Sunday, November 22, 2009

Update on November 22, 2009

Swine Flu
I don’t know about the effectiveness of the swine flu quarantine, but I think it’s the only thing the government knows to do. Swine flu didn’t enter Mongolia until the middle of October. Within a month there were almost a thousand confirmed cases. To date there have been more than 1000 confirmed cases and 18 deaths. Mongolia has a very small population. There are only 3 million people in the entire country with one-half of the population in Ulaanbaatar. The population of Mongolia is about 1% that of the U.S.

I think a lot of the concern about swine flu is due to the country’s limited health care resources. Flu vaccines have not arrived yet, and there is no Tami Flu. Also the health care facilities are not equipped to handle an epidemic.

The schools in Mongolia had a fall holiday; it was extended two weeks for the quarantine. Students 6th grade and up are returning to school on Monday (Nov. 23). We still cannot hold Church meetings or have big gatherings or events which children will attend. We will resume Addiction Recovery meetings this Tuesday. However with the loss of momentum, I’m not sure how many will come to the Addiction Recovery meeting.

Thanksgiving Dinner
Although there is still a quarantine, we decided we could feed our missionaries on Thanksgiving Day since there are no children involved. We’ll have the missionaries immediately come into the building so it doesn’t look like a large crowd is congregating. Thanksgiving Day on Thursday is also Mongolian Independence Day. We will serve Thanksgiving Dinner around 12:30 pm to all of the missionaries in Ulaanbaatar and Nalaikh. I believe we’ll feed about 100 people. No turkey; we will substitute pork.

Food assignments were passed out to the senior couples. Wes made 8 dozen rolls yesterday (I believe 3 people are making rolls). We also cooked 2 large pork roasts as part of our assignment, and Wednesday I’ll make 3 pans of jello.

It’s hard for us to realize it’s Thanksgiving and almost December. The months keep rolling on. We have been on our mission 7 months out of the 18 months.

We still are not having any success with visas for new American missionaries. We were promised a letter last Monday, but they’re stalling and we haven’t seen the letter.

Senior Couple Activities
Last weekend (Fri. Nov. 13) we had the Whitmans come over and play Ticket to Ride with us. A previous missionary couple had left the game here. On Saturday (Nov. 14) the senior couples got together and played games. Sister Andersen made great caramel corn. If you want the recipe, let me know.

Wednesday the Woolseys from Hong Kong who are with Deseret International Charities were in town so we all went out to eat at an Indian Restaurant near the Bayanzurkh building.

Yesterday we went to a Christmas craft show at the American housing. I bought a couple of Christmas items so I’d think it is Christmas here. In the evening we and the Caldwells were invited to the Whitmans for a pleasant evening with a dinner of wonderful Mexican soup.

Sacrament Services
Last Sunday and this Sunday we held a sacrament service at the Caldwell’s apartment. They turned their furniture around so it looked like the room was set up for a meeting. These small meetings are wonderful and filled with the Spirit. The Bouldin family joined us (he works at the U.S. Embassy). They have a 14-year old son who passed the sacrament to us. Wes gave a talk on forgiveness with stories illustrating the principle.

Elder Whitman gave a talk on Gen. 3:15 / Moses 4:21, “... He (Jesus Christ) shall bruise (crush) thy (Satan’s) head, and thou (Satan) shalt bruise his heel.” Bruising a heel is not fatal, but crushing a head is. In the atonement Satan bruised Christ as Christ took upon himself our sins (Isa. 53:5). But as a result of the atonement Christ will overcome sin and vanquish Satan (Rom. 16:20 and Heb. 2:14). Thus the creation story in Genesis is the first Biblical prophecy of the Savior’s atonement.

Missionary Work
Although we can’t attend our Sukhbaatar Branch and meet with the people in the branch, the missionaries are teaching many lessons. Some lessons have been taught in our apartment. By having the missionaries teach in our apartment we can feel the spirit with which they teach. It has been a blessing for us.

There is a new group of 20 Mongolian elders and sisters starting their mission this coming week. They will enter the Manilla MTC on Sat. Nov. 28. Because of the quarantine we won’t be able to hold a new missionary fireside this coming Tuesday night.

President’s Family
President and Sister Andersen’s daughter Alice has come to visit with her 3-month old baby boy. She’s been here a week. Her husband came in today, and they’ll be here one more week. It’s fun to have a baby in the mission. Last Tuesday I had the privilege of babysitting Josiah for a couple of hours while Sister Andersen and Alice went out.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Update on November 8, 2009

Church Sunday Nov. 1
A week ago at Church everyone was wearing a mask because of the swine flu scare. They passed out masks at Church, and the branch president reminded everyone to wear masks the following Sunday. Wearing masks is a very Asian thing to do. Even if as Americans we may not think masks are effective, the President said it is a matter of obedience to wear them.

In looking down from the stand I saw everyone wearing white masks with a few pale pink and blue masks thrown in. The priests administering the sacrament happened to be wearing black masks. It’s the first time I’ve seen priests administer the sacrament with black masks on; it looked very strange. The masks go from under the eyes to under the chin.

Welcome for Whitmans and Andersons
Saturday Oct. 31 we had the Whitmans over for dinner to welcome them here. On Monday Elder and Sister Raymond Anderson returned to serve another mission in Mongolia. They were able to come because they already had a visa. They had gone home for two months and returned to serve another mission for at least 18 months (they are planning on staying for 23 months). Elder Anderson served a mission as a youth and this is their fourth mission as a couple. They served a full-time mission for two years in a cannery. They served a mission in Croatia. Now this is their second mission in Mongolia.

On Wed. Nov. 4 we had a dinner in President Andersen’s apartment to welcome the two couples. The next day the Andersons flew to Choibalsan which is 377 miles or 606 kilometers east of UB.

Brownies Week
Last week was cupcakes week. This week was brownies week. We made 4 13"x9" pans of brownies. One pan was for the dinner for the Whitmans on Sat. Oct. 31, two pans were for the singles home evening at Sukhbaatar on Monday night, and one pan for the senior couples welcome dinner on Wednesday night.

Government Restrictions
Schools have been closed in Mongolia for a couple of weeks. As of last Wednesday the Church was closed in Darkhan and Erdenent and no youth under 16 could attend Church. Also our building was to be locked at 9 p.m. (as though swine flu only came out after 9 p.m.).

On Wednesday afternoon (Nov. 4) the government came out with a pronouncement that there are to be no public meetings in the country and no market places are to be open except for those that sell food. This restriction is to last at least two weeks. As a result we have had a quiet week since then with English classes, piano classes, addiction recovery, baptisms, seminary and institute, and all Church meetings cancelled.

The President is concerned about keeping prospective baptisms and members progressing in the gospel with the shut down. The missionaries are to concentrate on visiting and teaching new members; they are to teach a lot of lessons.

The bishops or branch presidents may authorize priesthood holders to administer the sacrament in their own homes. However there are not to be large groups, and members are not to be assigned to go to a given home for a sacrament meeting.

Saturday evening the sign language sisters, Sister Tsetsegmaa and Sister Azzaya, came over to our apartment to teach a lesson to a young girl who was baptized a year ago. It was interesting to watch them talking in sign language. Sister Azzaya translated for us from sign language to English.

Sunday afternoon Elder Michie and Elder Cardinal came over to administer the sacrament to 3 young people: Chintuya, her cousin, and a young man I don’t know. It was such a small group. It shows the significance of the sacrament is in the ordinance and covenants themselves; it does not require a large number of people and talks.

Missionary transfers occurred a week early on Sat. Oct. 31 instead of the scheduled day Sat. Nov. 7. The President felt impressed to do so although they’d never had transfers early before. The government declared all train rides cancelled within the country as of Sat. Nov. 7. There would have been problems if the transfers hadn’t occurred a week early.

Senior Family Home Evening
Sunday evening the senior couples gathered for our monthly family home evening at the Lasson’s apartment. With the Whitmans and Gloria we had 11 people present. We also had the privilege of having the sacrament administered at our home evening. After the sacrament our lesson was from the Joseph Smith manual, lesson #37 on Charity, the Pure Love of Christ. Each couple was assigned a bullet point to discuss. Our thoughts were on how we can enlarge our hearts in love towards others.
Charity, the Pure Love of Christ