Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Weaknesses Made Known

Dear Family,

So this past Thursday was transfers, and I am staying in Choibalsan!  I think I will only have one more transfer here, then I am gone-zoes!  My companion Elder Baldandorj was transferred across the country to another small branch called Seleng.   My new companion is Elder Tsend-Ayush.  He is a Mongolian from my group, so we have the same amount of experience.   I really don't know him, and he is not here yet!  He will not arrive until Wednesday, so I have a mini-Missionary companion until then.......Elder ErdeneMunkh!  Yes, that's right!  My friend, the 15-year-old teacher is now my companion and he is loving it!  He is so dang cute man!  I sent a couple of pictures.   He calls me "Companion" and he is getting accustomed to Missionary Life....but the only thing is......he cannot stay awake during our 3-hour study block, haha!   Oh well, he will learn!  His mother, Sister Bolor Erdene, has told me to be real hard on him, and teach him what missionary work is all about, so I am trying to obey orders.  She also called his school and got him excused for a few days, so he was super excited about that!   Also, along with still being the District Leader, I have received a new calling.  I am Choibalsan's Branch President.  I am so humbled to have received this call from President Benson.  I immediately felt the burdens of this calling, and my weaknesses as a missionary and man, were made known to me almost immediately.   However, I trust in the Lord, and I know He is here with me.  I find peace in knowing that "the Lord God showeth us our weakness that we may know that it is by His grace, and His great condescensions unto the children of men, that we have power to do these things." (Jacob 4:7)   I know my weaknesses are made known to all, and that the members in the Branch can see them just as well as I can, but that is the Miracle of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  I know though His grace, love, and long suffering towards me, he will "make weak things become strong unto (me)." (Ether 12:27)

Yesterday (Sunday) I conducted and presided at my first Sacrament Meeting, and that was a cool experience.  I was a little nervous, but I decided to give a talk on Baptism, and why Christ was baptized (2 Nephi 31).....something I love to teach about.  That lightened my nervousness a little.   Being the Branch President, I have quickly been made aware of a lot of Fast Offering needs that older sisters in the ward have......and many other things, and man that really hit me!  Things that are needed right now by some elderly members are wood and coal so they can keep their homes warm.   It is getting very cold here now.  Just know that the refiners fire is burning HOT here in Choibalsan!  I know the Lord has plans for me and I will do my all to follow along the path that he has laid out. The Lord knows His Vineyard and His sheep, and He will guide me in this work, that I am sure of.  Jacob, the little brother of Nephi of old, counseled his people to "seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from His hand," (Jacob 4:10).  The Lord loves us, that I know to be true.  He suffered for us and our weaknesses, so we could pull that load with him, on our road back to Him.  "For (His) yoke is easy, and (His) burden is light." (Matthew 11:30).   My dear Family and Friends, take "(His) yoke upon you.. and you shall find rest to your souls." (Matthew 11:29)  I testify of the truthfulness of Jesus Christ, and His extended arm towards us, "unworthy creatures." (Mosiah 4:11)  

The work is going good here......slow, but good. I have faith that when my new companion comes, many good things will follow.   We right now have 7 investigators with baptism dates set.  I am very hopeful for them and their progression.  There is one family that we are teaching, but the older members of the family have really no desire. They are the older sisters and family of our new member Naraa Egch.  The 14-year-old boy, Munkhbaysgalan, has great desire and I see him getting baptized and setting the example for his family down the road....just like his cousin, Ganbayar (another recent convert) did for his mother, Naraa.  We also have a really good investigator named Saranzuunbold.  He is about 22 and actually approached us and wanted to meet with us, so that was great!  He was doing so great, but this week his phone has been turned off, or there could be number of problems, but we have not been able to get a hold of him. That is always a huge bummer! 

The branch is doing great. I am so proud of the strength of the branch, and the unity.  Since I have been here, the members that were on the fence have become solidified, and the members that were solid, are now Enduring to the End.  Less Actives are starting to come back, and I love that.  As a District we have identified ten less actives that we will focus on.  My companion and I, and the sister missionaries, have been meeting with all ten each week, so they get double duty from the missionaries!  This has been working, so we will continue with it. 
I love you all. God be with you. 

Elder Harris

"Elder" ErdeneMunkh!  Yes, that's right!  My 15-year-old friend from the Branch is now my mini-companion and he is loving it!  He calls me "Companion" and he is getting accustomed to Missionary Life.

Elder ErdeneMunkh and I.   Missionary ninjas getting ready to go out!

 At Naraa's house for dinner.

Just some sightseeing about Choibalsan.

 More sightseeing....and a little bit of shenanigans!

In the watch tower at the Choibalsan airport, after English lessons with my Air Traffic Controller buddies.

 Me next to a big ol' stinkin' camel.

Me making a fast get away from a spitting camel.  I was too fast.....he missed me!

This is for you dad!    One of the Choibalsan fire trucks!

Чойбалсангын Саруул Тал!    Mongolia's Vast Steppe!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Our Branch is Catching the Mission Spirit

Ger Bvlth Mini,

So this week was great. It started off terrible, but ended up great!  It's kind of a long story so it will have to wait, but I will have a great story to tell you guys in about 14 months, so you'll just have to be patient. My companion and I had our scheduled interviews with President Benson this past Friday. Being so far away out here in Choibalsan, I sat down with him, via Skype, of course, and just had the best talk.    After like 30 minutes, he asked me if there was anything else I wanted to talk about and I just asked if I could talk about myself.  He said, of course. I just started sharing my heartaches, my worries, my failures, etc.  While I am doing this, President is just looking at me through the computer screen and smiling ear to ear.  I could honestly feel his love for me, the Holy Ghost so strong, and this made my emotions just kinda get away from me. (Don't judge...haha)  When I finished, he looked at me and told me that he had this exact same conversation with HIS mission president when HE was a missionary in Mongolia years ago, emotions and all!  He told me that he told his mission president, "I just want to be a good missionary."  That is something I told him many times during our interview.  I told him how I love the work here in Choibalsan and do not what this opportunity to serve here to go to waste.  With love, he again told me how he had this same conversation with his mission president.  Then he told me something that I will never forget."  He said, Elder Harris, you will soon get the opportunity to shine. I promise you. I am so pleased with the work you are doing, and I know the Lord is too. I don't know why The Lord is giving you this trial, but just know it is for your good."  He then told me to re-read D&C 121-122, and apply it to myself.  

I love this man so much. He is my hero. He took about 2 hours out of his busy day to meet with us, both one on one, and together. He loves us, and he is truly called of God to serve as the Mission President of Mongolia. His whole family is in America right now and Sister Benson is waiting to deliver a baby boy, and he is here in Mongolia serving the Lord and fulfilling his calling as a servant of the Lord.  He and his family truly live the Law of Consecration. To be only 35 years old and leave everything you have, and in his family's case, everything he didn't have, to fulfill the calling from the Lord, is something truly extraordinary. I will honor this man forever. 

Well, everything picked up from that point.  Saturday night we found 4 new investigators (a family), and they have all committed to baptism on November 21st!  Not only that, but they came to us through our new member, Naraa Egch!  (Remember her?  She was baptized a few weeks ago.)  It is her two older sisters and their families and she set the whole thing up for us.  We just had to show up.  What a missionary she is!  It was honestly one of the best nights and lessons of my mission.  So we pray that they will follow their sister's example!   So all in all, we now have 7 investigators.  Two came to church this past week, and we are really excited to see them progress. One is a really cool Grandpa!  He was also brought by a member!  Our Branch is catching the missionary spirit!  It is so awesome to see.

I love you guys. Thanks for all you do for me!  Please continue to pray, and read your scriptures as a family everyday!  Don't forget.

Until next week,

Elder Harris

The three girls that were baptized this week.  The sister missionaries taught them, and Ganbayar and Tumee baptized them!  Isn't that awesome!

Sis. Bolor Erdene's niece was one of the ones who were baptized.  Here we are with her family and the sister missionaries.

This week Sister Tserverlmaa and Purew Emee had their birthday party at the church!  It was a lot of fun and they loved it!

Purew Emee is now 77!  Pray for her!  Her health is not very good.  I love her so much!  

The entire Mongolia Ulaanbaatar Mission.   This official photo taken at the Mission Conference at the end of September, with (L to R) Pres. and Sister Allen, Elder and Sis. Gong, Elder and Sister Rasband and President and Sister Benson.  My companion and I are in the upper left-hand part of the picture, about one row down from the top.

General Conference


I had the great opportunity to watch General Conference here this past weekend and boy did I enjoy it!  This conference truly touched me and gave me the spiritual "umph" we all need to get through another 6 months until the next conference.  I had many prayers answered through the voice of the prophets, and truly I have received what I know I needed to get through this rough spot we are having out here.  Work here is hard, my companionship is not the best, and you easily get discouraged when you see so many opportunities go, but Conference has given me what I prayed for.  How amazing is it that we live in a day where the Voice of the Lord is professed to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, two times a year!  We are a blessed people.  Don't take these talks lightly, for they are latter-day scripture, no different than the Bible, and the teachings of the Lord's Prophets in the Holy Land thousands of years ago. I know this to be true.

I also had the opportunity to conduct three baptismal interviews this past weekend.  It was a great experience, and truly the Holy Ghost is something special.  I was told that if you prepare for the interview and have the Spirit with you, you will "just know". (Regarding if they are ready or not). I will testify that that is true. All in all, a great experience.

So from conference, I found that the main point was Families.  Of course that is my opinion, and all of you maybe had difference takes, but that it what I received and learned through the Holy Ghost.  I would like to start by just copy and pasting my favorites and what I found to be of most importance to this email, and I will also put my comments on it as well.

Family Prayer:    
Elder Richard G. Scott: " Parents, help safeguard your children by arming them morning and night with the power of family prayer. Children are bombarded every day with the evils of lust, greed, pride, and a host of other sinful behaviors. Protect your children from daily worldly influences by fortifying them with the powerful blessings that result from family prayer. Family prayer should be a nonnegotiable priority in your daily life."

Now tie this in to the quote below from Elder Callister.

Elder Callister: "No doubt most of our youth have their evening prayers, but perhaps many of them struggle with the habit of personal morning prayer. As parents, as their prime gospel teachers, we can correct this. Which parent in Book of Mormon times would have let their sons march out to the front of battle without a breastplate and shield and sword to protect them against the potentially mortal blows of the enemy? But how many of us let our children march out the front door each morning to the most dangerous of all battlefields, to face Satan and his myriad of temptations, without their spiritual breastplate and shield and sword that come from the protective power of prayer? The Lord said, “Pray always, … that you may conquer Satan” (D&c 10:5). As parents, we can help instill within our children the habit and power of morning prayer."

Wow!  Does does that not hit home?  Family, please learn from this. This is the most vital information for our family, and something I know we can improve on. We would never let Luke, Olivia, and Jake not be strapped into the car seat right? (just an analogy). Likewise, that same comfort of safety is found in morning individual and family prayers.

Family Scripture Study:

Elder Richard G. Scott:
"We talk to God through prayer. He most often communicates back to us through His written word. To know what the voice of the Divine sounds and feels like, read His words, study the scriptures, and ponder them.~Make them an integral part of everyday life. If you want your children to recognize, understand, and act on the promptings of the Spirit, you must study the scriptures with them."

"Don’t yield to Satan’s lie that you don’t have time to study the scriptures. Choose to take time to study them. Feasting on the word of God each day is more important than sleep, school, work, television shows, video games, or social media. You may need to reorganize your priorities to provide time for the study of the word of God. If so, do it!"

"I add my voice with this promise: as you dedicate time every day, personally and with your family, to the study of God’s word, peace will prevail in your life. That peace won’t come from the outside world. It will come from within your home, from within your family, from within your own heart. It will be a gift of the Spirit. It will radiate out from you to influence others in the world around you. You will be doing something very significant to add to the cumulative peace in the world."

Again, the "peace" that will come from our homes will allow our inward light to shine outward as examples and will most importantly fortify the walls of our homes and those within from the evils and perils of the world. Nothing is more important as Elder Scott said. This is true. Raise the rising Harris' in righteousness, and "let virtue garnish (our) thoughts unceasingly; then shall (our) confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon (our) soul(s) as the dews from heaven." (D&C 121:45) "DO IT!" -Elder Scott 

Family Home Evening:

Elder Richard G. Scott: "Be cautious not to make your family home evening just an afterthought of a busy day. Decide that on Monday night your family will be together at home for the evening. Do not let employment demands, sports, extracurricular activities, homework, or anything else become more important than that time you spend together at home with your family.~Sister Linda~S. Reeves boldly declared: “I must testify of the blessings of daily scripture study and prayer and weekly family home evening. These are the very practices that help take away stress, give direction to our lives, and add protection to our homes.”

I talked about this a few weeks ago from a conference that Elder Rasband held for us. Now, we need to "(Reprove) betimes with
sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love (or gratitude) toward him (whom has reproved you).." (D&C 121:43)

Temple Attendance:

Elder Richard G. Scott: "We all know there is no more peaceful place on this earth than in the temples of God. If you don’t have a temple recommend, qualify to get one. When you have a recommend, use it often. Schedule a regular time to be in the temple. Don’t let anyone or anything prevent you from being there."

I echo Elder Scott, please do not let anything stop you from going to the temple. Nothing is more important. As we are all endowed with the temple covenant, we truly cannot afford to stop receiving the blessings that come to ourselves but more importantly to our families from not regularly attending our local temple….Boise or Las Vegas, St. George, or Oakland, (and whatever temple Jeff and his family attend), we truly have no excuse. Please make it there.  I miss the temple so much, and I cannot wait to get back on December 12th, 2015.

Mother and Fathers:

Elder L. Tom Perry: "As the world continues to watch us, let us be certain that our example will sustain and support the plan the Lord has designed for His children here in mortality. The greatest teaching of all must be done by righteous example. Our homes must be holy places in order to stand against the pressures of the world. Remember that the greatest of all the blessings of the Lord come through and are given to righteous families. We must carefully continue to evaluate our performance as parents. The most powerful teaching a child will ever receive will come from concerned and righteous fathers and mothers. Let us first look at the role of the mother.

Mothers: Listen to this quote from President Gordon B. Hinckley:

“Women who make a house a home make a far greater contribution to society than those who command large armies or stand at the head of impressive corporations. Who can put a price tag on the influence a mother has on her children, a grandmother on her posterity, or aunts and sisters on their extended family?"

Fathers: "Fathers are personally involved in leading family prayers, daily scripture reading, and weekly family home evenings. Fathers build family traditions by being involved in helping plan vacation trips and outings that will involve all of the family members. Memories of these special times together will never be forgotten by their children. Fathers hold one-on-one visits with their children and teach them gospel principles. Fathers teach sons and daughters the value of work and help them establish worthy goals in their own lives. Fathers set an example of faithful gospel service."

"Please remember, brethren, your sacred calling as a father in Israel—your most important calling in time and eternity—a calling from which you are never released."

I love you all so much. Mom and Dad, Matt and Carly, Ryan and Angela, of course all my little ones, Jill and Steve, Kathy and Don, Jeff and Rosean (their kids included), and Grandma Harris.  I think about you all more than you would think.  You are all what truly matters to me, and I love you all so much.  If there is something to fix, do it now.  May we all stay on Old Ship Zion, so we, as a family, can safely make it Home.

Love you all,
Elder Harris

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

My Birthday as a Missionary was Amazing!

Dear Family,

Well this past week, as we all know, I turned 21. I just want to tell you that it was by far the most special birthday I have ever had. Having the calling that I have as a missionary for the Lord Jesus Christ is something that trumps all, and the people here truly spoiled me.  Mom, rest assured...I was taken care of by three different families on my birthday, all of which I have never felt so much love.  It was truly amazing.  On my birthday, we were able to go to Sister Oyun Erdene's home around 11:00 for a birthday lunch!  It was great!  Many members were there, and I was presented with song, and a great birthday cake!  Sister Oyun Erdene even kissed me on the cheek!  I was shocked!  Later that night after a fireside we held to start our Branch's 90-Day Book of Mormon reading, we went over to Naraa's house for dinner.  It was great also and I am so grateful for the hospitality she has shown me for months now!  She is a true saint.   She and Ganbayar gave me a Chinggis Khaan leather wall hanging and a Mongolian statue.   It is cool!  Tuesday night, we went over to Sister Bolor Erdene's home and had a feast!  I learned how to make Buuz...I am terrible at it, though!  But this party was something special. The love that was in that tiny room was something special, and something I will never forget. They truly love Elder Harris. They gave me a traditional Mongolian hat called a "Louz."  It is a hand-made fox pelt hat!  It is soooo sick, Mom and Dad!   Just know I will wear it for every holiday in America for as long as I live.  They also gave me tons of "Shagainuud" (ankle bones)!  I am saving them up so we can play that game when I get home!  Also, they gave me a Mongolian cashmere sweater vest!  It is so nice!  And so expensive.... 50,000 tougs.... They cannot afford that.  That is like $28, and it is a little small on me, and that is the biggest size they had.  I felt so bad, but  I mean, what do you do?  I love it though!  I stretched it out a little bit and wore it on Sunday to church!  They loved it!  Sister Bolor Erdene gave me a birthday card, and at the bottom it was signed, "From your Mission Mom."  She then handed me these two little Mongolian dolls. One male and one female.  She then told me that the male is for me, and the female is for my future wife.  At this point I started to get a little emotional, and Sister Bolormaa, Bolor Erdene's older sister, saw it and said, "Ай ямар хөөрхөн юм бэ! (Oh! how cute!)  So I immediately stopped and started making a few jokes to cut the sentimental mood that was happening!  Honestly, it was the best birthday I could have asked for! 

The AP's (Assistants to the President) flew out on Monday, my birthday.  We didn't do much that day except celebrate my birthday!  Tuesday I went on splits with Elder Higgs from Ogden, Utah.  He played Lacrosse at the Y, and tore his ACL too!  He is a real stud! haha!  Anyways, we didn't get much done because I was audited because I am the Ward Clerk.  One of the senior couples, Elder Frankam from Taylorsville, Utah, came out to do the audit.  It was cool, but stressful.  It took quite awhile, and then afterwards we had to take care of a lot of issues at the sisters' apartment.  The Landlord has totally done them dirty. Anyways, we had a great day; long talk, much needed on my end, I might add.  Please pray for my companion.  Please pray for the work here. I know your prayers will be heard. 

The work is slow here right now. We are struggling, but the end of that rut is near, I hope.  I am just trying my best to be an example and help my companion and our district.  Charity is key I have learned.  Pray for me as I strive to lead this District. The Sisters are great, very hard workers, as well.  We should be having four baptisms as a district this month!  Our goal is 100 lessons and four baptisms, so we are working hard for that!  Those are big numbers in Mongolia, so we have a mountain to climb. But... bid chadna! Oh yeah, I almost forgot!   Because I have made many friends at the Airport here, I have come to have a few connections.  My friend at the Airport, an Air Traffic Controller named Bold, called me a few days back and said that he was going to the countryside and if I would give him come gas money, he would bring back some wolf meat for me!!   Of course I jumped at that!!  So I payed him 15,000 toogs (about $6) for about 3 pounds of wolf meat!  So today we had a "Wolf Party!"  We made "buzz" and "huushuur," and man, was it good!  Wolf meat is supposedly really good for your body (so they say).  Whether it is or not, that is another thing to cross off my list!

I love you guys!  Talk to you next week after I watch GENERAL CONFERENCE!!  I am so excited! 

Elder Harris! 

Twenty-first birthday breakfast. Ryan, check out the tie! Thanks, bro. 

Party at Sister Bolor Erdene's house. Elder Higgs (one of the AP's) was in town. So glad he could meet our members.

Sister Bolormaa, Bolor Erdene's older sister, and me in a traditional Mongolian hand-made fox hat, called a "Louz"! Just so you know, I will wear it for every holiday in America for as long as I live.

Sister Bolor Erdene and I.

 Tumee and I.

Party at Oyun Erdene's house, and some of the members that came out for it.

What's left of the birthday cake from Oyun Erdene's party.

My sponsor in UB, Ukraine Naraa, sent me a cake! Elder Higgs photo-bombing me.

Naraa, our new member, and her son, Ganbayar, gave me this statue and a leather wall hanging of Chinggis Khaan.

Sunday with the fam! I am wearing the orange sweater vest they gave me!