No matter how long we spend in Mongolia, we will always be more attached to home and Rick still loves to read our Salt Lake City based newspapers online. He also scans the weather and gives me a brief report…AND…we see that winter is coming in your part of the world, too. It was bound to happen but you’ve had a beautiful fall and we have, too. Our fall ended earlier than yours but it was lovely. This week we’ve experienced a taste of the lower temperatures–we’ve felt what five degrees feels like so we’ve even tried our big fluffy down-filled coats and now we know why they are so popular in Mongolia! With a coat down to the knees and boots up to the knees I’m pretty well covered. Then Rick wears long-johns, a stocking cap, and camel gloves. We’re sure you’re all smiling as you envision this picture…but we’re warm!!!
Other things that the extreme cold brings is lot of smog. It’s the worst in the mornings–it smells like burning coal or wood and there is a thick layer over the city and the air just looks smoky as we walk to work. Many people wear masks but our walk is so short that we haven’t resorted to them…yet! The normal level is 50 (I don’t know units…particulates???) and sometimes Ulaanbaatar gets as high as 500!!! We have some air filters in our apartment so now we know why. The city is trying to put filters on many ger stove pipes and they are also trying to move some ger-dwellers into apartments. When you see the humongous amounts of ger-dwellers it looks like quite a long road to clean winter air.
Last Saturday our Self-Reliance Center hosted a Business Forum. Again, we were amazed at the vast numbers of people in attendance. We helped with the cookie and candy break (we heard someone call it a “coffee break”) and then we passed out tacos for lunch. After the talks and testimonials, there was a display of products that are a result of self-employment. We saw beautiful pictures made from ironed straw on a black background, tailored clothing, beautiful shoes and slippers, and many other displays–some of you will be pleased that essential oils even made the scene! We were finished just in time to teach English to the director and so convenient to have her walk to the church building!
On Monday, we had several Elders for dinner–in shifts again. This is a result of so many schedules since all of us Americans teach English at different times of day. The Elders are great fun, very entertaining, and grateful for food!
We were invited to visit the Parliament this week. There is a member–Pujee–who does volunteer work with some members. She is known as “Parliament Pujee!” She used to work for them but had to quit because they continually asked her to lie. We walked to Sukhbaatar Square and joined a high-school tour group and then Pujee took us on a private tour. We went into the session, sat in the balcony, and received a warm welcome as the “Deseret International Charity.” NOTE TO ALL OUR KIDS…Dad was sitting waiting for me at the end of the museum!!!
Elder Francom had a District High Council Meeting one night and I went to a mutual activity in another building. They asked me to talk about food storage–a real foreign concept for Mongolia. So many are just worried about one day at a time that future planning is strange. I did my homework and found information about natural disasters (mostly storms, epedemics, and droughts–not ONE recorded earthquake!) and talked about food storage. I encouraged them to ask their parents if they could discuss it at Family Home Evening…and then they all headed to the kitchen for refreshments! Fun and respectful group of teen-agers!
Being a member of the Relief Society Presidency in our Branch gives me the opportunity to visit inactive sisters. It was a wonderful experience with dear sisters who loved the attention and fellowshipping that we brought. One sister was single, recently jobless, and committed to come to Relief Society and bring her little girl. I hope she comes. Another one was a returned missionary and her husband is in Chicago going to school. She lives with her mother in a tiny ger and as we talked we realized how lonely she was and suggested that she might need other sisters in her life. The ger was small, clean, and very warm as I listened to the wind whipping around outside. She could understand my English and so I told her that I’d seen her missionary sister, that very day, at the church building. She was excited. We invited her to church and I hope she comes, too. It warms my heart to visit these good people, see their circumstances and realize that this is all they have ever known as a home. We were told that ger districts sprang up so quickly that no one planned for water pipes or sewer lines but electricity is above ground so gers only have electricity.
Think of this…for many missionaries, their lives improve immensely when they serve missions because they live in apartment buildings with water and bathrooms and other conveniences. It is no wonder that they spend their final day as missionaries doing a “Reverse MTC” which reminds them that even though they are going back home to live as they formerly did–and they are excited to be with their families again–they cannot give up everything they have lived in the past two years. It is important for them to continue to live all the principles of the gospel. Many of them are the only member of the church in their family.
This reminds us that we are so grateful for the knowledge that we are gaining as missionaries. Unlike these Mongolian missionaries, we are in surroundings that are not equal to our former home yet are very adequate for two people who don’t spend much time at home. We have gained a better understanding of the important things–the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we have a loving Heavenly Father, our family can be eternal, the power of Christ’s atonement. We are so grateful that we can return to our home in SLC after our mission with new convictions to follow the principles of the Gospel.
Take care of one another and bundle up!!!
Elder & Sister Francom