Friday, April 23, 2010

New Missionaries

Today has been a bit out of the ordinary. Well, at least part of it has.

Five Elders from Mongolia who had been serving in the States and one more who had been serving in Japan, returned here to finish their missions. This is one remedy that our Mission President has come up with to help with the problem of a sudden and unexpected lack of American missionaries (see previous posts). Of course, he didn't manage that all on his own. The Church endorsed the idea and did the actual reassigning.

All six speak excellent English and will be a real asset to the mission and to the Church here.

We have spoken with all of them and they are excellent young men! We are very inpressed. One in particular was special to us; Elder Onon. He does not look Mongolian, at all - light hair, green eyes, fair complexion. And VERY American mannerisms and language, now. But that is not what made him special to us.

It took us part of the day, but we soon learned that his mother and sister were two of the group we went to the Hong Kong Temple with for the first time, in March/April of 2009 (there are no surname's here which would have triggered us to that when we met him)! Not only that, but he had been serving in the Utah Ogden Mission. Sister Caldwell was raised in Ogden and most of her family is still there. In addition to that, his sister just received her mission call to day and she will be serving in . . . drum roll please . . . the Utah Ogden Mission!

More of the Lord's tender mercies!

Elder Onon translated for us tonight as we attended the weekly baptism. He is a young man who is very easy to like!

And we ought to tell you about baptisms here. Those baptized, change out of their wet clothing quickly and then rejoin the congregation back in the Chapel. We all sing songs while we wait for them. Once they have all returned, they bear their testimonies. Yes, brand new members stand in front of the congregation and tell us they know the Gospel is true. And the Chapel was filled to capacity! And somehow, their testimonies are extra special.

Don't you wish you could be here sometimes?!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Hills Are Alive . . .

Last Saturday, April 17, 2010, the Church held a choir festival in Mongolia. It was really something!

The idea was ‘hatched’ about four or five months ago by President Andersen. But no one really had any idea it would become what it did when time came to perform.
Most anticipated small choirs from each branch (maybe 15 to 20 tops). But when festival time arrived, a total of 650 choir members performed from 18 branches! That’s an average of slightly more than 36 in each choir! I never saw a ward choir that large in our home stake in Utah. One Branch choir had 50 members in it!

Oh, did you noticed in the pictures the matching dress? That was something else not anticipated and certainly not requested. The members here really got into this whole idea of a choir festival!

The mission rented the large ‘pink’ theater just south of Sukhbaatar Square - for those of you who have been here, it is the one next to the Irish Pub and where the National Academy of Dance performs. A dress rehearsal was held beginning at 11:00 am that morning, closely followed by the official performance at 1:00 (ok, they didn’t actually start ‘til 1:30).

But the performance was nearly flawless! And the singing was actually very, very good (something else we don’t usually see in our Ward choirs back home!).

And the theater seating was nearly full to capacity as the 1:00 performance started. All three levels of seats (the main floor and two balcony's!

Elder and Sister Lasson (mostly Sister Lasson, really – it was her assignment) organized and orchestrated the festival – no small matter, in view of the much larger than anticipated participation. She had to continually adjust for larger than planned choir sizes.

The finale consisted of two numbers by all choirs combined (a feat in and of itself, with choir members filling the stage and standing in the isles). They sang “The Spirit of God” and “The Mongolian National Anthem”. It was quite moving, as you might be able to guess.

Oh, and we must mention one choir in particular. A very recently opened missionary area called Bulgan has just five Church members. But they participated with a 20 member choir! Yup, that means five members and 15 investigators!

All of the senior couples helped 'direct traffic', helped with the choirs between numbers and assisted in other ways where we could. But the really hard work had already been done.

Now, remember. This is an all Mongolian choir in this video. Few, if any, of them can speak more than a dozen or so words of English. This song is also not in the limited hymn book they have available here. But they learned it and are singing it -- in English. Most of the numbers were done in Mongolian but a couple of choirs did sing one song in English.

One last thing. The whole performance was recorded using the high quality recording equipment available at the theater. And the mission has now decided that it would be a good idea to make copies available on CD to every member home. You see, it would be the first and only church music available to these good members in their own language. At least most of it is in their own language! Some thing else we sort of take for granted in the States.

This was really a special event and one not soon to be forgotten.

Kudos to the choirs, the Lassons and others for a job well done!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Our Homeless Shelter

There have been a number of difficulties which we have been reporting on here in our blog. Well, we have also had some difficulties with the homeless shelter in Nalaikh -- the one for which we have asked to serve as project managers for a Humanitarian Project approved by the Church to help them. It seems there have developed some significant conflicts between the owner and the manager there. So, we have had to back away from that project, hoping that it will soon be resolved, allowing us to continue our relationship with them.

But all is not lost. Our initial contact and association with a number of those living there, was not lost entirely. A few of them continued to come to Church services on Sunday and wanted the missionary lessons, too.

Last Friday night, one of the 21 one baptisms we spoke of in our last post, was one of our new friends from the shelter -- Naraanbaatar.

Naraanbaatar (the one in the middle in this picture) was one of the first people we met during our initial visits there. He speaks a bit of English and we found that to be useful on more than one of our visits there. He is a good guy and we were thrilled to see him accept the Gospel and to watch the change that we can see in him.

Not only that, but it was his birthday Sunday. So, we decided to make a cake and have a little birthday party for him after Sacrament Meetings (you know, the only meeting we are currently allowed to have on Sunday in many buildings). He was thrilled!

We hope we will yet have the opportunity to see that same change in others at the shelter. The Gospel can provide so much hope for people -- especially those who have had so much reason to loose hope during a tough time in their lives.