Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Ding-A-Ling Choir

As part of our Christmas Conferences, the Senior Missionaries formed a Bell Choir. President Andersen and his wife have a set of bells that their family has used for years.
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video
We played three numbers at the conference on Christmas Morning; “Good King Wenceslas", "Coventry Carol" and "Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel". We actually did a pretty good job! And it was kind of fun! Bells just seem to be an integral part of Christmas.We were surprised at how expensive the bells are. During one of our practice (video above), one of the choir members decided it would be fun to sort of toss his bell in the air and catch it at the end of the number. Both President and Sister Andersen simultaneously lunged for his bell as he did so! They apparently run $100 each and up!
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Monday, December 28, 2009

Missionary Work

We had mission conferences during Christmas Time. And, as usual, they were quite good and we learned much.

During part of those conferences, several of the missionaries were invited to share some of their recent missionary experiences. You know, success stories and how it feels to be a missionary. One sister (Sister Mansfield) told of an experience her and her companion recently had.

As they were walking through a ger district (gers are little round portable homes like those that are called yurts in Russia - about 15 feet in diameter), they came across an elderly grandma carrying water from a common well to her ger (there is no running water in a ger). These wells can be a mile or more from any one ger. The man hauling water in this picture is fortune to have a cart. Many do not.

Jumping to her rescue, the sisters helped her carry the water the rest of the way to her ger.

Along the way, they talked. And soon they asked if she would like to learn about Jesus Christ. After all, they are missionaries. She said, ‘yes’.

It would be helpful, at this point, to mention that older people here in Mongolia are most often of a non-Christian belief and generally do not readily listen to the Gospel message. For years they were ruled first by China (with their Buddhism and Shinto beliefs) and then by Russia (which demanded a non-religious environment under socialism). We have learned much about what socialism can do to a people since coming to live here. It has been . . . well . . . eye opening, to say the least. We are grateful to have been spared that experience and admire these people for their resilience.

But, as a result, it's largely the young who readily accept the Gospel message here. Those who were not tainted by socialism. The older generation seems hardened and sometimes even made cynical by the old socialist regime which many of them spent half of their lives dealing with.

But not always.

Before reaching the ger, these sister missionaries were able to make an appointment for a return visit. The appointed time came and when they returned to the ger, they found grandma and her 75 year old husband waiting. Grandpa had no teeth -- but he did have a lot of questions. Both were anxious to learn and listened attentively.

They were invited to church and came that first Sunday. They were 10 minutes late but they came. It’s difficult for people in their 70's to walk to church. Especially when a cane is the only help they have.

They haven’t missed a meeting since.

Even during the recent quarantine, when there were no large gatherings allowed, grandma and grandpa would walk all the way to the meeting house anyway. The missionaries had anticipated things like this and would always wait at the building to help those who came find a member home where Sacrament Meeting was being held. Grandma and Grandpa always came. They wanted to learn more of this new religion they had found.

But worship services are not all they have been interested in. One just has to mention any other meeting or activity and grandma and grandpa will likely be there. We wonder how many members back home would be that faithful and determined. And few of them have to walk – with or without a cane.

Their baptism date is set for a week from this Friday. We think that is one baptism we would like to attend.
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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas


Just a really quick post to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and to thank our family for a really nice Christmas morning! Got up early to open the gifts they sent us. Wonderful family!

More details later!

But we've got to go. They've started us in meetings at 7:45 this Christmas morning! Go figure!

Monday, December 21, 2009

VISA's Are Approved!

In a somewhat sudden and unexpected turn around, one government official indicated today that all of our missionary VISAs were being approved! We'll wait with baited breath for it to actually happen, but this is really good news!

It will likely take a a couple of weeks to round up all the missionaries who have been reassigned all over the United States and then to ship them to Mongolia, but they will be coming!

President Andersen is thinking that January 15th looks like a likely date. Yipppeee!

The best Christmas present ever!

The Wheelchair



Batbold is the 2nd Counselor in the Mission Presidency and is also a full time employee of the Church, being charged with overseeing all of the apartments that must be rented and cared for for nearly 200 missionaries! He is a wonderful man and a truly great friend to many people. We had he and his wife over for dinner recently and he told us this story (actually he told us several stories; this is just one of them).

This past summer, he and his wife went to an area of Mongolia called Murin and nearby
Khovsgol Lake. It is about a two day trip to reach that area from here and much of it is, again, on roads that would more accurately be described as trails. But, they were on vacation and Khovsgol is one of the most beautiful areas of Mongolia, so they decided it would make a good vacation spot and be worth the trip.

They traveled down the outlet river a few kilometers from the lake itself. Batbold is a fisherman and thought that a bit of river fishing sounded fun. Finding a nice looking spot (there's no shortage of them there!), set up their tent and settled in for a couple of days of relaxation and enjoyment.
It wasn't long before Batbold thought it would be a good idea to walk a short distance to a nearby ger and get to know the family who lived there. These are a friendly sort of folk here and ger people especially welcome visitors most any time.

He found a somewhat older couple living there with there disabled grandson; nice folk who were very cordial and welcomed his visit. There was a wheelchair in the ger and Batbold thought it looked sort of familiar. He asked the family where they had been able to find a wheelchair in such a remote area. They told Batbold that a friend of theirs had a daughter who was disabled but she had passed away some time ago. It had been her wheelchair and the friend had offered it to them. All they could remember was, "It came from some 'latter day church' or something."

As he examined the wheelchair, he found an emblem on the back of it: "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." The family could not read English and 'latter day church' was all they had remember of what their friend had told them.

When Batbold read the label, they asked, "Do you know anything about them?" He answered, "I work for that Church!"

The wheel chair was in pretty bad shape. Years of dragging it over the countryside had taken a toll. He had tools along so he did what he could to patch it up a little. But the young man had also outgrown the chair and his feet drug the ground. It was obvious that a new one was badly needed.

Batbold promised them that he would see what he could do to get a replacement. One that was in better shape and big enough to properly fit the young man. The family expressed their thanks but were obviously skeptical. Many people here will often promise things that they are not able to or even do not intend to really do.

Batbold returned home. Then, last October, President Andersen felt he needed to visit Murin to see how missionary work and the Church were doing. The entire mission Presidency made the trip, including (of course) Batbold. He got permission to take a new wheelchair along -- one of 750 we had recently received in our latest shipment (see previous post).

They reached Murin and when an opportunity presented itself, Batbold asked to be excused so that he could deliver the wheelchair. President Andersen, of course, agreed. He drove approximately 75 km to reach the area where he had found the family. But when he arrived, he found that they had moved in anticipation of the coming winter. That's what a nomadic people do. And that's why they have gers.

He was able to find one family still in the area and they knew where his missing family had gone. He drove the remaining 5 or 6 kilometers and found them, just as described. When they saw him coming, they were very surprised. 'We didn't think you would really come back!'

He said, "That's what we do in the Church. When we make a promise, we keep it."

He gave them the wheelchair, a Book of Mormon, a Liahona and a few other things and they were very grateful.

It has only been a few weeks since this occurred. We'll try to find out what has happened since and let you know.
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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Elders and Sisters and Seniors . . . Oh, my!

Well, we returned 12 missionaries to their homes on Wednesday of last week; five local Mongolians and seven from the states. Good missionaries, all. But they had served well and their missions were complete, so we wished them, Bon Voyage.

Then, on Friday, we sent 24 new Mongolian missionaries off to begin their missions, and most of them will serve here in Mongolia. We had firesides for both groups, one on Tuesday and the other on Friday.

The new group had just returned from their training at the MTC in the Philippines. It was good to hear their testimonies and of their experience in the MTC and of their first visit to the temple. It brought back memories.

Two and a half years ago, there were 12 young men and 18 young women serving missions from Mongolia. Today, there are 72 young men and 54 young women serving in the Mongolia mission alone. And there are around 100 more serving in other countries. That’s amazing!

But, as you can likely figure, most of the referred to new missionaries have only been members of the Church for one or two years. And most are the only members in their families. Several of those had nonmember family members in attendance at their farewell fireside and were then sent off to their assigned missions/areas. Some of those missionaries shared their desire that their family might accept the Gospel and join the Church soon. All expressed their appreciation for the help and support that they had received, even from nonmember parents. There was a good Spirit there and it was an enjoyable evening.

Actually, most of the young people who are members of the Church here, do not have parents who are members. Therefore, the Church is the only place they can look to for support and guidance regarding such things as the Word of Wisdom, chastity and other things which tend to plague the youth today. That adds somewhat to their challenge of remaining true and faithful. But true and faithful is what they are, none-the-less.

It was interesting and strengthening to hear the depth and breadth of the testimonies from these new members and missionaries. They truly are house of Israel and much of good is yet to come from them and from Mongolia.

Oh, and our new seniors are sure terrific! It's wonderful to have them here!
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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Good, the Bad and the . . .

We have some good news and some bad news. Which one do you want to hear first?

Ok, first the bad news.

Our battle to get VISAs flowing again, took a turn for the worse. There was a meeting held with some government officials a few days ago which did not go well. It wasn't even close to ok. Voices were raised and they accused the Church of lying. It seems we are not the favorites with some of those officials, right now.

In fact, the concern for the moment may not so much be whether or not we can bring new proselyting missionaries to the mission, but whether or not the current ones will be able to stay. Ouch! Now, we don't think it will come to that but it is something of a concern, though thus far only a small one.

To help avoid that possibility, though, no foreign missionaries will be able to do ITLs for the foreseeable future. ITLs are 'Invitations To Learn'. Missionaries approach people on the street and ask them if they would like to learn about the Gospel. We never have been allowed to go door to door, but ITLs work pretty well. But, we do not want to risk 'upsetting the apple cart' any further so ITLs will only be done by local missionaries, for now.

Now the good news.

The Lord is still in charge.

Recently, local Church leaders had a wonderful idea. They asked all members to hand out a six question survey they had created which asked such questions as, "Would you like to know more about your family history?" or "If you knew that Jesus Christ had again talked to someone on this earth, would you want to know about it?"

The result was the gathering of over 3000 referrals from people responding that they would like to know more! So, at the same time that ITLs were significantly restricted, the missionaries were blessed with 3000+ member referrals! That should keep them busy for a while!

Our little Nalaikh Branch (the one Sister Caldwell and I are assigned to) received 900 of those referrals! It'll take them months to work through all of them! If 1 in 10 of those were to join the Church, we would probably need to split the branch!

One step back and two steps forward!
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Friday, December 11, 2009

It's Christmas Time!

We have a few thoughts and observations as we approach our second Christmas in Mongolia.
Santa on Door
We did not see much Christmas in Mongolia last year with only a few late efforts to decorate at perhaps a half dozen places or so. We saw Christmas decorations for sale at the one really nice shopping center in our neighborhood and perhaps a couple of tall Christmas trees in front of the larger stores.

Aside from that, there did not seem to be much. This year is different!

It appears that they are adopting the idea of Christmas fairly quickly here. And, big treeyes, since this is a mostly non-Christian country, it is largely a commercial observance, thus far. But if Brigham Young, when told on one occasion by Mormon detractors that he and all the Mormons would go to heck(?), can respond that it was just fine because we would just
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turn the devil out and make a heaven of it, then by golly we can take a commercial Christmas and make a proper observance of it!

Hey, it's better than Christmas being ignored! And the folks here need a bit more reason to be happy and do good things for each other, too!

candy canesSo far, we have seen at least half a dozen of the big Christmas trees in front of commercial businesses and quite a lot of smaller trees inside stores. Some have quite an extensive display on the inside of their stories. One chain of medium sized grocery stores has decorated all of their stores. The painting of Santa in the window is of one of those stores.
store window
And we have been wishing a 'Merry Christmas' to store clerks and many times they have actually smiled and attempted to return the greeting!

The increased Christmas presence (no pun intended!) has sort of been the talk of the mission.

One of our Nalaikh (i.e. the branch we are assigned to attend) missionaries recently told us of something he and some of his friends did for Christmas before he left on his mission. They decided they would make one of the common hot drinks here in Mongolia, go out on the street and give it to those who passed by, wishing them a Merry Christmas as they did so. Now remember, this is a non-Christian nation.

Well, they made preparations and 'set up shop', so to speak, and started handing out their hot drinks. The response they got was . . . interesting. As they tried to give people drinks, many said rather snippily something like, 'No, I don't want to buy a drink!' The youth would quickly explain that they weren't selling drinks, they were giving them away. Many could not understand. 'You want to GIVE me a drink? Why?' They would just tell them, 'Because it's Christmas!'

Some wanted to know what Church they were a part of. Most went away with a sudden smile on their face, warmed both from the drink and from the kindness that had been given them.

Maybe things like this are one of the biggest reasons Christmas is catching on here so fast!

Since Christmas is a time to remember and be grateful for things, we thought we'd mention a few that we are grateful for even though that may well prove to be a bit more difficult than it sounds. Words seem very inadequate, but we'll give it a try.

We are very deeply grateful for a loving family which has supported and taken care of us even though we are very far away. We have simply not really had to worry about 'things' back home because they have always jumped right in to make certain things like insurance, the cars, our home, taxes, etc. are all taken proper care of.

We are grateful for wonderful children and grandchildren who pray for us every day. We are grateful to be able to talk to them through the wonderful tool called the internet - and to be able to actually see them!

We are grateful for friends and neighbors who haven't forgotten us and who have also been watching things at the 'old homestead', too.

This list could get rather lengthy but we are grateful for at least one more thing. We are grateful for a child whose birthday we celebrate on the 25th of December. We are grateful for His life, His example, His trust, His guidance and His sacrifice. We are grateful that He has such wisdom that He could send us to a place where we not only can be useful in building His kingdom but to a place where we could do so much learning and growing ourselves, at the same time.

We are grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who watched His perfect Son, suffer and die for things we have done and will do. Parents tend to become upset when one of their children does something they should not have done (and likely should have known better in the first place), which then makes other members of the family struggle or suffer in some way. Perhaps we should remember that we are guilty of similar offenses but are loved anyway by a Heavenly Father and His Son - the one who had to pay such a heavy price for our mistakes.




And, as you can see from the accompanying pictures, we have gone a bit beyond last year ourselves as we have decorated our own apartment.

Part of that is due to our wonderful family who sent us a few Christmas gifts again this year. But this time they wrapped part of them and we have no idea what they are!

So we got a little tree and put them under the tree. Won't be the same as if we were back home, but Christmas manages to be special here, too -- in it's own way.

Merry Christmas, everyone!
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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Elder and Sister Anderson


Hello Elder and Sister Anderson! Goodbye Elder and Sister Anderson!

This is Elder and Sister Anderson - another of the new couples we were so happy to welcome! They were SUPPOSED to stay here in Ulaanbaatar but President Andersen felt they were needed badly in the countryside and reassigned them to Choibalsan. How lucky can you get!

But we didn't hardly even get to know them. We were fortunate enough to have them over for dinner on Monday and they are super people! Choibalan's gain - our loss!


This is Choibalsan from the air. Everyone likes the countryside. All the young missionaries get really anxious to be assigned there and all the couples tell us how wonderful it is. Oh, there are a few challenges, like not having quite the selection of the American items available in the local stores. But we usually help with that and send out things to them whenever they request it.

Choibalsan is about an 11 hour drive almost directly east from here. And the first part is even on a road! The last two thirds you follow dirt trails -- using the Toyota Land Cruisers, of course! It is a fun drive! They could fly in, but President is going out there for a conference anyway, so they are riding with him.

But it is A LOT less hectic out there, not so much air pollution and they really get close to the people. Couples that get assigned to the countryside always tell us they wouldn't come to the 'big city' if you paid them!

This is the church building in Choibalsan.

No chance of us having that opportunity. We have the specific assignment to keep the employment center running, teach self-employment principles (a huge thing here the 'big city') and keep the online computer center running.

Rats!
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Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Quarantine is Over!

We held regular church services today for the first time in five weeks! It was really very nice to be back with the members at the Nalaikh Branch and to serve with them again. And to hold regular church meetings. It seems like it has been ages!

And Elder and Sister Powell came with us. They are one of the new couples who did, indeed, successfully arrive yesterday! They are a very nice couple and we thoroughly enjoyed having them with us for the day. We also shared our dinner with them after church.

We had a social last night (i.e. Saturday) both to celebrate their arrival (and feed them dinner after a day and a half of airline food!) and to wish a fond farewell to the Whitman's who have done such a magnificent job in filling in for us while we were waiting for the Eliason's to arrive -- which they did yesterday, too. The third couple was the Anderson's and all are much welcomed and needed additions to our group.


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Did you notice the Christmas decorations for our party? We're one day closer to it than you are!

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What do you think of Sister Caldwell's spiffy new hat? It's her, don't you think?! She inherited it from Sister Whitman. Thanks a lot Sister Whitman!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Good News!

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The three senior couples are scheduled to arrive together this coming Saturday afternoon (really early Friday morning stateside)! The Powell's, Eliason's and the Anderson's will land in Mongolia at 4:00 pm.

Yiipppeee!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Update - Again!

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We have made some limited progress on VISAs!

President and Sister Andersen had some key government officials come to dinner at their home one night last week and the evening was, apparently, quite productive. Those officials were very helpful and explained why we were having difficulty. It seems that the original agreement between Deseret International Charities (DIC) and the government of Mongolia, did not include our activities as a religious organization. The government, however, is well aware of our religious nature and apparently has decided that they will no longer ignore the discrepancy.

So, we need to refile and amend our original agreement. That will take more than just a day or two and we will need to be patient. But it will be taken care of as quickly as possible.

However, those same officials told President Andersen that he could immediately bring the senior couples here who have been waiting, some for several months. They can apparently be temporarily covered under the same provision as visitors who do not need to have a VISA for up to 90 days. I presume that since the seniors work directly under DIC and are not considered proselyting missionaries, those officials were ok with doing so (though that is just my opinion). Then, within that 90 day period, things can be formally changed and properly approved.

In any event, three senior couples should be on their way within a few days, now, and we are really looking forward to their arrival!! Even though it could prove to be a bit interesting to orient and settle all three at once! We will simply be thrilled to have them here to help with the work!

And, of course, we hope that the young Elders and Sisters will not need to be kept waiting too much longer, either!

Swine Flu. We are also anticipating an end to the quarantine this coming week and are busily preparing, anticipating that we will finally be able to once again have baptisms next Friday and Church on Sunday. Yaaaaayyyyy!
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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving!

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Well, we did it. Feed 112 missionaries and two nonmembers for Thanksgiving! And did it in 12 minutes! Not bad considering the VERY limited resources and equipment available to us. A million thanks to the the couples who worked so hard to bring it all together, especially considering we only had about half as many couples this year to accomplish it all! It was much work but it was even more fun!

We also had good help from a couple of the Elders we recruited to help out. This is Elder Wright who was obviously our Maitre d' extraordinaire!

We had Pork Roast (amazingly like turkey, believe it or not -- actually had missionaries who thought it was turkey!), dressing, potatoes and gravy, peas and carrots, rolls, and jello fruit salad. Don't think anyone went away hungry!

In fact, we had a few leftovers. Never thought we'd see that with missionaries!


For dessert, the missionaries were given a cupcake, frosting, pretzels, candy a cookie and other sundry items with which to make a turkey -- or at least a reasonable facsimile! They really had a fun time with it and were amazingly creative, as you can see!

Look closely at the first picture. It is of a daddy turkey and a mommy turkey and a baby egg turkey! The little sign in front of them says, "Just Married!" We told you they were creative!

The second picture is of Elder Whittle and his wonderful turkey creativity. Way to go Elder Whittle!

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Hey, did anyone know that President Andersen could juggle!
Ought not to be too surprising, I guess, with all the stuff he always has to 'juggle' in the mission!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Updates

Swine Flu
Well, the swine flu continues, as does the associated quarantine. So, we have been holding Sacrament Service in our apartment, for the seniors and a couple of members who are here with other assignments -- like the American Embassy. It has been kind
of nice, actually. Different than we are used to, of course. But it reminds me of when I grew up as a young man. A branch of the Church was formed in our area and dad was the Branch President.

Dad and I would go early on Sunday morning to the local Grange Hall where we had arranged to hold Church meetings until we could find a more permanent home. The two of us would sweep out the cigarette buts and empty beer bottles from community parties of the night before, air the room out and set up chairs before Church was due to start. And before you knew it, we had a church! It was a good experience for a young man such as myself. The Lord was there with us as we prepared to serve the sacrament and to learn about the Gospel.

Now, we don't have quite the same problems in our apartment (shame on those of you who jumped to the wrong conclusion!) but the Spirit is very much the same. The Lord smiles on those who are determined to do all they can to follow His counsel, renew convenants, teach each other and to remain strong in the Gospel.

This has been a time to be remembered in many ways.

VISAs
Well, we still have not been able to clear the problem but we have seen some positive movement. They did finally clear a VISA for a recently called sister missionary (well, kind of recently called!) to serve in Czechoslovakia. She received her call almost five months ago but should be able to finally leave with in a short time.

We still are waiting for a promised letter from the Ministry of Education which would verify that our missionaries are, indeed, qualified to teach English here. He promises to have it soon, so we are holding our breath. That letter will finally clear the way for more missionaries to arrive.

Keep offering those prayers in our behalf!
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Saturday, November 14, 2009

We Love the Internet!! (conclusion)

Guess we'd better finish the story before we get lynched!

As mentioned, we finally greeted Brother Griffiths as he made his way through the airport. We weren't seeing what we had expected by way of boxes, etc. in which computers might be transported. So (not having been through this process before, ourselves) we figured they might still be making their way through customs and we would need to pick them up somewhere.

But finally we asked him how it went with the computers. And he said, "Great! They're all right here in my bags!" He had packed them all in his luggage, only needing to pay for one extra (though rather large) suitcase! They didn't even bother to ask him his name. Just checked him through without even saying 'goodbye'! And he had twelve computers (not the eight or ten we had expected, remember) -- six laptops and six desktops (minus the monitors for the desktops)! Twelve of them!

We were ecstatic!

We dropped the computers at the office, separating out his personal belongings and then accompanied him to his hotel, the Chengiss Khan which was conveniently right next to the Church building.

The next few days were hectic as we traveled a great distance, held firesides, meetings and even managed to combine it all with our usual workshops (which the outlying areas do not get much of = we taught our workshops while he was meeting with people). It was tiring, but very productive.

Back in the big city, we made ready for what we knew would likely be the biggest crowds, of course. And we were not to be disappointed. The chapel was full to standing room only. There is a large amount of interest in all this!

Before he had to leave, we managed to squeeze in a shopping trip to purchase a few odds and ends for the lab and then we sent Brother Griffiths back to Hawaii.

Just a few days after he left, remodeling began downstairs near our own office, as rooms were switched around and refinished to make way for the new computer lab all of this excitement was for, to begin with. We had to be very creative to make it all work, for space is already a big premium in that building. We had proposed a solution, but had doubts that all of which had been requested, could really happen. Oh ye of little faith. It all did!

So, the downstairs kitchen (see the first picture above) became a new office for the Stake President/Church Education System Manager (President Odgerel for those of you who have been following our blog -- see the 'under construction picture and the final outcome in pictures two and three).

The Returned Missionary department (where they have been tracking down Returned Mongolian Missionaries who had sort of gotten lost around the world, many of whom needed help coming back to church) moved to President Odgerel's old office.

The kitchen moved to a much smaller room which had housed the senior missionary library (not quite finished, yet), and the old Returned Missionary office (the largest of the rooms) became the new computer lab/senior library (see the last picture -- also not quite finished).

I think I got that all straight. Each room was refinished as they went and it is really nice! The only ones not getting a nice newly redone office is . . . us! Oh. well!

But the work continues. We had to find a way to monitor things adequately as lab use began. So we contacted a firm in Utah called Lanschool. We had used their product a lot in schools in the Granite District. They agreed to donate their software to us! With it, we are able to view all lab workstations from a remote admin computer, record any site they visit on the internet, assume control of their computer at anytime, thus being able to illustrate how something is done (or to kick them off if they have done something they shouldn't!), restrict where they go on the internet, if we need, and more. It is really a great tool! Thanks, Lanschool!

But now we need to see if we can find licenses for Microsoft Office so students can adequately complete and submit their home work to BYU-H. So I emailed Microsoft and TechSoup (Microsofts partner for donations) but haven't seemed to get much of anywhere with either of them. But just last week, I received an email from a man in Minnesota, I think. He said that my email to Microsoft had somehow been directed to him by mistake. He expressed his appreciation for the work we were doing here and then said that he had forwarded our email to a group he thought might be able to help us with the needed Microsoft Office licenses! Me thinks there was no 'mistake' here. Hopefully we will soon see results from that. We'll let you know.

And through all of this, the Service Center here in the mission (you know, the ones who run all the finances and the day to day operations of the Church here) have been fantastic! They seemed to readily see the potential value of all of this, as well, and have done whatever they could to make certain things happened from their end -- like finding a way to fund all of the needed remodeling and then make it happen. And we mean fast! Thanks a bunch all you wonderful SC people!

Now we just have to figure out how we can pay an individual to manage the lab without causing tax problems. But the SC insists they will find a way! At this point what I need the most a just a little more patience! It's been a long road but worth every step!

We'll post a couple more pictures when everything is completely finished so you can see the end results!

And that's the rest of the story (well, so far!)!
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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

We Love the Internet!!

We have been working on a project for quite a while now and thought it was time to share.

The people of Mongolia sometimes seem to be caught between a rock and a hard place. Universities and Colleges here are not as robust as we find elsewhere, like in the States. They are improving but still have some catching up to do. So, many companies located here in the capitol city of Ulaanbaatar ask for a college degree from a foreign university in order to qualify for their best jobs. But it is very difficult for most here to be able to handle that kind of expense. Particularly when a young family is involved. Sometimes, fathers have left their families to secure the needed degree, something we worry much about.

Then, a couple of months ago, Brigham Young University - Hawaii campus announced the offering of new online classes which students could register for and take over the internet. What a tremendous blessing! Students can actually complete up to three years of college over the internet. The final year they must spend on campus. But that is much better than four years!

Interest was high here, as one might expect. We knew the tremendous benefit this could be and tried to pass the word around. We would learn later that Mongolia would account for 50% of all enrollments in the entire Asia area! The numbers were small this first semester, but we out did all the rest combined!

As we tried to work through how we might make these classes most accessible for students here, we felt it might be worthwhile to look into creating a computer lab in our Church office building. The majority do not have internet in their homes and must use internet cafes. That can be problematic as fees mount for the degree of usage that would likely be required for online college courses. And, there would likely be times when internet cafes were not available at all for a period of time – like now, when they are all shut down due to the flu pandemic - or even be over crowded, etc.

Or initial plan was to crowd three or four serviceable computers into our assistant/translators office, if we could find a couple of people to donate them. And we actually made progress in that direction.

Then President Andersen suggested that BYU-Hawaii might have some suggestions or even be able to provide at least some help. I had my doubts, but figured we didn't really have anything to loose by asking. So, we called Brother Sudlow, the Assistant Dean of Admissions (whom we had worked with on other things). He was not aware of any assistance they could offer but suggested that I call the newly hired administrator over the online program. It would have been easy, at that point, to feel passed off and to just sort of let it drop. But we decided to call.

Actually, we emailed and exchanged Skype names with him and then ‘Skyped’ each other – audio only. Brother Michael Griffiths is his name. I explained the situation here and what we were trying to do and asked if he had any suggestions. He responded that, for some reason, Mongolia had been on his mind, of late. Then he said something like, ‘What if we donate enough used computers for your lab?’ I don’t think he heard me fall off my chair!! Trying to keep my voice somewhat calm, I said something like, 'That would be absolutely wonderful if BYU could do something like that!' What he, of course, could not see, was me dancing around the room and waving my hands in the air (remember, it was an audio only skype)!! We were very fortunate, indeed, that the college just happened to be cycling through a new batch of computers to replace slightly older ones.

The next obstacle we had to over come was how to get them here. Brother Griffiths was talking of eight to ten computers and history suggested that Mongolia would almost certainly try to bill us for significant customs fees, insisting that we intended to resell them, as they usually assert under similar circumstances. In an attempt to avoid that, I emailed him a sample donation statement and suggested he have one completed to bring with him – which he did.

Arrangements were made and he was to come to Mongolia himself with the computers. The plan was that once he arrived, we would travel with him to a couple of outlying areas where we could hold firesides in which he would speak about this new online program as well as meet as many as he could of the few currently enrolled students. Then we would return to ‘the big city’ and do the same here.

The time finally arrived and we were excited to meet Brother Griffiths at the airport. His plane would arrive at 9:30 pm and we were also worried, wondering if we might be stuck all night at the airport, should we, indeed, have customs problems as he tried to bring all those computers into the country. And to complicate matters we, of course, were not allowed into that part of the airport and would just have to wait for him near the main lobby doors as we hoped everything went well for him inside.

We could watch on cameras as passengers disembarked from the plane and also as they picked up their luggage. Then we watched first hand as they started streaming out of the claim area to met . . . whoever. We waited as more and more people retrieved their suitcases, met their party and left the airport.

Then we saw this American looking guy (well, sort of – he's actually British!) and he beamed as he saw us! That had to be him! At least he made it through! That had to be a good sign! We introduced ourselves, spoke about how his trip was and finally got around to asking about the computers.

But this is getting a bit lengthy for a blog post, so we’ll finish next time!

(Don’t you just hate that!)
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Thursday, November 5, 2009

VISA's and the Swine Flu

Still no VISA’s but there might be a light at the end of the tunnel, finally. More things have happened that seem to have two perspectives. Sort of the ‘clouds with a silver lining’ idea.

A little over a week ago, our mission doctor and his wife finally returned home. They had extended a couple of times in an effort to continue medical care coverage for our missionaries. But, one person can only do so much and, finally giving in to pressure from home, they returned to the states.

So, the area presidency temporarily transferred a couple who had been serving in Hong Kong, reassigning them here in Mongolia. Elder and Sister Whitman arrived later on the same day that Elder/Doctor and Sister Anderson left. Sister Whitman is a nurse. And a really good one, too! She has been doing wonderfully in helping here -- at all hours of the day and night!

Elder Whitman is a lawyer. In fact, he has been a law professor and has helped with several law programs at universities in the states, not the least of which was his role in helping to launch the law school at Brigham Young University a number of years ago.

And guess what President Andersen (our mission President) assigned Elder Whitman to work on? VISA’s, of course, and he has jumped in with both feet! After working on it for a week, he seems to feel that there might be something that could be worked out. Good news!

Then, Sister Caldwell and I felt that we ought to mention the problem to one of the groups to whom we teach English; a group of local court judges. One of those judges was surprised to learn that we were having trouble. And his response was encouraging. He thought he might be able to put in a good word or two for us and had some ideas about things we might do. He has now been working with Elder Whitman as they work out a proposal which will be presented to the Mongolian Government soon and which could not only ease the current difficulty, but might hopefully revamp our current arrangement with Mongolia and eliminate the problem entirely.

Keep your fingers crossed!

Page 2.

The swine flu has hit here pretty hard, now. No sick missionaries, that we know of, but Mongolia has the dubious distinction of being second place among nations for the quickest spread of this pandemic illness.
This is us in surgical masks, a common sight here now-a-days as people try to avoid the flu.

All public meetings have been canceled for an indefinite period. Which means we can not hold church services, baptisms, conferences, reporting and planning meetings, workshops, etc. Right now, we have an estimated 40 to 50 people waiting to be baptized who can not have that opportunity until the situation changes. We are concerned about that and the possible difficulties in retaining those individuals and others. In addition, it now becomes difficult, of course, for us to receive that weekly rejuvenation and opportunity to renew covenants during Sacrament Meeting. But the Lord is in charge and He can influence and control where we can not. So we will do what we can and leave the rest in His hands.

So where’s the silver lining in this one? Sister Caldwell and I are now getting caught up on things which we had gotten way behind in! And we might even find a few minutes here and there to rest a bit – maybe! And with us being shorthanded in the senior missionary department, the timing seems rather nice! Just as long as it doesn’t last too long, that is! We’d rather be busy and accomplishing something than sitting around wondering what to do and worrying about all the lost time.

In the meantime, Dominos anyone?
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Friday, October 30, 2009

Swine Flu

Just sort of a quick update. Swine flu has hit here and they are shutting things down some. In two towns north of here (Darkhan and Erdenet) no meetings are allowed, so church is out of the question, for a while.

Here in UB where we live, meetings must be concluded and dismissed no later than 9:00 pm (apparently the flu only comes out after that??) and no one under 16 years of age can attend public meetings. Haven't heard how that is affecting schools, yet.

We are very glad that they have sent a couple here from Hong Kong to replace our mission doctor who just returned home after finishing his mission. He had extended twice trying to wait for the next doctor to arrive, but still no go on VISA's. So this Hong Kong couple is here for a maximum of 90 days (a 90 VISA is pretty much automatic here). Their name is Whitman and they are wonderful. She is a nurse and he is a lawyer. He is working on the VISA problem while she tries to keep us healthy.

Life goes on. Sort of.
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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Your LDS Neighborgood.com

There is a fun and relatively new website for LDS members and those who share similar ideals. It called Your LDS Neighborhood. Somehow they learned of our blog and thought our recent post about Zuun Khaara was worth sharing. So, we have been featured in their latest newsletter!

Just in case your interested, here's a link to that Newsletter.

Who'd have figured we'd be published!!
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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

One Year Ago Today!

One year ago today, on Oct. 27, 2008, we left our home in Magna, Utah and drove to the MTC in Provo. It is difficult to believe that a full year has already gone by! So much has happened! But we have only been able to include a small part of our experiences here in this blog. We are grateful to friends and family who have supported and prayed for us. It is much appreciated.

Additional note: The senior couples who are left in Ulaanbaatar are struggling to keep up. We are down from seven couples to only three, right now. Others have been called to replace the ones who have returned home but continue to wait for Mongolia to approve their VISA's. The country apparently feels we have exceeded our quota and refuses to issue additional VISA's. There are currently three couples and 13 young missionaries on hold in the U.S., right now. The young missionaries have been reassigned to other missions in the states.

Please remember our little corner of the world in your prayers tonight!

And thanks for all of your love and support!

Elder and Sister Caldwell
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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Zuun Kharaa

About 175 km (130 miles) to the north of Ulaanbaatar (where we are assigned), there is a small town called Zuun Kharaa. It is where Mongolia produces vodka.

But there is a branch of the Church there. It has been there for some time, now. However, this is one of the areas where, as we mentioned previously, we are having trouble obtaining permission to continue using the building where the branch meets. The local government has been threatening to deny our license renewal application there.

More interference from the adversary? Maybe. But then again, maybe not.

Here in Mongolia, we have often found that it is expected for us to do something or provide something for an area before they will grant such things as this needed license. In the states, we look with disfavor on such practices. Here, it is just the way things are done. So, the mission began to look for some need in Zuun Kharaa that the Church might be able to fill. Things we would likely do anyway, if we were aware of the need.

Somewhere along the way, we found that none of the residents in a large ger district(gers are the small canvas homes the nomadic people here live in) in Zuun Kharaa had a proper, dependable or safe water supply. Thousands of them! Each family had simply hand dug shallow and indequate wells six or maybe eight feet deep -- in the same small space where their livestock was kept and often right next to the family outhouse. Not surprisingly, associated sickness and disease has been the result. Doctors have been doing the best they can to treat the people when then become ill, but it is a difficult and frustrating problem.

If you have followed our posts, you know that providing wells is one of the things the Church does here through Deseret International Charities. Professional wells with electric pumps and a nice looking well house, like the one pictured here. So the couple in charge of that sort of work (the Lasson's) went to work in Zuun Kharaa.

They proposed to the Area Presidency that Desert International Charities provide a proper well for these folks. When the Presidency read their report of conditions in Zuun Kharaa, they told the Lasson's that there was some extra money in the area office and suggested that perhaps we ought to drill more than one.

The idea was discussed with the government there and their interest in our proposal to dig wells was immediately obvious. In fact, to say that they were REALLY interested would be an understatement. The area was surveyed, possibilities discussed and the decision made that the Church could provide not one, but four wells. When Elder and Sister Lasson told the governor of that ger district, he grabbed Elder Lasson in a big bear hug and just held him tight.

Now it's time to go to work. It is hoped that all four wells can be drilled before the ground becomes so frozen that drilling won't be possible and might, therefore, have to be put off until next spring. When finished, we hope we might be able to witness as the wells are opened and people begin to use them.

But that isn't the end of the story. Another problem surfaced in Zuun Kharaa while the idea of providing wells were being looked at. It seems that there has been a high rate of infant deaths there as a result of inadequate care when babies are born. Doctors are frustrated and Psychologists, too, have been kept fairly busy counseling with the doctors who are experiencing feelings of inadequacy resulting from their perceived personal failure to prevent those new born deaths.

But providing wells is not the only way the Church can help. The Humanitarian arm of the Church has often brought in physicians from the States to provide training for doctors on such things as how to care for newborns (i.e. neonatal care)and has even been able to provide needed medical supplies and equipment for that care on occasion. The Church is about to have that opportunity one more time.

It is interesting to contemplate that if Zuun Kharaa had not threatened to deny our church license renewal, we likely would have remained in ignorance of their problems and the difficult circumstances there would have continued unrecognized and unabated for a much longer period of time. Now, needed help will be provided and odds are that the Church will receive it's needed license renewal, as well.

The Lord works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform.

Don't you wish you could be here?
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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Religious Freedom

Elder Oaks recently spoke at BYU Idaho, describing what he referred to as a current threat to religious freedom. One portion of his remarks was of particular interest to us.

Elder Oaks:

To illustrate the importance of basic human rights in other countries, I refer to some recent history in Mongolia, which shows that the religious freedom we have taken for granted in the United States must be won by dangerous sacrifice in some other nations.

Following the perestroika movement in the Soviet Union, popular demonstrations in Mongolia forced the Communist government to resign in March 1990. Other political parties were legalized, but the first Mongolian elections gave the Communists a majority in the new parliament, and the old repressive attitudes persisted in all government departments. The full functioning of a democratic process and the full enjoyment of the people’s needed freedoms do not occur without a struggle. In Mongolia, the freedoms of speech, press and religion — a principal feature of the inspired United States Constitution — remained unfulfilled.

In that precarious environment, a 42-year-old married woman, Oyun Altangerel, a department head in the state library, courageously took some actions that would prove historic. Acting against official pressure, she organized a “Democratic Association Branch Council.” This 12-member group, the first of its kind, spoke out for democracy and proposed that state employees have the freedoms of worship, belief and expression, including the right to belong to a political party of their choice.

When Oyun and others were fired from their state employment, Oyun began a hunger strike in the state library. Within three hours she was joined by 20 others, mostly women, and their hunger strike, which continued for five days, became a public demonstration that took their grievances to the people of Mongolia. This demonstration, backed by major democratic movement leaders, encouraged other government employees to organize similar democratic councils. These dangerous actions expanded into a national anti-government movement that voiced powerful support for the basic human freedoms of speech, press and religion. Eventually the government accepted the demands, and in the adoption of a democratic constitution two years later Mongolia took a major step toward a free society.

For Latter-day Saints, this birth of constitutional freedom in Mongolia has special interest. Less than two years after the historic hunger strike, we sent our first missionaries to Mongolia. In 1992 these couples began their meetings in the state library, where Oyun was working. The following year, she showed her courage again by being baptized into this newly arrived Christian church. Her only child, a 22-year-old son, was baptized two years later. Today, the Mongolian members of our Church number 9,000, reportedly the largest group of Christians in the country. A few months ago we organized our first stake in Mongolia. Called as the stake president was Sister Oyun’s son, Odgerel.
(End of quote)

President Odgerel was the district president prior to the formation of the stake (see previous posts) and is also the CES manager here. He is a wonderful man and a good friend to us. His office is right next to ours in the basement of the church building and we visit with him a lot (or is it bother him a lot?!). But I never knew this about his mother! She is still making marks here as she now runs her own university and remains very active -- in a lot of things!

Oh, did I mention that President Odgerel is also something of a character (see picture)?

By the way, the recent national elections held in Mongolia this past summer, ousted the past Communist President and elected a Democratic President. There seems to be some skepticism about how truly democratic he is, but we have already seen a couple of significant changes. We will tell you about them in a future post. These changes and other developments are going to change many things in Mongolia!
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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Adversity is the diamond dust heaven polishes its jewels with.

We thought we might do something a little different and share with you a couple of things we have learned in conferences recently, both missionary zone conference and General Conference. These are thoughts about adversity and how we deal with it.

During the Saturday morning session of General Conference, Elder Clayton of the Seventy spoke about what he called 'burdens'.

He quoted a familiar scripture in which Heavenly Father told Adam that he and Eve must leave the Garden of Eden and that the ‘ . . . ground will be cursed for thy sake.' There are two ways to look at that scripture. One is that the ground was cursed as a result of the choices Adam and Eve made. But the second (and both are likely correct) is that the ground was cursed for the benefit of man.

Work is a principal of the Gospel. It is good for us to work and labor, for by so doing, we learn and grow and become stronger. Those who do not work, are generally not the stronger members of our society.

Just the same, much of what we experience here, can be difficult. But our struggles (those things we often refer to as adversity) can become easier if we approach them correctly. Our burdens will not often be removed but they can be made lighter - or, at least our capacity to bear them can increase. That’s what happened to Alma and those who fled from wicked King Noah while they were temporarily burdened with captivity and were heavily taxed. The heavy burden remained but their capacity to bear it increased.

It is interesting how people face difficulties differently. A particular circumstance may seem to be a huge obstacle or even a downfall to one, but seems to make another stronger, ultimately lifting them higher.

I became a poetry enthusiast during my first full time mission as a young man and seemed to come across many poems and short stories which became special to me as they conveyed a strong message and from which I learned much. I still remember one which became a favorite:

“One ship drives east, another drives west
with the selfsame winds that blow.
‘Tis the set of the sail and not the gale,
Which tells it the way to go.

“Like the winds of the sea are the trials we face
as we journey along through life.
‘Tis the set of the soul that determines the goal,
And not the calm nor the strife.”

Often, we do not understand why things happen. Sometimes, even when we are trying to do something good, something goes awry and we become discouraged. There is a sign hanging in our office in the mission home. It is a quote from President Hinckley and has come to mean much to us as we, too, face our share of challenges. It reads: “Keep trying. Be believing. Be happy. Don’t get discouraged. Things will work out.” We have been slowly learning that he is right. Things really do work out, if we are patient and trust in the Lord.

There is a story told of a man who became shipwrecked and lived alone for sometime on a deserted island. It was a struggle just to survive, but he managed to build a hut and did his best. One day, he had a small accident and his hut burned to the ground. Deep in despair, he complained to Heavenly Father, “How could you let this happen! It is so hard here!”

A ship suddenly appeared on the horizon and pulled close to the island. Rescued at last, he asked the captain how they knew he was on the island. “We saw your smoke signal,” he responded.

It seems to be easy for us to become discouraged when things don’t go as we think that they ought to or as we had planned. But sometimes, the Lord knows things we do not. It has been said that trouble has no necessary connection with discouragement. Discouragement is a seed all its own. Don’t let that seed grow!

A shipment of shoes was once delivered to an island. One of those who would process the shipment said, “No one here wears shoes! Send these back!”

However, another said, “Hey, no one here has any shoes! Send more!”

It’s often in how we look at it.

When Joseph Smith was in the Liberty Jail, he became concerned and even somewhat discouraged. He petitioned the Lord and received this answer. “My son, peace be unto thy soul. Thine adversity and thy afflictions shall be but a small moment. And then, if thou endure it well, God will exalt the on high.”

And then He added a note of more immediate encouragement.

“Thy friends do stand by thee . . .”

Marcia Geilmann, sister to Sister Caldwell, wrote us a little card a while ago. She noted that the adversary would, indeed, do all he could to interfere with this work. But then she asked us to remember that she prayed for us everyday. Then she reminded us that all of our children and grandchildren pray for us. She also pointed out that we have many friends and extended family who add their prays, as well. And she also noted that prayers are offered several times every day in all of the temples world wide, in behalf of the missionaries.

No wonder we are succeeding! Thanks!
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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Zaisan - Part 2

Thought we'd better try to continue our post about the Zaisan monument (see September 24th post).

Once you manage to climb the 650 or so stairs to get to the top of the hill, you find the main part of this memorial. It is rather well done and interesting to look at. It is, obviously, a circle with the inside of the circle containing the mural, part of which we are showing here. The mural is actually a mosaic of tile pieces, with different colors of tile used to form the actual images.

It seems to be a popular place and we saw a steady stream of people visiting here.

As mentioned before, this was built by the Soviets to commemorate the battles and victories the two countries fought during World War II. It is also here on top of the hill that Elder Maxwell dedicated this land for missionary work (see a copy of the dedicatory prayer in September 26th post). That prayer contains many promises which we are seeing come to pass even while we are here. Many think Mongolia will likely be the staging ground from where the Gospel can really be taken to other Asian lands which still remain closed to the Church.

And the view from up here is pretty spectacular, too! This is the view of the city from up top -- Ulaanbaatar (don't bother trying to pronounce it!), the capital city where we live and serve.
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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

An especially good day today!

Once in a while, we have the opportunity to be involved in something especially enjoyable. Today was one of those days.

But let me start a couple of days ago. A gentleman was wheeled into the Church Building in a borrowed wheelchair. It belonged to a friend of his who was in the hospital and couldn't use it for a while. The wheelchair was an old one of ours but was pretty badly beaten up and the rubber on the wheels, though there, was completely off both rims, while the wheels were running on what was left of the metal rims.

His friend had told him about us and suggested that he might be able to get one for himself if he came to see us. There happened to be one wheelchair left when he came.

I arrived just as he was leaving. I greeted him and he started crying as he waved his hand and did his best to express his gratitude, knowing that I would not understand his Mongolian. I understood just fine.

All the way down the sidewalk he kept waving and saying, "Biyartla" (thank you).

Then, for the past two weeks or so, the mission has been working on clearing 750 new wheelchairs through customs. This, by the way, is just the most recent of such shipments. The Church has provided thousands of new wheelchairs to Mongolia alone, with many thousands more going to other areas of Asia. Just one of the worthwhile places that our Church donations help with.

Today, a special ceremony was held to, in part, help people understand what the Church does here and to let others know we are here to help. A number of those who badly needed wheelchairs were invited to the ceremony.

It was held at a building called The Children's Center. The news media was invited and several others with whom we try to form good associations so that the work we do can move forward with greater ease as they, in turn, learn us and become more inclined to help us in our efforts.

First, wheelchairs were unpacked and the last of the assembly completed. These are some of our missionaries who came to help. We could not have done it without them.

As time for the ceremony drew near, those receiving wheel chairs made their way here the best they could. The Children's Center is centrally located and relatively easy for them to get to.

The ones who could, came on crutches. Others in borrowed wheelchairs. Still others were carried in, some by those missionaries in the previous picture.

This father on his son's back is about the only way this particular gentleman has had of getting around. Without wheelchairs, their choices have been extremely limited and their sense of worth often almost non-existent.




In the pictures, you can see one gentleman with no legs, children who have little control of their bodies and whose parents have felt the burden of needing to carry them wherever they went. These wheelchairs were a much needed and appreciated blessing.

We will use almost all of those 750 wheelchairs within the next couple of weeks. So, we will order another batch in a couple of months!

We continue to be very grateful to our Heavenly Father for allowing us to come here. It has been lonely and difficult sometimes. And it has been tremendously rewarding and wonderful most of the time!

It has been a good day today.
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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Zaisan - Part 1

Zaisan Hill is the location of a monument built by the Soviets to honor the combined efforts of Soviet and Mongolian soldiers in the defeat of the Japanese and the Germans during World War II. It stands at the south edge of Ulaanbaatar, the Mongolian capital city in which we live and serve.

The monument is impressive and we found it quite interesting.

But of greater moment to us, is the use made of that hill by Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve as he stood on Zaisan Hill to pronounce a dedicator prayer for the preaching of the Gospel in Mongolia, in 1993.

Having lived here, now, for most of a year (wow! That means our time here is nearly half gone, already!), we can really appreciate specific things which Elder Maxwell included in his prayer. The good people here continue to face the challenge of overcoming the effects of the Socialist regime and the legacy it left behind. They did not leave much good behind here, and it is taking some effort for Mongolia to overcome that time in their history.

As one first arrives at Zaisan, this cement wall can be seen, portraying what appears to be a Russian Soldier (on the right), a Mongolian Soldier (on the left) and in the middle . . . ? We're taking suggestions what who the third figure represents.

The tank pictured is immediately to the left of the wall. The path carved on the side of the tank monument depicts its journey from the Russian foundry where it was produced in 1943, to the battle it finally fought in Berlin in 1945.




Then, to reach the actual monument, we had to climb all of these stairs. Look closely. They follow slightly to the left, then slowly curve around to the right and then continue all the way along the ridge to the right edge of the first picture. Once we climbed all of those stairs, we found the next section as shown in stair picture number two! About 625 steps total! That's each direction, making a total of around 1250 steps!

It's a good thing we're still young!











It took us a while, bet we finally came to the actual monument on top of the hill. This is where Elder Maxwell stood as he dedicated the land for the preaching of the Gospel.

It's quite a view from up there. We'll show you the impressive inside of the monument and the view in subsequent posts!
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