Monday, December 30, 2013

Great Christmas

I Skyped with my family on Christmas morning (Mongolia time), and then we had a mission Christmas party.  The mission president had it catered; it was really good.  He also organized a little show that included a Nativity with children from the mission presidency.  It was fun.

We had a baptism on Friday, and it all worked out.  The family is really supportive and will help the couple make progress.

Since this is my one year mark on my mission, then this is the last time I'll spend Christmas without family.  I am very glad to be on a mission, and I've grown a good bit, I think, at being able to handle hardships and accomplish things.  I hope to continue to improve all next year.  I hope everyone else can have a great new year, too.  We just have to remember that the Lord knows what He is doing.

Screen Shot of Joshua on Skype, 24 December 2014 (US time).

Monday, December 23, 2013

One Year

Soon I mark my first Christmas away from home, not counting last year when I was practically home and was in the MTC on Christmas day.  It will be different, but I'm glad to be able to spend it in service.

As missionaries, we are called to teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Gospel means "good news," as it is translated in Mongolian as well.  The Good News is that Christ Lived and Lives, and that through His Atonement and obedience to His Doctrine, we can all be saved.

In 1 John 4:10 we read, "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that God loved us, and sent His Son to be a propitiation for our sins."  It has been said many times, but the greatest gift of Christmas is the Savior Jesus Christ who died and was resurrected for us.  Verse 11 reads, "Behold, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another."  If we remember God's love and great patience for us, then we must remember love and patience for those around us and all people.

The night before His Birth, the Lord spoke with Nephi to assure him "on the morrow come I into the world."  And that night, so to speak, He stepped down from His thrones above to be born in a humble and lowly manger.  He knew before that He had chosen a life of difficulty and trial and pain, but He did so because He loved us.  We missionaries have the privilege of testifying to everyone we meet that "Christ loves you," and this we know to be true.

When Christ told Nephi of His birth to comfort him, I wonder if He thought of the life He had chosen for Himself.  He, who was most perfect and sinless and full of good works, chose a life very poor in many of the blessings we often hope for.  Aside from the heavenly joy of being full of righteousness and charity, He led a life of opposition and trial that ended in betrayal.  How grateful then must we be that, imperfect as we are, He seeth fit to bestow on us so many bountiful blessings during our stay in Mortality, on top of the eternity of joy He promises to those who love Him.

I'm grateful for my great family and all the blessings the Lord has given me in my life!

Merry Christmas to all of you,
Elder Sims

In Choibalsan to train a district leader.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Q: What is running water? A: When two Elders run down the hill to fetch two pails of water.

So, one of our members asked us to get some water from the hutag ('hoe-tuck') for her; in the outlying neighborhoods you have to go get your water in a big container from a central well. If you live on a mountain, it's often far away. Now, it's not a big round hole in the ground, but a building with a pump and stuff. 

So, my trainee, Elder Norlund, and I carried the two big containers (about as big as a computer tower) to the bottom of the mountain and went to the well. We found out the well's pump was not working. We asked another guy at the well if there were any nearby ones and he said... no. We were about to give up, but then we asked some other guys and they said there was one at the next bus stop. SO we ran to the next bus stop! That was the easy part. It was nice and 'warm' running... anyway, we got water there, just one bus stop away. Then we had to carry it back... that was hard. At first we tried just carrying it on our chests, and leaking water frosted our coats in ice (just our coats, we were fine.) Up the mountain we took turns carrying the two containers. It was a fun activity for my companion's first day of work in the country! 

This week, I am actually not in Ulaanbaatar!  For a few days at least, I am in Choibalsan in the far east of Mongolia.  It is about 650km away from the capital.  I am training my former companion, who is now district leader here.  I am here with the other zone leader, and our companions are back in Ulaanbaatar.  I will return on the one-year anniversary of my mission!

How cold is it, you ask?  Well, we don't have smartphones, but you don't need one of those to know that it is cold.  We are told this has been a warm winter so far, where we have been above 0°F on many days, but those days are probably going away soon and for a few weeks at least.  It will then be around -40°F at times.  Pity my new companion.  He is from San Diego.  At least I am from Iowa, where subzero weather is not uncommon.  

Monday, December 2, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

I'm afraid I did not have much of a turkey dinner this Thanksgiving. I ate Piroshki, chocolate crackers and chocolate wafers. As Thursday approached, I tried to think if there was any way I could procure for myself some manner of Thanksgiving dinner, even if it meant going to KFC and pretending chicken is turkey. But Thursday is a busy day for me, so it would have been hard. I realized, though, that I had much to be thankful for; the Lord blesses us with success and investigators and a good place to work. So I celebrated Thanksgiving by being grateful for all the Blessings the Lord has given me. 

I also celebrated by teaching my English classes how to use "I'm grateful" and "I'm thankful" and then had them share what they were grateful for.

I was grateful for an experience I had recently.  A few weeks ago, I bought a nice knit hat just to keep me warm. Ears get cold here in the frozen north. Well, last Tuesday I had said hat in my lap on the bus. The bus took a detour and skipped our stop, going one around it.  When we realized what had happened, we hurried off the bus so we could taxi home in time. Guess what didn't make it off the bus? My hat! The bus conductor later even saw us and said 'Hey you're the guys who lost your hat.' She didn't have it, of course, but I hoped some one found it who needed it and it's useful to them.

Well, the next day, after I lost my hat, I got a little packet in the mail from Grandma and Grandpa Sims.  They had just returned from visiting family in Norway.  The package said on the declaration, "chocolate" so I thought 'Great! some tasty Norwegian chocolate,' and put it in my bag to freeze at home. That night I thought I'd open it up and see what was inside. Along with one bar of chocolate there was a great Norwegian hat! I was so grateful. It was just 24 hours after I had lost my old hat. It is no great or impossible thing, but I was thankful for such a nice surprise, both to the Lord and to Grandma and Grandpa Sims. 

We had a great Fast Sunday, and ended our Fast at the Branch President's yurt on some meat and noodle soup. I tried to explain chocolate chip pancakes (what my family eats every Fast Sunday at home) just for fun, but I'm not sure if they quite got it.