Sunday, March 1, 2015

Completely Normal

Dear family and friends,

I liked this week a lot. I had a lot of new experiences and met some new people.

Elder Bostrom and I stayed pretty busy with proselyting and updating missionary records for the Chamkarmon Branch.

Unfortunately my companion hasn't been feeling very well ever since an exchange 1 1/2 weeks ago.  After a quick phone call to Sister Moon, she scheduled an appointment at the Phnom Penh Royal hospital so the doctor could run some tests.  Due to the specific symptoms (pain in the lower abdomen area), she feared he might have appendicitis.  

We spent the entire day doing test after test, and ending each test with the same result: "completely normal and fine".  Finally after 5 or 6 tests (including an ultrasound) they decided to do an endoscopy...basically like a colonoscopy but the camera goes down the throat.  So we called sister Moon and she gave the green light.  So my companion had "surgery" while I waited out in the lobby.  When they finished the results were the same: "completely normal", not finding anything out of the ordinary.  So why has his stomach been hurting for a week and half?  We still don't know.  In the end they prescribed a ton of pills and we went to have a 6:00 pm "lunch".  It was a long day, but it was a memorable experience visiting an asian hospital.  It was like a "pokemon center".  The young nurses wore the same white uniforms and everything.  The only thing I did not enjoy was the long wait, the cold AC, and how hungry I was.

The proselyting was good and we stayed pretty busy.  We gained 3 new investigators and met Davith.  Davith is a young man that we have taught and seen on a pretty regularly since meeting him.  He's fun to teach and to be around.  I am grateful for the opportunity to know him at this time.  

Not much time to write this week, just know that it was a good one. I'll write more next week.

Love, Elder Zierenberg


Pokemon center ladies

How many "sea animals" do you see?

Food: Papaya salad


Sunday, February 22, 2015

My 19th Birthday

Dear friends and family,

This week was a big week for a lot of reasons.  It was my first full week proselyting here in Chamkarmon.  I turned 19 on Friday, and I had many good experiences. 

As for the new area, I'm loving it.  I'm enjoying meeting new people and staying busy one task at a time.   I have never been so busy in my mission, the only way I can describe it is "Good, wholesome missionary work".  I don't feel stressed or overwhelmed, and we've had a trend of success everyday of the week so far. Having people approach us and ask to learn has been a new experience for me.  This week I took down the names and phone numbers of 12 potential investigators who had interest in learning with us.  We hope to meet with them and start teaching them in the course of this next week.  

The new house, as I've mentioned, is great.  The only problem was that the fan wouldn't work (someone had cut the power cord, so it lacked a plug).  Scavenging around the house I was able to find a broken clothes-Iron.  Using scissors and a bit of electric tape, I was able to surgically-transplant the plug from the clothes-iron and attach it to the fan.  So now we have a working fan! Do not be concerned though, the entire process was done in a very safe manner.

One good experience from this week happened on Saturday during a visit with an elderly active member in the "Chak Angre" area.  Her middle-aged son was home watching television and I noticed that he was watching and older version of "Robinson Crusoe", (translated into khmae obviously).  The man seemed confused and was having trouble following the bad translation, so I was able to clear things up for him.  I explained that "Thngai sok" (the 5th day of the week, Friday) is the name of Crusoe's companion.  Hence, that's why Crusoe keeps shouting "Friday! Friday!".  I was also able to give some background information on the characters and the plot. The man, surprised at my knowledge, asked how I knew and if I had seen the movie before,  I replied "No, but I've read the story once or twice".  He thought I was some sort of genius.  People don't read much here.

Friday was my birthday and I had trouble remembering that the day was special.  My companion had to remind me a few times, like when he asked "Do you want to do anything special for your birthday lunch?".  I though: "Oh's my birthday huh...".  It actually ended up being the most interesting/memorable birthdays I've ever had. 

That night we taught the older Chinese man, Vong.  My companion had mentioned it was my birthday so after the lesson Vong grabbed a bottle of soda and poured some into our emptied water bottles. (He had asked if we had any cups..but seriously who carries cups around?)  So we sat there in the dark, (He doesn't have electricity) and had a classic cheers *banging bottles together and everything, and drank.  I looked over at the Vong, this shriveled-old Chinese man who speaks hardly any khmae, and watched him drink the soda straight from the 2-liter bottle.  I looked over to my companion and we both almost lost it. After a few minutes of silence and enjoying one another's company, Vong, looking up with a drunken gaze, hand-motioned/grunted at us to finish our bottles before leaving. We shook hands, said goodbye, and biked off into the night.  I could not have had a more bizarre/cool birthday party.

I finished up the night with a surprise dinner from the next-door Vietnamese elder, and our regular nightly-Vietnamese lesson.  In the past week I was able to learn the entirety of the alphabet, the written/spoken-tones, and a few phrases.  I rub shoulders with Vietnamese people everyday, so I figure that the language might come in handy.  

The rats in my new area are bigger than I've ever seen.  It's like something out of "princess' bride" every time I see one.  The people keep their chickens locked in tightly-woven cages at night to keep them from getting killed and eaten by the ferocious rats.

As I expected, the food has been great this week.  Solid-healthy meals, combined my daily exercises are definitely increasing my energy levels and effectiveness throughout the day.  I've been pretty proud of the dishes I have prepared for my companion and me to consume so far.  I'm not familiar with the science of cooking food, but so far it's been coming out really good and I hope it continues to be that way.

With a many new investigators lately, we have taught "lesson 1" pretty frequently in the past week.  Teaching "The Restoration" never gets old.  Each time we convey the message to those we teach, I gain a greater appreciation of it.  I appreciate the peaceful spirit that settles around us, and the ability to commit those we teach to sincerely "pray to know".  Above all else, I appreciate the opportunity I have to bear my personal witness of the truthfulness of the message.  

It was a great start to my 19th year.

Love, Elder Zierenberg


Me with the tallest companionship in the mission (No...I am not getting shorter, if anything I've grown)

Cool artwork done by a Young man in our branch.  The theme is "The Stories of Jesus".  See how many stories you can find in the painting.

"Chbar Ampoev"

I "Tvwer muhohp"...(Make food)

The neighborhood

Sunday, February 15, 2015


Hello everyone,

It's been a quick week and much has happened. 

I finished out my days in Baku, including a farewell party thrown by the Baku members on Wednesday and a few last goodbye's on Thursday.  On Friday Elder Horn and I spent our last day together in Takhmao.  We got a few good lessons in, and Elder Horn gave me tips as I would be assuming the new leadership position in Chamkarmon.  Saturday Morning I took my bags to the Mission home, and met up with Elder Bostrom.  

Elder Bostrom is a cool guy.  He's 20 years-old, born and raised in Washington, and we have some things in common.  He's been in the country for only a couple months and has already learned a lot.  I have appreciated his assistance as I figure out my new responsibilities and become acquainted with the new area.  

I've basically been assigned as the cook of the house now, so we eat pretty healthy and rice has been eliminated from the diet.  We went to the market and purchased meat, eggs, various vegetables, and other staple food-items this morning.  Now that i'm a senior companion and with an american, I'm really excited for a "Healthy" transfer.  Despite the hassle of preparing my own food, I get to choose what I eat, which makes me happy. 

The new district is great.  It's just 4 of us: Elder Bostrom and I, Sister Fife and Sister Dy (Pronounced like the letter "D").  I haven't officially seen the sisters since arriving to the area.  I was concerned when we didn't see them in sacrament meeting, so I called them and found out that one of them had dropped something on their foot and they weren't able to proselyte that day.  

The new branch is nice.  The Branch president seems kinda quiet, and maybe a little scary even, but i'm excited to work with him.  The members are nice, they like to call the elders and involve us in the branch activities and fellow-shipping efforts (which I really like and haven't seen much in previous areas).  

My new house is really small, but it's very manageable and clean.  With only two elders in the house the dishes miraculously get cleaned after every meal, the floors stay swept, and the laundry gets done.  Although the larger elder's houses are always a party, I'm really enjoying the peaceful feeling of the new house.  The Vietnamese elders live right next door. They are also pretty quiet, despite momentary visits now and then.  

Since arriving in the new area I've made an effort to familiarize myself with all the people we teach, their names, and locations of residence.  With the help of the CBR books, we've located and met with a few investigators and some less-actives.  

Sunday night we went and met with an older chinese couple.  It was my first time teaching Chinese people, and it was an interesting lesson.  The man was from china but had picked up a bit of khmae, so we communicated in our common language.  The wife knew a handful of khmae, but not enough to carry on a conversation for long.  We asked the man if we could read a scripture together and he went to get his scriptures.  I noticed a refrigerator under his house and I was curious, (refigerators are nonexistent of here, only ever seen in elder's houses)  the house had no electricity and I didn't know where the power could come from.  He then opened it and pulled his chinese Book of Mormon out of it.  That's when I realized that he keeps his books in the refrigerator, not food.  

He asked us to find the scripture for him, so Elder Bostrom and managed to find it the Chinese Book of Mormon.  It was a challenge, but we managed to find it in less than a minute.     It ended up being a good lesson and we even learned a bit of Chinese.  

I'm enjoying the new area and the new people I get to meet everyday.  I'm especially enjoying the message that I get to share everyday, which is the message of "The Restoration of The Fullness of The Gospel of Jesus Christ."  It's a message that I have great confidence in and I'm proud to be able to share it with others. It is a true message.

Have a great week,

Elder Zierenberg

Last day with Elder Horn

I went hard on Valentine's day cards. 

"Don't look down"

Phnom Penh Night-lyfe


Elder Bostrom (My new companion)

"Back from the market"

Sunday, February 8, 2015

New assignment: Chamkarmon area, District Leader, Senior companion

Hello everybody,

Our investigators are multiplying everyday and we've been busy. We have 6 investigators committed to be baptized on the February 22nd, and a few others on their way.  Our Baku total attendance has skyrocketed during my past few months here.  At first we averaged 15 people or so attending, but we soon increased to 20+ people, and this past Sunday we had total of 43 people in attendance.  We were all crowded into the small rented house, and President moon just happened to show up that day.  Elder Horn and I both agreed that there could not have been a better day for him to come.  An entire investigator family in attendance, we had just adjusted the microphone for maximum sound quality, and many less-active members had come.  It was one of my happiest days as a missionary in Baku, and I enjoyed the meetings. President and Sister Moon both spoke and the spirit was powerful.  

Other news for the week is that we had transfer calls, and I will be leaving the Baku/Takhmao area this weekend.  I have been assigned to the "Chamkarmon" (Pronounced "Jim-Kaa-Moon") area.  President has asked me to serve as a District leader/Senior companion.  Furthermore, Elder Bostrom (new comp) and I will be white-washing the area as we are both new to it.  White-washing means that neither companion has experience in the area, so the first week or so will involve studying the record books/hand drawn maps to locate members homes.  I'm excited for the change, and the added responsibility will motivate me to improve.  

This past week we had Zone-training and received instruction in our teaching, along with some tips when working with members.  I took some good notes to apply in my new area.  

This past past Sunday in the Takhmao branch we had a high counsel speaker.  Unfortunately, he used the "Read a talk - When you give a talk" approach.  I've seen this happen quite a few times now and it seems to be a trend among some of the elderly-leadership.  The speaker read the "Which way do you face talk" by Lynn G. Robbins.  He was not the most talented reader, so it took a good 15-20 minutes to get through the entire talk.  In closing, he encouraged the members to apply the doctrine and sat down.  I have come to see the importance of talk preparation, and the influence it can have on the growth of each individual listener.  So remember to prepare your talks, and both parties will see growth.  

An investigator family of ours has a christian background.  I may have mentioned this before.  Each member of the family wears a cross on their neck.  I noticed while teaching them this past week, just how devoted they are to their beliefs.  Every chair has a cross painted on it, their moto's have crosses on them, even the cows have crosses hanging from their necks.  I'm glad to see that sort of devotion from people living in a mostly anti-christian community, even if the cross itself isn't something we worship.  This family is preparing to be baptized in two weeks and they have been graciously received by the Baku members. Their progression as they come to know the Lord's restored gospel is going well, and as they come to know the doctrine I'm sure the way they show their devotion will change.

I have been really soaking up the last few bike rides to and from Baku, I only have a few left before I transfer on Saturday.  I will miss that daily bike ride and the things I learned over the past 4 1/2 months from biking it.  If I ever had a question or something bothering me, it was most often resolved during that ride.  I was able to receive a lot of spiritual witnesses and answers as I pondered scripture, recorded events and doctrines on the road to Baku. I am very grateful for the time that I spent serving in this area, it has undoubtedly changed my mission.

I look forward to this last week here with Elder Horn.  I will miss him and what I have learned during my time with him.

Love, Elder Zierenberg


"Biking through Baku"


 Biking through Baku part II

My boy Songha

Church in Baku (2-8-15)

Sunday, February 1, 2015

5th Transfer, Week 4 Wrap-Up


This week was amazing and miracles happened in our work.  On Saturday, Elder Horn and I went around and committed 3 separate investigators to be baptized on February 22, adding our total of Investigators to be baptized that day to 4 people.  So 4/5 investigators in Baku are preparing to be baptized in a few short weeks.  I am very confident with these specific investigators and their progression.  All of them seem excited, and have expressed desires to be baptized.  So Srey Nou, Om sokom, Pu Ouen + wife, are at the front of our efforts for the next few weeks.  

Srey Nou is a high-school aged girl who has found friendship and trust with the members in Baku.  She actively attends church, and spends time with the other youth in the Baku group.  

Om Sokom is a previously dropped investigator of Elder Keo (my last comp).  He is practically deaf, which makes it hard to teach him, and he couldn't hear anything at church, so he stopped attending.  He is very enthusiastic about the scriptures and reads often.  He's the nicest old man ever and is willing to keep all the commitments we give him.  Elder Horn and I introduced the idea of using a wireless head set that can connect to the microphone in the church, so he will be able to hear.  We got permission from president Moon, and this now makes it possible for Om Sokom to be baptized.  

Pu Ouen and his wife have a christian background and enjoy learning about the gospel.  Upon hearing the message of the restoration, they began reading the Book of Mormon and committed to be baptized.  

So those are some of the cool people we teach in Baku.  I'm glad to see this growth in Baku compared to the state it was in a few transfers ago when I arrived.  We are finally beginning to see the fruit of our labors.  

On Tuesday this week I was biking down a dirt road in Takhmao.  I saw some children ahead of me running away from the path and into the side-shrubbery.  They all watched me through the bushes, some laughing, others just whispering.  I was confused, none of the usual "Hey-lohs".  Seconds later an explosion went off behind me.  There was a flash of light, dust and small particles hit my bike.  Then I realized that the kids had set up a fire work in the road, and I had just missed it by a few pedals.  I could hear them laughing and I contemplated on what sort of similar events might have happened here 30 years ago during the war-time.  

I like a lot of the plants here.  Quite often I will see a familiar looking plant and realize that i've seen it in America.  Then I realize that I've only every seen fake versions of the plant in America.  So next time you see a cool looking, fake plant, understand that its probably a copy of something we've got over here in Cambodia.  

On Friday we had an exchange with the Zone-leaders. Elder Khem formed a "tri-panionship" with Elder Horn and I for the day.  With the zone leaders over, both finishing their missions this transfer or the next, much talk of home was spoken.  At this point in my mission going home seems like a trip into a foreign land, and Cambodia feels like home.  Its a good thing I've still got over a year remaining.  

This morning I got a hair-cut, it was good and the only thing that was significant about it was that the guy shaved me.  He asked if he could and I replied "Yeah go ahead".  It was probably the cleanest shave I've ever gotten, and it was weird at the same time because I didn't really have to shave much 6 months ago.  What's notable is that I can officially say that I've been shaved at a barber-shop.

Elder Horn and I have tons of fruit at home right now because our recent-convert's family loaded our bicycle-baskets with bananas and mango's yesterday as we left for Takhmao.  In cambodian, a "bunch" ( that what they call it?) of bananas is called a "snut".  Part of me wants to think that they're called "snuts" in America too, because it just sounds right.  Mango's are great and they basically replace chips and salsa out here.  You cut them into slices and dip them in salt/peppers/garlic.  Probably my favorite Cambodian food so far.  

Another notable event is that Bong Pia, my less-active from Takhmao has returned to activity and has a calling now.  It took a few transfers, but it finally happened and he seems happy to be back.  

Thats it for this week.
Love, Elder Zierenberg

Photo: Takhmao church

The Church of
of Latter-day Saints

New khmae hymn books, just recently translated and printed.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Power

Dear family and friends,

This week had a few things that stood out.  

In Baku we have an investigator named Lookpu Long. He is a bike mechanic, but I rarely see him actually working on bikes, usually he just sleeps in his cot all day.  When we visit, he kindly pulls out chairs for us to sit on and listens to our message.  The first time we visited him, we taught the restoration and gave him a Book of Mormon, committing him to read.  During our follow-up visit with him the following week we asked if he had had an opportunity to read  the book.  He apologized and said that he hadn't, with the excuse that his friend had borrowed the book.  I knew instantly that he was lying (I could see the book still sitting on a table in the background, where he had placed it the previous week).  Elder Horn must not have seen it though, so he commended Pu Long for sharing with his friend and pulled another from his bag and handed it to him.  Unfortunately, I couldn't really say anything, or explain to elder Horn till after the lesson. The following week I went to his house while leading an exchange with Elder Jarvis (He's been in Cambodia for 3 months).  I again asked Pu Long if he had read in EITHER Book of Mormon we had given him, and his excuse was "Uh my friend borrowed both of them..".  Before I could say anything Elder Jarvis was pulling out a third Book of Mormon and handing it to Pu Long.  This time he actually tried to refuse it, saying his eyes were bad and that he couldn't read, but elder Jarvis insisted.  At this point I wanted to take it back (along with the 2 others), but I worried that it might ruin the spirit for the special lesson we had prepared for him.  

The lesson actually turned out really good, the teaching part anyway.  Elder Jarvis and I had a good flow and the big/intimidating words came out of my mouth just magically.  We taught with spirit and we could feel it with every point we taught.  Unfortunately, Pu Long wasn't as moved as we were.  At the end of the lesson he continued to talk about being to busy to go to church, or read the scriptures.  At that point I was really trying to hit him with the spirit that we were already feeling, so we began to testify powerfully.  He reacted a bit differently after that and his "No's" turned into "Maybe's".  Still not quite what I was going for, but we did our part.  I know that the Lord is very intimately involved in His work, so I trust Him and His Spirit to do the real teaching.

As for miscellaneous noteworthy events that occurred this week:

Pu Sophal and the Infected chickens: Part III

On Wednesday we met with Pu Sophal and asked how his chickens were doing.  He told us that he had sold them all, fearing that they would all die of the vicious disease.  So basically he sold a couple hundred infected chickens to some poor ignorant guy, not to mention probably spreading the disease to other chickens in Cambodia.  

On Thursday I drew out the entire solar system to answer the questions of a member family in Baku.  They were very interested to hear what was beyond the Earth, Sun, and Moon (Having never heard of anything beyond those three).  Thanks to some singing "Blue's clues" toy we used to have back at home, I remembered all the planets in order, including the qualities that set each one apart from the rest.  

One tool we have found to be helpful in our proselyting and teaching is the "Gospel art-book".  Basically a compilation of many paintings and photos to be used for various callings in the church.  Often, we will use it to teach an investigator about the restoration, showing them the picture of Joseph smith's vision.  During future-interview questions we will ask, "Do you believe that Joseph Smith saw God and Jesus Christ?" and some say "Yes, I know for a fact he did!" and we ask "Did you receive an answer to a prayer or have a spiritual experience?" And they respond "Yes I did, but also you guys showed the photograph of Joseph Smith when he met with God and Jesus, so it had to have happened" ....(Its a painting, not a photograph).  The thing is, more important than how many facts people can gather to back it up, is a strong testimony of the Book of Mormon.  That is something that I have noticed when observing the strength of members and recent converts, as well as the rate in which investigators progress.  Do they read their scriptures?  If they do, they are bound to have previously, or will receive an answer at some point.  The message of the Book of Mormon is a beautiful one, and I feel its power during each daily reading.

Good news for this week is that we had a family of 4 baptized into our branch yesterday.  They are a good strong family and have the support of the members as they have entered the church and seen changes in their lives.  As for The Cambodia Phnom Penh mission, we had a total of 30 people baptized yesterday.  

It was a good week.  Thank you for your support.

Love, Elder Jake Zierenberg

My Ride 

Elder Horn and me as millionaires

Btw #millionairse is a joke between me and elder horn.  Everytime we're tired and don't feel like teaching or contacting I ask him "what would a millionaire be doing right now?"  Because we both wanna be millionaires.When we hit all our key indicators and get good numbers, we say "we were millionaires today"

Also, can you tell that i'm almost as dark as elder Horn...Everyday I get darker and darker..