At the end of last week, I was asked to speak at a Stake Relief Society Conference on Saturday. The whole conference was about Self-Reliance so I willing accepted. When speaking with a translator, you plan your talk to be half as long as the time allotment so I was ready and Miigaa was going to translate for me. Imagine my surprise when I walked into the building and was an hour LATE!!! Wait a minute…Francoms are usually on time and it was a few minutes before the meeting was supposed to start. What’s going on??? Miigaa explained to me that Mongolia changed to Daylight Savings Time! What? We didn’t “fall back” last year so we hadn’t planned on “springing forward”…and on a Friday-Saturday??? I was really confused and felt like I was in “The Twilight Zone” but entered the meeting, sat on the front row, and waited to be introduced. (It was a relief to see many others entering the meeting about the same time as I did.) All went well and afterwards, I met all the other seniors in the foyer. Imagine all of their surprise in finding that we’d “sprung forward”—none of them had any clue that it had happened, either! The next day, we talked with a returned missionary we were taking to Baganuur and she informed us that Mongolia’s present leaders make the decision and sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t–it’s been 4-5 years since they’ve had the time change. Since we don’t read the newspaper or watch local news, it would have been nice to have someone inform us. Oh well…it all worked out but yes, the JOKE WAS ON US!!!
Then, we were asked to judge an English Spelling Bee for some ninth graders that was being held at a local university—they were looking for English speakers and called the President’s secretary. Well, in all my 27 years of teaching school I have judged or attended at least 27 Spelling Bees so it was going to be fun! The English department came and picked us up and we found out that it wasn’t going to be a spelling bee after all—JOKE WAS ON US, again. It was going to be a general knowledge competition. When we arrived, we were given a copy of the questions and we realized that they needed a bit of revision. For example, “What do you call it after it has erupted?” The answer was LAVA…hmm…we revised it to read, “What flows out of a volcano when it erupts?” to fit with the answer. We were busy with many revisions and some we didn’t catch until we read them in the competition. There was a Mongolian History section, a Movie section, and a Science section. Four schools came with three students on their team. When we read most of the questions, there was a big “deer-in-headlights” look followed by a discouraged expression as they went to the back of the line. Very few questions were even attempted and we don’t know if it was a lack of understanding of the English language or lack of knowledge. The moderator finally gave us a totally different set of questions—she said they were easier. How many letters are in the English alphabet? How many eyes do you have? How many vowels are in the English alphabet? How many toes does a person have? Who is David Beckham? (Someone got that one correct.) What season comes after Fall? How many suns does the Earth have? Still, not a lot of success! The most successful part was writing down words from a conversation that had been recorded. That really helped some of the teams out because it is always easier to write in English. At the end, the scores were tallied and then suddenly, we were in charge of giving a congratulatory speech to the first, second, and third place winners. We were even awarded special certificates with our names written in Mongolian script. AND then, the picture-taking began. Oh, how they loved to have their pictures taken and we judges seemed to be the persons of honor. The students were sweet and we still cannot figure out if it was lack of knowledge or lack of the English language. It’s a good thing we weren’t there to critique the university’s handling of the program—I could have given a few suggestions since the success of a test usually reflects how well the teacher prepared the students for the task. Oh well, it was an interesting experience and we encouraged the university to think about sponsoring some of our English speakers since we’re not sure what level of expertise the professors had if the questions and answers were any reflection of their English level!
Last Sunday we went out to Baganuur again. The Harpers came with us as well as Miigaa, another Miigaa from the District Young Women’s Presidency. President Benson has asked that we always have a Mongolian speaker in the car with us when we’re traveling any distance so if we’re stopped for some reason, someone can make sense of the situation. Baganuur is over two hours away so without Miigaa we couldn’t have gone. The Harpers are assigned to visit Baganuur also, but Elder Harper doesn’t have a driver’s license yet. We would usually drop off the Taylors at the church in Nalaikh but they were traveling with the President up to Khouvd (in the North-west part of Mongolia) last weekend. There isn’t a church building in Baganuur but rented space above a bakery so the smells that seep through the floors and walls are wonderful but not much appreciated, especially on Fast Sunday! There seems to be many older people and lots of teen-agers and we’re thinking that most of the families with small children leave this small community to come into the city for schooling and jobs. It is so amazing to see the youth–they seem to run the ward. One of the girls–probably about twelve years old–plays the piano (pianos are either for playing or for turning on a recording of the hymns), another one is the Branch Family History Consultant, and another is the official greeter. Then, several of the youth gave talks in Sacrament Meeting, along with an extemporaneous talk from Elder Francom. The Branch President is also young, married and a returned missionary of this mission from not too long ago. He has a great smile, is very loved, and he still has great enthusiasm for the gospel. There is a set of Mongolian missionaries in Khouvd and one has quite good English skills so he was able to translate a bit. Other than that, we were left to follow the Sunday School lesson on our own but as long as we had the correct information, we could pretty well follow and read the same scriptures when the other class members read them in Mongolian. It’s amazing how it works!
As we sat in church, we thought of our own youth–Tanner, Haylee, McKay, Zac, Lillian, Abbi, Lia, and Alex–our oldest grandchildren, and even the youth from Taylorsville 24th Ward. Would they step up to this kind of service? Would they be as efficient at doing a calling so willingly? We hope so…we think so! Usually, today’s young people are the best because they have been reserved for this time. We all are witnesses to the great battle that is being waged at this time. We know Satan is trying to bring us all down. We are grateful that our grandchildren are being taught by their mothers and fathers to have great strength and faith …to put on the full armor of God…” (Ephesians 6:13-17) so they will not be lost. Oh, how we pray for our children to lead our grandchildren so they will always be valiant servants of the Lord. We are looking forward to our oldest grandson, Tanner (who turns seventeen this week) going on a mission sooner than we can believe. He has learned to work, to play soccer well enough to be on the Granger Soccer Team, and to enjoy many friends. We pray that he will be ready when he is called to serve a mission in another year. May we all do everything possible to keep our youth strong and noble and willing to serve.
Elder & Sister Francom