Monday, June 30, 2014

Choibalsan is Great

We have had a lot of rain in Choibalsan the last couple of weeks.  Roads aren't all paved and drainage is, well, lacking, so roads become rivers pretty quickly.  One day, we got to an intersection in the Ger Khoroolol (yurt district) and it was water from side to side with no place to pass.  We waited and then flagged down a huge flatbed truck and asked for passage across.  He let us climb in to the truck bed and we rode that way across the pond.  It was pretty good.  Even when the rain lets up, the roads are full of little streams and lots of mud.

We had an appointment on a Saturday with an investigator preparing for baptism, but we couldn't contact them on the phone and the road to their house was horrendously flooded.  So we took the chance, hopped across some dirt mounts and concretes slabs and, sure enough, they were home.  It was a blessing.  We will be having a baptism on the 4th of July!

Missionary work can easily become frustrating, since much of our day depends on whether people keep their appointments with us.  But we have to trust in the Lord.  For example, that Saturday our schedule was tumbling apart about noon, but I didn't let it bother me and I went happily, trusting that the Lord would provide for what really mattered.  And He did. Though some appointments fell through, He brought us another person to teach and also let us get through that flooded street to meet with our investigator.

A focus on the Lord's blessings past and promised--and trust in Him--has helped me to be very happy lately, regardless of circumstances.  During times that could have been boring or tedious or frustrating, I have been just happy, going about the muddy streets with a smile because I know the Lord loves me and that I'm glad to be doing His work.

Teaching on the Army Base is great fun.  The students are motivated and respectful.  For the first couple of weeks, they would stand at attention whenever I called on them.  And they applauded me at the end of a class.  Now that they have realized I don't expect that level of discipline, they aren't standing at attention anymore.  But they still work ten times harder than some of my past students.  I will be sad to leave this teaching job at the end of the summer.  All of my students are soldiers or officers.  They know almost no English except a few memorized words, so they are definitely a beginning class that wants to learn.  The sergeant major gives us a ride home after I teach.  I could get used to that!

I am learning a lot as a counselor in the branch presidency.  I have conducted sacrament meeting a few times.

I take notes when I read the Book of Mormon.  I was reviewing notes from the Book of Ether recently.  Near the end of the first chapter, the Brother of Jared prayed that their language would not be confounded; the Lord blessed him as he asked.  But then when the Lord said He would scatter the nations, Jared and his brother did not pray that they not be scattered; they asked only to know where they would go.  Jared said faithfully, "who knoweth but that He will lead us to a land of Promise?" (v. 38).  They had faith that what the Lord willed, though different than what they had, could be better.  They trusted Him and wanted to be faithful. If we look at how Jared and his brother prayed, we can see patterns of trust, faithfulness and humility.  They never asked to go to a land of promise; they trusted that the Lord's will would be the best for them and asked only for that, deciding to be faithful as well.   It's a good pattern for us today.

Monday, June 9, 2014


Once I flew to Choibalsan to conduct some training as a Zone Leader.  I thought it was a fun excursion in a mission where we do not usually get to leave Ulaanbaatar.  Now I find myself serving this summer in Choibalsan!

It is very nice here.  It reminds me of Iowa because it is flat (UB is next to mountains).  You can see forever.  It also reminds me of Florida (although I have never been there) because it has trees.  I haven't seen trees for a long time, and they have planted some lovely lines of trees to beautify the city.  Okay, so they aren't palm trees, but it is just greener here and so I thought of Florida.  It is still Mongolia, of course, since everything is written in Cyrillic script and fresh yogurt is for sell in every store.

Anyway, I am in Choibalsan only for the summer to teach English temporarily.  My school in Ulaanbaatar does not offer classes in the summer, and so I am free to work elsewhere and they needed a teacher here.  This means I also get to be a missionary for this small branch.  It isn't part of a district; it is just under the mission.  So, I am now Second Counselor in the Branch Presidency.  Another missionary is the Branch President and a local member is the First Counselor.  I conducted Sacrament meeting on the 8th!  It was interesting to do that.

We are teaching some people the Gospel, but our presence here is small and we keep a low profile.  The weather here is different than in the capital.  It has gone back and forth between perfect, rainy, and sweaty.  But it's nice.  I like the apartment because I actually have a mattress to sleep on.  In my last apartment, we had box springs but not mattresses.  I slept on some blankets.  So this mattress thing is really nice. We are working on getting a washing machine installed; there was one before, but this apartment hasn't been used for a while and it was removed.

When the mission president called to tell us we were going to Choibalsan, we had just a few days notice to teach our area to some other Elders, baptize an investigator, and get to the airport.  It was a great baptism, though, and we feel our new member will be strong and happy.  He's humble and diligent about coming to Church.  An older gentleman was also baptized. On that same day, another investigator we taught was baptized in her new branch (which we found was outside of our area).

So here I am where mail doesn't reach Elders very often.  Choibalsan is Mongolia's 4th largest city!  Population: about 40,000.  That's Mongolia.  It's great!

Baptism in American Denj Branch (just the street name; it's not an American Branch).
My companion is second from the right.

Elder Sims in Choibalsan, June 2014