Monday, May 26, 2014

Week 2 in the MTC

This week was pretty cool.  I learned a ton of Khmae, and my testimony gets stronger every day. Its crazy that some of the missionaries that arrived on May 14th with me, are leaving for their designated missions today. The English speaking missionaries anyway.

Our investigator, "Bong Broh Sokhaa" became one of our teachers after we committed him to baptism. The guy is a returned missionary from Cambodia. His name is Brother Stevens, and he lives in Burbank CA! He was actually the teacher for our two other teachers when they were in the MTC. All three of our teachers are really young, just a few years older than us missionaries.  They all have their different strengths and weaknesses.  I'll break it down for you:
Lookru Oleson: Just got married 2 weeks ago, got back from a honey moon in Cambodia 3 days ago. Super nice guy, he loves us, we love him. He likes to take us out individually, ask us how we are doing, and instruct us 1 on 1 for 45 minutes or so. Very helpful.
Lookru Hill:  He's married, attends BYU.  Was companions with Lookru Oleson at some point on the mission. He's VERY serious about the mission, and rules and stuff like that. He has a great love for the Cambodian people, and does NOT want us to fail them. This burden can be stressful at times, but we stay focused and prepare.
Lookru Stevens (previously our investigator Sokhaa): He's married with a 6th month old boy.  He has good clothing style. Looks to be maybe 25-26 years old.  He bore his testimony to us about how he felt (as Sokhaa) when we taught him.  I love this guy.  His Khmae is FLAWLESS ... pronunciation and vocabulary, grammar...everything.  I want to be able to speak like him some day.
My boy Elder Christensen and I got haircuts on Saturday.  I was worried because everybody was telling us that the barber ladies are cranky and don't do a good job.  Luckily we showed up when the younger, nicer barber girls were there.  They did a good job.  Apparently missionaries aren't allowed to cut their own hair at the MTC because it would make a mess, but in the mission it’s fine.  I'm cool with a free hair cut though. 
Church was great yesterday, I passed the sacrament with Elder Christensen and I gave the closing prayer in Sacrament Meeting. In Priesthood we consecrated our oil vials.  Last night we had a devotional with President Allen from the Church General Missionary Board. I was in the very front row.  Yesterday was also Choir practice, and Elder Christensen likes to go to that, so I just do an exchange with guys in our district.  Elder Medley, Elder Yu, and I hung out in the classroom and I spent the hour drawing a mural on the white board. 

I see Elder Bacera and his companion Elder Sperry everyday.  The two of them are the only ones going to Congo from the US. They have French class with all the others going French speaking.  I also saw Sister Laura Janfaza from our stake. She's going to Mexico.  I also saw Sister Natalie Kawaii. 
My zone resides in 14M Addison Pratt building.  I hear British-English more than American-English so I’m picking up a pretty good accent.  When I write in my journal at night, I think in a British accent.  Elder Christensen has a sister serving in the San Fernando CA mission Spanish speaking. So that’s pretty close.
Tonight we will have our first lesson with our new investigator "Bong Broh Nih" (pronounced like "knee") We're looking forward to that.  
Our mission badges are so unique, we always have people asking where we're headed.  Sometimes we tell them "Afghanistan North mission" because the Khmae script sorta looks Middle Eastern. Half the time, the sisters actually believe us haha.
I think we are finally getting used to the MTC schedule.  We're always a little tired but its nothing we can't handle.  There are a few former wrestlers in my zone. Maybe we'll pull out the mattresses and have a mini dual meet one of these nights...
Thanks everybody for all the mail! I really appreciate it. The Church is awesome, and its weird being an official representative, but I love it.  The Book of Mormon is a beautiful book of scripture, and we use the Khmae "preahkompii moomoon" (BOM) in our lessons with our investigators. We learned how to tell them to "turn to [insert book/prophet], chapter [ ], verse [ ], and please read for us".  Some times in our lessons, Elder Christensen will teach a principle, and I'll testify of it. The spirit is strong.    For example, Elder Christensen taught Sokhaa about baptism, and then we asked him if he would follow the Savior's example and be baptized.  He hesitated a I went straight into testify mode...I don't remember what I said exactly...I told him that elder Christensen and I loved him, and so did Heavenly Father.  I told him that the church was true. I told him about MY own baptism, and what it had done for me. The spirit was crazy strong and we were practically in tears, and then I again asked him if he would be baptized.  He told us he loved us, and that he knew that God loved him, and that he WOULD be baptized.  All this was done and said in Khmae, not English.  It was good experience.

I love you guys, and I know that God loves each and every one of us. 

Khnom chmooah neaksapsasaasna nei preahyessukrih nun preahvoobeida sua.

Elder Zierenberg

Monday, May 19, 2014

The First Day

The first day was the hardest day of my life. One hour of sleep, altitude, and tons of sitting and studying. But I got used to it, and everything's great.

So the flight from Burbank airport was a joke. Elder Bacera, Elder Gardner, and some sister missionaries waited about four hours in the lobby area before boarding the plane. Apparently a lavatory light was out and we simply could not fly without a bathroom light.  Long story short, it was a super long wait and we showed up a few hours late to the MTC.

I missed my first class and a few other meetings. When I arrived they gave me all my gear, missionary badges, ID card/debit card, and my key to our dorm.  I hadn't found my companion yet so I was temporarily assigned to some elders going to Montreal, Canada. They were cool. Finally, as I was loading my suitcases into my dorm, a bunch of elders came running up smiling and shouting "Elder Zierenberg, you made it!" Kinda an important moment for me because I was feeling a little nervous and out of place. When these guys came running up like that it made me feel pretty special. I could tell that my district, TEAM CAMBODIA, was gonna be great.  My companion is Elder Christensen. He's from Riverton, UT. He just finished a year at BYU, and he turns 19 this next month.  

So I got praying in Khmae down and I’m praying multiple times a day.  We have taught our investigator, Sokhaa (pronounced SOH-kah, not sokka like avatar) and we teach him in 100% khmae.  We taught him about God (Preahvoobeidaa Sua), Jesus Christ (Preahyeesuuhkrih), and Joseph Smith (Yosabb smiitt) and we taught him to pray...funny story: When we were teaching him to pray, he tells us (in khmae) that he already knows how to pray, like buddhist style. So "Bong Broh" Sokhaa starts doing this weird singing/prayer thing in khmae. It was the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard and Elder Christensen and I started laughing like three seconds into it and couldn’t stop laughing through the rest of the lesson because we kept remembering the singing. And when I'd finally stop laughing for a few seconds, elder C. would start laughing again and on and on. Even our investigator was laughing a little. . We study our language for 8 hours a day.  

The food here is all right, except that the cafeteria workers pile every plate as if we are at the final feed for wrestling. So we eat a ton.  Thank goodness I brought a container of psyillium from home. Because everyone else in my district is suffering...stress the "suffering" part.  One thing that is cool is that Elder Christensen is into exercising everyday, just like me. 

So yesterday was Sunday, we had Sacrament Meeting and Priesthood with our Branch. The Branch president is Pres. Jackson, he is just always smiling and super nice. It was great and I love all these guys.  Then Sunday night we had a devotional/watch a video.  It was called "Characters of Christ" by Elder Bednar.  Just a video of him speaking but it was powerful and good. It definitely strengthened my personal study of the savior.  Anyway...Then the REAL Elder Bednar walks in right as the video ends…we were like going crazy. Elder Christensen, a few sisters from our zone, and I had snatched some seats about 5-6 rows back from the pulpit. So Elder Bednar was like from the "blue van to the mailbox" distance from us.  He had a Q & A session with everyone at the devotional.  It wasn’t very crowded because these devotionals are optional, and apostles NEVER come on Sundays.  Elder Bednar testified with power on many, many questions he answered. The Spirit was so strong.  I wasn't expecting to see and hear from an Apostle on my third day in the MTC. Sister Bednar carried the same power and strength in her testimony.  I wish all of you could have been there with us.

Anyways, I love you guys… And thank you, thank you for the Dear Elders.

"The atonement could not have happened without the CHARACTER of Christ"