Monday, October 31, 2016

Special Projects and Halloween Fun

Being on the other side of the world has some advantages. Our phone is still connected to our service back home but we only make calls using FaceTime with wifi service. Occasionally there are random missed calls that come through, which we do not answer. We realize they are likely political solicitation calls and we are soooo happy we don't have to answer them. We hear enough news from home to realize missing all the campaigning is not a bad thing at all.

This morning we had some special projects which HQ had requested information from the area Self-Reliance team. They wanted to know the approximate number of active members who are illiterate. We found out that in Cambodia 77% of the population are considered literate. We are not sure how they define being literate. Cambodia is definitely in the bottom 1/3 of the nations of the world for literacy.

Tonight we were invited to join the other senior couples for dinner to say farewell to Sambor, the executive assistant of the mission office. He has worked for the mission for several years but has accepted a job with another company.  Since tonight was Halloween night Fox restaurant included a few fun additions to the meals. They brought out "Finger" food as appetizers, and most of the entrees included spiders (the large tarantulas one can find on the food carts throughout Cambodia). We had a lot of fun! We even had the neighbors come Trick-Or-Treat at our door. Elder and Sister Thurston appreciated that we had the "good treats" thanks to our family. (Thanks Marla, Brenda, and Becky!)

The bottom photo was from our morning walk where we observed how to use a helmet as a pillow when sleeping on the sidewalk.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Sunday Surprises

Our children have often given us a bad time about getting to church to early, still we try to follow the counsel of the leaders to arrive early. Sometimes arriving early has it unexpected and not necessarily desired consequences. Since it is hard to ever guess how bad the traffic going out to Steung Mean Chey will be we always put in a few extra minutes. As we got to the chapel this morning the bishop asked if we would be speakers in Sacrament Meeting today. One of the Elders explained that they thought today was the first Sunday of the month so they did not assign speakers for today. With the help of Elder Lamborn and Sister Y we gave our quickly prepared talks based on this last General Conference and the Liahona, It felt like the members listened and felt the spirit.

As we left the Chapel after Sacrament Meeting we had a family stop us to ask when worship services were and what denomination we were. Since we know little Khmer, we quickly grabbed the missionaries. They were a Christian family that was looking for a place to go to church. It is so interesting to see non-members just show up at church.

Today was Ward Conference for the Chaktomuk Ward, so we knew that we were safe from speaking in Sacrament Meeting there. Elder Oveson did get called on to say the closing prayer in the joint Priesthood/Relief Society Meeting. He did what he could in Khmer, but did have to do part in English, still they were grateful and delighted for the effort.

When Marla and Brenda arrived on June 25th we had more than six months left on our mission. That was four months ago, yes, we are still eating the goodies they brought us, plus the additional that came in the package three weeks ago. We have already been called short-timers by several other couples, and if our calculations are right we have ten Sundays left on our mission. We will try and make the most of those ten, in every way that we can.

Sundays do provide some interesting pictures for our collage of the day. The new addition of the Steung Mean Chey building, from last night's rainstorm an umbrella on a moto, a washing machine on a moto (look close, there is something between the driver and the handlebars), a load of new recruits for the army, and a little girl riding backward to hold a big pan (probably on the way to the market).

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Start and End with Institute

Another day, another week, and closing in on another month have come and gone. Time is flying faster by the minute, yet all we have is this moment in this day.

Today we started and ended with Institute. Our Institute class began at 7:00 a.m. with 18 students in attendants. As always, we had a wonderful discussion.  Tonight there were 81 in attendance for Institute and Seminary graduation for the Phnom Penh South Stake jeld at the Steung Mean Chey Building. It was exciting to see so many of our friends receive certificates for having completed Institute courses during the past year. We were impressed as the meeting started exactly on time, proceeded perfectly, and ended on time as well.

In between the two institute gatherings we enjoyed Skype or FaceTime calls with family, grocery shopping, and weekly letter writing. So many ordinary things come together to make up an extraordinary day. Shopping at Lucky Supermarket we found they brought in pumpkins, which were priced like a valuable treasure. 

Traffic to Steung Mean Chey gave another opportunity for photos, including an IV bag held for a moto passenger, a Khmer version of a Hula Hoop, the 4 man hard hat crew on a moto. There were more children in traffic than usual. After making their rounds through traffic they all went that the sidelines for a break. And the Diva on the moto? That is a picture on a banner draped on a construction barrier at a gas station which is under renovation.  

Friday, October 28, 2016

Khmer Work Week & Friday Traffic

It is interesting that much of the world has adopted the Western work week, even when they may not understand how it came about. For example in Cambodia we were told that Wat day for the Buddhist community is every ten days so Sunday is not a holy day to them. Still if there is one day that many take off it is Sunday. Likewise, many of those with a "regular" job work a 45 hour work week, which usually includes a half day on Saturday. But it is not for the Western purpose to prepare for the Sabbath.

The discussion about the work week was to lead into another interesting similarity to what we see back in the U.S., crazy, early Friday traffic.  Elder Oveson went with Phanna to visit some banks to find out interest rates and terms for small business loans. Even though they only went about two kilometers it took longer than our morning walk. And then this evening as we left our office we decided to go to Mama's New York Deli for dinner. Again the traffic to and from there was terrible. It is a good thing that we do not usually drive in heavy traffic or Elder Oveson's blood pressure would be through the roof.

 This morning we had two more Skype calls with Self-Reliance Missionaries, one in Taiwan and the other in Hong Kong. With the Taiwan call the Sister had gone to the doctor to have her back checked out that has been bothering her. We still had a great call with the Elder. For the Hong Kong call, by time we finally got a hold of her, she only had a few minutes before she had to rush off to another meeting.

At the office we worked more on the preferred job list that we are trying to update. It is hard to believe how fast time has flown since it was updated last, it has been long enough and based on what we learned from last time we have changed the reporting template. We want to get as much done as we can before nest week when Chad is here.

Tonight we decided to do another random collage of the interesting things that we see on a constant basis. From the dog playing with a soda bottle, to the Bevi (not Levi) Strauss, the loads in the back of trucks (including the work crew) and motos.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Morning Web Meeting Marathon

A typical week may include two or three internet meetings or Skype calls for the week, not counting the weekly calls to family. Today we started with two family calls, two scheduled Skype calls to other senior missionaries in Hong Kong, and an Asia Area Self-Reliance Committee meeting, also in Hong Kong, which we attended by remote access. One Skype call had to be rescheduled for tomorrow, but the morning meetings kept us busy. We have found that during the day we get better internet band width at our apartment than at the office, most likely because there are so many others using the internet at the office at that time and at the apartment building we are likely the only ones online. It also decreases interruptions and better privacy, so we stayed home for the Morning Meeting Marathon.

The Asia Area Self-Reliance Committee meeting, which is usually held monthly, had not happened since June. During that time there was a change in a counselor in the Area Presidency. Elder David Evans of the Seventy is the newest counselor in the Area Presidency and assigned to head this committee. Even though we joined remotely it was good to be included in this meeting. We have been included in this committee because of our assignment as communication couple representing all the Self-Reliance missionaries throughout Asia.

We finally made it to the office just after 11:30, which was just in time for lunch break.  So grateful we were there for a surprise visit this afternoon from Vern Belcher who was serving as a senior missionary with his wife when we first arrived in Cambodia. They are back for business with CJF (Cambodia Jobs Fund). Sister Belcher was with another group in a divide and conquer  effort. We hope to see them again tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Trying To Make A Difference

As we look around at the wonderful members, Church Leaders, Church Employees and Missionaries we are so amazed that we have been given this chance to work with each of them. This is a nation where the members are still true pioneers that are forging the way for those who will follow them. As we have spoken to so many of them, they tell us about growing up in homes without electricity and there are still many areas like that today. About having to drink water out of the rivers and even standing pools left over after the raining season. They tell us about having to deal with worms and parasites and other illnesses. Even with all of that they are a happy people who are trying so hard to catch up with the rest of the world.

In General Conference Elder Neil L. Andersen stated, "It is not by chance that you live in Africa; Asia; Europe; North, Central, or South America; the Pacific; or another place in God's world, because the gospel must go to 'every nation, kindred, tongue, and people'." We believe that these special members were sent here to be part of that gathering.

This morning as we walked around the monument park we were surprised by Sister Schwab and Sister Ormax, the Sister Training Leaders. It is always fun to see others out getting their morning exercise as well.

We had our "Almost Monthly" Self-Reliance Services Missionary WebEx this morning. It is always good to see the other Senior Couples. Unfortunately one couple could not connect in and another got the time wrong, but it was still great.

There seems to be basic things that keep us busy and going all the time. It is wonderful to feel like we are at least contributing and we just want to make a difference in at least some small way.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Photos Tell So Much More Than Words

A morning walk is always a good way to start the day. Things were pretty calm for having had a holiday this weekend. Today was the monthly Area Presidency devotional at the service center, which always gives a great message. Today we heard from Elder Chi Hong (Sam) Wong of the Seventy, counselor in the Asia Area Presidency. He spoke of David and Goliath, that David "chose" five stones as he prepared to face Goliath, however he only used one. As we prepare to teach we need to prepare five stones worth, but if one stone is enough don't force the others into the lesson, and that too often as we teach we think we need to use everything we have prepared.

In preparation for our departure from Self-Reliance Services in Cambodia, and not having heard yet of replacements for our assigned post, there are several projects we need to help Phanna and Sameth get up to date. Chad Furness will be making a visit in just over a week so we are feeling we need to expedite some of the work.  We started working on a better template for our preferred job list, we will start gathering data tomorrow.

Our photo collection for today gives another glimpse of life in Phnom Penh. This woman is carving eyes from a small pineapple which is very common here. We can never get used to the way we see people sleep here. We still see over-loaded motos like this one with the driver wedged between the handlebars and his cargo of bags of rice. When it is not raining we often see building covered with lines of drying laundry. The water tower looks more like a UFO. And words are not adequate to describe a typical street quite like a photo. This was a new part of the city for us, but it is so much of what we see every day.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Our Visit To A Rice Mill

Many of the public holidays this year have fallen on Saturday, which is considered a work day by many businesses so they do not get another day off instead. But when a holiday falls on a Sunday they do get Monday off, because of that the Service Center was closed today.

Last Saturday when we usually call our family we were in Kampong Cham and the internet was poor to say the least. We decided to touch base with some of our family this morning that we had not gotten to speak to very much on Saturday.

President Ul Phornn, of the Phnom Penh Cambodia South Stake Presidency, is the Operations Manager of a Rice Mill out in Steung Mean Chey. Since we had a holiday we asked if the mill would take the day off and he told us, oh no. So we asked if he would let us come and see the rice mill, which he agreed that we could. Not only did we get to see the Rice Mill but we saw a section of Steung Mean Chey that we had never seen before.

It was interesting to see the big 100 kilogram (220 pounds) bags of rice that were being poured into a big hopper to start the milling process. The first step is to separate out any foreign matter before it begins the sifting and milling process. Next the rice has to be sifted to separate the pieces from the whole grains, the pieces are used for milled rice flour. Both the pieces and whole grains are polished as they go through several more large pieces of machinery. All along the process there are areas where the "bad rice" is extracted into bags, which is used for animal feed. At the end of the milling the rice goes into 20 kilo bags, mainly for export to China, Europe and the U.S. President Ul Phornn told us that the best rice is the new crop Jasmine rice. The old crop grains have dried out too much. He even gave us six 5 kilo bags of rice to take home.

Since we were not around on Saturday we did our weekly shopping today. The car really needed a bath after the trip to the Kaits, so while it got washed we took care of  some things at the office. This afternoon we also got our weekly letter to friends and family done and sent off. We had a productive and educational holiday today.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Kampong Cham Dedication and Chaktomuk Baptism

Today was a special Sunday in so many ways. We woke to a beautiful sunrise looking out across the Mekong River. Gathering with all the senior couples and so many friends was such a blessing as the new chapel was dedicated in Kampong Cham. There were about 300 who gathered for the dedication services, filling the chapel and overflowing halfway back in the cultural hall. The messages and music were uplifting, and the reverence was wonderful.

During his address President Christensen mentioned that this is the 8th dedicated church building that has been built in Cambodia. He spoke of the importance of keeping this building clean and holding it as a sacred place to be used for God's purposes. One of our young adult friends, Theary, sang a special musical number shortly before the District President spoke and offered the dedicatory prayer. Theary said she cried as she heard him speak the same message she had given in the lyrics of the song.

All the senior missionaries gathered for a photo in front of the newly dedicated building. It has been a wonderful weekend to be with all of them, we feel privileged to be counted part of this group.

Before heading back to Phnom Penh we stopped for lunch. Sameth and his family joined with us and Phanna as well. At lunch baby Zuri was fussy so Elder Oveson took on the "Look Taa" (grandpa) role and Zuri settled right down for him. He was happy to know he has not lost his touch.

We made it back to Phnom Penh in time to attend a baptism following the Chaktomuk Ward meetings. We are happy to be included in these events as well. This ward has had an amazing number of baptisms during our time here. What is even more wonderful is to watch these new members as they grow in the gospel and continue in Church activity.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Kampong Cham Open House

It is always interesting to see how well the internet works in a Cambodian Hotel. We know that the internet at the Service Center, which is right in the middle of the largest city, can be very spotty when we have video calls. This morning we started off Skyping, FaceTiming and Google Hangout with our five daughters. We started on Skype but, it only worked without the cameras going with our third daughter and her family. FaceTime had its issues as well, with connecting, poor connection and freezing. And with our youngest daughter her internet was not working so we had to Google Hangout. Even with the issues we were blessed to talk with each of them, we are so blessed to live in a time of instant communication.

We were asked to be to the new Kampong Cham building at 10:00 a.m. because the VIPs would be there at 11:00. They finally came through our area about 11:30 and the Open House program started at 12:00. Originally there were only about 150 extra chairs set up in the Cultural Hall, but as the crowds kept filing in they soon had the maximum of 400 up. We heard attendance estimates of 620, all the way up to 800, it was probably somewhere between those two numbers.

The program was suppose to be one hour, but when you have government and political individuals invited to speak there is no control. One speaker went for an hour, and so the meeting lasted until 2:00 p.m. After the ribbon cutting and food, everyone was tired and went home so very few came through our Open House display area. New building Open Houses do not happen very often in Cambodia, so it is hard to know from one time until the next, but hopefully they will learn from this one.

Sameth's parents-in-law live in Kampong Cham, he is a Branch President. We went to their home one time and saw the beautiful flowers that they grow and sell. This evening they had a big party at their home and we were invited for chicken, eel, fish and beef. They told use we do not need to eat if we do not want to, but come and enjoy the company. We did try the soup and noodles and some chicken. We did not stay to late, so as we got back to our hotel the Joneses were just headed to the Senior Missionary gathering so we joined them. Over all it was a fun and great day.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Kampong Cham Cambodia - Preliminaries

This weekend is the long awaited celebration for the completion of a new chapel in Kampong Cham, about two hours North of Phnom Penh. This building has been under construction and waiting on delays for several years. Elder and Sister VanBrocklin did so much in their Public Affairs role to prepare for this day, only to complete their mission in July without seeing the finished product. Their photos and hard work are very much a part of this grand event. We just wish they could be here to see this day!

This morning it seemed that everyone at the service center was focused on the final details before heading to Kampong Cham. The senior couples, about 20 young missionaries, most of the service center staff and many local members gathered at the new building this evening to set up displays and do a run-through before tomorrow's exciting Open House.

We have seen this marvelous building several times over the past 20 months, but always from outside construction barriers. Our first impression is WOW! This is probably bigger than either chapel in Phnom Penh.

After rehearsals and set up was complete we went along with the other seniors to a Khmer BBQ. This is one where you cook your own meat and vegetables over a hot charcoal grill. We were missing Elder and Sister Leavitt, who will join us tomorrow, and Elder and Sister Dowd passed on tonight's meal in favor of getting some rest. They picked up where VanBrocklins left off and have put in so much time and effort for this final production.

We look forward to tomorrow as so many come to tour this grand new chapel.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

All The Way Around The World

Growing up we were always told that if we dug a hole deep enough that we would come out in China. Cambodia is in the same time zone as part of China and we feel that we are all the way around the world from our home in Utah. Often as we send birthday wishes to family and friends on Facebook we wish them a happy birthday from around the world.

Another part of being all the way around the world is that we are working when those at Church Headquarters are not at their office and visa versa. Because of that we get around to answering emails from Headquarters twelve to thirteen hours after they come in. This morning Elder Oveson had an email from Headquarters when we got to the office, which turned into a report from our Self-Reliance Team that took the better part of the day. Now we will have to wait until tomorrow to see if they have any questions or need anything else.

Shortly after we arrived in Cambodia Sameth shared a crystal candy dish with us that the previous Senior Missionary Couple had, which they filled with candy. In our first office there were only six of us and an occasional visitor, at the Service Center there are 21 employees and Senior Missionaries and a lot more visitors. We usually make sure that the dish is most of the way full when we leave at night, this morning it was all the way empty. There must have been some who needed extra energy as they went to leave last night.

All of this week there has been a lot of extra activity at our apartment building. They have rented out the rest of the apartments to a organization that will have multiple groups that will stay for about a month or so. That meant they needed to get the refrigerators, water coolers, washing machines, TVs, pots and pans, dishes, drying racks, ironing boards and the small shoe racks, etc. It will be interesting to see those groups come and go, some are supposed to be from the U.S.

The other pictures in our collage tonight include the new building across the street where they were putting up air conditioning units (a very necessary item), a man on a moto with his cell phone stuck in his helmet so that he can talk and drive, and motos in the rain on our way home tonight.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Random Ramblings

The office was very quiet this morning. All the employees were in a meeting for the morning being trained by two of the finance team from Hong Kong. The training that was to take maybe two hours lasted close to three. Elder Oveson understood how listening to accountants for an entire morning can be quite boring. We were just happy to not be required to attend.

Final preparations are being made for the open house and dedication of a new chapel in Kampong Cham this weekend. It was originally scheduled for completion over a year ago, but delays kept pushing it back. There has been great rejoicing that the building has been completed and ready for dedication. Invitations have gone out to about 3,000 people, and it is expected there will be over 600 who attend the open house on Saturday. Our Self-Reliance team will be ready with displays and Phanna and Sameth will be on hand to explain the Self-Reliance initiative as well as how to qualify for Perpetual Education Fund (PEF) loans.

Through the blessings of technology we had a team meeting online with all the Asia Area Self-Reliance group. It still amazes us at the ability to hold such a meeting with people in so many countries. When we were young this was only seen in the science fiction and movies showing how someone imagined people would communicate some time in the future. We have lived long enough that much of what was only dreamed of is part of our reality now.

This evening we enjoyed dinner and visiting with Elder and Sister Thurston again. They prepared crock-pot pork loin with vegetables and we brought dessert of sticky rice and mangoes. We are so thankful for such great friends and neighbors.

Photos today are more of the things we see around Phnom Penh.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Rain, Computers - Another Busy Day

It is absolutely amazing how fast our time gets filled as we go throughout our day. When we got to the office there was an email from Chad asking if we had time to Skype today. We always have time for the Area Self-Reliance Manager. Because of both of our schedules, it had to wait until this afternoon at 2:00.

On Tuesdays we join the Service Center Devotional. This morning Sister Oveson had the Spiritual Thought, based on General Conference, and Elder Oveson offered the opening prayer. Since we knew that our afternoon was already packing in we decided to work on our Institute lesson this morning, that is something we usually do in the afternoon.

Yesterday Phanna was off on sick leave so we did not do our weekly Self-Reliance Team Meeting today to coordinate what has happened and what is coming up. This weekend we have the Open House and Dedication of a new building in Kampong Cham. We will all be up there to help and attend.

About two weeks ago we received a new laptop computer for Elder Oveson to use, and this afternoon he was supposed to work with an IT employee in Thailand to get it setup. Yesterday when he was making sure it was charged it download some programs and today it would not let them into the computer. The Dell dealer will need to reset the computer before we can get it setup correctly.

This afternoon we got another real heavy rain storm. Those are always fun when it is time to leave and the street is flooded. Elder Oveson does a mad dash out to get the car and pull into the Service Center little courtyard so Sister Oveson does not have to wade through five inches of water to get to the car.

Elder Oveson had Stake Presidency Meeting this evening and Sister Oveson stayed at the apartment. Another full and busy day.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Ladders and Traffic Gridlock

Over the weekend there was another holiday in Cambodia. October 15th was the Commemoration Day of the King's Father. The park was dressed with wreaths around the monument to King Norodom Sihanouk. There are large photo displays that have been changed to a photo of the King's father and a sign (in Khmer) to remember him. Without these decoration we would have completely missed this holiday.

Our days at the office seem to just fly by. Along with our Self-Reliance Services responsibilities we are often asked for advise, and help in many unique and different ways. We love to help in any way that we can and our whole desire is to make a difference while we are here.

Ladders are something we see in the city every day, usually being held in some awkward position on a moto. One ladder for today was extended to lean against a large bundle of overhead wires, with one worker at the top and another standing as a stabilizing support at the bottom. This was strategically located in the middle of a busy intersection. Just one more thing we would never see back home.

As we left for home we didn't get very far before we found traffic tied in knots. A photo cannot begin to show the gridlock caused by drivers who zoom their way into an inch of unoccupied space to square off against the traffic going another direction in a street crimped to a width just wide enough for one small vehicle, then add swarms of motos pushing their way in until no one can move. Of course in the middle of the traffic jam was another ladder on a moto. If only people would follow order instead of thinking the invisible path they can see is only for them.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

A "Normal" Sunday

As the time left on our mission continues to wind down it seems like we only get a "normal" Sunday every other week or so. A "normal" Sunday is when we get to go to the two Wards that we are assigned by the Mission President to visit weekly. It is hard to believe that four weeks ago we were in Thailand attending church there. Last week was General Conference, so we missed both of the wards in order to watch conference in English. Next week we will be in Kampong Cham for the dedication of the beautiful new chapel there, and in four weeks we will be in Siem Reap with Phanna and Chad.

A "normal" Sunday is more than just going to church in our assigned wards, but being with the saints in those wards that we have grown to love so very much. We can hardly get out of our car before Sister Oveson is getting hugged by the sisters in both wards. There are so very many that have become dear friends who we love to see and be around. We have especially gotten close to those who have joined the church while we have been here, and miss them if they are not there.

It is interesting to see that they have similar issues here that the Church experiences every where in the whole world. Today was suppose to be the High Council speaking in Sacrament Meeting. In Stueng Mean Chey 3rd Ward the 2nd Counselor in the Bishopric is also on the High Council, so he was the speaker. But in the Chaktomuk Ward no High Counselors showed up, so the Bishop called on a Sister who loves to talk and has asked to be a speaker in the past, and the bishop spoke. In the Stueng Mean Chey 3rd Ward the Elders Quorum President did not show up until the last ten minutes, so we had a volunteer teach.

Since we probably drive further on Sunday than any other day, going to Steung Mean Chey and back, we usually get some great shots in traffic. One thing for sure is that Elder Oveson will have to change his driving habits when he goes home. He will have to learn to stay within the lanes, which is virtually impossible here with the way that everybody else drives. Today we enjoyed the way they filled in one of the potholes with old moto tires, the saw on the back of a moto, the banana vendor on the move, and a family on a cart ride. We also have a new sister in Stueng Mean Chey, Sister Winder, whom we have mentioned before in our blog. Her brother was a bishop in Magna while we lived out there. Sister Y was out there before. They will be a great companionship.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Returned Missionary Reunion in Cambodia

Around the time of General Conference is when Mission Reunions are typically scheduled. Those who served in a specific mission and typically under the leadership of a certain mission president are invited to attend and participate in a variety of activities. These reunions make it possible for many to renew friendships that were forged during their service in that mission.

Cambodia is on the other side of the world from Utah, where many of these events are held, yet there is a growing community of members who served missions ... somewhere.  Under assignment from President Christensen, the current mission president, and with the help of the country YSA committee, Elder and Sister Thurston were assigned to plan a Returned Missionary Reunion.  All who have served missions anywhere, and are currently in Cambodia, were invited to attend. This included the Senior missionaries currently serving in the Cambodia Phnom Penh Mission.

Today's gathering included so many of the Church members we have come to know and love during the 19 months we have been in Cambodia. It gave us a chance to see several of our friends with babies that have joined their families in the past few months. There are many who we knew as missionaries, most of our Institute class, and so many others. It is times such as this that we will greatly miss when we leave.

This morning for Institute we had 23 in attendance. With that group there were some new faces as well as a few we have not seen in a while. We are so blessed to be able to teach this class, they have become our friends that we will cherish forever.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Crazy Traffic and Construction Circus

We have most likely mentioned this before in our blog, but we were told when we first got here to take as many pictures as we could in the first six months, after that the sights become common place. Well we have been in country for nineteen plus months and there are still some sights that are definitely not common sights for us.

We live close enough to our office that we do not get out in the heavy traffic frequently, but every time that we do we still shake our heads, it is still not common. This evening we went to Brooklyn Pizza, which is by our old apartment. First it took more than thirty minutes to go 2 kilometers, which is about a mile and a half. We are always amazed by how opportunistic the traffic is, if you give an inch then they will take a yard (or a meter since we are in Asia). Even though there are marked lanes, they are seldom followed. Places where two lanes are marked turn into five or six when you count the motos between the three lanes of cars.

Another very uncommon sight is still their construction safety habits, absolutely no OSHA rules in place here. The wire act across the street at the new building was even more dangerous today as a single worker moved his make shift ladder platform around the sign. We also had the workers on their balance beam, really a very flimsy ladder between two crate size containers. Then there was the painter down below standing on whatever he could to reach the accent trim on the building. What a real circus for us to watch.

Now lest you wonder if we actually did some Self-Reliance work today, we had a great Skype call with Chad, our Area Manager. We have a scheduled time each month to talk about all of the Self-Reliance Missionaries and how they are doing. Likewise, what we can do in encouraging them to help the managers and specialists. We also had a Skype call scheduled with one of the Senior Couples but their computer did not like Skype today.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Dignitaries and Trapeze Artists

The past few days as we have taken our walk there have been new displays and banners around the park. These were in preparation for a visit today from the President of the People's Republic of China. Newspaper reports indicated that there would be a security team of 7,000 which is their largest security force ever for a visiting dignitary. That uniformed presence was very noticeable in Phnom Penh today.

Traffic had its challenges today, as well. We went out on errands which took longer than usual. Our trip around town was not as challenging as others reported, however.  As we inched along there were some interesting things to see, such as the cargo on a moto including a toilet seat. We just never know what we will see when we venture out in this city.

This morning we didn't even have to leave our apartment to see some of those unusually spectacular photo-ops. The building across the street is nearing completion, so today they brought in a ladder to work their high trapeze act. The crew was removing the green border from the bottom edge of the sign, which is up 5 stories from the ground. The rungs were probably 2 ft apart, and each move of the ladder required a climb to the top where there is a narrow ledge to perch on. All this is done without safety equipment. We were told that the rate of accidents increased when people started using steel-toed shoes and hard hats.

This morning as we had our usual Skype call with Sister Roberts in Hong Kong, all of a sudden she jumped up and said wait just a second. She went to get someone to say hello to us, Lynn & Karen Beckstead the new Area Public Affairs Couple. The Becksteads were tax clients of Elder Oveson and we got to visit with them in Siem Reap back in February. They just arrived in Hong Kong this week and it was great to see them again.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Phnom Penh South Zone Conference

There are times that we are blessed to be around the young Elders and Sisters a lot more than other times and the last few weeks have been great for that. It continued again today as we participated in the Zone Conference for the Phnom Penh South Zone. All of the previous Zone Conferences that we have gone to have been a joint conference with the South and East Zones. With the two zones there has been about fifty missionaries, which is almost half of the mission, but with just the South Zone there were only twenty-two young missionaries.

At President and Sister Christensen's first Zone Conference, almost fifteen months ago, they shared with the missionaries a concern about retention of converts. Only 21% of those baptized were still attending church a year later. Through efforts that has now gone up to over 40%. But there has also been a cost, with the effort to focus on recent converts the number of baptisms have decreased. Now they need to refocus the missionaries to teach repentance and baptize converts, but also help keep them active as well. It was a great Zone Conference taught by President & Sister Christensen, the Assistants to the President and the Sister Training Leaders.

One of the great things about Zone Conference is associating with these wonderful young missionaries, that are filled with faith and desire. We have been told several times that only the best are sent to Cambodia and we believe that. We especially enjoy being part of the Zone picture, eating lunch and visiting with them and seeing the love that they have for one another. Besides, it gives us great blog pictures.

As we looked out this morning it was very overcast but not raining so we decided to take a chance and go on our walk. It was good to get out and stretch our legs after a weekend and two rained out days. It started to sprinkle just before we got back to our apartment and the roads were wet as we went to go to the office.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Morning Devotional and Dinner With the Neighbors

We were awake before the alarm this morning, but before getting ready for our walk we opened the window to find that our morning walk was rained out for the second day this week. We had begun to wonder if Phnom Penh was something like Camelot, where it "Never rains 'til after sundown, and by 8 a.m. the clouds all disappear." This week the weather has proven that it is not following any government mandate here. The alarm was reset for a later time, but we couldn't get back to sleep. So much for getting to sleep in!

Tuesday mornings there is a devotional at the Service Center for the Church employees, and today happened to be our turn to teach a mini-training in that meeting. With great consideration as to what to teach, we decided to use the "Delegation The Lord's Way" PowerPoint presentation we put together with the help of all the Self-Reliance Missionaries in Asia. It was good to again use one of the projects we had worked so diligently to prepare. It seemed to be well received.

This week there has been a greater than usual number of PEF loan applicants come to visit Sameth. This afternoon he had a steady flow, several of whom needed help getting their accounts reset so they could complete their application for a Perpetual Education Fund loan. Elder Oveson helped with the phone calls so the person on the other end could understand what was being requested. Sister Oveson even moved over to share her computer as there were more people than computers available. All in all it was a busy day.

With Elder and Sister Thurston as our across the hall neighbors we have had good intentions of getting together. It was decided that we need to start doing dinner together, which resulted in scheduling for tonight. It was great to have a simple at home meal, then just sit and visit. It was out turn to host, and we shared meal preparations. It is good to have such wonderful neighbors.

As we finished our meal Elder Thurston noticed it was raining outside (again or still). We joked that they should be careful on their way home that they didn't get rained on. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Our Walk Was Rained Out

Our luck with not having rain first thing in the morning finally came to an end today. The alarm went off at 5:15 and we got up and got ready for our walk, but just before we walked out the door Sister Oveson looked out. She then opened the door to our little patio and walked out and stuck her hand out, just to verify her suspicion, it was sprinkling. We have learned over the months that a little sprinkle can lead to a real downpour in not many minutes, so we decided to forget our walk. That was a very wise choice because it was raining very hard within ten minutes, we would have gotten drenched this morning.

When we got to the Service Center the gutters were already full, so we took one of the limited spots inside the gate. Again with the early rain we did not know if it was going to be one of those days when it decided to continue on for hours or not. Fortunately by time we went to run some errands this afternoon it had stopped raining and the day ended without many clouds in the sky at all. If we believe the weatherman then we may get rained out again tomorrow, but we will get up and get ready because we all know how often the weathermen miss in their forecast of when it will actually rain.

There was plenty to do at the office today. We had our weekly coordinating meeting with Phanna and Sameth. That is an important meeting because we learn what is going on and also what the others need help on. We found out today how bad Phanna wanted us to go with him and Chad next month out to the Kaits. Elder Oveson had a conflict with a training meeting in his stake calling, but got permission this afternoon to be excused from it.

Tomorrow we have been asked to do the mini-training in the weekly devotional for the Service Center. As we thought and prayed about what we should do it on, we decided to use the Powerpoint that we created with the other Self-Reliance Missionaries about Delegation The Lord's Way. We have gone through it several times and feel like we are ready, now we need to pray hard that it will make sense and will help those that we train.

It tonight's collage we have a picture of tonight's sunset, some of the Sister Missionaries that came by the Service Center today, if you have a load to carry just use your head, our daily ladder on a moto, the hotel is a landmark we pass every day, it is being remodeled and recently changed names, and a typical pack of motos.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Conference Sunday in Cambodia

Twice a year we look forward to General Conference weekends, being able to gather with saints to hear messages from our prophets and leaders as they speak to the world. Regular Church meetings are canceled to allow all to tune in to conference. We are grateful for a week of hearing all the messages in our native language of English without translators whispering in our ear.

Since conference sessions were scheduled to begin at 9:00 a.m. that gave us a chance to make calls to family that we couldn't make yesterday (also because of conference which followed our Institute class.) This week's calls got spread over three days so we had extra time to talk to each family, it actually worked out very well. We have the last family to catch tomorrow morning.

Lotus, the Chinese woman we have mentioned in past posts, attended the conference sessions today. Between sessions Elders Hills and Beckstead taught her a discussion. Elder Oveson talked to Lotus and learned that she enjoyed the Conference messages and learning about the Church.

At the conclusion, we heard someone say they didn't want to wait 6 months for the next conference. It will take us the full six months between now and next conference to study and learn from the messages we have received this weekend.

As we were leaving after the conclusion of the afternoon session, one of the members from the Chaktomuk Ward came with a gift of two pieces of fabric for Sister Oveson. This sister has given us such gifts in the past. She says she prays for us, and loves us. She truly appreciates that we have left our home and come to Cambodia to serve. She gave this gift to bring us good luck. We feel her love!

We were home by 4:30 and were able to kick back a little and respond to some emails that we had not been able to get to, and catchup on news that we have missed with being so busy.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

General Conference Cambodia Style

It is amazing to realize that this is our fourth General Conference in Cambodia. For those who have followed our blog know that we watch General Conference a week after it happens in Utah. That allows for the Stakes/Districts/Mission to download the sessions so that they are not trying to rely on the internet, which is not completely reliable. One of the really nice parts is we get to watch Conference with the International Branch in English without someone trying to translate for us.

Two conferences ago we realized that we could follow the video and read the talks at the same, since the printed talks are already on That is so neat to listen and read because it helps get the message deeper into our hearts and minds.

Sister Oveson was an assigned paparazzi for the parents of one of the young Sister Missionaries, Sister Winters. In Elder Andersen's talk in the morning session he told the story of her aunt's conversion to the Church and showed a picture of her with her family. Fortunately Sister Winters was sitting on the front row and just opposite all the chairs were empty. She got some very great pictures and it was a very touching experience.

We were able to watch all three of the Saturday Sessions and be done right around 6:00 p.m. Since it was still early and we all needed to go and eat, four of the Senior Couples, including President and Sister Christensen, went to Mama's New York Deli for dinner. Mama had been gone to New York for three weeks, but just got back.

We did start of our day by teaching Institute. This time we are teaching one of the cornerstone classes on The Eternal Family. As we started we only had three participants there, then Elder & Sister Jones, the Family History Couple, joined us. By time we got through our class there were seventeen participants plus the Joneses. We love teaching Institute and we learn right along with the rest of the class. We should have enough time to teach all of the lessons for this classes before we go home.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Not Just "Another Day" in Cambodia

Another day is not just "another day" in Cambodia. Every day is unique, even if some days have similarities. As we took our walk we commented on the contrast between the empty paths a week ago and the early risers getting exercise this morning.  We also noticed these men on top of a ladder posting a "Now Open" sign at a bank.  The sign seems to indicate their target audience may be foreigners, or at least those educated enough to know English.

Our day was full with finishing reports, preparing a message for next week's Service Center devotional, and getting ready for Institute for tomorrow.

The skies were dark with heavy clouds again today. About mid afternoon heavy rains started to fall again. After a couple hours of rain we looked out the window and found the street to be a flowing river. By 5:00 it was still raining lightly but the river had gone down by about half. And again it was significantly darker than normal for the time of day.

In spite of the rain as we left the office we didn't head straight home. We took a detour to the mission office to retrieve a package that had been delivered from home. This will likely be our last shipment before we head for home in January. We suggested it would not be wise to send Christmas presents for us to have to find space in our luggage to bring them home.

Traffic in the city was packed in and crazy with the rain. The heavy traffic was just another contrast to last week's empty streets. We intended to go to Mama's for dinner tonight, but chose a closer diner called "Joma", a bakery and deli.  When we were finished it took us longer to drive home than it would have taken to walk.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Deadlines, Skype Calls & Missionary Friends

Prior to our mission Elder Oveson was a CPA that did income tax returns. With that job there were a lot of deadlines which were always overly stressful. Over the years he worked very hard to get the work in early and out as quickly as possible to avoid as much stress as possible. Now on our mission there are a lot of deadlines, but we are not the ones in charge, we are here to help and assist, but not to do for them. One problem with that is we are often caught in tight deadlines trying to finish up projects that have to go in by a specific date. And lately it feels like there have been a lot of those deadlines that we have been up against. One was a major report that the Area Manager requested which will be part of a larger report that will go to the Area Presidency. The initial deadline was October 1st, but then they wanted revisions by tomorrow. We wanted it in today just in case there were additional changes that needed to be done.

Today we had Skype calls scheduled with Sister Roberts in Hong Kong, Steve Yeng in Taiwan and Elder & Sister Ricks in Thailand. Steve is the new Area Operations Manager and Elder Oveson had to discuss a Perpetual Education Loan that he had to review with him. The other two calls were for our Communication Couple calling. We often speak to Sister Roberts three or so times per month, but it had been three weeks since we had a chance to talk. We did the Skype calls from the office and it kept freezing up on us. One of the times Sister Roberts froze with a great smile, so we captured the picture and put it on our blog. Elder & Sister Ricks have become great friends and now that we have met them we are even closer to them.

As Sister Oveson went down to get our lunch out of the refrigerator she ran into two of our missionary friends, Sister Galahad and Sister Chin Pharun. Sister Galahad used to translate for us in the Steung Mean Chey 3rd Ward, and Sister Chin was in our Institute class and just arrived back from the MTC in the Philippines. They will be companions up in Kampong Cham.

This evening it got even darker than last night, due to heavy clouds, which turned into a heavy downpour. We were glad that we were home when the heavy rain started.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

More Wonderful Opportunities

We are so very blessed as we have the opportunity to watch the Self-Reliance Services initiative roll out in all of its many facets. We love continuing to watch it grow.

Today we had the opportunity to Skype with Elder and Sister Little in India. We are always in awe to hear about their latest adventures as they work in the second most populous country of the world. India has some advances that Cambodia does not, but it also has some of their own issues that are unique and complicated. Elder and Sister Little are the only Self-Reliance Services Missionaries for the whole country. Even though English is the official language in India, that does not mean everyone speaks English and they do not know any of the various languages.

We also had our Asia Area Self-Reliance (SRS) Missionary WebEx call, it was originally scheduled for while we were in Thailand and so it had to be moved. It is so great to have all of the SRS Missionaries together on an internet video call. We had couples from Malaysia, India, Thailand, Hong Kong and Taiwan and our Area Manager, Chad Furness, and Wayne Boam from Church Headquarters. We were able to share with them some of the things that we learned at the SRS Manager Seminar.

There are times that we realize how important it is to get started on a project even when it seems out a little ways. Last week we started to work on our Institute lesson for this Saturday, and it is a good thing that we did. This week has been busy enough that we have not had a lot of time so far and tomorrow is already shaping up to be a very busy day as well.

This afternoon the skies got dark and it rained pretty hard, hard enough for the street in front of the Service Center to be flooded. And when we headed home it was still so cloudy that we had to turn on our headlights. It was fully dark by about 5:45 which is at least a half hour earlier than normal. We have learned to expect this kind of weather this time of year and need to be grateful for the water.

Tonight's collage is random pictures from our morning walk and as we have driven around the city the last couple of days.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Missionary Apartment Inspections - Part 2

There was no question today that the holiday was over. Vehicles were back to carrying their over-filled loads, and no empty roads. The kids were back on the street selling their flower wreath air-fresheners or dusting windows on cars in hopes of receiving a few hundred riel. Basically the city of Phnom Penh was back to "normal" (whatever normal is).

Today we made two more visits for apartment inspections. Elder Khiev (Que) and Elder Stringham have been with us in the Steung Mean Chey 3rd ward for a while. With transfers this week Elder Stringham will be moving to the office and Elder Lamborn, one of our favorite missionaries from our MTC group, will join Elder Khiev as our weekly translator. Elder Stringham will be a good addition to the office. That will also give him the opportunity to help teach the two investigators who both found us in Steung Mean Chey. Lotus from China and Augustus from Nigeria are currently being taught by the office elders who are assigned to the International Branch.

We don't know Sister Pace and Sister Mortell as well since they are assigned to Steung Mean Chey 2nd Ward. We were missing Sister Y and Sister Peng from that apartment as they had gone to the mission office when we arrived for inspections.

We were grateful we waited a day for the second trip to Steung Mean Chey. Yesterday it rained enough that the streets were flooding, and both apartments we inspected today had a stream of water flowing through the ground floor. Traffic would have been crazy yesterday with everyone returning to the city from throughout the country, then add the storm and what would have been a 30 minute drive would likely have taken over an hour. Today was busy enough.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Missionary Apartment Inspections - Part 1

Big holidays such as Pchum Ben definitely need that extra day just to get everyone back into the city and get ready to get back to work. The numbers of people in the park was almost back to normal for our walk this morning. The roads were no longer empty, and most shops were open for business.

The Service Center was closed for one more day of holiday, which freed us up for apartment inspections.  We made a stop at Krispy Kreme for donuts, then headed to Steung Mean Chey for morning appointments. Elders Walker and Sears were a few minutes late because they had gone for quick haircuts, which took a little longer than they anticipated. We also visited Elders Medley and Burnett. Both houses were well cleaned, with only minor items for them to touch up. They appreciated their rewards.

We had appointments to visit two more apartments this afternoon, but when we called to make sure the elders would be there they said the afternoon rains we had today had given them about an inch deep pool in their entry, and they sure had fun riding their bikes in the flooded streets. We have experienced flooded roads between here and Steung Mean Chey enough in the past that we offered to reschedule for tomorrow and save ourselves a drive we would likely regret.

That left us with a quiet afternoon at our apartment. This evening, the rains had stopped so we ventured out for Family Home Evening treats at the new ColdStone Creamery.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Sabbath - Pchum Ben

As with major holidays throughout the world, today's holiday had a severe impact in the number that showed up at church. As we arrived at the Steung Mean Chey building the guards were still trying to unlock the building. The bishop was out of town, and he is probably the one who usually opens the building, the counselor that is normally there early as well was later today. As the time to start arrived there were less than twenty there, and six of those were missionaries.

One pleasant surprise was the non-member from Nigeria, Augusta, showed up again today.and stayed for all three hours. He sat by us so that he could here the English translation by the Elders. He made very good comments and asked very good questions. The Office Elders, that attend the International Branch, went and taught him this week. We hope that he keeps coming and learning, he would be a great new member.

There were about 35, a little more than half of the normal attendance, at the Chaktomuk Ward, but 8 of those were missionaries. Elder & Sister Jones the Family History couple came to visit that ward today. We had another wonderful surprise as we were headed to Sunday School we saw Lotus, the young adult women from China that we took to the International Branch about a month ago. It was good to see her. She was awaiting to be taught by the missionaries about "the mormon" church, we had wondered if she was a member or not.

This weekend is General Conference back in Utah, and with the blessings of technology, we were able to watch part of the sessions already. We will view all of the sessions next Saturday and Sunday with the other members here in Cambodia. The talks that we have watched so far have been fantastic, so we are anxious to watch all of them.

We have enjoyed our holiday sabbath with members and new friends. The traffic was light to non-existant, which helped make it even more memorable.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

A Saturday Holiday -- Pchum Ben

Saturday was not our typical schedule today. Pchum Ben, or Ancestor Day, is a big enough holiday to almost empty the city of Phnom Penh as the people travel to their home provinces to gather with family and friends.  As a result, there was no institute today, allowing us to sleep in, at least until 5:30, then we got up for a quiet morning walk.

Our photos show the rare opportunity of seeing empty streets and sidewalks. There were still a few street sweepers and recycle carts around. The morning Tai Chi exercise group only had 2 or 3 instead of 20 or 30.

As we walked we noticed a message on a window, "The World Is What You Make It."  This is such a great message! We see people here with so little, yet they have a happy life.

We enjoyed calls with most of our family, then went out to find our groceries. From our window we could see that Lucky Grocery Store was open, but we found most little shops closed and shuttered. We found that many who stayed in the city had found the Aeon Mall, one more of our stops for the day. This afternoon allowed us the luxury of staying home. Elder Oveson even took a short cat nap.

One item to notice is that today is our 600th post in our blog. We began writing shortly before entering the MTC, and we have written every day since. We have been on our mission 594 days, and in Cambodia 582. Today was one more (very quiet) day of our grand adventure!