It’s the end of the third week of October. It’s getting colder all the time and Halloween is just a few days away. Halloween…not much celebrating happens in Mongolia, but the English teaching missionaries are collecting scary stories and making games that they remember from their younger days to spread Halloween cheer. Teaching is a great “excuse” to have some Halloween fun.
Well, without even trying we had a “Halloween-ish” experience this week. After work one day, Puje (Mongolian senior missionary) was driving us out to the Sukhbaatar Branch area to do some visiting. We started our adventure with the sun still shining so all was well. We brought two of the branch missionaries to help us find addresses. When we say, “addresses” we use that term VERY loosely! There are NO ADDRESSES in the ger districts—but, every ger has a number on the gate’s door and SOMETIMES they run chronologically as you proceed down the “road” (another term we use loosely). We had ger numbers and two American Elders who were almost certain they could find the correct gers—they had even met with some of the ger occupants before. We called ahead to our first visit and both parents were working so we proceeded on to the next “address.” A missionary actually recognized the area so we easily found a ger that was just off the main road, down an embankment. The mother was a very active member—we see her almost every week. Her husband, a bus driver, was at work and doesn’t come to church because he works on lots of Sundays. She assured us that he is faithful and strong in the gospel and that’s good to hear. Two of her three children come with her regularly. We shared a scripture and enjoyed our visit. As we left our visit, I thought about all these members in their small gers–no running water or sewer system, we certainly find a great appreciation for the efforts they make to be to church on Sundays, dressed so appropriately and clean!
As we left, it was dark, it was dank, it was cold, and we were so happy to have a car to crawl into. We got back up on the main road and found crazy traffic all over the place and a thick haze from the coal/wood being burned in every ger–it was hard to see. There were useless street light dimly shining through the smoke. Then, all of a sudden, you’d see the dark outline of black figures scurrying in front of the car—pedestrians trying to navigate between the cars! We finally found a place that looked familiar to one of the new Elder so we turned and found ourselves traveling down a hill with moguls to navigate over and around–even cement sewer covers sticking up here and there! We feared for our little red car but Puje just kept going in the dark of night bumping over one mound after another. Oops…the car bottomed out more than once! The ger gates weren’t even close to the number we were looking for but she persisted until we met a dead-end. Now, we had to turn around in the narrow path and do it all over again, uphill this time, to get out! We give a lot of credit to the little red car and Puje’s Mongolian driving skills, but we talked her into giving up and decided it was best to go home and try again with a real Mongolian Elder (nothing against the two willing American ones!!!) and daylight another time. Wow…what a long eerie ordeal and we were so glad to see it end!!!
Later in the week we went visiting again. We have a wonderful Mongolian Elder, Elder Saruul, who is being released soon. He has been an assistant to the president so we all know him well. His family lives in UB but none of them are members of the church. Some of them speak English so the Lewises and we were invited to dinner. Yes, more missionaries accompanied us but this time we walked and walked and finally climbed the steps of an apartment building to the top floor. They welcomed us warmly with food that was immediately ready. We feasted on pumpkin soup and a warm berry drink. Then a rice dish, several salads (the beet salad was exceptional) and mutton ribs and a stir fry. Elder Saruul’s mother is vegan so everything she made was meatless and his dad made the mutton. She even had two friends helping her do all the cooking–it was so good! Oh, did we mention that there wasn’t ONE buuz!!! Maybe that’s what made it so good! The father had been a construction engineer and from what we could gather from his partial English, he attended school is Russia and has a PhD. The daughter worked a summer at Yellowstone so she had excellent English. She explained that when Mongolia was under the control of Russia, many of the best students were sent to Russian schools for a better education. That explains why so many older people tell us that they attended school in Russia! Their apartment was nice enough to rival any of our senior apartments here.
Other than that, we had two missionary dinners here this week and it always puts smiles on missionaries’ faces and that’s the goal!!! We are blessed to have the same smiles on our faces as we go from day to day. Living the gospel makes us happy. Serving others makes us happy. Hearing from our family and friends makes us happy. We pray that we will all be worthy of the many blessings we receive and that we will all continue to do things that will building our Heavenly Father’s kingdom.
Take care of one another and BE HAPPY, too!!!
Elder & Sister Francom