Last Saturday, we had no idea how BIG the day really was. All the senior missionaries decided to “throw our cares to the wind” and signed up to participate in the International Ulaanbaatar Marathon—the 5k running/walking portion, that is! Later, when we read the newspaper we found out it was a big Mongolian day of celebrations. The heading read…“The Annual Car-Free Day.” There was a big area of streets that were closed to traffic for the day. The International Ulaanbaatar Marathon was only one event and it had 17,000 participants from ages 4 to 70. Yes, we could have sworn we were the oldest there but someone else gets that distinction—that’s OK! In fact, the newspaper said there were representatives from 21 countries and it mentioned the United States so we represented all of you Americans well! The winners of the marathon were awarded 10,000,000 MNT. That would be a lot of dollars but it is only $10,000 USD, still a lot to us! Little did we know that we missed a youth bicycle parade, a peaceful demonstration of mothers with strollers to bring attention to children’s rights, and a dog parade–not just any old dog parade but one where one group started from the east and another group started from the west and met in the middle at Sukhbaatar Square. It must have been quite a day! From our point of view, everyone was out and about, walking in the middle of the streets as if they were finally free from the threats of cars waiting to squish us all like bugs. There were lots of roller-bladers, skateboarders, strollers, and walkers. In the city, you have to know that there are no emergency lanes along the roads here. You go from the asphalt streets to a higher curb with tile walkways. And…just to make it interesting, there are cut-off steel poles and rebar sticking up in the middle of the tile. (We always wonder why no one gets rid of them completely before they tile the walkways!) As a result, it is imperative to look down while walking. Imagine a day of being able to walk down the middle of the streets so freely. Everyone demonstrated how “freeing” it was and it seemed like everyone found every mode of transportation they could to enjoy this freedom with their car being left behind. Back to the “race”…we had great fun and found ourselves talking and passing up younger people and before we knew it, the 5k finish line was there. Yes, we gave the last few feet a good running effort as the crowd cheered us pathetic old people to the finish line! Fun times!
By Monday, we were back to work in a serious way. We are now “trained” DIC (Deseret International Charities) officials. After skyping with the senior couple in Hong Kong and meeting with Soyolmaa, the director of most things who understands which charity projects are good ones and why, we are now in charge. We have a translator and he has written some kind rejection letters and made an appointment with a partner who needs to account for quite a few wheelchairs so we can bring more into the country. Once again, doing it will be a great teacher but we’ll keep Hong Kong in our back pocket for a while!
English is on hold this week…again! They called us and said that all their cars are in the countryside this week so there wouldn’t be any classes. They will contact us so we’ll wait patiently. It really has been nice not to sit up in the main area wondering and waiting to see if they are coming. We are going to have the month of July off so maybe we’re done for the summer and maybe we’re not.
However, our week was not without teaching! We are in our third week of teaching a Self-Reliance class called, “My Job Search.” There are so many leaders and returned missionaries who are learning how to present themselves with “Me in 30 seconds” and preparing a “Power Statement” so they can go into an interview and start off on the right foot. It really is good and should be used church-wide. Besides teaching, we have helped members with resumes and introductory letters. We’ve helped Baatar fill out lots of paperwork that the area office asks for so they know what’s happening in the self-reliance center in Mongolia. And, the is always someone who needs something edited and we’re always glad to do that.
There are several American missionaries leaving to go home in July so we’re trying to have them over for dinner. Elder Erickson (from St. George) was at the top of our list so we called him and he could only come after 8:00pm on Wednesday because of English teaching. Well, that’s a bit late to be entertaining so we suggested lunch on Thursday. Then…Miigaa’s birthday was on Friday but she doesn’t work then so we invited her family to lunch, also. Then…how do you have her for dinner without inviting our self-reliance center manager so he was one more to add for lunch. Before we knew it, we had another young man coming and that was a big group. I stayed home and cooked all morning and had it ready when they all arrived. We ate, sang “Happy Birthday” (everyone sings the English version—go figure???), ate cake and ice cream, and then we all went back to work! It was a great time and it sure felt good that evening when we had done our part and still had time to relax.
We are grateful to be busy and we work hard in the Self-Reliance Center and look forward to being of value as we learn our part with DIC. Missionary work comes in many forms and we hear from the young Elders and Sister that it is much different than what they expected when they serve in Mongolia. English teaching is very important here and when they have a long bus ride and teach a few hours it doesn’t leave a lot of time for appointment with investigators. Yet, we are continually having baptisms and many are being reactivated so the work moves forward. We know that there is great joy that comes to our lives when we share the gospel of Jesus Christ and there are great blessings that we are experiencing. We feel that our children and grandchildren are being watched over and are such a support to us. They are continually sending pictures, emails, texts, and we know their daily plans. It is such a blessing to be in daily contact and we love them for all that they do to support us. We are blessed and have just past our year mark and are amazed at how quickly time passes. We must make the most of whatever time we have left!
We love you all!!!
Elder & Sister Francom