It’s not even close to any American holiday and yet we feel a longing for everything that our homeland represents. The air is clean and crisp, the streets are straight and wide, and the people are American and are speaking our language!!! General Conference is a time to sit in Mongolia and reminisce about living in Salt Lake City where people gather and sing the hymns of praise in English, listen to the speakers in their native tongue (usually English), and walk among the brilliantly colored tulips and daffodils. We miss our homeland at conference time. We miss our home at conference time with children and grandchildren gathering for a session and a bite to eat. Our first General Conference in Mongolia was new and delightful and full of the spirit of the Saints here. This second General Conference in Mongolia was just as delightful but we’ve been away for a extra six months so it made us realize that we really do come from an amazing place. It really was fun to sing the hymns in English and to listen to our leaders in English as well as the choir numbers. We are very content with missionaries who translate but all we hear are quick phrases and not always does the Spirit that accompanies the words come through. It’s OK…it’s worth the extra effort, but we will relish all the speaking in English when we get home! In the middle of the Saturday sessions we had Elders come to eat a quick lunch—it started as two and “grew” into six! They were so appreciative. Then on Sunday, we invited a family for dinner since they had invited us twice before to their basham. There were six of them—grandmother, mother, two daughters, and two Elders–for translation purposes, and we love them, too! They brought gifts of chocolate and homemade treats and before leaving, they wanted their pictures taken below the picture of Christ in Gethsemane in our living room. The grandmother’s husband died about five years ago and he was not a member. She has since gone to the Hong Kong Temple and had his work done. When she returned home, she had someone Photoshop a picture of her and her husband in front of the temple. It gives her great comfort to see them together, sealed for all eternity…sweet lady with a big testimony! It was wonderful to share the afternoon with them and we’re so grateful for good people like them.
We’ve started teaching English again! The new name for the Ministry of Labor is The National Employment Services, Resource, and Information Center. It appears that at least three organizations in the government united. The new director doesn’t want to release employees during the workday so we teach after work at 5:00 and again at 6:00. Now, who wants to willingly add an extra hour or two onto a workday when there are children to pick up from school and wives waiting, also? We were not very hopeful about this new time. To make this new-but-bad-time more “user friendly”, we decided to teach two classes simultaneously at 5:00 so no one would be waiting an extra hour. We were prepared on Monday and didn’t know what to expect—we ran off eight copies of everything. We were pleasantly surprised to see seven dedicated souls come to the new beginning English class with four former students in the advanced class—so fun to see some of our friends! On Wednesday, we had only two students, both in the advanced class and one even left early! WAIT…the reason was NOT that we were too boring on Monday!!! The NESRIC (our acronym) was having a volleyball and basketball tournament on Saturday and most employees went to a practice for it. We smartly asked about Friday and they told us not to even come that day. Hmmm…doubt are forming… We are blessed that they are still sending a driver for us. However, we have to leave an hour early to make it to the NESRIC building on time and then the return trip takes another hour! Rush hour traffic is almost at a standstill for several hours at that time of day. So, it’s a three hour process but we can’t be too discouraged yet–we hope, with time, we will be teaching more people like we used to. There are many more people that work at the NESRIC now so we hope that many will see the value of staying after work and juggling their private lives around a bit. With time, we’ll know what to expect.
Since we won’t be home until after 7:00 on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evenings, our dinner appointments will definitely suffer. THEN…we stay after working hours on Tuesdays to teach the Michigan Test prep class. So, Thursdays are the big night for having anyone to dinner. We took advantage of it this week and invited Sisters to dinner. We invited two sets but one Mongolian Sister fell ill so two Sisters were “stuck” with us. However, they had asked if they could make a chocolate cake like one I had taken to a reception for departing missionaries the week before. I prepared dinner but they made the cake and we ate while it was cooking. It was fun to show them how easy it can be and they have plans to take a chocolate cake to their baptism later this month. They even stayed and helped with cleaning up and then we all walked food over to the Sisters who were unable to come. It was a fun night and we enjoyed the one-on-one time we had with Sister Peterson (from Cedar City—knows of my brother’s family) and her sick Mongolian companion who is serving a “mini mission”.
We are working hard in the Self-Reliance Center. The powers-that-be have changed it recently so that the Priesthood Leaders are in charge of the self-reliance of their own members—shepherds knowing their flock and leading them. We are to be a center for helping the stakes and wards train their self-reliance specialists and facilitators. This is a humongous change for leaders to wrap their minds around so Baatar will be doing even more training. We are going to try to gather the BYUH graduates (English speakers) who are unemployed. Elder Francom will be facilitating a twelve-week course called “My Job Search” with them. It will give us good information so we will be able to train others to teach the three courses we have once they are translated into Mongolian. Translating is such a big issue if you don’t speak English, Spanish, French, or Portugese—so hard to wait until it happens!
The weather is warming up but Mongolians tell us you can experience all four seasons in one day during the springtime. We believe it! It can be very cold as we walk to work, change to cool by the time we go to lunch, the afternoon can almost be warm enough for no coat and then it cools down again for the nights. One day it was feeling so good to have it so warm and the next day we got six inches of snow. We’ve heard that Utah is about the same and that you received a lot of snow this past week. Spring is just a fickle season in both places!
All is well in Mongolia. We have moments…days…longings of homesickness and then our family rallies and that helps a lot. We are grateful for the Gospel, for the changes it makes for the Mongolian Saints. We are grateful that we are able to study the Gospel and make changes in our own lives. Having a testimony of the Savior and His atonement is so important so we can return and live with Him again some day.
Elder & Sister Francom