We have been immersed in celebrations and customs this week. Naadam is one of the two big Mongolian festivals (the other one is in Jan-Feb). Although Naadam incorporates Mongolia’s traditional nomadic sporting and military cultures, the three-day (5 days this year says the popular president) festival celebrates the Mongolian Revolution of 1921 and the nation’s independence from Chinese occupation. Ulaanbaatar and all the outlying communities practically shut down and everyone celebrates in their own way. Some attend various wrestling, archery, or horseback-riding events while others enjoy time with family and friends–at their city home or going out to the country. Last week we experienced the Opening Ceremonies but there was so much more to come!
Saturday night we were “cultured” at the ballet (“Swan Lake”) and it was a great performance. Now, we are NOT connoisseurs of the ballet but the costumes were gorgeous, the dancers were graceful, and the scenery was creative–we were glad we went…yes Elder Francom survived with a smile on his face!
Then, on Monday we were invited by the District President to ride (notice I didn’t say WALK–it was two hours away by bus!) out to the mountains and attend another event. He is part of a business venture that would like to duplicate the Hawaiian Polynesian Cultural Center here in Mongolia. Oh, the scenery was spectacular–yes, just as beautiful as the Utah mountains! It was in Tereji (Tear-leg…roll your “r”) and there were snacks of cucumbers, tomatoes, oranges, celery and TONGUE (I’m better off not knowing the origin) and soft drinks or water. When the snacking was over, we sat on bleachers and the program began. It was based on an old traditional legend:
“The Golden Antlers.”
Once upon a time, a camel had beautiful golden antlers,
but the deer borrowed them in order to decorate himself. The deer never
returned the antlers and the camel keeps waiting, often pausing during its
grazing to gaze into the distance, waiting for the deer to bring his antlers
back. So…Grandpa Jaaya told his family the legend and then asked them to
go on ahead and set up camp. They arrived but start playing instruments,
dancing, and riding horses doing tricks. Finally, they saw their grandfather
in the distance so they hurriedly and set up their camp and had food and
airag (air-ek–fermented mare’s milk) waiting for him when he arrived.
Of course, we took pictures!!! It was very nice and we hope they do well with this venture!
We worked the rest of the week and most of the Mongolians came back on Friday for a one-day work-week. We skyped with Hong Kong and it helped us understand more of our PEF concerns.
On Saturday (today) we went out to the country, by bus again, to an old monastery ruin. This was a home to some Monks who were driven out and killed when the Soviets invaded Mongolia after WWII. It was in a beautiful mountain setting with small hills to climb and places to explore. There was only one big problem…it rained, and rained, and rained some more!!! Of course, some of the Elders dressed like 5th graders–“Rain??? Oh…I thought it was summer!” Well, it is summer but when it rains it’s going to be cooler. We shared an extra poncho and a quilted vest in the name of all their mothers and ate genuine Kentucky Fried Chicken and homemade cookies that all the Seniors brought. In front of the largest ruin there was a big grassy area and the missionaries had ONE FOOTBALL! The biggest football game that Mongolia has ever seen started and not one Elder thought about being wet or cold! They played by the hour while the rest of us were glad to hunker down under our umbrellas. Someone finally came and opened the one building that is still standing and it was like a mini-museum that attracted the non-football players. We finally went back and waited in a mission car while the Elders continued to enjoy their day of freedom. When the mission president called the game a “rain-out,” we returned to the church building for activities but NOW, we really had a bunch of cold and wet missionaries so we all went home to dry off. It does feel good to be dry and warm–finally, and the rain keeps drizzling but at least we’re not still in it!
While reading this week, we came across this scripture that describes our experience here in Mongolia:
36 Now if this is boasting, even so will I boast; for this is my life and my light, my joy and my salvation, and my redemption from everlasting wo. Yea, blessed is the name of my God, who has been mindful of this people, who are a branch of the tree of Israel, and has been lost from its body in a strange land; yea, I say, blessed be the name of my God, who has been mindful of us, wanderers in a strange land.
37 Now my brethren, we see that God is mindful of every people, whatsoever land they may be in; yea, he numbereth his people, and his bowels of mercy are over all the earth. Now this is my joy, and my great thanksgiving; yea, and I will give thanks unto my God forever. Amen. –Alma 26:36-37
Truly, these are people God is mindful of as we feel of their Spirits as we watch them labor in a strange land while all of you perform the same labors in another land far from them. The Gospel is true, wherever we are! Yes, we are wandering, at times, but what an adventure!!!
We love you all and know you are caring for one another!!!
Love, Elder and Sister Francom
(P.S. While you are all slumbering, we’ve had our fifteenth grandchild born to Scott and Melissa, a girl–we are so excited!!! And we are so grateful to the modern world of technology because we have seen them all!)