Sunday, February 28, 2010

February 2010

This has been a busy month. We started teaching more of our English lessons and are enjoying our students. We welcomed back the first temple trip that we helped organize. We had two families and one other sister go to the temple in Hong Kong. They had a three-day train ride both ways and spent a week worshipping in the temple all day every day. Two families were sealed together for all eternity and one also had their mother sealed to them. I had a confusing time getting the trip together, but it all seemed worth it when we heard their testimonies and their gratitude for the wonderful blessings and experience. The temple patron fund helps people who need help when they go to the temple for the first time or to be sealed. We had a meal for them when they returned and then they shared their testimonies. (A baby and an older women are missing in the picture)

Clair and I went shopping at a cashmere outlet.  Mongolian produces a lot of cashmere and also makes beautiful carpets.  Here is a picture of the large stuffed camel--you can see him better here than the small pictures I took of them in the wild.

February is called "Tsagaan Sar" or "White Month." The holiday for Tsagaan Car is to celebrate the lunar new year. It begins on a night with no moon and lasts for several days. It is a time for families to get together, to honor their older people, and to greet their friends. To say they have a lot of traditions associated with Tsagaan Sar is an understatement!! We got pages of things to do or not to do when we went to visit the homes of people who invited us to celebrate with them. In the picture to the right you can see a traditional "Heviin Boov" which is made of stacked up "cookies" with candies on the top. Younger people have less layers; older people more--but they always have an uneven number of layers. In the background of this picture you can see a large bowl of "airag" or fermented mare's milk. It is considered very delicious, but one smell was enough to convince me not to try it!

Another traditional food is a large hunk of sheep, including the tail (see to the left). During the three or four days of the holiday they slice more meat off for their guests.

This cute little Mongolian boy is dressed in the traditional costume.  He was shy at first but eventually sang for us.  We were at his grandfather's house (Baatar--who is our driver and dear friend.)Probably the most universal traditional food for Tsagaan Sar is "buuz."  These are mutton filled, steamed dumplings.  Mongolians (each family) make thousands of them to serve to their friends during this holiday.  Their taste grows on you!  (Sister Powell is passing the buuz to Sister Caldwell).
All the Senior missionaries at Baatar's home on Tsagaan Sar.

This is the ger of some of our branch members--a very sweet family:  Batbayar, Batsetseg, and Urintsolmon.  Batbayar makes beautiful things out of carved wood.  They had us sit in the position of honor in their ger because we were the oldest!

When visiting homes, we always eat.  In addition to the mutton, the sweets, the buuz, the airag, there are rice dishes, salads, and other foods.  In keeping with "Tsagaan Sar" the first thing you eat must be white (usually a rice dish with milk, sugar and raisens). 

We visited our friends, Enkhtuvshin, his wife Dashgerel, and their daughter.  He was the first Branch President and the First District President in Mongolia.  He helped translate the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price and has the signed first copy in Mongolian.  They were the first Mongolian family sealed in the temple.  Their daughter was the first Mongolian child born to a couple sealed in the Temple.  What a lot of "Firsts!"  They are a wonderful family and a good example to many people here. 

Here is a cute little girl dressed in traditional dress for Tsagaan Sar.  I think the clothing is very beautiful.

Another special experience this month was the baptism of two our our branch members.  One was eight years old and the other was 99!  I think she may be the oldest member of the Church in Mongolia.  I had visited both of these families in their homes and found them wonderful people. 
I was asked to get information about the baptism of the 99-year old,  Davaajargal.  She was born in Gobi Altai, Mongolia in 1901. She and her husband had four sons and two daughters. Many of her family are members of the Church. She was baptized a by her grandson, Dashzeveg. She was happy and excited about her baptism. Because of her age and difficulty walking, Dashzeveg and another priestholder helped Davaajargal into the font. She said the water was cold, but she felt calm.
She recently received a wheelchair from Deseret International Charities. Up until then, one of her family used to stay home from Church to care for her every week while the rest of the family went to church. After she received her wheelchair, she told her family she wanted to go.  So she went to church and felt the spirit there. She decided to be baptized. She told her daughter, “I think I am going to go pretty soon and I want to do what is right before I go.” Davaajargal’s husband died in 1980. She has had a recurring dream of seeing her husband in white clothes. She said when she sees him again, she is going to go with him.

At her baptism, her daughter, Tsetsegmaa, read Davaajargal’s testimony for her, “I am so happy that I am joining this church. Our whole family are members of the Church. First our daughter helped me to know that there is a God and she showed me a good example and helped me to join the Church. My granddaughter is on a mission in California. May God bless my daughter. I want to give my testimony. There is a real God and he listens to my prayer and helped me to feel the Holy Ghost. I am so grateful that I have the opportunity to be together with my husband, my children, and that our family can be together and enter the kingdom of God. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”

Then, to everyone’s surprise, Tsegtsegmaa pushed her mother in her wheelchair up the ramp to the microphone where Davaajargal personally expressed her thanks and happiness for her baptism.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

January 2010 - Seeing the countryside

January started with a spectacular "Ball" on New Year's Night. We were amazed at the show-quality dancing that the Mongolians did. And they looked so beautiful in their elegant clothes!

This month we took two trips out of the city into the countryside. Our first trip was a one-day visit to Darkhan and Erdnet.  Here we are at the center square in Erdnet.

We visited the hospital in Erdnet (on the right) and also saw a returned missionary that was sick.

It was fun to get to see another part of the country. It was very cold (about 40 degrees F. below zero).
We also saw camels (the rare-two humped ones they have in Mongolia) along the roadside.

We even passed a man in a little open booth selling fish on the roadside. Can you imagine being outside selling anything outside in such cold weather!
We noticed that many of the gers were located in sheltered places by the mountains. We also saw many of the short Mongolian horses. The horses stay out at night and sometimes get attacked by wolves.

When we were driving home at night Batbold (who was driving) saw a wolf and chased him off the road trying to get a better look.  After circling around in the snow a few times we saw the eyes of the wolf glowing in the headlights.

A couple of weeks later we made a four day trip with President Andersen and his wife. The first city we stopped in was Darkhan.
This "metal man" by Darkhan marks the metal factory where many of the inhabitants of Darkhan work.

 Here is one of the two church buildings we have in Darkhan. It is always fun to see what nice buildings the church has.

 The man who was pushing this cart didn't want to be in the picture. I think these are frozen sheep carcases.

We also visited Sukhbaatar in Selenge Aimag (Province). It is on the Russian border. On the way we saw these camels. There are more mountains and even pine trees in Selenge.

Here is a Budhist monument on the road side. Notice the blue ribbons tied on a tree. We often see these blue ribbons along the roadside and they are to wish the traveler a safe journey. Here is the Selenge church building--again lovely to see. We visited the hospital in Selenge and found that it is like many--lacking in equipment and facilities. But the doctors are often well trained and the personnel usually have a desire to serve their patients.

Next we stopped in Erdnet. We visited the home of these two little girls.

Their mother was trying to get a fire started and the house was cold and full of smoke. The little girls hands were freezing, so I tried to warm them up by holding them and wrapping them in my coat. We came to see their baby who was born 2 months premature and weighted 2.8 Kilograms.  We were glad that they were being allowed to keep the baby in a warmer building next door. 

Here is a "ger district" in Erdnet. Notice the bright colors. Mongolians like bright colors.

Our last city that we visited was Zuunharaa, a city that doesn't really have roads going to it. It is connected to the capitol city by train. To get there we followed other car tracks, making sure to keep the railroad and some power lines on our right to keep from getting lost. We drove without a real road for about an hour off the main road.

Here is a Mongolian riding one of their short-legged horses Zuunharaa.

In this picture you can see a little better what a ger looks like. They always make the door facing to the south. I think this it to take advantage of the southern sun.

One of my assignments here is to help them establish visiting teaching (and Clair does home teaching). We had some adventures trying to find homes in the ger districts where there are no addresses and no real roads. One sister I visited invited us both back to her house for Family Home Evening. We took a taxi this time, but the taxi could not make it up the hill so we ended up pushing it to the top of the hill. Then we had to pay for the ride! Here is the woman we visited with her two grandchildren and her 100-year old mother inside their ger.

The Mongolians are special people. They have very little in the way of worldly posessions, but they are searching for meaning in their life and they are hungry for the spiritual truths that the gospel brings. They are very anxious go to the temple so that they can have their family sealed to be together forever. They sacrifice a lot to have this opportunity. We helped organized a trip to the temple in Hong Kong--which is three days by train across China. These three families were able to attend the temple on this trip. It was fun to hear their testimonies when they returned and see how happy they were!

This picture of sheep and goats crossing the road is a typical sight in the countryside.  (I am only sorry I was not able to get the picture to behave and move up to the beginning of this blog where it belongs!)