Thursday, March 31, 2016

Another Visit to the U. S. Embassy

Last September Cambodia got a new U. S. Ambassador, William (Bill) Heidt. His wife is a U. S. Citizen that was born in Cambodia, and he was stationed in Cambodia earlier on in his diplomatic career. He has had several meet and greets with U. S. Citizens in various cities of Cambodia and there was one here in Phnom Penh today. We had met the previous Ambassador and there are several members of the Church that work at the embassy.

It was interesting to see the members of the Church on both sides of the table, both the embassy staff and the U. S. citizens invited to the event. Rebecca Dockery is a member in the International Branch and the Security Specialist at the embassy, was one of the four to address the group and answer questions. There were three missionary couples, the Meinzers, Van Brocklyns and us. As we were waiting for the meeting a Buddhist Monk and greeted us as the Mormon Missionaries. He knew a lot about the Church and told us that he had ancestors that were members of the Church.

It was very nice to see an American flag again and feel the safety and protection of our home country. We were told that Cambodia is very low in the threat of terrorist attacks, but very high for theft and petty crimes. They also told us we are safer inside of a car and at home in the evening, we practice both points.

Saturday is shaping up to be such a busy day that we went and got groceries this evening on our way home from our office.


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Interesting Elements of Life in Cambodia

There are so many interesting elements of this city that we see from day to day. There are those who take work home at night and have to take it back the next day. It is not as simple as carrying a briefcase or small bag. They take the whole shop (or cart). If they go to work early they miss rush hour, which is a good thing when you have to walk your cart through the same roads that are packed with crazy traffic.

As we take our walk each morning we are early enough to encounter those we are trying to sleep just a little longer even though their bed is the concrete park bench.

Some moto loads are awkward and seem difficult to balance. This woman was having a difficult time getting going without teetering. She finally shifted the small bags enough she was able to go. We hoped for her sake that she didn't have too far to go.

One of the concerns many have here is being burned by the sun. Our friend was concerned enough that she put on her shawl and hat before going out for errands today. When she came back she said it was too warm. The temperature was about 95* F so we were plenty warm without adding the extra layers.

Keeping in contact with people around the world gets tricky at times. We have to keep track of what time it is back home as well as others around Asia.  Then there is India that is offset by 1/2 hour. All that gets things messed up when you add in Daylight Savings back home. We were almost an hour late calling family this morning, forgetting about the shift in time differences. We fixed it on the calendar so hopefully we will get the correct schedule next week.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Cambodia Is Not a Scary Place

It is interesting to watch our email. It has changed dramatically over the last thirteen months. Most of our email is related to our current assignment in our mission, but then there are the other emails that come in from time to time.

Today we received an email from the U.S. Embassy warning about a potential demonstration to be held this afternoon by the National Assembly Building. It is important to remember that Phnom Penh is the capital of the nation of Cambodia. Because of that it has all of the governmental buildings and the activities that are related to them, including demonstrations. As missionaries we are told to avoid large crowds of people, you never know what may happen, so be wise and safe.

We also received another alert today about a potential demonstration next Monday at the Senate Building because of a debate concerning a new cabinet for the Prime Minister. For those in the United States that are experiencing this interesting election season, just imagine two conflicting parties in a third-world country. There are two major parties in Cambodia, the Cambodian Peoples Party (CPP) the party in power and Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) the opposition party. And just as it is throughout the rest of the world they both accuse each other of dirty politics.

The U.S. Embassy also invited us to a Question and Answer meeting with the new ambassador on Thursday that we plan to attend. It is always good to know what their take is on what is going on around us. At least from our stand point, we get a clearer and more accurate view of what is happening here from the Embassy than we do from the newspapers.

Each Tuesday there is a devotional at the Service Center that we attend. Today they showed an excellent seminar for Church employees where Elder Renlund shared feelings and understanding about the importance of Rendering an Account.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Every Day = Not-So-Routine

We are somewhat settled in our new morning routine taking walks before going to the office, but what we see on our walks is difficult to classify as routine. Ye, we see the street vendors preparing their coconuts and wares ready to sell for the day, but there is so much that is different every day.

We start our walk at 6:00 a.m., which seems to be too early to wake up even for those who sleep in the tuk-tuks, on the benches, or right on the sidewalk. We thought our bed was hard, but it is nothing to compare with the sleeping accommodations of those on the streets of Phnom Penh.

One thing we do see daily are people getting exercise. There is a group who does such graceful exercise. We are impressed with how many people choose to walk or go to the park to do some sort of exercise in the mornings.

Another daily feature of our walks are the early morning vendors in the park, these are selling peanuts, dried fish and fruit. One woman we see most mornings sits in a wheelchair with a bathroom scale for people to check their weight. We always smile and say "Suasdei" (hello). Now she watches for us and seems disappointed if we are talking and almost miss our morning greeting.

Every morning there are women working to clean up the garbage that gets left by so many careless people. This woman is using her long handle broom to sweep up the little bits into a pile to be picked up.

And as with most Mondays we saw several of the young missionaries who came to the Service Center on their P-day. So grateful for the little things that make our days anything but routine!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Another Baptism in Chaktomuk and Recent Converts

It is so fun watching recent converts as they are asked to take additional steps in serving in the gospel. Today we were able to watch several that were baptized since we arrived in Cambodia continuing along the path of discipleship.

In January Alika was baptized in the Steung Mean Chey 3rd Ward. She is a sweet eighteen year old sister that is always happy every time that we see her. Today she was asked to be one of the speakers in Sacrament Meeting. When she got up we guessed that she would talk for two or three minutes at the most.  She gave an excellent talk and spoke for about ten minutes, we were so proud of her and the effort that she put into her talk.

We had a similar experience in the Chaktomuk Ward today. Seyha was baptized last November and he was asked to talk about life changes. He got to Sacrament Meeting just before he was suppose to talk, he didn't even have time to put his tie on, but he gave a great talk. The second speaker today was also baptized while we have been in Cambodia, Sokunthea was baptized last June and is a great member. She even is one of the Gospel Doctrine class teachers.

After church at the Chaktomuk Ward was a baptism for a middle-aged sister. The Sister Missionaries have been teaching her and she has been to church consistently for the last month or so. She seemed excited that we stayed to congratulate her on being baptized.

There were at least six recent converts at the Chaktomuk Ward today. That is one of President Christensen's highest priorities, to make sure that those who are baptized are still coming and actively involved in the Ward.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

We ABSOLUTELY Love Our Institute Class

We are not sure if we have mentioned recently that we love our Institute class! This class is always one of the highlights of our week. We have been teaching Institute in Cambodia for just over a year now and it just keeps getting better! We Love It!

A year ago as we accepted the assignment of teaching Institute every Saturday morning at 7:00 a.m., we were met with a class list of 10 students enrolled. We joked that there were six there every week, it was just a different six each time.

Our class has gone through a few changes, and our numbers have climbed. We were amazed when we had over 20 attend one week. Recently we have consistently had 18-20 participate each week. This week we had 21!

These young adults are amazing. They consistently get up early on Saturday morning to come hear the messages of the gospel. We are happy to say we call them all our friends. We are starting to put more of the names and faces together.

Speaking of names, we joke that we have collected quite the list of names of friends and acquaintances here in Cambodia. We know My (pronounced "Me"), and You, Si (See), and Sang; Kiev (Que), Touch, Long, Tin Pan (not the correct spelling, but that is his name), and we know Nhet (Night), just to list a few.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Cambodian Children's Fund - CCF

When we received our call to serve in Cambodia, we immediately started to Google to find out as much as we could about where we were called to serve. Among those early search results was the Cambodian Children's Fund (CCF) started by Scott Neeson. We were impressed as we read his story and learned of his efforts to help many of the poorest people of Cambodia.

As we came to Cambodia we found out that the Church, through LDS Charities, had partnered with CCF on some projects. Elder and Sister Meinzer have been the driving forces behind those joint ventures to aid the poor. Because the Meinzers are going home soon, Scott Neeson and CCF invited all of the Senior Couples in Phnom Penh to go to dinner at a restaurant next to the Service Center named Black Bambu. Not only was Scott Neeson there but he also invited several of his senior staff members to this dinner.

Being able to sit and talk with them was very interesting and informative. CCF helps about 2,500 school children through their programs. It has very strict requirements, the parents and children have to commit to certain responsibilities to get into and remain in the program. They also have a health clinic that has helped over 10,000 families. Likewise there is a nutrition program for the younger children where they feed almost 700 children everyday to help them get to a proper weight. This is a truly Christlike organization that wants to help and make a difference by changing lives. Here is a link to their website where you can read more about them,

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Certificates of Completion

Last August there was a Self-Reliance group in the Phnom Penh South Stake who began studying the Starting and Growing My Business course. There were 18 who started on their path to Self-Reliance, most worked through the 12 week course making commitments and applying the principles they discussed in their group. The course was completed before the end of the year. At the end of twelve weeks there were 10 participants who had kept their commitments and attended the required number of weekly group meetings.

In recognition of completing the requirements prescribed in the Self-Reliance initiative, those 10 qualified to receive certificates of completion from LDS Business College. Last night this group came together one more time to receive their certificates.  There were some who had work or class and were not available for this award ceremony, so will receive theirs later. We are proud of this group and their diligence and dedication in completing the course.

More important than receiving the certificate is their efforts to be Self-Reliant. By using the principles and doctrines they have been taught, and continuing to practice and use them in their lives, they will gain that greater reward.

The First Presidency has given this invitation with a promise. "We invite you to diligently study and apply these principles and teach them to your family members. As you do so, your life will be blessed. You will learn how to act on your path toward greater self-reliance. You will be blessed with greater hope, peace, and progress."

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Doctrines and Principles of Self-Reliance

When we received our mission call we were excited that we would be working with the Perpetual Education Fund. Like so many in the Church we rejoiced when President Hinckley announced this wonderful plan to provide a way for members to get an education. Over the last year we have truly learned that the Perpetual Education Plan is not a plan to go to school, but a path to self-reliance.

Likewise we have gained a new appreciation for the Lord's Plan for Self-Reliance. Prior to our mission we understood the principles of the Welfare Plan of the Church, but we had no idea of the all encompassing plan of the Lord. We have been studying the Doctrine and Principles of Self-Reliance for our gospel study recently. It is amazing to understand how long the leaders of the Church have been teaching about self-reliance, but our ears were not tuned to understand them.

We have learned that with the Lord the Temporal and Spiritual are the same. We also understand the importance of Self-Reliance in our own personal exaltation. And that the Lord has commanded each of us to be Self-Reliant. Elder Oveson wished that he had the principles taught in the My Foundation manual when he was a stake president.

 Even though it is spring in Cambodia, March and April are the two hottest months of the year. Today it was suppose to be 102* F here in Phnom Penh. In May Cambodia will start the raining season so the temperature does not get as hot.

We are still enjoying our morning walks and this morning Sister Oveson got one of those very amazing pictures that is unbelievable. Even though we have already posted many of our walk pictures, this one still needed to be our picture of the day.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Miracle of Young Missionaries

Many months ago our Mission President invited us to attend District Meeting when we able. That has been a true joy to watch these young missionaries struggle through how to handle very difficult situations they are facing with investigators and members. Today was one of those District Meetings when I wish that the parents of these faithful missionaries could be flies on the wall watching their missionary seek and follow the light.

The first part of District Meeting focused on how to use the Book of Mormon with investigators and how to overcome their objections. The thoughts and answers that were shared were not textbook answers from Seminary, Institute or Church classes. They were thoughtful statements of principles learned as they have shared the gospel of Jesus Christ. Likewise, they were pure revelation given to these servants by a loving Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ, through the Holy Ghost.

Each District Meeting they also report on their areas and ask for help with the investigators that last week were great and this week are gone. One of the missionaries explained it best by saying that Satan was setting off bombs in their investigator pool. Again they counseled together and buoyed each other up. Everyone of their parents would have been proud to watch their missionary serve with all of their heart.

One of the draw backs of living so close to our office is that we don't get all of the great photos out in the traffic any more. And we can only use so many pictures from our morning walk. So tonight we are again using borrowed pictures of Cambodia that help share the wonderful beauty and adventure of this country.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Day 400 of our Cambodia Adventure

When we submitted our papers for our mission Elder Oveson noted that he didn't want to go somewhere cold, and Sister Oveson mentioned she didn't do well with the heat. As you can guess, Cambodia is not a cold place (unless you are Khmer and think 68* F is so cold your hands are numb), but the thermometer doesn't stay in that range for long. In fact it has been climbing steadily and this week we have seen it be over 100*. As we took our walk this morning we could feel not only the thermometer rise, but the humidity was up as well.

As we walked this morning the sun was quite red. Our photo doesn't show the intensity of color. One of the other things we have noticed on our walk is how many uniformed officers are all around the monument. Cambodia's Prime Minister, Hun Sen, has a huge home adjacent to the monument. They all were lined up along the curb today. It just shows nothing exciting was happening this morning.

Today is day 400 out of 700 of our mission. Elder Oveson's analogy of the 700 days representing a week, we just completed day four. Putting it in those terms it is no wonder we feel like just yesterday when it was Christmas and we took a quick road trip to Angkor Wat. And at this rate it won't be many days and we will be planning what we will be doing for next Christmas!

Tonight we had our Self-Reliance group with My in Vietnam. We look forward to our discussions and learning these principles. Tonight we learned about how to take notes and study. We would have thought this to be old information, but we both wish we had known these skills as taught in the lesson. If anyone is interested in improving their note-taking skills, study pages 85-88 in Education for Better Work. We will have to test these new skills as we take notes for the upcoming General Conference.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Visit by Elder Woo, Area Seventy

The Asia Area has been having meetings in each country to discuss where new buildings will be needed in the next five and ten years in order to come up with a master plan for the area. There were four  individuals that came from Hong Kong and then Elder Woo, the Area Seventy for Cambodia came from Singapore. They held the building planning meeting yesterday, but Elder Woo stayed to do some more training with the leaders here today.

We volunteered to take Elder Woo with us to the Steung Mean Chey 3rd Ward this morning. We were actually there a little bit earlier than normal and it was amazing how many of the members were already there. Most Sundays we are one of the first ones there, but today we could not even get a parking place in the shade. There are never any younger priesthood holders and the full-time missionaries usually end up helping with the Sacrament. Today there were five ready to bless and pass ten minutes before time, they were all from another ward but they were there. They had a great musical number by a YSA group which was the five that were there to bless and pass the Sacrament and five YSA sisters in the 3rd Ward. It was good to see the stake put their best foot forward.

After attending the Steung Mean Chey 3rd Ward we invited Elder Woo to join us for lunch at our apartment. Then there was training for the Stake/District Presidents in the North & South Stakes and East District. The training lasted for a little more than two hours and was very good and helpful. We then volunteered to take Elder Woo to the airport.

We had a very full day from 7:30 a.m. until we finally made it home about 5:30 p.m., but it was a good Sabbath.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Change of Routines -- Reset the Brain

Our routine has changed just enough from our old habits that when we wake in the morning our brain has to process if we are getting dressed and going for a walk before we start the day, or if it is a weekend and we need to shower and go to Institute or to church. Maybe we will get it settled in our brain sometime!

Our Institute class continues to amaze us. Today we had 21 attend, but as we visited with the first two to arrive we came to realize that neither are members. One got up at 4:00 so she could come by bus 48 km to attend and learn English as well as learn about the Gospel. The other lives in Ta Khmau and meets with Elder Palmer and Elder Denkers in Ta Khmau for discussions every Monday. The lesson today was on Celestial Marriage, so it was a bit advanced even for many of the members in the group today.

Because clocks back home had to "Spring Forward", we had to hurry to get our groceries and still have time to call our families for our weekly visits. We will have to adjust our Saturday schedule to make things work better, going for groceries after the calls instead of before. Just one more adjustment to our "old habits"!

We didn't manage to get pictures during our outings today, so instead we borrowed a few. These beautiful photos of Cambodia were so striking. Thanks to so many for sharing so we could share some of the beautiful things from this little place on the other side of the world.

Friday, March 18, 2016

A Long Short Time & Package From Home

It is very surreal as we travel around Phnom Penh and think back to a year ago when we were brand new to Cambodia. A year ago Elder & Sister Powell were here training us and we were visiting the District and Stake Self-Reliance Committees and training them. Sister Oveson recently shared with a Sister Missionary that it has been the longest shortest time of our lives. We have memories of a year ago that seem like just last month, but it also feels like we have been here a lot longer than a year plus.

This evening we went to dinner with the Van Brocklins and Meinzers, as we were talking we all had to agree that being in Cambodia has been a real adventure. We have all learned so much about this part of the world that is just so fascinating and hard to explain with words in a blog. It is important to remember that just because they do things different than we do back home that does not mean we are right and they are wrong and visa versa.

Our daughters sent us a care package of needed items almost three weeks ago, so we have anxiously been waiting for it to arrive. We saw the Church employee from the Mission Office today and told him that we were blaming him about our package not having arrived yet. A couple of hours later he called us from the Post Office and said that it had arrived and asked if he should bring it to us. We told hm that we had errands to run and would pick it up at the Mission Office later. Hopefully we did not scare him too bad when we were teasing him.

We really do love and appreciate those packages from home. We even got a special note from one of our granddaughters in the package today. We are now set for prescription eye drops, contact lens supplies, after shave and goodies for another couple of months.


Thursday, March 17, 2016

Friends in Asia and the Orussey Market

We have enjoyed expanding our group of friends as we spend time in the South East part of the world. We are just amazed at how far-reaching our friends and acquaintances come from. Today was another Asia Area video conference with the PEF team. Marco introduced us to a visitor, Louis, from Headquarters who was visiting Hong Kong as he is making a tour throughout much of the area. Countries represented in the meeting were Hong Kong, Thailand, Pakistan, Taiwan, India, Indonesia, and Mongolia, as well as our team in Cambodia. We received some very good training and had several questions answered that should help us with PEF.

This afternoon we recruited Elder and Sister Meinzer and went shopping. We needed a few things to help organize our apartment, and Elder Meinzer was our best source of information. We stopped first at an appliance store looking for a small countertop oven. We found what we like but needed to measure and decide exactly where we would put it before we buy it and bring it home. (Which means we will have to go back again tomorrow.)

Next stop was Orussey Market. We have heard of this market but had not ventured there on our own. This is not so much of a tourist stop as a local three or four story warehouse type market, although tourists could definitely find plenty to see and buy there. We found rows and rows of shoe displays as well as wigs and hair accessories. We walked through large areas of books,  jewelry, yarn and thread, backpacks and purses, and we didn't go through it all. It was over 100* F outside and we were melting inside. We escaped the sauna inside for the heat outside.

One more stop as we looked for some cheap wicker furniture.  We thought some of our grandkids would like the little chairs or the hanging egg chair. We thought of our new little grandson who is due in just a few weeks when we saw this lovely cradle. We finally settled on just the right piece for our apartment and bought two wicker shelves for the bathrooms for $9.50. Such are the benefits of the markets in Asia. (Too bad the Western food at the grocery stores is not so well priced.)

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

We Love Technology

Technology plays an important part of our day, from the alarm clock that gets us up and going for the day, to being connected to Church headquarters at the office, and even to our evening activity of writing in our blog. We are so blessed to live in a time when the world has been blessed in so many ways and we are the beneficiaries of that technology.

We "Google Hangout" with Chris, Melissa and Lizzy (our son and his little family) on Wednesday morning. We have been calling them at 8:00 a.m. Phnom Penh time, but with daylight savings time having started last Sunday in the U.S. we now call at 7:00 a.m. That means we have to hurry on our walk, so that we can shower and be ready to call. We love talking to our family back home and look forward to each call. We finally measured our walk and it is 2.6 kilometers, which sounds a lot more than 1.6 miles.

A couple of weeks ago when we talked with Elder Oveson's siblings and their spouses we did not get to talk to Carol and Louis because Carol was ill. This morning we FaceTimed with them and their daughter Maryann. It was good to see them and talk to them.

Even though we are on the other side of the world the main computer that we tie into for the Perpetual Education Fund is in the U.S. With the internet most days that is alright, but there are times that the system is so slow we can walk away for a minute while waiting for it to respond. Today we had to look up the status of several of the PEF participants and Elder Oveson helped Sameth review renewal loans before they were submitted.

We also worked on our Institute lesson and Education for Better Work on line. That is the best way for us to decide what we are going to teach before we create our final document to teach from. Since we are using the English version for both classes there are times we need to simplify the words that are used.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Getting Around and Lots of Friends

As we were taking our walk this morning we heard the voice of one of our friends call to us. Somaly is in our Institute class, and she was out for her morning walk as well. It is so good to be recognized and loved.

Our walk continues to give us a closer view of people and things we see as we go about every day. Things go past so quickly as we drive around in the car that we are not able to capture many of the little things around us. For example, the recycler cart pictured here. These are some of the modern day handcarts used in this city. One safety feature many of them have is the little squeaker to help others be aware of them.

The extra large pile of coconuts we included in yesterday's photos had changed significantly in 24 hours. The coconut pile had been diminished by half or more. The green husks had been removed and the coconuts had been buffed almost smooth. This seems like a lot of work when they sell the coconuts for a refreshment at a very low price (less than a dollar).

It has been a while since we have attended district meeting, so we made sure to go today. We have decided one of the things we need to learn for our language study is the missionary purpose statement in Cambodian, that is recited at every missionary meeting. We love being with these wonderful young missionaries and learning with them, and from them. Today's message helped us ponder on how effective we were in our prayers.

Today was Sameth's birthday. We made sure he received a video of our daughter singing "Happy Birthday (Insert name here)". While we were out we stopped at Big Apple Donuts to bring him a treat. We are so blessed to have such good friends as we serve on this side of the world.

Monday, March 14, 2016

A Happy Day For Self-Reliance in Cambodia

The Twelfth Article of Faith states that we believe in obeying, honoring and sustaining the law. The Church is always very cautious in making sure that they are doing things the right way in the various nations of the world. The Self-Reliance Service initiative is less than two years old here in Asia. Most of the countries the Church were told that they could move forward without additional registration with the government, but in Cambodia they were not sure. We have been working hard along with the Church's attorneys to determine if we needed any additional licenses or authorization. Over the last four months or so the understanding has slowly shifted to the attitude that Self-Reliance was part of the Church ministry and we did not need any other approval. Phanna came back from his training and let us know that we have a green light to move ahead with the full initiative. That is exactly what we have been waiting for, now we really need to get busy, if we weren't already busy.

This afternoon we facilitated the fourth lesson of Education for Better Work with My in Vietnam, we are now one third of the way through the group. She is progressing really well and should be the very first member in Vietnam to receive a Self-Reliance grant to go to school. She wants to teach English as a second language in Vietnam. We are sure that she has true potential and will go far in her life.

As we go on our walk in the mornings, we often pass large piles of coconuts. We have watched with amusement as they husk them by hand with a knife and muscle power. This morning we noticed another worker polishing the coconuts after they had been husked. We see these large piles several times a week on both sides of the street and it is hard to believe that they go through so many coconuts. Part of our walk is along a short section of a park that most mornings is very cluttered with trash, but there are usually two women cleaning up the mess. They stuff the garbage in to big bags which the garbage men empty and leave to be refilled the next day. Likewise as we walk around the larger, cleaner park there are various vendors out even early in the morning, the woman with the bike is selling peanuts.  

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Sunday Blessings

Sundays may be long and busy, but they come each week packed with blessings and opportunities. We started our weekly circuit of Church meetings in Steung Mean Chey. The Belchers had served much of their mission time in the three wards there, so they planned today in their trip schedule to be able to visit their friends in those three wards. They had taken a Tuk Tuk ride across town, and were there when we arrived.

Sister Oveson had been asked to speak in sacrament meeting today in Steung Mean Chey 3rd Ward, so Sister Sheffield was her translator. Sister Sheffield was one of our group at the MTC. Her companion, Sister Galahad, has been here about three weeks now, but we love her attitude and enthusiasm in serving in this very poor part of Phnom Penh. What marvelous missionaries!

After our three hours in Steung Mean Chey we decided to try a variation on our route home, trying to avoid the markets that sprawl into traffic flow. We didn't encounter markets, but the road we took had plenty of backlog of traffic. We will try another route next week.

The members of the Chaktomuk Ward are always happy to see us. We are greeted by so many who we have come to consider our friends, and they are concerned when we are gone for a week. The young Sisters and AP Elders take turns translating for us. Today it was Sister Larsen and Sister Phon who gave us translation in Sacrament Meeting. Then we were on our own for Sunday School. We try to follow along with the lesson, but without translation it is difficult. It makes us appreciate that we have translation most of the time.

After meetings Elder Christensen and Elder Asay had a good discussion with Elder Oveson about their concerns for the ward. We can tell they care and love the ward. Their greatest desire is for the ward to succeed and grow.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Institute, Missionary Work and the Belchers

We are always amazed at how many wonderful members are willing to get up early on a Saturday morning and come  to the Institute class we have the privilege of teaching. This week we have a little bit of a twist on that, in that it is not only members, but a wonderful young single adult that is not a member came to the class today. After the class Elder Oveson had a member translate for him to ask if he was currently studying with the Elders and he said that he was not. He use to but got too busy, but he agreed that it was alright for them to call him again and to come and visit him. We love this Institute class and we love missionary work.

When we first arrived in Cambodia Elder and Sister Belcher were serving in Siem Reap as Member Leader Support (MLS) missionaries and Elder Belcher was the District President. They went home to Park City Utah last June. They recently came back with a small group to visit and we caught up with them and Elder & Sister Meinzer for breakfast this morning. It was really good to see them and get to visit with them a little bit.

Every week we look forward to our Saturday morning calls with five out of our six children and their families. We never know what to expect. There are the photo bombers that want to be front and center, those who want to hide, others who if we get a hi and goodby out them we are lucky and others who love to gab. Regardless we still love them all and feel so blessed to be able to see them and talk to them so easily.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Time Flies for Hellos and Goodbyes

Another week is in the history books. It would seem time is moving faster all the time. It was brought to our attention that President and Sister Moon completed their mission over eight months ago. Elder and Sister Meinzer are nearing the completion of their mission. Three weeks from tomorrow their replacements will arrive in Cambodia, so the Meinzers have been looking through their office, organizing what needs to stay and getting rid of what doesn't. Before we know it they will be gone and we will continue to move forward. They are the other Senior Couple that offices at the Service Center. They are usually on the road checking out the various projects that LDS Charities has going. We have told them that we could sublease their office to someone and they would never know it.

Our office was pretty quiet today. We didn't have any major projects to complete. Phanna has been in Taiwan for training all week which contributed to the how calm things were in our little corner of the service center.

We have decided for language study we will learn the Khmer words to some of the hymns. We are starting simple with the song "I Know My Father Lives". We are hoping this will give us a new resource to build our skills of understanding. We came to the conclusion that just learning a list of words is not enough. The Cambodian language is a building-block language. So many of the words are used in combinations that change the meaning. We receive compliments on how well we speak. We figure if we speak the same 20 words enough we can be fluent in those 20 words.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Our Empty Candy Dish

Sister Oveson was feeling enough better today that we went back to the office. As we got to our desk we could tell that we were missed again yesterday, there were only two lonely pieces of candy left in our candy dish. Sister Oveson gave Sameth an emergency stash of candy to put in his disk just in case we miss a day in the future. We must be scary because we are sure that the staff eats more of the candy when we are gone than when we are there.

Last week Sister Robert's son was visiting them in Hong Kong so we did not Skype with her. As we talked today it seemed like it had been forever since we had chatted together. With two weeks worth of work to share and the adventures including moving and our Senior Couple outing there was a lot to talk about. We are glad for this opportunity to return and report about our Self-Reliance Services activities.

There are several things that we try and do every day. We try to work on our Institute lesson as we go through the week so that we are ready by Saturday. One thing that we always take into consideration is that this a second language for those in our class so we need to make sure that we use simple enough words that they will understand. We do not change the quotes of the General Authorities, but we can simplify the narrative portion of our lesson. We also do some gospel study everyday, whether it is reading scriptures, or one of the many publications put out by the Church. We have been going through the Self-Reliance Service guidebooks, which is very helpful. Elder Oveson recently had a feeling that we need to try and learn some of the simple hymns in Khmer (Cambodian). We are starting with some of the Primary songs. We figure that we have ten more months, we might get one or two down before we leave.


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Service Center Support Staff

We have been very blessed on our mission so far health wise on our mission. Other than some colds that did not want to go away and a few sore muscles, we cannot complain. Yesterday Sister Oveson started to not feel well, her stomach started to bother her. We are amazed that we have not had more of that than we have. As we got up early this morning to take our walk it became clear that today was one of those days to just stay home for her, so we did.

We still had a group of friends at the Service Center that we have not told you about, the support staff, the cleaner and guards.

We first met the dear sister who cleans not only at the Service Center, but other places with full-time employees, such as the Mission Home, and our offices when we were at the South Stake Center. We were and are so grateful for the diligent and complete way that she does her job. She cleans our area at the Service Center Monday through Thursday. She empties the trash, sweeps and mops the floor and even wipes down our desks. In Cambodia they often refer to each other in very familiar family titles, like aunt or uncle, grandma and grandpa, or just older or younger. She is called, ming which is  younger aunt by those at the Service Center.

Another very typical position in Cambodia are guards. They do not have guns or anything to defended themselves or us with, but they protect the property and open and close the gate. A couple of months ago the Church went through a change in the company that provides this service. The previous company's only client was the Church, and there is a rule that the Church cannot be the primary client of a subcontractor. The new company hired most of the guards of the previous company, so we basically still have the same guards, but they have a lot of other clients as well. In our picture for today are two of the guards that are there on a regular basis.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Another Holiday!?! International Women's Day

Today is not just another holiday in Cambodia. . . This was the first holiday we celebrated when we had been in the country for just one week. Maybe observing holidays the second time around will give us more insight and greater understanding of each celebration.

One drawback to having so many holidays is that it messes up our sense of what day it it. Today didn't feel like a Tuesday, but it didn't feel like Saturday either. Tomorrow will seem like our second Monday this week.

This morning we celebrated the holiday by sleeping in an extra half hour. Instead of getting up at 5:30, the alarm sounded at 6:00 a.m. That little bit later start meant traffic was a little heavier, but still not so much as during rush hour. As we walked toward the monument the sunrise was quite beautiful, giving a lovely pink glow to the sky. It made a wonderful backdrop for the skyline of the city.

Since Saturdays, which should be our P-Day, tend to be too rushed to take care of many of our preparation needs, we took advantage of a day when the office was closed and we could do a few errands and wash more than one batch of clothes. The washing machine in our new apartment is smaller than in our old apartment, so we are having to figure out a new laundry routine. The extra time was helpful. We also did a little shopping (Saturday only gives time for one store, which doesn't always have everything we need.) We were pleased to find the mango cart in front of Thai Huot Market. This vendor remembered us, and we were able to get 7 mangoes for $2. We are ready for Mango season!

The slower pace this afternoon was quite welcome. We slowed enough down enough that Elder Oveson needed to close his eyes for a short nap. (Not sure when the last time that happened.) We just hope that doesn't mess with sleep tonight.

Monday, March 7, 2016

A Get It Done Day

What a difference a weekend makes. It was amazing how fast Sameth finished up the video project today. He was ready to sit down and just get it done. Phanna is in Taiwan this week for Self-Reliance Service Manager training. So we were the film crew today. Sister Oveson pushed the record button and Elder Oveson counted for Sameth to tell him when to start, two very tough assignments. We are suppose to provide three takes of each scene and that is exactly how many we took for most of the ones remaining today. The only thing that slowed us down was when the memory card said it was full, it was only 4 gb. Sameth had a 16 gb card that was more than big enough to finish up the rest of the takes. Now he needs to send them to Hong Kong and see if they want any of them redone.

We have been teaching a Self-Reliance Group via Skype with a YSA sister in Vietnam on Monday nights at 7:00 p.m. This evening we moved the time up two hours because she is going with some friends to the Cebu City Temple later tonight. We came home a little early so that we could Skype with her at 5:00. This group has been going very well and this YSA sister is taking the lessons very seriously. She will be the first to get a Perpetual Education Fund grant in Vietnam if everything works out the way that we are hoping.

This afternoon our office was very quiet, all of the Church employees had a HR meeting that they had to attend. It started at 2:00 p.m. and went until about 4:10 p.m. We love Sameth, even after a long meeting he comes out with the best attitude, he always says that it was a good meeting. When you have the right attitude then every meeting can be a good meeting, even if it goes extra long.

Elder Oveson is really enjoying the morning and evening commutes. It is so nice to not be out in the heavy traffic.

We are always fascinated with methods they use in construction here in Cambodia. There is a new five story building going in across from our apartment building. To get the building material up to the top floor they use a hand driven winch. Those building materials include bags of cement, buckets of sand, bricks, etc. That is our collage for today.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

It Is Amazing What You See When You Look Up

Sunday is always a busy, interesting day for us in Cambodia. Having moved this week we had to decide on our new route to and from church. Taking our new route only added about 5 minutes on our way to Steung Mean Chey, but it took an extra 15 minutes to return. There was significantly more traffic coming back, but the workers installing a huge signboard above the road explained part of the backlog. There were also more markets we had to pass, but all in all it was good.

Transfers last week gave us a change for who we work with in Steung Mean Chey 3rd Ward. Elder Reeves is still there, but his new companion is Elder Ross, and two new sisters, Sister Sheffield and Sister Galahad. Elder Ross and Sister Sheffield were part of "our" MTC group, and Sister Galahad is new to the mission (two weeks in country). It is such a delight to work so closely with these valiant young missionaries. Sister Galahad has committed to translate at least a few words for us before she is transferred from Steung Mean Chey and to be our translator before we leave the mission next year. We are confident she will do both.

We had some of our best gospel lessons in classes today. The teachers really taught, not just read the manual. They had selected segments from the material instead of trying to cover everything, and the discussions went very well.

We feel loved and appreciated by the members in both wards we attend. In Chatomuk Ward we had so many of the members ask where we were last week. Our little trip to Siem Reap took us away from attending with them, and they noticed. One sister told us she had brought a bunch of bananas for us and was disappointed we were not there. She said she gave them to the mission president instead.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Institute Class and Random Missionary Pictures

Every Saturday as we go to teach our Institute class we have no idea what to expect. How many will show up this week? Will they come early or will we be sitting in an empty classroom? This morning at 6:55 a.m. we were worried that we would not have a class at all, but the first five showed up at 6:58 a.m. By time we finished there were 19 that made it today. It was a great class and we felt like we are making at least a difference with those in our class.

As we FaceTimed and Skyped with our family today we had to give them a tour of our new apartment. We have more natural light in the main living area, which is really nice as we work on our weekly reports about Self-Reliance and email to family and friends. As with anything new it takes time to settle in and have a place feel like home, but it is already feeling more comfortable.

This morning our seven year old granddaughter had to tell us about what her school is doing as a fund raiser, selling the World's Finest Chocolates. We told her that we were way too far away to buy chocolates, but she said that they would mail them to us. We had to explain that it is way too hot here and the chocolate would melt. After our FaceTime visit we saw a video that she made and her dad posted on FaceBook. She is persistent, maybe she will grow up to be a super salesperson someday.

As we sit at our desk we often see our young missionary friends that have come for a variety of reasons to the Service Center. Even as we go about the city we run into more, especially as we venture over to the Mission Office. We figured that an appropriate collage for today would be random missionary pictures. Two of the sisters in these pictures have been serving a mini-mission here, and just received their visas. One is headed to Temple Square and the other will serve in the Utah Salt Lake City West Mission. So excited for both of them.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Today's Project: PEF Videos

Today was our second morning of rising early and taking a walk before work. We are pushing forward with our resolve to get more exercise. Then we took another walk for dinner tonight and to the grocery store after getting home from the office. There are some sidewalks, but we mostly have to go single-file along the edge of the road and around cars parked on the sidewalks.

As we wrapped up the week we needed to encourage Sameth to do one of the projects he was assigned by the Asia Area. He was to translate a script, then record a video of him reading these messages to be used in training videos for priesthood leaders and for the PEF participants in Cambodia. They will be finished by specialists in Hong Kong who will prepare the final videos. Sameth had completed the translation of the script over a week ago, but he was reluctant to be in front of the camera.

We had originally intended to record in the conference room, but learned there is a recording studio in the translation department that we could use for this project. The plain padded walls needed a little dressing up for the occasion, so Elder Oveson borrowed a picture for a backdrop, there happened to be one by Minerva Teichert of Christ and the sheep that worked wonderfully.

The four of us went to this little room, mounted the camera on a little tripod we happened to bring on our mission, used a stack of hymn books to bring the lens to the right height for filming, then figured how to put the printed script just below the camera on a clipboard so Sameth would be looking at the camera (almost). Sameth said he was ready to be the star!

The guidelines stated for him to send three different recordings of each segment of the script. The first segment required about 20 takes to get three good clips. They others we recorded today got progressively better, but we had to set the project aside when the camera started flashing the low battery light at us. Phanna told Sameth he needs to take the script home and practice over the weekend. We think he is doing a marvelous job, and he truly is a star.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Our Morning Walk and The View From The Roof

We are in our new apartment and we have our walking shoes, so we no longer have an excuse to not take a morning walk. As we left our building at a little before 6:00 it was still fairly dark, but there was enough light to see and be seen. We actually walked on the sidewalk along one of the major roads, because the businesses were not open yet the sidewalks were not being taken for parking. There is a park by the monument that is nice and there were a lot of people out walking, jogging and exercising there. President Christensen even passed us on his morning jog, we are not jogger, but it was nice to see him out there as well.

After being gone yesterday we found out what the rest of the staff missed the most, our candy dish was most of the way empty before they found our stash to refill it. Now we understand our most important role as grandma and grandpa at the Service Center, to provide candy. The candy dish is a nice way to get most of the staff to come and say hello to us at least once a day.

With it being the first of the month we need to get the reports done. We were waiting on the accounting department to get all of the payments entered, they are buried right now. Hopefully we have the rest of the report done.

This evening we decided to see the view from the roof from our new building. We could see a lot of construction from our previous building, but we can see even more here. There is also an unobstructed view all the way to the river front, we might even be able to see the fireworks from the roof here. It is amazing to see the modge-podge of nice new buildings surrounded by old almost shanties. We have to wonder if there are any restriction on where and what they can build. We have been told that there are no zoning laws here and that is very apparent.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Phum Thmey Kirirom Primary School

Today's service:  10 Senior Missionaries deliver backpacks filled with school supplies, bags of treats, and three large white board to a one room school house with one teacher and 110 students.

Elder and Sister Meinzer, the LDS Charities couple, put together a fun day of Service and Adventure for the senior missionaries in Phnom Penh. We met at the mission home at 7:00 a.m. and headed out to Kirirom National Park. Four senior couples piled into the large mission van, and Elder and Sister Meinzer were in their Toyota Fortuner (a mid size SUV), which was loaded with backpacks and accompanied by their translator.  After about an hour and a half we stopped to meet up with another group who were joining us. This included a man from the Ministry of Land Management and several of his family members, and a man who will evaluate drilling a well for the school. They also want to help this community and their little school.

The farther we drove away from the city the more we felt like we were driving in the mountains back home, but not as tall. It felt like the trips when we used to visit Girl's Camp, except there were so many children from babies three days old through teen agers who welcomed us with open arms and lots of love.

There are 110 students who attend this little one room school house with one teacher. There are 55 who come in morning, then the rest in the afternoon. Because the community is so small they don't get enough funding to make improvements to their school building.

The needs of this school were brought to the attention of the Meinzers, who saw a wonderful opportunity to involve the rest of us Grandmas and Grandpas in providing for some of their needs, and to give us the chance to receive the hugs and love from so many beautiful children. All the children were so excited about their new backpacks, and equally excited to visit with our group of grandmas and grandpas. As we pulled up to the school all the children were lined flanking a path for their visitors to walk through.  After presenting backpacks and goodies all around, we sang "I Am A Child of God" to them, and they sang (or chanted) a song to us.  All the women in our group were each given flower crowns. These creative young people quickly put to use the supplies in their bags as they drew pictures and presented them to us. 

As we wandered through the group of happy children we found one had brought their pet monkey who was sucking on a sucker, then later just was content to suck its thumb. What a rewarding morning.

Another short drive further into the park took us to our lunch spot. During rainy season there are waterfalls and heavy river flows, but today the river was a trickle and the little lake low. We were presented with a large tray of fish and roast chicken, and of course rice for lunch.  After lunch and a little exploring we finally headed back to the city.  We returned to the mission home about 5:30, exhausted and happy for a long day of service and feeling like these old grandpas and grandmas are loved.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Elder Oveson's Mother's Birthday and Our Moving Experience

Elder Oveson's mother, who passed away a little over three years ago, was born on February 29th, but her birth certificate said March 1st. His siblings went out to dinner to celebrate her birthday on the 29th in the U.S., which is March 1st here in Cambodia, so we decided to FaceTime with them. What a fun time to see and talk to Ken & Janet, Bob & Barbara, Debbie & Jim and David & Julie. Carol was not feeling well so we did not get to talk to Carol & Louis. We live in such a marvelous time when we can talk to each other instantaneously from around the world.

Today was our moving day to the new apartment. As we began to bring stuff down to the car the staff at our old apartment was very surprised, they had not been told that we were moving. Elder Oveson hurried and called the Mission Office to make sure that we would not have any problems with the landlord, thankfully everything went just fine. We thought that the mission had arranged for a truck to help us move, but when they showed up they said that they were told it was a small move so they had a tuk-tuk. That should not have surprised us, because they can move almost anything in a tuk-tuk.

There will be things that we will miss about our old apartment, like the large kitchen cabinets, but there are things that we like about the new place already. We were amazed how much we had to move above and beyond the stuff that would have fit into our suitcases. Likewise, we are sure that we are getting way too old to move. Today was very hard on these old bodies and we are hurting in places that tell us how old we really are.

We did make it to the office for a little bit today, only about two hours, but we were very busy the whole time that we were there. As we went to leave the Meinzers asked if we wanted to go to dinner at the Vietnamese restaurant that is just around the corner from the Service Center. It is always great to go out with the other Senior Couples.

This evening we were invited to do some training with the International Branch related to the Area Training Meeting on keeping the Sabbath Day holy. We kept it sweet and to the point, but we felt that it went really well. Today has been another adventure in Cambodia.