It’s March in Mongolia and Tsagaan Sar has past. Tsagaan Sar is the celebration of leaving winter behind and welcoming Spring. Spring…not hardly! Lately, we have experienced some of the most freezing weather ever. Oh…the wind! When the wind blows it is SO COLD!!! Local Mongolians like to tell us that this year has been a very mild one. They like to get a reaction and we usually give them one that makes them smile. They are proud of the fact that Ulaanbaatar holds the record of being the coldest capital city in the world. Thursday, we woke up to snow and, by Utah standards, it was just a skiff but it’s enough to make the polished granite walks around the church building dangerously slick. But, the wind makes things so freezing cold!
We have enjoyed the two visiting couples from American. The Kimballs left and went up north to Darkhan and the Farleys are still here. They are in an apartment that one senior couple just moved from. They have become one of us and we try to include them in any activities we can. To review last week’s information: They are here to assist the Priesthood to help the poor and needy. Basically, the Priesthood identifies the poor and needy, they prayerfully select two or three families, look within their own branch/ward “storehouse” to see how they can assist these families, then they make a proposal to the church and then the church will assist. These projects can be a garden, pigs, chicken, geese and we are looking into the church helping with sewing machines and irons. There are lots of apartment building with no land so these could be appropriate help, too. So many possibilities with good Saints who are willing to help themselves—that’s the key!!! Once our visiting couples leave at the end of March, we may be helping complete some of these projects.
It has been Michigan Testing time again. With the new year we’ve received new tests and new instructions. We can now administer the test up to TWELVE times a year with young people taking it only THREE times. That could be a lot of work but we have a plan! We are offering a four month weekly prep class and then testing on the last night of each session. The young people seem excited to have the help. We are also offering the Michigan test to others who are not part of the class so we can determine if our class produces more success. We gave the test Tuesday night at the conclusion of a test prep course. We will give it again on Saturday. Four of us seniors took the test and made our own answer key so we could get an idea of scores now instead of waiting for BYUH. This can help us plan our “teaching techniques” for the next cycle. ONE person passed with a score of 77—two points above the 75 cut off! We were so excited!!! We hope to see others pass on Saturday (some in the prep class opted for Saturday testing over Tuesday). Of course, we won’t tell the young people their scores until the official score comes from BYUH but we’re hopeful that our plan will help their dreams come true.
Wednesday, March 4th was President Benson’s birthday—he turned all of 38 years old! He had just returned from four days in Choibalson so he took the day off. We found out early in the day and quickly made a plan and passed it by him. We gave him three options—let us babysit and he could take his wife out for a quiet evening, bring the whole family to a senior apartment where dinner was already being served, or allow us to bring cake and ice cream for a half-hour visit. He chose the last one so when we arrived at his home and his kids were very wired. We visited, sang, ate cake and then left since it was a school night. It was a fun visit.
Batbold is a saint…a real Saint!!! Do you know many men who dislike shopping and is still willing to take FOUR women shopping? We would have gone alone but we don’t drive in Mongolia (all the men do) and we certainly have no idea which stores to go to or how to communicate with the clerks. We were sent on a rug buying expedition. Our new apartments are bigger…but not humongous…but everything echoes!!! There are no carpeted floors here–tile or wood laminate. We need rugs and rugs we found at very reasonable prices compared to America. We also have our closet insert in our bedroom so we’re almost where we need to be. We really enjoy our new place but we’re finding that we don’t spend much time here with all that is required at the church building.
We still haven’t started teaching English again but we accompanied Elder and Sister Taylor (in charge of English Teaching) into the Ministry of Labor on Monday to meet with our contact person. It was fun to arrive and see all our students busy doing their regular work. Elder Francom walked in as he usually does and with his big booming voice, said, “Hello! Are you ready for Monday?” to them all. They all smiled and responded and we realized that we really do have a great relationship with them. We miss them and hope to be back soon.
New missionaries from America have arrived so that always means a transfer. Some of our favorites are going out to the country–so far that it’s an airplane ride away! Others have returned and it’s so good to see them. We came home from church on Sunday and received a phone call from two of our favorites–Sister Cleveland and Sister Hawkins. They had arrived at their new place and the sisters that just left had only left oatmeal to eat. Since it was Sunday, they were wondering if we had enough food for them to join us for dinner. That was a very nice compliment–to think that they were comfortable enough to call and ask. We welcomed them to our Sunday dinner and had a fun time visiting and eating together. I’ll have to admit that Elder Francom was probably lucky they came–I went to a little more effort and he got a better Sunday dinner because of these two sisters! In our Sukhbaatar Branch, we now have SIX Elders and two Sisters. We invited the Elders for dinner this week and they were so excited when we served them lasagna, bread, and a green salad. Even the Mongolian Elders love our American food. Oh, it’s fun to be appreciated in little ways!
We have wonderful news from home–our newest grandson was released from Primary Children’s Medical Center on last Sunday. He is home without tubes and wires and he is doing so well, according to his parents. They have to do a rectum irrigation twice daily but it only takes less than five minutes. It will decrease with time. He hasn’t gained any weight but Kurt and Alanna are confident that he will be just fine because he’s caught on to that eating thing. Oh, what a happy time! We are all so blessed that his problems have been corrected and with a little time, he will be a healthy little one. Our thanks to everyone who offered a prayer in his behalf. Life is good when everyone is healthy!
We are so blessed to be serving and helping young Mongolians live their dreams of affording schooling (PEF Loans), going to BYUHawaii (Michigan Test), or learning to speak English. We are learning so much about serving others. In Mosiah: 2:17, we read that “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” Serving others is an important characteristic of a disciple of Jesus Christ. Service is bearing other’s burdens and comforting those in need. There are wonderful Saints in Mongolia who serve us in such sweet ways and we are trying to meet their needs too. The Gospel is a wonderful teacher of service and we are grateful for service each and every day.
Elder & Sister Francom