Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Off to the Deep Khuduu

Dear Family,

Well, this week has been good, slightly stressful, but good.   The stress this week has come from our work.  We schedule and teach lessons; we teach all of our investigators regularly, but they do not want to come to church.  Our hope was that they would come to this activity we had last Saturday, but sadly none of them came.  At this point, it is almost like starting over again.  You can only invite so many times.  Our only progressing investigator at this point is the 9 year old girl, Namolon, I told you about last week.  She came to church with her mother, so we were really excited about that!  If you remember, her mother and father are both returned missionaries, but are inactive.  The mother is really loving our visits and our lessons and we are seeing that "spark" coming back in her.  The father is working a lot, so we still have a lot of work to do with him. 

The activity a mentioned earlier was this past Saturday.  It was a ward activity with food, Karaoke, dancing, and a Book of Mormon trivia game!  We planned for about 150 people to come, because the members on the Ward Council were certain that everyone would come out of the woodwork for this activity.  I never thought that 150 would come.....We barely get 60 to church!  So food was prepared for 150 people, but only 50 showed up.  Oh well, it was still fun and a really good time.  The members that came LOVED it.  Plus, everyone took home tons of leftovers!   A lot of Elders Sims and Ulziijargal's investigators came so that was great!  

Well, this past week, the mission doctor, his wife, and their translator came all the way out to Choibalsan for few days to treat us to a great time and some good food.  From what we are told, all the elders in the city (UB) had a few days of activities with Naadam being last week, so President Benson sent the Doc out to spend some money on us to do some fun stuff.  President loves us all the way out here (haha)!  So today for P-day, we are heading out to Sister Ulziibayar's sister's get (several  hours away in the DEEP countryside)!   There we will have a traditional countryside meal and do some other activities!  I am sooooo pumped and excited!   It will be fun!   We have had a really great time with the coming of Elder/Doctor Lewis, his wife, and their translator.   They have spoiled us with food and much more!   I am really glad they came because all the members here seem to get a little extra burst of faith when the senior couples come and visit.   Senior couples from the city are always treated like celebrities by the members....and we become chopped liver!  HaHa.  The members really do love us! 

Side comment:  So my companion leaves to go home a week from today.  His mission is over.  So sad to see him leave.  We've been together a quite a while and I just found out that he LOVES Linkin Park!  So we sing "LP" songs everywhere we go now!  HaHa!  Who woulda thought!!!

Mom, I got the letter from you this week that you sent with tons of pictures!  Thanks!  I love it!!

Grandma Harris, I got your letter!  Thanks so much for not forgetting me!  Great to hear from you!  I love you!

Well, I am off to the Deep Khuduu!   It is time to go, and the taxi is outside honking his horn!!

Love you all,

-Elder Xappuc 

This is the deep countryside. Mongolians believe this to be Chinggis Khaan's foot print. I'll tell you more about our adventure next week. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

I know my Savior knows me

Dear Family!

Well, this week is Naadam in all of Mongolia!  Naadam is the huge summer holiday here where they have three huge events:  Horse Racing, Archery, and Wrestling.  But, since I am in Choibalsan, it will not be celebrated this week.  They celebrate it on their own at the end of the July because we are so far away from any other population.   I am pumped for it, but missionary work will be dead on those days. From what I hear, it will be like letting missionaries off on Christmas morning.

Before I get started telling you about my week, I have to tell you that the package that you guys sent so long ago was finally delivered to me on Thursday! How long did it take?  Like 3 months, I think?  I was so excited!  Dad your letter brought me to tears and I will treasure it forever.  I will also treasure Grandpa Harris' blanket you sent to me.  I know he is watching over me here.  I feel him sometimes, as weird as that may sound.  I will write you a letter about my experience and my feelings about when I opened this package, I just don't have time today.  Thanks again, mom and dad, for this box.  I love you guys.

To answer some of your questions:   Mongolians do play soccer but have no national team that I am aware of.  They all love playing and watching it, though.   I have been getting World Cup updates from people here.  Last night I was at a new member's house teaching a lesson and the Brazil vs Netherlands game was on.  It was fun to watch for a bit, but too distracting.  Mongolians love the NBA too.  Everyone's favorite team is either the Lakers or the Heat!  Also, fishing has been good.  We had a Mutual activity this past week and the theme was "Fishers of Men!" Haha!  We just went out and had a spiritual thought from the account in the Bible where Jesus tells John and Peter to put down their fishing nets and "Come follow me" and he will make you fishers of men!  It was was fun and the youth loved it.  They love catching fish! 

Anyways, the work is picking up, and we are finding and teaching.  We had to drop a few investigators that were just 0% progressing.  That is always hard, but sometimes necessary.  Along with that, we have picked up a few new investigators! One being a 24 year old English teacher (she is Mongolian), named Munkhzolth.  She is a really great person and has great potential!  But sadly she did not come to church yesterday.  When that happens, that is the WORST!!  The other is actually a 9-year old little girl, named Namolthon, who is the daughter of two inactive Mongolian RM's (returned missionaries).  Her parents called and told us that she needs to be baptized.  Since she was not baptized at the age of 8, she will be considered a convert baptism. The father, Gansukh, served in the Oklahoma City Mission there in the states and has great English.  He was also the Branch President here in Choibalsan 6 years ago. I hate to say this, but we really don't want to baptize her unless her parents are active, so we are really going to focus on reactivating them.  I know they know the Church is true and important, otherwise they would not have called to have their daughter taught the lessons and then baptized.  We are really going to push for the father to baptize his daughter, and not us. That is the way is should be.

I just want to take the time to say that I know this is where I need to be.  We had a lesson with our new member family, Gerelthtsetseg & her daughters this week, and also mom's friend on Facebook, Sister Bolorerdene and her son, ErdeneMunkh, sat in.  The lesson was short and simple, from Chapter 5 in PMG (Preach my Gospel), Learning and Teaching in the Church.  As we taught, I was just overwhelmed with love and compassion for these two families.  I just pray and hope that I can do something for them that will everlastingly lead them to our Savior.  I can't describe what I'm talking about in detail.  It is more of a "Marc" thing, but I LOVE these people. I speak somewhat weak Mongolian (compared to them), and I won't be around to have the relationship that I would dream of having with them, but I know they love me, and they make it known.  I love them too.

I love this work Mom and Dad. I love Choibalsan with all my heart, and I do not look forward to the sad day when I am transferred from here.  I know my Savior knows me and these members that are so new and fighting with everything they have to hold on.  It is so evident. The hand of the Lord is here, I know this for certain.  I feel it every day.   I am so blessed to be a part of the great history of this growing Vineyard of the Lord.

"When nameless faces have become my best friends."
-Nashville Tribute Band

Until next week,


Elder Harris 

Me standing in front of one of our member's yard. That is the font door to their "hashaa" (fence). The only thing is... they don't have a fence. 

Look what finally came! The box my mom and dad sent 3 months ago that we thought was lost forever. So excited!

This is my "emee" (grandma!). Her name is Purew, and she is 76. She was baptized about 8 years ago and is SO STRONG in the gospel! We love her! She feeds us homemade "huushuur" once a week, and man is it good! "Huushuur" is traditional Mongolian food, something like a scone with meat in it. Delicious!

The beautiful landscape of Choibalsan, in an area we tract quite often. The "Big Skies" of Montana have nothing on Choibalsan!

These are the children of two of our investigators inside their ger. This was what was for dinner... fortunately (for me!) we had another appointment and we had to "go"!

Another shot of "Whats for dinner!"

One more picture of Elder Odd and I from last week. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Hard Work (along with Prayer) is the Answer!

Dear family,

Well another week in the books. This week was long and tiring, but very successful! I honestly have not been more tired in my whole mission than I have been this week. I mean, every night we have 10:10 pm "hits." That's when our heads hit our pillows.  Instead of my companion and I staying up and watching a few Mormon Messages (MMs) for another 10 minutes before we pray and go to bed, we just hit the sack and I am passed out within minutes (we downloaded tons of MMs to watch on our little DVD player).  Even though I am getting full night sleeps, it is nearly impossible to ever catch up. Seriously, around noon we are both so tired and feel like we're about to die, but as any missionary will tell you, the only way to stay awake and not think about how tired you are, and how great sleeping will be when you get home, is to WORK, so that is what we do. We WORK!  As a full time missionary name badge wearer, I can honestly testify that “work” is the answer to everything in the field, combined with sincere prayer of course.  Tired? Just Work. Hungry? Keep Working!

This week some very awesome things happened.  As I mentioned last week, Monday the AP's (Assistants to the President) came, Elder Odd and Tulga.  They are both absolute stud missionaries, and we are so blessed as a mission to have them at the helm under President Benson.  I love Elder Tulga. He is such a funny Mongolian Elder!  His English is incredible, and the best part is that not only does he know all the “educational/proper” English, but he knows more slang than I do probably!  He says stuff hat he has acquired through the years from other American Elders, and it just kills me, he's so stinkin' funny. Along with my companion, his mission will end this month on July 31st.   Elder Odd, well I have mentioned it many times, but he is my best American friend in the mission. He is such a great guy.  He was Valedictorian in high school, and when he gave his speech at graduation, he talked about how he accomplished so many goals throughout his 4 years, but one was never filled, his first kiss.  So he walked over and kissed the girl valedictorian, 100% not planned, and now they are kinda still boyfriend and girlfriend, while she is serving her mission in the Ukraine. He knows exactly when to be funny and have a great time, but also knows when to get down to work. We went on splits for two days, and it was already pre-determined that Elder Odd would work with me. So I was Odd's companion for 2 days, but not long enough. We have been hoping to be companions since I got here, but that hope was dashed when I was sent to Choibalsan. He will never leave UB.  Remember, he teaches English to the Parliament Lady I talked about a long time ago.  He promised me that he most likely won't be married before I get home.  Summer of 2016 is planned pretty tight with Odd & Harris adventures, all of which are outdoor adventures to Zion and all his spots up near Cache Valley. He goes home this December.   I am bummed about that. He really wants to come to our house and stay with you guys for a weekend and do a ride-along with dad, and I told him that my dad would love to do that.  So expect a phone call okay!  He already is pretty much family. He knows everything about us Harris'.  I am reading all that I have typed about him, and I feel like Matt & Ryan will make fun of me and say I have a “Man Crush,” but hey, didn't they always tell me that you meet your best friends on your mission?

This week also, the Grosbecks, a senior couple, came to Choibalsan for a few days. They are from Springville, Utah, and will actually fly home on Wednesday. They served here in Choibalsan for a long period of time a year ago or so, and they are just here to say final goodbyes and do some trainings. It is neat to see how much love and affection all the members have for them.  I mean there are a lot of people who are too busy to meet us, then all of a sudden, the Grosbecks come to town, and everyone's door is open, with food-a-blazzin' (haha).  They have a translator here too, so they get tons of work done.  Great people!

Interesting tidbit....We just found out we have an Elder's Quorum President in the Branch. He is very active, but never told us he had a calling, and it was just confusion on both parts, (He is blind, so he has some definite challenges....It is really sad).  I don't know how it took so long to find this out.  But anyway, his wife, Munkhbayar was just baptized. The translator for the Grosbecks (the senior couple) didn't show up for the baptism so I translated all the talks, prayers, etc.  It is crazy how much Mongolian you know when you need to translate. Very cool experience!

As for the Work.....it is coming along. Elder Sims and Elder Ulziijargal had a baptism this week and we have 5 investigators as of now. They are all decently solid, but need a lot of help and faith building.  We taught some great lessons this week to them, I mean, the Spirit was there, and I know the investigators felt it too, but only one investigator, the 14 year old son of one of our adult investigators, came to church this week. He is great, and we will continue to teach him, but we are hoping and praying that we can get the whole family in on the message we have to share. The whole family has baptismal dates for August 1st, but we will see if that can happen. Please pray for Sarantoya (the mom) and Togolthdor (the 14 year old son), and also the father. Please pray for all of them.

Other than that, the Work here in the Branch has been good. We had a solid fast and testimony meeting on Sunday, with 52 people in attendance, and great testimonies were shared. I always admire Mongolian testimony meetings. There is never a gap, people are always hopping up to bear their testimonies. Also, I have noticed a little Choibalsan kwerk when it comes to Testimony meetings. Everyone, and I mean everyone, always says an introduction:  1. Their name, 2. When they were baptized, 3. What calling they have, or what calling they had, 4. When they were endowed (if they were endowed), 5. If they hold the Priesthood, what office they hold.  It is just kind of sweet and I find myself looking forward to hearing their intro as they walk up to the pulpit. 

Well, I have one last small experience to share that happened this week when the AP's where living at our house.  One morning, our personal study was just finishing up and I walked over to the kitchen to get some water after I prayed to close my study time.  I looked back in the room and every Elder in the house was on their knees in supplication to the Lord.  It really hit me and made me realize how close we are to God here. I love this work Mom and Dad. It is hard as can be, and investigators right now are hard, but I know I am doing my best.  I know the Lord and my Heavenly Father are blessing us and are happy with us and how we are upholding this part of His Vineyard.  Love you all. 

Until next week,

Love Elder Harris

Elder Odd and I.

Walking hard, working hard.

The four Choibalsan Musketeers! Elder Ulziijargal, Elder Osorjamaa, me, and Elder Sims at the river.

The 4th of July at a crappy little steak house here. It's the only place with somewhat American food... it was definitely worth it though!

Got to do it for 'Merica!