Saturday, April 30, 2016

Saturday: A Day of Diversity

Saturdays come with a great deal of diversity. We start early and go, and go, and go all day. One thing we look forward to every Saturday is our Institute class. It is worth getting up early (5:00 a.m.) to teach such a marvelous group of young adults. Today was the beginning of a new course, "Teachings and Doctrine of the Book of Mormon".

As we finish a course and begin again with a new curriculum we can't help but wonder who will continue to attend and who will we be missing. Today we started class with about 12, but were pleasantly surprised to have 20 there by the end of class.  There were about 4-5 others who we were missing. In an effort to get everyone there on time Elder Oveson offered the class a bribe for next week. He told them we will bring treats, and those who are there at 7:00 a.m. as class begins will receive and extra treat. We will have to see what this new incentive plan does for our class.

After class we hurry home to make Skype or FaceTime calls with most of our family. It is so good to see our children, son-in-laws and grandchildren each week. Most of the grands had extra stories to tell today, which we appreciate. We spent a little longer than usual but still had time to go for groceries when we were done.

This afternoon Elder Oveson had presidency meeting, Stake Priesthood Executive Meeting and Bishopric Training, while Sister Oveson had the afternoon to make some clothing repairs, write letters, and take care of a few little things that seem to be neglected around the apartment.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Venturing Out In Traffic

There are several benefits with the move to our new apartment two months ago. We not only have a place to walk in the morning, but we likewise do not have to fight traffic both ways to and from the office everyday. 

Today was one of those days when we had to go out in traffic again and remember how much we really dislike the traffic here. It was time for another oil change and the Toyota dealership is about seven kilometers away from our office. We figured if we left a half an hour before the appointment we would be fine, but about ten minutes into our drive we were wondering. Sister Oveson cautions, no sudden moves, the problem is nobody told the motos, tuk-tuks or other vehicles. We were very surprised when we pulled in right on time.

We have traditionally gone out to dinner on Friday nights, even before our mission. Tonight we decided to go to Brooklyn Pizza and Bistro over by where we used to live. That was an excellent reminder of what driving to and from the office was really like. What is amazing is Lexus SUV drivers that think that they are small enough to go where a tuk-tuk can, or they have the right to where you are because they are a Lexus. Either way it makes for some real interesting and really tight driving at times. Add into that attitude the way motos drive, they figure if nobody else is in the space right now then it must be for them. Even when that space is not their lane and it leaves you no place to go.
We were able to read our scriptures while they took about an hour and a half to change the oil and filters and give us quote to fix all of the moto rash on the car. Most of the rest of our day was spent preparing our Institute lesson and working on the special projects we have been assigned.

Tomorrow is a holiday here in Cambodia, and since it is a Saturday the Service Center will be closed on Monday. That is alright with us, we already have a growing list of things to do that we never have time to do on our preparation day.

Todays picture is a variety of things that we come across when we are out and about on our drives. There are always interesting things to observe on the roads of Phnom Penh.    

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Drinking From A Fire-Hose!

Last night we received a call from Chad, the Asia Area Self-Reliance Manager, inviting us in our area assignment to join the Area Self-Reliance and PEF Committee Meeting which would be held this morning. It is amazing how many of these people we have met in person or at least on Skype.

This meeting was held in Hong Kong. Those attending this meeting were Rick Page (Office of General Counsel), Marco Lok (Operations Manager), Jaymi Wong (Administrative Assistant), Elder Pon (Asia Area Presidency), Joe Crandall (DTA), Patrick Keach (another area official), Sister Roberts,  and Elder Roberts (OGC), with Chad Furness (Area Self-Reliance Manager) called in from Taiwan and us in Cambodia. It is interesting to be involved is such a meeting.  We are amazed that we have met most of them either in person or over internet connections. The only new acquaintance was Elder Pon.

Unfortunately we had trouble getting into the meeting over the internet. We are grateful for the miracle of the internet, but it is sure frustrating when it does not work correctly. We joined the meeting about fifteen minutes late, and Elder Oveson was assigned the spiritual thought. Once they finished the item that they were on they had him give the message. What a great example of compassion and kindness.

The Vidyo conference call with the area was not our first web call of the day. We were able to visit with Sister Roberts this morning as well. We enjoy our weekly visits and are still learning from her as to what we might expect in our role as communications couple. Sister Roberts held some of those responsibilities temporarily until we were given the assignment. We appreciate her input and insights.

We have found our pace has picked up several notches in recent weeks. We can truly say we are not bored and do not lack for work to keep us engaged. Now maybe someone could just turn down the firehose just a little.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

It Is Great To Learn From Each Other

As we arrived in Cambodia fourteen months ago the Self Reliance Initiative was so brand new. Phanna was a new Self-Reliance Manager trying to understand his role as we waited for permission to move forward. Sameth had been helping the previous PEF Senior Missionaries but he had a completely new role as well. In many ways we were all just trying to feel our way along as we tried to identify our individual roles.

In our new assignment as the Asia Area Communication Couple we are again trying to understand our responsibilities. Last week Hong Kong got a great new Senior Couple, the Chandlers from South Jordan Utah. This is their second mission, their first was in Tokyo Japan. Today we Skyped with them for the second time and when we asked when they wanted to talk again they immediately said next week. We understand that feeling completely, it is good to be able to talk to someone that has gone through what you are going through. We try and train each time, but we are also a listening ear to listen to concerns and feelings. It is also amazing that as we talked with them they shared with us something that they do that we are going to try. If we just listen the Lord will provide learning opportunities in many different ways.

Even though we try and somewhat plan out our days, there are somethings that we do every day, most of the time we have to be very flexible with those plans. We never know when we will need to adjust those plans to meet a new situation or assignment. We had a fairly tight plan today, because of planned Skype calls and the Asia Area web call, but those plans had to give way to other items that came along. We figured that the Lord put things in our way to trip over, we better take care of them and not just ignore them.

One interesting person that we see all the time on our morning walks is a woman in a wheel chair with a bathroom scale. The scales is her way to give a service for pay instead of begging. We are told as missionaries that we are not to give money to those who ask, but for her we use her service and weigh ourselves.

Our morning walk was fairly uneventful this morning. We were a little earlier so that we would be back in time to call our son this morning, and the sun went from a beautiful red to a gold color in just minutes. It is common to see pedestrians cut across the road wherever they want and even stand on the barrier in the middle as they cross. The moto in todays picture is hauling new washing machine still in its box, most likely the store's delivery service.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Walking Has Many Benefits

One of these days we may run out of things to post about our morning walk, but that won't be today. As we approached the Monument there was a large cluster of vehicles just waiting. Two BHQ (Headquarters Police) and ten or twelve RCAF (Royal Cambodian Armed Forces). We usually see a few BHQ cars, but not this large of a group. Just after we crossed in front of them they started on their way for a motorcade.

The monument is just across from the Prime Minister's home. Prime Minister Hun Sen has been in power for 31 years.

The vendors around the park change from time to time. Today there was a large array of brooms. We would guess they had all been piled on the bicycle to bring them to the park to sell.

On around the park we found that the exercise group had another new prop for their morning workout. It is amazing how graceful they can be, and the fans were one more tool to stretch and still show forth that grace in motion.

Then there are the coconuts. But wait, they added a table with something new. These sandwiches look just like some we made sure to not try at an event last year. In fact in the planning meeting for the upcoming YSA activity they made sure to state they DO NOT want these sandwiches for breakfast. Pretty sure we don't either.

At the office there were more items on our "To-Do-List" than we were able to get to. We intended to go to district meeting, which didn't happen. We  kept our nose to the grindstone and have plenty left for more than one other day.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Opening The Flood Gates

We have mentioned before that we finally received permission last month to run the full self-reliance initiative here in Cambodia. Before last month we would occasionally get inquires from others about self-reliance and how we might be able to interact with other groups and organizations. It has been amazing to see the number of inquires increase, as if a flood gate is gradually being opened. Thankfully it is being opened slowly because even now we feel like we are swimming against the current.

This morning we had a Skype call with Chad, our Area Self-Reliance Manager, and a former Senior Missionary who has been doing charitable work here in Cambodia. He discovered several other charitable organizations that would like to work with us in teaching self-reliance. We are just exploring how everything will work, but this could be a very large increase in the number of people that are taught these important principles.

We felt like we were extremely busy today with several different Skype calls and meetings and special projects that we have been working on. We had our weekly Self-Reliance Group Skype call with the returned missionary, My, in Vietnam. It is a true joy to work with her. Sister Oveson worked more on the Romanizing of the Hymns and Children Songs that she is doing. Elder Oveson received the first of the training on being one of the 2nd Level Reviewers for the Perpetual Education Fund. Elder Oveson is also still working on the upcoming Stake Conference and was able to finally complete the agenda.

As we took our morning walk there were several interesting and unique pictures that we were able to get. The first is a man in a wheel chair being towed by a vendor cart being driven by a women. We wondered if he was just catching a tow, or if this was an everyday event. Also there is a group that does a graceful, slow, Oriental exercise in the park we walk around. This morning they had added decorative swords to their routine.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Two Round Trips to Stueng Mean Chey Today

We have often commented that our drive to Steung Mean Chey (SMC) is where we have taken the most photos of random things. Today was ward conference for Steung Mean Chey 2nd Ward so we were asked to join that conference. That just meant we went to Steung Mean Chey twice and missed attending Chaktomuk Ward.

SMC 3 is a very small ward and there have been many of the members who have moved to other areas. Today there were probably about 50 members in attendance, which was up from last week. This included Aaronic Priesthood who were invited from another SMC ward to help with the sacrament. SMC 2 on the other hand had about 110. The chapel was quite full as we entered. Both meetings were well presented, and it helps that we have translation from the young missionaries.

The lesson in both wards for Relief Society and Priesthood was taught from Elder Quentin L. Cook's talk last October, "Ship Shape and Bristol Fashion; Being Temple Worthy in Good and Bad Times".  One story Elder Cook told was of the experiment on self-control using marshmallows. The people here were puzzled as to just what marshmallows were. Sister Oveson showed a picture on her phone which helped the discussion.

Of course, with traveling to SMC twice, we had pictures from traffic today. Traffic was heavier than normal for Sunday. There were those using jackets or towels as umbrellas to protect from the sun, loads with passengers, and the mechanical birds and dogs for sale along the side of the road. Never a dull moment on the way to Steung Mean Chey!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Saturday is a Modge Podge Day

During the week we spend the majority of our day at our office working on a variety projects and responsibilities. Sunday is spent at Church or Church related meetings. But Saturday is our modge-podge day. There are things that we do almost every Saturday like teaching our Institute Class, FaceTiming or Skyping with our family and grocery shopping. Still it is the day when we are heading in many different directions doing many diverse responsibilities and chores.

This morning we only had fourteen show up for our Institute Class, this is the least that we have had for this course. today was the last lesson in the Foundation of the Restoration Cornerstone Course. We will start the Teachings and Doctrine of The Book of Mormon next Saturday. We have sent out announcement sheets and put up small flyers telling about our class and the one that the Leavitts teach. Hopefully we can get more to come again.

After Institute we come home and talk with our family. We call five out of the six families on Saturday and by time we are done it is about 10:00 p.m. in Utah. Brenda and Marla are good about letting us call them last, so we can talk to the little ones before they go to bed.

Elder Oveson had to go the Stake Presidency Meeting this afternoon. Stake Conference is coming up really fast, on May 21st and 22nd, and the visiting Area Authority wanted some additional changes on the agendas. We were able to get through those changes and some callings that need to be done between now and then.

Since Saturday is a random day, we decided to put in a random picture. The first is a trash can made out of a used tire that is turned inside out, next is a woman riding her bike with a large umbrella, many homes and businesses have little Buddhist shrines. Notice the hanging star decorations on the outside of a building and a Khmer typewriter. The building across from our apartment is under construction and they were unloading stuff there at 1:30 in the morning a couple of nights ago, next is a Buddhist Wat and finally last night's full moon.

Friday, April 22, 2016

More New Friends and New Assignments

It would appear whoever organizes the assignments we might be given heard of the maxim that if you want something done give the project to someone who is busy. Our pace has continued to quicken and our project load increase. Yesterday Elder Oveson was asked to be part of the team that reviews PEF loans in Asia. We are still frantically working on putting together a Quarterly Service Center Report that will be submitted to the Ministry of Religion and Cults. We have pulled it together to a point to ask for additional input from the Public Affairs couple. 

Today was a busy day with internet calls as well. We were able to FaceTime our daughter this morning and see our new grandson. At the office this morning we placed Skype Calls to Elder and Sister Rasmussen who are serving as Self Reliance Missionaries in Malaysia. then to Elder and Sister Chandler who just arrived this week in Hong Kong. We are enjoying our assignment as communications couple for the Asia Self-Reliance team. What a joy to make friends with so many people in so many places around the world.

We have other projects we are continuing to work on as well. We took a break from the office for a few minutes to take a walk, starting together and taking different directions at an intersection, with Elder Oveson going to the barber and Sister Oveson to the Mission Home. 

Tonight we had the opportunity to get to know Elder and Sister Thurston a little better as we introduced them to Mama's New York Deli, one of our favorite eating places. Life is full with so many new friends and the Lord's work to keep us busy. What could be better than that?

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Bennett Lloyd Strickland

"Bennett Lloyd Strickland - born April 20 at 10:12 pm. 7 lbs 4 oz and 19 3/4" long. Absolutely perfect!" Our second oldest daughter is not showing any prejudice with her FaceBook post about their new baby. As we came on our mission we realized that there would be events with our family that we would miss out on, but we had a strong desire to serve. We likewise realized whether G'ma and Papa were there life would still happen and be alright.

Wendy was really ready for this new little one to come and was so excited when they scheduled to start her today. Now for the big but, when they called to find out what time to go to the hospital they were told that there were seven medical inductions ahead of her and it might not happen today. She was so relieved when they called and told her to come in at 11:00 a.m.. 

Things did not move as quick as Wendy would have liked and we were wondering if her oldest son was going to get his way. Roman told his mom that Bennett should be born on the 21st because his birthday is the 19th and Hudson's is on the 20th. We checked with our daughter Becky at 10:30 p.m. Salt Lake time, she told us there was nothing new to tell us, so she was going to bed. 

The first picture that we received of Bennett and Wendy, they both looked absolutely exhausted. It was a good thing that it was night because they both needed some rest, we will have to see tomorrow if they got any or not.

Our greatest joy is our family. With each new addition our love just continues to multiply. We feel totally blessed. We will have plenty of time to spoil them when we get home.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Technical Difficulties

Walking at sunrise is a good way to start a day. Temperatures were a little cooler than they have been for a while so it was really quite pleasant. Then of course there were the interesting things to see. This pup was much more pleasant sleeping curled up next to the recycle bag than he was last week thinking we were invading his park.

We have noticed the water spigots are a simple PVC pipe with no couplers. They simply slide the end of a tubing hose snuggly over the end of the pipe.

There were less venders in the park today, but this one had a nice pice of fresh ginger next to the basin of dried fish, and the woman selling peanuts. And the scissors? This is the sign for a beauty salon!

Today was pretty busy at the office. We had our first Asia Area Self-Reliance Missionary internet meeting this morning.  We were being introduced as the area communications couple, so we were prepared with a power-point presentation and ready to host the meeting. Then we had technical difficulties and the system would not let us connect with our laptop. We talked with Chad and let him know we were working on connecting, so he started without us.

We finally used a different computer and borrowed a camera and speaker/mike and were able to get connected. It was a good thing we sent Chad a copy of the slides so he was able to share the presentation as we gave our information. Then just as we were to the last slide we lost our connection. We disconnected and signed in again, and found they had gone on without us. We will run a test before the next meeting.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Meinzers Are Gone & Our Second Monday This Week

Last night, after we had already written in our Blog, we went out to the airport to see the Meinzers off. Over the last fourteen months we have not seen Elder Meinzer in a suit very often. As soon as they designated our mission as not being required to wear suit coats he was done with his. Last night he had his suit coat on when the Christensens picked them up and he wore it for at least an hour before he shed it because it was just to hot. There were several members who also came to the airport to see them off. They have been wonderful and we will truly miss them, but we are looking forward to getting to know the Thurstons better.

Today was our second Monday for this week,  that was probably because the whole country took last week off. We were busy and going the whole day long. Tomorrow is the first Asia Self-Reliance Missionary video conference and we were asked to put together a PowerPoint presentation highlighting Cambodia. We had intended to do it last week, but we had enough other activities last week that it did not get done. It is not supposed to be a long presentation so we only did ten slides, but when we were finished we felt good about it.

Sameth had his quarterly evaluation with his manager in Hong Kong via Skype today. He had an evaluation form that he had to complete and send before the call. Elder Oveson did his best to help him get it done, but after the call there was fine tuning that needed to be done on it. There was a lack of understanding what the manager really wanted.

On Sunday at the Cambodian Coordinating Council Meeting Elder Woo asked Phanna to send him a report on how Self-Reliance Services was doing here in Cambodia. Phanna asked us to review his report and give our input and make any changes to make it more polished. Hopefully the finished product will be helpful to Elder Woo.

It felt good tonight to be able to just stay at home and read the novel in the series that we have been reading. We have not had time the last few nights, we have been just too busy, but that is good.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Goodbye Mory

Today was another farewell as we said goodbye to one of the employees at the Service Center. Mory has been a member of the Cambodia Service Center staff since 2002 and was the first Service Center employee. He spoke of how working for the church has blessed his life, including the blessing of his family. He will be working as a Facility Manager at the big mall in Phnom Penh.

As we gathered over a choice of pizza (crust stuffed with vienna sausage or seafood), chicken wings, and garlic bread. We were amused as we watched some squeeze out catsup on their pizza.

Summer has come to Cambodia in full force. We joked at the office today how we ran out of cold water and each had stories to match or exceed our own. One told of the "cold" water being about 40* C (over 100* F). They had to take the water inside to allow it to cool a little. The 106* F each day is warmer than we enjoy. We are impressed with how the young missionaries keep going in spite of the heat. They may look melted but they still share their smiles, and that makes things work so much better.

We had our Self-Reliance Skype group with My again tonight. She is so delightful. We are so grateful to have her as one of our friends.

Our day at the office was busy and productive. We had more on our to-do list than we could finish today. We will work on it again tomorrow.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Making The Sabbath a Delight

One of the main emphasis of the Church of the last couple of years has been to make the Sabbath Day holy. Another way that they have encouraged the members is to make the Sabbath a delight. It is interesting to really understand what they are asking us to do. The world teaches us that a delight is when we are treated to something very unique and wonderful. Heavenly Father wants us to understand that the blessings of the gospel are something very wonderful and unique.

As we went to Steung Mean Chey this morning the traffic was very light, we were amazed last week at how heavy the traffic was, and today was just the opposite. There were only thirty in Sacrament Meeting in the 3rd Ward. Sunday School was taught by the Stake Clerk, who does not live in that ward. In Priesthood there were six of us, three missionaries, an investigator, the Stake Clerk, a Young Man from a different Ward and the Bishop.

This afternoon Sister Oveson went to the Chaktomuk Ward while Elder Oveson went to the Cambodian Coordinating Council. Elder Woo kept the meeting to three hours, which is not really easy when there is so much to discuss. Sister Oveson said that there were only about twenty-five in Chaktomuk Ward Sacrament Meeting today.

This evening we attended the YSA planning meeting for the upcoming YSA Conference next month. We want to help, but we also want it to be what the YSA want not what we want them to do.

Our Sabbath was a delight and we were blessed to serve and feel of the blessings of the Gospel.

Today is a major travel day in Cambodia, many of those who went out to the Provinces come back on Sunday so that they can return to work tomorrow. A lot of those who go to the Provinces do not want to ride their little motos that far so they go in what they call buses, which are really eight or nine passenger vans that they completely stuff with people. The cheaper seats are on the roof. Also today we are anxiously waiting to see the addition to the Steung Mean Chey building, it is suppose to be done this year.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

106* F -- When is Rainy Season?

Another New Year holiday has come and gone. We appreciated the rare opportunity of having a Saturday with no Institute class, no meetings, and nothing pressing. We are not sure how long it has been since we have had such a day!

Since there was no Institute, we followed our weekday routine of taking a morning walk. Temperatures in Phnom Penh have been on the climb recently, so it was already hot at 6:00 a.m. Yesterday it had been up to 106* F making it difficult to cool overnight. Today was supposed to be 106* again. As we ran a few errands this afternoon it felt like we were walking in a furnace. We are so grateful for air conditioning. We have great respect for the young missionaries who are out on their bikes in this heat, yet we don't hear them complain.

We were able to make our family calls a little earlier today, and were able to spend longer on each connection. It is wonderful to hear reports on how school is going for the grandkids, that our son-in-law's eye is so much better that he is back to work, our daughter who is nine months pregnant is ready to be done, and everyone is doing well.

Besides our early walk, the only excursion we made out in the heat was to get groceries. One little loop around the city and we were back to our apartment. Even our AC struggled to keep us cool. It's a good thing summer doesn't last. We look forward to the rain!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Digrity - Zone Conference

With about seventy percent of the mission's young missionaries assigned here in Phnom Penh, President Christensen decided that Zone Conferences during Khmer New Year was a great use of their time. They held Zone Conference for the North Zone on Wednesday and for the South and East Zones today. We always enjoy rubbing elbows with the young missionaries and hearing what the Lord is directing President Christensen concerning the mission. In previous Zone Conferences he has taught about being a Deliberate Disciples and the importance of truly studying the scriptures. This Zone Conference they taught about the importance of the Book of Mormon and be "Digrity", which is a combined word using Dignify and Grit.

President Christensen expressed to all of us the importance of reading the Book of Mormon every day of our lives. He said that if we would read it every day he would never have to worry about any of us. It is when we stop reading that he worries. He shared the teachings of President Ezra Taft Benson from thirty years ago. At the end he bore a strong and fervent testimony of the Book of Mormon.

The Assistants to the President talked about our Mission Culture and said that we have a Cowboy Culture here in Cambodia and Cowboys have grit. But we needed to add dignity to our grit in a number of important ways, they shared four important ones:

  1. Living quarters - they taught us to clean our living quarters every preparation day.
  2. Personal conduct - we must strive to represent the Lord and rise to a higher plain.
  3. Language - we should watch using slang even in our apartments and with other missionaries.
  4. Physical appearance - we need to make sure that we are clean and well groomed.
This evening was the farewell dinner for Elder & Sister Meinzer. They do not leave until Monday evening, but the Spencers were in town and we were all available, so we went this evening. There were lots of good memories and laughs. They are a great couple and will be missed. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Missionaries, Apartment Inspections & New Years Lunch

Today was definitely a Missionary Day! Even though it was a holiday (Khmer New Year day 2), we still got up at our usual time and took our walk.

We had two mission apartments to inspect this morning, one with elders and one with sisters. We can see they are trying to Raise the Dignity of the mission. They are trying to keep their apartments clean and uncluttered. With four young adults in an apartment that can be difficult at times. Since they are only short term in any area they always have some level of living out of suitcases. The apartments today were pretty good! They all deserved the donuts we brought as rewards.

Today was also a good day for the mission to celebrate the new year by gathering for lunch together. The plan was to gather as zones, but the zones in Phnom Penh are close enough together that they all came together to Tonle Bassac II Restaurant.  Having 77 missionaries in one place at one time is truly cause for celebration. This included 65 young missionaries and 12 not so young. It was good to see so many faces we haven't seen in a while, and be able to give and receive hugs and greetings.

Today was a day of visiting with friends as the young missionaries saw former companions and those with whom they have shared so many profound life experiences. The missionary couples loved seeing the elders and sisters we have interacted with over the months, and were so grateful to see Elder and Sister Spencer who have not visited from Battambang for six months.

Of course we also made new friends today. There always seem to be missionaries in the group who we have not met previously, and others we met once when they arrived and now we see again and try to remember names and faces together. We will no longer forget Elder Medley's name (we have had a different name attached to his face for all this time.) He says he will make sure to quiz us tomorrow to make sure we got it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Raising The Dignity In Our Mission

One of the biggest issues with holidays that last all week is a large percentage of the population of Phnom Penh head out of town, usually to their home province or just out of the city. That leaves the a huge void in what the missionaries are able to do. Contacting is hard to do even when the general population is around, so it is impossible when there is a long holiday. And most of the investigators are either gone or celebrating. 

Each month there is a Mission Leadership Council where they discuss pressing issues. In the one earlier this month, "President Christensen raised the idea of raising the dignity in our mission and asked the missionaries what ways they thought that could be accomplished.  The immediate response from them was that they could polish their shoes! And the discussion centered for a few minutes on issues of dress in appearance. . . .President was then able to broaden the discussion and they began to suggest to him that maybe clean apartments were part of increased dignity." It was decided that they would have a, "Tuesday April 12 Nationwide Missionary Don’t-Leave-til-Its-Done Apartment Cleaning Day!" Our role is to go inspect the missionary apartments to make sure that they caught the vision of raising their dignity.

Today we went to two apartments for Elders in Steung Mean Chey. We had inspected one of these apartments in the past and the other was a new one they had moved to since the last inspection. The one that we had previously inspected was definitely improved from last time, but they still had some items that we asked them to tidy up. The other apartment was very good and they did an excellent job, there was one minor issue that they need to call the landlord about. We decided to treat them to donuts, which we had bought on our way for the inspections. Our granddaughter told us if they did not earn the donuts that we should eat them in front of them. Gratefully it did not come to that. 

As we were out and about today there were a couple of interesting things that we observed. One of the decorations that we saw carried by several on motos and in the markets, was large broad leaves in an arrangement with incense. We do not know the significance, but in our apartment building the main lobby also has some. We also saw a unique way to carry a group on a moto full of boxes, a board crosswise behind the driver with three passengers. 


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

"Sua Sdey Chhnam Thmey" -- Happy [Khmer] New Year

Tomorrow is the official first day of Khmer New Year (Chhnam Thmey), but today we saw the holiday affect in the office. We thought there were not many there yesterday, but half of those who were there yesterday were gone as well. Needless to say, the office was very quiet.

We received a notice under our apartment door on Saturday letting us know that the housekeeping staff would be given 4 days off (April 13th - 16th) so they might go visit their home province. The letter included a little about this holiday.
"This year is the year of Monkey 2560 BE (Buddhist Era) which will be started from April 13th, 2016. Please welcome Khmer New Year; angle is Mondea Tevy. She wears a Champa flower hairpin. Her weapons are a needle on right hand, and a cane on left. She drinks milk and rides a donkey. She comes down to the earth on Wednesday 13th April, 2016. Angles are changed one in every year to protect, bless and lead everybody to success until the New Year comes."
We hope all of you have a wonderful "Chhnam Thmey"! We mentioned yesterday we have never celebrated so many New Years in so few months. This is the 5th celebration of New Year we have experienced in the 14 months we have been in Cambodia. We expect the next will be just days before we finish our mission and return home.

The weather has turned hot and humid, so we were crazy to venture to Central Market this afternoon as we looked for a gift. 40* C (103* F) outside feels like 112* F with the humidity. Central Market is not equipped with air conditioning, and the fans have a hard time getting enough air moved in such close quarters we were quite melted in the half hour we spent there. We succeeded in finding a gift!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Blessed With Things To Do

It is amazing to us how kind the Lord is. Last year during Khmer New Year we did not go into the office at all, because nobody else was there and we were still very new. Again this year, Phanna and Sameth  took the whole week off, but we have been around a lot longer and decided to see what the Lord would provide. As we went to the office we did not know if we would be there an hour or how long, but as we got there it was so neat to see little projects fall into place for today and later this week. We would way rather be busy than just sitting in our apartment not feeling productive.

Earlier this year the Service Center Manager asked us to prepare a report on the Perpetual Education Fund that would become part of a larger report to the Ministry of Cults and Religion. He also explained then that they really need to submit these reports quarterly to promote goodwill and trust with the Ministry. Today we worked on our part of that report and promised the Service Center Manager that we will help with an outline for the whole report.

Add on top of that emails, phone calls with the Mission President, a Skype call with Chad, which resulted in more projects to do this week. We have been told that if you have desire then you are called to the work. All that we needed to do was show desire and we are blessed with work to do.

This evening was our weekly Self-Reliance Group via Skype with My in Vietnam. She always has great stories to share about how she has applied and taught the principles that she learned the week before. The next six weeks are about My Job Search, and this past week she had several friends tell her about jobs that she should apply for. She will finish the schooling that she has been taking on Friday and then will be actively pursuing a job.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Sunday General Conference

One of the great things of watching General Conference a week after it really happens is all the talks are already on the Church website. We can sit and read and highlight the talks at the same time that we are watching it with the other members and missionaries. We live in such a wonderful time of technology that the Lord has given to spread His gospel.

We were again reminded about the importance of arriving on time, and actually a little early. Sister Oveson got the softest seat in the room, nobody else had claimed it so she did. Elder Oveson got a table to put his computer on so that he did not have to hold it for the full two hours. When the conference started the room was about half full, but then the members of the International Branch kept coming. They had to bring in extra chairs several times and the room was packed.

As with each General Conference, the messages were extremely powerful and touched our hearts and minds in so many ways. We were taught about the importance of temples, the atonement, fathers, the tree of life, compassion for refugees, the Holy Ghost, Choices, opposition in all things, to always remember the Savior, keep going and so much more. President Monson taught to choose the harder right, instead of the easier wrong. And the choices we make determine our destiny. It will take the next six months to fully understand and comprehend before the next conference.

With only four hours of meetings, instead of six or more, we were able to get our letter home and report to our Self-Reliance contact done today. We usually do them on Saturday, but yesterday was just too busy. It was nice to have a Sabbath that was not crammed full.

Friday, April 8, 2016

"Come, Listen to A Prophet's Voice"

Twice a year we look forward to General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Saints gather at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on the first weekends of April and October. However with a 13 hour time difference, as conference commences in Salt Lake City Cambodia is sleeping. That combined with the task of translating each session and preparing video recordings for each church unit, it becomes necessary to wait a week for Conference Weekend here.

We started our day by gathering with our Institute class as we taught about the Mormon Pioneers, and helped them understand they are each Pioneers in their own way as they lead others to receive the knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They are amazing pioneers! In spite of many having already left for the provinces in anticipation of Khmer New Year, we still had 14 in attendance.
We had about 50 minutes to make Skype or FaceTime calls with our family before Conference convened in the room we hold our Institute class. The room was full of missionaries and members of the International Branch. Even though we were a week delayed in gathering to hear the messages, we were blessed in the abundance of the Spirit we felt.

One of our favorite speakers is Elder Dale Renlund. We were blessed to become acquainted with him twelve and a half years ago as he attended the Magna South Stake Conference and participated in calling Elder Oveson as the stake president. Then six months later he returned for our stake conference again. We have recognized him as a great spiritual leader and are please to sustain him as an apostle.

Elder Renlund's message relates directly with the doctrine of Self-Reliance we have been learning and teaching. We will continue learning from his message, as well as the other messages of conference. We have been spiritually fed at the feet of so many great leaders!

Service Center Farewell Lunch For The Meinzers

The Meinzers have been part of the Service Center for the last eighteen months, and they have grown to truly love the staff that works there. Next week most of the staff will be gone all week with the Khmer New Year celebration, so today the Meinzers treated the whole staff to lunch at the Tonle Bassac II restaurant. We had three tables of about eight or so to each table for the group. They have set a very high standard now for missionary couples as they go home, we will most likely do the same thing in about nine months.

Our new assignment kicked in today with several emails from Chad to us and emails from us to the other SRS missionaries. We have a video call with all of them on the 20th and Chad wanted our suggestion for the agenda. Likewise we want to get to know the others better, so we sent out a basic questionnaire asking for the most important facts. Like how many grandchildren they have.

This week we have struggled a little with the preparation for our Institute Class, most weeks the lessons are great and applicable. This week we were supposed to teach about the Utah War and Mountain Meadow Massacre. Cambodia went through a brutal massacre of their own people by Pol Pot and over 25% of the population were killed. We decided to teach them about the Mormon Pioneers instead and that they are modern day Pioneers. That meant we had to do more of our own lesson preparation. We only hope and pray that it will go well.

With our walk this morning we have now made it four weeks in a row, a good start to an important habit. Elder Leavitt told us that he saw us this morning when he was walking but we were too far away and did not hear him. Sister Leavitt twisted her ankle a week ago and is still nursing it back, so she did not go with him this morning. Our morning walks are truly a good way to start the day.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

A New Assignment and More New Friends

This morning as we enjoyed our visit with Sister Roberts on a weekly Skype call it was pointed out that we are the "Oldest" Senior Missionary couple in the Asia Self-Reliance team. That was quickly corrected to the "Longest-Tenured" couple. As we thought about it we realized it was true. All those who were on the team as we came to Cambodia 13 months ago have completed their missions and returned home and others have come to take their place throughout all of Asia.

With it being a new month and quarter we have been working on reports to get submitted. It is amazing to look back a year and see the progress that has been made, but then to look forward to what still needs to be done. We are glad that we still have over nine months left to make a difference in Cambodia.

Later this afternoon as we sat at our desks working on our Institute lesson for Saturday we received a Skype call from Chad Furness, the Asia Area Self-Reliance Manager. He had several questions, but the last of which was if we would be willing to be the Contact Couple for the Asia Area Self-Reliance Team. This assignment will include visits with all the other couples serving throughout Asia, which includes India, Singapore/Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and others soon to arrive in Hong Kong and Mongolia. Our first assignment will be to make contact with each of these couples and take charge of an internet conference with the team in about two weeks. This is one way, for sure, to make new friends throughout this Eastern part of the world.

Our photo for the day is another collage from our morning walk. Seeing the sunrise each morning is added incentive to keep walking each morning. We are surprised sometimes by children on our trail. Then today we looked closer at this large tree along the way and noticed it is really a clustered trunk instead of just one. So thankful for this amazing experience on the other side of the world!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The More We Know, The More We Have To Learn

Even though we have been in Cambodia for thirteen months and on our mission for going on fourteen months, it interesting to see how much we do and don't know. We are serving in a brand new initiative that has finally been approved to move forward fully here in Cambodia. And the Church is still so brand new here in Cambodia, similar to the age of the Church when the pioneers had been in Salt Lake Valley for about four years. There is so much to teach and to learn, but oh what a wonderful opportunity.

This afternoon we met with our Mission President to talk about how Self-Reliance Services can help the native Cambodian Missionaries prepare for their after mission life. Many of their U.S. missionary friends have plans to go back to school, get a job and get married. Too many of them do not even have a home or family to return to. They are the only members in their family and were disowned because of that. We want to teach them about the importance of getting an education and how to get a job. If they learn those skills they will be self-reliant and more likely stay active in the Church.

While we were at the Mission Office we got to meet the Christensen's son Mark and his family. They have been visiting for the last week and fly home tonight. And as usual we made new missionary friends and other reacquaintance that were at the office today.

Today was the Asia Area Self-Reliance Service Team video call. They are scheduled for every other week but they usually happen once a month. That is okay because we have the PEF video call and we will have one for the Senior Couples starting in two weeks. It is always good to hear what is happening and to be taught. The Church has new tools for us to use in communicating and sharing files with each other.

The VanBroklins told us about a new bakery that we decided to try today. As with anything really good, it is more expensive. The cheese croissant was really good and we have four other treats to try over the next few days.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Khmer Breakfast -- Bai Sach Chrouk

Our morning walk brought a new golden sunrise. In a matter of minutes the sun moved from a little peek hole in the clouds to a glorious glow on the sky. Seeing the beautiful sunrise every morning is an added incentive to just keep walking every morning.

As we arrive at the office there are often co-workers who are eating breakfast in the break room. Breakfast, just like most meals here, consist of rice and pork. Bai Sach Chrouk (Rice and Pork) served in a clamshell container can be found on every street of the city. This is one food, we are told, that missionaries seem to miss when they return home.

Every Tuesdays morning there is a Service Center Devotional, and we have been blessed to join in. Today was a follow-up discussion on a video we watched last week. It was a good meeting, lasting through most of the morning.

We had the opportunity of listening to the Saturday Morning session of General Conference as we sat our desk today. These are such powerful messages we look forward to watching all of conference as we gather with the saints in Phnom Penh this weekend.

We also took time this afternoon to begin preparations on our Institute lesson. We will be talking about the Mormon Pioneers and how it was not just those who walked across the plains that are pioneers. They are each pioneers as they go before and mark the path for others to follow. We are blessed to be surrounded by so many valiant Cambodian Pioneers.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Greater Appreciation For a Bed To Sleep On

It feels like Monday has become one of the busiest days of the week for us. We usually have only one item on our calendar, our weekly Self-Reliance Staff Meeting, but the day just fills in both before and after that meeting. That is exactly what happened to us today, but most of it just kind of happened and then we did our best to take care of the issues.

Almost a year ago Phanna asked Elder Oveson if he knew what SWOT was, the only thing he could think of was what he did with the pesky mosquitoes here in Cambodia. After an internet search they found out that it stood for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. It is amazing how many new acronyms come into use every year, the newest and best practices to do. As a self-reliance team we had to analyze the SWOT for self-reliance for each stake and district in our area. Since it has been a year we had to update our SWOT again today.

Sister Oveson has been working on a project to help us learn more of the hymns in Khmer (Cambodian). When we got to Cambodia we found a small paperback hymnbook that had been Romanized. We were thrilled to have something that helped us at least attempt to sing the same words as the congregation. Over the last year we have learned that the translation of the hymns have gone through several revisions. Sister Oveson is now trying to get at least a few of them Romanized better to match the current hymnbook. We will then work on learning them every day.

This evening we had our Skype Self-Reliance Group with My in Vietnam. She is absolutely amazing, we wish that we had the faith and willingness to follow that she has. Each week there are commitments that she is suppose to keep, including sharing the concepts that she is taught with others. It is wonderful to hear about the doors that are opened to allow her to keep those commitments.

In previous pictures of the day we have shown some of the places that we have seen people sleeping, including benches, on the ground, in Tuk Tuks, etc. This morning we saw a very unique one, a man perched on the seat of his moto sound asleep.  

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Sisters Clark and Sok and Our Sunday Adventures

As usual, our weekly trip to Steung Mean Chey gave interesting traffic photos. Some were items we have seen often enough that we didn't get the camera quick enough. But there were a few new items to add to our collection such as the moto-trailer loaded with strips of foam padding, or the moto loaded with seven huge bags of rice. Then there was the trailer loaded with green mangos headed to market, and the family on a moto with their coats, hats and gloves riding down the road while the thermometer indicated it was about 97* F.

A few days ago we received a Facebook message asking about one of our Cambodian missionaries. It seems Sister Oveson's cousin, Melinda Savage, is visiting teacher to Sister Sara Clark's mother in Morgan, Utah. Included in our collage for today is Sister Clark and her companion, Sister Sok.

It is difficult to call our Sunday schedule a day of rest. We make the drive to Steung Mean Chey and attend a three hour block of meetings, return home for a short break and lunch, then head to the Chaktomuk ward for another three hour block.  Even though sitting for six hours on the hard benches or stacking chairs is not comfortable on our old bodies, we feel loved and appreciated by the members we have come to count as our friends.

This week we had one additional meeting, but this time we were at the Service Center sitting on nice padded chairs. We were invited to participate in the planning for a YSA Conference in May. One thing is sure, the Cambodians enjoy having activities as long as they appear to be parties!

With the miracle of technology, we were able to watch some of General Conference. We look forward to filling some of our gospel study time with these messages for the next little while. Hopefully we will be able to see all the sessions this week, then we will sit with the other missionaries and members next weekend and watch the full sessions for our Conference Weekend in Cambodia!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Welcome Elder & Sister Thurston

Today was one of those days that when our feet hit the ground at 5:00 a.m. it felt like we were on a dead run until it was bedtime this evening. Last week as we looked at our Saturday we knew that it was going to be busy so we decided that we had to get groceries during the week. We also forewarned our children that our phone calls would be briefer than normal today. With all of the planning we did survive and had a very good day.

We had twenty show up for our Institute Class this morning. We are so blessed to be able to teach this wonderful group that are eager to learn and progress. Because we only meet once a week we have to cover two lessons from the manual, which is usually okay. This week there was just way too much to get to, but we tried to cover the most important points. We feel like those points got through and that they had a learning experience.

Right after our class we went to the Mission Office to make our calls home. We needed to be at the Mission Home anyway to go to the airport to pickup a new Senior Couple. We were able to chat with four of our children and their families, some briefer than others, but we only had an hour. It is always good to see family and hear about what is going on back in the States.

Elder and Sister Thurston arrived as the newest Senior Couple this morning at 10:50. They are from Tooele and will be the new LDS Charity couple here. Sister Thurston worked in the Self-Reliance Department of the Church before their mission so we will need to pick her brain a little bit. There were a total of five couples, including the Thurstons, who went out to eat after we left the airport.

By time we were done with lunch it was time for Elder Oveson to go to his Stake Meetings which started at 2:00 and went until 6:30. Since he was gone Sister Oveson went with the Van Broklins to the North Stake Khmer New Year party. Khmer New Year is not for another two weeks, but everyone leaves town and goes out to the provinces, so they hold their parties early.

We still had emails to write and of course our blog when we both made it home. It was a very eventful day.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Sunrise Walks and Self-Reliance Committments

One of the characteristics of Self-Reliant people is they make and keep commitments, and report on their progress. We committed with having moved apartments that we would walk every week day morning. We completed our commitment for one more week. We have walked every morning Monday through Friday for three weeks now.

The sunrise has been red for several days, but today it was golden.  It created such a glorious view. There were those along the way who seemed to be seeking that few more minutes of sleep.

There is evidence of preparation for the coming holiday. This month is Khmer New Year. We know there are never not holidays in Cambodia! This is one that we expect will have the city very quite as most people return to their hometown to gather with family for this celebration. The calendar shows it will last three days, but we expect it to claim an entire week in the middle of the month. The sign across from the monument proclaims "Happy New Year!" This will be the third new year celebration in just over three months. No wonder we still see Christmas trees around town. We usually kept our tree up until New Year. They are just not sure which, so they might as well keep the tree up the whole year.

The office was very quiet today. Several of the men took one last fishing trip with a group of friends to the ocean. They said this will be the last before rainy season, and probably the last ocean trip for the year.