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.

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