Friday, November 29, 2013

Ulaanbaatar City and orientation to the Mongolia Ulaanbaatar Mission

Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia is a city of 1,300,000 people in a country of nearly 3 million people. 

A little history. The main plaza in central UB is named Sukhbaatar Square. Sukhbaatar was the name of a revolutionary leader who led the war of independence of Mongolia from China in 1921 (comparable to our George Washington). Sukhbaatar means "axe hero" in Mongolian.
He died young just three years after the revolution so there is a Kennedyesque quality to the way he is reverenced in Mongolia. There is a prominent statue of him riding on a horse in the middle of the Square.

There is a Sukhbaatar Province in the SE corner of Mongolia next to China or Inner Mongolia on the south. There is a city of Sukhbaatar (25,000 or more) on the northern border with Russia. 

The Trans-Siberian railroad stops in Sukhbaatar and passengers wanting to go to Ulaanbaatar or Beijing can take a spur that cuts across Mongolia.

The Ger Districts in UB. The Ger Districts are comprised of traditional circular felt tents or dwellings or small wooden houses. 

Looking toward the City

There is no running water or central heating in the Ger Districts.

Hauling water in the Ger district

Families have to haul their own potable water to their homes from dumping stations in 5 gallon drums. 
They also have outhouses for toilet facilities.
The Gers and wooden homes have coal and wood burning fireplaces to heat their homes during the day and night during the winter.

They do have electricity. 
About 600,000 of UB's population live in Ger Districts. Many people live middle class life styles and have good jobs but are unable to afford rent or buy apartments which is the next step up in prosperity and convenience.

Apartments have indoor plumbing, running water and hot water heating systems that make life a lot easier. 
There is no stigma to living in a Ger though generally the people living in poverty also live in the Ger Districts.
The Ger Districts are the main source of winter smoke and pollution for UB because of the coal fires. 

The outer suburbs of UB are Ger Districts and the terrain is usually hilly compared to the main city which is flat and runs in along narrow band east to west.

The church in Mongolia. There are over 10,700 members attending in 12 church units in UB and about 22 in the country total. In UB, the church is divided into the West Stake (more prosperous) with six wards and the East District (six branches) and generally poorer and has the bulk of the Ger Districts.
Dund-Us on the map is Khovd or Xovd.  Sukhbaatar is straight north of Darkhan where the Selenge River crosses into Russia.
Because of visa sponsorships to teach English, American and foreign missionaries are assigned to church units in UB though recently we have just started being able to place young foreign missionaries in the Darkhan District (also six church units in the north part of Mongolia - two branches in Darkhan, two in Erdenet, one in Sukhbaatar, and a branch in Zuunharra.

There are four mission branches - one in Khovd in the far western part of Mongolia, one in Murun just south of Lake Khuvskul in the part of Mongolia that juts up into Russia and one in Choibalsan in the far eastern part of Mongolia close to the Chinese border. All of these "countryside" branches are served by Mongolian missionaries.
Church building in Choibalsan

The fourth mission branch is located at a gold mine in the Gobi Desert at Oyutolgoi. No missionaries are assigned there. There is a church unit or group that meets in Bulgan - a city about 60 miles west of Erdenet. Bulgan has missionaries assigned.

The Mission has just started a Long Distance Branch where members meet over the Internet. This connects members who live more than 30 miles from any church unit. This is innovative and is patterned after a virtual branch for ex-patriots living and serving in China. 

Missionaries. There are about 20 young foreign Elders and Sisters serving in Mongolia and 18 live and serve in UB - maybe the only place they will serve in Mongolia.

There are about 10 senior couples serving here. Two couples and soon to be three are or will serve in countryside branches. All foreign missionaries young and old are English teachers and that is an essential part of our visa requirement to be in Mongolia.
New missionaries and their companions - Aug. 29, 2013

There are more than 60 Mongolian missionaries serving in the Mongolian Ulaanbaatar Mission. There is one senior missionary couple from Mongolia serving in Sukhbaatar.

Maybe one in ten missionaries called from Mongolia are serving in foreign missions - the rest are called to serve in their own country.

The Mission President has to be aware of not having them serve in their home wards or branches and not have them serving close to their former girlfriends or boyfriends prior to their missions.

This is a logistical consideration in making mission transfers. Thank goodness for countryside branches! 

Occasionally Mongolian missionaries from UB and serving in UB run into family members and friends on the street and are instructed to greet them cordially. Obedience to mission rules protects them from having relationships that will distract them from their missions.    

Ger District and central UB on a clear day