Over the years, we’ve racked up many Youth Conferences but, who would have ever thought we would add one more…all the way from Mongolia! We left early Monday morning with one of the mission Land Cruisers packed tight with all the over-flow secured on top with bungee cords. We started out with six people, the Lewises, his translator and wife, and the Francoms. We drove up to Erdenet, about six hours away. A senior couple, the Hills, live there and Elder Hill had a major part to play in the two-day affair. He asked for the mission doctor to be “on call” so that was the main reason we were there. The plan on Monday was to have the men go up early, set up camp, and be ready for the youth who would arrive on the train early Tuesday. It certainly wasn’t that smooth but they arrived in the wee hours of Tuesday morning but it worked out just fine. Elder Hill picked a spot about two hours away in the mountains and we understood his reasoning when some youth from the District dismounted a train in a small village and had a short quarter-mile walk to our camp. How convenient! Since Elder Hill was also in charge of the games with a spiritual teaching, we did the impressive Trust Fall, Spider Web, Temptation Mines, and iron rod walk. The youth were so impressive–they prepared skits ahead of time and it was amazing to see EVERYONE participating–even those who would have been “too cool” or “too old” back home. The youth studied the scriptures in branch groups, had a gospel question/answer session, and played football and soccer in their spare time. They all pitched in to cook tsoyvain, rice milk, and other Mongolian delicacies. We seniors ate on our own but they shared their tsoyvain with us and their sheep heads!!! Yes, sheep head!!! Oh, just another Mongolian experience!!! FYI…the cheek meat was very tender and the eyeballs were a little crunchy in the middle! OK…we tasted a bit of the eyeball and it wasn’t greasy but tasted like meat. Dr. Lewis was all over the eyeballs!!! We all slept in two-man tents and it took a little time to convince the kids that just because it was still light didn’t mean it wasn’t bed-time. From previous experience, we’re sure that light/dark has nothing to do with going to bed at Youth Conference. We woke up Wednesday morning to camels traipsing through our camp–they paused and ate some leaves off the trees. We also saw plenty of cows, horses, sheep, and goats grazing on the same land that we slept on.
A day or two before Youth Conference, Sister Hill rode with a Mongolians sister to go purchase the sheep that was going to be used to feed all the people–about 100 in all. She bought four sheep and the taxi driver slaughtered them! We had no idea a taxi driver might be multi-talented. She showed us a video of it. Basically, they tied three legs of the animal together with tape. Then, on a white covering of some sort, they cut a 4-5 inch incision on the underside of the sheep and put their hand inside. Somehow, they find the heart and pinch off the main artery until the sheep stops moving. There wasn’t a speck of blood anywhere!!! Afterwards, they “skinned” it simply by cutting the belly to each leg and separating the skin from the muscle with their hands. Then, they took all the organs out and starting washing them all because they use/eat everything. They washed the stomach and intestines by turning them inside-out. They put the blood inside the intestines (I think) and steam it until it is solid–didn’t have much interest so that’s all we know!!! For breakfast one day, they made some kind of soup with the insides but we had some crunchy granola and yogurt and were very satisfied!
Isn’t it amazing how different cultures use, prepare, and eat animals? It’s fun to look inside and participate a bit but we still love the food of our culture even though we’ve sampled a bit (a lot) of Mongolia.
The doctor was needed at Youth Conference for Darkhan and Erdenet and we needed to check out some DIC projects in the same area. We visited a maternity hospital that was looking for some of the bare necessities by American standards–birthing beds, monitors, and newborn incubators. A orphanage was wanting wood and fabric to make their own beds and quilts. And a school needed new pipes so over one-thousand students could use indoor bathrooms instead of an outhouse in the far corner of the yard. These seem like simple requests and it is our job to write them up and submit them as soon as possible. We hope to help keeping in mind the many regulations and there also has to be some evidence that this is moving the recipient towards self-reliance. In the future, we will involve the Saints in that neighboring area doing some kind of work or clean-up–this helps the church become visible in their community and show how positive our desires are to help wherever we can.
As we woke on this American holiday, July 4th, we quickly learned of the passing of President Boyd K. Packer (Friday July 3rd on the other side of the world). He was always special because he had Brigham City ties and so do all the Beechers. I remember my parents talking about him as he became more prominent in the church. He was a great defender of our faith. A man of honor and a man of many talents. As we have read about him throughout the day we have reflected on his great testimony. To paraphrase his words, we will never have to fear because we have the priesthood to guide us. “Fear is the opposite of faith. We move forward, certain that the Lord will watch over us.” How fitting these words are in this modern world. May we continue to strengthen our faith so we can find the peace we each need.
Elder & Sister Francom
PS…Haven’t be around to connect with son so still no pictures!