Saturday, August 11, 2012

What a great mission!

Suhkbaatar - hero of the 1921 revolution - Independence for Mongolia
Church on Sunday. Sunday we had fast and testimony meeting followed by Sunday School classes, Relief Society and Priesthood meetings. These were quality meetings except our understanding of most of it was minimal. We do get translations but a lot get lost in translation.

Stepping out of class, it seemed like there were a number of unsupervised children who weren’t in classes or their teachers hadn’t shown up. I will pay more attention to this in the future. The parents are quite reverent but some of the children are allowed to roam free without much guidance. It is not something we are used to.

We had a wild ride home in a taxi (private driver). The driver seemed intent on showing us how adept he was at maneuvering in traffic. It wasn’t a pleasant ride even if he did shave 5 minutes off the ride. I don’t know about the other drivers and pedestrians but he certainly had us on edge.   

Aspiring warrior
Monthly Family home evening with Senior couples. Our evening concluded with a wonderful Family Home Evening with the Mission President and his wife, the senior couples and two guest couples, the Asian Area doctor and his wife visiting from Hong Kong and a former Mission President Anderson and his wife, also visiting from Hong Kong. We each took a part of the lesson. It was a spiritual feast – the topic was prayer and some remarkable stories were shared.  

President Clark had lost his brother the day before and we could tell he had been grieving. He  experienced his loss amid all of his other responsibilities. I lost a brother when I was on my mission to Central America so I could identify with him.

President Faust, when we visited Rapid City as an Apostle, was asked what he would say to a brother in the church who aspired to be a mission president. After a long deliberation, President Faust’s reply was, “Tell him he needs to see a psychiatrist.”
Training webinar. We had a great orientation webinar from Steve Tsai on Tuesday and Wednesday morning. It helped bring our mission into focus. The Area Presidency determined a major effort to increase family history and temple work in Thailand, Indonesia and Mongolia. They have called senior couples to all three of these countries to spearhead the work.

They have set the following goals for each of the countries: 1) a 10 % increase in temple names being submitted to the temple, 2) each member complete a four generation pedigree chart, and 3) involve the youth and young adults in Family History work –  having a personal experience with their own name submissions, using their computer literacy, and assist other members with Family History work.

Within these goals, we can unleash tremendous energy to move the work forward. This plays to the strength of the Church in Mongolia, the dynamic youth and young adults who have embraced the gospel with so much faith and humility. I envision Mongolia being even more of a beacon light to the nations by taking this next step in the Gospel, embracing the saving ordinances of the temple for themselves and their kindred dead.

Teaching English. During the summer we are teaching the children of the employees of Teleco Mongolia (the landline phone company for Mongolia/cable TV), our sponsoring company that enables us to get a visa. In September we switch over to teaching the employees.
Teleco Mongolia on Suhkbaatar Square
Our English class is going well but it takes a lot of preparation time. We teach two hours day, three days a week. We enjoy the children but it divides our focus. I guess that is everyone’s dilemma. Our class is growing. Every class we seem to be adding two or three new students. Evidently the word is out that we are pretty good teachers. Darlene is a natural teacher and I contribute some comic relief.
English class at Teleco Mongolia
We walk a mile and a half coming and going so we are getting our exercise. It takes about 30 minutes each way. It is a little more challenging when it is raining and we are packing all our teaching supplies and an umbrella. Traffic is so congested that we make better time than the buses and cars going along the same route. If we took a taxi, who knows when we would arrive? On foot the journey is predictable even if it is raining. In the dead of winter, it may be another story.  

A night of food, song and dance. After class on Wednesday, we met Doc. Martin and his wife, and the visiting Doctor and his wife from Hong Kong for dinner at a Thai Restaurant right across from where we teach on Suhkbaatar Square. We went to the Cultural Hall for a Mongolian musical song and dance program. The tickets were $20 each so it wasn’t cheap. I would compare it to the Ballet Folklorico in Mexico City.

Cultural Arts Venue
Patrons had to pay an extra $25 for the privilege of taking pictures which we declined. No pictures, sorry! - except in the lobby.

Plain Jane and flashy friend
We had an evening of traditional dance, Buddhist dancing and chanting, Throat Singing, Operatic Singing, long songs (sung to the animals on the steppes), short songs, contortionist performance (unreal), traditional fiddle playing and the Mongolian National Orchestra in concert.

This program is only offered during the summer when tourists visit Mongolia. The almost capacity audience was a mixture of tourists and Mongolians. We enjoyed it thoroughly and hope to go again before our mission is over.  
The Dancing God - who is next?
This week I was measured for a new suit by a seamstress. We bought the material last week at the Zaak. One more fitting and then I will have a tailored new suit for about $85. What a great mission!

Family History Training. On Saturday, we presented talks at a monthly Family History Consultants meeting for the West Stake and the East District. Darlene also furnished the banana bread (a big hit) after the meeting. We are making progress on our assignments. We shared the goals and plans for the coming year.

Before the meeting Darlene worked one-on-one with Pujee, our daughter’s convert from 12 years ago, to help her enter her family records on New Family Search. We are invited to her family’s home for dinner this coming Monday.
Shopping for bananas, butter, and flour
A wild, crazy dinner and evening out. Speaking of dinner, we were invited to a member’s home on Saturday night. The food was sumptuous and lavish. We were served Harem, a drink of water, hot milk and salt. It was tasty. Sunjidmaa and her two sons, Batsukh and Gansukh were there along with Sudjimaa’s sister, Ganchimeg. Darlene spoke Russian throughout the evening while I sputtered a little Mongolian.
Our hosts and all the food
One of her sons has just graduated from an alternative medical program in Inner Mongolia where he had been studying Chinese Acupuncture and chiropractic massage for five years. Darlene volunteered herself to see what it was all about. She was prepared for needles but the blood drawing at the end was a little unsettling. My wife is one gutsy lady – we experience Mongolia to the hilt. My massage treatment was tamer but quite satisfying.

So far so good!

Ya betcha!
The evening ended up with a game of sheep ankle bone flipping, a national pastime game. We learned the rules and could feel the light-hearted competition between the sisters. When all the bones turn up a certain way, the first person to grab them gets them. When hands meet in the middle trying to capture the bones, the resulting injuries are described as “cat’s claws.”  
A cross between Yatzee, marbles and dice
They gave us the ankle bones afterwards, a box of candy and the rest of our dinner to take home. They then got a taxi for us, went with us and paid for our trip home (and theirs). What hospitality! What a mission!  
National Parliament on Suhkbaatar Square

1 comment:

  1. What a cool adventure! I'd love to hear more about your volunteer experience. Email me at katie at if you'd be interested in answering some questions for Thanks,