COLD Days but Staying WARM!

The air is crisp, the snow has fallen, the temperatures are freezing, the coats and scarves are in place, the hats and gloves are secure, and the daylight has diminished.  It’s wintertime in Mongolia!!!  The conditions are perfect for Christmas music, Christmas decorations, Christmas lights, Christmas cheer.  But WAIT…this is Mongolia and there isn’t any Christmas to be found in this non-Christian country!  Thank goodness we know that…

” We find real joy when we make the Savior the focus of the season. We can keep Him in our thoughts and in our lives as we go about the work He would have us perform here on earth. At this time,particularly, let us follow His example as we love and serve our fellowman.”  (President Monson)

Now, in all fairness to the Saints here, there are several decorated trees in our Bayanzurkh (By-an-zurk) Church Office Building and a choir is practicing for many upcoming Christmas performances.  AND…there are some large decorated trees at the State Department Store, Sukhbaatar Square, and on the steps of Skye Department Store—dodging trees is fun!  We asked about these trees and they are all “New Year’s Trees”!!!  That is the day when gifts are exchanged and all are merry.  We’re sure the church members do special things on December 25th but we don’t know their ways of celebrating, yet.  Of course, three senior couples are sharing ideas and coming up with a plan to spread joy and glad tidings to the missionaries on December 24th and 25th!

We have a baby!!!  The Benson’s baby was born on December 2nd and we received pictures of a sweet little toe-headed boy with the Benson “look”.  We were all a bunch of “grandparents” as we scurried around spreading the news of his arrival.  President Benson will return on Monday, December 8th, and then return to California for his family on December 20th.  We are all excited to have them return and join us—we really have missed those kids–yes their parents, too!

Last Sunday, we enjoyed a nice evening with our Branch President and his family.  They came for dinner.  We are their home/visiting teachers and we find that we get to know our families better if we invite them into our home where there are less distractions for the Branch President and his boys can’t run off to do other activities no matter how boring we are!  They have a niece living with them to help when both parents are working so she came, too.  She was very fascinated with the M&M scarf that Lillian made—she even took pictures of it with her phone.  Of course, we had the Elders in our branch come as translators.  The Branch President speaks some English and his wife understands a little but translators are always good and the Elders got a free meal out of it, too!  The Branch President and his family are good people and are so busy serving the people of our branch.

Since President Andersen and his wife left last Monday, we three couples were in charge of a dinner in the President’s home to send off Sister Myagmar, who was finishing her mission.  We invited the Assistants to the President and we enjoyed hearing about her experiences.  She speaks English, learning it in school and through mission companions.  She was a good missionary and her dreams for the future are to attend BYU-Hawaii and return to Mongolia to work in the Service Center for the church.  These goals are every LDS Mongolian’s goals, it seems.  We understand the draw of BYU-H but not everyone can attend.  AND…the Bayanzurkh Building is certainly a wonderful place, full of temple-worthy employees, but there are only so many jobs here, too.  She’s excited for her future and we hope she can live her dreams with lots of determination and a bit of time.

It’s Michigan Testing time again!!!  It’s a totally different experience than the first time, back in August.  About a month ago, we posted flyers in several areas of the building advertising date, time, and stated that a sign-up sheet would be posted outside our office.  We only have 20 tests so that limits our numbers for testing.  Well, within a couple of days, all the slots were taken with desperate people begging for a chance!  What?  Last time only a few young people were interested until a few days before the test when all the slots were taken.  So…we decided to add a second testing time and that one filled up within hours!  We have had students begging for a slot, calling us late at night with an urgent story, stopping by our office hoping to win our favor! We even heard that some were willing to sell their spot for a little cash!  We’re in possession of one “HOT” item!!!  We added an alternate list with a chance of taking the test if a lucky testee didn’t show up and a promise of being at the top of the list for the next test in the spring.  We’re still wondering about the difference…were they “gone to the countryside” back in August???  We’re ready and waiting for a long Saturday of testing.

Time marches on and we’ve had some good visits with our kids—how our grandchildren have grown!  Kurt hit on a fabulous idea–he video-tapes Devri as she plays and then sends us a link on Youtube to watch!  So much fun!!!  Even one of my brothers was able to call—what an amazing technological world!!!  Thanks for your “Thanksgiving Wishes” and your newsy emails.  We can finally say that we are in the groove of Mongolia but we’re still American at heart!  We’ve found grocery stores that stock some of our familiar food from home.  We’ve learned that -20 degrees is only a number if you bundle up and walk quickly.  AND, even old English teachers can learn more about this English language of ours.

Most of all, our hearts are warm with the simple Christmas season of Mongolia.  We are trying to get a package home to our kids as a senior sister goes home for a few days.  She’ll trade them straight across with one for us!  Good plan–we hope it works!  Above all, wherever in this world we might be at this Christmas time, our testimonies burn warm with the true Spirit of Christmas and our hearts are full with love for our family…our dear family…and all our friends who we think of so often.  May we all feel the true Spirit of our Savior’s birth and His sacrifice for all of us at this time of year.

Take care of each other and stay warm!

Love,

Elder & Sister Francom

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