So…who is crazy enough to set their alarm for 5:30 am on a Saturday morning to walk all the way to Sukhbaatar Square to watch ONE-THOUSAND MONKS praying, chanting, and doing spiritual readings? WE ARE!!! We read in the local newspaper—English version—that it was happening so all of us seniors went to take a look. It was the 380th anniversary of the birth of Mongolia’s first Bogd Undur Gegeen (no typos!) so Mongolia was celebrating Danshig Naadam for two days. The goal of this event was to pray for aging healthily, for things to go as planned, and world peace. There were supposed to be “melted butter crafts”—too bad we missed that part! The organizers were in hopes that this event would revive Buddhist traditions and give everyone a chance to promote culture and traditions to the public. It was amazing to see so many Mongolians at this early morning hour. As the chanting and readings were being performed, many had their eyes closed, their hands in a prayer position under their chin and at certain times they rocked back and forth or made big circles with their hands. Other people just sat there and “people watched.” We were standing next to the fence but noticed so many shorter people behind us that we bowed out and finally walked home. We can lose interest quickly if all we hear is, “Blah-blah-blah-blah-blah!”
After that, we had a Sukhbaatar Branch Picnic on our Saturday schedule and had to hurry to the church to ride a bus out to the “country-side” with all the members. There was quite a crowd—about 120 people! We went last year and we knew we’d come a long ways since then because we were much more relaxed now that we knew most of the crowd. Again, the tents went up and children started napping. We were assigned groups and rotated through three different game centers and then the men prepared “Horhokh”–potatoes, onions, cabbage, and sheep in big metal pots with a few hot rock from the fire thrown in. Then they placed the big pots on the fire, took their shirts off and proceeded to wrestle! The women and children were living in their own world of caring for children, visiting, and playing cards. It was a great time but we felt the urgency to leave after awhile–we had other things to do with our day. However, there wasn’t one person at that park who seemed to have a care in the world—they were truly loving every minute of it! We finally loaded the bus and arrived home that evening. Some who had driven cars, still lounged and enjoyed the beautiful summer’s evening.
Elders and Sisters have been all abuzz because we had transfers this week with two new American missionaries arriving to join in the shuffle. There were also five Mongolian missionaries leaving to go home. One of these was Elder Ur-nuur. He had been serving in our Sukhbaatar Branch for about the past ten months and he was a very hard worker. We wanted to have him for dinner one last time. The Harpers joined us and I fixed lasagna, his favorite. We had a very enjoyable night as he shared some of his favorites–we’re so glad he was a very fluent English speaker. The following night, we took four Elders out to dinner at one of our favorite places that they frequently walk by. They were so excited to eat out—not something they do too often since it’s not in their food budget. It was fun to treat them to a night out and even more fun not to have to cook for this crowd!
On the Self-Reliance/DIC front, we’ve had another DIC Humanitarian Project approved so the recipients can begin the work. We’ve finished an English version of a 12-week group called “My Job Search” down in the Self-Reliance Center and we actually had three people get jobs and not able to attend the entire course—success! We’re also teaching another Michigan Test prep class but we’ve changed it up a bit. Hey…by the time we get this down it will be time to leave but hopefully the next PEF couple can carry on where we left off.
Water is still a big issue. Oh, we have water–most of the time–but we haven’t had HOT water for about two weeks. When we try to complain to others they look at us and nonchalantly say, “Oh, we haven’t had hot water for the past month.” Then, they go on their way–no big deal. So, we’ve decided that HOT water is not a necessity in Mongolia. In fact, it is valued for heating apartments in the winter and that’s about all! So…we’re not sure when we will get it back. Our washing machine heats it’s own water so that’s not a problem and there is no such thing as dishwashers here. A “spit-bath” is scheduled for days of no water and a “puddle-bath” is for heating water and mixing in enough cold water to make it “just right.” In fact, it’s been so long since we’ve had hot water that Elder Francom decided that “puddle-baths” are really no big deal anymore!
As we attended a baptism in our branch on Friday night, I was reminded of a quote from Robert L. Millet that recently read. “Make wise and effective use of the days in which you live on earth, for how one spends eternity will be inextricably linked to how we spent our time in this life.” The new convert was 35-40 years old, had just married his wife a few days before and had stopped an eighteen year habit of smoking and drinking so he could be worthy to join the church. After his baptism, he bore a strong testimony of the Book of Mormon and Christ being at the center of his life. He has completely changed his life and we were all touched by his sincere words as he expressed his love for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. May we all follow his example and review our lives and how we can better change now so our future will be brighter than we can imagine.
Elder & Sister Francom