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!!
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.