, that is within walking distance from the Mission Home, where they are staying, so we went there. What a wonderful evening, the company was fantastic and the food was very good.

These departing missionaries will leave a big whole in our heart, that we are sure will be filled in by the new energetic missionaries that have just arrived. In so many ways these fellow missionaries have become an important part of our lives, that we hope will continue even after we finish our mission. If nothing else they will be part of our memories in the pictures and posts in our daily blog.


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Happy Birthday Elder Oveson

We have been here long enough we are beginning to experience our "last...." Such as Elder Oveson's last birthday as a missionary in Cambodia. Today we celebrated here in Cambodia, even though it is not until tomorrow in the U.S.. We learned when our children were young that the birthday child was responsible to bring treats for their class, so Elder Oveson bought donuts. These were not just street food, These were Big Apple Donuts. Our granddaughter would love these light fresh donuts!

As we returned to the office from getting the treats we found they also had a birthday cake for the birthday boy! We work with some pretty amazing people! Elder Oveson commented the 5 candles were not quite enough to represent all of his years. They were likely concerned about the fire hazard that many candles would have created.

At the end of the day we went to Brooklyn for dinner. We have gotten to know the owner and managers, and they always seem pleased to see us. They recently opened a deli next door to the restaurant, so it was about time we went in to check it out. They serve ice cream, pastries and desserts, sandwiches, etc. The owner stepped out to talk to us and tell us his favorites. We brought home an apple turnover and chocolate croissant to try later.


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

After Holiday Traffic and More Friends at The Service Center

We have often mentioned the traffic here in Cambodia, one thing that is absolutely amazing to us is how crazy traffic is the day after a holiday. It seems like nobody wants to get back to work so they go super slow and of course they have learned how to effectively create a rolling roadblock. The speed limit in Phnom Penh is 40 kilometers per hour (kph), which is about 25 miles per hour and that is about as fast as it ever goes. Today it was closer to 20 kph, so patience was the word going to the office this morning.

We were very busy at work today doing all of our normal assignments, nothing new or exciting. The same was true at home tonight. So we thought that we would tell you about another department at the Service Center. When we got to Cambodia our office was between the Seminary and Institute Country Director on one end of the hall and the Secretary for Seminary and Institute at the other end of the hall. We got to know them very well during those first ten months. When we had to move to the Service Center they also had to move.

Touch Sophorrn is not only the Country Director for Seminary and Institute but he is also the First Counselor in the Phnom Penh South Stake Presidency. We have even had his little family over to our home for dinner one night. He graduated from BYU-Hawaii and has to teach a number of classes, especially when a volunteer teacher quits or when they cannot find a volunteer teacher.

The original Secretary that we worked with was Kuntheavy, but she went to the U.S. in January and married an American. The new Secretary is Chanrith, she was in our Institute class when we first started teaching, but had to stop when they asked her to be an Institute teacher. She did not have enough time to fit both into her schedule. She has only been a member for about a year. She is always happy and a joy to be around.


Monday, February 22, 2016

Another Holiday--Meak Bochea

Today is the first holiday we have had for a while. Today was "Meak Bochea Day" in Cambodia. This  holiday falls on the full moon day of the third lunar month. Here is some of what we learned  about this holiday:

"Meak Bochea commemorates the ordainment of Buddha’s first 1,250 disciples who spontaneously came to see him and to listen to his sermon that day 2,500 years ago. 

"A good Buddhist will adhere to the precepts laid upon by Buddha, much like how followers of Christianity obey the Ten Commandments. Some of these precepts include avoiding consumption of alcohol, killing, stealing, lying and cheating."

With having the day off today seemed more like a Saturday than Saturday did. We stayed home for the morning and did some packing and cleaning in preparation for our move next week. About 10:00 we ran to the office for Elder Oveson to send a scanned document to the Area Seventy, Elder Woo. We also needed to go to Central Market for a couple of items before the move. At the market we found a celebration happening which traditional music played on the Roneat (Cambodian xylophone) and drums, and tables spread for the Buddhist offerings, including incense and candles. 

Tonight we were back to work with a Self-Reliance assignment. For the next 12 weeks we will be holding a Self-Reliance group with a sister in Vietnam. These courses are not available there yet, but she needs to complete the Education for Better Work in order to participate in PEF. We are happy to be able to fill our Self-Reliance calling!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Lessons Learned At Church

Over the last three or four weeks there have been four young children that have sat on the front row at the Chaktomuk Ward. We were told that they actually live in another ward that meets at 8:00 a.m. which they also attend. Watching them today was very educational and interesting. The oldest is a girl about ten, a boy about eight, a six year old girl and a four year old girl. As the meeting went on three of the four were up and down and all over and then eventually gone. The little six year old sat so well and listened. That is so much like the members of the Church,  There are those who do not catch the spirit and quietly listen and eventually they are gone. And then there are those who just quietly go about and do, that are so faithful. We want to be like the little six year old girl.

Over the years as we have visited Sacrament Meetings in various states, countries and now on a different continent, it is always interesting to see what is the same and what is different. Even within the same stake we have observed a difference in how Bishops lead out in their ward.

In the Phnom Penh South Stake the High Council speak on the third Sunday. In Steung Mean Chey 3rd Ward as Sacrament Meeting started there were no High Counselors at all on the stand. Shortly after the meeting started one of the faithful High Counselors made it, but he was the only one as the meeting progressed. When the meeting had about fifteen minutes left the Stake President came into the meeting and wanted to take some time at the end. The High Counselor said that he had been told he was to take the whole meeting, now he needed to end. We did take another three to five minutes to share a story. The Stake President said he would only take about ten minutes, but had more to say and spoke for about twenty. that put us going into Sunday School late and things just kind of cascaded from there.

In the Chaktomuk Ward they sustained a young man to be a Deacon a couple of weeks ago. The Melchizedek Priesthood has always taken care of the Sacrament because there has not been any Aaronic Priesthood. Today this new Deacon passed the Sacrament for the first time. Elder Oveson was asked to be the other priesthood holder to pass today. What a joy to watch this young man serve today.

Our photos for today show the typical family transportation we have seen recently. There is the five passenger "van", the "convertible" truck, extra cargo space, and the "back seat driver", Just to name a few. Elder Oveson has decided one thing he won't miss when we leave Cambodia is the traffic.


Saturday, February 20, 2016

"Sunrise, Sunset, Sunrise, Sunset"

     "Sunrise, sunset. Sunrise, sunset. Swiftly flow the days.

      Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers, Blossoming even as we gaze."
We were just listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing these words, and it made us think how this is our lives now. We watch as the sun rises on us and sets on our family back home. Then at the end of our day we see it set in the western sky as it rises on our children and grandchildren for their new day.

This morning we woke at 5:00 to go teach our Institute class. It seems we just started this class, yet today was the 6th week already, and there were 18 attending. We have been teaching for 11 months, and we have gone from having an average of 6 attending each week (a different 6 each time), to averaging 18 now. We are not sure how we have managed to see the growth in numbers, but we love every one of these young adults who have become our friends.

We visited with most of our family today (Saturday) as they were finishing the last of their Friday. So happy for each of these amazing people in our lives!

As we think of the distance that separates us from our family, more of the song lyrics strike a message to us:
    "What words of wisdom can I give them? How can I help to ease their way?"
    "Now they must learn from one another  Day by day."
We are also thankful that our children and grandchildren rely on each other, Day by day. As we talked with each of them they had stories of being together, taking care of a sister's children to allow that sister and brother-in-law to have a date. Cousins having an outing together to the zoo.  We may be on the other side of the world, but we are so thankful our family look out for each other!


Friday, February 19, 2016

Just a "Little" Family Party

Last night just before 8:00 we had a knock at our door. We looked at each other with the "Who could that be?" expressions. We live in a gated apartment building and were not expecting anyone. It was the building owner letting us know our car needed to be moved as they were making preparations for a "little family party". In order to get out in the morning it needed to be moved then. 

We looked out a little later to see an event tent being set up directly in front of our building, which completely blocked the little road where we live. We watched as they used our car as part of a barricade to block traffic going down the road. We walked down the stairs, looking out from the balcony on each level as we descended. 

In the parking garage there was a group working on the floral sign for the event. This "little party" seemed to have a lot of intense work to prepare. We saw the owner's wife who told us this was for a little engagement event. All of it just so the owner's cousin could put a ring on his fiancee's finger in a formal setting. They said it would all be over by noon.

When we got up this morning and headed out we found that the tent had doubled in size overnight. There were a large number of police as the crowd control for the street, and another large group of men in tuxedos around the corner. We were escorted by the owner through a side flap of the tent and out the far end on our way down the street to our car. There were a couple of large generators and several air conditioning units for the tent. Wow! Some little party! We learned the wedding will be next month, and we couldn't help but think we were grateful we will have moved by then.

After a full day at the office and errands on the way home, and even stopping at Mama's for dinner, we arrived back to our apartment about 6:30. Crews were still taking down the tents, and the road was still blocked to traffic. We indicated we needed get to the apartment and were allowed to drive past the last of the workers and into the garage. And the more amazing thing is we see these tents go up all over the city. Many hours of set up and take down all for a "little family party"!


Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Circle of Life of Missionaries

Our days seem to ebb and flow through many different and unique projects and opportunities. On Thursday mornings we Skype with Sister Roberts in Hong Kong to return and report on our activities of the last week. We report directly to the Mission President, but we also have a responsibility to report to the Asia Area Self-Reliance Team, who report to headquarters. We also had a teleconference today with the Asia Area Operations Group, which basically means the Perpetual Education Fund portion of our labors.

This afternoon we took Sister Harris and Sister Young out to lunch. They are the Senior Sister Training Leaders here and they both go home next week. In Cambodia they refer to the first area where they serve as where they were born and their last area is where they die, completing the circle of life of a missionary. They have provided translation for us at the Chaktomuk Ward for the last couple of months, which is always appreciated. We went to one of our favorite restaurants, Brooklyn Pizza and Bistro. It was a great lunch. They then helped us with some more translation service. We wanted to buy some walking shoes so that we can start walking every morning after we move. They helped us negotiate the price, which was fair to us and the shop owner.

The other three-some of Sisters in our collage today came to get a visa for the one in a purple blouse to go to the U.S. She has been called to serve at Temple Square. We will have to track her down when we get back home.

This afternoon Phanna's wife, Sokhom, came to have us help her write a letter to get her money from an IRA in the U.S. She had worked for the Church when Phanna attended BYU-Hawaii and had qualified for a some retirement which she just wants to take and use. We have helped her previously, and as with most matters dealing with finances, these things take time to get done.  

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Cambodia Service Center--Translation Team

An important group at the Cambodia Service Center is the translation department. This group of four full-time employees are responsible for much of the official translation of Church materials and talks into the Cambodian (Khmer) language. As we taught an Institute lesson recently about the translation and coming forth of the Book of Mormon we asked the translators how long it takes to translate from English to Khmer. We learned most documents take about an hour for a full page, then it needs to be reviewed and edited before it can be given a final approval.

Bolinda is the manager of the translation department. She is the wife of the Phnom Penh South Stake president, Uk Sophal. They are expecting a baby boy in August. They have a five year old boy and a three year old girl.

Amreth has a wonderful voice and piano skills. He has been called upon many times to help put together choirs for church events. He has one little baby and is still going to school to add to his hectic life.

Phea is our computer expert as well as a translator. He was formerly the Facilities Manager, but came into the translation department last fall. Phea and his wife have been married for five years and are expecting their first child (a girl) in July. He is currently serving as a counselor in the Cambodia Phnom Penh Mission presidency.

Lum Ang is a counselor in the Phnom Penh North Stake. He is also a Medical Student in his residency. It is pretty amazing how he manages to work a full-time job, fill a calling in the stake, cover his residency hours, and still have time for his family (he and his wife have three small children, the youngest is just a few months old).

It is wonderful to call all of these amazing people our friends!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Thoughts and Mangos

Today was Sister Oveson's turn to share a thought in the Service Center Devotional. She shared profound lessons from President Uchtdorf about providing lift and Elder Bednar concerning prayer. The two together worked very well, because prayer will definitely lift our spirit as we travel through this sojourn of life. The training was by Beang, the Physical Facility Mechanic, about the proper use of a fire extinguisher.

We actually made it to District Meeting for the first time in about a month. Between Zone Conference, Zone Training and our schedule of other meetings and visitors it had been way too long. We enjoy being with the young missionaries and learning with them and watching them learn together. They had a very good discussion about Moroni 8:25-26 and how these verses relate to the Doctrine of Christ.

On our way back to our office we stopped and picked up some fresh Mangos. There is a man that sells them outside the grocery store where we buy most of our cereal. It is not really Mango season yet, these are early Mangos, but they still taste a lot better than the dried Mangos that we have been buying.

Back out our office we ended up being called on to help with several different projects that took up most of the afternoon. The Area Committee has been asking a lot of questions about one of the Perpetual Education Fund participants who is studying to be a doctor. Her loan is already one of the largest ones on the books here in Cambodia and she has two years left. They are really trying to make sure that this will be a good loan before they make it. We hope that they approve her loan. Phanna is still working on a Power Point presentation for the Area Self-Reliance conference call next week. He asked for our opinion and help with it this afternoon. Over all it was very good and we only gave him some minor suggests to jazz it up a little bit.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Happy Birthday with Senior Couples

This morning as we left our apartment we were delayed by a group who stopped with a funeral vehicle for pictures, totally blocking our little road. Not only did they block traffic coming out of our alley, but they put a crimp on the traffic flowing down the other street. We commented as we finally made our way past that they had their timing set to really snarl the morning commute. We were glad to get past as quickly as we did before they started their procession.

The day at the office was quite a typical Monday, ... the printer was chronically jammed, staff meeting to discuss Self-Reliance and PEF, start preparing for Saturday's Institute lesson, with peanut butter and Nutella sandwiches for lunch.

Dinner tonight was spent with all the Senior missionaries at a new restaurant for us, The Patio. The view of the city was great, and it is always wonderful to be surrounded by so many friends.

Elder and Sister Hollenzer completed their mission last July, having served as the Family History couple. While they were here there was a BYU Family History project just  moving through the planning stages to record oral histories of some of the people here. Ken returned to Cambodia for a two week stay to work on this project, but unfortunately Salli had other commitments and was not able to come. Today was his birthday, so we gathered with all the senior couples for dinner. He told us he was grateful to be able to return to so many friends here. It made it much easier to travel around the world to a foreign country and not feel alone. Tonight we celebrated the February birthdays for Ken Hollenzer (the 15th), Elder Oveson (the 24th), and Elder Meinzer (the 26th).

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Baptism and Bishops

Last week as we attended the Steung Mean Chey 3rd Ward we found out that the Sisters that are assigned to cover Steung Mean Chey 1st Ward now are assigned both. Today as we walked in there were three Elders now assigned to the attend there. Elder Morgan's companion had been one that was waiting for his visa so that he could go to Australia and the MTC in Manilla, he left this week. We have a group leaving the mission in a week and a half and a bigger group coming, so until then they will work as a threesome.

There was another baptism after the block in Steung Mean Chey today. This time was a twenty-three year old sister that the Elders have been teaching. Alika, who was baptized last month, spoke in Sacrament Meeting and at the baptism today. It is great to see her progressing. We did not leave Steung Mean Chey until after noon and we had to be to the Chaktomuk Ward at 1:00, so we made a very quick stop at our apartment for a bowl of soup and then to the next three hour block.

One of the recent converts in Chaktomuk Ward was put in the Young Mens Presidency, they have two active Aaronic Priesthood Holders, so that is a very easy calling. Still that is what they need to keep them coming and active in the Church.

Our picture for today is a collage of the bishop and his counselor in the Wards we are assigned to attend. In Steung Mean Chey one of the counselors lives so far from the church building he only comes periodically. In Chaktomuk the bishop only has one counselor.  

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Missionaries and Institute

Saturdays in recent weeks have been packed with meetings and events. We get up at 5:00 a.m. and don't seem to stop until bedtime. Today was a bit of a reprieve from what has become our overloaded weekend schedule. We still were up at 5:00 to get ready to teach our Institute class which starts at 7:00, however the rest of the day somehow became cleared of scheduled meetings for the day. We were quite happy to see what P-day is like.

Arriving at the church building about 6:30 we were pleasantly surprised to find a neat row of bicycles parked along the front. We learned a few weeks ago that the young sister missionaries typically play basketball early on Saturday morning, so we were hopeful we could catch them in their game. They were just finished as we made our way up the stairs. They were gracious enough to stop for a picture. We are so thankful to have these wonderful young missionaries as our friends.

We continue to be amazed at the attendance and participation of our Institute class. As we pray and begin the class we may have six or eight, but today by the time we were got into the lesson we had 18, and ended the class with 22 participants. Everyone is willing to participate by reading and making comments, even those whose English skills are not as strong. Have we ever mentioned that we love our class?

We are also thankful for technology which allows us to talk to each of our family almost face to face, even though we are half a world apart. Thanks goes to each of our children and grandchildren for working their schedule to talk to us each week. We love each of you! With Valentines Day being tomorrow, we hope all of you have a wonderful day. Please know we love you! Thanks for the love and support we feel from so many friends and family!


Friday, February 12, 2016

Worldwide Missionary Training

Last month there was a Worldwide Broadcast for all Missionaries, but it was in the middle of the night here and we needed it translated for the Cambodian Missionaries, so the mission deferred watching it. Even though last week was Zone Conference we had Zone Training today primarily to watch this wonderful broadcast.

This was the first Worldwide Broadcast on Missionary work in ten years. We were told that now that the Church has gotten over the rush of new missionaries, especially sisters, they felt a need to do more training.

There were definitely some themes that came through very loud and clear. One that was shared by more than one of the presenters was to not be afraid to teach repentance and to baptize true converts, with an emphasis to endure to the end. In the past we have heard the phrase that we teach to convert, convert to baptize and baptize to endow. Another major theme was the importance of the Holy Ghost in missionary work. Elder Bednar taught that the missionaries cannot take the gospel into an investigators heart, we can only take it to and they have to take it into their own heart. They take it in by listening to the Holy Ghost. There were three apostles, Elder Niel L. Andersen, Elder David A. Bednar and Elder Dallin H. Oaks, along with Elder L. Whitney Clayton and Elder Brent H. Nielson of the Seventy, Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson the General Young Women President and Bishop W. Christopher Waddell of the Presiding Bishopric, who presented various segments. This a profound and wonderful training.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Cambodia Service Center - Physical Facilities Team

The people around us at the Cambodia Service Center are becoming our friends more and more each day.  Often the behind the scenes people are overlooked. We will tell about three of these people here today.  The Physical Facilities team take care of the buildings. Not just the Service Center, but also the chapels and mission home.

Tay (right) is the Physical Facilities Manager. He is the one who is responsible for making sure everything is running smoothly at all the buildings. If the power is out, or the toilet runs all weekend and floods the building (which happened a few months ago at the South Stake Center), he is the one to call. He also helps schedule any maintenance and repairs for the buildings.

You may notice Tay is wearing his puffy jacket in this picture. We had a few days of cooler temperatures, and 68* F was too cold for him. He is also grateful for the allergy meds our daughters sent for him in our recent care package. We can tell when he has forgotten to take one in the morning as we can hear him sneeze from the other end of the building.

Mory (top left) is the Physical Facilities Assistant. He is Tay's right hand man. In our old office he was given the the responsibility of trouble-shooting the internet and Wi-Fi. There are times Mory or Tay need to travel to the Khaits (provinces) to care of the other church buildings around the country.

Sambeang (bottom) is the building mechanic. He is the Handy-Man, taking care of repairs. Beang has come to us several times recently asking us to help him with English words for items he needs for a report or to order something. This week he pointed to a bulletin board and asked us to write this word on a paper for him.

The Church here in Cambodia would not run as smooth without these three new friends.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

An Upcoming Moving Experience

We have recently found that our FaceTime does not work at our office so if we need to FaceTime it has to be at home before we go or when we get home. February 9th is our granddaughter Savannah's birthday, so we had to call before leaving for work on the 10th and sing her Happy Birthday, since is was still her birthday in the U.S. We are so blessed to have the privilege to chat with our family so easily. After we got to the office we Google+ Hangout with our son Chris and his family. Their daughter Liz loves to commandeer their cell phone and take us for a show and tell.

This week is Chinese New Year so a lot of businesses are using that as an excuse to take extra time off. The BizHub, the large printer and scanner, at the office broke on Monday and we are still waiting for the service company to come and fix it. That means that we have had to get creative to do printing and scanning this week. When we moved from the old office we kept the little printer, scanner and copier that we had in our office, we have not used it much. This week we have a variety of others use especially the scanner and copier function. Today the black ink ran out, so we had to go find a new cartridge for it, that was easier said than done. We went to three stores, one was closed and the other two did not have the right one.

It is now official that we will be moving at the end of this month. That will save us from fighting the morning and afternoon traffic. Elder Oveson claims that he has prayed more while driving in the last eleven months than he has in 45 years. The move may save some of the color in his hair, so that it is not completely white when we go home. Likewise it should keep him from going bald because of pulling his hair out. Tonight's picture is a collage of the interior of our new apartment.


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Write Things Down -- It Enlarges Your Memory

The Church is a record keeping church. Keeping track of numbers and key information has been important since this world began. Records of ancient prophets and record keepers have given us scriptures and histories that open our view to people who lived long before our time. Even this blog is a record of a couple of missionaries spending two years in Cambodia, just trying to make a difference in the lives of a few people.

In the Book of Mormon as the prophet Alma was passing the records to his son to be kept and preserved for another generation, he instructed Helaman, "And now, it has hitherto been wisdom in God that these things should be preserved; for behold they have enlarged the memory of this people." (Alma 37:8)

This week one of our highest priority projects has been preparing the History of Self-Reliance Services in Cambodia for the past year and a half. Much of what we found to include in this history were things we have written in this blog over the past year. This gave us the opportunity of looking more closely on the history we have written of our time in Cambodia. We have done so much. We have told of many things we have learned from the culture. We have recorded many unique things we have seen driving through the city and country. We have told of many people we have met. We have truly found the scripture to be true. We wrote things down and it has "enlarged our memory."

The History of Self-Reliance Services in Cambodia is too long to include in a post on our blog, but it has helped us remember. We are thankful for so many who kept record which have received as scriptures that help us Remember our Savior, Jesus Christ. They have helped us Remember God's promises to those who keep the commandments he has given to His children. We are so blessed to Remember!

Today's photo is a collage we included in our Cambodia SRS History. The man in the middle picture participated in a Self-Reliance group where he learned to "write things down". He told us keeping records helped make his business more profitable. As a result his family was even able to eat better food.

Monday, February 8, 2016

More Friends at the Service Center

We are so grateful for our blog in so many ways. The Asia Aria Self-Reliance Service manager has asked each country to submit the history for Self-Reliance Services from August 2014 through December 2015 by tomorrow. Previously we had looked through our pictures to jog our memories, but when you couple in our blog posts that made the job a lot easier. Most of today was spent on puting the history together, we finished up a timeline, narrative and success stories, we still have some pictures to complete. As our team members, Phanna and Sameth, read the history they were surprised because they had forgotten some of the events that we put in it.

Just before noon today we walked over to the Mission Office to see what English as a Second Language material that they may have. It is interesting as we worked on the Preferred Job List for Cambodia how many of the employers want candidates that speak and write English. President Uk, the Stake President in the Phnom Penh South Stake, asked us if we could tutor him in learning English. He does speak English better than most who try, but wants to put some polish on his language. We told him that we would be happy to help.

Our offices are just outside of the Finance Department, so tonight we want to introduce you to our friends in that department. Long Saret is the Finance Department Manager, he was promoted to that job when the previous manager moved to the U.S. about seven or eight months ago. We have known Saret most of the time that we have been here, his family use to live in the Chaktomuk Ward that we attend. When we had only been there about a month, Sister Oveson ended up with their little one month old baby while his wife was needed by their two year old. The Member Leader and Unit Analyst for Cambodia is Kimsroy. The individual Wards/Branches do not currently have their own computers, so all of the membership and financial records are done at the Service Center. Jacky, her real name is So Socheata but Jacky is easier for us, is an Accountant, the newest member of the Finance team and has only be there for three months. We appreciate the Finance Department very much.


Sunday, February 7, 2016

Fast Sunday -- BBQ Pig at the Market

As we made our way to Steung Mean Chey this morning traffic was TERRIBLE. You would think that since it is Chinese New Year, which is not an official holiday in Cambodia, it shouldn't be such a big deal "holiday". The traffic looked more like Sunday evening traffic going past the markets instead of the normal Sunday morning flow, and it was even worse as we left church at 11:00. We were happy it was not as bad the direction we were traveling.

At 7:45 a.m. the roadside BBQ stands were already loaded with varieties of produce and grilled meats, including whole piglets and ducks. we passed a Tuk-Tuk loaded with a large BBQ piglet that looked like it was headed home from market.  We are surprised by how many motorcycles we see with their guitar on their back. I guess they really are ready for a party. Bring on the holiday!

Today was Fast Sunday, which can be a great way to know more about the members. In the Steung Mean Chey 3rd Ward, the counselor was the one who conducted, so he bore his testimony first. He told of how his family used to be some who picked garbage at the dump, looking for recyclables. The church has made a big difference in their lives. We happened to see him at Trash Mountain just after Christmas when we visited with Elder and Sister Roberts. He seemed so grateful to see us there as we visited his neighborhood.

Elder Oveson was not feeling too well as we finished our second Sacrament Meeting at Chaktomuk Ward, so we only made it through about four and a half hours of meetings today instead of our usual six. After coming home for a rest he was feeling much better by the evening.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Saturday Is A Special Day

It seems like each day of the week has its own separate and unique character. We have our days that are filled with meetings, others where we have the privilege to video conference call with other Self-Reliance Service employees, missionaries and volunteers, the ones that never go the way that you planned and those with no plans that just blossom into major days. Our Saturdays are pretty structured and we are busy from rolling out of bed at 5:00 a.m. until climbing wearily back into bed at 10:00 p.m.

We have consistently blogged about our wonderful Institute Class that we just love, but we never know what to expect. Last week the young adult men were the first ones there and the young adult women were the late comers. Today was just the opposite, the women were there and the men were the late ones. We do have a unique class in that we usually have about equal numbers of male and female participants. There are some Institute classes here that have no men at all. We are so blessed to be able to teach them.

Another "normal" Saturday task is a quick trip to the grocery store for our weekly shopping. Most Saturdays we are one of the few cars parked out front, but today for some reason it was very busy.

We love to Skype and FaceTime with our family back home. There are those who are the photo bombers and others that hardly show their faces on the screen. It is especially hard when our little grandchildren tell us that they miss us and want us to come home. We know that we will be back and they will survive until then.

Saturday afternoon is Stake Meetings for Elder Oveson and Sister Oveson's quiet time at the apartment.

Tonight's picture of the day is the Phnom Penh South Stake Presidency. From left to right are In TithTara the Stake Clerk, Touch Sophornn, First Counselor, Uk Sophal, Stake President, and Ul Phorrn, Second Counselor. These are all wonderful servants of the Lord.

 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Another Friend at the Service Center - Samnang

Our days seem to become more varied all the time. Our weekly Thursday Skype call with Sister Roberts was moved to this morning, and it is always good to visit with our friend.

This morning we also had a quarterly Cambodia PEF Committee Meeting. This meeting includes us as the PEF Senior couple, Phanna and Sameth, President Christensen, Samnang, the Cambodia Service Center manager, and Saret, the Finance manager. This committee is to review PEF items for Cambodia. There are times when the applicants need exceptions to the established rules, and these exceptions need to come to the committee. We had a good meeting, reporting progress and talking about how to better use the PEF program in Cambodia.

Elder Brown   ---   Samnang    
We also have had another visitor this week from Hong Kong. Elder Brown is an attorney serving as part of the Asia Area legal team. He has been here taking care of a few more of the legal challenges which Cambodia seems to have an abundant list. We went to lunch this afternoon with Elder Brown and Samnang and Saret, then took Elder Roberts to the airport for his return trip to Hong Kong. By the time we left the airport traffic was a mess. We decided to try a different way we had been told about, and just head for home. This route is outside of what is shown on the city map, but we found our way! Yes, this was the better option today.

Our spotlight person from our office today is Samnang. After serving a mission, he went to school in Hawaii, receiving a bachelor degree from BYU Hawaii, then a Masters Degree from Chaminade University. He taught school for several years before being hired as the Cambodia Service Center Manager a couple of years ago. His responsibilities are not just for the service center, but include managing the needs of the Church in Cambodia.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Phnom Penh South and East Zone Conferences

Every three months we are blessed with the opportunity to gather with the young missionaries in the Phnom Penh South and East Zones for Zone Conference with President & Sister Christensen. Many times in the past this was their first of six Zone Conferences around Cambodia and over to Vietnam. This time we were the last.

Likewise in the past these have been half day conferences, today's was scheduled from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. with a lunch in the middle. Even with the extra time it is amazing how fast the time went, even with the hard benches in the chapel.

This morning the Christensens continued with their theme of becoming deliberate disciples. Today they focused on scripture study. They gave the missionaries various ideas about how to study the scriptures and how to make them more effective in their lives.

After lunch Sister Christensen had a Jeopardy game with the group to teach them about how to be more healthy. One lesson that was loud and clear was the importance of drinking more water. She also taught us about eating correctly including fruits and vegetables in our diets. It was an vital message that was taught in a fun way.

President Christensen then shared the one mission goal for the coming year, to increase the recent convert retention rate up to 50%. It was only about 30% when we came to the mission, which is really sad to think that within one year 70% of the new converts have stopped coming to church. He shared new tools that they will be using and asked that all the missionaries really focus on the recent converts.

We love working with these wonderful missionaries that the Lord has called to serve in Cambodia. They are definitely the very best in all of the Church.






Wednesday, February 3, 2016

"The People That We Meet Each Day"

We realized we have posted much about the random things we have seen while traveling through this city and country, but we have neglected telling about the many people we work with. Since we moved to the Cambodia Service Center we have now work with a diverse group of people who have become friends. During the coming days we will introduce you to this group.

We will start with  Sophaneth. Neth (pronounced Night) is the Materials Management Supervisor. Her desk is in our little office area, allowing us to get to know her very well. She went to BYU Hawaii where she received her Bachelor and Master degrees, then spent about a year in Sandy Utah for an internship. She told us when she was in the U.S. the first time she tried to walk across the street she about got run over. She quickly learned traffic was different there than Cambodia where traffic just molds itself around whatever is in the way. Neth helps new missionaries get visas and interviews with embassies. She is also the one who makes travel arrangements and reservations, and much more. She is a valuable member of the Cambodia team.

Rathana is likely the first person one would meet when visiting the Service Center. She is the Distribution Center Supervisor, which really means she is in charge of the Distribution Center. She has been quite busy for several weeks doing a reset of all the displays in the Distribution Store area on the ground floor. She is also the one who answers phones for the center. Rathana is in our institute class and has brought her three year old daughter with her to class a few times. We count her as our friend here in Cambodia.

We will introduce you to more of our friends in coming days. Here is a picture of Neth and Rathana.



Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Wow! We Are So Very Grateful

With the page views on Saturday, Sunday and Monday combined there were over 1,000, which is more like a month for us, not just three days. We so appreciate those who have been so kind in comments and action, we feel loved in many ways.

Tuesday morning is the Service Center Devotional, which usually lasts about an hour, but because of all of the good comments it went an hour and a half. Sambo, the administrative assistant at the Mission Home, was the one that did the presentation today. He had prepared a very good PowerPoint presentation with some nice graphics and wonderful quotes. Today's picture of the day was the group at the devotional. We love working with these wonderful people.

We hope that the airlines here offer frequent flyer miles, there is another visitor from Hong Kong that arrived today. This time it is Elder Robert Brown who is also part of the Area legal team. He was sent over to handle some different legal issues this week. They may need a Church attorney assigned to Cambodia they are here often enough.

We continued to work on the Self-Reliance Services history for Cambodia today. We were looking for pictures to include, it was so fun to go back over the last year of pictures and see so many fond memories. We did find some great pictures to use.

Elder Oveson worked with Sameth in reviewing some loan applications before sending them off to Hong Kong for approval. After Hong Kong they go to Church Headquarters for final approval. It is great to personally know those at each level, and to know that the applications are in good hands.


Monday, February 1, 2016

Final Count: 747

We saw a quote today saying they are not sure why it is such a big deal to be "over the hill".  As they go hiking and you get over the hill it means the hardest part is behind you. If that is the case, being over the mid point of our mission, it should all be downhill from here.

Thank you for so many who have viewed our blog on our "hump" day. We didn't really know what number of page views we might expect, but we didn't think we would have so much attention. The final page view count for January 31st was 747. Wow!!! Thank you! We hope in the process of looking at our blog pages you may have learned a little about Cambodia and our adventures here. Some of our earliest posts were written when everything was new and different, and every day opened our view to new horizons. Now that we have been here for a while we still see strange new things every day.  We have just become accustomed to seeing strange things.

Today was spent starting reports and pulling together materials to submit to the area reflecting the history of 2015 in Cambodia. We have been asked to submit Self-Reliance history materials to Hong Kong. We were also asked by the mission to find a few pictures for their year here as well. This has helped us reflect on people and events from the past year. It is just amazing how fast time ticks by. So many have completed their missions and returned home, while so many others have joined the new faces who have become our good friends. Maybe life will be such a surprise when we return home next year.

Our picture for today is another collage of random pictures. It is quite surprising how many store fronts are displays of large elaborate lights.  Carts double as transportation for the work crews. Cargo boxes become seating for moto passengers. Water trucks are all around town. And of course, the people carrying their load on their head, walking right through the traffic. They learned you can cross any road ... one inch at a time!