Friday, March 12, 2010

The Other Side of . . . Mongolia

Thanks to Elder and Sister Lasson, we had an opportunity last Wednesday evening to do something we had always wanted to do but never could get around to it - - or even figure out how, for that matter.

You see, there is a well known wrestling palace just to the south of the Mission Office building and only about a block away. Wrestling is a big deal here and people
take much pride in the champion quality wrestlers who compete from here. So, the Wrestling Palace is something of a landmark.

But they also hold a wide variety of other events in that building. Such things as concerts, rally's, meetings,etc. are common. And we've always wanted to attend one of the concerts (no, we did not attend a wrestling match!).

A week or two ago, someone the Lasson's had worked with in their capacity as Humanitarian Directors knocked on their door, wanting to know if they were interested in attending a concert at the Wrestling Palace. So, they asked the rest of the seniors (at least the ones who were still around) and we all decided to go -- all three couples, minus the Mission President who was unfortunately busy.

We didn't know exactly what the concert would be, but it sounded like it might be interesting. We were actually thinking it would be Mongolian music and theme.

Not quite!!

We learned after the fact that the concert actually had a dual purpose. It seems that a very well known entertainer here (Tomorbaatar - the guy in the brown suit pictured above is NOT him. You can see Tomorbaatar in the video below) had reached his 60th birthday and his wife was having a difficult time with an illness. So, the concert was to celebrate his birthday and to raise funds for his wife to obtain medical treatment.

The concert itself was something of an 'oldies' concert, so to speak. Tomorbaatar had been very popular a few years back and most people we asked knew him and would say, "Oh, he was popular when I was a kid!" Ahhh, just our kind of concert! And while he was not the only performer, he certainly was the 'headliner'.

But this was not to be what we would refer to as 'typical Mongolian music' though there were a few really beautiful traditional Mongolian songs performed. The theme, however, might best be loosely described as older generation international big band type music.

Here's a video sample of Tomorbaatar. We call this "Mongolia, Italian style!" As you can see, he is quite an entertainer. We're sorry for the poor quality video, but upload speeds here are a bit of a problem and we had to make the file as small as we could. If you look closely, you will be able to see some of his moves and antics. He was like that the whole show.

We really quite enjoyed the evening. And we got to see the inside of the Wrestling Palace in the bargain!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Things are looking up!

We have been told that two of the four couples which had to leave a little over one week ago, will return tomorrow! As we understand it, their paperwork all cleared and they have reserved seats on a return flight on Saturday, though we don't know what time, yet. So, of course, we are having a welcome home party for Elder and Sister Powell and Elder and Sister (Choibalsan) Anderson, Saturday night!

Elder and Sister Eliason and Elder and Sister Atkins should follow in a couple of days. That means we will likely be without a mission doctor (Elder Eliason) for about two weeks.

And what's more, Elder and Sister Clark arrived last night for their 'repeat engagement'. At least they were supposed to have. We haven't seen them, yet, but assume that they made it late last night.

Welcome back, all!

Now, if we can just work things out for the younger missionaries.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


A couple of weeks ago, we included a post about the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti. Information we had received from a senior couple there. We thought you might like to read a similar report from the Mission President and his wife in Chile.

This is a link to the original article in Meridian Magazine. It's worth reading.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Humanitarian Service Project

We mentioned a while ago that we had been asked to oversee a Humanitarian Service Project. The proposal for that project was submitted some time ago, has been approved, and we have started the first part in what will likely be a lengthy effort.

The project centers around a homeless shelter in Nalaikh, the same city where the branch is located to which we were assigned after first arriving here. Many of you will be aware, by now, that Nalaikh is about 35 to 40 kilometers from where we live in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar.

Nalaikh was especially hard hit when most of the mining operations there closed. Many who had been employed there for years, suddenly found themselves unemployed. And jobs are not exactly easy to come by here. It has been a rather sad and difficult situation.

The lady responsible for the referred to shelter -- Erdenetsetseg (pronounced Erden setseg)-- began the project on her own last fall. She has used her own money to purchase an available building in Nalaikh and has continued to do her best to support and maintain that facility since, seeking donations and help wherever she can find them.

Approximately 80 men, women and children are currently staying in the shelter. And it is a heart rending sight to visit there, sometimes. One doesn't see a lot of hope in the eyes of those seeking refuge there. They are glad to have some place to be in out of the cold, but they would rather be able to be self sustaining and useful.

They come in all 'sizes', from laborers to trained computer technicians and engineers. And they need help, in a wide variety of ways.

So far we have been able to purchase two clothes washers, a heavy duty commercial sewing machine, yards and yards of material and individual toiletries. Those living in the shelter will be taught by Erdenetsetseg to use the sewing machine. Then they will make their own bedding and some of their own clothing. She will also teach them how to make bags which they can sell to grocery stores and elsewhere to be used by their customers. Erdenetsetseg believes in helping them earn their own way and seldom gives things to them. They have to make it for themselves or earn it.

We will yet purchase other equipment and supplies which they can also use to make things they still need (like tables and benches to sit on for meals - they don't have any right now) and to make their own way. We're sure there will be many future posts here about these efforts.

At their request, we will also teach a variety of things, such as honesty, personal hygiene, English, Addiction Recovery . . . and the Gospel. Erdenestesteg requested each of those things (we think she will be a fantastic Relief Society President some day if she ever joins the Church!) and we can think of no better way to lift and help them than that.

In our opinion, Erdenestesteg has a wonderful perspective of how to help those who are less fortunate and also what it takes for a people to lift themselves and regain lost happiness and satisfaction. She has been a joy to work with.

We have also felt a desire to help in other ways. To, for example, help them know that they are important to us and to others; that they are not forgotten and uncared for. We take every opportunity we can to visit them, to put our arms around them and help them feel good about themselves. They are our brothers and sisters, too.