Monday, May 26, 2014

School is out!

I'm grateful to live in a family established on the teachings of the prophets.  Going on a mission has shown me what an enormous difference there is between a firm Gospel family and the opposite.

My English class is winding down now.  I just gave the final exams and then graded them.  It took almost 4 hours to do that, which didn't leave much of our P-day.  Oh well.   The school has let out for the summer, so teachers are off, too.  I get to be a full-time missionary all the time!  I look forward to that.

We have an investigator in our area who is doing very well.  He was introduced to the Gospel by a new member of the ward who happens to be the father of one of our missionaries.  Because this mission is comprised mostly of Mongolians, and because the country has a limited number of cities, it is common for missionaries from Ulaanbaatar to serve in this city and even see their family often.

So it is with this new member.  Anyway, because he recently received the Aaronic Priesthood, we are helping him to prepare to baptize his young co-worker who is very excited about the Gospel.  The 25-year-old comes to Church every Sunday and he wants to go on a mission as soon as possible (one year) after he is baptized.  It's great to see how happy he is in the Gospel. And it's great to see how these friends can strengthen each other.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Happy Mother's Day

Elder Sims via Skype, 11 May 2014
Happy Mother's Day.  I'm glad on this day for both my parents who raised me in a Gospel family and did things the Lord's way.  Going on a mission has shown me what an enormous difference there is between a firm Gospel family and the opposite.

I've been reading the Book of Mormon in English again lately, instead of in Mongolian, and I was surprised by how much more understandable Jacob 5 was the most recent time I read it.  I could see all the dispensations falling right into the scriptural narrative.  My understanding drew on lessons and seminary videos of the past, but it just made more sense right away this time.  It shows you how no matter how many time you read the Book of Mormon you can always learn more.

Monday, May 5, 2014

A Typical Week

(Joshua wrote about his day-to-day work for a week (week of April 6-13) to give an idea of what mission work is like in Mongolia.  He sent a handwritten letter because they don't have that much time on a computer to email.  That explains the delay.  From his letter:).....

It was warmer, with the exception of a day of snow, and we were glad to shed our coats and work in suits.  We wear no nametags, though, as my companion and I are both Americans, and we aren't allowed to wear nametags outdoors. I am still zone leader of the Ulaanbaatar East Zone. The other zone leader, not my companion, is a Mongolian I trained a few months ago.  My companion and I serve in the Samsar area, which is pretty small.  Unlike other areas where I have served, we have mostly apartment buildings in this area.

Last Sunday, we had five investigators at Church.  Afterward, we met with a college student.  We taught her the Plan of Salvation and she seems to be understanding it very well.  Then we met with a new member and taught her about how to apply to serve a mission.  The two are friends who both live in Erdenet but are going to school in Ulaanbaatar.

Next we walked across the street to teach a new fellow we met while moving luggage on P-day; he asked us to help him stop drinking. When we met on Sunday, we found him to have great desire and he received our lesson well.

Then we visited a member family that had just come back into town.  We shared a message and learned about a friend of theirs we might visit.  Then we finished a lovely Sunday by visiting an investigator preparing for baptism.  (She's pictured in a post from April 27).  She and her husband fed us Mantuun Buuz, diced meat and onion filling inside a puffy dough dumpling and steamed. Since that was Fast Sunday, it was especially delicious.

On P-day, I taught English for three hours until 2:00 p.m.  I teach at the Institute for International Studies.  Since it was P-day (preparation day), we then got groceries, emailed family, and managed to  do a little shopping.  I was looking for Bibles written in Mongolian script.  I was excited to find one for a good price.

On Tuesday, I taught English another three hours until about noon.  After that, we taught another lesson to the woman preparing for baptism.  She and her husband took us out to lunch, which was very nice.  We had Japanese food (not sushi).  That's not very common for us.  We then taught three more lessons to three different people and took the man who wanted to stop drinking over to the Church's Addiction Recovery Program class.  He received it well, and one of our other investigators was at the class, too.

By now it was 8:30 pm and we headed to the home of an investigator from Poland.  His wife is Mongolian; she had been baptized 15 years ago by our mission president when he was a young missionary, but she had since fallen away.  The man wasn't home then, but we said we would try again later.

On Wednesday, we had Zone training meeting.  I think this is the 8th one I have taught.  We taught about key indicators and building the Church from centers of strength.  After that meeting, at around 11:00, we headed over to teach a new member who is doing very well and learning faithfully.  We taught a new investigator about prophets and then went home for lunch.  We made a tasty pasta and chicken dish, but we had to hurry so my companion could get to his English teaching assignment.  He is a tutor for the children of his sponsor.  Teaching English is probably the strangest and most unique part of this mission; it's quite an experience for all of us.

We taught another lesson to the woman to be baptized, and she and her husband cooked dinner for us.  I'm learning to cook some Mongolian dishes, and I'll try them at home if I can.  It might be hard to find horse meat, I guess, but I suppose I can use beef or mutton instead.  We visited another family but they were unable to meet with us, and it was 9:00 pm anyway, so we went home to plan Thursday.

Thursday, we left at 10:00 to get to my English class.  We usually walk the 30 minutes, but this time we took a taxi in 15 minutes.  Any willing driver can be a taxi; they just pull over and give rides to people on the side of the road.  The agreed upon fare is about 50 cents per kilometer.  Today's 'taxi' driver was a Kazakh man; we had a very interesting conversation, but two American missionaries are not allowed to invite people in public to listen to the Gospel.  All street contacting is also forbidden by the government.  It's strange that being a missionary in Mongolia means we cannot testify in the streets.  But we do get to teach in Church and we have lessons often, and that makes up for it.  I'm glad we do a lot of teaching.

After my English classes, we had a weekly planning session and then went to Church to meet with a new member.  She asked a lot of questions. That's good.  While at the Church, which has a distribution center, we picked up a copy of Book of Mormon Stories [children's book] for an investigator's children.  We then stopped at another home to teach.  The family is learning and listened attentively, but I'm not sure if the kids (aged 11 and 15) were following things well.  I realized I had the children's book in my pack, and so I pulled it out to give to them.  They were really excited; the pictures help with learning such new and foreign concepts.

On Friday, we made some pizza before my English classes at noon.  I like to experiment with pizza here; it's always a little different.  One time, we covered the pizza with Korean kimchi.  I don't think I'll do that again.   After English, we taught one of the investigators we are working with.  [These are all the same people I mentioned from the beginning of the week.  I don't include names for their own privacy.]  This fellow (the one with the drinking problem) likes to meet but isn't sure he believes in God.  We're helping him find out for himself.  We picked up another Book of Mormon Stories for the first family we intended to give it to and then went on a split with the other zone leader and his companion.  We two zone leaders met up with the district leader and his companion to provide some training for them on how to make a good weekly plan.  Then we went back to Church for a baptismal interview for our wonderful investigator.  We then went to teach another investigator who will probably be baptized soon, and we met with the family we wanted to give the children's book to.

With an hour left in our day, we went again to the Polish man's home and found him there!  His wife is a little wary of the missionaries, but she seemed to be fine having us there.  We gave him a pamphlet about the Restoration in Polish and a Polish Book of Mormon.  It's a little hard to teach him because I have to use a mixture of Russian, English, Polish, and Mongolian to convey concepts, but he is showing potential.  He met missionaries once before in Germany.  His wife offered us some soup, which was a pleasant surprise; we are hoping she is feeling less negatively about the Church.  He is going to read while he is traveling for a few weeks.

Saturday we got to watch General Conference in English.  We arranged for splits between native Mongolian speakers and English speakers so everyone could watch in their native tongue.  We had to wait a week to watch because Conference happens in the middle of the night for us, so it just makes things easier to watch the recorded sessions during the day a week after the conference.  I thought all of the talks were great, especially President Erying's talk about priesthood service.

After Church, we were invited by a returned missionary to teach his 90-year-old grandmother.  She's hard of hearing and fairly set in her Buddhist ways.  Many Mongolians are happy to accept Christ but believe that every religion is equally good and even the same. I think we managed to help her understand how Buddhism and Christianity are different and that the way she would worship Christ would not involve the same prayers and rituals she uses as a Buddhist.  Her member children and grandchildren could help her.  I'm not sure how easily she will accept Christ, but she said she was happy to meet with us again.

We visited a less-active member and showed him and his wife how to download conference on their iPad; they were glad to see how easy it was.  On Sunday we watched more conference and enjoyed a missionary lunch of PBJ sandwiches.  My companion and I provided the peanut butter and other missionaries contributed their fair share, as well.  After conference, we taught a nice lesson to some of the investigators mentioned earlier.  When we went to one home, there was a full, skinless, headless goat on the table.  We were grateful he took the time to listen to our lesson before he finished the work of gutting and butchering the animal.  We finished the evening with a farewell fireside for our mission doctor who leaves on Tuesday.

And that was a week in the life of a missionary in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. I know the Gospel is true, and I know the Savior lives. In this world of confusion and falsehood, we can trust and rely on the Lord to be our anchor of Righteousness.  He will bless us in this life and when we see Him hereafter, our faith will be vindicated.