Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Dear Family,

Sorry this one may be a short one, just forewarning.  This week we had six visitors fly out to Choibalsan from Ulaanbaatar:  The interim Mission President and his wife (the Andersons), the APs (Elder Higgs and Elder Khash Erdene), Brother Enkhjigur and Brother Batbold.   Man, was it great!   You may remember that Elder Khash Erdene was my companion several months ago and also the Branch President here (it was great to see him again).   Also, this week was my companion's 19th birthday and his Mother and Father were in Choibalsan on business so they took us out to lunch at a great place.  Needless to say, we ate out three times this week and didn't pay a dime, so that was fantastic.   I spent a lot of time with President Anderson administering to members, and making sure that their needs were met.  He and his wife are such great people and so charitable.  He made a huge impact on many people in just two days, and it is something these people will never forget.   He gave me many tips on how to be a better Branch President and how to be a better administrator.  I am so grateful for his help and his advice. 

This Sunday we had 84 people in church!   Every seat was full!   Elder Higgs and my companion ended up standing up in the back so others could sit.  It was awesome.  Also, the fireside on Sunday night had a great turn out, and I know many were touched by the Spirit during that short hour.  Everyone wanted pictures with the Andersons afterwards.  It was pretty cute.

The two investigators we found last week blew us off all week so that was kind of rough and unexpected.   One called me and said that she hates to read so she will not be able to continue meeting with us.  She said she will still be thinking about our message, and will get back to us.  We will follow up with her this week for sure and allow the Spirit to do the work in softening her heart.   I feel that she is prepared, but she just needs that confirmation. 

Balancing missionary work and my responsibilities as Branch President can be challenging at times, but my companion and I are starting to get going with the missionary work.  We will have 3 baptisms here in 3 weeks.  I spoke with the APs about my efforts in trying to accomplish all my responsibilities, and they understand that it is hard balancing everything with the responsibilities that I have.   But they assured me that President Benson would not have called me to this position if I could not be the leader he knows I can be.   I try to be like President Brigham Young, meek, humble, strong, and firm in his beliefs and actions.  He was called the "Lion of the Lord," and I hope to develop those attributes throughout this calling.

I love you all, and am so grateful for you.  Have a happy Thanksgiving and eat some turkey for me (there are no turkeys in Mongolia)!

Elder Harris

The APs (Elder Higgs and Elder Khash Erdene) with my companion and I.

 My companion and I, with our two great friends Tumee and Ganbayar. They are great young men, future missionaries for sure!

 My Comp, Elder Tsend-Ayush, and I.

 Elder Higgs and I.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

I love my calling, and I love Mongolia!

Dear Family,

Well this week went by really fast, and quite well. Tuesday and Wednesday went down the drain because we were at the church all day, or handling 10 tons of coal to be delivered to members.  A man from Hong Kong came to Choibalsan to inspect our church building on Wednesday, so I got the word that everything needs to be 100% spick and span.  Tuesday we had a impromptu Service Day, and in about 5 hours we got the entire inside and majority of the outside spotless.  It was great.....and lots of members came out to help!  In all, we filled an entire dump truck with garbage bags filled with leaves or trash.  I am not joking, an entire dump truck.  Choibalsan's members can truly work!  The inspection went great and we passed with flying colors!  Actually a man from UB was shocked on how clean it was.  But then on Thursday, during mutual, I totally punched a hole in the wall while playing dodge ball.  Well I really didn't punch it, but it looks that way....haha.  I was dodging a ball thrown at me and didn't realize how close I was to the wall, so I put my arms out in front to protect myself (just a simple reflex) and what do you know....Huge crack and hole in the wall!   That was an awkward phone call to explain what happened to the man who just had left from the inspection!  

Also this week, we found two new investigators, both through Sister Nergui (if you translate her name, it literally means "No Name"...haha...and it is one of the most common names in Mongolia).  She is a new member of about two years and she lives super far away from the church, but still makes it every week and fulfills her calling, as Branch Librarian and Primary Presidency 1st Counselor, like a champ!   She is actually one of my favorite sisters in the Branch because of her humility and willingness to submit herself to the Lord's will.  We have never been out to her house, so we decided to go out there one night this past week.  Her sister (40-ish) happens to live with her and is not a member, so we hopped on that very quickly!    Also, we received a referral from them for Sis. Nergui's niece (27) and her husband.  We were able to set baptismal dates for Sister Nergui's sister and niece, so I am excited about that.   We are hoping for them to be baptized on Dec 19th (the day after Transfers).  The Sis. Nergui's sister came to church yesterday, but her niece did not, so that was a little disappointing and we will be following up with them this week.  Older investigators are just so much cooler to me, so I am so grateful that we were blessed with these two new investigators.   A funny thing happened while we were teaching them a lesson (the mom and daughter).   I kept on saying "homosexual," instead of "respectful" while teaching about prayer.  They are really not very similar in Mongolian, but when you talk fast you can get mixed up!  Anyway, I was trying not to laugh, because I knew what I was doing, and my companion was trying his hardest to hold a straight face, as were our two investigators.  I did clear things up and told them what the word really should have been.  We had a good laugh, and then we went on with the lesson.   

On a not-so-good note this week, our 15 year old investigator, Tuguldur, who has been an investigator since like August, skipped out on his final baptismal interview and didn't come to church yesterday.  It is frustrating.  We went and talked to him last night and he had every excuse in the book, but is annoyed at us for not allowing him to be baptized.  I will keep you updated on that in the weeks to come.   

Mom and dad, I just want to say how great it is to be here in Mongolia.  I love my calling, and I love Mongolia!   It is still so unreal to me that I am actually in Mongolia and representing my Savior.  You know, you grow up always loving the missionaries at your house and at church, and viewing as them as Heroes.   It is still crazy and surreal that I AM one!   Mom and Dad, I feel your prayers, I want you to know that.  I really do.  We are being blessed here, and I can feel the connection between your prayers on our behalf, and these blessings we are receiving.  The Lord's most answered prayer is the one of a Mother.   Mom, I love you deeply, and you'll never know how much I miss you.  If I didn't have you....яанаа.   Dad, you are my hero.  I love you more than you will ever know.   In the package I received this week, there was a song on a CD called, "In a letter Home," and boy did it hit home.  Listen to it, and just know that that song describes how I feel to a "T."   I read each of your letters often, not the whole thing, just the few sentences that you usually write in closing, and they give me just what I need to keep me going.  I love you guys, but I love my Heavenly Father more.   Why?  Because He gave me you two. 

Love your son,

Elder Harris

The crack in the wall.   Like I said, it was an awkward and embarrassing call!

 This picture is not for the faint of heart....We found this skinned dog right outside the back door to my favorite place to eat here in Choibalsan...yup, we did.

 My favorite convenience store here in Choibalsan has a great pic of Heidi and Spencer on the wall. I get a kick out of it every time I leave the store. #TheHills

Monday, November 10, 2014

Self-Reliance and Accountability

Хайрт гэр бүл минь,

Ямар ч гэсэн Чойбалсан саак шүү! өнгөрсөн долоо хоног удан байсан Ч гэсэн энд ажилаа арай сайн байсан. Энэхүү Шини дуудлага ер нь стрэсстэй харин хийхид сонорхолтой. Би их сурах болно гэж бодож байгаагуй зүйлсийг сураж байгаа. Би үнэхээр Бурханаар адислагдсан бөгөөд түүнд үргэлжлүүлнэ талархалтай явна.

Well, not a whole lot happened this week, it's been kind of slow unfortunately, but I've had a really great time serving the people of Choibalsan.  It is getting cold here, but still no snow.  There is no pollution in Choibalsan, for the most part, like there is in Ulaanbaatar, but when it gets dark, it starts to get a little smoky because people start their coal-fueled fires for a warm night.

I am loving it here still, but I still have that gut feeling I am out of here on December 8th (Transfer Day).   I could be wrong, we will just have to see.  If I am not transferred though, rumor has it that my companion and I will be flying to UB for Christmas, so that will be cool to fly again!  I feel so "VIP" out here, haha!

This week was filled with learning how to administer Fast Offering assistance in the Branch and teaching people how to be self-reliant.  I had three grandmas here that all needed 5 tons of coal for winter, and another man who needs some serious help to get back on his feet.  I have learned tons about self-reliance and how assistance in the Church is truly administered and what it's purpose is.  First, I submitted all the information to President Benson, because all these cases were above my money approval level, which is 180,000 toogs.  He called me right away and told me that I needed to do it all over again because their requests were just not acceptable.   If you look on the self-reliance form, which can be found if you google it, most questions are about their resources and how to become self-reliant.
Well I really didn't think this applied to these individuals because they are poor and old and don't work.  Well, President Benson gave me some wise counseling and told me that no matter how old a Mongolian grandma is, she needs to learn self-reliance, and be held accountable.  He told me that in assistance from the Church, the most important thing is not the "assistance," but the learning to become self-reliant.  We help people because we love them and care for them, but we also do not want to create a culture of dependency and reliance on the Church.

So I set up appointments with them all again, and that was kind of embarrassing, haha, but oh well, what can ya do?  Meeting with them about their individual finances and personal things was awkward at first, because you feel like you are offending this old grandma and judging her for not saving more,  But it soon turned out to be great, and I felt how grateful they were for me, and the assistance the church will give them beyond the coal and material things.  President Benson said most people don't take the Church's advice on self-reliance, but that is okay.  I loved seeing the joy on their faces and the overall thankfulness from their hearts as I signed contracts to help them, and as they signed that they need to learn to help themselves, as well.   I am grateful for these experiences truly.  I never would have thought that this would be the mission I would be serving, but I know that the Lord's plan is perfect, and he has something prepared for those who endure it well.

This week on the missionary work end of things, when we were able to fit it in, it was effective and went well.   Our new member, Naraa Egch, is progressing into a GREAT and strong member.  She truly has gained such a testimony very fast about subjects that I thought wouldn't come for a while.  It is amazing to see her desire and willingness to serve.   She is the leader in charge of the Relief Society activities at the church.  I forget what that is called in English... Enlightenment?  ....or something like that.   Anyway, she is loving it, and is serving well, and magnifying her calling.  she has also set a goal date of September 2015 to go to the temple in.  I am thrilled for her and her son, Ganbayar.

We do have some potential investigators that we will be contacting this week.  We also feel pretty hopeful about an ITL (Invitation To Learn) we did in a taxi this past week.   This woman's two daughters are members in UB, and she was an investigator a few years ago.  She liked us a lot and gave us a free taxi ride when it should cost us like 4,000 togs!   We should have a baptism on the last Friday of November, but other than that, our other investigators are not progressing as we would like.  That is kinda rough.

I am happy to report that my companion, Elder Tsend-Ayush, is great!   He just wants to work.  He is a great help to me as a missionary, and he supports me in my responsibilities in the Branch.   We work well together, and I am very grateful for that.

Love you all,

Elder Harris

My companion, Elder Tsend-Ayush, and I.

Haha, We were eating lunch at a Chinese place and thought what I would give for an afternoon nap!   I recover quickly, though!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Lord knows me, and He's got everything covered.

Dear Family,
This week was not too eventful.  Just trying to get the hang of everything going on with my new calling.  There are many things that kind of got left for me more or less with no explanation from my old companion.  This is not his fault, it's just how it is when Branch Presidents are rotated in and out.   Needless to say, it is a lot of learning on the go.  I love it though!  It is just so different from anything I've ever done.... being in charge of EVERYTHING.  I admit it is stressful at times, but I know the Lord is with me. With every mistake I make, or lack of knowledge that I have, I know the Lord's atonement and its enabling power covers it all by means of my Faith in Him who has "suffered (me) to come unto this place..." (D&C 100:4) 

As I study the Atonement of Jesus Christ I am truly speechless.  He suffered and died, and was nailed to a cross, for me. Only one man would do that, and that is the Savior of all mankind. My feelings for the Atonement are gigantic compared to the words that I can speak regarding the matter, that is why I feel expression through scripture to be suitable. "Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not. Behold the wounds which pierced my side, and also the prints of the nails in my hands and feet; be faithful." (D&C 6:36-37)  He took care of everything.
He paid the ransom, His life, for ours, and now all we need to do is put our faith in Him who calls us His own. 

Well, I'm happy to report that my new companion, Elder Tsend-Ayush, is awesome!  Man I feel so blessed!  He is 18, almost 19, and has been out just as long as I have.  He is the funniest kid and always wants to talk!  We have become great friends already, and through this past week, it is evident to me that the Lord knows me and knows what kind of companion I needed to lift my spirits out here.  He is the biggest "Hipster" in Mongolia.  I mean, he just loves his hairspray, haha, but he has such a good vision of what the work needs to be like.  He is ready to work hard, work, work, work.  So that is the plan!  We didn't teach tons of lessons this week, but when we did, they were solid, and I love the way he teaches.  I see much success in the near future!  He also has a football...and can throw it, so you know how our p-days will be spent! 

Right now we have three investigators that have the opportunity to get baptized this month, but it is truly dependent on them and the Lord's plan for them.  One of them is a 15 year old young man named Tugulthdur.  He has been a investigator for like 6 months now... (soooooooooo...... (breath) soooooooo LONG).  He wants to get baptized very bad and knows the doctrine so well, but just doesn't come to church.  This week, I finally just sat down with him in front of his mother and kind of just called him on the carpet.   His mother was a little upset at me for not allowing him to get baptized.  Of course all "excuses" that I received were supposed to be valid, but I had to just tell her and him how it is....that he needs to attend church.   I shared the story of The Water of Mormon, and about how great their desire was to be baptized that they were clapping and exclaiming with excitement (Mosiah 18).  I then got the response from them, "Well all they had to do was say they had desire and they could be baptized!"  (I hate having to do this whole battle thing with people's agency!  JUST COME TO CHURCH AND KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS!)  So I re-explained how they gathered together to hear the words of Alma, and how Alma taught them of repentance and redemption.   I likened that to the missionary lessons we teach, and keeping the commandment......and then they understood.   So Tugulthdur promised to make church attendance a habit and I promised that he can be baptized when he is ready, but he must come to church as many times as is needed to be a "habit". 

Our other two investigators are young men, a15-year old and a17-year old.  They are good, and I am proud of them and their progression.

Family, please pray for us to find older people to teach.  I know that all need salvation, but I just would really love to teach families, and older people who are making this decision from the depths of their hearts.  I hope that doesn't sound selfish.  Maybe RM's understand, it is just hard to explain.

My contract at the Airport ends this transfer.. so who knows where I will be around Christmas! 

To my San Francisco Giants...Баяр Хүргэe!!    I'm not sad I missed it, but today (p-day) I am wearing my Giants hat!  Таван живийн дотор, гураван удаа дэлхийн аврага болсон! 

Хайртай Шүү,
Ахлагч Харрис

My awesome District of four!

The Sister Training Leaders came out to Choibalsan do exchanges with the Sisters.  The Sisters love the "gangster" poses. HaHa.

Everyone always talks about Choibalsan's sunrise because it is so flat here.  It is literally like the edge of the earth, so the sunrise looks so awesome!  We went one morning and the sun didn't rise.... seriously.  So we went again this morning and it was spectacular!