Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Birthday Adventure

I turned 21 on Monday, which was a P-day.  I had thought to go out for lunch, maybe buy a little something as a birthday present, write emails to my family, and so on.  But by coincidence, our mission doctor and his wife were visiting Choibalsan for the weekend to provide some training.  They asked to be taken Monday to some memorable or interesting site. So we arranged to go with a member to visit her relative (also a Church member) who lives about 120 km away from Choibalsan out in the countryside. We hired two taxis and assumed it would be a 2-hour drive each way.  We were thankful the doctor offered to pay for the taxis, since we poor missionaries could never afford to do so.

So, 120 km on a paved road would take a little over an hour and so we felt our allowance of two hours on the dirt roads of Mongolia would be more than enough.  But that's if the road is in good condition.  But it rained a lot on Sunday, and that meant the roads were not in good condition. Our trip was ... five hours each way.  We just didn't know that when we set out.

About two hours into the drive, our little taxi got stuck in the mud.  The other taxi avoided it but came back to help.  We Elders and the driver all took off our shoes and socks and got out into the mire surrounding the car and tried to get it out. We kept trying to lift the car out, push it out, pull it out.  The other taxi even went to a nearby (and since we were in the countryside, that means not nearby) home and got a "rope."  We tried to tow the car out and that didn't work either. Thankfully, a nice family stopped their car when they saw us and offered to help.  With their help and by picking up the stuck car's back end and manually turning it to line up with the non-stuck car, we finally towed it out of the mud.

Then we drove in this little no-longer-white car until we got to ... the river!

At the river, we stopped to wash the car.  We Elders, still with no shoes, got out and waded around in the shallow river (no deeper than two feet).  The other taxi was stopping for the driver to do some maintenance. Eventually, we let the cars go over the river with minimal passengers and we missionaries walked across the river. We then got back into the car with relatively clean feet and donned our shoes and socks again.

This brought us to Sergelen County Center, a teeny town with a single K-8 school.  Anyone who wants a higher education has to go to Choibalsan.  At this point, the mission doctor and his wife were worried they would miss their flight back to Ulaanbaatar, so they left us and went back in the smaller of the two taxis. We continued on, convinced that the countryside dwelling we were going to was about 30 minutes away. It was more like 2-3 hours away!  At least on the way, we were able to take some great photos of the Mongolian countryside, which is greener than green and void of humanity. It was pretty cool.  We also stopped by a rock that contained an impression in the shape of a boot that is said to be Chinggis Khaan's footprint.

Finally we got to the place we were going, a single ger with a singe shed in the middle of the Mongolian steppe, green as far as the eye can see.  The weather was perfect. We met a member that lives way out there (fairly isolated, eh?) and ate some goat liver.

At this point, it was getting to be 6:00 pm and we were realizing how far out we were. Still, we were convinced that we would be back by 8:00 or so.  We rode through the seemingly endless Mongolian countryside and finally got back to Sergelen.  Then we crossed the river again and made another endless ride back until we finally reached Choibalsan at about 10:00 p.m. The ride back had been uneventful--just frustrating because we realized how far away we had been.

But it was a 21st birthday never to be forgotten!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Naadam and Wrestling

Our newest member in Choibalsan, her husband, me, my companion

Visiting with friends and missionaries in Choibalsan

Although Naadam, the national holiday, meant a day off of work for most people, we were still able to get a lot of work done.  Next week, the second Naadam will bring things to a halt as everyone celebrates, but we should still be fine.

One thing funny did happen in relation to Naadam this week.  We were meeting with one of our newer investigator couples, and they were watching the national Naadam wrestling match on TV. They said we could start teaching when the match was over.  But Mongolian wrestling only ends when one man gets the other on the ground.  They stand there grappling each other, starting and stopping and so on, and it can go on forever.  I knew it probably wouldn't last too much longer, but it was getting late and I wanted to be able to show a video about the Restoration for our lesson. So I said a silent prayer that the match would end soon. No sooner had I done so than I looked up and saw one wrestler toss the other to the ground. I don't know whether the Lord ended a national competition to answer my prayer or whether He timed my prayer to work out to my benefit, but either way I'm sure He answered it; and we had a great lesson.  Our investigators are really learning well and coming to Church and trying to change.  The husband is even trying to get a new job so he won't have to work on Sunday!  The Lord knows all things, and He will help this man in the best way, no matter what that ends up being.

This is my last week as a 20-year-old.  In Mongolia, I've been 21 all year, but I'll stick with my American way of counting.  Next week, it'll be 21 for sure. Or 22 if you want to be accurate in Mongolia.

Monday, July 7, 2014


We had a baptism on Friday, July 4th!  It was the wife of one of our members here in Choibalsan.  I was able to perform the baptism.  This new sister was very happy to be baptized, but she was too shy to bear her testimony at the service.  That's ok, of course.  The Sunday, however, that she received the Gift of the Holy Ghost was also Fast Sunday. I was fasting for her that she would become a strong member of the Church.  Somewhat to my surprise, she got up and shared her testimony in front of the entire Branch. It was pretty good!  I was glad to see many members expressing their appreciation to her after the meeting. They knew she was shy.

Afterward, I was thinking about it.  I realized that after her baptism, she hadn't the courage; but after receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, she had been able to stand as a witness of Christ in front of a large congregation. I can't say it was a direct cause, but it was an interesting comparison. Either way, bearing testimony strengthens our faith.

This week is Naadam, the national holiday to celebrate Independence.  The biggest celebrations are in the capital, of course, but there will be a couple of different ones here in Choibalsan. We are allowed to watch festivities because we otherwise have a really hard time making appointments during the holiday, but we will always be mindful of an opportunity to fellowship investigators and members.

The other American serving in Choibalsan and I celebrated the 4th of July by going to a nice restaurant in town and ordering steak.  It felt like a holiday, since we would otherwise not spend $9 for just one meal!