Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Unforgettable Experiences!

Ger bvlth min ee!

I really don't have tons to talk about this week, but I am sure I can bust out a pretty good email!

So, Sister Naraa is doing great!  This week we finished the discussion on the Plan of Salvation, and we had an incredible experience with her.  We teach that the Plan of Salvation answers life's three most important questions:  1)  Where did we come from?  2) What is our purpose on Earth?  and 3) Where are we going after we die?  We had taught her about the first two questions in depth, and she understood flawlessly.  We were teaching her about our purpose here on Earth, and I was kind of leading into the scripture, Alma 34:32, "For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God,"  but I had said nothing about the scripture or that doctrine yet.  I asked her, "Naraa, what do you think your purpose is here on Earth?  (Previously all I had talked about was how on this earth we can be happy or sad because of the choices we make due to our Agency, which is God's gift to us.)  Naraa quickly and confidently answered,  "Well I think it is to learn to follow God's path, follow the principles   Jesus taught, and to be baptized."  Well that literally shocked me, because she pretty much took the scripture and put it into her own words before I even presented the doctrine or shared the scripture.  Then we read the scripture and talked about how she can "Prepare to meet God."  It was golden.

The next lesson was to teach about the Spirit World and nothing else.  That is kind of a small thing to talk about for an entire lesson, but we knew it was the most important thing for Naraa to understand because her oldest son died many years ago.  She needed to have assurance and know where he is.  I had been praying many days prior to this lesson, even when we were teaching other lessons, about this lesson in particular.  I knew that through this lesson she could find her answer and that she will know that she will be with her son again someday.  So the day before and the morning of this lesson my companion and I prayed hard to be able to teach this lesson the way the Lord would teach it if He was teaching Naraa.  We had a good plan set up.  First we watched "The Lamb of God."  We wanted to share that because we wanted her to understand the Atonement better and make it more real instead of just us telling her what Jesus did for us.  After the video ended, she was just speechless and said she was scared because she never knew or understood that Jesus did that for us.   We testified to her that she need not be scared but be grateful because now we can receive eternal life.  Next it was time to start talking about The Spirit World.  All our prayers and pleadings were weighing on this moment.  We told her that her son was in The Spirit World.  But because your son never had the opportunity to hear and receive the Gospel while he was on earth, he is receiving the same lessons that you are receiving here on earth right now from missionaries just like us.   We testified that God loves all his children at that because he loves us all so much he gave spirits in The Spirit World the same opportunity that we have to accept or deny this Gospel.  We then talked about temples, and how in the temple we can do ordinances for our family members who have passed away so they can receive eternal life.  We showed her a picture of a temple baptismal font, and explained that you and Ganbayar will have the opportunity to go to the temple and be baptized for your older son.  We then talked about how God wants us all to return to him, but not alone, with our families.   The Spirit was so strong in that room, mom and dad.  It was just so peaceful.  I looked at Naraa and Ganbayar and I saw true love was just radiating from them.  We then sang, "Families Can be Together Forever."   I asked Naraa to pray, and she said that she couldn't.  I was just thinking to myself, "Nooo!  You have been praying so well!  Why are you saying you can't now?"  But then she just told us that she was just so full of emotion from this lesson that she really couldn't gather herself. (Well okay I guess that I'm okay then... :) Obviously the Holy Ghost was was doing His job!)   So Ganbayar prayed, and while he was praying I just kept on getting the prompting to ask her how she was feeling right now.  I kind of pushed it away and I was just trying to focus on what Ganbayar was praying for, but the feeling just kept on coming back!  So after the prayer I asked her and she just said that she was feeling this good, burning feeling, and how good she felt.  I testified to the best of my ability that she was feeling the Holy Ghost right now. I honestly have never been in a lesson like that before. Something I will never forget.

Since Ganbayar is back from UB now, he is now our witness for all the lessons we teach to his mom!  He received the Priesthood this past Sunday and blessed the Sacrament like a boss!  I was so proud of him!  I can't tell you how happy I am for that kid and his mom.   Naraa loves her son so much, and was so happy to sit in and see her son receive the Priesthood. (She even supplied us with bread for sacrament!)   But on top of all that, our Heavenly Father loves that family more than we can imagine. This is His work, not ours. I am just so grateful for the answered prayers we received and are still receiving in regards to Naraa.  The Lord knows her, and is helping her so much.  She will be coming to FHE again tonight and we are going to actually re-teach The Restoration to her... just following promptings from the Spirit.  I am so excited for her, and so blessed to be here right now!

Exciting things are coming up here in September.  President Benson is flying out to Choibalsan on September 5th!   Everyone is so excited to see him, especially Elder Baldandorj and I!  We are in the process of naming every member who has been endowed and is still worthy, but has an expired temple recommend or no recommend, so when President comes he will have tons of interviews to do! There are roughly about 15 people that will have the opportunity to get a new Temple Recommend.  I am just really happy for this because Mongolia is getting that much closer to receiving a Temple!   Then on September 15-17, Elder Baldandorj and I are flying to Ulaanbaatar for meetings and such.  We are so excited for the trip and excited to be all together with all the other missionaries.    I am loving the opportunity I have of being a leader in this branch, and I am learning so much about how the Gospel is run.  My Church Handbook has become very marked up!  It is hard sometimes because my companions have all been such relatively new converts themselves and so have no long-time experience in seeing how a ward (or branch) should be run.  I've never ran a ward or branch before, but I have seen it done all my life.  It is not their fault at all, it's just because the church is so new here and they are so new to the church.  This leaves me the responsibility of learning all the specifics about this and that and then teaching Mongolian, so that is always fun!   The WORK HERE IS GREAT!   I love being here in Choibalsan!

Love you all!

Elder Xappuc

This is Naraa!  Here we are at Naraa's home having dinner before we ever started teaching her the lessons.  This is a picture from over a month ago when the other elders where here with us.

Just here at Purew Emee's house for some delicious Huushuur!

Choibalsan is in the Dornod Province, and this is the exact center point of Dornod! Kinda cool, I guess!

This is one of our member's dirt bikes......The first one I have seen in Mongolia so I thought I would have some fun.  I'm not riding it, only sitting on it. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Best week of my mission so far!

Dear Family,

So this week was definitely a great one, probably one of the best of my mission. Let's just say that many pages were written on in my journal with memories that will stay with me forever.  I am so excited for the weeks ahead.  Please pray harder than you have before for us here in Choibalsan.  We need it.
This Friday, Enktoya Ganbaatar was baptized!   I've sent pictures.  It was so amazing.  About 25 people showed up for the service, which is more than we have ever had.  Her and Brother Ganbaatar were just smiling ear to ear, and I could not be more happy for them.  Check this out.  This is 100% the happiest moment of my mission.  Let me enlighten you on what happened.  So this past week before the baptism, we meet Bro. Ganbaatar and Enktoya at the church to show her a Mongolian-made church video about baptism, and after the movie we had a great conversation with them.  Brother Ganbaatar just out of nowhere says, "Hey Harris, let's do this....We are coming to America in 2016, and we would like to meet up with you in Las Vegas and play some Poker."  I am just like, "Okaaaay."  But then he goes on to say, "No, we are going to meet up with my kids in Salt Lake City and we are going to go to the temple!"  I literally have never been so happy mom and dad.  I really can't even describe it.  It is like you guys describing how happy you were when I went to the temple for my own really just can't put it into words!  So we talked about that for a while and how they want me to be there for their sealing to each other and their kids in the states.  Mom and Dad, 2016, mark your calendars!  We are going to the Salt Lake Temple with Ganbaatar's family!  They will become an eternal family!  I seriously love this work and watching the people I love make convents with Heavenly Father.  Nothing brings greater joy.
Naraa, Ganbayar's mom, is coming along just amazing.  She loves the church and does not miss an activity or event.  She has come to church three weeks in a row now, FHE (Family Home Evening), AND the past two baptisms.  She is really forming a relationship with her Heavenly Father, and we couldn't ask for more.  Heavenly Father truly is hearing our prayers for her, and He is blessing her more than we can even see. She is looking for the huge, "flashing lights" kind of answer to her prayers, but we have tried to help her understand that her answer will come through her faith and prayer, and her desire to follow or not follow Jesus Christ.  She is really responding to that, and starting to understand that this is a choice to accept it or not, and that it is 100% her choice. She says that she loves God, and church, and she has started reading the Book of Mormon.  She has a little problem though that hopefully can to be resolved. Her husband and the family that she works with at the market do not like church and they ridicule her for going and not working on Sunday.  They just want her to stay at the Zakh and sell vegetables.  She is really upset because she wants to be at church and they won't support her.  She called us last night as we were having FHE at a member's house, and she starting telling us all that happened with her family, and asking us what to do. So we hurried over to her house to meet her.  She was crying and telling us everything that happened, and I really had no clue what to say other than Heavenly Father loves her and knows her personally.  He has a plan for her, and she needs to make a personal choice to follow that plan or not.  She was so receptive and the meeting ended great.  She said how she is going to follow Ganbayar's example and go to church.  Please, please, pray for her.  She needs all the help and support she can get.  I really feel I was sent to Mongolia, and then to Choibalsan, for a specific reason....this family.  Kind of like when Matt was in Armenia on his mission and his relationship with Camo's family.

I love you guys so much, and I truly love this area and these people.  President told me to prepare to be here in Choibalsan for "some time."   Since my Sponsor for my English-teaching job is working out well here for me, that has a lot to do with it.  Our other investigators are doing good for the most part, and if all goes as planned, on September 12th, we should have 5 baptisms.

 Love you all,
 Elder Harris

Bro. Ganbaatar and his wife, Enktoya on Enktoya's baptism day!

 My Companion, Enktoya, Bro. Ganbaatar, and me.

My companion, me, and our best friend in Choibalsan, Erdenemunkh.  He loves hanging with us!  His mom is the Primary President.   That word in Mongolian means "homies," and the scripture is John 15:13.

Monday, August 11, 2014

We are on the Verge of Miracles!

Sain bain uu ger bvl min!

So family, things here in Choibalsan are great and we are on the verge of so many miracles.  Let me explain....

So Ganbayar was my second baptism here in Choibalsan as you might remember.  He is a great young man.  He will be receiving the priesthood anytime now.  As many people from Choibalsan do, he went to the countryside for the summer.   So we are just waiting for him return next week so that he can receive the priesthood.  But anyway, ever since we baptized him three months ago, we have been developing a great relationship with his mother, Naraa.  Elder Khash Erdene and I met with her a few times three months ago, but never felt that it was right to just throw the Gospel at her.  It was weird that we didn't feel right about teaching her lessons back then, but now it all makes sense.  So we have been going to her house about every week for the last three months, visiting with her, eating the "buffet" that she makes for us every time we come over, and just talking to her about her family and her job.   She owns a little vegetable store at the market here in Choibalsan.  Her oldest son, Ganbayar's brother, died like 10 years ago, so that is really sad for her, but we are hoping the Plan of Salvation will mean even more for her.   When Elder Osorjamma and I were companions, we also felt like we should not share the lessons with her yet.  So strange, but we decided to just teach her about God and how we can pray to him to receive blessings.  She loved that lesson a month back or so, and has been praying ever since. She even told us a story about how one of her prayers was answered when she missed a bus she needed to get on a month ago or so. She has slowly but surely been prepared by our Heavenly Father to receive this message.   Well, two Sundays ago, she just showed up at church!  I was shocked, and ecstatic all at the same time!   I guess Ganbayar had called her on the phone and told her that he didn't want people in the Branch to forget about him and think that he was inactive, so he asked his mother to go in his place.  He told her that all the people at church are really nice, and that she would find friends there.  So she came!  What a great example my new convert (Ganbayar) set for his mother!   We were so stoked about that!   She left after Sacrament Meeting, but before she left we made a appointment with her for Monday night.  So Monday came and we felt ready to teach her the message of the Restoration.  Honestly, it was the strongest lesson I have been apart of in my whole mission. The spirit was tangible.  I truly was receiving Heavenly help with the language.  She felt it too....couldn't recognize it...but she felt it.   We have since met with her four times.  She came to our baptism on Friday, and again to church yesterday.  Tonight we will show her the Restoration video at the church, and hopefully through that movie she can find her answer.  She has prayed three times now about whether or not our message is true, but is just now starting to recognize the Spirit teaching her.  She says how good she feels at church, and when she meets with us and when she learns about Jesus Christ, and we have linked those feelings to the Holy Ghost testifying to her that this is true.  But she is having a hard time recognizing that.  It is going great though, and I am so excited for her!  Truly, it was a miracle we have received because we listened to the Spirit a few months back and were patient with her.   Mom and dad, she is truly an Elect Lady.   How great is God!

Sainbayar was baptized this past Friday, and received the Holy Ghost on Sunday!  He is such a stud, and will shortly be a leader in the Church here in Choibalsan.  He has such a strong testimony and a desire to learn more about the Gospel, not to mention that he has almost finished the Book of Mormon.  He will be a Branch President sometime soon I predict.  President Benson is coming to Choibalsan this month, and will meet with him.  That will be great for Sainbayar to meet President Benson, and that will allow him to hopefully receive a calling of great importance.   Choibalsan and Mongolia need more men like Sainbayar.  He truly is a miracle.  He lived in England for 11 years, and met with missionaries there, but his English was poor, so he didn't really get much out of it.  Then he moved back to Choibalsan, saw the same church that he saw in England, (the church was not here in Choibalsan when he lived here 12 years ago), knocked on the church's door two times, and no one answered (it was a door that is not in use...!).   Then finally the third time that he came back, he caught Elder Sims and Ulziibayar walking in and bada boom bada bing......Baptized!

This week, Sister Enkhtoya, Brother Ganbaatar's wife, received her baptismal interview and passed it with flying colors!  Also this week, we met with her nearly every day, reviewing all the lessons, and teaching the 5th lesson from PMG.  She is so great, they are already planning to go to the temple in a year with their kids to be sealed for time and eternity.  I have been so blessed to be her missionary.  Truly, they are a family that I will be life long friends with.  I can't wait to see her go through the temple in a year with her husband, who will be going through for his first time too, and be sealed.  To see someone you love so dearly make eternal covenants with The Lord is indescribable.  She also asked me to baptize her, so I am truly so humbled and blessed to be where I am.  I love it here!

Our Church meetings were great here on Sunday.  The members love Elder Baldandorj as the Branch President, and are really receptive to him.  We had three speakers who all spoke about Temples, Temple Work, and Family History. We had 54 people in attendance. The numbers are almost always the same, but the unity is so much stronger.  I truly believe that unity will lead to lasting conversion and activity, and will keep people feeling the Spirit that is here on Sundays.

I am loving being Elder Baldandorj's companion again, and we are working harder and harder to receive more miracles here in Choibalsan.   Like I said, we are on the verge of so many miracle with investigators, and members being strengthened, and we are just really happy to be doing it together.  I know we are doing our part, and I know the Lord is blessing us.  We have set goals of exact obedience.  I know that is the only way we will receive the needed miracles here in Choibalsan.  I wouldn't want to be anywhere else than Choibalsan right now.  I have been putting in the required work with all my companions ever since I arrived here four months ago, and man does it feel great to see the Lord performing miracles right before our eyes. He lives!

Хайртай шүү!
-Ахлагч Xappuc

This Ganbaatar and his wife, Enkhtoya! August 15, 2014 is her baptism date. Eternal covenants!

Here I am just chillin' at the airport after teaching my English class. There are tons of Russian army people here, and I hear the President of Russia is coming to Choibalsan soon or some big parade and conference and training. 

This is one of their army helicopters. 

Sainbayar's Baptism.

After-baptism party!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

... And then there were two.. Again

Dear Family,

Zaa cain bainn uu ger bvlth min?

You will never guess what happened last week in transfers. You probably won't be as shocked as I was, but here we go. So the transfer call came a week late, and every Elder and every Sister was just on their toes waiting. Thursday came and we got the call from the Zone Leader, and well, Elder Sims and Ulziijargal were transferred back to UB. My new companion is Elder Baldandorj, again. He was my companion in Bayanzurkh before I got transferred to Choibalsan, about four months ago. So we are now the only two missionaries in Choibalsan again, and he is the new Branch President. I am excited for him to be the Branch President because from what President said, he should be here until about December or February. Our Branch needs a steady Branch President, and they all are very familiar with Elder Baldandorj because he served here 8 months ago for about 2 transfers. So we are back together again, and he is back in his old area. I really have faith that we will work well together again. We will work hard and do what the Lord would have us do. I am excited though. He is a funny and happy kid, easy to get along with for the most part. I know if we are obedient and obey with exactness, we will be successful here.

We now have six solid investigators with baptismal dates set, one being Brother Cainbayar, who will be baptized this Friday! He was Elder Sims' and Ulziijargal's investigator, and we picked him up when they left! He is such a stud, actually the most Golden Investigator I have seen in Mongolia in my 6 months time in the country. We refer to him as Choibalsan's Savior. He is such a great investigator, and will be such an incredibly huge asset to this Branch. He might move to UB in September, though, if he can't find work here. He has already read about 1/2 the Book of Mormon and his understanding of gospel principles is amazing. Also, as I told you last week, Brother Ganbaatar's wife will be baptized on August 15th. She is great and I am so excited for Brother Ganbaatar! He has waited for this for quite some time. She is the only one left in the family not to be baptized, so it has been a long time coming.

With the other two Elders leaving, we are back to being extremely busy and extremely "ajultai" (with work)! I am excited about that, and also a little nervous, but I have faith in my companion that he will rise to the calling of Branch President and we will work, work, and work. Other than that, this week was pretty uneventful. Elder Ulziibayar and I were sick from Monday through Wednesday, I was willing to work, but Ulziijargal just couldn't do it. He was throwing up a lot so we were stuck in the house.

This past week, I studied a lot about faith from chapter 6 of "Preach My Gospel" and learned so much more about faith than I think we all think about. I went through and underlined all the verbs that are required to have Christ-Like faith, and it was overwhelming. I am really going to focus on Faith and becoming a stronger disciple of Jesus Christ this week, trusting in the Lord's plan for us, and knowing that he is here with us.

I love you guys!

Elder Xappuc

Elder Marc Harris

P.S. How awesome that Elder Huckvale is in Ryan's new ward! I'm so pumped about that. We have never actually met, but we have been good pals via Skype!

My new companion and the new Branch President, Elder Baldandorj, and I outside the church building. This is the second time around for us. We were companions before I cam to Choibalsan. He is a good missionary. I am excited. 

Elder Baldandorj and I at Dandindorj's family's home for dinner. They are probably one of the strongest families in the branch. They went to the temple and were sealed two years ago. 

Naadaam in Choibalsan

Dear Family,

This week was pretty slow due to Naadam. In Choibalsan, we celebrated Naadam on July 24, 25, and 26th.  We only taught four lessons all week, because everyone's lives basically shut down for the whole week in preparation for Naadam….experiencing Naadam…then recovering from Naadam. 

The best way to describe Naadam for Americans is: It’s a 3-day long 4th of July!   It was crazy!  PEOPLE EVERYWHERE!  I swear, Choibalsan’s population shot up to like 20,000 during those 3 days. Throughout the 3 days of Naadam, we watched the Opening Ceremonies, wrestling, archery, finger archery, and went to the Choibalsan City Museum. Finger Archery is by far the coolest event, in my opinion. They flick these stones at targets like 20 feet away, and sing these crazy Mongolian songs.  I loved it!  I took a great video, but I can’t send it so you will have to wait another 17 months or so for that.  Anyway, it was really cool being in Choibalsan for Naadam. It is like being in small town America for the 4th.  So much Mongolian pride, traditional clothes, and HUUSHUUR!  Huushuur is a fried dumpling-thing with either beef or mutton inside it. All year long Mongolians eat huushuur, but Naadam huushuur is famous, they say.  It really was so much better then any other huushuur I have eaten here in Mongolia.  I had 4 huge ones, and I called it a day, haha!  Also we stayed really busy with dinner appointment after dinner appointment.  This was Elder Osorjamma’s last week.  I felt bad for him because his last week in the mission field was more or less one long party, with no missionary work.  But there was not much we could do about it. 

My companion flies out today at 6:00 p.m.   There will be a going away get-together for him and then dinner at the steak house!   I will miss him.  He is a great missionary and representative of the Savior.  After he leaves, I will be in a companionship of three for this coming next week until my new companion flies out here. Transfer Day is this Thursday, the 31st.  Who will my new companion be?  I do not know, but I do know that he will be Mongolian.  Also, I have no clue who the new Branch President will be (remember my last two companions have been the Branch President.  Will it be my companion?  Or another man in the Branch?  I’ll tell you all about it next week. 
Yesterday, I had my quarterly interview with President Benson via Skype. It was really great to talk with him.  He gave me tons of great insights on how to better myself, and how to do the Lord's work the way He wants it done. 

Regarding investigators, not much to tell you about right now, except that the 1st Counselor in our Branch Presidency and his wife have returned from the countryside after working there for 2 months and she is finally available for baptism!  This week we will be reviewing all the lessons and teaching her Lesson 5 from PMG (Preach my Gospel), because now all investigators must receive Lesson 5 before baptism. Before it was an after-baptism lesson. We hope to have her baptized on August 8th!  She is so golden, and she is ready to join her whole family as a member of the true church. Her name is Enkhtoya, so please pray that all will go well!   Also, our 9-year-old investigator's mother and father are coming along. The mother is about to give birth so we hope and pray that that will be a huge turning point towards God and His gospel for their family.  Please remember them in your prayers also. 

Gotta go.  I love you guys! 

Until next week,

Elder Harris

Our 9-year-old investigator, Hamolon, and her mother and father. Isn't she so cute?

Mongolian wrestlers. 

This is just part of the celebration.

These are judges who are judging an archery event.

Naadam in Choibalsan. Elder Sims and I are sporting our traditional Mongolian wear. These shirts are called "Del's".

I hear that Mongolia is world famous for their "huushuur", especially during Naadam. Huushuur is a fried meat pastry or dumpling that is filled with beef or mutton. 

P-Day Trip to Deep Countryside

Dear Family, 

Today, July 21st, 2014, was definitely one to remember. Let me get started. During this time in the summer, the Elders and Sisters in UB are doing fun activities such as hiking and siteseeing with President Benson and other leaders. Since we here in Choibalsan and are so for away and really do not have the funds to do such activities without the help of President or Senior Couples, our mission doctor, Doctor Lewis, his wife, and Ulzika, their translator, were flown out here to do church business in Choibalsan, and show us a good time. We planned a great P-Day activity in which we would all go with our member, Sister Bolor Erdene to the deep countryside of Mongolia to have a day with her sister's family, who are mostly all members. We found out from Bolor Erdene that it would take about 2-1/2 to 3 hours to get there, so we arranged for the necessary taxis that would be needed to take 9 people. (Elder Osorjamaa and myself, Elder Sims and Ulziijargal, Doctor Lewis, Sister Lewis, Uizika, Bolor Erdene, and Erdene Munkh.) Arrangements were made with the 2 taxi drivers that we would leave at 10 a.m., and return by 2 p.m. so that the Doctor and Sister Lewis could catch their flight back to UB. The Doctor, of course, would be covering the entire expense. We let the Doctor know about the entire plan, and everything was a “go.” They originally had wanted to see more “historical” sites of the Dornod province, but we informed them that those sites were 300+ kilometers away and would never fit in the time limit, so this plan was approved by the Doctor. So here we go!

We got up that morning and headed over to the church where we waited for the 2 taxi drivers. That's when we heard from one of them that the other driver would not be coming. Already off on the wrong foot! We asked him to find another driver for us and he drove somewhere and found one pretty quickly. Most taxi drivers could only dream to have this job for the day because there is no way they could make 85,000 tugs for one day's work. So we piled into the 2 cars, adults in one (and Erdene Munkh), and we Elders in the other. With an all expense paid trip to the grocery store, we loaded up on snacks, and we were soon on our way, off the pavement, and onto a tiny dirt trail. After about 5 minutes down the trail, one of the driver realized we were going the wrong way, so we turned around, got on the right path, and we were smooth sailing from there....until about an hour down that trail. Our driver decided to test his car, I guess, and took it off the trail and into a huge flooded area of Mongolian steppe. Yup, you guessed right...we got stuck. After realizing the car had no way of getting out, we four Elders ditched our socks and shoes in the car, got out into the mud and grass and started pushing. The car would not budge, but luckily some local countryside folk came to the rescue with rope and wire to pull us out. All in all, we were there for about an hour and a half.

So we got out of the mud and were on our way to Cergelthen Soum. After a while, we came upon a river crossing right before the entrance of Cergelthen Soum. So we were faced with a serious decision, well the taxi drivers were, “Do we try to attempt to cross this river, or do we turn around and give up?” We sat there and contemplated the choices and after the taxi drivers did some fine-tuning to their cars and washed them in the river, they decided to just go for it. So they both got pretty big head starts and gunned it, eventually crossing through the river and making it safely to the other side! It was so funny and awesome to watch these little 1999-ish Toyota Camry-sized cars drive through a river.

We now arrived in Cergelthen Soum and Doctor and Sister Lewis realized that it was only two hours until their plane left, and there is no way they would make it if they continued on with us. The drivers informed us that it was only 50 more kilometers, but Doctor Lewis decided to turn one of the cars back around, cross the river again, and go back to Choibalsan. So we four missionaries loaded in the back of the other car, with Bolor Erdene and Erdene Munkh in the front, and we traveled on without them. What was supposed to be only 50 kilometers ended up taking about 3 hours to get there. Along the way we drove on a road that was used by Chingis Khaan many, many years ago, and also saw a famous rock that supposedly has his footprint in it. It was really cool. The landscape was absolutely breathtaking. Greener than you could ever describe, the blue-est skies ever, and land that was flatter than a tabletop.

As we traveled along, we would see random things off the side of the road….a single ger, a herd of sheep or goats, a few horses, and even a few satellite dishes. It was truly an incredible site to see all these nomadic herders in the middle of nowhere, just living. The occasional mountain (really a small hill) would come up and we would hurry and get the camera out and snap a few pictures, along with all the beautiful, crisp blue lakes. We even saw 3 or 4 Falcons!

Just when we were about to freak out because the trip was taking much longer than planned, Bolor Erdene's sister’s ger appeared in the distance. They greeted us warmly and welcomed us. Because we had traveled so far, the sister decided it would only be appropriate to kill a goat and feed us a large bowl of liver, stomach, and other intestinal-looking body parts. Good thing the Doctor and his wife didn't come, they would have freaked. Well as they put the bowl of goat on the table, she asked me the typical question, one I love to hear, “Чи Монгол хоол идэж чадах уу?” (Can you eat Mongolian food?) I looked at her and said, “Чадна ш дээ!” (the English equivalent of “Are you kidding me...OF COURSE I CAN!) So I grabbed the knife, cut off a chunk of boiled goat liver, leaned my head back and dropped it in my mouth. She just started to laugh and I looked at Bolor Erdene and said, “жинхэнэ хүмүүс!” (real people!) It is kind of a little joke we have between us because one time I told her how “real” Mongolians are, so whenever I do something that a “real” Mongolian would do, I say that to her, or her to me. We also ate some bread with this slimy milk stuff on top. The milk stuff is just a layer of curdled milk that floats to the top of their large vats when it sits for a long enough period of time, then they serve it as food. Over the thousands of years in Mongolian history, they have literally found every type of food you can make from milk...except cheese. I love it though! So I slapped that slimy, milky thing (what now almost looks like a thin fried egg) on a slice of real Buriad countryside bread, and called it a meal! The Mongolian women loved that I was just downing the food they made. Elder Sims was sick, so he would not eat it, so it made me look that much more “жинхэнэ” (real)! After eating, we went out and they showed us their animals and then we had to get out of there and head for home.

The 5-hour ride home was going to be a rough one because Elder Osorjamma had to sit practically on my lap the entire way because Elder Sims and Ulziijargal were car sick.  It was such an incredible journey, and one I will never forget. I am 100% that only American that has ever gone that far in the history of the mission. #1 I am in the farthest city away from UB, then #2 I went 7 hours out of that city north to the Bayan Doon Soum, nearly going to Russia. I am glad that I got to do it, but we also kind of ruined it for any other missionary that will follow us... So I am the first and the last. Mongolia rocks.

Elder Marc Harris

This is a "structure" alongside the ger belonging to the relatives. This is Sister Bolor Erenes' brother-in-law and nephew. 

A little porcupine along the way. 

A cool pet goat.

This is a marmot. One in six marmots in Mongolia have the black plague, I was told. This one hopefully didn't. Mongolians eat marmots and we would've eaten this one but they said it had not been "prepared" yet. I have to say, I was sad that I was not going to be able to taste marmot. You know I'm all about experiencing the culture. 

Sister Bolor Erdene's nephew, Tumee, showing us his horse. I wanted to get on the horse and ride it so bad, but it's against the rules. 

Stuck in the mud.

Had to cross this river to get to the "road" on the other side. 

Along the way we drove on a road that was used by Chingis Khaan many many years ago, and also saw a famous rock that supposedly has the foot print of the Great Chingis in it. It was really cool. The landscape was absolutely breathtaking. Greener than you could ever describe and flatter than a table.

... And this was our destination, a lone, single ger in the deep countryside belonging to Sister Bolor Erdene's sister.

This is the entire group of Sister Bolor Erdene's family who we went to visit.  

Some little boys ride horses... this one rides calves.