Sunday, May 31, 2009

Wes' Update on 5/31/09

This past week continued to be a learning week. I think they all will be. It’s amazing how much work there is in an office with all the paper work. In Mongolia, without a stake, everything has to come through the mission including building problems (branch and office), disciplinary councils, CES, and humanitarian efforts. In other words, the mission must do every thing a stake would do plus what a mission does. President Andersen has duties equivalent to a mission president plus a stake president.

A week from today (June 7th) the first stake in Mongolia will be organized. It should take some of the load off the mission president. Since Mongolia has not had a stake, there have been no ordinations of men as high priests and there has been no patriarch. There must be a stake to have a patriarch so the members have had to go to a stake outside of the country to obtain their patriarchal blessings.

The weather has been weird. Wednesday the weather got up to 87° where we were looking for air conditioning, and the next day Thursday it was down to 32° with snow. There were four seasons all in one day. It snowed, hailed, rained, and the sun was out. Friday there was also snow. Back home we blame all the cold weather on the Canadians; here it is blamed on the Russians (Siberia).

We continue to teach our four English classes each week. When I say we that means Joan teaches the classes, and I’m her helper. The big class of about 40 young people does quite well. The class of doctors struggles with pronunciation, but we are making progress.

Wednesday night we went with the Caldwells to a theater for a performance of the Mongolian National Song and Dance Academic Ensemble. It turned out to be a little ballet, folk music, contortions (four young girls twisting there bodies all out of shape in unison), throat singing, the national orchestra, and a few other things. (Joan here. I was really impressed with their orchestra. They don’t have the same instruments we have, but it was very good.)

There has been a couple in town this week from Holiday, Utah, Brother and Sister Harrie. He is an ophthalmologist and has been conducting a vision clinic here in UB. One of the vision problems here is botched cataract surgery on younger people.

Friday night we went to a baptism at the Chingeltei building where two people were baptized. At the Bayanzurkh building there were eight baptisms. I don’t know how many baptisms there were Friday night for the entire mission, but mission wide for the last three weeks there have been between 15 and 20 baptisms each week. The mission is looking to have about 1000 baptisms by the end of the year.

After the baptism we enjoyed going out to eat at the Indian restaurant with the Clarks and Hitchmoughs.

Joan here again. On Saturday morning each piano class had a recital for the students in the class. In the beginner’s class there were 8 students who played; in the advanced class (more than 6 weeks of lessons) there were 10 students who played. Sometimes I wish the students could be worked with one on one to develop more technique, but despite this and the lack of opportunity to practice, they are making progress, and you can see that some students have talent.

Saturday evening we enjoyed going to the Caldwells for a pizza dinner and visiting with them.

Today we attended church at Sukhbaatar before Wes had to come back to Bayanzurkh for another meeting. We traveled by taxi. Taxi means you put your arm out with your palm down at about the 4 o’clock position. You take a ride with whoever stops for you (it is seldom an official taxi). The driver takes you where you want to go and you pay him. I guess you can call it paid hitchhiking.

Some of the cars here have the steering wheel on the left side as we do, and others have it on the right side. The roads are like ours so you can imagine the problem on a country two-lane road when a driver with a steering wheel on the right wants to pass the car in front of him. He can’t see so he pulls way out so he can see. Also despite the dangerous driving, only the people in the front seats wear seat belts. I looked in the mission van for a seat belt and couldn’t find one.

Today is the senior couples’ fireside which is usually held on Fast Sunday, but next week won’t work because of the district conference. The couples alternate at which home it is held and a lesson is taught from Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. TPJS hasn’t been translated into Mongolian so it isn’t used here for Priesthood / Relief Society.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Update on May 24, 2009

What I’ve enjoyed is attending the baptism at Chingeltei on Fri. May 8th, attending church at the branch at Nalaikh on Sun. May 10th, and attending church at the branch at Sukhbaatar on Sun. May 17th. The people are very friendly and line up to be sure to shake everyone’s hand before the meetings begin. The meetings themselves can be difficult because they are all in Mongolian. A missionary translator sits behind us, but we lose a lot in the translation.

At the baptisms here first they have the talks on baptism and confirmation as we do, but the talks are much longer. Then after the baptism, all the new converts stand in front and bear their testimonies. The Mongolian brothers and sisters have no problem standing on their feet and bearing their testimonies and giving talks.

Today we attended church at the Selbe branch at 10 a.m. in the Bayanzurkh building (the mission office building). We attended here instead of our assigned branch because Wes had a meeting here at 11:30 a.m. In this branch there is an English Sunday School class. It was great hearing a lesson in English. I don’t know if the class will continue because several of the people in the class are leaving Mongolia.

Backing up to last Saturday night (May 16th) we had our Cinco de Mayo party at President and Sister Andersen’s. It was fun getting together. There are some good cooks in the group. They even made a piñata with candy inside. A group game they played afterwards had everyone divided into two groups. The leader said the word “sun.” Each group had to take turns singing a song with the word “sun” in it. The group only had to sing maybe 6 – 10 words of the song (I forget how many), but they could sing the whole song. When one group got stuck and couldn’t think of another song, the last team to sing a song got the number of points for how many songs had been sung. The next word from the leader was “rain,” and we went back and forth with that song.

Sunday evening (May 17th) was a departing missionary fireside. There were eight sisters and one elder leaving. The room was packed with missionaries, RM’s, and other Church members. The district president, President Odgerel, spoke first. Then each of the departing missionaries bore his/her testimony. It was a special meeting and reminded me of the zone conference with Elder Perkins.

One lady in attendance at the departing missionary fireside was a Polish lady who lives in Finland and is writing a thesis on religion. Elder Clark invited her to take the missionary discussions to help her with her thesis. Elder Clark doesn’t lose any opportunities to invite people to hear the gospel.

During the week we work in the office. We get there a little after 8 in the morning and stay until around 6 p.m. or later. We do leave the office for teaching our English classes. We taught our first hospital classes last Tuesday and Thursday to doctors at Hospital 2. Some of the students do know some English, but they haven’t talked much with Americans. We found some materials on discussing a patent’s health ailments; however the doctors will need to use a dictionary for more complicated medical terms. There are doctors coming from Utah in a week or so to have a conference with them.

The Tuesday and Thursday evening class is taught at Bayanzurkh. I don’t know how many in the class are members of the Church. The building is a popular place. People come in and attend classes and activities; they say they like the feeling in the building. Tuesday night we just observed; Thursday we taught the class for the first time. The class turned out great.

An hour before class I went down to the room and rearranged the tables and chairs so I could see down the lengths of the tables and relate better to the students and wander among them. When I got to the class at 6 pm, the students had helpfully(?) rearranged the tables and chairs back to their usual arrangement. They then helped me restore them to my arrangement, but I had a couple of tables angled, and they thought the tables should make right angles with the walls.

There is stress with teaching the English classes since we’re new to it and have to find materials and decide what we’ll teach to both classes each Tuesday and Thursday. Saturday morning I helped Sister Anderson teach her piano class. She is in charge so I don’t need to think about what I’ll teach at this point; I can just help students at the keyboards.

Friday night we were supposed to attend the baptism at Sukhbaatar, but we didn’t get there. Professor Otgon from Hospital #2 called us late Friday afternoon and asked if we could look over a grant application which the hospital had written in English. It may be for the American doctors who are coming. I went over the English, asked him what he meant by certain phrases, and corrected them. It took a while. I think the doctors at the hospital didn’t want to be embarrassed by their application.

Well I’ve now found four things to cook for dinner. I’ve cooked tuna noodle casserole, burritos with refried beans (made from scratch), scrambled eggs and pancakes, and today I made pork stir fry. The pork was the first meat I’ve purchased. Sister Andersen recommended it, and it came nicely packaged. I still have been too squeamish to buy beef; I’m afraid I’ll end up with horse meat instead of beef.

I still need to find some chicken bouillon cubes so I can add more recipes. You can find a lot of things here, but you need to keep looking for them. You just can’t go to a store and find what you want right away. I’ve been told if you find something you want, buy it right then. There are a couple of stores that look more like our supermarkets, but most of them are vendors side by side, selling whatever they’ve found to sell.

It has surprised me to occasionally see Costco’s Kirkland brand here. Bonnie, I’ll be sending you a request for Greg to take some spices out of my cupboard, put them in a padded envelope, and send them to me.

Let us hear how all of you are doing. We miss you.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Elder and Sister Caldwell

Earlier I mentioned that Elder and Sister Caldwell, who knew Wes' twin brother Stan, were also on a mission in Mongolia. To learn more information about Mongolia and the mission, you might want to look at their website:

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Week 2 in Mongolia

We have been busy and often feel exhausted. Maybe we’re just not used to the schedule yet. The mission office was quiet on Monday because President Andersen was still out of town visiting with Elder Perkins. Tuesday with the president back everything came to life. There are people everywhere in the Bayanzurkh building between conferences, interviews, employment, and all of the different programs.

As part of my office responsibilities I file the correspondence from the missionaries to the president. Also right now I’m putting together 10 farewell booklets for missionaries who are going home. Eight Mongolian sisters leave this Tuesday.

There is a lot of good work happening here in Mongolia. I’m impressed with Deseret Charities; they’re involved in digging wells, providing wheelchairs, and providing other humanitarian services.

Elder Jackson has done a tremendous amount of work in finding returned missionaries. He sends them an email each week. Today (Saturday May 16th) an all-day RM conference was held with 140 in attendance. Dad got the opportunity to give a 15-minute presentation on repentance to five different groups.

Thursday night we had dinner with President and Sister Andersen in their apartment. Elder and Sister Clark were also there, and we played games after dinner.

We received our English teaching assignment from the Hitchmoughs. To be in the country we must teach English. The Hitchmoughs provide a report to the government on how much and where we teach. We will be teaching in the mission office building (Bayanzurkh) on Tuesday and Thursday evening from 6 to 7:15 p.m. We will also teach English to physicians in Hospital 2 on Tuesday and Thursday afternoon from 3 to 4 p.m.

Now that our week of orientation is over, I’ll have to think about cooking. There is a driver for the mission who takes us shopping each Friday. We were gone 2½ hours Friday so I owe him $10 American dollars for the trip. Last night I made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for the Zone Conference today, and today I made a 7-layer dip for the senior get-together tonight.

There is a lot of socializing among the seniors. Even so I’ve still lost 5 pounds this week and Dad has done the same.

Today for breakfast we went to the 5th floor of the Ghengis Khan Hotel (it is across the street from the apartment buildings in which we live) at 7:30 in the morning for breakfast. They fixed omelets to order. President and Sister Andersen, Elder and Sister Clark, Elder and Sister Hitchmough, and we were there. Then people had to leave to get to the church (the Bayanzurkh building). Tonight we have a Cinco de Mayo celebration for the senior couples (only 2 weeks late).

We received our branch assignment today. We will be assigned to the Sukhbaatar Branch. We will go there with the Hitchmoughs, and then we will be the only couple there when they go home in July. This is one of the branches that will not be in the new stake. The couples are assigned to branches not in the new stake in order to strengthen them so they can form a stake.

The decision as to whether or not there is enough priesthood strength to form a stake is based upon the number of Melchizedek priesthood holders who are full tithe payers.

We were scheduled to have the first stake in Mongolia organized at a district conference next weekend. However, because of an election for the president of Mongolia, the use of a building in UB for the conference was cancelled. Therefore the stake will not be organized until the weekend of June 6th and 7th.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Zone Conference

Welcome to Mongolia

At 8 am on our first morning (Thur. May 7th) we had an interview with President Andersen who was to leave soon to pick up Elder Perkins from the Asian Area presidency for a tour of the mission. We needed to boil water so we could take quick baths before reporting to the mission office.

After the interview we met people and were shown around the mission building. On the 1st floor is the chapel. On the 3rd floor is the Mongolian Service Center. The 4th floor is the mission office, and the 5th floor is the mission president’s home.

Everyone has gone out of their way to welcome us. I’ll attach the schedule they gave us for the first week. Every night we have dinner with a different couple. Elder and Sister Clark have shown us around some stores and taken us out to eat.

Elder and Sister Stevens Orientation

Because Elder and Sister Perkins were in town, the first evening we attended a singing and dancing performance at 6 pm by Tumen Ekh, a Mongolian National Song and Dance Ensemble. This was enjoyable. (

Following this there was a potluck dinner at President Andersen’s apartment. There were 10 couples in attendance.
President and Sister Andersen, mission president
Elder and Sister Perkins, area presidency (area president on July 1st)
Elder and Sister Clark, senior couple with humanitarian services
Elder and Sister Caldwell, senior couple over employment
Elder and Sister Anderson, senior couple from Choibalsan
Elder and Sister Hitchmough, senior couple over teaching English in Mongolia
Elder and Sister Anderson, senior couple, husband is mission doctor and wife is teaching music
Elder and Sister Jackson, senior couple (he was President Andersen’s mission president years ago), he is over finding returned missionaries and she is over family history
Brother and Sister Nolan, service center manager going home at the end of the month
Elder and Sister Stevens (that means us, brand new senior couple)

We are the office couple, but we do not have our assignment to a branch yet. President Andersen may be waiting for the weekend of May 23-24 when the first Mongolian Stake will be organized. Some of the branches will then be part of the stake instead of the mission.

Wes gets the privilege of getting a driver’s license here; I’m glad I don’t have to get one. The traffic is horrendous and people don’t know how to drive. We were told when driving to stay close to the bumper of the car ahead or someone will try to cut in. If you allow other cars in, that will block traffic.

Friday (May 8th), our second day, we attended a Zone Conference. After the conference we had dinner with Dr. and Sister Anderson and then went with them to a baptism at 6:30 pm at the Chingeltei building. In the mission every Friday night is baptism night at each of the buildings. I enjoyed meeting with the members at the baptism. However, I never understand what they are saying.

For the elders and sisters, in addition to the English missionaries learning Mongolian, the Mongolian missionaries are encouraged to learn English.

Yesterday (Saturday May 9th), our third day, we went shopping in the State Store, viewed some of the sites in UB, and had lunch with the Clarks.

Then in the evening ate dinner with the Clarks and the Nolans at an Indian Restaurant, Hazara. Gloria Wheeler was also at the dinner. She is a retired professor from B.Y.U. and is teaching research methods on a Fulbright scholarship for an M.B.A. class at the university in Mongolia.

Afterwards the Nolans showed us pictures of their trip in April to China (they are not missionaries). The pictures were beautiful. Everything was green and blooming. They said China is very clean, and the people are happy.

Today we are to attend church with the Caldwells at Nalaikh followed by dinner with them. When Elder Caldwell saw Wes, he wondered about it. Apparently he was friends with Stan, Wes’ identical twin brother, in West Valley.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Arrival in Mongolia

We arrived in Mongolia close to 11 pm on Wed. May 6th. We were met by President and Sister Andersen who drove us to our apartment in Ulaanbaatar. My first reaction to UB was I’m not sure about this. When we walked up to our apartment, I knew I was in a different country and culture. Things did look better in the light of day.

The flight from Salt Lake City to UB was over 24 hours including layovers. The most difficult problem was in San Francisco where Korean Air did not accept the carry-on limits from Delta. Delta allows a 40 lb. carry-on whereas Korean Air only accepted 24 lb. We ended up buying another small suitcase and dividing one carry-on into two suitcases, one for each of us. Then we checked the other original carry-on and paid Delta’s fee of $200 for a 3rd checked bag. We were glad they didn’t weigh our “personal” item which was a computer bag with two laptops inside.

The service on the flight from San Francisco to Seoul, Korea on Korean Air was great. Incheon Airport in Korea is a very nice airport. Up until that point the trip didn’t seem too long; it was daylight the entire time. But after the wait at the airport and the flight into UB, the trip became long.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Mission Home - Week 2

We have now finished our second week at the MTC. The first four days we had mission office training with the church program MOS (Missionary Office System).

On Friday we received EIL instruction which stands for English International Instruction. It differs from ESL in that ESL teaches English and American culture and EIL teaches English without the American culture. It is designed to help students learn English so they can improve their economic situation since English is an international language. We will finish our EIL instruction and teach an English class on Monday.

This week on Friday we found the couple going to Mongolia who will enter the MTC in July. They are Elder and Sister Lassen. They live in Salt Lake City and come down to the MTC for their language instruction three days a week. They are a great couple. It was difficult not to shake their hands.

At the fireside last Sunday night the MTC mission was given the directive to not shake hands. You forget how ingrained shaking hands is, especially in a Church setting. We are to wash our hands a lot, use hand sanitizing lotion frequently (there are dispensers all over the MTC), and not to shake hands.

The couple and elders and sisters who are to go to Mexico are on hold because of the problem with the Swine Flu and the airport closed in Mexico.

There is a couple here, Elder and Sister Berrett, who entered the MTC Feb. 2nd. They were to go to Vietnam which is part of the Cambodian Mission. Their first assignment was Saigon, then Ho Chi Minh. After a while it became apparent that no visa would be issued for them to enter Vietnam. Last Sunday they received a reassignment. Now their mission call is to the Philippines, and they are again waiting for a visa. After having learned Vietnamese, they are now trying to learn Tagalog while awaiting their new visa.

There is a branch in Quartsite, AZ which has a lot of snowbirders. In March their branch president issued calls to some of the snowbirders to serve a 6-month mission to Cove Fort. Last week’s incoming senior group included 9 couples from Quartsite, AZ. One of the couples who arrived didn’t receive their call until Mon. April 27th, but they were in the MTC by Wed. April 29th. They will live in their own fifth wheelers or trailers. I understand one couple didn’t have a trailer so they went out and got one.

We met with our tutor Sarah (Сарантуяа) Batbold WF evening last week and MWF evening this week from 6-8 pm and on Saturday morning from 10-12 am. Sarah’s mother, her aunt, and her uncle flew in from Mongolia for her wedding which is Saturday May 9th in the St. George Temple. She brought them to class Friday night so we could practice speaking Mongolian with them. We enjoyed meeting them; they are very nice people. We found that her uncle knows more English than we know Mongolian.

Our speaker at last Tuesday’s devotional was Elder Lynn G. Robbins of the 1st Quorum of Seventy who is an assistant executive director of the missionary department. His talk was on developing Christlike attributes. He quoted 3 Ne 27:27 “What manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am” and 3 Ne. 27:21 “That which ye have seen me do, even that shall ye do.”

He said just as vital as what you do is what you are. He said you can’t have DO without BE or you have the appearance of godliness, but deny the power thereof. You also can’t have BE without DO because faith without works is dead. We are to set specific DO goals to develop a Christlike attribute since a BE can’t be measured. Then scores of DO’s will result in a BE.

Sunday morning was a missionary conference from 10 am – 12 pm where the members of the mission presidency and their wives spoke. Sister Smith, the MTC mission president’s wife, said, “If you are faithful, he will make you more than you are alone.” She quoted Elder Holland, “Missionary work is hard; get used to it.” Then she added, share with everyone who will listen; be anxiously engaged every minute. Thus we’ll fulfill our covenants.

For the Sunday evening fireside the speakers were Elder and Sister Anderson from an MTC district presidency. They both spoke about the prophet Joseph Smith. Sister Anderson remarked, the Lord expects obedience with exactness as exemplified by the prophet Joseph Smith.

Thursday evening was our first free evening since we’ve been at the MTC. We had the pleasure of having Stephanie come to visit us. She returned from Israel on Thur. April 23rd after we’d already entered the MTC; we were happy to see her.

Saturday afternoon Wendy and Travis came to see us. We enjoyed spending time with them. Wendy received her master’s degree in accounting the day before from Weber State University.

Sunday afternoon around 4 p.m. Connie and Elden came to see us. Then after 5 o’clock and before our fireside, Marjorie, John, Jordan, Amanda, and Chelsie came to say goodbye. It’s hard to say goodbye to all of our family and our friends. We love all of you and will miss you, but the Lord will watch over you.