Well this week was a good one. We got so much done, but yet there is always so much more to do. I'll get started.....
This week, I got pretty stinkin' sick and am still not feeling 100%.....but it was still a real good week. With no mother here to take care of me, I don't know how to treat my symptoms, except, well....just to man-up and work through it. It is hard though. I've had a 24/7 headache, runny nose, cough, and my ears are pounding. I don't know what is wrong, but oh well, stuff happens. I'll make it through. Enough of that....
I started teaching English at the airport this past week. My companion and I hop on the airport bus around 8:50 a.m. on M, W, F and we get to the airport about9:30. I teach until 11:00 and then take the bus back. As of right now, transportation is all free, so that is great! The people I teach English to are great, and because they really want to learn, my desire and motivation to teach them is strong.
We were able to get a lot of work done in regards with the Branch. Calling people to positions, training them, etc. We now have all major and crucial callings extended, except in the Sunday School organization. We are working on that this week. Also, we are going to start calling people to speak in Sacrament Meeting, instead of having a testimony meeting every Sunday. I'm surprised, but I didn't really realize that that was happening until this past Sunday. It really amazes me how much planning and preparation goes into making a ward/branch run. It is hard work! I mean, I just kind of expect people to know what to do, how to plan lessons, and how to pass around a piece of paper to write their name on it, but I am wrong. It is definitely not their fault though, that is the thing. They just need to be taught. With the church being only 20 years old here in Mongolia.....so extremely young, and with Choibalsan being so far away from the "Church Headquarters" in Ulaanbaatar, it is really hard to get training, etc. out here for the members. They are so dependent on us as missionaries, and my companion is so dependent on me, the American, to get this Branch running properly. He has a lot on his plate as the Branch President. Our goal is to not have the Branch dependent on us for everything...teaching the lessons in church, bringing the sacrament bread, setting up the sacrament table, and all the other little things. When I first got here, I thought it would be like a two week process, but it is looking like a month or more. There is just so much work. It doesn't seem like a whole lot when you talk about it and brainstorm ideas, but then when start putting your plan into action, Holy Cow, there's a ton to be done. But our members are learning and progressing and we can see the fire in their eyes when they receive these callings and assignments. We can tell they are happy and willing to be the leader we need them to be. This week again, we didn't put up too great of numbers in "Missionary Work," but that is okay. We are not upset at all, and we feel okay with it. We are 95% focused on getting the Branch running properly. Investigators and new members need a solid Branch to come into. So that is first priority.
I have such a humbling experience to tell you about regarding Tithing. Yesterday, our Branch was "allowed" to start paying Tithes and Fast Offerings again. There has been quite a long period of time where the members here in Choibalsan were not allowed to pay it. Yesterday was the first time. After church, as my companion and I counted and recorded all the tithing and Fast Offerings that came in, it was very humbling for me. There is no way that all the members who brought their tithing in earned that much money in their last pay check. They just don't have that kind of earnings. They had been saving all their Tithing money for months, waiting for the time, when they were allowed to pay again. Without getting into too much detail because these are such sacred funds, but just seeing members who we know are struggling and are so very poor pay Tithing that they have saved up for a long time, is so humbling to me. This money could have easily spent on food, housing, and clothes, something that a lot of people do not have, but no. It was the Lord's money, not theirs to spend. This is truly something I won't forget. My testimony of paying tithing is so strong because of what I've witnessed here.
Also, yesterday, I got the MLS (church database program) in English. I am so happy about that! But as we got in and maneuvered around the program, we realized that pretty much 90% of the members here in the Branch, have no record of baptism, or other ordinances that we KNOW they have received. So we contacted President Benson right away and....long story short... he said if there is no record, it all has to be done again. Crazy! It is so sad that their is NO record of our members' membership and other ordinances. So this week's work is to contact all active members and ask for their Baptism record and other ordinances that they have received. We need the Certificates, President says. If they don't have them, then we have a few other ways to try and find the records. But if we cannot find them, most of our Branch will be re-Baptized. It is sad and we just don't understand how this happened. More to come on that next week. Please pray for us, and these members' ordinance records.
Along with all that, we have three baptisms this week on the 30th! We are very excited about that! One of them is Sister Enkhtoya, whose husband is a member and is the 1st counselor in the Branch Presidency. She is golden, and so ready. Then my two very good friends, Ganbayar (16) and Ekhbayar (15). They are really good friends and we have been teaching them since I arrived in Choibalsan. I am so excited for the two of them because my first week here was when they had their first lesson, and they didn't seem too interested. But now, a month or so later, they are ready, and they can't wait. So we will be adding two new members to our Young Men's organization this week! Ganbayar is such a stud, a real leader! He is a strong, buff kid. Everyone looks up to him. He is with us everyday now. He is our witness when we need to go to a sister's home, he is always at the church when we are doing work. He just loves being around us. His mother now wants to learn more about the gospel because she sees the changes in her son and how happy he is and she wants to learn more. What a good example he is to others and especially to his mother. He will be a missionary here in the next few years. I can't wait to see that! Ekhbayar is a great kid too. He will need a lot of support from the other Young Men, but he will be just fine. I love both of these kids! I am so excited to see them enter the waters of Baptism this Friday!
Also we found two new investigators this week! I am pumped about that! These are people who just walked into the church building and ask to learn more. This is the Lord's hand, I know this to be true.
I love you all. Stay Safe. Say your prayers.
These are the kids who graduated from Seminary! They gave us 200,000+ toogs to take them out to dinner for their "Graduation Party!" That is over $100. It was awesome! We are truly blessed to be out here!
Blurry picture... sorry! This is at one of our Zone Conferences awhile back. I am at the second table from the front on the far right with earphone on and a green tie. President Benson is closest to the camera.