Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas in Cambodia

The past week and a half have easily been the busiest of my mission so far.  We missionaries were occupied with preparations and intensified proselyting efforts.  

The missionaries from Cambodia and Vietnam all traveled to Phnom Penh where we had our Christmas activities.  We started out with a service project.  We made gift bags for the youth in our areas, filling them with journals, candy, and pictures of the temple.  The theme was standing in holy places, and the majority of the work was designing the covers on the journals.  I spent most of my time on that task.  

During the service activity, the missionaries from the distant provinces were arriving by bus, car, and moto-taxi.  It really started to feel like Christmas more and more  with each reunion. Seeing Elder Clark (my trainer) for the first time in 3 months was great.  Being back with Elder Christensen and the others from our group was also the best.  We all took note that it was the Sisters in our group's first and last Christmas in Cambodia.  

The mission had prepared a ton of food for everyone in attendance.  Through out the events, listened to several devotionals, and received good of instruction from President Moon.  I felt very inspired to make a few new year's resolutions as I commence my first full year (Jan-Dec) as a missionary.  

The Mission Christmas celebrations ended on Thursday (Christmas day).  Friday morning we skyped home.  And Saturday was our branch Christmas party. Cambodian people have the craziest, biggest celebrations, no matter how clueless they may be on Christmas traditions/culture.  I was impressed by the large number of people in attendance.  I think the "free food" attracted the masses.  There was a large group of drunk people that came from an area in 2nd branch, they came, they ate, and they left. Haha

One event happened during the party that I wont forget was when the Branch president came to us and announced that we (the missionaries) would be singing "Hark the Herald angels sing" two minutes before we had to go up.  None of us knew the words, except maybe the first verse.  We had no hymn books in English, except Elder Ty's small pocket hymn book.  So we courageously went up to sing, no-rehearsal, no practice, we just went.  6 elders and 2 sisters crowded around the tiny hymn book and struggled to read the small print.  Half way through we were all basically humming, one of the sisters was giggling, and we were done for.  At that point we laughed/hummed the rest of the hymn and sat down.  I think the audience and branch president really got a kick out of it. Maybe next time they'll tell us in advance(:

The Christmas party was closed with a crazy dance party, and I'm not sure when it ended exactly.  The next morning our church attendance numbers were low, probably due to exhaustion from the party.  We too were exhausted, and staying awake in church was no easy task.  

Sunday night was transfer calls, and I'm staying with Elder Horn.  I was happy about that, and I think I'll be in TK/Baku for at least 1 more transfer.  

We are excited to be going into the 2015th year this week. Take time to decide who YOU want to be this year.  

Have a great New Year's.

Love, Elder Zierenberg

Elder Clark and me... "The Reunion"

Christmas dinner with the boys

Sunday, December 14, 2014

I Unfold The Mysteries of the Universe Before Him

This week was alright.  I don't know the width of Cambodia from one end to anther, but I feel as though I've biked it a few times this transfer.  

On Wednesday my bike broke.  We were halfway to Baku it just quit.  The front wheel refused to spin despite all efforts, and we had to drag it for 45 minutes till we found a mechanic.  The mechanic was a good sport for dealing with it.  Most mechanics see my old bike and say "Too busy" or "Just buy a new bike, that thing is super old".  The guy ended up working at the front wheel for about an hour.  I can now ride it, but it wobbles hard in the front and its pretty grindy as far as pedalling goes.  The whole ordeal was unfortunate, BUT, it got me permission from the mission to purchase a new bike this week (the mission pays for it).  I'm super excited about that.  

Even though we bike a lot, it gives me time to talk to Elder Horn.  We have good conversations on the ride home from Baku at night.  I unfold the mysteries of the universe before him.  He was mind-blown when I told him that the light from the moon is a reflection of light that comes from the sun.  He spent the next few days telling people in our lessons, and they too were shocked.  I tell him about lots of things as we bike, and there's never a dull moment.  

We spent the majority of our week in Baku.  We had started proselyting in TK, but our lessons kept falling through and we felt that we would find more work in Baku at the present time.  We ended up having investigators at our Sacrament meetings in Baku and in TK as well on Sunday.  

Sacrament meeting was funny in TK yesterday.  I was translating for the senior couple and the district president had showed up to speak.  He went up and said "Well, basically everything I'd like to say today has been said in this talk in the Liahona magazine..." and he proceeded to read an article or two for the remainder the sacrament meeting.  I know how to translate...but not THAT fast.  The guy was reading it pretty quickly and the articles used words I'd never heard before.  In the end I think I got the gist across to the senior couple and I suggested that they read the articles for themselves for the full story.  

The "read a talk" when you "give a talk" approach seems to be pretty popular here in Cambodia.  The only issue is that the members seem to lose focus and stop listening after the first few lines.  I've learned a lot about how to keep people engaged in a lesson from my mission.  

On Wednesday I had quite a crowd at English class in Baku.  Every student is basic, so I end up teaching the ABC's for an hour and a half.  Our recent convert, "Songha" leads the class, having learned the ABC's from the previous missionaries.  I've endeavored to introduce key phrases to them like "What is that?" and the response "That is a...".  For only learning one day a week for a few weeks now, they are progressing well.  Many struggle with "S" sounds and "L's", but I make them say it over and over till they get it correctly.  

Thats a good review of my past week.  Have fun christmas shopping and taking pictures, etc.

Love, Elder Zierenberg

Sunday, December 7, 2014

I Like To Push Limits

This week was good,

On Monday we played Soccer again, went to a buffet in Phnom Penh, and started packing up our house in "Preh Ho".  They next Morning was the move.  

Tuesday Elders Anthony, Olsen, Horn and I, moved in with Elder Ty and Elder Lenguyen.  Their larger house can accommodate all of us quite comfortably and its been a party since then.  Moving was a bit stressful considering that it wasn't just our personal belongings, but the entire house as well.  Any appliances that we could carry and pack into the Tuk-tuk (moto-trailer carriage thing) came with us.  (Mattresses, dishes, fans, etc. )  So now we are all living together and settling in little by little.  

On Wednesday we had Zone Conference.  The major theme was "using time wisely".  Our leaders and President Moon had prepared some very inspiring lessons on this subject.  We gained an appreciation on how important the time that we have is.  Part of our training included searching the all scriptures that had references to "time" and how the Lord views it.  

Thursday was our first normal day for this past week.  P-day was over, the move was over, and so was Zone conference.  We had our weekly planning and proselyted.  

The weekend was spent predominately in Baku and that means "biking".  I was able to buy a new chain from my bike and tighten some things here and there and its been a bit better.  Elder Horn and I have a good pace when it comes to biking.  Some elders are slow,  but Elder Horn and I like to push limits when we bike.  Its a great workout besides how much vehicle exhaust we take in.  I don't think Cambodia has laws realted to the cleanliness of car exhaust.  Every car here blows out the darkest , thickest exhaust for everyone to breathe.  Most days I just wear a mask, but I don't know if it makes much difference.  

On Sunday we had church in both areas, and I enjoyed all the meetings.  Elder Horn and I were beat tired though and we had to keep each other from falling asleep through all the meetings.  In the Takhmao branch it was a bit easier staying awake because I was translating for the senior couple, and that always keeps me on my toes.  It was a good Fast-Sunday and many members got up and bore their testimonies.  The theme was mostly about Christmas and its interesting to see these people experience this holiday for the first time in their lives.  They don't understand everything, but they've got a good concept.  

Just like the other Elder Z, we also use the "He is the gift" cards as a contacting tool and we invite people to learn about Jesus Christ and this special holiday.  But our's say "Trueng kuu cia amnauytian".  

It'll be an interesting Christmas for sure.  

Have a great week everyone.  

Love, Elder Z