Giving Thanks!

Last summer we were cultured at the ballet…last Saturday we were cultured at the “Ball”–we went to the 239th Marine Corps Birthday Ball!!!  When was the last time any of you went to a “Ball” like Cinderella?  Well…minus the gown…the glass slippers…the diamond jewelry…we were dressed as LDS Missionaries but we fit in since almost anything passes at any event in this modern world.  Most were dressed beautifully, however.  We “worked the crowd” a bit and met several interesting people.  We learned that there are so many people who are separated from their children and grandchildren living on many different continents and are so content with a visit once in a while–we certainly cannot understand that!  Some Americans had been gone for most of their careers and are about to retire and move back to the states.  A man from California had us pegged as LDS Missionaries so we had “the look!”   Our story that we told was the usual…working for Deseret International Charities as English Teachers for 1 1/2 years.  The U.S. Embassy hosted the event to honor the eight U.S. Marines that are stationed in Mongolia.    The American flag was presented with the theme song of the Marines and it was nice to hear familiar music and to see our national flag being honored–we were proud Americans!!!  The guest of honor was Ambassador Piper Campbell and she was smart enough to keep her remarks short.  (We wondered what it takes to be appointed Ambassador to Mongolia!)  Of course, there was a birthday cake that was cut with swords and the oldest Marine took a bite and then the youngest one.  Dinner was served and then we all had a sliver of cake.  The “Ball” part came with a DJ, his computer, and mixer and the young ones really rocked!!!  Sorry…we’re not made of that so we called it a night when it was just starting to pick up for many.  It was a fun evening and we were definitely proud Americans!

We spent Sunday out in Nalaikh again.  We were fortunate enough to be dropped off by the Nays as they were going to Bagnauur.  We took a car-full of speakers to the two branches and enjoyed our ride together.  One of the sisters was Naomi (yes, her American name) and she leaves on December 2nd for the New York South Mission.  We have a niece serving in the same mission so we’re hoping that we hear some good stories from Sister Beecher and Sister Naomi working together!  Out in Nalaikh, Elder Francom was a High Council speaker and after attending the full block, we rode a bus back to town and finished fixing a crock pot dinner for one of our Sukhbaatar Branch families that we home/visit teach.

This family–no family name, remember–is a great family.  The father is a former District President before there was a stake.  His son is Munk-Od with Beyersaken as his wife.  They have just been accepted to BYU Hawaii and are so excited to have a bright future.  Then there is a sweet sister and the most amazing part is their mother.  She is not a member of the church!!!  She is very sweet and has a wonderful spirit.  She has always cooked for us when we’ve visited so we repaid their kindness by having them to our house for a change.  We hope to continue to share our testimonies as we visit–such a special family!  Munk-Od and his wife married in the Hong Kong temple last January and their dream is to see the Salt Lake Temple on their fourth wedding anniversary.  We assured them that they would have a place to stay if all goes as planned.  He served his mission in the Salt Lake South Mission so they will have many offers.  Maybe some of you will get to meet them!!!

On Monday, we put on our heaviest coats and walked to a restaurant to honor Elder and Sister Nay who were leaving on Thursday to return to Brigham City.  The interim mission president, President Andersen and his wife, joined our outing and it was fun to get to know them.  The Nays were again honored on Wednesday with a home-cooked meal and then we invited a few missionaries to join us in a testimony meeting.  They have been an amazing couple in this mission.  They were the Deseret International Charity directors and did so much good in Mongolia.  They provided wheelchairs for many, stocked kitchens in orphanages, and gave household items to families with charred homes where nothing was left.  They helped families plant gardens and raise chickens and geese, gave hospitals neonatal machines and quilts and the list goes on and on.  We haven’t been here long enough to know the true scope of their service but we honor them and are thinking about them as they are in the air, at this moment, returning home.  Now, we are down to only three senior couples. There is another couple coming in December and another in January but we lose the Linfords in February!  This mission used to have about ten couples but, like the brethren say, there aren’t enough to go around…anyone want to join us???  Hey, the blessing are eternal!!!

We also had Elders over for dinner this week.  They were a fun bunch and kept us laughing but it was a short night as both sets had to run off to teach English.  All of us Americans are so busy teaching English.  We were visiting with a set of Sisters and they have to teach for two hours, wait for another two hours, and then teach two more hours.  Their teaching station is so far from their area that they use their free-time for their own Gospel and language study time.  All of us have different issues to deal with so I’m amazed at all these young people and how they step up.  Our new assignment is teaching English on Tuesday nights at the church building to help feel the gap the Nays left.  We hope to be able to recycle some of our daytime lessons.  The nighttime classes are large (30-40 people) and vary so much in abilities so here’s another learning adventure for us.  Our other teaching assignment is going well and we’re quickly making friends with the Director who made us so nervous at first–she is a very sweet person and makes our job easy as she learns so quickly.

One day this week was a bit chilly–the high was 19 degrees F. and the low was -4.  The forecast shows one day next week with a high of 9 degrees F. and the low was -10 degrees.  One day seems like the next as long as we are bundled up.  The cold is so cold but once we’re in a building we heat up so quickly.  We are learning that Mongolians like their drinks very warm and their rooms very heated–warmth is their friend!

President Benson rushed to California about two weeks ago…hoping to be there in time for the birth of his fifth child.  Well, they still don’t have a baby!!!  Babies always like to remind us that they are in charge, don’t they?  We miss the Benson family!!!  We are excited to have President and Sister Andersen here for a while longer than they had hoped.  It will be a fun Thanksgiving next Thursday for all of us.

As we reflect on Thanksgiving last year, it was a precious time with our family.  We had no idea what a year would bring but we were working on our mission papers so we knew that a change might happen before another holiday season.  We are so grateful for the opportunity to serve a mission in another land and another culture.  Our testimonies of the Gospel continue to grow as we see so many wonderful Mongolian people become converted and live the commandments in such humble circumstances.  Our family is amazing as they support us with skyping, Youtube videos, emailing, and texting so we feel included in their families.  We are grateful that they have also cared for our home as well as granting all our requests.  We have wonderful friends who read our blog–even when it’s long and boring–and email us once in a while–you’ll never know how much that means to us!  We are blessed with wonderful health and we are happily serving as English teachers and PEF Self-Reliance Missionaries.  Our circumstances are challenging but we are learning to be effective.  In 2 Nephi we are reminded to “remember the words of your God; pray unto Him continually by day, and give thanks unto his holy name by night.  Let your hearts rejoice.”  Yes, our hearts are full as we count our blessings and we always give thanks in our prayers for all that we are blessed to do.  We love this work!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and our hearts will be at home sharing a turkey dinner with our family.  Please continue to care for each other.

Love,

Elder and Sister Francom

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