Friday, September 30, 2016

Missionaries, Movies and Krispy Kreme

With the holiday we did not go to the office, but we did have some things lined up for today to keep us busy, for at least part of the time. We had Skype calls scheduled with the Self-Reliance Services Missionaries in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Our call with Elder & Sister Chen in Taiwan went off without any hitches at all. We had a great chat with them and they are doing amazing things to help the work move forward. When we tried to connect with Elder & Sister Chandler in Hong Kong the call kept freezing and dropping, after several attempts we decided to try again on Monday afternoon at 1:30 p.m.

Durrng Pchum Ben a major portion of the residents of Phnom Penh leave and go back to their home province. That makes it very hard for most of the missionaries to have any effective work at all. The missionaries were encouraged to spend a couple extra hours today deep cleaning their apartments, inspections are next week. Also, President and Sister Christensen decided to allow the missionaries to gather for a film night at the South Stake Center. We volunteered to host, which meant we made sure that there was a movie for them to watch and that we picked up the donuts for the treats.

We left just before 3:00 to pickup the donuts and set up the room for a starting time of 4:30. We had downloaded Ephraim's Rescue for them to see. That was a very good choice, since there was no real romantic scenes and it showed the power of faith and the priesthood. After the gathering four of the Elders approached us about giving them a ride home. They live up North almost to the airport, so they had taken a Tuk-Tuk to the church. We took pity on them and took them home.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Morning Rain and the Quiet City

We commented recently that in the months we have been walking each morning it had yet to rain during the 6-8 a.m. time of our scheduled walks. There had been rain off and on over night. We were up early and found the skies overcast and gray. By halfway around the park we started to feel tiny raindrops. It never amounted to much more than a drizzle, but we can no longer say it doesn't rain during morning walk-time.

The office was very quiet today with several of the staff already away for the Pchum Ben holiday, which starts tomorrow. The Distribution Center was closed, and all around there were a significantly lower number of visitors to the Service Center. 

Because of how quiet things were we felt like we got a lot done. We are beginning to prepare for next week's Institute class, using the new "The Eternal Family" course. These lessons are based on "The Family: A Proclamation to the World".

Not only was the office quieter, but the city is as well. Mid morning we took a walk to the mission home and found businesses were already closed for the long holiday, or just moving their gates into position to close early. All the little sidewalk diners were closed, which made it much easier to get down the narrow roads on our way home.

Pchum Ben, or "Ancestor's Day" is one of the biggest holidays of the year. Everything shuts down almost like Thanksgiving or Christmas back home, without being so commercialized. There are many street shops, however, with gift baskets full of goodies. We understand they are to take to the Wat to offer food for your ancestors. In our opinion, doing Family History work would be a more productive way to celebrate Ancestor Day.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Dignitaries and Street Sweepers

The banner in yesterday's blog was a preamble to the preparations to welcome the dignitaries that we saw on our walk today. Cambodia sits in a very interesting position, there are about 15 million people in Cambodia, but you have Vietnam on one side with 90 million and Thailand on the other side with 67 million. They have learned the importance of trying to show respect to both of their bigger neighbors.

Today as we got to the Independence Monument there were a number of military officials in their dress uniforms. It was obvious that they were setting up to welcome some important dignitaries. As we walked down the park to the King's Father's Monument they were rolling out the red carpet and had their rifles standing in a ceremonial criss cross.

Phanna was given a number of assignments that Chad wanted completed this week after the Self-Reliance Manager Conference last week. For Phanna that meant they had to be done today, since he is taking tomorrow off and Friday is a holiday when the Service Center is closed. He asked for our help again today to finish the last report, but he did not plan on members dropping by that needed help finding jobs. By the time we sat down to work on it, he only had an hour and a half. We were all amazed we finished it just in time for him to leave.

We are also trying to wrap up some loose ends from being gone last week and moving forward with our responsibilities with Self-Reliance. We have our Missionary WebEx next week that we have to be ready for. We want to share as much as we can with the other Senior Missionaries so that they can help their managers. We have definitely learned that the sum of the whole group working together is far greater than the individual efforts added together.

It is raining hard again this evening. Cambodia has been blessed with more frequent rains than the heavy downpours that we had last year. Let's hope that the rains continue, last year's draught was very hard on Cambodia.

Our picture today includes more pictures of the street sweepers and someone asleep at the park with his motorcycle helmet on.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Self-Reliance

So much of what happens in Cambodia is different than in the Western world. Taking our morning walk is often a time to point out some of those differences. We have mentioned before that the streets around the park are swept daily, however it is a rare sight to find an entire broom brigade of street sweepers walking through the park. No need for the big street-sweeper trucks in this city.

Fresh fish, anyone? These large fish being sold on the edge of the park were still moving. They couldn't get much fresher than that!

This week the people are preparing for Pchum Ben, or Ancestor's day. The celebration is about as important to these people as Thanksgiving to us, thus we see the vendors with something extra. By the end of the week we expect the city will be very quiet with many having gone to the provinces for the celebrations.

The cargo on the moto is a cage wrapped with a scarf to calm the birds inside. During some of the major holidays (especially Pchum Ben) people buy little birds (probably sparrows) and release them at the Wat. We figure that is where this cage of birds was headed.

The banner is welcoming leaders from Vietnam to Phnom Penh. There are usually barricades around the Independence Monument, but they were all gone today, probably due to this visit.

 As General Conference is broadcast this week we plan to listen for messages on Self-Reliance. There are many indications that this is becoming a key focus for the leaders. We are excited to be on the front lines in this initiative. The Self-Reliance  materials are not just for the developing nations. There is so much available to help no matter where you are.  We highly recommend My Foundation and all the Self-Reliance videos and Manuals. We invite all who read our blog to click on these links to view these inspired materials to help in our individual lives.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Women's Session General Conference

It was so good to be back in Phnom Penh and our daily routine. After a week disruption in our walk schedule, we had some stiff muscles that needed to stretch. They felt much better after our lap around the park.

We also appreciated being back at the office. Emails had been handled during our travels, so we had a surprisingly low number of new correspondence to take care of. Our weekly staff meeting was a must, and it felt good to be back to work together. Sameth had the office to himself, which also meant he also had extra work since this is the time of year students prepare to go back to school and need PEF loans. He was happy to have us back as well.

Sister Christensen had a great idea for P-day today to invite the Sister Missionaries who are in the city to come to the mission home this afternoon and enjoy the Women Session of General Conference.  Sister Oveson and Sister Thurston decided to join the group and hear the inspired words from our leaders. There is something about watching together instead of just listening on your own.

There were several messages that spoke directly to us as missionaries. We especially appreciated President Uchtdorf's message about missionaries serving in Germany who decided to knock on every door of a four story apartment building, with no success until the "fourth floor, last door". That door was opened by a young girl named Harriett, who convinced her mother to listen to the message.

As the session concluded one of the sisters made the comment that she really didn't want to have to wait another week (or two) for more conference.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Non-Members Who Just Show Up At Church

It was so nice to be back to the Steung Mean Chey 3rd Ward and Chaktomuk Ward today. We only missed last week, but it seemed like it was way too long since we saw our friends in both wards. We are always greeted so warmly and treated so kindly by the members of all ages, from babies to grandmas and grandpas. The young missionaries change Wards/Branches that they attend every six weeks to six months. With the Senior Missionaries they generally are assigned to a unit and leave them there the whole time that they are in country. Because of that we really grow close to those that we go to Church with and truly miss them, even when we miss just one week.

We had two very interesting experiences with non-members today, that involved both wards.

Just as Priesthood at Steung Mean Chey 3rd Ward was ready start the Elders came in with a man from Nigeria asking if Elder Oveson could tell him where the International Branch met.  When he heard that it was fifteen minutes away in the opposite direction from where he lived, he decided to stay and have Elder Stringham translate for him. He thoughtfully listened to the lesson and then asked, can I ask a question? He wanted to know what the mission of the Church was and if we believed in the trilogy. The bishop immediately assigned Elder Oveson to answer those questions. He was satisfied by the answer and is more than willing to meet with the Elders to get other questions answered, He said this felt good and he wanted to know more.

At the Chaktomuk Ward there was man that showed up for the whole block who is not a member. Last week he went to the 8:00 a.m. meetings in that building. The Assistants to the President were going to try and find out which area that he lives in and get some missionaries in to see him as well.

As we drove down one of the major roads on our way to church today we noticed that they had taken the center dividers out. We are sure they will be replaced by concrete barricades. Not having dividers just invites the traffic to sprawl into the other direction's lanes.

Also in our picture for today is an update on the building across from our apartment. It now looks like they have furniture on the top floor, so they are beginning to move in and use it. We have watched it progress from a shell to basically finished over the last seven months.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Recovering from "Vacation"

Having arrived home about midnight last night it was a good thing there was no Institute class this morning. Exhaustion had set in so we slept until 7:00 a.m.

After breakfast there were Skype and FaceTime calls to the family. We spoke with all five of our daughters and their families, which is always so fun catching up on what is happening in their lives. Our youngest granddaughter did not seem interested in Skyping at all until we started to sing Happy Birthday to her dad. That brought her right over, not only singing along, but then several more songs.

Since we had been gone for a week there were extra loads of laundry to do. This afternoon it was good to stay home. All those shirts we washed also had to be ironed (9 for Elder and 1 for Sister).

Likewise the grocery list was longer than it has been in quite a while. We cooked several pieces of chicken in the crock pot for fast meals in coming days, as well as prepared Sunday Dinner today. With having six hours of church meetings on the Sunday schedule it works much better to have it prepared ahead.

Having spent the day at home we gave the camera a well deserved rest today, since we took a lot of pictures last week. So here are a few of those bonus pictures from our Thailand adventure. The sign was at a Wat and reads, "PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB OTHERS WITH THE NOISE".

Friday, September 23, 2016

Goodbye Thailand

Our last day of our Thailand adventure was much less structured. We didn't have any specific scheduled, which allowed us to sleep later (6:30 instead of 5: 00 or 5:30), talk with family and pack our luggage. Since checkout time was not until noon we worked on our blog for today and our weekly letter home.

We had not explored any of the area around the hotel so we decided to take a walk while we waited the time to head to the airport. We found another little market area that was tucked back in which had the feel of a real local market and not just for tourist. Sister Oveson found some fabric that she liked for a good price. It will go home with us for skirts for some of our granddaughters. Another picture in our collage shows a little 7-11 that was tucked in among some other shops. You can also see that they have a problem with lots and lots of hanging wires.

We have enjoyed the nice consistently warm showers, breakfast buffets, carpet on the floor and softer bed. The cities are much cleaner and the traffic is not anything like that in Cambodia. Still we are more than ready to go back to Cambodia, that is home for now, it is where we are called to serve and where we have made and have so many wonderful friends. Thailand is a nice place to visit, and we hope that  it helped recharge our batteries for the next four months.

There are no direct flights from Chiang Mai to Phnom Penh, so we had to fly back to Bangkok, then we had a three and a half hour layover before our one hour and ten minute flight home. We were blessed to be on Bangkok Air, the seats are a little wider and they definitely have more leg room. To avoid having to check a bag, we only brought one carry on each, which were fairly stuffed. We were given some souvenirs from the conference and bought a couple of other small items, so the suitcases bulging.When we got to the airport the one suitcase was to heavy for a carryon so we had to check it anyway.

It is late, but we are back home in Cambodia after a wonderful week in Thailand.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Exploring Chiang Mai Thailand

Meetings ended yesterday and the flight to return to Phnom Penh is tomorrow afternoon. Today was a bonus day for our trip to Chiang Mai Thailand. Elder and Sister Ricks gave us names and contact information for a couple who was willing to take us around Chiang Mai for the day. Brother Pong and Sister Noi met us at our hotel just after 9:00 this morning and took us to several destinations throughout the city, allowing us to see the city in a way we would never have done on our own.

First we visited two temples or Wats. Like Cambodia, about 96% of the people in Thailand are Buddhist. There is a long Buddhist history in the country, there are many Wats. There is a lot of gold used in the Thai temples. We spent time walking around Wat Phra Singh Woramahawihan, then the temple and grounds at Wat Chedi Luang Worawihan.

Leaving the Wats, Pong and Noi next took us to visit a market. There were some similarities to the markets in Cambodia, but there were also some stark contrasts. Foods and soft goods were neatly displayed and this market was very clean and organized. There were no strong smells around the foods and meats, and no need to rush from the food area. We bought Sister Oveson a beautiful new skirt and Elder Oveson selected a set of pillow covers for our home. We were happy for this shopping experience allowing us to see the difference between Khmer and Thai markets.

For lunch, our hosts suggested a restaurant owned by a family whose son is a Church member and Young Men's President in the branch. This was a great idea. We had a wonderful lunch and visit with this young man. Lunch for the four of us was delicious and was only $7.

Our next stop was Streamworks fly tying business, owned by Rainy Riding and Ellen Clark. What a pleasant surprise to be able to visit with Rainy. We got to know Rainy and Ellen in Cambodia where they had a factory, Flyworks, until earlier this summer. Ellen is now in the U.S. and Rainy will be returning home in just a few days. It was good to see their operations in Thailand.

The number one industry in Chiang Mai is tourism. Somehow even the factories and artisan work shops have become recommended tourist destinations.  Elder and Sister Ricks had recommended we visit an umbrella factory. In about a half an hour we saw the process of assembling the typical oriental parasols as well as fans. The products were then enhanced with amazing art work. At one station there was an artist, so for less than $2 Sister Oveson now has a custom phone cover.

Carved wooden elephants were the subject of our last stop. This artisan craft shop was off the trail, but thanks to Pong and Noi asking questions we found just such a place. There meticulous carvings of several elephants made from one piece of wood, panels of elephant scenes, and individual elephants.  Pong and Noi decided this shop should be included on other Senior Missionary tours in the future. By the time we left the elephant shop it was quitting time. We returned to our hotel and said goodbye to our new friends.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Thailand Friends

Over the last eighteen plus months we have been part of many WebEx meetings with the Self-Reliance Managers, but it was different when we actually met them in person. We easily identified each of them by name as we first greeted them, but we have really gotten to know each of them so much better over the last three days. Before they were Self-Reliance Services Asia Team Members, now they are more than that, they are friends.

We have felt of their kindness, desires, faithfulness, dedication and willingness in so many ways as we have participated in these Manager Meetings. Some have been Managers for over two years, when it was launched here in Asia, and others have only been Managers for five months. We have watched them learn together, eat lots of food together and even visit sights together. It has been a true joy interacting with them and understanding that what they are doing is so much more than just a job. We are part of the fulfillment of the Lord's revelation to living Prophets, Apostles and Seventy in bringing this initiative to the world. What an awesome opportunity.

At the conclusion of the meetings we took some time to reflect upon what we need to take back from these meetings to each of our areas. Since we were here representing the other SRS Missionaries we need to go and share with them what we have been taught. We came away with a lot better understanding of what is going on and new ideas to try.

Elder and Sister Ricks were the first to leave to catch their flight back to Bangkok around 3:30. We wrapped up the meetings just before 5:00 p.m. when the next group headed for the airport including Phanna and Bobbi. After cleaning up Chad and John headed for their flights. Others are flying out either later tonight or tomorrow morning. Then it will just be us here for a couple of days to take in the sights for a day and a half before we head back.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Our Adventures in Thailand Continue

Day two of our Chiang Mai conference was a success. It seems no matter where we go there are connections to be made with the people we meet. This morning the meeting began with a presentation from a representative from BYU Hawaii, Keni Kalama, who was taking advantage of having seven managers together in the Asia Area.

This morning was also our presentation to the Managers, along with Elder and Sister Ricks. We discussed our role as Self-Reliance Missionaries working with the SRS Managers. We had a very good discussion.  Lunch was another adventure. We were shown how to make a Thai dish called Som Tam, which is very similar to food we have eaten in Cambodia. 

At the conclusion of our meetings today, we climbed into vans and Keni Kalani joined us for an outing to the Doi Suthep Temple. In visiting with him during our drive up a windy mountain road, we quickly found a common friend. Sister Thurston had been an adviser his senior year in high school, and they had become good friends.

The Doi Suthep Temple sits on top of a mountain overlooking the city of Chiang Mai. This was a narrow, winding, mountain road. It has been raining the past few days so the trees and foliage were very green. We have seen more mountains and jungle here than we see in Phnom Penh. The houses and buildings are not so closely place, and Thailand has been refreshingly clean and orderly.

Dinner tonight was traditional Thai food. One thing about this trip is there has not been a lack of good food to eat. Our group included Nathan from Thailand, Bobby from Malaysia, Elder and Sister Ricks from Thailand, Chad Furness Area Manager from Taiwan, Baatara from Mongolia, Phanna from Cambodia, Ricky from Indonesia, Steve from Taiwan, John from India, Leon from Hong Kong, and us (Sister and Elder Oveson) from Cambodia. What a great day!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Chiang Mai Thailand Meetings

Two years ago as we were anticipating where we would be serving our mission SouthEast Asia was not even on our radar. Now we have not only been blessed to serve in Cambodia, but we have also been blessed to visit Thailand. We were invited to visit Thailand to participate in the Asia Aria Self-Reliance Services Managers Meetings.

Those meetings started this morning at 9:00 at the local chapel. Today was an unusual day because two of the presentations were via Skype. The outgoing Operations Manager, Marco Lok, is in Bangkok attending a Finance Manager Conference, which is part of his new job. He did a half hour presentation on PEF Graduates With Better Jobs. Unfortunately the internet here in Thailand has times of instability and he got dropped off the call four or five times. We also had Jared Sasser, the Worldwide Manager for Self-Reliance Services present a portion from the Philippines where he is attending another conference. Again due to internet issues we lost him several times as well.

The training was very good today and we learned a lot that we will share with the other couples and try and use in Cambodia. Chad was the primary presenter today, but that is how it should be as the Area Manager.

Along with the training we had the opportunity to try new types of food today. Lunch was at a Vietnamese restaurant where they had pre ordered a variety of different dishes that were waiting for us as we got there. The only thing that looked familiar to us were the Spring Rolls, everything else was a new experience. We all went away very full.

This evening we went to a Chinese restaurant. We have three at the conference attendees that really know their Chinese food that did the ordering. We can now say that we have had Peking Duck, and they all said it was excellent and very authentic, including the crispy skin. Another dish that Chad really liked was the pigeon, served with the head, which is considered a delicacy. We have tried dishes with similar names as what we had this evening, like Spare Ribs, but those were not the same as true Chinese food we had tonight. We can now claim that we have eaten authentic Chinese food.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Sunday in Thailand

Traveling to a new country and being blessed to participate with the Saints is always a joy. There is always the concern of understanding the language and being able to participate and contribute. This morning Elder and Sister Khanakham picked us up from our hotel bright and early to travel across the city of Bangkok and attend meetings before our flight to Chiang Mai.

It was such a joy to hear more about the Church in Thailand from Elder Khanakham as he told about the growth of the Stakes and Wards. We arrived early, and got there just before the bishop. The building has recently become a stake center by adding stake offices across the parking lot. The grounds and building were clean and beautiful.

Before the meetings started Sister Khanakham made sure to find the full-time missionaries to come translate for us. There are two sets of Elders in this ward, and in talking with them we had connections with three of them. Elder Rogers is from Rocklin California and is a neighbor to the Meinzers who served as the LDS Charities couple. Elder Lindley is from Utah County, and his sister served in Cambodia. We met his parents a few months ago as his sister completed her mission. Then there was Elder Allen, who translated for us, is from Lindon Utah and knows Sister Collins who is currently serving in Cambodia.

Church was a good start for the day. The Khanakhams dropped us to the airport for our short flight to Chiang Mai in the North East part of Thailand. After settling in we were blessed to visit with Chad Furness, the Asia Area Self-Reliance Manager, and Elder and Sister Ricks, Self-Reliance Missionaries serving in Thailand, for dinner. We look forward to participating in the Self-Reliance Manager conference this week.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

A Bonus Day In Bangkok

Today has been a bonus day in many ways. We started our day teaching our Institute Class about studying the scriptures. It was the final class of this short five week course between the normal Cornerstone Courses that we have been teaching. We started the lesson with only seven participants there, but we ended with twenty total today. What a true bonus this short course has been for us and we hope for those who came.

After our Institute Class we headed for the airport for a 10:30 a.m. flight to Bangkok Thailand. At the last Phnom Penh South Stake Conference Elder Khanakham from Thailand had been assigned to preside. We had the privilege of driving him around to many of his stops and we had him eat lunch with us on Sunday. When we told him that we might be coming to Thailand he invited us to come early and visit with him and his wife.

They even picked us up at the airport and showed us around Bangkok. Without his invitation we would have just flown through Bangkok without experiencing any of the sights of the city. One of the stops was to a museum that has many of the beautiful carvings, silk embroidery, gold and silver craftsmanship, etc. in one of the King's former residences. Our favorite part was going to their home for dinner. They have a very nice home, the food was very delicious, but the company was even better. They even used sweet Basil picked fresh from their garden. We can truly say that we had authentic Thai food.

Friday, September 16, 2016

"Today Shouldn't Be Too Busy"

When someone says that today should not be too busy, and that there is nothing on the calendar except a Skype call, don't believe it! We took our usual morning walk, and saw the street sweepers (literally out with their broom and dustpan in the middle of the street). As soon as we got home we started a load of laundry so everything would be clean to pack this evening.

Because of our Thailand trip, our usual phone calls home needed to be move, so since this morning was not too busy, two calls to our children and grandchildren were made before we went to the office. It is amazing how the little ones have grown. How fun for us to see a toddler take advantage of her sister talking to us so she could claim the headphones.

The morning was spent taking care of a few last details before we are gone for a week to Thailand. What a pleasure to be interrupted by a visit of our friend, Bolinda from the translation department, with her new little guy, Daniel, who is already 2 months old. My how time flies!

Our afternoon Skype call to Malaysia was cancelled when we learned Elder and Sister Rasmussen returned home this week due to a 7 year old grandson's health. Their daughter has her hands full with this 7 year old, a 4 year old, and twins that are not quite 2. We will keep them in our prayers and hope for the best.

With computers shut down and the responsibility of filling the candy dish for the week being assigned to Sameth, we decided our commute home is much easier than the construction workers just down the street. The truck was completely full, yet they made room for a few more.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Preparing To Go To Thailand

About a year Sister Roberts was asked to help in contacting the Self-Reliance Services Missionaries in Asia. Elder and Sister Powell who had been the Contact Couple were headed home and with the transition to a new Area Manager and Sister Roberts having time, that became a natural for her. We thoroughly enjoyed our weekly chats with her. When we were asked to be the new Communication Couple we were told that we only needed to check in with each Self-Reliance Missionaries once a month. But the three of us decided we definitely needed to talk more often than that. Our day started with one of those Skype calls with Sister Roberts. She keeps us laughing and gives great advice for our calling.

We also had a Asia Area Operation Meeting today, which really means the Perpetual Education Fund Specialists, Managers for those countries, and the Missionaries. The numbers seemed down a lot for the meeting today. Chad, our Area Manager, and Steve, the new Operations Manager, were in Tokyo for training. There were several other managers and some missionaries that did not make it to this meeting. This was Marco's last Area Operation Meeting before he moves to a new department. It gave him a chance to say goodbye to everyone and for all of us to give him a hard time about leaving.

We are in the wrap up phase of getting ready to go to Thailand on Saturday. Our Bangkok stop solidified a lot today when Elder Khanakham told us that he would pick us up at the airport. The original plan was for us to meet him at the hotel, but he moved some of his plans around to pick us up. He is such a great and loving man, who is truly Christlike in many ways.

Today was an unusual day as far as rain. Most days it rains only once and then it is done. This afternoon we had a real hard rainstorm come through while we were at the office. Then this evening after our dinner it started to rain again. We have still been very fortunate to not have the rain spoil our morning walk.

We have been watching a building be remodeled down the street from our apartment during the last two or three months and have posted pictures a couple of times. Now they have a sign up letting us know that it is a Guest House. A Guest House is basically an inexpensive hotel with a shared bathroom.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Sunrise, Sunset, And A Full Day In Between

Our walk this morning gave us another beautiful golden sunrise. Coming around a corner we passed a man with a cart full of bananas. We often see him during our walks, and he mimes to us, asking if we would like bananas. Today he even said good morning. We are making progress!
 
Today was quite an unusual Wednesday as there were no scheduled meetings or Skype calls. The lack of office appointments gave us the excuse to add haircuts and errands to our own agenda. Elder Oveson walked down the street to the "$2 Gentleman's Hair Cut".  In all the months he has gone for haircuts to the same shop he has yet to get the same barber twice. Sister Oveson made an appointment to get her hair cut today at "The French Element" salon, with the same stylist, Jerome, who has cut her hair for close to a year now. It is significantly more than $2, but Jerome learned his trade in France  and is very good with scissors.

Sister Oveson's purse was getting so shabby and worn out, it desperately needed to be replaced. We wanted to buy some small tins for a little token of appreciation to the managers for the conference in Chiang Mai next week. These two shopping items required a quick trip to Central Market, where we managed to find exactly what we wanted and were finished shopping in about 30 minutes, which was pretty amazing.

Dr. and Sister Lind from Alpine, Utah were our visitors today. They are in Cambodia to do a tour training Neo-Natal Resuscitation. We met the Lind's about a year ago and they intended to return in 3-4 months from that visit. Cambodia red tape kept them from returning until now. Next month they will begin a mission, serving in the Jerusalem Center. They will be incredible!

As we were out and about on our errands Elder Oveson pointed out this group of workers tackling one of the huge bundles of wires, done in typical Khmer methods. At the end of the day we happened to look out to see the reds and golds of the sunset, which we almost missed getting a picture because of how quickly the colors bloomed and faded. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Tuesdays Happen

As we got up this morning the skies were dark and ominous, but we still got ready to take our walk. By time we were even half way down the block, the skies were a beautiful pink and full of color and they no longer looked threatening at all. If we had decided to try and sleep for an extra half hour we would have truly missed out. One thing that we try and do on our walk is be good representatives of the Lord. As we pass shops and moto dops we always greet them, and most greet us back. There are some that even go out of the way to make sure that they tell us suasdei, or hello. It is a joy to have made friends on our early morning walks.

When we arrived at the Service Center today we were excited to see two of our favorite Young Adult women, the Chin sisters. They were leaving today for the MTC in the Philippines for the next three weeks and then they will be back to serve here in Cambodia. Pharun was in our Institute class for most of the time while we have been here. Khenha came a couple of times also. They are originally from Battambang but have both been living in the South Stake area.

Today Sister Oveson was asked to conduct the Service Center Devotional, but as they got to the training they told us it didn't apply to us and we could leave if we wanted. They were talking about annual leave, we told them that we wanted annual leave and we wanted our pay doubled. We still decided that since we had so much to do that we would gladly accept the opportunity to opt out of the training portion.

This morning Sister Oveson worked on putting some final touches on our PowerPoint presentation for Thailand. We had a Skype call with Elder and Sister Ricks scheduled for 2:00 p.m. and we wanted to be ready for it. The Ricks also sent some changes to the slides in their portion that we incorporated into the presentation. We feel like we are now comfortable with what we will share.

About 3:30 we came home to watch a Leadership Devotional with Elder Bednar. It is way easier to watch at our apartment without any distractions. We will be discussing this video at the seminar next week.

Monday, September 12, 2016

A Very Productive Monday

With just a few short days before project deadlines, there is much to do this week. Today was very productive in working through some of those projects. We had a productive staff meeting, got a good start on our Institute lesson for Saturday, moved up a level on our PowerPoint preparations for the Manager Conference in Chiang Mai Thailand, completed some critical correspondence, and all-in-all had a great day.

This afternoon we had finished what we were working on and didn't want to start any new projects, so we left the office a little early in order to watch a video we were assigned to view before the Chiang Mai conference. We were glad we did that when the skies opened up for a good downpour.  We commented this morning that we have been walking every morning since we moved and have not been kept from our exercise because of rain. The forecast for tomorrow says there is a 70% chance of rain at 7:00 a.m., so we will have to wait and see if our luck holds.

Our photo is of our Cambodia Self-Reliance Services team which consists of Phanna, Sameth, Sister and Elder Oveson. Today was P-day for the young missionaries, which allows us the opportunity of greeting some of them as they visit the Service Center. These elders [top right] are the Vietnamese elders we have to thank for Rib Thursday. [Bottom Left] The other young man in our photo is a returned missionary who works at the Service Center. We recruited him to take our team photo, so we needed a picture of our Paparazzi! The other two photos were taken less than five minutes apart. It was crazy how fast the rain moved in. Looking out the window it almost looked like a winter storm and fog. Even the storms have their own beauty. We enjoyed the fresh clean air as the rains subsided. Happy we were home to be able to enjoy the storm.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

All In One Day in Cambodia

Last night we got a call from Sister Leavitt making sure that we were going to the Steung Mean Chey 3rd Ward today. There was a motive to her inquiry, she asked if we could pick up the Sister Missionaries on our way. Yesterday a moto had hit them while they were stopped waiting to cross the road. Sister Y was the one that took the direct hit but she is only a little scraped up, but Sister Peng got a very sprained ankle. You can see Sister Peng's wrapped ankle in the one picture. We were more than happy to give them a ride to a from church.

Today in the Steung Mean Chey 3rd Ward they were confirming two youth that were baptized yesterday. As they got ready to do the confirmations the bishop called Elder Oveson up to help again. This time he was not asked to do the confirmation, just be part of the circle. They get enough confirmations they are completely comfortable with them.

Also, at the Steung Mean Chey 3rd Ward we met a family, the Blimes, that had just moved to Cambodia two weeks ago from Florida. The wife is Cambodian so they decided to move here for a year. The husband is a software developer so he can really do his work anywhere in the world where there is Internet. Let's just hope that the Internet is stable enough for him. They plan to stay here for a year.

September is supposed to be one of the rainiest months of the year here in Cambodia. It has clouded up and rained some most days, but last night and today we got some real good down pours. We were very surprised last week when we had to cross the Mekong River and saw how full and dirty it was. They must be getting a lot more rain further North for it to be so full.

Today's collage has a picture of the Sister Missionaries with the recent converts and their mother, the Blimes family from Florida, the rain was heavy enough you could see the drops, the flower wreath sellers in their rain coats, a marching band we saw going down the road followed by a guy in a pizza box (we missed getting the pizza box) and a Tuk-Tuk stuffed with construction material. All in one day in Cambodia.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Saturday--Scripture Study--Skype--Symposium

Saturday has come and is almost gone again in Cambodia, yet today was far from a typical Saturday if there is such a thing. We had our Institute class this morning with 18 in attendance. The lessons we are covering for a few weeks are on Scripture Study, and today was Study Aids in the Scriptures. With all the PowerPoint presentations we have created in recent weeks, this became an excellent method of presenting information about using the "Tool-Box" of all the Study Aids. We had great participation, and we even learned a few new things we didn't know before. We also spent a few minutes discussing using the digital Study Aids on their mobile devices and LDS.org on their computers.

Our weekly Skype calls are such a treasure to us. During one call we were entertained by two grand daughters, a three year old showing us her ice cream cone (and face), and her five year old cousin who recited the "Builders" poem she learned during her first few weeks of Kindergarten. What a joy to visit with each of these precious little ones who are growing up so fast.

Elder Oveson was given a reprieve from his usual Saturday afternoon Stake Presidency meeting, which had been moved to Tuesday this week. Instead we spent the afternoon editing and writing documents and letters, getting groceries, and updating our blog. This evening was a Self-Reliance Symposium. The speakers were President Eng, the president of the North Stake, and President Veasna, president of the East District.

Friday, September 9, 2016

SRS Leadership Changes in Asia

One of the first visitors that trained us about Self-Reliance Service/Perpetual Education Fund here in Cambodia was Marco Lok. Marco is the Asia Area Operations Manager, which means he deals with the Perpetual Education Fund Specialists. He came and trained Sameth and Sampson, the PEF Specialist from India. We received an email last night letting us know that Marco has accepted another position as a Church Employee. We loves computers and there was a position for a Computer Analyst that opened up. Today we got another email letting us know that the Self-Reliance Manager in Taiwan will be the new Asia Area Operation Manager. They needed to move quickly because there is training next week in Tokyo with the Headquarters Staff.

Today our primary objective was to finish up our Institute lesson for tomorrow. We have had so many coals in the fire that we were still working on the PowerPoint presentation that we felt was the right way to teach this lesson. We had most of the basic slides done but we had not put any color or background to them. They were very vanilla and plain. We did get them most of the way done before Chad Furness, our Area Manager called us.

This morning we were able to Skype with Elder & Sister Harrison in Malaysia. We were so surprised when we first got on the Skype call because the picture and sound was so good and clear. Unfortunately before we were really through it had deteriorated so much that we had to eventually just say goodbye. We are blessed to live in a time of such wonderful communication, so we have to expect the bad with the good in the third world nations we serve.

One of our favorite restaurants is Mama's New York Deli. Mama is leaving to go visit family in New York on Sunday. Her restaurant will be closed for three plus weeks, so we went to get one last fix of her scrumptious food before she goes. We also decided to be proactive and tell Elder & Sister Thurston that was where we were headed. That was wise because they decided to go there as well and Elder Thurston drove, which is always a great reprieve.

Tonights picture is a woman with a basket of fruit on her head who was in front of us as we took our walk at 6:00 a.m. Also we are always fascinated by the construction workers perched on poles, ladders and little platforms as they work in precarious positions to even spot weld.  

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Rib Thursday and a bit of Cambodia

Things were a little slower this morning which allowed us to sleep in until 5:30. That put us enough later that as we crossed to the park on our walk we happened to meet Elder and Sister Leavitt, who promptly told us we were late this morning. Lately we have been just finishing our walk as they have been getting to the park.

We were blessed to be invited by the Vietnamese elders for one more Rib Thursday. Several months ago one elder decided that since their schedule kept them home for extra study time, they have time to make ribs for lunch. This is our second invitation, but likely the last for us as he and his companion will both complete their mission in three weeks. This has been a good way to get to know some amazing young elders.

We have continued working on PowerPoint projects for upcoming events. It has been interesting seeing how our focus has shifted and the slides start coming together. Then the order of the slides has changed and seems to fit together more effectively. They are coming along very well.

Our photos today include a variety of things from the past few days. Somehow we got pictures of lunch, but not of the missionaries who shared. The coconut cart is a common vendor in the city. This is our happy little car. We couldn't help noticing the cute smile because it has a garage to park in at night. The sign would indicate there might really be safety gear, even if they choose not to use it. The bag on the moto, if you look close, has chicken feet sticking up. And finally in the center is a worker on a bamboo scaffold about 8 stories off the ground. Most workers we see do not wear hard hats and wear flip-flops. We understand when they started enforcing the steel toed shoe requirement they started having more injuries and accidents.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Blessed Are The Meek

One of the important doctrine of the Church is that we are preparing for the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and that we live in the last days. The prophecies of the last days speak a lot about the wickedness that will exist right before the Savior comes again. As we look around us we it is so easy to see how corrupt the world is getting, day by day.

As we got to the office today our co-workers asked if we had received a warning from the U.S. Embassy. We told them no, and asked why they were asking. Last night there was a bomb that went off by one of the local markets. No one was killed but apparently there were four injured by the explosion.

The people here in Cambodia are a very meek and humble people who do not seem overly aggressive to us at all. Even though we have complained about the traffic, most really do not drive aggressively, but are opportunistic. If you give them a half an inch they will stick a big SUV right in it. And as Sister Oveson often says they treat us like a stationary moving object.

This morning as we took our walk one of the male Young Adults that we have interacted with in the past caught up with us. We had a nice chat with him all the way around the monument park area. He is from one of the Vietnamese Branches so we do not know him well, but he has come to our Institute class in the past.

As we work with the Perpetual Education Fund one of our great joys is when a participant comes in and pays off their loan. Last week we finally got all of the incentives approved on one of the loans and today our friend Kong Phean paid off his loan. We are proud of his humble and meek attitude to keep his commitments.

One of the recent converts, Chin Lisa, that lives in Chaktomuk Ward came by our office to see Sameth about what she needs to do for a PEF loan. She is a wonderful Young Adult woman and faithfully attends Church. Our lives are blessed by knowing so many meek and wonderful people in this little country of Cambodia.


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Leadership Pattern: Act Under the Direction of the Spirit

Have you ever wondered what to do when you have a flat tire on your Tuk Tuk? Today during our walk we saw for ourselves what seemed to be a good solution for such a problem. The improvised jack was quite clever!

Today we gave another of our PowerPoint presentations. Every week there is a devotion at the Cambodia Service Center, and today happened to be our turn to teach. The assigned topic for today was the Core Leadership Pattern "Act Under the Direction of the Spirit." Everyone seemed to be completely focused on the message, and we had some great discussions. The best part about teaching a lesson like this is how much we learn as we prepare.

This afternoon we worked on several other projects, including the next phase of the missionary spending survey. There were only 7 survey booklets returned to us with the last distribution. Because the need is so great President and Sister Christensen decided they would like to try once more and include all the missionaries in the survey this time. We assembled the new booklets and took them to the mission home for the Assistants to distribute to the Zone Leaders, who in turn are to get them to each of the young missionaries. The target date for the completion of the survey is the end of September in order for the data to be evaluated before Zone Conferences in October.

We got to the mission home just in time to say goodbye to one of our young friends, Theary, as she was heading to the airport for her mission to England. She was surrounded by friends doing one last check of her suitcase. We will miss her, but England is receiving one awesome missionary from Cambodia.

We walked past Auto Zone on our way to the mission home. This Auto Zone is very different than the business of the same name back home. This is the carwash where we take our car. For about $3.50 the car is washed by hand and vacuumed as well.

Monday, September 5, 2016

L-I-F-O (Last-In-First-Out)

Our weekly schedule seems to have lost some of its consistency. We still get up and take our morning walk, but each day seems to have become more unique as the week's flow by. Today we were invited to participate in a NGO (Non-Government Organizations) Consortium at the Tonle Bassac restaurant, along with Phanna, Elder and Sister Thurston, and Saret from the service center. The meeting was scheduled to begin at 8:00 a.m., so we figured leaving at 7:30 would be plenty early. It would have, except for a bridge next to the restaurant was closed, which created a parking lot on a major road with traffic backed up for several kilometers. What should have been a 15 minute drive took about 75. We were glad we were riding with the Thurstons and only had one car in the backlog. Because of traffic, the meetings didn't begin start until about 9:30.

This meeting gave us the opportunity to hear about several other NGOs based in the US that are doing work in Cambodia. It was interesting getting to visit with others and hearing of their purpose. This also included a good lunch, but it made for a long morning. After the meeting we finally made it to the office at 3:00 in the afternoon. There were emails and correspondence to answer and projects to finish for tomorrow. At about 4:55 we were finished with what we were working on and didn't want to start anything new, so we packed things up to head for home. We told the others on our way out that we were working L-I-F-O (Last-In-First-Out). We may have only spent two hour at the office but it was a long day. Sitting in a seminar is often more tiring than doing our work.

Our pictures today start with sunrise and end with the sunset. Traffic was crazy mostly because people don't follow order. The motos coming toward us are all on the wrong side of the road (which means they were driving in our lane in spite of a center barrier). There are Buddhist Monks at the restaurant ready for lunch. The photo of the Consortium group would have been larger, but there were several who didn't return after lunch.


Sunday, September 4, 2016

Be Careful What You Think

When we moved into our first home our whole Ward was starter homes with young families. There were Fast and Testimony Meetings where there was not any time for testimonies because of the many baby blessings. That is not true here in Cambodia yet, at least in the Wards that we have been assigned to attend. In our first eighteen months here there had only been one baby blessing. The bishop was not there that week, the counselors had never been involved in a baby blessing and it was the first child for the parents. The father pronounced the blessing like any other priesthood blessing he had ever been part of, even though it did not follow protocol we are sure that it was still acceptable to Our Heavenly Father.

Fast forward to today. As we went to the Steung Mean Chey 3rd Ward today, a father brought their new baby to be blessed. The bishop and his seasoned counselor were up there with the father to bless the new baby, still Elder Oveson was wondering if they would do it right this time. Just then the bishop motioned for him to come up, he figured they just wanted him to stand in the circle. As he got up there the bishop motioned for Elder Oveson to bless the baby. He found out the name, Hoy Dara Vichtur, and started the blessing then realized he did not even know if it was a boy or a girl. He quickly learned not to question if things will be done right, the Lord might answer the question in a way that you did not expected.

We have mentioned before that we miss some of the comforts that we enjoyed in the buildings back in Utah. The pews are usually cushioned with nice fabric coverings. In Steung Mean Chey they are hard individual plastic chairs that are linked together. Those same chairs are also in the classrooms. In Chaktomuk there are pews, but they are hard wood without any cushioning at all and again in the classrooms are hard plastic chairs. By time we have sat on hard benches and chairs for six hours our old bodies are ready for anything, including our less than soft couches.

We hope that it does not sound like we do not love to attend either of the Wards we have the privilege of attending, they are both great. It is good to realize the differences in the meetinghouse accommodations around the world. Here in Asia they seem to like hard surfaces, which our old bodies do not.


Saturday, September 3, 2016

PowerPoint Success

One more PowerPoint presentation has been successfully completed and presented! With twenty-three present in our Institute class we presented a simple slide show on Marking Scriptures. This lesson was much more class discussion than information presentation. There were some great discussions about why and how to mark scriptures.

The opportunity to visit with each of our family is one of the best parts of our Saturday morning. We look forward to the reports from each of our grandchildren on what they have done during the week. Several of our grandchildren have begun playing musical instruments this week, one of whom had to show off her trumpet. She was pretty proud of the noise she was able to produce. We expect that by the time we get home there may be some semblance of music to be heard as well.  It will be interesting to see how long the music lessons last for each of them.

Saturday is also preparations day so we go grocery shopping. This afternoon Elder Oveson had presidency meetings and Sister Oveson cooked tomorrow's dinner and worked on the letter home.  As we were closing the drapes for the evening we noticed the beautiful pinks and blues of the sunset. There is such a short time to see the colors, we were please to be able to catch a few photos. Also in our collage is a moto carrying a bike. We often have seen motos carrying full-size bikes, but this was the first small child's bike that we have seen on the back of a moto. We are still having fun enjoying new things to post about even after eighteen months here.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Meeting More Of The New Missionaries

About a dozen times each month we get to interact with the other Self-Reliance Missionaries via the internet. Between the one on one, actually both of us with another couple or Sister Roberts, and then the monthly Self-Reliance WebEx. This has been such a joy for us to get to know these other wonderful, dedicated and faithful missionaries. This morning we Skyped with Elder & Sister Chen in Taiwan. Sister Chen is also the health missionary in Taiwan, so she is a very busy woman. This last month they have been working on the Preferred List of schools for the Perpetual Education Fund which just became available Taiwan.

This afternoon we arranged to go and talk with President & Sister Christensen about the Missionary Spending Analysis that we were assigned to help with. We gave out about 80 little booklets for the missionaries to fill out, but only got seven back. Even with those seven we could see some very interesting trends. We recommended that we try again and not make it optional, but mandatory. We will produce some more booklets next week and get them over to the Mission Office to be handed out. We got to the Mission Office just as they were completing the training for the new missionaries. That gave us the opportunity to meet and get some more pictures of the new group today.

We did some final adjustments on the PowerPoint presentation for our Institute class tomorrow morning. This is one of those lessons that if we do not get a lot of participation it could be done way early. Fortunately this class has been real good about making wonderful comments in the past, we will hope and pray for that again tomorrow.

This afternoon Phanna left early because we is going to Kampong Thom this weekend. Then Sameth decided that he had stayed as long as he could, he has been sick most of this week so he went home. We did stick it out at the office until 5:00.

We usually try and go out to eat on Friday night, so we went to one of the Mexican places, but it is closed for remodeling. The other Mexican Restaurant that we frequent does not open until 6:00 p.m., so we took our car to the apartment and walked over. Like several times before as we have gone out to eat, we got to the restaurant and found Elder & Sister Thurston there as well. As always, the food was okay but the company was wonderful.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Moving' On Through The Week

Thursday holds an interesting place in the week. Monday opens the week with so many starts and projects. There seem to be lots of emails and other communications. Tuesday and Wednesday we keep things moving. Thursday seems to be the day to pull together all the loose ends so that by the end of the day Friday we can wrap up the week and move on to the the weekend.

Today seemed to be a good day to review several PowerPoint projects which are getting close to time to present, as well as shared some that have been requested. It will be interesting to see how well it works to use the PowerPoint to present our Institute lesson.

The Thailand presentation is going through another revision process. As we discuss the information with Elder and Sister Ricks in Bangkok, who will also be attending the Manager Conference, we realized it needs to be more simple than it is now. We thought we would be making two presentations, when we really just need to combine them into one.

This morning's walk produced a few interesting photos. It is always good to start our day with such a beautiful sunrise. The clouds at times are fluffy and pink like cotton candy. Construction projects along our walk are progressing. It is amazing how quickly things can change. Here is proof people can sleep anywhere. Every ten days is how often people attend the wats for worship.

We welcome Monikeo Khenna as the new Seminary and Institute secretary.  Today was her first day of work and she seemed a little nervous, but very excited. Her work schedule will fit perfectly with her schooling. We have known Monikeo for eighteen months, she is in our Institute Class.