Monday, March 24, 2014

What a week!

Hello Family

I trust that all is well, and everyone is safe and sound there in Henderson. Thank you for all the pictures I have received from you guys this week!  Looks like you are all having a great time with everyone in town!  If you go out and eat anywhere, eat at Taco El Gordo for me, okay?

So as I am sure you have been wondering, my companion, Elder Ulziibayar, went home with his family last Tuesday.  It was really sad for  him and me.  You could tell it was really tearing him apart.  All and all, I think he made the right decision for him.   President Benson met with me right after he left and told me that he will be back soon.  Apparently, his father's health is on the mend!  What a blessing!  He and his family are now all going back to the countryside to help his father rehabilitate back home.  That was great news!  Elder Ulziibayar said that when his father is walking again, he will be back!   Please pray for him and his family in this hard time.

Well this week has been quite different but I am very pleased with the changes that have happened with me.  With my companion's departure, I was with the AP's (Assistant to the President)  starting last Tuesday.  It was a kinda difficult trying to juggle the Assistants' schedule with mine, but it all worked out in the end.  They were great!   So with almost no notice, I "moved" into their apartment, and started working with them.  The down side was that I was now in THEIR area, so MY area kinda got neglected all week.  But Heavenly Father knows the situation and he proved it in my absence.  The funny thing is.....from Tuesday to Friday, I had to wear the same clothes.  I had to improvise for a tooth brush, and I had no razor to shave.  So Thursday when Zone Training came around, I definitely got some puzzled looks as everyone saw me with three days of scruff growing in.  Oh well, it is all part of the experience, right?

As you can imagine, the dynamics of this week were very different.  Sunday morning I received my short-term companion.   He will be my companion until this Thursday when we have a "mini-transfer day" and I get a new companion   My short-term companion's name is Myagmardorj!   He is a 27-year old RM (returned missionary) who served 2 years ago here in Mongolia!  He served with my MTC teachers!   The Mission office just called him up and he headed down here Sunday morning to be my companion for the week!   Pretty cool, huh?   He is a great guy, but his English is VERY LIMITED.   I was pretty nervous.  I didn't know what it would be like and if I would even be able to communicate with him, but when I met him, he immediately showed love for me and understood that I was just a new missionary that had poor Mongolian language skills.  It was very comforting that he was willing to help me and that he was ready to work.  I sat down with him, explained the work that needed to be done this week in the area and we got to work.  He gave me the responsibility of talking on the phone, conducting every lesson, and of calling our investigators and making appointments.  It is hard, lemme tell you, but I can do it.  I know the Lord is right there with us and He is personally helping me.  It is extremely difficult being the only companion that knows our area, but getting thrown into the fire is the best way to learn, right?   We got lost yesterday and we took a few wrong buses, but I am learning.  Like conversion to the Gospel, it is an on-going process!   I'll keep you updated on all this.

We taught three lessons yesterday together, and everything went great!  I'm so grateful to have this Brother as my companion to help me out in the Area for the week.  He straight up told me from the beginning, "You are going to speak Mongolian, okay?"  I was pretty nervous, but it is incredible how much Mongolian I really DO know when I am forced to communicate only in Mongolian.  All I have to do is just put myself out there and I have been able to explain everything I need to say.  Truly a gift from the Holy Ghost.  Sometimes I sit back and think how far I've come in only three  months.  I went from not knowing any Mongolian to being able to express myself enough to get by, and most importantly teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  It truly is a blessing, and something I wouldn't be able to do without the hand of God in this work. 

This week I really had my testimony of prayer strengthened.  All week long I felt like my investigator, Brother Bimbaa, was getting neglected.  We really had a hard time meeting with him because of conflicting schedules.  All week I prayed and prayed that he wouldn't forget our message, and that he would keep on doing the things we asked him to do.  As of now he is the closest investigator we have towards baptism, and I was just really nervous that without us at his house every other night like we had been, he would forget our message and stop progressing.  Well Saturday night I called him to remind him of church and to my surprise he asked, "I want to know if there are other activities at the church?"  I didn't really think much of it, but I told him we had Institute (religion classes) on Tuesday nights and explained a little more about it.  After we hung up, it hit me!  Holy cow!  He wants to know what else he can do to participate in church!   I haven't met with him all week, and he obviously had been thinking about this without our encouragement!  Then we met with hum on Sunday and he asked more questions about Institute and told us that he would be there on Tuesday.  My prayers were heard and answered.  I know Heavenly Father's hand is in this work.   It is so evident with experiences I have like this. 

This week I also went on "splits" with Elder Odd.   He is such a stud and probably my best bud out here on the mission so far.   He is from Cache Valley, UT (an American, of course), and has been here for a year.  He went to Utah State before his mission and also was valedictorian.  Besides the valedictorian thing, we have tons in common!   He teaches English to a woman who is the Second Chair in the Democratic Party here in the Mongolian Parliament.  So he is a pretty big deal.   I was with him while we taught her English this week and what an experience it was!  We were in her sweet office and we sat at this big conference table.  She has really good English skills so we just conversed for an hour or so.  Before our meeting with her, she had just come from a personal meeting with the Prime Minister of England, and she told us all about it!  It was crazy!  Then she asked Elder Odd and I, "As foreigners, and Americans, what have you noticed about Mongolia that you don't like, that we can change to become a better country?"  Well we were shocked to be asked this.  We are just two 20 year old kids.... Haha!  So we just told her that the traffic is terrible and maybe that could be fixed.  It was such a cool experience. 

Also this week, I started teaching English!  I teach a 17-year old girl and her 11-yr old cousin in their house.  Like I've said, my Sponsor is a member of the church and is pretty much famous.  She goes by the nickname "Ukraine Nara."  She served her mission in the Ukraine like 8 years ago, when she was in her 30's.  She is so awesome!  These two young girls that I teach are her little "doe's."  That is what Mongolians call younger family members.   They are not members of the church, but we have been given permission to teach them English AND the Gospel!  Like a 1 - 2 Punch!  I am so excited!   At one of our meetings, Sister Nara gave me a drink called "Arts."   It is literally the worst thing ever invented.   It is pretty much boiling hot, moldy milk curds.  It looks and smells like the worst throw up that could come from a baby.  Well, like a good sport, I took about 4 gulps and then I tapped-out.   She just laughed at me and then gave me some hot water to wash it down.  I never will get used to that drink.  Don't worry though, I am going to figure out how to make it so I can make and share it with you guys in two years when I get home!  HaHa

My language is coming along great!  This week I have seen a huge improvement in my understanding and comprehension when I talk to people.  I have had a few full 3-5 minute conversations with people this week all in Mongolian, and we both understand each other.  It is AWESOME!  I don't understand everything they say, but enough to continue conversing!  Something I know I would not be able to do without God's hand in this work.

I love you guys.  Stay safe in the sunny city of Henderson.  The weather is getting great here!  No more jacket!  Just suit and tie!  I love it!

-Kick & Stroke-


Elder Harris

Me just chilling in the church lobby. 

This is me with the lady from the Parliament. 

This is one of the girls that I am teaching English to. She's my sponsor's relative. We've also been given permission to teach her and her cousin the Gospel. 

"Meat" being sold out of the back of a van!! Can you believe it?

My short-term companion for the week. His name is Myagmardorj. 
He's a great guy.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Another Week in the Books

Dear Family,

Well, this week has been another crazy week, to say the least. Let me get started.....

Since my companion and I are white-washing here in our new area (meaning we are both new to the area), we have spent TONS of time just getting to know the area and the people.  We live 30 - 40 minutes from our area, so there are plenty of long and crazy bus rides.  When we get out to our area, we are either on all flat ground, or all hills, no in between.  It just depends on where we are.  Our area is huge, so we have to decide what area within the area we want to go to for the day.   That kind of stinks, because if we get there and get rejected all day, then we have to spend a lot more money to get to another area.   I love it though, really.  In this area, there are cows everywhere....on the road and even at the entrance to a store.  They just don't care!  

So as of now we have 14 investigators, but only about 3 are progressing.  Our most promising one is Brother Bimbaa.  He is such a great man.  He works himself to the bone everyday at his job and then he allows us into his humble ger every night.  He has no electricity so we always teach by flashlight and candle, which I really like!   He understands all that we teach, and he keeps every commitment we ask him to make.   He will be baptized, I know it. The problem with all our investigators is that they live so far from church building and they simply cannot afford to come.  So we really pray for them and just share scriptures with them on how much attending church will bless their lives.  One of scriptures is 3rd Nephi 13:31-33.    I love this area and I love the people.  I was asked by our investigator from our last area, Sister Althmaa, if I would be the one to baptize her!  Of course I said "Yes!"  The baptism was supposed to be this past Friday, but sadly she worked on Sunday and couldn't come to church so it will be pushed back one more week.   I am so excited for that experience though!  Another investigator is a young mother who just lost her husband.  He passed away a few months ago, leaving her with a newborn child.  She says there is just no way she can afford to come to church because of the distance.  We will continue to pray for and with her so that things will work out that she can attend church.

A few days ago on the bus, there was a crazy altercation between the bus driver and a driver of a car.   The bus driver and the small car were going at it.  The bus and the car are just driving down the road and they both are jockeying back and forth for the lead position.  Who knows why!   You think the car would have backed off, but no, he was not giving in.   So as we are pulling into our bus stop, the man from the car is on the side of the bus banging on it!  Soon the bus driver stops, opens the doors, and everyone quickly gets out.  The man from the car gets on the bus and storms down the isle towards the bus driver.  Elder Ulziibayar and I are now standing on our chairs to get out of his way.  The bus driver gets up and he start duking it out right there in front of us, in this little space in the bus. I am literally so close I could have touched the two men.  We just stand on the seat and look for a way out, but I am not moving because I am not getting hit!   My companion felt the same way!  So after about 10 seconds of punches being thrown, the bus driver lands a huge punch which knocks the other man down.  We are just shocked!  We then see our chance to escape and we take it!  So we are now outside of the bus, waiting for our next bus, and the driver of the car comes out just dripping in blood.  He then goes back to his car (which he left in traffic) gets in it and drives off.  My companion wasn't too fazed by this.  He said it happens all the time.

Also, if you all would please look in the February edition of the Ensign magazine.  On page 24, you will find a picture of some members we have here in Mongolia!  The bigger man with the red and white stripped tie on was just released from the District Presidency!  Also, on the inside of the back cover there is a Mongolian family!  We are getting publicity here in Mongolia!!

So as you have heard, my companion's father is expected to pass away this week.  It is very sad.  His whole family has come from the countryside to be at the hospital with their father.  He has a very bad heart and has for quite a long time.  So this week, Elder Ulziibayar and I were allowed by  President Benson to go visit his father in the hospital.  It was honestly so sad.  That is the last time he will see his Father in this life.  He spent about two hours in the room with him, and then he came out very quiet.  We then went to the church, and he still didn't say anything.  I am so incredibly sad for my companion.   I have so much respect for him.  I don't know if I could handle a family member dying while I was here in Mongolia.  He is very calm, and just keeps to himself, which is okay.  I am here for him and whenever he needs me I'm there to lift him up.  His father is expected to pass away this week, so he is really having a hard time.  His whole family is begging him to leave his mission so that is really hard on him.   They are not members of the church.  He is getting advice from President Benson and a decision will be made soon on what he will do.  Please keep him in your prayers.  I am so grateful for the knowledge I have about families.  I know my family is Eternal.  I love you guys so much.  There is a reason why the second thing we teach our investigators about the gospel as missionaries is that God loves us so much that He has given us families.  They are the only way we can return to our Father in Heaven.  David F. Evans of the Seventies told us in the MTC,  "Endure to your temple endowment, and endure to your temple sealing. That is the only reason you were sent to Earth."  Endure to your temple sealing.  Become an Eternal Family. Thank you so much mom and dad for your choice to have our family sealed for all time and eternity.  The Gospel is true.  I love this work and I love you all.  I pray for your health and safety everyday.  I know the Lord is watching over you all at this time.   D&C 100:1-4 says so.

Until next week,
Elder Harris

I love this little kid. He's the 9 year old son of one of the counselors in my Branch.

Last sunday was a day that we were turned away at every door. It was so cold... and then it started snowing on us. But I love Mongolia, and I love my mission. 

My apartment building. I live on the second floor. 

Zaisan Hill in Ulaanbaatar where Elder Maxwell dedicated Mongolia for the preaching of the gospel back on April 15, 1993.

We made a mission work-our video on p-day! It was way fun. Here are all the Elders that came! We call it P-90 X-alltation! Get it?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Transferred to a New Area!

Dear Family,

So this week has brought some pretty crazy news!  My companion and I have been transferred!   After only 3 weeks in Khailaast, we have been transferred to the Bayanzurkh Branch!  So we are now meeting at the main church building where the mission home is!  Honestly, I was pretty sad to leave our area because I loved teaching the investigators we had found there, but I am so excited for this new area too! The Assistants were serving in this area, but they were transferred so we took their place.  So at the end of March we will move into their apartment!  It is so nice.  It is on the 9th floor of an apartment building, and it has an incredible view of the city!  I can't wait!  We went out with the Assistants on Saturday to get the "down low" about our new area.  Our area is pretty much the biggest area in UB.  If you want to look it up on the map, we cover Khoroo (micro district) 8, 9,16,17,19, then all the way out to a place called Khonkhor.  From what the Assistants said, it is the closest to the countryside you can get while in the city.  The area is HUGE though!   We will end up spending like three times the amount of bus money a day than we used to in our previous area. The bus fees are more expensive here.  The cool thing is, my new District has Sister Ackley and her companion in it (remember, she's my friend from Snow College).  Kinda weird we went from Ephraim, Utah, all the way to Mongolia, and we are in the same District.  This new area is so ready for the work!  In our previous area we only had three progressing investigators, and now in this new area we have 14!  The Assistants did some serious work before we got there!  I hope for many successes in this area, and hopefully I don't get transferred again here soon!

This Saturday we met with an investigator named Bimbaa. We went into his ger, and it had no electricity, so we taught about the restoration of the gospel through Joseph Smith, by candle light!  It was so cool!  I couldn't help but think of that picture of Joseph Smith as a boy reading the scriptures by candle light! I really love teaching about the Restoration of the Gospel because #1 - It is the single most important thing that has ever happened in the History of the World, #2 - there is nothing quite like the Spirit you feel while teaching about it, and #3 - I have finally memorized the First Vision in Mongolian so I feel comfortable teaching that lesson with no holes in the lesson!  Then on Sunday, Bimbaa came to all three hours of church!   In Priesthood Meeting I looked over at him, and he was leaning forward so engaged with what the teacher was teaching. You could just see the happiness written on his face!  That was really my first experience with seeing the Spirit really touching an investigator. It was so evident, and I can't wait to keep teaching him!

Good Stories of the Week:
1. Yes family, this week I have eaten horse, and honestly you would never tell the difference between that and beef.
2. This week I also ate sheep again. It really isn't bad.   I just have a rule for myself to try everything that is on the table, so it had to be done.
3. Yesterday in Fast and Testimony meeting, a man who appeared to be drunk walked in about 30 minutes late, plopped down on the back row, took his jacket off, then walked to the front and sat up on the stand and proceeded to talk really loud to a man who was about to bear his testimony.  Everyone was staring, it was just crazy!  Then he walked up and went to the pulpit, and started to bear a testimony I guess. He was pretty much yelling into the microphone, and everyone was just looking around wondering if someone was going to do something. Turns out, he is a member, and he was bearing a testimony about how God saved his life. Then after Sacrament meeting he walked up to me and put his face right up in mine, I mean nearly nose to nose, and said something I couldn't understand.  All I could think about was the alcohol I could smell on his breath as he breathed right in my face!  Then he took my copy of the new Ensign and walked out! Another Day in the Life.  I suppose he needed to be here for a reason and he needed my Ensign magazine more than I did.

So I want to share a little insight I had this week.  Last Tuesday, the Branch President asked us to come to his house. He told us he had a family he wanted us to visit.  He pointed to their house, and it was the highest house on the snow covered mountain across from his side of the mountain, so we went.  It took us about a good 30 minutes to get up to it.  We knocked on the door at about 8 p.m, and a teenager came to the door.  He had no clue who we were looking for and he couldn't help us one bit.  So I am thinking, "We came all the way up this mountain for nothing.  I am cold, I am tired.  Why?!"  So we both were kind of distraught, but since we were like 5 minutes from the top of the mountain, we decided to take a hike up the mountain to take another road to come down the mountain.  So we hiked some more, and then we stopped.  The view was incredible.  Here we are in Mongolia, after going to a house where the person we needed to see didn't even exist, on top of a snow covered mountain  (or as Stevie Nicks would call it, "A snow covered hill").  So we just took in the view for a bit and talked about what we were going to do.  I sat there thinking to myself, "Man this is rough, we have no one to meet with, and everyone always seems to cancel on us. What am I doing wrong?  Why is this so hard?"  Well during all my discouraging thoughts, I had a thought that came to me.  Elder Harris, this is the Lord's work.  He sees how hard you guys are working!  He knows you need help.  You are not doing all of the hiking, and walking for nothing.  If you aren't helping others to come unto Christ at least you are helping yourself and your companion.  Then I just had a feeling of accomplishment!  I honestly felt okay with how things are going.  I am working hard, the Lord sees that.  Also one of those cheesy Bronco Mendenhall speeches came to mind. "Enjoy the view... The view is always better from the top."  I can't believe I just quoted Bronco.....But that really made sense to me at that time.  I kind of compared it to life.  The hike is our travels, trials, failures, and successes through life.  Then the top of the mountain, where we finally get to rest is finally receiving eternal life and living with our Father in Heaven and His Son Jesus Christ.  Like in Alma 34:40-41, I look forward for that day when we as a family reach the top of the mountain, and we can finally let go of all the trials that it took to get there.

I continue to see changes in myself everyday, sometimes little, and sometimes big.  Either way, I can feel and see myself becoming the type of missionary I want to be, and the type my Father in Heaven wants me to be.  It is hard, but I have had a few experiences this week where I come home, plop on the couch before we plan for the next day, and I just feel content and pleased with myself and the work that my companion and I have done that day. 

I have a testimony of this work.  I love my calling.  I love my Savior.  I am a missionary of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I love you all,
Elder Harris 

Meeting a family in our branch.

This is my new area. My companion and I have been transferred to Bayanzurkh.

Just cooking up a little lunch. 

Going out to meet with our investigators. It was a very cold evening!

This is the market where we buy our meat. 

All the American missionaries in Mongolia.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Mongolian Saints told to Prepare for a Temple

Dear Family,

Well this week has been such a crazy roller coaster ride! There has been a lot of changes here in the Mission, and in myself.  I am very grateful for the opportunities that I've had this week, though.  I have started to see our companionship, our work, my understanding of the Mongolian language, and also Elder Ulziibayar's English progress.

On Saturday we had a stake conference-style meeting.  Elder Wilson and Elder Toronto from the Asia Area Presidency were here to speak to the Saints in Mongolia.  The purpose of this conference was to prepare the saints here to receive a temple in Mongolia!!  How this will be accomplished was what was addressed the entire meeting.  In Mongolia there are approximately 10,000 members.  About one thousand are active.  Out of those 10,000 members, 1000 have served missions.  That is one-tenth of the membership!  That is crazy, especially when the church is only 20 years old here.  Out of those 1000 returned missionaries, only 100 are active.  The saints here were told that Mongolia needs to have 1000 current temple recommend holders in order to submit a request to the First Presidency for Mongolia to receive temple.  Problem is, there is barely 500 members who have a current temple recommend.   Then on Sunday, another big conference was held at this theater-type place in downtown Ulaanbaatar (UB).  All the members in UB were there!  This place was packed.  It was like all the members in Vegas coming to the Thomas and Mack.  Again Elder Wilson and Toronto spoke.   A temple in Mongolia was the topic again and many re-alignments were made to the wards and branches.   I was in the Khailaast Branch, but now we have combined with the Chingaltai Branch to form the new Jargalthant Branch.  We are now a part of the only Stake here in UB, as well.   There were many more realignment, but it would be hard to explain it all.  This was all done for the sole purpose of preparing Mongolia for a temple!  How exciting is that!  I know that my responsibility as a missionary here in Mongolia is to assist in that process.  It was so incredible to see all the faithful members there, wanting to know what they needed to do to receive the blessings of a Temple in their country!

This past Monday my companion and I went to the "Zaak," the underground market of surprises!  I was amazed at all the meat and other things!  It was crazy!  Meat from every animal imaginable was just on a table ready for sale.  We went there to buy some groceries and we also bought horse meat!  We shall see how that goes!  Like I said, my companion is a good cook!  Then on Monday evening we went up to that member's house who lives on top of the mountain for their son's birthday party!   It was really great, and we were able to share a special gospel message with him.  Funny thing is, his father looks just like Donny Osmond!  Mom, I know what you are thinking.... No, not Donny!  But, yes!   He is the Mongolian Donny!  

Tuesday was a day for my record book.  The day prior (Monday) was such a great and beautiful day!  A coat was almost not even necessary.  So my companion and I thought Tuesday would be the same.... NOPE!   We got out to our area (a 15 minute bus ride) and it started to snow!  On top of that, the winds were so strong!  I was literally freezing!   We were walking around all day with our heads tucked in because the wind was blowing the snow and dirt right on our faces!  The snow and dirt were blowing so hard, it hurt!   I am not lying when I say that it was literally painful.  This goes down as "The Official Coldest Day of My Life."  This day was hard because no one was outside and for some reason no one would let us in, so we literally just suffered in pain and agony all the day long.  Makes for good memories though!   

Wednesday I woke up feeling refreshed because I had a great, WARM, nights sleep.  I made two eggs and a piece of toast, and then I realized that we had bought milk on P-Day so I decided to have two cold glasses with my breakfast.  I was feeling fine, but then about an hour later in personal hit me.  I didn't know what it was, but it hit me!  I told my companion that I was dying, and we both kind of laughed it off, but then about 10 minutes later I ran into the bathroom, ripped off my shirt and tie, and had a nice date with my head in the toilet. The best part is, as I am dying in the toilet, my companion comes in and starts giving me a back massage!  Preach My Gospel teaches about unified companionships, but this took it to a whole other level!  Best Friend Award right there!  So in trying to find out what the problem was, I discovered that pretty much all the milk here is at least 3.5% fat.  Are you serious!  No wonder I couldn’t hold it down!  I have been drinking skim or 1% for as long as I can remember! So the rest of the day I went around feeling like garbage.   Our mission doctor told me not to drink or eat anything but Sprite and it will pass.  So I carried a bottle Sprite  around that entire day.  I was amazed how this literally was sucking the power and health out of me.  I was dizzy and I had no strength.  We were getting no work done because I physically couldn't do it that day.  I felt so pathetic. This has never been like me to give up and not be up for a challenge of a hard day's work, but I caved.  We had to go home and I just went to sleep.  I slept from about 6 to 10 p.m.  When I woke up we planned for the next day and then I was back to bed.   I woke the next day and still wasn't feeling too much better, but I wasn't going to waste another day.   ESL training was scheduled for that day at the church with all the American missionaries, so we headed on over.  It was so great to see all the Americans!  There are about 80 missionaries in Mongolia right now, with about 30 being American.  It was a fun few hours to see everyone, and take some pictures.  I met an elder from Henderson!  His name is Elder Palmer and he graduated from Coronado HS!   Crazy, huh?  Weird how I had never heard that he was here and we live only 15 minutes away from each other back home.

The work is going great.  As of right now, we have four investigators and two with baptismal dates.  It is crazy how I can hardly understand what is being said in a lesson besides what I am speaking myself, but I can feel the Spirit so strong, and I feel such a love for the person we are teaching.  That is such an amazing experience.  I guess it comes with the Mantel of a Missionary, and I love it!

I'll close by saying that I know my work is the work of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He is the leader of this church. It is His church.  I am here for one reason, to bring souls unto Christ.  I am so blessed to be here at such a crucial time, when Mongolians need the Gospel the most, and also when the Mongolian Saints have been told to prepare for a Temple!

"Kick and Stroke. Kick and Stroke."  --The 4th Missionary--
Elder Harris 

Officially the coldest day of my life!

Elder Palmer and I. Elder Palmer is from Henderson and graduated from Coronado High School. It's ironic that I have gone around to the other side of the world to meet someone who lives only 15 minutes from me back home. 

Elder Ulziibayer took this picture of me during study time. 

A picture of a great family in our branch. This family is the family who lives at the top of the mountain. Cutest kids, right?!?

The birthday boy! The's a cool young man in our branch. 

Birthday cake!

Elder Ulziibayer and I!

The birthday boy's sister, Elder U, and I.