Saturday, May 22, 2010

Update on May 22, 2010

You may see pictures later. If I wait to upload them, I'll never get the blog posted.

Choir Festival
We had a big event for the Church in Mongolia on Saturday April 17. A Choir Festival was held at the National Theater in Ulaanbaatar. 650 singers participated from every branch and ward except for the 3 furthest outlying areas which held their own choir festivals. There were 18 groups. An interesting choir was the group from Bulgan, a newly opened proselyting area. There is not a branch there, but the people wanted to participate. There were 19 singers in the choir, but only 3 members, with 14 investigators and 2 missionaries. They sang 3 numbers, all memorized: Love One Another and I'm Trying to Be Like Jesus in English, and We Thank Thee Oh God for a Prophet in Mongolian.

The night before the festival, Sukhbaatar asked me to play for their choir. On the day of the performance, two more groups, Chingeltei and Darkhan I, requested that I play for them so I sightread for the performance. The choirs were counting on being able to insert a disk into an electronic piano for their accompaniment, but the pianos there didn't have that feature.

To view the performances on YouTube, go to Mongolia Choir Festival at, pages 1 & 2.

Stake Primary Children's Program
The following evening (Sunday April 18) we were invited to attend a stake Primary children's program in the Ulaanbaatar building. It was like a ward Primary sacrament meeting program, but on a stake level. I haven't seen so many children here before all together at Church. It was a very nice program with the children from each ward saying their parts and singing songs.

Departing Missionaries
On April 21 fourteen more missionaries completed their missions including 1 American elder, 8 Mongolian elders, and 5 Mongolian sisters. Elder Christensen, the American, had stayed an extra month to help out. He was an assistant to the president. Now our new assistants to the president will be Elder Stephenson and Elder Adartseren. (There is confusion in the office between the names Stevens and Stephenson.)

On Saturday April 24 we had the pleasure of eating dinner at the Powell's and playing games with them.

Saturday April 24 through Friday April 30, NRT (neonatal resuscitation training), sponsored by Deseret International Charities, was held at the Bayanzurkh building in UB. All of the neonatologists in all 21 of the provinces of Mongolia attended. Two doctors from the U.S. conducted the training, Dr. Preece, who came with his wife, and Dr. Cornish. Several of the senior couples went with the Lassons and the doctors to see a traditional Mongolian performance by the Tumen Ekh Ensemble on the evening of Monday April 26. The program was great as usual. Afterwards we enjoyed going out to dinner at the Veranda restaurant.

We've had problems with the cords on our electronic keyboards for piano class. On Thursday April 29 Baatar took the Powells and us and Miga as translator to find cords for the keyboards. (We ended up purchasing 22 of them.) Then all 6 of us went to Millie's (a restaurant with American food) for lunch. Namkhai came and joined us.

Saturday May 1 the senior couples decided to attend another music and dance performance so we went to The Moonstone Ensemble. It was a very professional performance, but it didn't seem to me as traditional Mongolian as the Tumen Ekh Ensemble.

Saturday May 8 we had our own senior couples' Cinco de Mayo celebration at the Bayanzurkh building. We made Mexican food - enchiladas, Spanish rice, and tacos. The dessert of blackberry pie was very good so it's O.K. that it wasn't Mexican. Sister Caldwell made a pinata shaped like a camel, very appropriate for Mongolia.

New Mission Secretary
Namkhai (a young man) is no longer working in the mission office as the mission secretary. We will miss him. He has been our friend. We want to be sure to stay in touch. Starting May 3 Battsetseg (a girl) is our new secretary. She had been the secretary for the Lassons in DIC and will be an asset to the mission office.

Mother's Day May 9
Mother's Day is difficult to remember here since it is not a Mongolian holiday. Also it is Monday here when it is Sunday in the U.S. In Mongolia people celebrate International Women's Day on March 8.

At Church they sustained President Altansukh as the new district president for the UB East District. His daughter Buyanzaya was a sister missionary who worked in the office with us until her release on April 21. His son Munkh-Od is going to the Utah Salt Lake City South Mission in September.

In the evening we held our monthly senior couples' family home evening at our apartment. The lesson was lesson 30 on "Valiant in the Cause of Truth" from Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith.

We decided this was an appropriate lesson for us since we're never sure what will happen to missionaries coming and going from here.

Mission Anniversary in Mongolia
Tuesday April 20 was the one-year anniversary of our entering the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah. Thursday May 6 was the one-year anniversary of our entering Mongolia. On Tuesday May 11 our residence permits expired. We have been in limbo wondering what we are to do. We were hoping to be sponsored by Hospital 2 where we've been teaching English for a year. Now we understand our sponsors are to be an architecture firm in UB where we are to teach English. We've been told off and on that we're to go to Korea and then come back in. We were also told we were to be investigated. So here we are almost 2 weeks past the expiration date of our residence permits waiting to see what will happen.

Thursday May 20 was Zone Conference for us. Wes attended, but I didn't. I asked President Andersen for permission to be excused. Since our situation in Mongolia is uncertain, I had projects I wanted to be sure to complete.

Money Problems
We've had problems with missionaries being able to withdraw money from their J. P. Morgan cards since around April 12. The problem is still not resolved. However, there is now more push to solve the problem since they've discovered the problem is not just a Mongolia problem; it is affecting all J. P. Morgan clients. The pending charges on the cards are not clearing out when the actual transactions are recorded. Thus the available balances are showing less than they should, and the missionaries can't withdraw all of their allotment.

Flowers and Trees
May 12, everywhere we looked people were planting flower seeds. Then on May 15, people were planting trees. The UB Post reported 130,000 trees were planted that day in Ulaanbaatar.

Terelj National Park
On Saturday May 15 I cancelled my Saturday morning piano classes so we could drive with other senior couples to Terelj National Park, ostensibly to decide which ger camp we'll stay at on our senior outing in June.

We enjoyed ourselves. We didn't see green yet (this was only one week ago), but we enjoyed the trip and had the chance to hold an eagle, ride camels and yaks, and hike in Terelj.

This past week it rained, and overnight we saw green grass and trees sprouting.

We have loved May. It's been pleasant. Even when it hasn't been, we haven't worn our coats because we're tired of them. One thing I enjoy about Mongolia is all the hours of daylight. It begins to get light about 4 am in the morning, and it is not completely dark yet at 9 o'clock at night. There is no need for daylight savings time here.

Baby Shower
Monday May 17 there was a baby shower for 4 babies whose parents work for the Service Center. Baby showers are not a traditional Mongolian event. Their interpretation of American baby showers is that the fathers give the baby shower and men and women are invited. The fathers provided a meal for the baby shower. The senior couples brought desserts and soft drinks as well as presents. It was fun to get to know the families of people we work with every day.

Stake Conference
Saturday May 15 and Sunday May 16 was stake conference for the UB West Stake. We had the privilege of having President Perkins, the Asia Area President from Hong Kong, attend the conference. The theme of the conference was loving your wife and children.

At the Saturday session President Perkins said the length of time from the first missionaries arriving in Mongolia to Mongolia having a stake was shorter than for any other country in Asia. He said that Mongolians have faith, they are of the house of Abraham and of Israel, they have believing blood.

He said God's standards don't change whatever circumstances we are in. He said Joseph who was sold into Egypt didn't forget his covenants. He fled and ran; he was going to obey the law of chastity no matter what. As a result he was a slave for 13 years in the king's prison. Because he was clean, he had the Holy Ghost with him, and he was able to interpret Pharaoh's dreams. There is power and joy in living the law of chastity.

President Perkins told about the life of President Monson. At the last General Authority meeting at April General Conference, President Monson told them to never disregard a prompting. So many times the prompting will tell you to go see or call someone. When he follows a prompting, he blesses someone's life. The Holy Ghost is a still small voice. If the Holy Ghost gives you ideas and you don't do them, the Holy Ghost will quit talking to you.

President Perkins testified of the blessings that have come to his family by their living the principles of the gospel.

For 24 years they have read the Book of Mormon every day with their children.
They have held family home evening every week. Their children like to sing and like spiritual things.
They have paid a full tithing.
They have avoided debt except for their house.
Every 6 months they love to hear the prophet and apostles; they follow their counsel.
They follow For the Strength of Youth guidelines.

President and Sister Andersen spoke at the Sunday session of stake conference. Their talks sounded like farewell talks. President Andersen spoke about the love of God. In John 13:34 the Savior told his disciples to love one another. In John chapter 21 the Savior told Peter to feed his lambs and twice to feed his sheep. President Andersen said the lambs are those who are new in the gospel, struggling, or have problems in their lives. As disciples of Jesus Christ we are always looking for the lost lambs. We must pray for the love of God and our fellowmen so we can feed the lambs. We are to help others' burdens become light. We are to watch over and love one another.

Adiyabold, a counselor in the stake presidency, spoke on tithing. He said if we can't accept tithing, our testimony won't be strong. Tithing is an eternal principle. Every law is connected to a blessing. He will bless us with blessings we can't get on our own. President Hinckley said, "You will never get out of debt if you don't pay a full tithing." The windows of heaven will be opened (Malachi 3:10). Whatever difficulty you have, starting TODAY pay a full tithing.

You need to pay your tithing to go to the temple and to go to the Celestial Kingdom. President Faust in a First Presidency letter said if you pay your tithing, you'll protect your family and you'll be ready for anything. When you pay your tithing, you'll sing a song of joy.

President Perkins added the comment that the cost of the Church in Asia far exceeds donations. You need to pay your tithing so the Lord can bless you. Tithing is always linked to the temple. As you pay your tithing, the Lord in his own time and way will bring a temple to Mongolia.

He explained the Area Presidency is grateful for the stake presidency. The stake presidency holds the keys to revelation for members of the stake and the keys for all spiritual blessings of the Church. You will be blessed as you follow their counsel. To receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, to receive a temple recommend, or to receive a patriarchal blessing, a person must be interviewed and approved by a member of the stake presidency.

President Perkins then spoke about the basic core principles of the gospel. He said Heavenly Father's Plan is to obey the law of chastity, to be married and hopefully sealed in the temple, to have children, to be faithful to your husband or wife, to raise children in love, and to have no divorce. Satan is attacking the Plan. He asked how do we save the family? The answer is in the Book of Mormon, which is written for our day, which says we need to Come Unto Christ.

How can we tell if we or our loved ones are Coming to Christ? We show by our right behavior.

We attend sacrament meeting and/or conference each week.
We follow the Prophet (Conference messages are in the Liahona).
We share the gospel with others.
We feast upon the scriptures in our homes. We read at least a few verses from the Book of Mormon every day.
We do our callings and duty.
We say kind things.
We are dignified in our appearance.
We are generous in our tithes and fast offerings.
We are unified with everyone in our family and at Church. We don't gossip or criticize our leaders. We forgive and ask for forgiveness.
We show love.
As we come unto Christ, we become better people because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ