Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Projects, Reports, and Senior Couple Conference

We knew before we started the day that our To-Do-List was full. It seems all the holidays and happenings make it hard to have a full Monday-to-Friday schedule in Cambodia. We are not sure how they missed Memorial Day on their calendar, but don't worry. They didn't miss having their holiday for this week. Tomorrow is International Children's Day!

We have been working on assignments for the Senior Couple Conference which starts tonight and will keep us busy Wednesday and Thursday as well. Just as we felt we would be finished with that project before we ran out of work time, we were asked about a report we have been helping compile. We have been waiting for one last item or two, but today we were told that the report is needed by the Area Presidency by next Wednesday. Not only do we need to finish our part in English, but the report also needs to be presented in Khmer. Thankfully the translation department was able to take the report as a high priority project and promised to have it back to us by Tuesday.

The big project Sister Oveson has been working on for the senior couples is an updated version of LDS Hymns in Romanized Khmer (that works better than trying to read the Khmer script). We put this together as a PDF book so we can all access the hymns on our mobile devices. We tried a first draft on Sunday, which helped us proof the project and make a few changes. We expect this will be a project that has additional changes before we finish our mission, but using PDF format makes it much easier to make the changes and doesn't require the cost and work of printing and assembling the book.

Tonight was the beginning activity for our couples conference. We gathered to the mission home for dinner and our beginning meeting. It is so good to be together and feel the strength of so many phenomenal couples. And what is more wonderful is that we consider every one of them our friends!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Our Monday Was Very Full

One of our greatest joys with our new assignment as the Area Self-Reliance Services Communication Couple is getting to know the other couples a little better. We hate to take too much of their time, so we try to keep our calls to just a half hour or so, but they usually end up being closer to an hour. Today we Skyped with Elder & Sister Rasmussen in Malaysia. They are such a fascinating couple, they served in Malaysia over forty years ago in the Peace Corp, so they had learned the language before. Elder Rasmussen is currently a counselor in a Branch Presidency and one of only two High Counselors for the District. They do a lot of different assignments on their mission because they are the only couple in their immediate area. The middle of June they have to leave Malaysia and go to Singapore, to get new visas before they can go back to their area. They are such a faithful and wonderful example of being willing to do whatever they are asked to do.

Today was one of those interesting days that was filled with a variety of different meetings, projects and helping out. We have our weekly Self-Reliance Staff Meeting every Monday, it got delayed a bit because Sameth was a little late this morning. These meetings are very good for us because we find out about things that the other two are involved with that we had no idea. Like the fact that Phanna went to Battambang over the weekend for a My Path Devotional and to train new specialists. We also share items that we have been tracking, especially about the PEF loans and what is happening with Self-Reliance in the South Stake.

Tomorrow evening we begin our missions' Couples Conference. Sister Oveson has been working on compiling some of the Romanized Khmer Hymns to share with the other couples. She has worked hard on this project, but we feel like it will not only be a blessing to the current couples but to those in the future.

Since our time in the office will be significantly less this week we had to start working on our Institute lesson today. We plan to finish the preliminary notes tomorrow and then wrap the rest up on Friday when we are back to our desks.

There are some mornings as we take our walk that we never get the camera out of our pocket at all and then there are days like today when we took about twenty pictures. There were not only the wonderful children, but there were also the little birds in a cage heading for market or the Wats for sale. There was also the Cyclo with two men and a wheelchair. There were so many photos we did not use them all, but there will be those other days when we need them.


Sunday, May 29, 2016

Missionaries are Temp Workers -- Count on Change

One thing you can always count on is change. With our mission we regularly see changes. People come and go, and missionaries are really only Temp-Workers. They come into the mission with a release date assigned along with their start date. They are assigned to an area and may have a long or short stay. Scheduled transfers happen every six weeks. We may not move around, but that doesn't mean anything stays the same.

Today was our first Sunday in the wards since the recent transfers, which brought changes to both wards we attend. In Steung Mean Chey we kept Elder Beckstead and welcomed back Elder Maurer, who served in Steung Mean Chey a year ago. Sisters changed as well. We kept Sister Gallahad and welcomed Sister Clark (from Morgan Utah), and Sister Im (the sisters are in a threesome for now). We were feeling very blessed to have 5 translators in Steung Mean Chey, then we learned that the young missionaries were the speakers today. We still were blessed for their services.

This afternoon at Chaktomuk ward we also saw the effects of the changes. Sister Sheffield moved from Steung Mean Chey to join Sister Larsen as the Senior Sister Training Leaders.  We kept Elder Asay, still serving as Assistant to the President, but now Elder Lauritzen is his companion as the new AP.

Missionaries are not the only ones who come and go. As we left sacrament meeting in Chaktomuk Ward we happened upon a picture taking event for the International Branch. Caleb and Kim Baker and their family, who have been here for a year with his job, will now be moving to Belgium. We came in just in time to help take photos, and sign a photo for the Bakers to take with them. We have had opportunities to interact with many of the members of the branch as well.

We think of all the changes we have seen during our mission and we are so thankful to be some of these Temp Workers who have been called to serve here in Cambodia.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

With Hope We Have Faith

Each week as we prepare for our Institute class we hope that we have at least one show up, but we then pray that Heavenly father will lead many there. Through our hope, we exercise our faith, that the class members will come. Over the last year we have made some dear and close friends of this rising generation here in Cambodia. We never know when the class begins how many will really show up. There are those who can only stay for half the class, but they come for at least that part. And occasionally there is someone who comes with five minutes left of the class, but they made the effort to come and we hope that they were blessed for their effort. Today we had twenty-five come to the class. That is definitely the most that we have seen in a long time and probably the second most that we have ever seen.

We were invited to attend a baptism this evening  for a Young Adult Sister that has been coming to the Chaktomuk Ward. She was introduced to the Church by a member of our Institute class and has been to Church almost every week for the last two months. We were also told tonight that her sister will be baptized in two weeks. Again a Young Single Adult exercised hope that her friend would like to learn about the Church and went forth in faith and invited her to take the missionary discussions.

We were blessed to Skype or FaceTime with all of our daughters and part of their family, with Wendy it was only Bennett, who slept the whole time. He was getting some rest so that he could keep her awake tonight. Our FaceTime and Skype calls are such a joy. It is so wonderful that we live in a day of technology where we can see the faces and here the words of our loved ones on the other side of the world.

This afternoon while Elder Oveson was gone to meetings for about four hours, Sister Oveson wrote our weekly email home and got things ready for tomorrow.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Week-At-A-Glance

As the days and weeks fly by sometimes we are only able to keep track of what day it is by what is on the agenda and daily To-Do list. Monday we have our Staff meeting (except when there is a holiday, then we move it to Tuesday.) Tuesday is the service center devotional and district meetings. Wednesday morning we have a Google-Hangout call with family before going to the office, where most weeks there is one internet meeting or another talking with missionaries or the Self-Reliance team in the Asia area. Thursday morning we usually Skype with Sister Roberts in Hong Kong. Friday tends to be the day to wrap up loose ends for the week, and we usually go out for dinner for a date night.

Saturday is our early day as we teach our 7:00 a.m. Institute class, then  hurry home to Skype/FaceTime with family. Grocery shopping has to be done, then Elder Oveson has stake meetings throughout the afternoon while Sister Oveson writes letters or works on projects. Then there is Sunday with three hours of meetings in Steung Mean Chey for the morning (about 5 miles away through Khmer traffic), home with enough time for lunch before heading to Chaktomuk Ward (1 1/2 miles away) for the afternoon. That makes for a full day, but we often add a baptism or Self-Reliance meeting to the schedule. By the time Sunday is done we are pretty tired, but also happy to be busy serving in Cambodia.

Each of those days also fill in with other projects and agendas. Weekdays we rise early (5:30 a.m.) to take our walk. By 10:00 p.m. we are very tired and ready to retire for the day. We are not sure what our schedule will be like when we return home, but we plan to keep busy and active.

Today definitely lived up to its wrap up loose ends identity. With the end of the month coming next week and a Senior Couples Conference, we have to get things wrapped up and taken care of.

Today's photo collage is children in Cambodia. The middle row are the family of But LumAng who works at the service center in the translation department.


Thursday, May 26, 2016

Counting Our Blessings

We are just amazed as we take time to stop and count our many blessings. We are so blessed to live in these latter-days when the gospel of Jesus Christ gives us such direction in our lives. As we look around this confused world, there are so many that have no idea where they came from, why they are here and what will happen after this life is over. That does not mean that they are bad in any way, just confused and lacking direction in their lives. We do not have this life totally figured out, but it is so nice to feel that we are on a path, following our Lord Jesus Christ and that we have hope in our lives. As we take our morning walks a very common question that one or the other of us will ask is, "what are you thinking about?'" Most of the time it is very common thoughts, but also often it is about how blessed we are.

It is hard to believe that it was a whole month ago when we were invited to our first Asia Area Self-Reliance Committee Meeting. That day we had all kinds of trouble getting into the conference call. We had the same problem today, but we were not alone, Chad, the Area Self-Reliance Manager could not get in either. The FM Manager was able to use the Conference Room video equipment to get us in, we were so grateful. We feel like complete rookies as we watch these seasoned leaders navigate the issues and questions on the agenda.

We were also able to Skype with the Self-Reliance Missionaries in Hong Kong today. We first spoke with Sister Roberts this morning before the committee meeting. She has become a friend and we love to talk to her. We make sure that we get around to the purpose for the call, but we also catch up on what is happening in Hong Kong. This afternoon we Skyped with Elder & Sister Chandler. They are such a capable couple who are willing to help in any way that they can. We are so impressed by them.

With our everyday responsibilities and preparing for next weeks Senior Couple Conference, today was a busy and full day.

There are some days that there is no question as the day begins what our picture of the day will be, like yesterday. There are events that are scheduled that are just perfect. Then there are other days that we say, now what do we do we did not take a single picture today. Those are the days that we are able to go back and pull out gems that did not make the blog because of too many other pictures that day.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Introducing Elder and Sister Curtis

Today we received our newest senior missionaries in the Cambodia Phnom Penh Mission. Jim and Erin Curtis from Sandy, Utah landed in Phnom Penh this morning. Their flight was a half hour late, then it takes time to clear customs and immigration. The senior couples in the city were all there to welcome them. What a great addition to our mission!

Elder and Sister Curtis have had three months of language tutoring, which will be a great benefit for their service as MLS missionaries. After greetings and a great lunch, President and Sister Christensen took them to Kampong Cham to settle into their new apartment and community. They are nervous and excited. They only have a few weeks, however, to be the newest seniors in the mission.

Before greeting our new missionaries we attended the monthly Area Presidency Devotional which took the place of the weekly service center devotional. We were blessed to hear Elder Wong of the Area Presidency. His message was inspiring. He referred to the parable of the ten virgins and compared their lamps to our cell phones in our day. Someone with a Samsung phone whose battery needs to be charged can't receive power from someone else with and iPhone. Each phone needs to be charged for itself. Likewise we cannot charge our spiritual battery by receiving from someone else's preparation.

Elder Wong also told of an object lesson he used in a recent Zone Conference with missionaries in Taiwan. With a discussion of doctrines the missionaries teach to investigators they filled a large jar with water, representing the principles they teach. Then he had the smallest sister and the tallest sister come to the front, along with the tallest elder. The smallest sister was to pour water from the jar into a very small cup on the elder's head while the tall sister held "Preach My Gospel" in front of him. As the sister apologized to the elder, Elder Wong asked if that is what they would do to an investigator as they tried to give everything they knew in a short teaching session. This talk gave us something to think about with how we teach others.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Breakfast at Khema and Shopping at The Russian Market

Chad Furness was staying at Aruneas which is a short walk from the Service Center. Several others who have stayed there told us how wonderful the breakfast at their restaurant, called the Khema. Chad had kind of invited us to breakfast this morning a couple of days ago.  That is all that it took for us to ask yesterday if the invitation was still open, which he assured us that it was. We told him that we really wanted to try the breakfast there and that was all the excuse that we needed. Phanna and his wife Sokhom were also there and we had a great talk about some of their plans that they are working on.

We usually write our email to our family and friends on Saturday or Sunday, but this last weekend was so busy we did not have time to write. That had to be one of our priorities this morning to try and get it done. We had also promised Elder Roberts last night that we would take him shopping and to do whatever he would like after a meeting that he had this morning. We got a call about 11:15 to tell us that he was ready for us to come and get him, at least the email was part way done by then.

Sister Roberts wanted some more of the little purses that she had found when she was here in Phnom Penh. Elder Roberts talked them into four for $15 last time he was here, and today he got six for $21. He also found himself some binoculars and a nice leather briefcase. Elder Oveson found some reading glasses for $3 and Sister Oveson got some beautiful postcards that are hand painted. We went and had lunch at Mama's New York Deli which is always good, filling and a great price.

After lunch we took a ride out into the country to let Elder Roberts see a little of the rural life here in the Phnom Penh area. Our picture for today is from our recent travels about the city. After some additional stops we took him back to his hotel and said our goodbyes. He leaves tomorrow morning for Laos to handle some more issues over there.

We did finish the email home and have our first quiet evening in our apartment in about four days. We have been reading a book together but we have not had time to read since last Friday night.

Over the last few days we have eaten out more often and also eaten more than usual. It will be nice to get back to a more normal life, whatever normal is.


Monday, May 23, 2016

Our Circle of Friends

As we were sitting at Sister Oveson's desk today working on our Institute lesson for next Saturday all of a sudden we heard a very familiar voice greeting us, Elder Roberts from Hong Kong. Last year Elder Roberts came to Cambodia several times helping with various legal issues, and most important to us, getting things moving for Self Reliance. He is a friend that we had not seen since the end of last year when he was here with Sister Roberts and we spent some time with them. It is so good to be with friends and to catch up on what is happening in their lives. This evening we went to dinner at a restaurant over on the Tonle Sap River, called the Titanic, that has great atmosphere and good food.

We were also able to spend some more time today with Chad Furness, the Self-Reliance Area Manager, from Taiwan. One thing that he always tries to do when he comes to town is get the whole team together for a lunch or dinner. We went to one of our stand by favorites, Brooklyn Pizza and Bistro. On our way to Brooklyn Pizza we had to pick up Sameth's daughter Yuri from school. She attends Zions International School, which was started by President & Sister Moon, our former Mission President and his wife.

This afternoon we completed the Self-Reliance group with My (pronounced Me) via Skype in Vietnam. She is such a wonderful Young Adult that is full of faith and trust in the Lord that everything will just work out right in her life. The Education for Better Work course has six lessons about education and six lessons about finding a job. She has already completed the short education course that she was focused on, and is now looking to find a good job. She told us that she has a second interview for a good job tomorrow. We are praying for her to get it.

We have definitely reached Mango season. And we are so blessed to have good friends that have shared Mangos with us. We have fifteen Mangos right including two off of the front tree at our office. We love Mangos and are so grateful for all those who have wanted share with us this year, another one of those benefits of being in the Service Center.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Busy Day = Stake Conference, Visitors, and Self-Reliance

Stake Conference weekend is not a day off for us in Cambodia. We started our day by picking up Elder Wisit Khanakham, an Area Seventy from Thailand, and bring him to his assignment to preside at the Phnom Penh South Stake conference. That also meant we arrived early to help make sure everything was set up and ready for the meeting. The added benefit was being there to greet so many members who have become our friends.

This week we said goodbye to a group of missionaries who have completed their missions. Three of these elders attended this conference with their family members who came to pick them after completing their service. It was good to meet these families who were behind such valiant servants.

At this conference we were also able to say goodbye to another friend, Ellen Clark. She and her business partner had a factory creating fishing flies. Unfortunately the Cambodia operation had to close and the remaining inventory and supplies were packed up and sent to their factory in Thailand. We have some wonderful memories with Ellen as she joined us on several Seniors outings, hosted all of us for a Thanksgiving/Christmas celebration, and has truly become our sister. We will have to catch up with her in Logan, Utah when we complete our mission. We wish her all the best for the future.

After conference we brought Elder Khanakham home with us for a lunch, which we prepared Saturday. It consisted of chicken salad sandwiches served on a choice of croissants or sour dough cheese bread (thanks to a very good bakery close by), potato salad, mangos, chips, and juice. We have been so blessed to get to become friends with such a wonderful man. He has invited us to visit his family if make it to Thailand.

We delivered Elder Khanakham to the North Stake Center for afternoon meetings then headed back to the South Stake Center for Self-Reliance meetings. Chad Furness, the Asia Area Self-Reliance Manager is in Cambodia and we were able to meet with him while a My Path was held. There were about ten in attendance, which was not as many as we would have liked. At the conclusion of the devotional we made our way back North to take Elder Khanakham to the airport for his flight home.

After a long Sunday, and another simple meal of grilled cheese sandwiches, we are tired but happy for the blessings from the day,

Saturday, May 21, 2016

A Busy Stake Conference Saturday

When Elder Oveson was released as a Stake President he looked forward to being able to just sit with Sister Oveson and enjoy Stake Conference from then on. Well it worked for a few before our mission and the first one here in Cambodia, but definitely not today. The biggest part of our day was spent preparing for and participating in the Cambodia Phnom Penh South Stake Conference today.

Elder Oveson had to be to the Stake Center before noon for the meeting with Elder Khanakham, an Area Seventy from Thailand assigned to preside at the Stake Conference, along with the Stake Presidency. Sister Oveson stayed at the apartment and finished working on her talk and then caught a Tuk-Tuk to the South Stake Center. The Tuk-Tuk that Sister Oveson caught is one that we arranged ahead of time with a driver that we see outside of our building on a regular basis. His Tuk-Tuk is not a regular Khmer one, it is more like a three wheeled Little Tikes car with a back seat. Of course that had to be part of our picture of the night. The other picture is Elder Khanakham with Heng Ladin, the chorister and choir director for Stake Conference.

We mentioned before that Sister Oveson was invited to be one of the speakers at Stake Conference. She was the first speaker that introduced the theme in the Sisters portion of the Leadership Session of Conference. The topic was concerning improving Visiting Teaching. Those in the session said that she did an excellent job.

It would not have been a typical conference without some problems popping up. When Elder Khanakham arrived in Phnom Penh yesterday afternoon his luggage did not arrive with him. So he had to go to the Aeon Mall and buy two new white shirts and a new suit. Then when we went to do part of the meeting in the Cultural Hall the air conditioning did not work. Even with the problems overall it all ended up being very good sessions today. Elder Oveson was gone for more than eight hours and Sister Oveson was gone over six hours, but we want to make a difference.

This morning we had our Institute Class at 7:00 a.m. We were missing a number of our regular participants, but we did have three new ones and one that we have not seen in a long time show up. There were seventeen there today. We love teaching this class and look forward to it each week.


Friday, May 20, 2016

Buddha's Birthday = Another Holiday

The frequent holidays have made life quite interesting for us in Cambodia. We have learned to move ahead and keep working. Today's holiday was Buddha's Birthday. Being a religious holiday means the Wats are decorated and busy. As we take our walk we pass a Wat across from the monument. We could tell things were happening there by the lineup of Tuk Tuks, Motos, and Cyclos (the bicycle rikshaw) lined up along the street.

There are some lovely fountains around the monument which are rarely running early in the morning. Today was the first time in several weeks that they were going, making for a refreshing view.

Our walks give us interesting things to see. Today we found this pile of shoes just sitting in the middle of the sidewalk. By the time we came past again a half hour later they were gone. With no DI to contribute used clothing and other items we have found this is the way people get rid of their recyclables. You put your trash on the street and if there is something useful someone will claim it.

Our day was very productive. We had a Skype call with the Self-Reliance couple in India (Elder and Sister Little). What a blessing it is for us to visit with these missionaries as they serve in other parts of Asia. We have learned they have many circumstances similar to what we face here in Cambodia, yet on a larger scale. There are 1.3 Billion people in India, and the vast majority are greatly impoverished. They are only senior missionaries in their assigned city, they do not have a car nor reliable transportation, and until recently they have been the only ones working in the Self-Reliance Services, covering the entire country. We are amazed with how much they are accomplishing, and feeling blessed to be part of a support team instead of having so vast of a responsibility. They are exactly what India needs in the Self-Reliance Services right now!

This evening we decided to go to Mama's New York Deli for dinner. We thought we would invite Elder and Sister Thurston to join us (they just moved in across the hall from us), but they were not home. We all laughed when we arrived at Mama's and they were already there. They had not asked us to join them because they wanted Mama's and thought we would have chosen somewhere else. We had a nice visit over a delicious dinner.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

As Missionaries Leave

We mentioned in a previous blog that eight missionaries are completing their missions this week. Today as we went downstairs at the Service Center four of them were there getting some last minute Khmer items, including the General Conference talks from April. Three of the four have served as Assistants to the President, so they are outstanding Elders, but more important they translated for us at the Chaktomuk Ward.


The two Cambodian Missionaries going home met with Phanna for a couple of hours to talk about life after their mission. He teaches them basics about getting a job and doing their resumes and the Self-Reliance groups that they can join.

This afternoon we went over to the Mission Office to turn in some paperwork and return some table clothes. The Elders were all sitting around filling out what is called their death cards, which is a picture of them with their home email address and they often write a short note on the back. The one Cambodian Sister Missionary was getting more help from Sister Leavitt on her resume. This was a very powerful group that will be deeply missed by the mission.

We were again blessed by the technology of the internet today as we Skyped with Sister Powell in Hong Kong and joined the Asia Area Operations Meeting. The third highest ranking official in China is visiting Hong Kong this week so there are demonstrations going on to let him know that they do not want to be part of mainland China. There are an extra 2,000 police officers in the city to make sure that the demonstrations remain peaceful.

With Stake Conference coming up this weekend, and with tomorrow being another holiday, Elder Oveson decided that he better not chance waiting until tomorrow for a haircut. He always goes to the same barbershop, but he never gets the same barber, there was one he really liked, but he has never seen him a second time. I guess for $2 for a haircut it is hard to complain, especially since he can't speak the language. Only six more haircuts and he can go back to his daughter Wendy to get a good cut.


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Self-Reliance Team Meetings and a Little More Rain

After two days of pushing back our Cambodia Self-Reliance Team meeting (first for a holiday, then for other meetings and apartment inspections), we finally managed to get together to coordinate our week.  We have found these weekly meeting are crucial to having everything go smoothly with Self-Reliance. Sameth came to realize that with all the holidays this month he would need to spend about seven hours each day just making phone calls to make contact with all the "High-Priority Calls." Maybe this is the week Sameth needed to clone himself. Either that or we need to speak more Khmer and make more of the calls.


Our biggest event today was our monthly web meeting with the Asia Area Self-Reliance missionaries. We were pleased that everyone we expected was able to log in and participate. Our team call included Elder and Sister Little in India, Elder and Sister Chandler and Sister Roberts in Hong Kong, Elders and Sisters Harrison and Elder and Sister Rasmussen in Malaysia, and us Cambodia. Missing our meeting today were Elder and Sister Ricks in Thailand, and the Asia Area Self-Reliance Manager, Chad Furness,  who is traveling this week and will be in Cambodia tomorrow.  The power went down two or three times, but we had managed to get our laptop connected in the call and the WiFi has a battery backup so we never lost the meeting.

One nice surprise of the day was hearing thunder followed by a steady rain. Someone opened the window in our office to enjoy the wonderful clean smell in the air.  On our way home from the office Elder Oveson commented that the temperature was 27* C (80* F). Yesterday was 39 * C (102* F). We enjoyed the cooler temperatures and a little water dripping from the sky. We are not complaining today!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Another Round of Apartment Inspections

Most of our afternoon was spent inspecting four missionary apartments. We do warn them that we are coming so they have no excuse at all to not have their apartments looking good. We got to the first apartment a little earlier than expected and they were just finishing sweeping their floors. It was evident that it was not the first time the floor had been swept in the last week, so we were just fine with letting them hurry and finish. At a different apartment the Elders were late in getting there, they had gone to get rid of a large bag of recyclables, last inspection we told them it had to go. So again we were happy that they were taking care of some issues that needed to be completed.

Overall the missionary apartments continue to be better each time that we go. Elder & Sister Leavitt have upgraded the apartments where the landlord does not taking care of issues. The four apartments that we inspected today are all very nice and in safe buildings or areas. The first one was in Tuol Thom Pong and the other three are in Stueng Mean Chey. The Steung Mean Chey missionaries are all in the same complex, but not on the same road.

Since we were away from our office last Friday and yesterday we had a lot of emails to read and reply to first thing today. We went to the Service Center Devotional but left when they got to the training about Value Add Tax (VAT) here in Cambodia. All things considered we figured that is not something that we really need to know now or for the future. When we got back to our desk we had an email from one of daughters who wanted to Skype, so we were able to do that instead.

This evening Elder Oveson had a Stake Presidency Meeting to go to. This weekend is Stake Conference and we have a visiting Area Seventy assigned to preside at the conference. They wanted to make sure all is in place and that there are no loose ends that needed to be resolved. Apparently it was important that they got together because the meeting went for almost two hours.


Monday, May 16, 2016

Holiday, Missionaries, Words and Changes

Another extended holiday (King's Birthday) gave us one more day off, but that really doesn't mean there was nothing to do. We still got up at 5:30 a.m. for our walk. It had rained this morning which had slowed to a light drizzle as we left on our walk. Because of the rain and the holiday there were not as many in the park. However we were pleased to meet up with Elders Christensen and Asay (the AP's), and one of the members from Chaktomuk ward out for their morning exercise as well. They looked like they found more rain than we experienced. We also found Elder and Sister Leavitt out for their morning walk.

Our initial plan for the day included inspecting apartments, but schedules of the others moved inspections to Tuesday. Instead we stayed home and did laundry and responded to emails. After lunch we ventured out to Thai Huot and the Aeon Mall, where we happened upon two more missionaries, Elders Medley and Hills. They were in need of a few snacks.

We found some interesting spelling today, for instance in front of us was a Nissan "Frontire" truck (which should be Frontier). Then in the produce department at the mall they were featuring "American Cheery Imported From USA".

This week is transfers, with six returning to the US and two returning home to Cambodia. There are no new missionaries coming to the mission until August. The numbers of missionaries have come down, but they are big in spirit and enthusiasm. It also means the smaller number have to stretch and cover larger areas. We will be losing some of our translators and getting to know others better. We learned one thing you can count on is change!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Thoughts About The Sabbath

We have come to realize that some of our Blog posts are for those that are following it on a regular basis and some are mainly for us. The posts for those who follow our Blog are mainly ones about missionaries or events and have a lot of views. The ones for us are usually about the spiritual side and have less views. Both type of posts will be important to us as we look back at our mission to remind us of our experiences and thoughts. Today may be one of those posts just for us with few views. 

Over the last forty plus years of marriage the Sabbath has always been an important day for us. Even when we went on vacation we planned to go to church on Sunday. For over twenty-five years Elder Oveson sat on the stand in one calling or another, so Sister Oveson watched over our children mainly on her own. It did not take long for them to ignore even his stern stares from the stand.

On our mission that is quite different for us. We get to sit together for two Sacrament Meetings and during two Sunday School classes. One big difference about sitting together  here in Cambodia compared to back home is that the Cambodians frown on public display of affections. That means no putting an arm around or even holding hands that is noticeable. But we do generally hold each other's hand between us during most Sacrament Meetings.

Too many in the world believe that the Sabbath is just a day of rest, to do whatever leisure that they desire. But it is really only a day of rest from our everyday work, to do Church work. Over the years Sundays have been as busy or busier than most other days of the week, doing the Lord's work. All of the Senior Couples here in Cambodia attend at least two wards or branches. And several of them, have a long way to go each week to attend their assigned units.

Our Sabbath is a delight because we are together and serving Our Heavenly Father.


Saturday, May 14, 2016

Self-Reliance For The YSA

A couple of months ago as we heard that they were preparing for this year's YSA Conference we asked for Self-Reliance and Perpetual Education Fund to be included in some way. Elder & Sister Meinzer, who were on the committee, suggested that we should show up for the planning meetings, so we did. We are very glad that they gave us that advice because it really paid off for us in the long run. The committee decided that instead of formal classes they wanted it more casual where the YSA could go in and learn about something and not feel constrained to a specific schedule. That was just fine with us because in many ways it is a lot easier to visit with them one on one and find out what they really wanted. The other nice part about being in the committee meetings, we were able to request that we be in the Cultural Hall for our group. The Cultural Hall turned out to be the coolest place with the softest chairs, soft is a relative term for Cambodia.

Because of the YSA Conference we did not have our Institute Class this morning, but we were still to the South Stake Center by 7:00 a.m. to setup our space. We got it all setup and it looked great and then we tried to play the video we had as part of the presentation and there was no sound. We got the sound to work the other day at the office, but no luck at all. One of the District Presidents that knows a lot about computers could not figure it out either. Sister Oveson suggested a team prayer, which was great and calming, but still no sound. About twenty minutes into the two hour period Phanna figured it out.

Our job today was mainly to hand out the bookmarks that Sister Oveson helped create and greet the YSA as they came into our area. Phanna and Sameth did all of the presentations. There were about 350 that came through our nice cool area, we are hoping that we had some effect on them while they were enjoying a nice place to hang out.

This afternoon the head of the Admission Office for BYU-Hawaii did a presentation for  anyone interested in going there. There are currently not any Cambodians going there which is really too bad, the youth here need a good university education. Too many of those who went to BYU-H in the past did not come back to Cambodia, so BYU-H stopped allowing more to come. They are willing to try again, but they will really be screened before they are accepted.

  

Friday, May 13, 2016

King's Birthday - YSA Conference

Another holiday in Cambodia? The King's Birthday! The Cambodia Service Center was closed today and will not reopen until Tuesday. We still chose to get up early and take our walk.  There were extra decorations and displays put up to celebrate the occasion.

With the holiday we also found today to be the better day to make our family calls home for the week.  It is always so fun to hear the reports from each of our grandchildren on the things they have been doing. We may still have to Skype or FaceTime with some of our grandchildren occasionally after our mission just so they can share their fun days with us.

Because this was a long holiday break it also was the perfect time for the Y.SA Conference.  All the Young Single Adults in the entire country gather to Phnom Penh once a year for a major two day activity. Today's events included social time and registration (write their name on a lanyard for a name tag). The American Ambassador to Cambodia, William A. Heidt, gave a presentation encouraging education. Following his address the entire group moved out to the back parking lot for a dance and catered dinner. There were four groups that put on presentations to give a variety of entertainment to the evening.

Our role as Senior Missionaries at this event was totally to be support. We helped hand out lanyards and give direction to where events were taking place. One of our favorite parts of support was being able to rub shoulders with so many wonderful young people who have become our friends. We are surprised by how many come ask if we remember them. They remember us clearly from our visit to their province many months ago. Then there are those who we have come to love that are in our Institute class, or those who attend the wards we are assigned. The two young women Sister Oveson comforted on Mother's day made sure they came and gave her hugs today. It was so good to see them smile.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Self-Reliance Banners For YSA Conference

This morning just as we got to the main Plaza that we walk around Sister Oveson spotted Sister Thurston ahead of us. With a little shout she turned around and waited for us to catch up. It is always a treat to visit with the other Senior Missionaries, she walked with us half way around the plaza before leaving us for the rest of her route.

Today we Skyped with Sister Roberts in Hong Kong and tried to Skype with Elder & Sister Harrison in Malaysia. The Harrisons live in an area where their internet connection is very poor. They have trouble getting into the Team Meetings and SRS Missionary Meetings. We were connected with them for about twelve minutes when it failed and we could not get reconnected. Elder & Sister Harrison have been in Malaysia since last August and are serving for twenty-three months also. They are from Meridian Idaho. They have nine children and fifty grandchildren. They are a wonderful couple that are a great example to us and those in their area.

We have been preparing for the YSA Conference this weekend and things are really coming together. Phanna went and picked up the large banners, two feet by five feet four inches, today and they turned out really great. They are ones that we can use in the future as well and they were really cheap only $16 a piece, including the stands. We thought that they looked so good that we decided to make them our picture for tonight.

Phnom Penh can be a very dirty city, with all of the construction going on and with no rain. Our car is parked in our apartment garage for more than half the day and the other half is at the Service Center. It is amazing how dirty it gets in less than two weeks. The car wash that we usually take it to has been closed for remodel but was back open today so we took our car to be washed. If nothing else it may encourage it to rain just to ruin the wash job. They do a very good job inside and out for only $3. That same job back home would probably be $20.


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Listen to the Rain

Today went something like this:

  • Wake up early and take a morning walk around the monument
  • Google hangout with Chris, Melissa & Lizzy
  • Answer emails
  • Skype with Elder and Sister Chandler in Hong Kong 
  • Get things ready for the Cambodia Country YSA Conference
  • Early lunch of jam, peanut butter and nutella sandwiches
  • Web conference meeting with the Asia Area Self-Reliance team
  • Read scriptures
  • Work on projects 
  • More emails
  • Listen to the rain ... wait, "Is it really raining?" 
The rain didn't last for long and it left the car looking dirty, but the air was much cleaner, and the humidity climbed in a hurry. We were even content to have puddles to jump over to get to the car. It was surprising how a little rain had seemed to reduce the traffic for the .5 km drive through evening rush hour traffic. We won't mind if it rains again tomorrow. Cambodia needs the rain. Even though we had a little rain today, Cambodia still needs prayers for rain.

We were quite content to go home to our apartment, eat our "take-away" leftovers from last night's dinner, and spend the evening doing laundry and reading a book. 

Our photos show some of the preparations around the monument getting ready for the King's birthday.  This month there are holidays almost every week.  Also today Sameth started a Self-Reliance group in the conference room of the Service Center. It took him longer than he expected, but this will be good for him and for the seven who came to his Education for Better group. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Khmer Love Khmer

Before we moved to the Service Center we got ourselves invited, by asking, to the monthly Area Presidency Devotionals. After our move to the Service Center we started to attend the weekly Service Center Devotionals. We are now just part of the weekly rotation of assignments, and today it was Elder Oveson's turn to conduct. He tried hard to start on time until we got to the opening hymn and realized that the one listed on the chart for today was used last week, nobody knew the one that was suppose to be for last week. It took three or four minutes to find a hymn that everyone knew well enough to sing in both English and Khmer. At least we tried to start on time.

First thing this morning we went to the tire store to get another screw out of a different tire. This one only took less than ten minutes, but while one person fixed that tire we had someone else check the air pressure on all of the others. With the extra service the price was $2.00 today. Last time our Cambodian friends were surprised that we got the Cambodian price instead of a higher one, today they did get a little more out of us.

One advantage of being at the Service Center we are more likely to see more of the other missionaries on a regular basis. Today the VanBrocklins had to come into the Finance Department to take care of some business. It was good to see them and catch up on what they have been doing.


Elder Oveson had so many meetings last Saturday that by time he got home we did not want to brave the traffic to go out to eat for Mothers Day. Last night we had to come home early for our Skype Self-Reliance Group and decided that we were home and wanted to stay home. Tonight we braved the traffic to go to a Bavarian Restaurant, named Tell, for some Schnitzel. It is always good and there is enough for a second meal with the leftovers, called "take away" here.

Our picture for tonight is a collage of scenes from our driving about and walks. We realize that the children of Cambodia are often our focal point, whether on the street or a moto. So often we are afraid for them as we see them standing on the moto or sitting on a curb. The other picture was a beautiful sticker on a van that we were following. One part says "Khmer Love Khmer."  

Monday, May 9, 2016

Miscellaneous Monday

We thought we were done posting walk pictures for a while, but today gave some new head-scratcher pictures to post. As we leave our apartment at around 6:00 a.m. we realize we wake up earlier than many people. We are just surprised by how many literally sleep on the sidewalk, or string their hammock across the sidewalk. The more surprising sidewalk sleeper was what would be called Barrang (a caucasian). He had changed position during the half hour interval of our walk, so we figured he wasn't dead. Then just as we were going around the corner we encountered a toilet which held a prominent place in front of the office supply store.

We often see broom vendors, but this morning they seemed to be out in force. Not only did we see them carried on a shoulder yoke, or the one carrying the load of brooms on her head, but we also encountered a women at the park who was making them.

After running an errand this morning we found another screw embedded in one of our tires. Since it still looked fully inflated and today had a tight schedule, we decided we will just have to make another stop at the tire store for a repair. The tire store is between our apartment and the office, so we should be okey to stop by there in the morning.

Tonight we had our Skype call with Sister My in Vietnam. We missed our call last week as she was invited to travel with President and Sister Hassell (the mission president & his wife) and a few others to some of the remote areas of the country. They were making connections with members who had joined the church in Cambodia or one of the branches in Vietnam, then moved to the more remote areas of the country. Sister My said this was a marvelous trip. They were able to make contact with some of these members and she felt like some of the contacts were quite miraculous. We have enjoyed our visits with My so much that we told her when we have finished the Self-Reliance course in two more weeks we may have to call her once in a while just to visit.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Our Second Mothers Day in Cambodia

Today was our second Mothers Day in Cambodia. Last year one of the wards we attend made a big deal out of Mothers Day and the other one did not even mention it. This year at least both of them made sure that Mothers Day was celebrated in their own way.

At Steung Mean Chey 3rd Ward today there were two speakers, the first talked about the importance of goal setting. The second speaker was President Touch of the Stake Presidency and he gave a very good talk on honoring mothers and women. Then in Sunday School they brought in a gift bag for each of the sisters with a wrap around skirt and they also brought in a large cake to share with everyone.

The Chaktomuk Ward decided to postpone their scheduled speakers and to call upon Young Single Adults, including one of the Sister Missionaries, to talk about their mothers. One of the YSA shared a touching story about the day that his mother was killed in a auto accident. Then after Sacrament they gave out red roses and banana cake to the sisters. Sister Oveson ended up with four red roses.

Even though we are on the other side of the world from our family, Sister Oveson ended up having to do some mothering or grand-mothering with a couple of YSA recent converts in Steung Mean Chey. They needed a shoulder to cry on and she has a great one for that. They are both the only members in their families, which is very common here, and needed to be told that they are doing great and that they were loved.

We also attended a convert baptism after the Steung Mean Chey 3rd Ward. Bishop Chan Pho performed the baptism for a sister that is in her late thirties to early forties. It is always great to participate in those convert baptisms. Because of the baptism we only had time to catch a quick snack between the two wards, but it was well worth a small sacrifice for us.


Saturday, May 7, 2016

Skype is for Senior Missionaries and Grandkids

One of our favorite things to do every week is to visit with our family on Skype or FaceTime. This happens Saturday mornings as soon as we can get home from our Institute class.

Our first call had a slight technical difficulty. We could see them, but they could only see a black screen from us. So we had them call us back. Same result. We even changed from FaceTime to Skype. Same. We finally just visited with them without the video on their end.

We rebooted the computer before the other calls, which seemed to correct the problem and we were able to visit. It is so fun to see who are the Photo-Bombers and who tries to avoid the camera. That can be different people each week. The 3 year old is the most consistent camera hog. The 13 hour difference makes our morning their bedtime. The toddler loves to wave hello to us, and says "Love You" as we hang up.  The older grands have their drama to report, or simply avoid the camera. In any case we love these wonderful grandchildren and are happy for technology that allows us to keep in touch with these loved ones who are growing up so fast.

Our Institute class attendance was down a little this week. There were 14 who attended, but we had a wonderful discussion on Obedience Brings Blessings & about the importance of the fall of Adam & Eve. This afternoon Elder Oveson had meetings while Sister Oveson worked on projects at the apartment.

A couple weeks ago in our Skype call with one of the Self-Reliance Senior Missionary couples they shared something that they do that we decided to try. Each night at the end of the day they watch a talk from the last General Conference. Even though we always watch, read and study the talks from General Conference, we had not thought about a daily dose of General Conference. We have been doing it every night and it is a great idea. Jut a thought that you may want to consider to end the day on a wonderful note.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Missionaries Young and Old serving in Cambodia and India

The weather in Cambodia is hot and humid. We have had a few times lately when we thought we just might melt. We are very appreciative of air conditioners and fans. One drawback of the hot weather is the instability of the power grid.

Today was a busy day getting things wrapped up for the week. We went to Zone Training Meeting this morning. We enjoy seeing how well these young missionaries take charge and teach each other. They were adapting quite well to the fact that the internet was not working today. Then just before the break, the power went out. The temperature today was about 102* with a feels like temperature of about 110*. It didn't take very many minutes with no air conditioning and everyone was melting. We stuck it out for a while, be we figured we would be better off in our office with air conditioning and a fan today.

This afternoon we had the opportunity of making a Skype call to India. Elder and Sister Little are serving in Vinak, about two hour flight from Hyderabad. Elder and Sister Little have a large area where they serve. India is significantly larger than Cambodia, so they do more travel than we do. They use public transportation or taxis to get around. We commented that if Cambodia had better public transportation we probably wouldn't be driving here.

We came home this afternoon to find the wedding tent on our block was attracting lots of people and vehicles in our little alley. We made our way to the parking garage and chose to walk to Lucky's Supermarket for treats for our institute class tomorrow. Then we took another walk to get dinner. We were glad we didn't have to try to get in and out with the car, even if we were plenty warm with the walk. We really could use some rain.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Packages From Home Are Always a Delight

We feel that the most important thing that we do as Self-Reliance Missionaries is to support the local staff. We try to be the wind beneath their wings. There is a YSA Conference coming up on the 13th and 14th of May that Self-Reliance will be one of the booths that they can come to and learn. Sister Oveson has been woking with Phanna and Elder Oveson has been working with Sameth. We can come up with a format and wording in English, but they then have to translate it into Cambodian. We are very close on our two handouts ready.

This afternoon the full-time employee at the Mission Office brought us a nice surprise: a package from home. We had not yet started watching for it because it only left Utah about ten days ago, so it was a very pleasant surprise. We try and ration out the treats that they send, since this one will have to last until our two daughters come in about two months. The best gift from home was a photo book of our whole family put together by Marla, our youngest daughter. There was also a photo magnet, nuts, Mint and Almond M&Ms, Girl Scout Cookie Thin Mints, Sweet & Salty Granola Bars, bouillon cubes, baby hats (for gifts), contact solutions, prescription eye drops and a pant hanger.

As we turned on to our little street coming home we were greeted by another street tent. Fortunately the driveway into the parking was before the tent so we made it in alright. When they first put the tents up it is impossible to tell if it is funeral or wedding, the basic tent is white. Later they put a trim of black for a funeral or bright colors for a wedding. Either way we will most likely have an early wake up call in the morning when the music and chatting starts. We usually get up at 5:30 to get ready and go on our walk, maybe they will be kind and wait until then to get going.


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

What an Interesting Day!

Today seemed to start pretty normal, if there is such a thing. We got up and took our walk then headed out for the office. We should have realized it was not normal when the road to the Service Center was blocked with a tent (wedding variety), requiring a trip around the block, a squeeze past a barricade and a line of motos, just to get to the office and find the power was still off. We were told to go home.

Since our apartment is not far from the office this was not a big problem. Besides, we were scheduled for a Skype call with a senior couple in India and we could do that from home, as well as some of our other tasks. Then we received an email to reschedule the call with India. Oh well, we will get to know Elder and Sister Little later.  Late morning we received an email that the power was back on. We figured at that point we might as well have lunch before going back.

This afternoon was full of various tasks. We are trying to get things ready for a Self-Reliance presentation at a YSA Conference next week. We also needed to do preparations for our Institute class for Saturday.

This afternoon we also had one more senior couple Skype call with Elder and Sister Ricks who are serving in Thailand. We are enjoying this part of our assignment. They are from Rexburg Idaho and Elder Ricks is part of the family that started Ricks College, which is now BYU-Idaho. They are a great couple and will be a true blessing to Self-Reliance Services in Thailand. We are thrilled to get to know so many wonderful people.

Before we finished at the office Samnang, the Service Center Manager, asked for ten minutes to give our opinion about some things he is working on.  Let's just say it was more like an hour, but we had a good visit. We are grateful to feel we can contribute a little in many ways.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

We Love The Sister Missionaries

This morning as we were on our walk we heard a friendly greeting from behind us, Sister Thurston was out for her morning exercise as well. She was doing her morning jog and walk, and slowed down to our walk to talk for a few minutes. Elder Thurston is a biker and was out on a ride. It is always good to see the other Senior Missionaries during the day, even early in the morning.

We normally do our Self-Reliance staff meeting on Monday, but with yesterday being a holiday it had to float to today instead. We had donuts left over from yesterday, which was a good treat for this meeting. In the meeting we discussed the month end reports and that we have to get ready for the YSA Conference which is on the 14th. We will have a Self-Reliance display to talk to the YSA about PEF loans and the Self-Reliance Groups. Sister Oveson worked on the design for a bookmark to give out and Elder Oveson worked up a handout for PEF. We will have it done by the end of the week.

While we were in our staff meeting we had three sister missionaries come by for a brief visit. We had loaned the Steung Mean Chey sisters our hand mixer so that they could make marshmallows. They were bringing it back,  along with a sample of their project. We met Sister Lines formally, we have been in meetings and gatherings with her in the past, and Sister Hall who is serving in Siem Reap. We love the young missionaries, they are new eternal friends.

The power at the Service Center went out and the back up generator was broken, but we had our lap-top and iPad that we could work on. Sister Oveson asked one of the Accounting Department employees, who didn't have anything to do, to help her on here Romanizing the Hymns project. (They edited Three more hymns.) We finally gave up and went home, it was way to hot to just wait it out.


Monday, May 2, 2016

A Busy & Productive Holiday

May 1st is another holiday in Cambodia. (Of course! We say they never don't have holidays here.) With the 1st falling on Sunday, the holiday observance was moved to Monday, thus the Service Center was closed and we planed a different schedule for our day.

We still got up early and took our walk, followed by a call with Grant Wayne Boam from Church Headquarters Self-Reliance. Brother Boam is our HQ contact in our role as contact couple in Asia. We had a wonderful visit and learned much about our responsibilities. We look forward to working with Brother Boam and reporting to him every month.

We decided to take advantage of not having to work at the office today and run errands, as well as taking the sister missionaries we work with in Steung Mean Chey and Chaktomuk out to lunch. As we started down the road we heard the car making a ticking noise, coming from the left rear. As we made our first stop we discovered the tire was very low and would need immediate attention. Fortunately there was a tire store just down the road. Upon examination it was discovered that the tire had about a 3 inch screw, which would have explained the ticking sound. It took about fifteen minutes and cost 5,000 Riel ($1.25), and we were on our way!

Our travels today took us to Steung Mean Chey to pick up Sisters Sheffield and Gallahad, so of course we had to take photos of some of the unique sights. The pink and green look like cabinets. Not sure which road the car from California came in on, but the van was definitely over-full.

Our lunch companions were Sisters Gallahad, Sheffield, Phon, and Larsen. We are so thankful for the opportunity to get to know them even better. They have been such faithful translators for us each week, lunch was the least we could do.

Our Monday evening Skype call with My in Vietnam didn't happen today. She received a better offer from President Hassell, the mission president, asking if she would travel with a senior missionary and the mission president to visit members in more distant areas. We thought those visits were worth a delay in our ME Group.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Pray For Rain In Cambodia

In our weekly email to our friends and family we mentioned that Cambodia has been really hot and dry, so please pray for rain for Cambodia. Today was Fast Sunday and it was interesting to hear the topic of it being so hot and needing rain brought up in both meetings we attended. We made the need for rain as part of our Fast.

There are areas of Cambodia where the wells and safe drinking water are getting very low. When the wells are dry they have to drink what ever water they can find, which often is not necessarily safe for them to drink. The month of April was a very hot month, with very little rain here in Phnom Penh. The weather forecast called for a high chance of rain Thursday, Friday, Saturday and this morning, but no rain came. Finally just before 6:00p.m.  it started a good rain shower. We had a YSA Conference Meeting to go to, but we were still so grateful for the rain that it did not bother us at all.

Today was about a ten hour day for us, when you include the travel time. We left our apartment about 7:20 to make it to Steung Mean Chey 3rd Ward for the 8:00 a.m. block. It took us until about 11:30 to get back to our apartment. Then  we headed to the Chaktomuk Ward at 12:35 p.m. and we got back from there about 3:20. This evening we had the YSA Committee Meeting to finish planning for the upcoming YSA Conference. We were gone just over two hours to that. It is good to be busy and well used as we serve here.

Our picture for today is a collage of traffic as we went to the various meetings. The picture in the top left corner was an attempt to show the rain, if you squint just right, you may be able to tell. Often we joke that we see someone carrying a ladder on a moto every day, so we included one again tonight. It always interesting to see the street vendors with their wares on their head. We have been in country for fourteen months and the things that we see in traffic are still fascinating.