Saying “Good-bye”

Sheri Sondrup was my childhood friend.  I don’t remember when our friendship started but we lived a few houses apart just below Olympus Hills in Salt Lake City.  We walked to school together, we slept over at each other’s homes, we made cookies together, we played in our backyards, we walked up to Dan’s for a ten-cent Twinkie, and we both loved art—she was always an amazing artist.  Then, she moved to the other side of the valley when we were in 5th grade and shortly after, I moved across the country.  We lost touch with each other.  We were part of a “three-some” and that friend, Kay Minor, saw my mother’s obituary a few years back and helped the three of us reconnect.  The three of us went out to lunch and tried to catch up on a whopping fifty years!  Later, I received a card from Sheri that informed me she and her husband were leaving on a mission.  That meant another period of time would lapse but I kept the card with her return address.  Time went by, we received our mission call and one day I saw her card on my desk—where was it she had gone?  To my amazement, she was serving in the Mongolia Ulaanbaatar Mission!!!  I emailed the office couple, and before we knew it Sheri and I found each other once again.  We had a million questions and she and her dear husband (Les England) answered every one of them and then we found out we were actually replacing them—in their apartment and their office doing exactly the same things they had done!  They came home a few days before we left for Mongolia and we met briefly at Sheri’s father’s funeral in Salt Lake City on the day we flew out.  Since then, we have been connected and have shared a lot of Mongolian experiences through emails.  But, it has come to a halt as Sheri found herself with incurable cancer in December and she passed away on Monday, March 9th.  My heart aches for her loving husband, and for her three daughters, and her sweet grandchildren.    As I read all the comments that many have posted on social media, I am saddened that there was so much that I didn’t know.  She was a beautiful person.  The President’s family all tell us that she brought a special bit of sunshine—the children loved her!  She has touched many lives.  Once again, there is another period of time that we will have to fill in someday.  I am grateful to have memories of this sweet friend and I look forward to catching up, once again.

Our week has been full.  We celebrated Dr. Lewis’s birthday–we happened upon a wonderful restaurant that felt like home.  We all ordered Austrailian beef in the form of steaks and hamburgers and decided this restaurant was worth revisiting.  Then, if you can believe it, Tsansaa Sar is STILL alive and well!!!  We were invited to Batsagon’s home on Monday.  We have been helping him with his English skills and he has been accepted to TWO universities in Canada, thanks to passing the TOFEL Test.  His brother, Hooder, has had a kidney transplant and has been sick but the mission has been helping him with his expensive medication and we’ve never seen him looking so good.  Their mother has just returned from Japan and she just cried as she talked about the blessing of going to the Tokyo Temple.  This family was so gracious and treated us with such respect.  Then, on Thursday night we were invited to Enktoya’s home.  Her mother is back from Sweden (attending to a daughter and new grandchild).  She was able to visit the Helsinki and Stockholm temples.  Temple worship is a special privilege for Mongolian Saints since the closest temple is in Hong Kong–four hours away by air.  Oh, any chance to get to the temple is such a blessing in their lives.  Both families were so generous with wonderful food and even Tsagaan Sar gifts.  Enktoya’s mother told about her love of gardening during the summertime and how she preserves her produce for eating through the long winter months.  She actually has a root cellar like many other gardeners since potatoes, carrots, and other root vegetables grow so well here.  We must have been inspired to take one of the gardening couples (still here from church headquarters) with us because they learned a lot about what it takes to grow a successful garden when you have to haul all the water in a little cart.  We saw pictures of this dear sister with an abundant yard full of vegetables.  She even grows house plants and sells them, too.  Oh, it’s amazing how some are so resourceful!!!  I wonder if I would have to desire under such harsh conditions!

Have you heard of International Women’s Day?  We hadn’t but from what we read, many countries celebrate it every March 8th to honor all women.  Mongolia used it to also highlight abuse and other women’s issues.  As we shopped on Saturday, stores were full of people buying flowers and jewelry.  Then, on Sunday, there were many wishes of Happy International Women’s Day (mostly in Mongolian, of course).  The children came into Relief Society and sang some sweet songs.  The Young Women brought in a heart with a note attached and a small candy hanging from a string.  Does this remind anyone of our Mother’s Day celebrations? This year it happened on Sunday so everyone was off work on Monday.

We still are not teaching English.  Tushin, who is over all sponsors, assured us that there was a waiting list of sponsors so we could depend on another agency if the Ministry of Labor decides to “go another direction.”  We are hoping that someone calls soon because we’d love to go back to our friends and not have to start over.  Never fear, however…we are still teaching English.  We started our first Michigan Test prep class after testing last week.  We are confident that we had a couple people pass the test but we cannot say anything until they get an official score from BYUH.  We are encouraging all serious hopefuls to come and learn more and more and more.

Did you know that crickets and larvae taste like beans?  That’s what we were told by PEF Loan people we were skyping with from Cambodia!  In fact, a small container—the size of a styrofoam hamburger box–costs a couple of dollars and Cambodians might pick one up every other day.  Delicious!!!  Stay tuned next week–we’ll let you know if camel and horse taste like beans!!!

We are having a District Leadership meeting on Saturday.  We met this week, trying to help the auxiliaries—Primary, Young Women, and Relief Society—understand their role in serving the member in their wards.  It is a big job but the District leaders are so willing to learn.  I’m working with the District Relief Society and the new president has just returned from getting a Master’s Degree in California so we have a language in common!!!  The mission president has asked them to have a Presidency Meeting weekly and also include a council meeting.  That seems like a lot but when everyone is learning, it takes lots of effort.  This is “shadow leadership” at its finest because we can only communicate with one person and then she’s on her own as she speaks Mongolian to all the branch leaders.  Oh, I hope it works!

We’re grateful for another full week of busy service.  We are grateful to gain new friends as we serve with other senior couples.  We are grateful for those who have come before us and for their influence on young missionaries and church members.  We are so saddened by the loss of Sister England to Mongolians and Sheri to me but we know her family will find peace and comfort that comes through an understanding of the gospel and our Heavenly Father’s Plan of Salvation.  We are so grateful to know that there is an eternity to catch up with Sheri and in this same eternity, we will live with all of our loved ones.  May we all find that peace as we go through this mortal existence.

May you all stay well and happy at home.  Love each other a bit more and enjoy every day you have with family and friends.  Life is so good as long as there are people to love!!!

Love,

Elder & Sister Francom

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