Monday, June 30, 2014

I Have My Anchor.

Hey everyone,
This week has been so important to me.  First off, I finished my assignment as District Leader.  I loved that assignment.  The weekly interviews I held with members of my district have been some of the most spiritual experiences of my life. I will really miss the assignment, but I'm confident that Elder Elieson is capable and ready for it.  

The reason why I said that this week was so important for me was because of an experience I had.  Growing up in the Young Mens's Organization, all my leaders would always say "I gained my real-lasting testimony during my stay at the MTC". That they had prayed and asked God if the church was true, and received an answer in some form or another.  Before entering the MTC, I had made it a goal to have a similar "life changing" experience here.  Despite having a previously gained my testimony, I still really wanted an unquestionable, REAL experience.  Something that would be an anchor to me during my mission, and for the rest of my life even.  I spent the last 7 weeks searching for that experience, doing the things I was supposed to do, praying, reading my scriptures, etc.  After about week 4, I started having doubts that Heavenly Father was going to give me that experience, because He knows me, and He knows I already have a testimony.  I figured He saved such things for people who really needed it, and that I would be fine without it.  Besides, He has given me many, many testimony building experiences here already.
I continued to pray, and to study.  I changed my mindset, that I no longer needed an experience, and that I needed to forget myself, to be humble, and focus on serving the people of Cambodia.  It was as soon as I started doing that, that I got my answer.... The one I wanted all along....
My experience has taken my testimony and built it so strong.  After my experience this week, I know without a doubt that Heavenly Father called ME to Cambodia.  *There is nothing random, nothing surprising, about my call to Cambodia.  I also know that He prepared me for this call, this language, and for the people.  He was preparing me before I even put my application papers in.*  

I now know greater than I ever have before that God is our Heavenly Father.  I know that He has called me to represent His true church.  I also know that Heavenly Father knew and knows of our needs and struggles, and that He blesses us accordingly.  I wouldn't trade that experience for anything else, not even the Beach House.  I don't need to question, to doubt, or second-guess myself.  I'm just going to do my best and serve to the greatest of my ability.  I have my anchor.  
On Tuesday we went to a Devotional with 6 Apostles present.  Elder Christofferson gave the most beautiful, rich, and organized talk I have ever heard.  He speaks like a modern day Isaiah, and every sentence could be a half hour discussion on its own.  The talk was so well prepared, and woven with scripture references and quotes. Elder Bednar, Elder Oaks, Elder Nelson, Elder Ballard and Elder Anderson were all seated on the stand.  The Presiding Bishopric and several of the Seventy were also there.  We have been blessed by so many great examples and representatives during our stay here.  

My companion, Elder Christensen and I had some powerful lessons with our investigators this week.  We taught Bong Ni (who we committed to baptism), about the word of wisdom, "ch'bah sokhaphiap".  He was receptive and we committed him to live it.  Bong Ni is awesome, and he's progressing fast.  Our other investigator, Lookpu Tri, gave us a curveball during our lesson this week.  We've been teaching him a while, and he WAS reading the Book of Mormon everyday, but this week he told us that he didn't really understand the purpose of the book.  I was confused because I have taught him the purpose of the Book of Mormon like 3 times already and he just can't seem to get it.  Elder Christensen went into our lesson prepared to teach about prophets, but our main focus became the B.O.M.  I was able to tell him about how God calls prophets to speak for Him.  I told Lookpu tri that Prophets give us guidance from the Lord.  (I keep having to translate my thoughts from Khmae into English so I can type this).
For the Book of Mormon , I was able to help Lookpu Tri to know that prophets of God had written the scriptures for us:
"Somrab Preahkompii moomoon, Khnom baan aac Lookpu Tri yuel tha pshhiaakarei nei Preah baan saasee Preahkompii somrab yeeng." 
Yesterday Elder Christensen and I spoke with Sister Teb, from Cambodia.  She's been a member 2 years and is now here learning English so she can serve in the CA, Redlands Mission.  We speak Khmae with her and we communicate pretty well.  It's awesome to see the fruits of our labors.  We even make jokes and come up with clever phrases in khmae.  She's cool.

Oh, as for other good news, I am really good at basketball now (Never would have for-seen this).  All week I was raining baskets from half court during our games.  Consistently too, not just lucky shots.  Seven weeks of shooting everyday have paid off.  Oh and I have a little carpet burn on my hand from wrestling with my Zone.  I had a little match this week with an elder who thought he could take anyone.... I threw him so fast with a little fancy foot sweep, (and I even got the zone cheering)... Elder Christensen said he had gained a new respect for me and other elders still bring it up now and then.  
There is an Elder Nixon here from Texas  going to Taiwan and he says he is related to the Daley's from Moorpark 1st.  Also, there's an Elder Peirce? Pearce? from TO 4th ward in my residence building.  I'd never met him but he says he went to Mormon Prom with Marissa Fletcher.  We had a ton of mutual friends.  

I really had an awesome week, and I'm excited for the two weeks I have left here.  Us “Cambo's” are among the oldest missionaries in the MTC now, and we are ready to head out. This Friday there will be a fourth of July celebration, and we will get to watch the fireworks (thanks to our awesome MTC president).  This will be two 4th of July's in a row that I've been in Utah for.  Thank you everyone for all the emails and letters/dear elders.  I really appreciate it.  I'm healthy, usually pretty alert ;), and happy.  I know how important the Gospel is, and I know they need it in Cambodia.  Tonight I will Skype-teach with Cambodians.  Last week's lesson went well and I anticipate that if we are prepared, tonight’s can be great as well.  

Thank you all,
Love Elder Z

Monday, June 23, 2014

Sacrament Meeting With The Brethren

This was probably the most amazing week I've had in the MTC.  On Tuesday, M. Russell Ballard spoke to us on focusing on the Lord and His prophets… saying that the world is getting louder and louder. That we need to block out this noise, and pay heed to the prophets.  Elder Ballard promised that they could not, would not lead us astray. That they love us and desire our happiness.  I trust the leadership of the Church to bring me and my family happiness if I will heed the words of the prophets.  Last night we heard from Sister Janice Kapp Perry.... she was awesome!  For some reason I always imagined her younger...haha.  She's like in her 80's, but still super cool and talented.  It was interesting to see the person who made all those songs from my childhood, and of course she had all the missionaries participate in her devotional.  She had prepared a specific medley for us to sing and it turned out so good.  The spirit was very strong when we were all singing.

On Tuesday and Wednesday I went on an exchange with Elder Klein from England, going to Hong Kong.  His district left last week but he had to stay behind because of his knee surgery.  I stayed with him in his room for two nights because he didn't have a companion and his district had left him with an empty room.  Their dorm is right next-door to us, so I wasn't too far from Elder Christensen, who didn't want to move his bedding.  Then on Wednesday, Elder Klein and I went off-campus for a few hours for an eye appointment he had.  It was amazing to be in the real world for a bit.  We talked to "real" people and didn't see any other missionaries for a while.  Elder Klein's eyes had started bugging him from all the studying he's done in the past 10 weeks here.  The Eye doctor says this happens all the time when missionaries study all day long for weeks on end.  Now I'm a bit worried about ruining my eyes from all this studying, but I suppose I'll be all right.  Elder Klein has to wear glasses now...and didn't before the mission. 

After the appointment we hurried back to the MTC and I got to host the new arriving missionaries for the last time.  It’s always nice to feel the spirit of these recently set apart missionaries, and their eagerness to get to work.  Many of them are stateside missionaries, so I've seen many of my "children" come and go during the 6 weeks I've been here.

Today was a sad day....Elder Matt Bacera flew out for The Democratic Republic of Congo.  I hung out with him in his residence last night while he packed.  It was kind of sad to see him go after arriving together and receiving our mission calls together.  I know he's ready for THE CONGO, and that he's going to do a great WORK over there.  I'm excited to hear about his adventures in Africa.  See ya in 23 months buddy!

 *****READ THIS: Yesterday was the biggest day I've had so far at the MTC.  Remember how I said I was assigned to pass the sacrament to some select people from Salt Lake? They had told us that there might be "a few General Authorities in attendance"...oh boy was that an understatement.  Sunday morning we get up early and made ourselves look nice and shined our shoes as we were instructed.  We go to the small chapel and get through the security blocked doors because we are "Sacrament Passers".  When we entered the chapel we noticed that all the chairs in the meeting are assigned, and each seat has a name on it.  This meeting was the start of the "New Mission president seminar 2014" and it was a Sacrament Meeting.  So we're expecting all the new mission presidents and their wives to be in attendance.  Long story short...(the chapel is empty and the meeting doesn't start for an hour or so) I look up on the stand at the labeled chairs...I kid you not, I'm looking at "Thomas S. Monson", "Dieter F. Uctdorf", "Henry B. Eyering" and ALL  of the 12 except for Packer.  We started freaking out.  I looked around and I'm seeing names like "Ronald A. Raasband", and The "Tad R. Callister".....I was in disbelief that WE were going to be passing the Sacrament to The Brethren.  I was chosen to break the bread on the side of the small chapel.  I was there seated half an hour before the meeting started, and I got to watch everyone show up.  All of the mission presidents were walking up to us and talking to us 4 elders seated at the table.  Tad R. Callister came walking up to our table and asked how we were doing and said that "we look sharp".  It was insane.  When the meeting started Richard G. Scott was just staring at me, smiled and gave me a little head nod. Holland was also just about piercing our souls with his stare.  Then President Thomas S. Monson shows up with Presidents Uctdorf and Eyering and the Spirit was overwhelming.  The prophet and I looked at each other a few times… haha.  I think we missionaries stood out because we are A LOT younger, and a lot less prestigious than everyone in the room.  The room wasn't really that big and we were just off to the side in view of everyone.  The experience was unbelievable and I will never forget it.  I can say now that I have seen all these great men. 

I guess missing the Beach House this year was worth it for that experience.  I hope everyone's having fun down there and being safe. 

I have 3 weeks left here and I'm stoked.  The language is great; tonight we will Skype a member from Phnom Penh and have a lesson with them.  It will be a fun experience and Elder Christensen and I will be gearing up for that today.  I'm grateful for this Church and the MTC to train me for Cambodia next month.  I love and miss all you guys! 

"Dooiic m'chah" (like a boss),

Elder Jake Zierenberg

Monday, June 16, 2014

"Bee" The Message

Hey everyone,

This week was a ton of fun. On Tuesday night, Elder Quentin L. Cook spoke to us.  I really like and appreciate how every apostle that speaks to us strengthens our confidence as missionaries.  Elder Cook spoke about how we are ready, how we are capable, and how we are chosen.  He dispelled our fears, and told us that WE are the message before we even teach our lessons.  We need to attract people with our good attitude and smiles.  He told us to "attract Bee's with Honey, and not with vinegar".  Just the stuff my district needed to hear after a long week of mental strain, as we continue to study the Khmae language. 

Elder Christensen and I taught quite a few lessons this week including a 45-minute one on Saturday.  Two weeks ago I would have never thought that I could teach someone in the Khmae language for forty-five minutes.  Yet somehow we pulled it off.  The spirit played a huge role in that lesson.  We taught a Returned missionary named Blake.  We focused on receiving revelations through the Book of Mormon, and then spoke a little bit about Father's day.  Elder Christensen got a little emotional as we were comparing Heavenly Father and our earthly fathers, the Spirit was pretty strong.

I consider my first week as district leader pretty successful.  I got do interviews with all the senior companions and its great to hear how everyone is progressing in their conversion.  Our district is by far the closest district and we have a lot of great missionaries who are gonna change lives in Cambodia.  We are on the second half of our stay at the MTC, and leave for Cambodia in about a month.  On Wednesday we got chosen to host again for the new missionaries.  I hosted 3 going to west campus (Spanish speaking) and one who will stay here at main campus. 

This week was probably by far the most fun out of any week so far.  Since the British elders left for Hong Kong today, we had a lot of zone-fun before they left.  Elder Christensen and I were honored to receive a ton of pass-downs from the older guys that were leaving.  We got pretty close with these guys and they chose us to receive the MTC "wealth".  "Pass downs" are basically items not normal to the MTC dorms, including: Toasters, nerf guns, seat cushions, memory-foam bed cushions, super random items, and other cool stuff you can't get here.  For instance, Elder Medley's kites will be a pass down to the next elders that come into the MTC.  We did a ton of stuff this week I'll never forget, spiritually and just plain fun.

We were pretty sad that the British elders were leaving today, I really liked those guys.  One of them actually stayed because he had knee surgery, so we didn't completely lose them.  The new Cantonese-speaking elders and sisters replacing those that left will be arriving on Wednesday.  We're excited to have them. 

As of this evening, our teachers will only write in the Cambodian script on the white board.  So no Romanized, no English translation... Just straight Khmer characters.  It’s going to be a stretch as we slowly get better and better at reading.  Our teachers do this because they love us and they want us to be as well prepared as possible by the end of our stay here.  I really enjoy speaking the language.  It’s refreshing, and half the time I don't even recognize I'm speaking a foreign language.  It’s getting pretty natural and the words come pretty easy for me.

There are a few missionaries FROM Thailand and Cambodia here.  We talk to them all the time in their native languages.  I've picked up a bit of Thai so I mess around with this little Thai elder, the guy's gotta be like 85 lbs.  He’s hilarious.  His name is Elder Lualai.  Every time I see him we start reeling off in Thai / Khmae to each other.  Stuff like "ahh lueng!' and "aboppaboe" and "Yuk dai maikte!".  I think I speak more Thai than the new Thai elders in our zone that have been here for a week.   

This is the week when all the new Mission Presidents come to get trained.  We've been told that all 12 apostles will be on campus throughout the week.  Maybe we will see themJ

Our zone will be passing the sacrament to the new mission presidents, general authorities, and other representatives from Salt Lake this Sunday. I'm kind of excited for that.

I'm learning so much here, I feel the Spirit all throughout the day, multiple times.  This is a good place, but I can't wait for Cambodia.  The elders I meet everyday are amazing and I learn so much from them.  Most nights of the week, different elders we are close to, tell their "story". How they came to be missionaries, and what they faced to get here.  I've been so humbled by these stories.  I have some truly remarkable people in my zone and district.  I know from them that the Lord saves his finest soldiers for the toughest battles.  Some of these guys have had trials and challenges placed in their lives that I doubt I could have handled.  It’s the overcoming of these trials that really impresses me.  I know that Heavenly Father has a plan for everyone, and that he prepares some of his greatest servants in the furnace of affliction.  These elders are chosen servants for sure. 

Thanks everyone for the Dear Elders and letters.  I'm working hard and feeling little bits of success and blessings along the way. Quentin L. Cook blessed us in the conclusion of his talk; he told us that as a result of our efforts, everyone we knew, family, friends, and loved ones would be blessed heavily.  I want that for my family, friends, and everyone that I love.  So I'm going to keep working hard and trust Elder Cook and the Lord.

I love you all,

Elder Jake Zierenberg

Monday, June 9, 2014

I Love My District!

This week in the MTC was pretty eventful.  On Wednesday our district was asked to host new missionaries that were arriving.  It was intense.  Ideally, the Host/new missionary ratio is supposed to be 1:1... but there are so many coming in now that school is getting out, that many of us had to double up.  So I carried hundreds of pounds of suitcases all day.  Probably the best workout I've gotten in a month.  Many parts during the hosting session, the new missionaries have to leave their bags with the host, and go through buildings, meeting the host (with the luggage) at the other end.  So I would have to run like six different luggage items around to the other end of this massive building, I was sweating buckets.  After completing a hosting session, I would have to literally sprint back to the drop off curb and get more missionaries.  I love the job though... it gets us out of class.  J 
Every one here thinks I'm so old, and then they freak out when I tell them I'm only 18.  People always think Elder Christensen and I are in our 20's.  Sometimes we just go with it.
Elder Christensen had his 19th birthday on June 6th, and we had a nice little party for him.  His family sent him a cake and balloons and stuff. 
This week I was assigned as the District leader for the Cambodians...over 15 of elders and sisters.  Yes, there are sisters in my 8 I think.  I'm a little nervous about "being in charge" because I'm #1 The youngest... and #2 Everyone else has lived away from home for significant amounts of time, many in foreign countries like china.  And #3…  I never considered myself as much of a leader.  Not to mention that we have the biggest district on main MTC campus.  My district is bigger than 90% of the ZONES here, so basically I have to run a zone. I've been stepping up my game a ton because of the new assignment.  I have to schedule so much more, conduct meetings everyday, and interview missionaries, attend a ton of leadership meetings... Its great J.   The best part is the opportunity I have to serve my fellow Cambo's whom I love and respect a lot.  These Elders and Sisters are prepared and everyone is unique with their own strengths and talents.
An elder in my district has his mom send us anything and everything we could possibly want or think of.  So far Elder Medley's mom has sent us: Kites, tons of food, snap-backs, superhero T-shirts, watches, cologne, pens, paper, you name it.  We will get another "shipment" this week.

Today we got up early and went to the temple. It was great, I like the Provo Temple.  Yesterday, Sunday, we had a temple walk before dinner.  I like the temple walks because no one is in a hurry and its a good time to meet new people and find out where others will be serving.

So the beach house is coming up, or already started? It’s cool that everyone is able to make it this year (besides Roddy and me). Be sure to send me pictures of what’s going on, especially the big Zierenberg Family photo.
Does everybody know an Eric Mika who played Basketball for BYU? Anyways, he's here and we see him all the time. We share the same residence building and have similar schedules.  Also, one of my favorite Cambodian teachers, Lookru Stevens (previously our investigator Sokhaa) from Burbank, Ca...  He is a men's fashion design major who graduated from BYU, he played soccer for BYU a few years ago...his name is Kory Stevens. He has a men's clothing company called "Taft clothing" or something like that. He's married with one kid, and is fluent in Khmae.  We also got a new teacher this week named Lookru Mickelson.  Super nice guy, super excited for us, we love him.  So now we have four RM teachers, all elders who served in Cambodia.
On Wednesday, the new Thai elders and sisters arrived, so we challenged them to a district vs. district Kickball match on Friday.  I guess our Cambodian district is super intimidating, because the Thai's were too scared and refused to play us after having accepted the challenge the day before.  I can understand why they would be scared...We have Elder Medley who played Varsity Basketball in Arizona, Elder Christensen who is super athletic and amazing at every sport, Elder Paramore who was a state champ wrestler in Oregon, Elder Eliason who swam for BYU, Elder Neuberger who used to play in the BYU kickball league, Elder Le Nguyen who everybody loves, Elder Yu who is pretty athletic and a little baller on the court, and myself.  I love my district.
Yesterday for our Sunday devotional, Brother Heaton from MTC administration spoke to us on the law of Chastity.  It was super good, and he taught us how best to teach it to our investigator in the mission field. He also taught us about the sacredness and what God thinks about the law of chastity. I enjoyed it.

Now that I'm the District Leader, I get to bear my testimony all the time to my district. My Kmhae is continually improving and we're beginning to read the script.  The Holy Ghost is strengthening us and helping us learn at an incredible rate. I'm grateful for the MTC and the spiritual power it gives missionaries as they prepare to serve.  I love all you guys and the support and the letters.  Thank you so much!

Love Elder Zierenberg