Our Self-Reliance Center opened last Saturday, December 13th. We had a “Grand Opening Ceremony” which consisted of our SRC Manager conducting and speaking as well as the Stake President and our Mission President, President Benson. We really liked his remarks–he showed a PowerPoint of a Mongolian woman carrying her baby. Then the women carrying a larger child…then carrying a teen-ager…then carrying a grown man! We all chuckled because the pictures were really quite silly. He spoke of how some parents never put their children down to learn to crawl and walk on their own. They do everything for them throughout the child’s life and children need to learn to walk, grow, and live on their own. So, it looks like, the world over, there are parents trying to make things right for their children instead of letting children learn to do it themselves. The weekend was a success with a training for leaders following the first meeting on Saturday and then a devotional on Sunday. Elder Francom spoke then so it was a great meeting. AND…in true Mongolian style, there was lots of food–treats, candy, and water for the first meeting, a catered chicken dinner for the leaders, then treats, candy, and water for Sunday night, too! Miigaa, our translator, and I are getting really good at setting it all out, needless to say! We had a special visitor for the opening–Chad Furness (originally from Taylorsville). He is the SRC Manager in Taiwan and has opened twelve centers for twelve stakes so he knows what he’s doing. He was delightful and was a great help to our manager. On Sunday, we had Chad, Baatar (manager) & wife, and Miigaa (translator) and husband for dinner before the devotional which made for a very busy weekend but we were glad we did it.
We said “good-bye” to some of the best of the best missionaries this week. Five went home to American and three left to rejoin their families here in Mongolia–home for the holidays!!! It is customary to do a “Reverse MTC” with departing Elders and Sisters. We used a PowerPoint we made when we first got here about reminders for continuing life as an active church members. So many Mongolian missionaries are the only member in their families so it is a hard transition as they try to figure out how to be true to God as well as family. These eight young people will really be missed but we know their futures are bright!
In our Sukhbaatar Branch, there are so many dear people. One sister asked me to teach her how to make cookies. Cookies??? But, when you think about it, most people boil soup or bozz, or they steam rolls and noodles because they only have a stove in the middle of their ger to offer warmth and cooked food. She lives in one of those little huts, called banshees, and she must have an oven–she’s quite a cook! I invited her and another sister to our apartment and we stirred up a batch of chocolate chip cookies–her request…and my precious chocolate chips! They were both so surprised at how easy it was. They each took a bag of cookies home to cute families that will be introduced to a new treat. It was a fun night.
The following night, one of these sister’s nine-year-old son was baptized and she reported that the cookies were almost gone. There was also a sweet teen-age girl baptized and both shared touching testimonies. We love a good baptism!
Christmas is coming…the calendar says it’s so close!!! We took a taxi home from the baptism and the driver happened to be a young man–English rap music on the radio. He spoke just a little English and as we got out of his car he said, “Merry Christmas!” Wow…that was almost shocking to hear!!! We are starting to understand the lack of Christmas–it has only been in the country for about twenty years and only for the few Christians living here. It is a new concept and the church members treat is as a special day but life goes on. There are many decorations around for the New Year so we see more lights and there are lots of “Merry Christmas” wishes written out on ribbons, posters, and packages so we assume Mongolians just ignore the wish and are pleased to be decorating for the New Year. It doesn’t appear that many individuals decorate but just stores and businesses mostly.
Our Christmas will be a busy and good one. We will gather with all the seniors on Christmas Eve and the mission is having a catered dinner on Christmas Day. Then, the following day we’re invited to another dinner in the Service Center and on the following Monday, the seniors are hosting a simple open-house for all the missionaries. We hope they drop in, have a bite to eat, take one of our small gifts, and go back out and finish their P-day events. Fun times!!!
As we are far away from home this Christmas we are creating a Christmas memory that will forever be part of our life together. Oh, it will be a very hard one away from all our wonderful children and our most precious grandchildren–my eyes tear-up just thinking about being away. However, we were able to send a few Mongolian trinkets home and our children are sending a bit of love back. That is sufficient and we hope to skype as they do the traditional family nativity. Oh, Christmas will be warm and bright! We remember that sacred night. We celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. We remember the difference he has made in our lives. We love Him because He is our Redeemer and through His atonement we can live forever and be a forever family. It really is that simple, isn’t it?
Merry Christmas!!! Please know our love for all our family and our friends.
Elder & Sister Francom