Monday, June 30, 2014

Loving the Work

Hey Family!

Again, sorry so short!   We are really coming off a great week!  I must tell you how much I love my companion, Elder Osorjamaa. I am learning so much from him.  The Work has truly picked up this week as we found five new investigators, all of which I believe have great potential.  The best thing about it is that they are two FAMILIES.   We have really been praying to find a family to teach, and we found two!   This is truly an answered prayer.  One family is the mom, dad, and sister of a 16-year old young man in our branch.  I am really excited and hopeful for what lies ahead.  I'll tell you more next week.

So the Assistants (to the President)....Elder Odd (the Elder from Cache Valley, Utah) and Elder Tulga (a Mongolian elder)....have flown out here to Choibalsan for the week to do exchanges with my companion and I, so we have a fun p-day of fishing and other activities planned today!  ....then we will get to work!   I am excited to have them here for the week.   I love Elder Odd!   I am sure there will be much to report next week!
Mom and dad, I am on Cloud 9 right now!   I am loving my mission.....I am loving every second of it.  Also, I have never been more tired than I am now. That is how you know you are loving the Work.

I love you guys!

Elder Xappuc out!

Last night we had a great dinner at our deaf member's home. The man in the back, the big man in front, and the woman are all deaf. It was a really fun experience. We know just enough Mongolian Sign Language to get along. Super fun experience. 

This is a famous statue here in Choibalsan. I actually think it is a statue of Khorloogiin Choibalsan, a military leader back in the day. Elder Sims and Ulziijargal were also with us. 

This is a picture from back when I was in Ulaanbaatar, but I thought I'd include it today. I'm on the back row. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Learning to be a Better Disciple of Christ

Dear Family,

Well, we're kind of short on time.  I promise a better letter next week.  I will, however, take the time to tell you what I have learned a lot about this week, and that is about the Pride within me.  This week I have been reading and studying about "the Natural Man" in Mosiah 3:19.   I see a lot of the Natural Man in myself, and I am learning how to combat him.  It is terribly hard.  In "Preach my Gospel" (PMG) we learn about Christ-like values such as charity, love, and humility, just to name a few.  This is my favorite chapter in PMG for many reasons.  Mostly because within this chapter, it talks about the person, missionary, husband, father, priesthood holder, and most importantly, the son of God, that I aspire to be in this life.  As I study all these values, I am constantly reminded by the Spirit when I am not following my Savior and His example.  I know that through the power of the Atonement, the Natural Man within me can be fought off everyday.

So here is the first of two experiences I had this week that has driven this principal home to me:  All week, it has been POURING rain here in Choibalsan.  Literally everything is flooded and muddy. There is no such thing as drainage here, so everything just pools up into rivers and puddles of water all around the city.  Thanks to my good, sturdy mission shoes that are pretty much "anything proof," I just walk through it all and let them get muddy.  Then when I get to the house where a lesson is scheduled, I just wash them in the pools of water before we go in.  On the other hand, my companion, Elder Osorjamaa, will never walk in the water or mud.  It was pretty funny to watch him try to avoid all the water and mud puddles.  It eventually got a little annoying because he would take like a 3-minute detour to avoid it.  I finally asked him why he won't just suck it up and walk through the puddles.  He replied that the shoes he has now are the nicest shoes he has ever owned and he is not going to ruin them.  He has been out on his mission for 23 months and these are the only shoes he has worn.  I then thought, well you will get a new pair after your mission....duh.   I mean I probably won't be wearing my mission shoes after my mission.  I will get a new pair just like my brothers did.  Then it hit me like a brick and I realized, Marc, he doesn't want to ruin these shoes because he will not be able to afford another pair after his mission.  I felt awful, let me tell you.  So instead of him running around finding dry ground, I just started to give him piggie-back rides across all the water and puddles.  I am sure we looked ridiculously funny, but oh well, that's mission life....and it made me feel somewhat better about how I behaved..  

Here is the second experience where I fell short of the mark.  Every morning, before companionship study, my companion and I always say a prayer to invite the Spirit into our study.  Afterwards, we always shake hands then get started.  This time, when we shook hands, I let go but he kept shaking.  My companion commented on my hand shake and told me that it is important for a missionary to have a good, firm hand shake.  Here is the lesson I learned:   I'm sorry to say that I was offended and my companion could see it in my face.  I thought to myself, "Are you kidding me?  That is the first time Iin my life I've been told I have a weak handshake."   That was the pride within me that I am talking about.  My companion told me that he was just trying to help, and then he apologized.  Again, I felt awful as I saw the lesson he was trying to teach me.  This is what I learned. Over these past two years since my high school days, I have been very humbled.  I have gone through experiences that have changed me for the better, and have undoubtedly humbled me.  I would like to think that I have changed from the prideful, cocky, high school kid I was, but I see everyday that I am not done. The Natural Man is still in me and I need to work harder and harder everyday to combat him by "listening always to the enticings of the Holy Spirit," and thus become a "saint."  Something as little as my missionary companion questioning my hand shake, got to me and I responded in a way our Savior would never have.  As I have thought about that experience, I am sad and disappointed in myself, but I have faith in good things to come.  I know this change is not fast, nor should it be, but I do know that My Savior is supporting me.  He smiles upon me while I make these changes, but He also is sad and disappointed when I take a step back.  All in all, I am very grateful for the experiences I have had this week and the lessons I have learned from my companion.   I hope and pray, that when you see me again, you will see the change in my countenance and in my labors.  I hope even more that my Heavenly Father and my Savior will have no problem recognizing me as a His disciple, through trail and error, and through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  Sometimes, it is scary to look inside yourself and see where you are lacking, but I know that through the merits and mercy of Christ, I can make the mighty change in heart that is talked about so often in the Book of Mormon.  I can become a better Disciple of Christ.  

This week, even through the rain, the Work has progressed in many ways. We have been finding and reaching out to less active members.   I know they are being placed before us by a power not of our own.  It is obvious. The Branch is finally starting to come together well, with callings being filled and members learning and knowing their roles in this faraway branch of Zion.  I know it is still a work in progress, but we are very pleased with this, and there is a lot less stress with the help of the members knowing their callings.

I love you all.  Be safe.
Elder Harris 

My companion, Elder Osorjamaa and I.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Listening and Following the Spirit

Dear Family!

Hey so this week I am using the internet from a really "yambui" internet cafe, and the keyboard is terrible.  I might tap out early on this email because half the keys don't work and are getting stuck and I am getting annoyed.  Please know that I love you all though!  This week has had its ups and downs.  We started off the week by splitting the city up. We figured that would be the most effective way to do the work efficiently so that everyone we need to reach, gets reached.  With that being said, after the split, my company and I had 0 investigators.  So, this week was a lot of visiting with less active priesthood holders, and through that, we are finding investigators.  But with everyone we found, they didn't live in our area, so we referred them onto Elder Sims and Uliziijargal. That's okay, as long as they are being reached.   

I want to share a quick story then we've got to go.

A few days ago, I really had a testimony-building experience.  My companion and I were out and about, a good 25 minutes from our apartment.  It was raining really hard, but we decided to just walk/run through the mud to an inactive member's apartment.  When we got there, we knocked and knocked and knocked. We could hear them inside, but no one ever came. After about 7 or so minutes, we just gave up and left.  As we walked back out into the rain, we thought about what we should do.  It is raining.  It is about 8:15 p.m..  We are tired.  The natural thought was just head for home, after all there really wasn't much we could do in 45 minutes.  But we really felt like we needed to keep going.  I pulled out my planner and read a specific name and address of a less active priesthood holder to my companion and we decided to go.  I didn't know WHY that person, and WHY now, but we went.   As we walked through a muddy and flooded "ger" district for about 25 minutes we finally got to the house.  A 25 or so year old man invited us in and said that the man we were looking for, his father, was not home.  We sat down with him and his sister, and just started small talking, and that led to the 1st lesson.  I really haven't spoken Mongolian that well in my entire mission life.  The son was not too receptive, but the sister, about 23 years old, was very receptive and expressed great desire to learn more.  She has committed to having us back.  But we had to pass her along to the other Elders because she is in their area.  That was kind of a bummer, but that is okay.  The important thing was that we received a message from heaven, and we followed it.  I didn't know why, and where we were going, but it worked.  The Lord knows. That is what matters. We actually had three experiences like that this week. One led to a family who have been inactive for about 6 years, who we are working with now.  The other led to a house farther than far, that didn't have the man we were looking for, but six teenage boys that we taught the 1st lesson to.  We hope to keep on teaching them. We are actually playing basketball with all of them today at 5:00.   One "was a member."  That just means he was baptized and stopped going.  They all say, "I WAS a member."   Little do they know... they ARE A MEMBER!  Haha.   We are also teaching a 68-year old women named Tumorcukh.   I will let you know how that goes with her.

So sorry to hear about those police officers who were killed last week in Vegas.  Thanks for the picture of dad and Matt.  What an emotional day it must have been.  As I was reading what you wrote about the officers and the funeral and what a great missionary moment it was, I was really touched.  I  got down on my knees and prayed for their families.  Such a sad sad story.  I love Matt and dad so much. Also, please tell Ryan and Angela thanks for the pictures from San Fran.  Looked like fun.

Well family, I know the Lord is guiding us. There is no doubt about it.  Sorry this email is so short, but this keyboard has got to go.   I am happy and healthy and grateful for that.  I am loving Choibalsan more each and every day.  I love the members and the love they have for me, an American missionary who struggles to speak their language sometimes.  Every day is humbling, and a new learning experience. 

Love you all,
Elder Harris

Great P-Day. Full fridge! This is what 80,000 toogs gets ya! Yogurt, 20 eggs, 4 peanut butters, 10 apples, and a lot of potatoes, carrots, and onions. We are set for the week!

This is a picture of the Air Traffic Controllers I teach English to at the airport. They are all great guys, and they like me. All the male airport employees are required to be trained in firefighting, just for "what if" scenarios, I assume. Cool huh, pops?

Low and behold: The Six-Month Tie Burning!

Elder Osorjamaa and I walking our behinds off! Joyously, of course! Love my Comp!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

New Companion This Week

Dear Family,
A lot happened this week, and also a lot didn't happen. Slump season has begun.
Wednesday, my companion unexpectedly got word that he was being transferred to Darkhan, a city in northeast Mongolia, and I would getting a new companion.  For just a split second I thought, "No!  Please don't call me to Branch President."  But that being said, Elder Osorjamaa, the last Assistant to the President was sent out to be the Branch President and my Companion.  His mission is over  in July, so our companionship will be short......then I will get a new companion, again.  He was AP for 6 months, and he is a great missionary!   Honestly, he's the best Mongolian Elder in the mission and I am grateful for the opportunity I have to be his last companion.  I have already learned a lot from him, and I know much more is to come. He is a great example, and is pushing me to be the missionary I really need to be.  Sometimes it is really hard to be all that you can be.  So much is weighing on you, and you feel like you are going to just crumble.  I am constantly studying Chapter 6 of Preach My Gospel, "Christ-like Attributes," and the more I study, the more I realize how much I have to do to be the man, priesthood holder, and missionary that I am supposed to be.  I constantly crash and burn in those efforts, but I won't give up.  I know "Great things are brought to pass by small and simple things."  I will learn tons from Elder Osorjamaa, and that is a huge blessing.
With the two new Elders that came, the work and busy-ness has slowed down, and I don't particularly like that.  Also, they took about 6 of our investigators, leaving my companion and I with three.  But it so happens that one of our investigators went to the countryside for work, one went to UB for the summer, and the other one is on vacation.  So as of now, we have 0 investigators.  Starting over is hard, but it comes with the territory.  We have made a goal to meet with 20 new contacts or new members this, so we will keep busy.  I'm sure the Lord is preparing some one (or two, three, or four) for our message.

Our investigator that skipped his baptism back on May 30th, once again skipped his rescheduled Baptismal Interview this week, and now we have fallen out of touch with him.  That is really hard, and it makes you feel like you are responsible.  I constantly think to myself what I did wrong, and what did I do to cause this?  It really weighs hard on your mind and your heart when you work your tail off, and it doesn't go through.  I can't really explain  it, but it is just hard.

Dad, to answer your questions, my English classes are going good.  I teach Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday,  from 9-11.  It is the Choibalsan airport workers and the air traffic control people, about 15 total.  They enjoy it, so I enjoy it.  They actually have a desire to learn, so that makes my job so much easier.  They all seem to love me because at the end of each lesson,  I teach them cool English slang!   They love that!   Everyone is like 25-40 years old.

Well, I'll end with by saying that I love the Book or Mormon!  This time around, I am focusing on diving deeper into the verses and really focusing on why the stories are important, and why out of all the stories in the Book of Mormon, they were chosen for this generation.   I have learned a lot, and I truly can say that Nephi is becoming a Hero to me.  Before, I always loved his stories, but I was more of an "Ammon and 2000 Stripling Warriors" kind of guy. I am learning so much from Nephi's example, and the small and simple things he did.  I am really seeing how and why we can and need to be "Like unto Nephi."  
I love you guys.  Thanks for all you do for me, and please pray for my companion and I and for the work to progress here in my little city in Outer Mongolia.
Elder Harris

PS:  The big package you sent like 2-1/2 months ago, and that I was expecting to come with the new missionaries, didn't come.  I was disappointed.  But the small package with your handwritten letter and pics came!  I loved it so much.  I love your handwriting, I miss it!   Let's keep our fingers crossed that the big package will arrive someday.  Mom, to answer your question about what I'd like in a new package....Candy, candy, and maybe a deflated football... and, um, maybe a life-size picture of your face!  Or may a cut-out poster of you so I can hug it.  I miss you!  

My new companion, Elder Osorjamma

Elder Harris didn't give the names of the two elders on the right, but the two in the back are (L) Elder Khash-Erdene and (Center) Elder Osorjamma.

Monday, June 2, 2014

A Week in the Life of Elder Harris

Dear Family,

Well, this week, I actually have a lot to say, but I really don't know how to go about saying it all, so I will just tell you what this week has been like for me this past week..."A week in the life of Elder Harris" style!!

Monday: Wake up at 5:30 a.m., eat the same breakfast, eggs and toast.  Head to the church to teach seminary and then email you guys.  Head back home.  Grab things I need to teach English and then hop on a bus to go to the airport to teach English class, lasts 2 hours. Come home.  Eat lunch.  Do all of our studies for the day. Now it is like 3:30, and we have 3 hours left for p-day.  Oh, what shall we do for the remainder of our Beloved P-Day?  Ward members call and they need us to come help them, now!   We go to the church and help members fill out Perpetual Education Fund paperwork.  Go home.  It is now 5:45.  We lay down for 20 minutes.  Now it is 6:10.  So we go the church. Family Home Evening will start in 20 minutes.  Stand there and wonder where our P-Day went.  9:00 head home.  Plan. Sleep. 

Tuesday: I wake up and I am sicker than I ever have been in the mission field.  I try to get up.  Can't. Call the mission doctor and report that I might die. What medicine do I take Doc?  Ammoxicilian. Okay I will take that.  "Elder Harris, go back to bed," he says.  Okay, I won't argue with that.  I sleep till about 8:30.  Get up, eat, then shower and start studies.  Lunch comes and goes, and we need to go to the church for interviews and training.  I am so sick and my body is weaker than I can explain.  We get to the church, interviews start, so I lay on the floor in my Clerk's Office and sleep for about another hour and a half while my companion interviews many people.  Now it is time to go.  We have a dinner appointment, and also a lesson to teach. We go home after dinner because the lesson bailed on us and I am about to fall dead in the road and be eaten by stray dogs.  Plan for tomorrow and sleep.   It is strange, I feel like when missionaries get sick, it is not just like little cough or runny nose, it usually feels like death is on the door step! But it always comes and goes quickly, so I am grateful for that. 

Wednesday:  I wake up. Still sick. Well, luckily for me, my English-teaching Boss is a great guy and is really hung over from the night before.  He allows us to skip the rest of the week of  English classes. Yes!   He truly is concerned for me, and says over and over, "I am so sorry, my friend!"  So we just study, then head out for the day. There were a lot of things to be done this week and a lot preparation for training and the baptisms.  All three investigators come to the church and pass their interviews for baptism.  Yes!  The District Leader applauds us for finding such great investigators.  That was nice.  We find out that everyone in our Branch does not need to be baptized again.  Yes!  They found the records in the files in UB. Yes!   Such a blessing.  But, many men need to receive the Priesthood again.  There is no record of that, and unless we can find 2 witnesses to vouch that these people received the Priesthood, they must receive it again. Well, seeing that we have only four active "Witness" aged people in the Branch (2 being my companion and I), that can't happen, so they must receive the priesthood again.  Go home. Plan.  Sleep. 

Thursday:  Same ole, same ole. Still not feeling well.  But for mutual, we plan a fun activity down by the river.  We get everything ready for that.  Around 4:00, we head out to the river and two sisters from the Branch start cooking food.  The way they cook is unreal!   Mongolians are unreal!  Their food is the best!  About 25 youth show up, eat, play volleyball, work on Duty to God and Personal Progress, and then we have a little testimony meeting.  It was a great time, and I wish I had more time to tell you about it....but I included pictures in this email for you to enjoy!

Friday:  I am not sick anymore. Yes! Today is baptism day! We get a call, our female investigator. She tells us she can't be baptized today.  She must go out of town for her work for a few weeks.  Well that is a bummer.  We get everything prepared and ready to go for the 2 young men who will get baptized.  Font is ready, and we are dressed in white.  Ganbayar, the 16-year old boy arrives.  My companion will baptize him.  Ekhbayar, the 15-year old boy, doesn't show. I was supposed to baptize him.  Great.  So only 1 baptism happened, and I was awkwardly in all white for no reason. Oh well!   Ganbayar's baptism was so great!  He was so ready, and he will be  a missionary someday.  He is a great leader and is 100% one of the ELECT that we found. I will never forget this kid.  Friends forever!

Saturday: We have a great day planned!  We are excited! 8:30 a.m., phone call comes and a member needs help moving.  Of course we will help her!  So we help her for a few hours, and that throws off the entire day. We get no lessons in and weren't able to contact Ekhbayar, the kid who didn't show to his baptism. Pretty rough day. 

Sunday: A few investigators came to church!  Great!  Ganbayar confirmed and received the Holy Ghost, and we went to his house for dinner that night. We find out that his older brother died a few years ago. That is always a hard one to hear.  

Today, President Benson is sending two new Elders to us way out here in Choibalsan.  Elder Sims and Elder Ulziijargal.  We are picking them up at the airport in a while.  We are very happy about that!  They will help us out tremendously.  So we will have 4 Elders here!  The Work will go by so much smoother and progess faster I hope!  I know the Lord has a plan for us here. 

Something else exciting is that these elders are bringing with them our MAIL!   I've been told the package that you sent over two months ago is with them on the plane too!   I'm so excited to get mail and to open that package!!

Well that is about it. Sorry it is not the best email I have written. Just tired, recovering from my sickness, and I have a lot on my mind.  

I love you guys, 

Elder Harris 

Ganbayar's Baptism

Ganbayar and my companion.

Ganbayar's parents. We went to dinner at their house after the baptism.

This was one for the memory books. They have a tradition here in Mongolia that when a baby is born. they do not cut their hair for a few years. Then out of tradition, someone will cut their hair and pronounce a blessing on the child. So yes, I grabbed some scissors, I blessed her with good health, and cut a lock of hair from the back of her head. Such a cute little girl. 

My companion and I. 

The mutual activity at the river. We had a great time, and the food was better!