If you are a grandparent or have sweet children in your life you will relate to this experience. I accompanied President and Sister Benson to their children’s school to see, first hand, how Mongolian school do things. I have to admit, I’ve wished to see how they are different from American schools. The three oldest children go to the International School of Mongolia which tries to meet the needs of all the English speaking children in Mongolia. Many of the teachers stay a few years and then relocate to another country with the same type of schools–certainly a way to see the world. Bella, the oldest Benson child, had an “Exhibition Night” on Thursday. She was so excited and had worked so hard to prepare for it. She invited me to come and you don’t turn down a sweet invite like I got! The assignment was for each 5th grader to find what they were passionate about, research their passion, and then present it on this special night. Bella loves horses–she eats, sleeps, draws (thanks to Sister England), and talks about them. She has big dreams of owning one so she can ride whenever she chooses. Her passion was an easy choice. In fact, she went to Murun with us a few weeks ago and we made lots of roadside stops for picture-taking whenever we spied a few horses or a whole herd of them. She even was lucky enough to ride one at the ger that we visited with all the newborn lambs. So, back to her big night–They started in the gym, with a cute introduction by two students and then they all sang a song. Then, we were invited to go to her station upstairs and she presented her horse passion through photographs, research, and a short powerpoint. She had cards in her hands as presentation reminders and was a cute little presenter. Then, we walked around and viewed other students’ passions. We had sports from some boys–football (soccer) was the most popular, we saw “Deadly Diseases,” “Space,” “Interior Design,” and “Hackers” for the techie student. One that I thought was funny was having a passion about “Traffic Jams in Mongolia.” We don’t need wider streets, we need more streets…hmmm…maybe I might disagree. He said we also needed more policemen to give tickets. Another interesting one was “Stray Dogs in Mongolia.” Do you know there are over 7,000 stray dogs here? (No, we don’t trip over dogs when we go out–she said they usually hide.) This little girl was from Australia so she had the cute accent to go along with her passion. She even adopted a stray puppy for a week and had a fund raiser to donate money to the animal shelter…someplace in the city. There were presentations in the classroom so I wandered in to see what a school classroom looked like. Basically, four walls with some corkboard hammered into the wall for bulletin board space. The student tables were all out in the hallways being used for presentations so the classrooms were quite empty. Schools in Mongolia are functional and the Bensons are quite pleased with the education their kids are getting yet, it is different. Several missionaries teach English in classrooms and they are amazed at teachers’ discipline. Teachers hit kids and it’s acceptable for children to push, shove and hit one another! Maybe it’s a good thing that they stay in Mongolia because these ways of treating others would definitely NOT work in American schools! Oh…schools in America–my grandchildren tell me they have FIVE weeks left. That’s two years I’ve been out and I sometimes miss it so much.
While I was taking in all the scenes and being a proud “grandparent,” Elder Francom and the other seniors were eating out at a very nice restaurant called “The Monet.” The Fredleys have served for two years and were leaving on Friday–they are spending a week in Hawaii and then returning to Herriman, Utah. It’s a senior tradition to take the departing couple out to dinner. We didn’t know them very well because they spent all of their time Darkhan. They were there alone and served so well. There is an orphanage in Darkhan and they we assigned to teach English at it. They saw many needs and through the Deseret International Charities, the church helped them with new kitchen appliances, new beds and bedding, and closets for their clothes. The orphanage manager was an amazing woman who loved each child as her own. The children learned how to do traditional Mongolian dances and they have performed and earned money for additional things for the orphanage. The Fredleys loved these children and their good-byes were hard. They worked very hard on their mission and Darkhan will not get anyone to replace them. No new couples are coming to Mongolia in the near future. At one time there were as many as fourteen couples here and now we are down to five. We need senior couples so desperately!!! If there is anyone out there with the missionary spirit, please let us know–you are needed!!!
Our English teaching with the new ministry is not going well…not well at all! So sad…and so very frustrating!!! We were ready on Monday…after waiting for a half hour, we called and they forgot to send the driver. We went home. On Wednesday…we waited and waited again. We finally called and the driver was coming. At 4:50, ten minutes before our lessons were supposed to begin, we called and told them that there wasn’t any way we could arrive in time to teach at 5:00. We went home. Then, on Friday, THEY called us and said that a driver was coming. We waited…and waited…and waited. He finally arrived at 4:45–way too late but we decided to go and show them our dedication to the cause. We knew we would be extremely late but just jumped into the car–it was a Friday evening and we had nothing to lose. There were others in the car but we headed out only to make a detour, park the car, and turn off the engine. What??? It appeared that we were waiting for another passenger. When our watches said 5:15 we called Miigaa (translator) and she talked to the driver and told him we were getting out and walking home. So, it was a horrible week for teaching English. We’ve decided to talk to Tushin, the person over sponsors, to see what other arrangements we can make. Maybe some young missionaries who live on that side of town could make a better connection. We really don’t know what our students are thinking but we hope they know that we really are trying to be dedicated English teachers.
Meanwhile, we are busy with PEF Loans and Self-Reliance issues. We’ve been in charge of the Garden Projects and that has kept us very busy. Planting time is quickly approaching since we’re now into May. We are trying to help Priesthood leaders distribute seedlings, seeds, and tools so we can help willing people be more self-reliant. Our church is amazing at finding ways to help so far away. We hope that this will be a great blessing in many lives.
I attended a Women’s Meeting with Elder Toronto, the Area Seventy, tonight. He was addressing questions from all the sisters of Mongolia. One asked him how we can remain active after going through a period of inactivity. His answer was so simple but so profound–he said SERVE OTHERS. When we are serving others, we feel of their spirit and it becomes a reflection of our commitment to our Savior. Now, we know why we are asked to Home/Visit teach, right! This is why we feel so good if we can make ourselves get out and do it. Serving others as the Savior did is the key to so many of our problems. So, may we all recommit our lives to service–it seems to present itself to us many times every day. We are so grateful to be serving the saints of Mongolian. We hope to continue serving and we are grateful for the service many family and friends give us from home. Thank you to all you dear ward sisters who wrote little notes for Cathy Banks to send. You’ll never know what that did for me and I miss you all so much. Never underestimate your kind deeds at home for us who are so far away!
We love and miss you all!
Elder & Sister Francom