Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Time is at hand

After a two week delay, Mongolia will finally organize its first stake this weekend. In anticipation of that event, we thought we might share a little of the history of the Church here in Mongolia. This is a mini version, but we hope it will be of interest to you. Some of the details are taken from a book titled, "Mongolia, The Circle In The Clouds".

In 1991, Monte J. Brough arranged for volunteers from the Church to come to Mongolia in response to requests from the Mongolian government for humanitarian assistance. The Russians, after years of providing for every need, had just abandoned Mongolia and turned the country back to the its people. Elder Brough's agreements included providing the requested service and also that the volunteers would, in their free time, teach the doctrines of the Church to Mongolians who requested or desired to hear it. The Humanitarian service first requested was and still is the teaching of English. It was necessary if Mongolia was to participate in a world economy.

In September 1992, the first senior missionary couple arrived in Mongolia. They had no apartment waiting for them as did we and no one to "show them the ropes" here in Ulaanbaatar. And they were soon followed by five other senior couples. Apartments were located as they settled in for their first winter. It was cold and food was scarce. Sosor, an early local convert, cleaned their apartments and stood in lines to buy a head of cabbage, some potatoes, a loaf of bread and a few eggs for the couples. Some nights these first senior missionaries went to bed without having been fully satisfied by their evening's meal.

By August 1993, there were eight Mongolian members of the Church. And during that year, the first six single elders arrived. By May of 1994 there were 80 members of the Church. We now have close to 9000 members of the Church and nearly 200 missionaries serving in Mongolia, and the vast majority of the missionaries are now native Mongolians.

As we serve side by side with these incredible young people and as we invite them into our home where they teach their investigators and testify of the Gospel, it is so plain to see why Helaman called his young warriors his sons, "for they are worthy to be called sons." And we would add as Helaman did, "Never have I seen so great courage, nay, not amongst all the [mormons]." We have become very attached to some of these young warriors and now some of them are finishing their missions. It is difficult for us to see them leave.

Since that small beginning in 1991, many senior missionaries have come and gone. They have left their mark upon the people they have served and Mongolia has left its mark upon them. The membership has continued to grow from those early days. This weekend will mark the creation of the first stake here in Mongolia. There will now
be one stake, two districts and about 20 branches in 11 Church buiildings, all from those humble beginnings just a few years ago.

Often it is challenging to know what or how to teach these good people. The majority of them do not know who Jesus Christ is. They have no concept of heaven or a Heavenly Father. They do not understand that they are of the House of Israel. But they listen and accept anyway.

As they receive the blessing of a stake, they will also be privileged to have a patriarch. To this point, only missionaries serving in foreign countries and a few other members have been blessed to have a patriarchal blessing. But you might be interested to know that among these choice people, their lineage has been declared as belonging to every one of the twelve tribes of Israel. (Ether 13:11 "...and they are they who were scattered and gathered in from the four quarters of the earth, and from the north countries, and are partakers of the fulfilling of the covenant which God made with their father, Abraham"). We sometimes feel that we are "living the scriptures", seeing prophecy come to pass.

When Elder Nelson was here in February, one of the missionaries asked how they should teach about God. He told them to start with what they already knew, as Ammon did with King Lamoni. That pattern is a good one. And in keeping with his pattern, the most important vision to maintain while serving in Mongolia is that of service. We are very literally following the "Ammon" model for building the Church in Mongolia. "We have come to live and serve for a time...."

May we continue to be as successful as he was.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Darkhan-Erdenet Conclusion

Finally getting around to finishing the report of our trip north. We've gotten rather busy with some new and significant projects we have taken on. We'll tell you more of those later.

Amy asked about the length of our trip and where the towns we visited were located. Thought those were good questions and decided to include this little map so you could get an idea of where we were.

From Ulaanbaatar to Darkhan is about 223 k almost straight north - about 150 miles for you non-metric speakers. Then, from Darkhan to Sukhbaatar is about another 98 k (65 miles). Refer to the previous entries for a schedule of when we traveled to which city. In case your wondering, yes, we were only a couple of miles south of the Russian border at this point. And even if we would have had time to go see it (which we didn't), we would have likely had second thoughts about it. The last senior couple to go visit the Russian border (about a year ago) made the mistake of taking a picture and were arrested and thrown in jail!

You may also notice on the map that they have not included the silent 'k' in the spelling of those towns.

Once we returned to Darkhan, it was then 180 k (120 miles) west to Erdenet.

livestockThe challenges of driving 'out in the countryside' were . . . interesting. Often and sometimes unexpectedly we would come around a corner or over a hill to find livestock alongside or on the road.

Sometimes, the road just sort of disappeared. It wasn't too bad when you could see far enough ahead to see there was a problem or when one of these cute little signs caution signseemed to warn you of impending doom (These gave us a real chuckle! But it took us a while to connect the sign to the idea of 'missing road ahead'). But other times we had no warning of any kind and it was 'hang on to your hat' and grit your teeth! On several occasions, the road turned into a cavernous hole big enough to swallow a small car.

This picture shows several sections of missing road in the distance. They are worse than they look in the picture (trust me!), but are still some of the 'milder' missing sections we came across. We were glad we were in an SUV!
missing road
Have we mentioned that we now consider it a privilege to pay high gasoline taxes in the states?!

Other sections of road gave us a headache as we sort of 'vibrated' our way across them, particularly an old 15 kilometer section of Russian concrete which looked like it hadn't seen any maintenance or repair since it was created some 40 years ago! But despite this rather gloomy portrayal we have provided, most of the road as actually fairly good and we always seemed to arrive safely and on time.
Along the way we would come across a variety of religious shrines and markers. Unfortunately, we didn't really have time to stop and take a closer look. It was drive here and teach there as fast as we could make it happen.

Next time we will plan a bit differently and make it a somewhat more leisurely trip.