Friday, August 30, 2013

Our last summer school class, new missionaries arrive and some leave.

Our summer students
Summer is over and so is English. We had an intense but delightful Summer English class.  On our last day we had games, songs and a Readers theater.

I was recruited at the last minute
All boys with one exception for Billy Goats Gruff
We had some doubling up on this story - I like Mama Bear
Parents and family members were invited. The kids did great and everyone was all smiles.

Parents, grandparents and siblings enjoyed the show

They were very sweet to us with their gifts and goodbyes. We will miss them.

The children sang us a special Mongolian anthem - a surprise they prepared
We grew attached to these children during the short time we had them. We learn their personalities and see their progress.  Teaching is a fun and rewarding profession but it takes a ton of hard work. 

Waiting to go onstage


Darlene puts a lot of effort in her lesson plans. Our enthusiasm and relationships with the children (plus the novelty of having American teachers) help make the class special for them. 

Darlene was pleased with how this class turned out
We get a week off before we start our new class.  It can’t be as much fun but working with adults has its own special rewards also.
Family History. Ulziika and others thought the family history presentation at the YSA conference was one of the highlight activities of the conference …and there were a lot of them (See previous blog). We will be going to Choibalsan next weekend to firm up our training there.

Val with Buyannemekh translating
New Missionaries.  We spoke to the new Mongolian and American missionaries and their companions about the connection between Family History work and missionary work.
New sister missionaries and their companions
There were 6 new Americans that arrived and at least 10 new Mongolian missionaries. This replaces the group who just finished their missions.

Training for the new missionaries -senior companions sitting in

Pres. Benson is dispensing with the devotional testimony meeting for incoming missionaries. A lot of Mongolian members (including the new missionaries) have become used to this traditionally well attended fireside devotional in front of a packed meetinghouse of friends, relatives and interested members.
There were plusses and minuses to this meeting. The logistics of dealing with the huge numbers of incoming and departing missionaries made it impractical to hold the meeting.
Mission Farewells. Pres. Benson has started holding farewell testimony meetings for the departing missionaries and their immediate family members the day before they leave. The senior couples are also invited to attend.
Returning missionaries to Mongolia are being encouraged to report their missions in their Stake and District Council meetings and in their home branches and wards. The big devotional format in Ulaanbaatar seemed to have a negative effect on whether or not this was being done.
Three more Americans go home. Three American missionaries left this week, Elder Quinton, and Sisters Gillen and Largin.

Sisters Gillen and Largin

Add Elder Quinton to the departing group

While waiting for their trip to the airport on the morning of their departure, I was amused by the Sisters enthusiasm to play basketball in their traveling clothes. It seems Mongolians love of basketball has rubbed off on them. They were pretty good players.

Elder Flint on right testing his skills with his new companion

Young Single Adult Conference

Is this Mongolia or New Zealand? Doing the Haka for the talent show

The Ulaanbaatar West Stake and East District held a combined Young Single Adult Conference. Over 200 Young Single Adults participated. It was originally scheduled for an area east of Ulaanbaatar near Baganuur but the location was changed because  how cheap train travel is compared to renting buses.
Travel from Erdenet to campsite
The conference was held at the same site as the All Mongolia Youth Conference Trek near Erdenet. Meekers (elongated vans used as mini-buses) were used to take the YSA's from Erdenet to the campsite some 50 - 60 km from Erdenet.

Looking down on the YSA campsite
Unlike July's Youth Conference, there were no bugs and flies
The setting was gorgeous
Young man in a field of grass
Here are some of the scenes from the conference. It was a lot of fun according to all reports. Dr. Stewart attended the conference and took these pictures.

Adeyabold, Ulziika, and Nasanbold put together the Family History activity demonstrating the effect of temple ordinances in liberating ancestors from Spirit Prison.

Dr. Stewart is in the orange jacket - Elder England follows him

From the left: Adeyabold, Ulziika, Nasanbold...
Like other Church undertakings in Mongolia, this YSA conference was bold, imaginative, physical, active, humorous, natural, and distinctively MongolianThey know how to have fun and enjoy each other. The more primitive the conditions, the better they like it.

Food for 200 + attendees - no problem

Small group discussion

Informal get-togethers

Inspirational speaking from President Odgerel

Pyramid building

Sack racing

Start of women's race
Here they come

The winners and their prizes


Speed dating

Talent show - a dance followed the program

Best Haka outside of the New Zealand All-Blacks


One highlight was an afternoon wrestling tournament. Some wrestlers brought their traditional Mongolian costumes

Takedown move: you lose if any part of the body touches the ground other than hands or legs

No need to have a costume to enter the competition
After a long day - getting ready for tomorrow

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Missionaries leave


From left to right: Elders Lloyd, Boyd, Williams, Neuberger, Stranksi, Pres. Benson, Sis. Benson, Sisters Javsanpagam and Schiffler. Tommy and Mary Ann below. Sister Javsanpagam is returning home in Mongolia.
Six American missionaries leave. The main thing that happened this week was the first group of 6 missionaries left for the United States on Thursday.  The group of nine who came in together was split into two groups with 3 more missionaries leaving this coming Thursday.  
Elders Neuberger, Williams, Lloyd, Boyd and Stranksi saying goodbye to Elder Amartuvshin in middle
We can see the lasting bonds of friendship and love they have for each other.  As they have all served in the capital city of UB, they have been side by side in their work and play.
Farewell breakfast
e grew to love and appreciate this group of Elders and Sisters. They were here when we arrived a year ago in July. Each is unique in his or her own personality but uniformly dedicated to the work. They have helped us out with willing hearts with the Mongolian language, computers, and interpreting. They have been fun to be around and to tease. We have looked out for them in various ways – loaning our office for Skyping, visiting members’ homes, helping with discussions, and having them for meals.

From left to right: Sister Schiffler,  Elders Lloyd, Boyd, Stranski, Williams, Neuberger (partially hidden), Jiguur (hidden)  Elder Amartuvshin, Sister Javzanpagama, and Elder Robbins 
We certainly have developed precious relationships with members but the association with the young Elders and Sisters has also enriched our mission. Mongolia seems to get the best. It is quite believable to us when Helaman regarded the stripling warriors as “sons” because we feel the same way.  

Loading up
Mongolians missionaries and translators. There is another group of missionaries that deserve special mention – Mongolians called to serve in their own country and Mongolian returned missionaries with English skills. Both groups have been willing foils, guinea pigs, and targets for us in learning the language. They have a great sense of humor and patience as they teach us while we stumble around with the bare rudiments of their language.
Getting computer and language help from Elder Odd and Elder Batbileg
Translators make a world of difference for us in our work and at church. We form great relationships as they perform this service for us. A few translators work for the church but most do not.  Either way, they make our success possible.
Octobri - one of our translators now married

On their way. The missionaries had a farewell testimony meeting on Wednesday afternoon which we had to miss because of our English class. I was able to be there the next morning as they posed for final pictures and loaded up in the mission vehicles also to go to the airport.
We sent a carpet home with Elder Neuberger’s parents.  That means our load will be a lot lighter (and maybe less expensive) next spring when we depart Mongolia.  We will miss our St. Louis connection with Elder Neuberger but a young sister missionary from our Stake will be arriving soon and we will give her some extra TLC while she is here.

A restful week. I was suffering from a head cold and a deep cough during the week so I had some extra rest. Darlene did the heavy lifting with our summer English class. Next week we will finish up with a production of singing, games and a readers’s theater put on for their parents.  

We did some shopping at a new vegetable market behind the Chinggis Khan Hotel. It goes up every August and stays until the freezing weather shuts them down.
YSA Conference. We were invited to go to the Young Single Adult Conference (three day campout) this week but it conflicted with our English class. It also wouldn’t have been good for the health condition I was fighting off.  200 young singles from the East District and West Stake participated.
Ulziika and her mother, Naranchimeg, at Zaison Hill during the 20th year Anniversary celebration

Ulziika took our Family History message to the Conference and was in charge of a half hour visual demonstration of Family Tree using the conference attendees as stand-ins for 4 and 5 generations of relatives. We should have pictures next week.
Davaadorj isn't shy - good but not best - a first step toward best

Dating and courtship. Last year we attended and participated in the dating and courtship theme of the conference. This year’s conference was more of the same - only without us. We didn’t miss the hard ground or the small tents or the bugs and flies.  They are hoping for same or better results from this year’s conference.  The Stake President kept track of at least 16 marriages taking place during the year after last year’s conference.

Speed dating
There has been a lot of YSA group events and activities but not enough pairing off and dating between our young singles.  Facebook and group dates don’t seem to lead anywhere.

Group fun - good but not best

We are actively teaching about dating, talking about fun dates and making it OK to date despite pressures to define it as more than it is. In the Mongolians’ mind and culture, dating is a very serious step toward commitment.  That seems to paralyze the process before it gets started.

Guy fun - Mongolian wrestling - good but not best

Economics plays a role in terms of not having the means to set up their own apartment and having to live with relatives in crowded conditions. It takes a little more courage and faith to launch out in Mongolia when you are poor. Most of the young singles are returned missionaries and are used to apartment living on their missions.

The good news is that we have lots of young church couples and families that have taken this step and are good examples of what is possible.
 Best! Our favorite wedding couple - Orkhon and Batbold