Being a missionary has caused us to wonder about and look back on other family missions–Rick’s first one in Texas and our four children’s missions in Florida (Chad), Portugal (Angie), France (Scott), and California (Kurt). We all know the wintery conditions of “Hot and Humid Texas,” “Sunny California,” and “Balmy Florida” but we’d forgotten the details of Portugal and France. We asked Angie about Portugal and we shouldn’t complain about winter in Mongolia. She said, “The winters in Portugal– they were cold but a different cold. It doesn’t snow there–I saw snow once when we went on a trip to a mountain with a bunch of members. It rains a ton in Portugal and it’s humid so it makes for a different kind of cold. I got there in October and it seriously rained for almost 3 months straight. Our apartment walls grew mold on them. We spent P-day cleaning them with bleach. My umbrella from home was ripped to shreds in the first rainstorm. I bought thick sweaters there and we would layer them with our long coats. The worst part was they don’t have heaters over there and also no carpet. That’s where I picked up my slipper wearing habit because it is a necessity there with cold floors. We had little space heaters we would move around our apartment with us. A long day would call for making a small batch of no bake cookies (because only one of my apartments had an oven) and eating them out of the pan over the space heater with my companion. My last apartment had a fireplace so I would often sit by it (along with my wet shoes) at night. So it was cold but a different cold.” Then, Scott said–“France is further north on the globe than Utah. I remember my first winter in Calais was mild temperatures but cold because of the humidity. Since Calais was right on the coast it rained quite a bit. It never snowed in Calais. For a coat I had a long trench coat that I didn’t like. It hardly kept me warm especially with the humidity cutting right through it. I knocked on a lot of doors when it was pouring rain outside. I used a scarf and it helped a lot. My second winter was in Nancy. It was on the border by Germany and more inland. It got really cold but it didn’t snow very much. I remember the one time we got a big snow storm, the French people didn’t know what to do. But again it was cold and humid. I decided to buy myself a better coat than the trench coat and that worked much better.”
We’re sure there are many other missionary winter stories to at least equal these and we’re about to experience a Mongolian winter so we’ll see how it compares over the next few months. I’m so grateful to have a heating system, rugs on our floors, as well as a stove and we’ve bought some puffy down coats. We were at zero degrees yesterday morning but it warmed up to forty degrees by midday…and this is still Fall!!!
Last Saturday was a very nice wintry day–it was cold and blustery but President Benson invited all the senior couples to go out to lunch to one of his family’s favorite restaurants. It was a great restaurant and I had a wonderful chicken dish–chicken is not considered a “meat” over here for some reason but I loved eating it! Then, he took us all shopping to some “Americanized” stores that were too far away for walking. Imagine–we had a car to carry it all home in! We enjoyed our time and found canned pumpkin, bags of flour (yes, they’re everywhere but so heavy for a long walk) and other familiar things.
Our shopping was cut short because the two of us had to go to the Ministry of Labor to teach English to the Director so we took one of the two vehicles and went on our way. The Director was a little late because she had been playing basketball with some of the employees–we decided she was more human than we had thought! We had a good class and then taught her again on Wednesday. She really picked up on it quickly so we asked her why. She said she watches a little English TV but she also knows Russian. We’re not sure if that has anything to do with it since we are so UNschooled in languages…she is probably a talented language person. But, the really exciting part of this is that her translator told us they had a driver that will be picking us up and taking us home from now on!!! That might not be too exciting to anyone else but we’ve been paying about 75,000 tugriks ($36) per week for a crazy Mongolian taxi ride to teach English. Oh…the new driver is just as crazy–every driver in Mongolia is crazy–but he’s FREE!!! AND…the Director lives quite close to the church building so she would like to walk to it for Saturday classes! All we have to do is walk over there and teach for an hour every Saturday. This all makes English teaching a bit easier on our P-day.
The President asked us to get with all the new missionaries as they start teaching their own English classes. They all have such varied assignments–one teaches 6-16 year olds at a school, another has 10-12 year olds, and another teaches high school classes of 20-30 students in each class. One new Elder came in seeking help because ALL the English teachers at his school share ONE lesson book so they let him take it for this weekend. How in the world is an inexperienced young man supposed to teach a set curriculum without having the guidance of the book for preparation? But in reality, these missionaries are so busy with teaching appointments and other missionary duties that they really don’t have lots of English preparation time. All of a sudden, our own teaching assignment looks quite easy and we have the privilege of allowing ourselves time for preparation…oh, we are blessed. Of course, we will still do our best to help these missionaries but there is a senior couple coming in December and their main focus will be English helps for the missionaries so we’re hoping they have lots of answers!
We made another large meal for Elders on Tuesday. It reminds us of family dinners on Sundays except we don’t have a wonderful cooking daughter and daughters-in-law to help–I have to do EVERYTHING!!! We miss all of you girls! Some Elders had to eat at one time because of commitments and others couldn’t come until later so it was like a revolving door but we finally finished washing the last dish just in time to call it a day–we were tired but it was so worth it!
On Friday night we were invited to a family’s home for a farewell dinner for the Nays. The four of us took a taxi most of the way, then met up with our translating Elders, walked a bit, and knocked at a metal gate. We were met by one of the sisters carrying two big water jugs towards the house. The Elders helped her carry them in and we began a wonderful night. Inktoya (I have no idea how to spell it, of course) was scurrying around her kitchen so her twelve year-old daughter entertained us with her violin, electric keyboard, drawings, and wood carvings. Then, we ate dinner–Inktoya had fixed an American favorite–spaghetti and meat. It was very nice but the most delicious part was a red cabbage and pasta salad. It was very interesting to look at but had such good flavor. Then, dessert was a chocolate cake with whipped frosting. I was a little uncomfortable because none of the family ate with us. They sat on their bed and visited as we ate around a small table with little stools to sit on. Another daughter arrived and joined us and she played the morin huren (morin means horse and a horse is always carved at the top). The two young sisters sang “A Child’s Prayer,” in English and it was beautiful. They were definitely sweet, lovely girls who let their mother show them off! Inktoya had her sister helping her with dinner–as we left she was washing our dishes in a little dishpan on a stool. There was no mention of a husband/father. It was a beautiful evening and they were a gracious family that warmed our hearts as we took a very cold walk and bus ride back to our apartment.
So…we are blessed to see these wonderful people live such a simple life and have such giving hearts. Before we arrived in Mongolia we had the impression that these people must be simple people in a third-world country that weren’t very civilized…our opinions have changed greatly! They are part of a growing country–very civilized, family oriented, fashion conscious, education oriented, and truth-seeking To experience a simple life free from so many extras that seem to be necessities in America is quite a thing to see. We know it all seems so important but these people are so giving of simple things and you can be sure that it’s their best. We love our life back home and know that we will return to it but we will always have wonderful thoughts of these people who can do so much with so little. We are grateful that the Gospel is in Mongolia to bring these people the truth and see them incorporate it into their lives. They love the Gospel and we are learning to love it in a new way by the example they set for us. We know that our Heavenly Father’s plan for all of us is to return and live with Him–this includes all the people of the world. What a wonderful thought!!!
Please appreciate the simple things with your families and take care of one another. We are blessed to have all of you in our lives.
Elder & Sister Francom