Happy New Year’s to all of you! We celebrated inside away from the cold and, for a moment, had a “reality check”–What? We’re in Mongolia?!!! Once in a while it just seems so foreign to be so far away from our family and our little home on Bar M Circle. Then, we move forward and take it one day at a time and find many blessings that await us and we become even more grateful for this experience.
Earlier on New Year’s Eve, we shared our dinner with Hooder (Americanized pronunciation) and his family. His family is in our Branch and they were our first introduction to GER living last summer when we accompanied the Elders. Hooter has experienced some health concerns lately. He had a kidney transplant a couple years ago and has not been able to afford anti-rejection medication. He missed a lot of work that put his job in jeopardy. We saw an opportunity to help and our children immediately got on board since its a family tradition to rendered some type of service during the holidays. Along the way, we found that we couldn’t donate money as missionaries so we have found other ways to serve this little family. Back home, our family went shopping and sent some gifts for Hooter’s daughter and unborn baby. After eating dinner, we watched his 3 year old daughter open the gifts. She was so taken by the little baby doll and it was fun to see her loving and looking at it. Of course, she opened the clothes but had to get right back to the doll. I helped her unwrap the baby and she looked her over and then immediately wanted the blanket wrapped around again. It was so cute and we’re sure the baby is still being loved! Hooder has a brother, Batsaggan, that is a wonderful young man with great English skills since he went to New Zealand on his mission. We’ve helped him study for an English test that a Canadian school requires and he passed the test! We were so excited for him! Now, he has to earn money for a flight and first year at the school–not an easy job! He hopes to get a scholarship for most of his schooling and Canada promises him three years of work after graduating in Engineering. We invited him to dinner, also, but his car couldn’t travel on Wednesdays (according to license plate number).
All the senior mission couples had an open house for all the young missionaries last Monday. We made sloppy joes, frog-eye salad, chips, and cookies. They stopped in for a Christmas message, food, warmth, and a small gift and then were on their way back to the work of the Lord. It was a good thing to do and a nice way to gather with them all during the holiday season.
So…New Year’s Eve and Day in Mongolia are reasons to celebrate! The Bayanzurkh Church Building was very quiet all week long and it was basically closed from Wednesday, December 31st until Monday, January 4th. Cake…cake…and more cake is the big thing. We noticed everyone walking around with a cake box in their hands. As the clock strikes midnight, cake is a must for the celebration. We understand that New Year’s Day is reserved for visiting your oldest relative and sharing their food (and more cake) and then visiting other relatives. Instead, we American seniors and President Benson and his three oldest kids, went up to Ziasan with the Taylors, the new senior couple. It was only -18 degrees that morning so it was a long, freezing, icy walk to the top but we made it and enjoyed re-reading the dedicatory prayer and singing, “High on a Mountain Top.” There were many Mongolians there and as we left they had some kind of a “milk ceremony”–something that has to do with the rising of the sun, facing a certain direction, clapping hands. We missed it by about 30 seconds!!! Maybe another time?
On our way home from Ziasan, we decided to find a restaurant that served breakfast, it was New Year’s Day, after all! We went to the Chinngis Khaan Hotel thinking that one of the three restaurants might serve it. Well, one said YES but not an egg in sight. Finally, they sat us down and after about 15 minutes, we all had an American-style breakfast–plates of eggs, toast, meat, fresh fruit, and yogurt and an American price to match! Oh well, it was another experience! THEN…we decided to check out the movie theater for the day–what else are we supposed to do? We ended up at, “Night at the Museum” with the two oldest Benson children. It was fun and a bit touching to see Robin William in his final role. Well, that was quite a day and we came home to stay warm. On Friday, we tried to go to specialty stores, the Zakh, and a supermarket but these Mongolians take their holidays seriously–every one of them was closed! We found “The State Department Store” open so we wandered around and happened upon the best souvenir shop ever…good to know for future reference!
On our walk home we saw lots of people in Sukhbaatar Square so we detoured to take a look. There was Santa in a blue suit, people riding tandem bikes, ice skaters skating on a make-shift skating rink, and a newly wed couple posing for pictures beneath Chinngis Khaan’s statue. Nothing like a day in the park in below-freezing temperatures! All we can say is the Mongolians don’t let freezing temperatures slow them down.
We noticed that winter finally arrived in Utah. As your December was so warm we just want you to know that there is no such thing as “global warming” on this side of the world–it has been very cold for a long time and will continue on for another long time! We are excited to face the new year with new experiences and adventures in Mongolia. Another reality check–MONGOLIA???
As we all resolve, pledge, earnestly strive to make 2015 the best year ever, we can assure it is our best year yet if we live more Christ-like lives. As President Monson said, “As we strive to place Christ at the center of our lives by learning His words, by following His teachings, and by walking in His path, He has promised to share with us the eternal life that He died to gain. There is no higher end than this, that we should choose to accept His discipline and become His disciples and do His work throughout our lives. Nothing else, no other choice we make, can make of us what He can.” This is a reminder that His Gospel is simple when we become His disciples and do His work. May we each recommit ourselves to be a better follower of Christ in 2015.
Please take care of each other and give warm hugs in these cold winter months!!!
We love you all!
Elder & Sister Francom