After 17+ months, life in Mongolia is pretty predictable–just like back in the states. But, once in a while it still throws us a curve! Last Wednesday, our day was pretty normal and we even talked to Baatraa (self-reliance manager) about our team meeting the following day. But, on Thursday, as soon as we left our apartment, the whole world seemed to be sleeping. There were no cars zipping around to play “tag” with, there were no people scurrying from one place to another. It was a quiet world. We arrived at the Bayanzurkh church building and it was vacant and the hallways were dark. We braved it to the light switches and lit our way to our office. We started the day the only way we knew how and it wasn’t long before we realized that someone had mentioned that Chinggas Khaan’s birthday was on Thursday. So…maybe…just maybe…the whole Mongolian world was celebrating his birthday by staying home??? After all, Americans celebrate George Washington’s birthday by taking the day off. As the day wore on and no one came in for our team meeting, the silence was too much for us and we left to observe Chinggis Khaan’s birthday in our own way. We wandered back to our apartment and we made cookies for an assignment for Friday as well as ironed those good old endless white shirts.
However, we were back to the building that same evening. We had Primary presidencies and young men and women coming for two separate focus groups. Sister Esplin, from the General Primary Presidency and Sister Marriott, from the General Young Women’s Presidency, both came to town accompanied by their husbands and Elder and Sister Wong from the Asia Area Presidency. They came for two short days and wanted to visit with people from their specific auxiliaries. We helped with the Primary group, and with a good translator at her side, Sister Esplin was impressed with how Primary runs in Mongolia. She asked lots of questions and the presidencies responded with good caring answers. Then, after a good night’s rest, our visitors returned Friday morning to go up to Ziasan Hill and read Elder Holland’s dedicatory prayer for opening Mongolia for preaching the gospel. Afterwards, they went shopping and then back to the building for a cultural performance of throat singing, dancing, and a contortionist. We seniors were invited to attend and then we all helped make a lunch of soups, salads, and rolls. I had the privilege of sitting next to Sister Marriott at the table and what a fun visit we had! She was very inquisitive about Mongolia so I answered lots of questions. Our guests were whisked off to go visit members in their gers while we cleaned up and then went back to our regular workday. Later on Friday night, there was a fireside to hear the council given by these same wonderful visitors. Finally, they left early on Saturday to go back to America with a glowing report of Mongolia, we hope! We know they also visited Cambodia and Hong Kong but we’re not sure of the other places. They looked a bit weary and it’s understandable!
Oh…let’s back up to Monday night. There is a single older sister–never married–who is lovingly and everyone calls her, “Ukraine Naara” because she served a mission there. She a beautiful and she is talented, and so very thrifty. You know, one of those ladies who can accomplish much more in her twenty-four hours than you can even dream of in the same amount of time. She invited us to Family Home Evening. We took a taxi and traveled to the last bus stop. She met us there and then we all walked together until we came to her ger. There were four children waiting inside–an 11 year old girl, and three more ages 2, 3, and four–they were her nieces and nephews. We were welcomed by the oldest girl, we sang a song, had a prayer, and they all recited a scripture that they had “ponderized” during the week. Then we ate dinner. She fed us more of those tasty Mongolian vegetable salads (canned from her greenhouse garden, of course!) and she also served potato khoosiers–like a flatten roll filled with some kind of wonderfully flavored potato filling. It was so good! After, we had a lesson on families, sang another song, and had a prayer. The night was over and Ukraine Naara walked us back to the bus stop and put us on a taxi that brought us to our doorstep. We left with a special appreciation for a dear single sister who has opened her home to these children. They are very blessed to have Naara in their lives! We took the new doctor and his wife, the Sutphins, from Rock Springs, Wyoming, with us. It just happened to be the doctor’s birthday and when Ukraine Naara found out he received a bottle of her home-canned pickles with a chocolate candy bar. Of course, it is tradition to sing “Happy Birthday” just like back home–even in English!
Other than that, we taught English to adults–we’ve had from zero to three in our classes which is so disappointing and almost not worth it, but our time is limited so we will do it through November. We have started teaching the prep class for the Michigan Test and someone else will be receive the assignment and will carry on with it. We’re trying to tie up lots of loose ends with DIC projects and it just takes time. We have the time so it’s one day after another right now.
Well, off to church again tomorrow–out to Baganuur one more time. We have a car-full of people coming with us and we have the snacks ready for the long trip. I am reminded of what President Uchtdorf said, “The basic gospel principles need to be part of our life’s fabric, even if it means learning them over and over again.” So, we’ll go out there and hope for some translations so we can be reminded one more time of something we can improve in as we continue on life’s journey. So much to learn even in a foreign land with a foreign language! We love the gospel!
May we all continue to learn and relearn all that we need to do!
Elder & Sister Francom