We didn’t make it to “Grandma’s house” because we went to Terlege with not a person in site. Mongolia is so big and one of the best parts is not having to look very hard to find a pristine place all to yourselves. It was a beautiful day with perfect weather and the scenery was stunning! Sister Benson’s parents, her brother and his wife came to visit. Every six months, Sister Benson’s mother comes to watch their kids while they go to an Asian Mission President’s training so her family turned it into their summer vacation. They wanted to spend Tuesday out in the country-side and they asked the office staff and all of us seniors to tag along. The mission has three Land Cruisers but we only used two with a small bus to transport the masses. Once we arrived in the valley, the Land Cruisers veered off the road and started across the fields and around the trees. Oh…a river—no problem! Wait…what about the bus? The bus driver bravely followed and we all held our breath as it started to spin-out in the middle of the river. We could hear all the smooth stones rolling under the tires but the bus driver persisted and we slowly moved forward to the other side. We continued to cross smaller rivers with more ease and we finally arrived at a beautiful spot right next to the largest river. We set up the table, unpacked the food, and went to follow the exploring children. It’s always fun to see the Benson kids outside and running around since they spend so much time up on the fifth floor of the Bayanzurkh Building. They climbed trees, went wadding, and played with sticks in the fire like good little pyromaniacs! (Too bad there are no marshmallows here!) The rest of us joined in to some extent but we also watched the HORKHOG (silent K) being prepared. Batbold is known for making the potato, carrot and meat feast. He brought marinated meat (most often it is mutton but since he was cooking for mostly Americans, he went with beef) and built the fire. While he was doing that, the younger Mongolian men went wadding in very cold river to find good flat rocks, at the river’s bottom, to heat in the fire and then put inside the pot to help cook the horkhog. We were so busy that time went by quickly and before we knew it, our “picnic”—Mongolian style—was ready. We brought salads and desserts and it was the best Mongolian picnic that we’ve experienced so far. The meat was so tender, the veggies were tasty, and the salad was crisp and cold. After eating, it’s usual to pull out the card games and see the men go off to wrestle but there was too much American influence so we visited and then packed up to get various people back for work, meetings, and classes to teach.
Then the next day, we met at Round Table Pizza with all the young missionaries to celebrate their scripture marathon success. The pizza place actually closed down to the public and the kids ate and were in heaven. Afterwards, we left in small groups–a large one would cause attention–and walked to a small theater to be entertained by traditional Mongolian instruments, singing, and dancing. Their instruments are so different from ours and a good throat singer is quite amazing as they sing in long, low chortling sounds with a very high melody if you listen closely–amazing! Afterwards, everyone went their different ways to get to their apartments and we walked and walked to get back home. We had part of the Benson’s family with us and they really enjoyed the evening and it was nice to visit with them and get to know them a bit more on the long walk home.
We also had an English Conference on Thursday morning. Elder and Sister Taylor have had some of the newest missionaries helping them create powerpoint lessons from our approved materials. The goal has been to create a plan that can be taught without much preparation but with lots of varied activities that will appeal to all English Language Learners. They have streamlined it so the missionaries can have more gospel-teaching time yet still be effective English teachers. We will try it at the Ministry of Labor because a beginning learner, whether a child or an adult, still needs to learn the basics of the language. We are looking forward to using it! The Taylors are leaving to go back to Provo, Utah for three months. Their only daughter is getting married and they are going to be working with the English Language Center at BYU to help them better prepare the missionaries who are coming to Mongolia. We will miss them but will carry on with the three remaining couples. Hey…anyone want to come and join us???
We received the word that the Ministry of Labor has changed hands AGAIN! However, it is good news because the previous director, who was very supportive of English learning, is back in charge! We were told to be patient because they need time to put everything in place. Of course, we have the time so waiting is easy and we’re plenty busy without it!
Since we’ve been in charge of DIC, the charity arm of the church, we’ve been communicating with another senior couple in Hong Kong, Doug and Lucinda Johnson, from Iowa. They have helped us understand and get projects approved for Mongolian. This past week, they were asked to relocate to East Timor. Never heard of it??? In 2002, it became an island nation in Indonesia. It is one of only two predominantly Christian nations in Southeast Asia (the other one is the Philippines). There are no members, no missionaries, THEY are it! They are being asked to do charity work to help the people who mostly live in poverty. The country has oil, coffee, cinnamon and cocoa but in small quantities. Imagine their church service on Sundays—“I spoke last week, so it’s your turn to speak this week.” Yes, it is the two of them but they are in East Timor to make a big difference for the inhabitance. They will still answer our questions and we’ll get to see how their lives have changed.
Elder Francom left on Thursday for an adventure. He flew up to Choibalsan to do a church audit. Notice, I mentioned that he FLEW! Last year he and Batbold drove up there and after about twelve hours of bumping and swerving, the thought of flying was hard to pass up. The work he is doing only takes a few hours but the flight schedules determine when he’ll be returning–Sunday evening is the first and only returning flight. He’ll hang out with the two Elders up there, take them out to dinner, and try to teach the newer one how to keep good records for the next audit—he has the time so he might as well take advantage of it.
Well, it’s Sunday morning and here I am getting back to the blog so I can quickly post it. While Elder Francom was having his adventure I was having mine with the Young Adults of the Stake and District. We didn’t arrive home until very late and it was just too late to even think about posting a blog. It was one of the best but worst days for both of us and we’re both glad to be back together and moving forward with a long Sunday. Oh, sometimes we truly wonder what we are doing way over here but the joys really do outweigh the negative times. (FOUR weeks without HOT water and counting…) We are grateful to serve and we have learned so much about service and the joy it brings to our lives. We are blessed to have a family back home who is so willing to provide service to others in our stead. Our hearts are filled with love for them and we hope they feel it. We love serving and we appreciate those who serve at home while we are unable to be there.
May we all find opportunities to serve others and feel the joy that it brings to our lives.
Elder & Sister Francom
(UUuggghhhh…more pictures problems!!! I’ll try again next week–gotta get to church!)