Monday, February 24, 2014

A Still More Glorious Dawn

A Still More Glorious Dawn Awaits
By Joshua Sims

As I peer into the clear black sky,
The moon sits there ponderously--
A white crown perched on a black,
Profoundly black sea.
And I consider that mammoth globe,
Which circles us so endlessly,
Yet appears to be no more
Than a disk in the sky.
Imagine, then, all that lies beyond,
The hosts of stars countlessly
To light our night from the depths
Of infinite space.
There's so much more than we realize,
Waiting there beyond our reach.
Outside our familiar home,
Our terrestrial globe.
What glory, laud and honor lies here,
And gleams so bright--but temporally
Is naught but a spot in the scheme 
Of Infinite things.
"A still more glorious dawn awaits,
Not a sunrise, but a galaxy rise.
A Morning filled with
One thousand billion suns."*
When all there is to inherit comes
To those who served faithfully
That Lord who created our earth
And all that's beyond.
How many lives were spent and sold
For prizes that pass fleetingly
Enjoyed for but our life's day
And lost in the night.
It profiteth not to buy the world
And much less Wales for the price of the soul;
For what jewel can match in cost
Our infinite worth?
For should an empire span coast to coast
And even then beyond the sea,
It can't surpass the bounds
Of this Earth, its grave.
That joy and treasure that fills the soul
And quenches thirst eternally
Appears still at times to our earth
But a star in the deep.
How can that reward set aside for us
Outshining gold incomp'rably
Be valued but dross and exchanged
For pyrite of iron?
The pottage bought, the birthrights sold, 
The glee had so expensively,
The Empires of Dirt won and lost
Defy all recount.
And though when reckoned in such terms
The issue is mind-boggling,
How soon this perspective is lost 
For us on the earth!
Our world, in form, a bulging orb,
Is flat as far as we can see,
Not to mention the stars, 
Spots of white on a pitch black relief.
The sun has greeted every morn,
Yet man took ages to perceive
The sun's sheer magnitude and that earth turns
To show us each dawn.
"A still more glorious dawn awaits,
Not a sunrise, but a galaxy rise.
A Morning filled with
one thousand billion suns!"
And all that became of our mortal world,
The things we gained and gave up here,
Will be lost in the break of that great
Millennial day.
And how can we give mammon any care
When we see our Great Redeemer there,
Life restored, faith fulfilled,
And returned to Him Who gave life!
Then all the world's wrongs shall be cast away,
And we shall live Eternally,
Each new day of our life
A still more Glorious Dawn.

*Quote attributed to Carl Sagan. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Colder, if that's possible

It was a lot colder her this week than last, but we survived.  The -45°F wind chills aren't great. They say it will get warmer soon....

It was transfer week, but my companion and I stayed the same.  That's good because we have a nice area and work well together.  I'm still zone leader, and another zone leader is now also in the area.  He's Mongolian, from the first group of missionaries I trained.  

My brother is doing a report on Mongolia in school, so he asked me to tell him about life in the city.  Here are some tidbits:

Ulaanbaatar has about 1,000,000 inhabitants. The center of the city is Sukhbaatar Square (now Chinggis Khaan square), an old communist-style public square with a big memorial to Chinggis Khaan. (It looks like the 
Lincoln memorial but bigger and with Chinggis Khaan instead of Abe.) The center of the town has lots of big buildings and malls and stores, and many hundreds of thousands of people lives in appartments in the city. Surrounding the city are miles and miles of Ger Horoolols where people live in smaller houses and also traditional Ger (yurt) dwellings. These Ger Horoolols have unpaved roads and simple fences. Lots of people live in these places, and in the far reaches of them some people build pretty nice houses even. 
Around the city and to major points in the Ger Horoolol you can take busses. A ticket is 500 tugriks, about 35 cents. 

In the Ger Horoolols and outer parts of the big city you can also ride a Miker, which is a big 12-person van that sits 20 and will give you a ride for 500 or 600 tugriks. The miker drivers pull up at the busstop and just shout their stops out loud and wait for people to get on, then go. You can also take a taxi; hold out your hand on the side of the road and anyone who wants money can give you a ride. The price is 800 tugriks for a kilometer--so less than a dollar a mile.

Mongolia likes corner stores, just small local foods stores that sell bread, milk, eggs, candy, ice cream, all kinds of things. You just walk down the street to the corner store and can get plenty of stuff, also meat and potatoes to make your food. People that live in the middle of the city tend to be more Westernized, the ger horoolols are sometimes more traditional, but traditional Mongolian culture remains the most in the khuduu or countryside. 
Half of the stores in the city have their names and signs in English; it's funny. Mongolians have started to like Western food, and you can find Western pizza and KFC in the city. But they still prefer Mongolian food; most homes eat potato and meat soup for food most nights, even in the city, really. They also still like Mongolian traditional dairy products, made from various stages of curdled milk. You can even get butter-flavored ice cream here.

It's really smoggy here, and we wear masks some days. Other days it clears up, though, but only when it gets really cold or snows!  There aren't very many foreigners at all here. There are more in the summer, but in the winter you only see a few who are teachers or mining executives. 

I teach right next to the biggest school, MUIS - Mongol Ulsiin Ikh Surguul, Mongolian National University. It is a school with a lot of students. In Mongolian you don't say acronyms letter by letter, you pronounce it like it looks, so MUIS is said like "moise."

Monday, February 10, 2014

One morning I felt like writing a hymn. This can be sung the tune of As Now We Take The Sacrament. It is based on the parable of the unforgiving servant (who owed talents and wouldn't forgive pence):

Lord, Though I strive to follow thee
I fumble on the way,
The sum I owe to grace eternal,
I cannot repay!
If not for thy Son's Sacrifice,
I could not reach to thee,
And so I ask in humbleness,
Lord, ever Pardon me!
I kneel before the throne of grace and
ask that I might live,
But then recall a child of God
whom I could not forgive!
How could my vision be so blind?
How could my human heart
Ask from my God the mercy sweet
that I would not impart?
Because Thou hast forgiven much
I owe an awesome debt
Thy mercy for my sins so many
I cannot forget!
I can however set him free
who owes some debt to me,
And wish eternal life for him
together Lord with thee!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Tsagaan Sar

Happy Lunar New Year!

This weekend was Tsagaan sar, the traditional Mongolian (and Chinese and elsewhere) Lunar New Year.  There are a lot of traditions in Mongolia.

This Heviin Boov (pastry castle) isn't eaten until the 5th or 6th day of the lunar new year, so it is more for display on the first few days.  If you visit a family, the host shares some of the cooked mutton.  Don't worry, we didn't share in any of the drinks on the table....We did eat the traditional buuz I have written about before.  They are meat dumplings.

We also were allowed to wear traditional deel (pronounced daylth) on the New Year.  When you visit a home, you walk over to the eldest man and greet him traditionally by putting your arms under his arms and then putting your head to the right and left side of his head and saying traditional greetings.  

As we visited the homes where we were invited, we couldn't do a lot of missionary work because people were too involved in the holiday.  But a man on the bus was impressed with my deel and spoke to me in Russian.  I understood him but responded in Mongolian.  He asked us to call him.  We will see if he is interested in the Gospel.  Do I look Russian?  

Elder Sims and Elder Hill on the bus in Ulaanbaatar.  With a photo-bombing Mongolian.

Out in the cold in a deel.
At one point, we were invited over by a man one of my old companions had contacted, and he invited us over for tsagaan sar.  It turns out he was a retired Buddhist monk.  He was very polite and I learned a bit about Buddhism.  He had a very nice family. It would be wonderful to teach them, but he didn't seem very interested in Christianity.  He said he doesn't oppose it at least.  

I gave a talk about tsagaan sar in Sacrament Meeting and compared the New Year celebration to renewing baptismal covenants with the sacrament.  Just as it is a cultural duty on tsagaan sar for people to visit all parents and older siblings and traditionally greet them, and people are saddened if someone doesn't come, I mentioned people who had been baptized and weren't coming back to renew their covenants.  I encouraged everyone to reach out and invite back people they know.  

So, happy new year.  We will be glad to get back to our regular schedule of teaching and working with members later in the week.