Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Welcome, Sister Orkhon!!

We had the wonderful and fun privilege of meeting Sister Orkhon (Onon's sister) at the airport on Tuesday afternoon. And, since the MTC told us it was too late in the day to actually process her into the MTC (though she certainly could have stayed there), we decided to keep her until Wednesday morning! We had a blast!

First, we took her to the Conference Center and a Brother Dubois took us on a special tour. And guess what? He had actually visited Ulaanbaatar a few years back! Go figure!

Then we went to the Salt Lake Temple and Sister Orkhon did baptisms for the dead. She kept repeat, "My dream has come true!"

After the temple, we took her to dinner at the Lion House. You know, the home that Brigham Young used to live in. It has been converted to a museum and restuarant. Dinner was wonderful!

Finally, we went to our home where she stayed for the night. The next morning we finally (and somewhat begrudgingly!) took her to Provo and let her start her mission!

She will be a VERY good missionary! And we think her brother helped her learn even better English than when we were still in Mongolia!

Home Sweet Home!

It is . . . strange being home, in some ways. It is good, of course. But we miss things in Mongolia, too. Somehow, though very busy, things seemed a bit simpler there.

But we are moving ahead here and have started working in the Oquirrh Mountain Temple. That, too, is different than the years we worked in the Salt Lake Temple. And we feel really guilty, sometimes, to have half a dozen temples within easy reach, knowing our Mongolian friends would give much just to have one within a days journey. Hopefully, it will not be too much longer . . .

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Neil Diamond

'Nough said!!

The End of a Great Experience

We have spent much of the day saying goodbye's, it seems. Then we had a surprise farewell party sprung on us this afternoon. Everyone in the mission offices came to wish us well and to say goodbye.

Then, tonight we attended an addiction recovery class which is directed by our good friends, Elder and Sister Powell. It is humbling to see these good people who want so badly to be free of their difficult problem as they come together to help each other.

At 9:45 tomorrow morning, we will meet with President Mecham for a moment to kneel in pray before we depart. Then, he will drive us to the airport and we will be on our way shortly there after. Then, at about 7:45 that same night, we will be reunited with our family. Only an 8 hour trip (not counting the 13 hours or so we gain enroute)!

See some of ya' tomorrow! The rest of ya' will have to wait a couple of days!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Almost Time To Go

Been an interesting couple of days. Been saying a lot of goodbyes.

Saturday night, we attended our farewell party from the senior couples. It was a fun night with a great potluch dinner. And we played a couple of games -- something the seniors enjoy doing. One was a Mongolian ankle bone game and the other as a game called 'Dork'. Sister Caldwell won one of the ankle bone games and I won the Dork game (keep your comments to yourself, ya' all!)!

Then today, we bid a final farewell to our Nalaikh Branch. The first picture is of Sister Caldwell as all her Primary bid her a goodbye. She has grown to love those children and they her, as well. She will be missed there.

Then they held a little going away part for us. They moved all of the chairs over along the wall (this is one of those phase one buildings where the large area serves as Chapel, Cultural Hall, etc.) sang a few songs, read a poem or two and then gave us these wonderful gifts shown in the picture.

This seemed to sort of make it a bit more final for us. We left feeling a bit more empty, as we headed back to Ulaanbaatar and our apartment. We had been able to sort of ignore the going end to our experience, what with all the work it has been taking to get things ready for us to go. But today . . .

Only two and a half days now before we will be on that outbound airplane. We are going to miss much, not the least of which will be the missionaries (old and young) we have worked with, cried with, laughed with, fed and grown to love.

But we haven't lost sight of the good things, either. We are really anxious to see our children, grandchildren, freinds and neighbors. It will be good to see them again.

We will arrive Wednesday night and they already have us scheduled to speak in our ward on Sunday.

Boy, they don't give a body much time to rest in this Church!!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Bit Melancholy

We are feeling a bit melancholy lately. Everyday seems to bring a new "last" - our last Staff Meeting, our last English Class, our last shopping trip, etc.

We also attended our final farewell dinner and fireside. The dinner is held in the mission presidents home (top floor of the mission home) followed by the fireside in the Chapel.  Ours comes a week early, being combined with that of four Elders whose mission ends today (Wednesday). Those four, the Mission President, his wife and ourselves are in the picture.

The picture was taken just after dinner in President and Sister Mecham's appartment. Each of these four Elders means something special to us. Starting on the back left is President Mecham. Then Elder Stephenson and Elder Sherwood whom we were in the MTC with in Provo in 2008. We have known them a long time and they are excellent Elders, both finishing their missions by by helping in the office.

Next is Elder Onon. We attended the Hong Kong Temple with his mother and sister. He had been serving in the Ogden Utah Mission, but one of those who was asked to return to Mongolia to help here as he finished his misison. He speaks excellent English (the reason we needed him) and has been a terrific help here. Oh, and his sister is the one who will begin serving a mission next month. In the Ogden Utah Mission !

Elder Batbold is on the end. He had been serving in the Singapore Mission. While there, he learned Chinese and, with the help of his companion, taught himself English while he was at it!  His twin sister is Batchimeg who served a mission in Australia at the same time that our good friends Dave and Robyn Osborn did.  It's a small world! Their father and Batchimeg's baby are also in the picture. If you look closely Dave and Robyn you might be able to see that their father is wearing a Shedaisy hat!

We are really anxious to return home to see our family. But we wish we didn't have to say goodbye to all of our wonderful new friends here!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Missionary Call

More than a year ago, I think we mentioned that young men and young women often receive misison calls here but, being the only member of the Church in their family, have no one to share it with. That is a common situation here. Most of the young people who join the Church in Mongolia are pioneers in their own right. The Church is very new here and they are the first to join in their home.

But they are very committed and dedicated and serve well, whatever mission they are called to.

This is another of those new missionaries. She is a very sweet young lady and invited us to join with her as she opened her mission call. It was really fun to watch her excitement! She will be serving here in Mongolia and was thrilled with that opportunity.

We are going to miss these wonderful people here!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Gardening in Mongolia

Despite the lack of any gardening space of our own, we have managed to get out hands in the dirt a little bit while here, anyway. This Impatien is one of several plants Sister Caldwell has managed to grow inside. It doesn't get very many blossoms but it is down right exciting when it does! And as you might be able to see, the plant is quite healthy and a really good looking plant all by itself.

Then, we even managed to grow cucumbers this year! We set a pot out on our little patio on our third floor apartment and have managed to keep this lone little cucumber plant alive.

The picture to the left is of our first cucumber and it was sooooo good! Tough to beat straight out of the garden. Not quite as good a garden as we hear about from our children but hey, it's something!

Now the second cucumber is nearing maturity and we are anxious to pick and eat it!

But, alas, two will be our limit. We will be gone before another one can set and ripen!

The kids tell us they have planted a couple of things in our garden at home for us and we are anxious to take a look! Not long now!

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Not too long ago, the Church allowed us to bring six Mongolian Elders who had been serving in other areas of the world (mostly the U.S.), back to Mongolia to finish their missions. The lack of American missionaries was leaving strapped for translators and making it very difficult for the mission office and the seniors to be able to function.

This is a picture of one of those Elders (Elder Onon), his mother and his sister. And, yes, Elder Onon is completely Mongolian! He had been serving in the Ogden, Utah area when he was brought back to finish his mission here. He is a terrific Elder and we consider him to be a good friend.

His mother and sister were two of those who were part of the Hong Kong Temple group we traveled and attended the temple with. So we have felt sort of close to the family.

There is one more thing. Elder Onon's sister has been called to serve a mission and will leave in September. Any guesses where she will be serving? No? Ogden, Utah -- the very plcce Elder Onon had been serving until recalled to Mongolia!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Potpourri 2

Thought you might like to see some interesting things here in Mongolia.

The first picture is a bit of a twist on 'Give me fries and a hot dog, please!" Look closely. Can you see it? Yup! That's a hot dog on a stick with bits of French Fries stuck to the outside! Why didn't we think of that?!

Then there are Potato Chips. They're not what we are used to seeing in the States and we avoided them for the first many months of our mission. After all, Paprika Potato Chips! But they are virtually the only potato chip in town so we finally gave in and bought a bag. They are really good! Really!

And last, a picture of how we usually must purchase carrots here. Trust us, those ugly looking dark things are carrots! And believe it or not, they, too, are really quite good. They just don't bother to wash them before they bring them to market.

Just thought you'd like to know!

Friday, July 23, 2010

It's a Small, Small World!

The first couple to arrive in this mission after we did were Elder and Sister Stevens. That was about 16 months ago. We met them in the Church parking lot as they arrived. I took one look at him and asked, "You're from Californian, right?" He said yes. And I said something like, 'Well, there's a guy in Utah that looks a lot like you and his name is Stevens, too!' He said, 'That's Stan, my identical twin brother!' Stan Stevens was one of our neighbors for several years. He and I served in the scouts together.

Then, we learned a few days ago that we have a new couple coming in September -- Elder and Sister Ford. Just out of curiosity, I asked our mission President if he knew Elder Ford's first name. He didn't, but sent me an email a bit later with the details. His full name is Blaine Ford and they are from Layton.

I served with an Elder Blaine Ford some 45 years ago in the Western States Mission. The last I had heard, he lived somewhere just north of Salt Lake. I think Layton qualifies. I emailed this 'new' Elder Ford yesterday just to see if there was any chance he is the same one. He answered a few minutes ago indicating that he is, indeed, the same one with whom I served so many years ago.

Go figure!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Zuun Kharaa

Last fall, we posted a little bit about a place to the north and east of here called Zuun Kharaa. Just as a reminder, here is a recap of some of what we posted.

Many families in Zuun Kharaa live in a typical Mongolian ger on a piece of property a couple of hundred feet or so square. Each is fenced as required by law and many families raise farm animals, gardens, children, etc. all on their little piece of property. However, in some parts of that city (a really pleasant little city, by the way), the only access people had to drinking water (notice the past tense used here) was to dig a relatively shallow and open water well by hand, on their little piece of property. Right next to the animals -- and the outhouse. It doesn't take much imagination to picutre the result.

Fortunately, the Church was able to have four deep water wells drilled last fall. Each would provide a common well of fresh water which the residents could come to and get water from  But it wasn't until this spring that the pumps and well houses could be completed and the water made available. Three of the four wells were dedicated and opened two or three weeks ago. Last week, several of us had the privilege of traveling to Zuun Kharaa to witness the dedication of the fourth one.

That dedication had been scheduled twice before, only to be canceled because of heavy rains. We were scheduled to travel up there last Thursday. Wednesday night, we had another down pour.

It was questionable whether or not we should go this time, too, because of all the rain. But the couple in charge of those things (Elder and Sister Lasson) felt that this really needed to be done. So, we left first thing Thursday morning. It was still raining. A lot. Again!

When we arrived, Zuun Kharaa was a mess. We felt like we were in Venice, Italy! Water everywhere! We began to wonder if we could reach the wells at all. But, we had a Toyota Land Cruiser so on we pushed. But in some places we kept checking the floorboards to see if any water was getting into the car!

Each of the wells had been located on the property of one of those ger families who would also manage the water station. In exchange, they would receive free water and perhaps some income from selling the water to others. Now, don't be too concerned. The 'fee' for the water is a staggering 2 Tugriks per liter (1380 Tugriks equals one U.S. dollar and a liter is just over one quart). That means a five gallon container would cost almost 3 cents! But it is enough to pay the electricity, provide for long term maintenance and allow a small stipend for the operator.

Despite some remaining question about continuing with the well opening, the Lasson's pushed ahead. We soon learned there were reasons why it was felt needful to push on. It seems that the well operater for well #4 had not yet opened the well, believing that the opening ceremonies were necessary, first. That was actually not the case. And, we also learned that the recent rains had completely contaminated the already questionable hand dug wells, leaving many with no real source of water.

Above is a picture of one of those wells.

So, we held a well grand opening ! And we had a good old time! We had candy, bottled drinks and even a ribbon cutting! Oh, and fresh, pure drinking water, too! A good little group gathered round for the festivities and we made some new friends that day! There was even a drawing for some water containers and one cart!

We'll post more about this special little town next time.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

4th of July Celebration

Thought you might like to see a few pictures of our 4th of July celebration. We were on the committee who planned and carried out the whole shindig and it really was quite a good party! Hot Dogs, Hamburgers, Brots, potato salad, drinks, etc.

One of the senior couples told us they thought it was just like a good old back home 4th! And it made them very homesick!

The best part of the whole thing was the childrens parade which helped open the whole thing. Sister Caldwell was in charge of that and the kids had a blast! Love the balloon hat.




And the Marine color guard leading the way was a nice touch, too! We had the Marine band there playing for nearly all the party!! They had their Pop Rock Band and the Dixie Land Band there (bet most of you didn't even know the Marines had such groups, did ya'!). The whole orchestra was supposed to be there, too, but half of them got hold of some bad food the night before!

A couple of our missionaries helped do some of the cooking. They did a great job!





Oh, we can't forget the desert baking contest. This one took honors for the best looking. Didn't taste bad, either!

And the weather cooperated very well, too. upper 70's, low 80's maybe. And a few clouds to keep sunburns away!

It was a fun but very busy day.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Out With the Old, In With the New

We have a new Mission President!

On June 30th, we bid a fond farewell to President and Sister Andersen. Such changes are unavoidable, we know, but we will miss them.

They leave behind a great legacy of service and sacrifice. He was the right man, at the right time and in the right place. That can be said of all mission presidents -- including the new one.

We will have many cherished memories of their service here and of our opportunity to share some of it with them. They have touched many lives and will be missed.

The new mission president and his wife (President and Sister Mecham) arrived on June 29th. Yes, that time is a bit unusual, as far as we know. Most commonly changes in mission presidents takes place on July 1st.

We are thrilled to welcome the Mechams and have already witnessed the Spirit strengthen and mold them as they begin their service here. We already can see the wonderful leadership they will, in their turn, provide here.

We will only have two months to get to know them and work with them before it becomes our turn to leave. That brings an interesting mix of feelings.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Be Strong Part 3

We really need to do some serious posting! Too many things happening lately. Senior Outing, President and Sister Andersen about ready to depart, President and Sister Mecham about ready to arrive. Wow!

But first, the youth conference.

This is a picture of their arrival. They were transported by buses, which stopped down the road a couple of blocks, leaving the kids to walk into the camp itself. After the mornings' instruction (see previous post), they arrived here at about noon or there abouts.

Again, there was about 400 of them or a few more. And they were very well organized, orderly and well behaved.

After getting settled in and particpating in a talent show that evening, it came time for lights out. These kids really know how to have a camp. There was no need for adults to remain on alert through the night trying to be certain the young men and women stayed where they belonged. They simply did what they should and all had a restful nights sleep.

The next morning, they were all up early (on their own), studying the scriptures wherever they could find a spot.

The next day was full of fun and instruction, with several sites selected through which they rotated for the individual instruction/fun that was organized in each.

And they had a wonderful time!  There was a fireside Friday night and then a dance. Sister Caldwell and I (along with a few riders) left after the fireside to return to our apartment in UB. They wouldn't let us stay, insisting that we were too old and they didn't have room anyway!

We hear they stayed up a bit late this night. They all knew that it all was drawing to an end and they did not want to waste a minute of it!

But, indeed, all good things must come to an end and Saturday morning was that time. So, after spending much of the morning making baby quilts, they returned to UB.

And remember, some of them then had to climb on buses and spend as long as three more days on bumpy, rough dirt roads, getting home!

We hope they will remember this experience as long and as fondly as we will!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Be Strong Part 2

When the day of the youth conference arrived (Thursday, June 17th -- see previous post), we went over to the Church early, to help provide breakfast and a sack lunch for the some of the kids (the ones who had needed to travel in from the countryside) before they left. We arrived at a little past six o'clock. Thought we might find things still a bit quiet, there.


The kids who had traveled in from the countryside, had stayed overnight in the mission offices, sleeping anywhere they could find a piece of floor big enough to through out a blanket or two.

As you can see from the pictures, when we arrived that morning, the kids where already up and were cleaning the church building!! We were astonished! They really did a job on that place, too! They had a fireside at the building a bit later,
cleaned everything up, and packed there belongings before leaving. You can see them all in their youth conference T-Shirts waiting for the fireside to start.
This is the scripture upon which the conference was based. "Be strong and of a good courage" (Joshua 1:9)

Finally, we sent them off to camp. It was about an hour to an hour and a half ride on buses to get them there. Half of the drive was getting through to the other side of the city. Then they hit the bad dirt 'roads'. And that's after the three day ride some of them had just getting to the city! But we never heard a complaint.

We were unable to go with them that first day, being obligated to teach English. But we did go up for the day on Friday. When we reached the camp (and part of the drive was on some of the worst 'roads' we have seen here), we found a very unexpected surprise. It was in the middle of some heavily tree'd forest! We had no idea there was that kind of forest anywhere near Ulaanbaatar.

This last picture shows the camp where they stayed. It was really a pretty nice place. Similar to Mill Hollow (a public school system in the Salt Lake City area), but actually nicer in some ways. Not perfect, but it more than did the job for us.

We share more of the actual conference in the next post.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Be Strong!!

This is going to take a couple of different posts, but we have a lot to share.

This last week, Elder and Sister Cook visited with us here in the Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar mission. Elder Cook was the first mission president here, beginning in 1994. At first, he wasn't the mission president because there was no mission, yet. But that quickly changed and the Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar mission was born.

His wife, Sister Cook, is the 1st Counselor in the General Young Womens' Presidency. The two of them brought a lot of wonderful instruction with them, which they provided while they renewed long time friendships and visited with many members here whom they have come to love over the years.

Elder Cook was the one who found and brought several key people into the mission and whom are very much still an important part of the mission today. One of those is Batbold (pictured). Elder Cook needed someone who knew the area (they certainly didn't at first!), had a car and could drive them around town.

So, he went out on the street and watched cars as they drove by, hoping to flag someone down who looked like the right one for the job. You need to understand that this is how you get around here. You just hold your hand out, indicating that you need a taxi. Usually, an actual taxi of some sort stops. But often, just somebody passing by who could use a couple of bucks, stops and temporarily becomes a taxi.

As he watched, he saw a van driving by and thought, 'That's just the kind of vehicle we need!', and he held out his had. The man stopped and off they went, looking around the city.

The gentleman's name was Batbold. They managed to communicate enough that Elder Cook let him know he needed him again the next day. And the next day. And the next day after that! But finally Batbold said, 'I can't drive for you anymore.' Elder Cook asked,'Why not?', to which Batbold answered, 'This isn't my car!'

Elder Cook felt that Batbold was needed by the Lord here and told him that it was ok, they needed him to do other things for them. Batbold has been working for the Church every since. He is the 2nd Counselor in the Mission Presidency and handles all of the physical needs for us missionaries. Such things as making sure we all have apartments to live in and that everything is kept working as it should in those apartments.

Batbold is a wonderful man, well loved and respected by everyone in the mission. In fact, the mission would likely about fall apart with out him. He travels throughout all of Mongolia, taking care of problems and making certain everything is in good order.

While Elder and Sister Cook were here, we had Youth Conference. It was three days long, running Thursday thru Saturday, June 17, 18 and 19. And what a youth conference it was!!

This was a nation wide youth conference and the youth were brought in from all over Mongolia. That in and of itself was a monumental task. If you have been following this blog or are familiar with Mongolia, you will know that roads here are not exactly what we are used to in the States. We've included a couple of reminders of what most roads are like here.

One of the branches sent 41 youth across these roads, on a bus! Yup! A big old bus like the Greyhounds we find in the states. It is absolutely amazing where they take those buses!

And understand that this wasn't just a couple of hours of riding for those 41 youth. It took them three days none stop (night and day) to get here. Then, they spent three days camping at youth conference, climbed right back on those buses the afternoon that the conference ended, and headed back to Khovd, where their homes are! Hundreds of kilometers (oh, we mean miles) each way!

We don't ever want to hear American youth complain about some silly little 8 hour drive on freeways to get to a youth camp, again. It will fall on deaf ears!

These kids are unbelieveable. We were able to spend part of the conference with them and to help out a bit. It was a remarkable experience. We'll tell you more about it in the next post.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Childrens Center Service

We recently had the opportunity to volunteer at a children's center which is trying to reopen. This is something like a daycare in the States, except that some children will live here much of the year. And the children will range in age from quite young, to 11 or 12 years old, or perhaps even older.

This center is located in the middle of a large ger district (i.e. a residential area composed of gers and shanty's which are typical here).

We help one of the members here get the job as manager of this childrens center (Naraa) and she invited us to come and help get the flower beds ready and seeds planted. Naraa recently graduated from college here in what we would referr to as one of the Social Sciences. The lady who owns the center walked into our office one day and told us she was looking for a manager for a children's center. We immediately thought of Naraa.

And we had no sooner mentioned her name than she also came walking into our office! The lady hired Naraa on the spot!

When Naraa asked us if we could help, she didn't exactly have to twist any arms! Sister Caldwell, of course, was ecstatic that she could dig in the dirt again and plant some flowers! It's been a while since we have worked a flower bed!

Two senior couples along with one set of young missionaries went to help out.

We had a good time and accomplished a lot, despite an obnoxious wind blowing part of the time.

We especially liked all of the fun paintings on the walls in the compound!

Had to throw in this last picture. This is a section of wall along the back of the complound. It is fairly typical here to see a wide mix of fence types. Sometimes they just use whatever they have to get the job done!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Our Trip North Continued

During our out of town trip (see previous post), we saw some interesting things and visited some interesting places.

We were amazed to see miles and miles (oh, excuse me, kilometers and kilometers) of wheat fields, like the one pictured here. Mongolia does produce most of its' own flour needs, now, and is pushing to bring that to 100%.

Then we came across a herd of camels. As you will probably notice, they are rapidly loosing their winter coats, trading them in for summer attire. This big old guy seemed to be the 'King' of the group.

And finally, we drove the extra 15 or 20 kilometers from our northern most stop (Sukhbaarar City), to the Russian border. This is the guard station through which we had to pass, after already having obtained needed permits at a border patrol office in Sukhbaatar City. The road was gated at this point and the guard had to review our papers before he would let us through.

We were told that we were standing in Russia as we took this group picture. Elder and Sister Powell (a couple we have become quite close friends with and who traveled from Ulaanbaatar with us on this trip) are standing on our left (your right) and Elder and Sister Anderson (the senior couple assigned to Sukhbaatar City) are on our right (your left). That is more of Russia in the background.

On the map, you can see the red circle noting the area where we were (click on the picture to get a larger view). The river in the background of our group picture, is the Selenge River, which empties into Baikal Lake in Russia.

So now Sister Caldwell and I have been in Mongolia, Hong Kong China, Korea and Russia. Who'd a thunk!!