Monday, December 14, 2015

My Last Letter as a Missionary

Dear Family,

As I have pondered on what to write about today, I have realized that nothing is as important to me as my gratitude and testimony that I've been blessed with over and over and over again here in Mongolia. The opportunity to come here, Mongolia, and be a representative of Jesus Christ, was only given to me by a loving Savior through His infinite atonement. The gratitude I have in regards to the opportunity to serve here in Mongolia among these people, the Mongolians, is something I truly I cannot express in words or in my final letter home.  However, it is something I will continue to try to express throughout my life by example "in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity," as Paul said to Timothy.

A mission is not about stories. Those are important, but for talks down the road with my family and friends. It is about things obtained spiritually. It is about habits and knowledge obtained.

As my time in the mission field comes to an end, I have reflected much upon my Heavenly Father and His only begotten son, Jesus Christ. I know that we have a Father in Heaven. He is perfect, and He loves us and knows us infinitely and perfectly. He knows His children. He made a plan of us. This plan gives us the opportunity to live with Him again for forever and ever. In this plan, there was a need for a Savior. One who would stoop below them all. One to be led like a lamb to the slaughter. One to tread the wine press alone. One to suffer in a garden for the sins, pains, afflictions, and shortcoming of all of God's children. One to be nailed to a tree, die, then three days later, walk out of a rented tomb, conquer death and prove that the grave has no victory. John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believed in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Heavenly Father send His son, Jesus Christ.   He is Emmanuel, Jehovah, our Redeemer, our Advocate with the Father, but most of all He is our Brother. I know He lives. I know He atoned for our sins so we too, like Him, can conquer death, be delivered from our sins, and meet our Heavenly Father again in that great day (Alma 11:44).  I love Jesus Christ. I testify that He is the Savior and Redeemer of all mankind. I testify that His love is infinite, and forever with us. "For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39)

I can testify that Christ formed His church through priesthood power when He was on the Earth during His short ministry. That being so, it also fell into an apostasy, a time where God took his priesthood power from the world. In 1820, when the time was right, Heavenly Father restored the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the earth again in its fullness as so was the gospel in the primitive church containing "...apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth." He did so through Joseph Smith. Joseph was a prophet. He was called of God to do a special work. Through him the Priesthood was once again restored to the earth, never to be taken away again. John Taylor said, "Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it."  I love that man, and  I testify that he restored the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in these latter days, The fullness of times. "Millions shall know 'Brother Joseph' again."

I can testify that families can be together forever through priesthood ordinances. Families are ordained of God. I testify that a family consists of husband and wife and is essential to Heavenly Father's plan for us returning to Him again. I can also testify that I know ..."God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to only be used between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife." (The Family a Proclamation to the World). Just as God places care and concern on how His children return to Him by giving us the commandment that “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13), He cares how His children enter this earth. "Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ." I know this to be true.

I know the Book of Mormon to be the true, pure, word of God. Together with the Bible, we have the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I love Mongolia. Mongolia has truly become my home. The true blood of Israel is here. The lost tribes of Israel are here. My work here has not been anything less than truly gathering Israel. The prophet Zenos talks of this in the Book of Mormon. The love of the Father is real. I have been so blessed to have been given the opportunity to serve in the Ulaanbaatar Mongolia Mission. (Jacob 5:71-72)

I love these people. They changed my life. My family and I will forever be grateful for the Mongolian people. Хангай шиг сайхан xүмүүс. 

Family, I love you. I am so proud to be a Harris. This truly has been the best two years of my life. 

"And thus we see, that there was a time granted unto man to repent, yea, a probationary time, a time to repent and serve God." (Alma 42:4)

-Elder Marc Douglas Harris
Mongolia Ulaanbaatar Mission 2013-2015


#A Savior is Born!  Elder Harris and Elder Hatton in front of Genghis Khan’s statue in frozen UB, Mongolia.

 Elder Tsend-Ayush and I.

A selfie with President Benson!  A picture to treasure!

Brother Batbold and I.  Brother Batbold is our “everything” man here in the mission.  He has worked for the mission for 20 years.  He is such a great example to all of us missionaries!  I LOVE him!


Saturday, December 5, 2015

Flew to Khovd, Mongolia for the Weekend

Dear Family,

Well I write you today from Khovd, Mongolia, буюу Ховд Монгол.  We are out here on assignment from President.   We are here to go on splits with the Elders, no other reason but to just work with them and report to President on how they are doing.  Being this far away from the body of the church in UB can be hard, ya know.  I remember those feelings when I was way out in Choibalsan a year ago.  It was a special experience to attend church meetings with them.  I gave a talk on tithing and Elder Hatton gave a talk on the atonement.    Khovd is the farthest city away from Ulaanbaatar where there is a Branch of the Church.  If you look at Google Maps, it is like 900+ miles west of UB, so that being said, I just keep up racking my frequent flyer miles seeing more and more of the beautiful country of Mongolia and meeting the faithful Saints from this branch of the Lord’s vineyard!  I have now flown 13 times on my mission, with four flights still left.

Well, we left for Khovd on Saturday around noon, and we landed around 3:00 p.m.….not in Khovd, but in Ulaangom, Uvs Mongolia (Улаангом, Увс Монгол).  So we got off the plane "thinking" it was Khovd.   Seeing an opportunity to have some fun with two young Americans, the flight attendant and a (come to find out) less-active member of the Church who was on the plane also, played with us and told us we got on the wrong plane!!   Elder Hatton and I were kind of worried about how to tell President we got on the wrong flight, but we were also way pumped seeing that we are easily the first Elders to touch foot in the Uvs Province.  There is no church Branch there.  So anyway, after a bit, we realized they were joking with us, but we never found out why we landed there.  After about 20 minutes of just waiting on the runway, we got back on the plane and headed to Khovd.  The mountains were absolutely breathtaking as we flew right at cloud level.  Easily the prettiest mountains I have ever seen.

We got to Khovd and just got to work with the two Elders out here, Elder Mulder and Elder Bat-Orshih.  They are the only two missionaries out here in Khovd.  They are doing great and it has been fun to work with them.  Today we had the opportunity to go to the Western Mongolia National Museum. Here in the Khovd Province, there are nine nationalities, or tribes, of Mongolia.  At this museum, they have each tribe’s National ger, clothes, etc. on display for learning and Kodak moments.  It is safe to say we got tons of pictures of us in all the different clothes. My favorite was the Kazakhstan ger and clothes.  My old companion, Elder Murat, is Kazak, so it was just fun to be in a Kazak ger.  Their culture is really colorful as you can tell from the pictures!  Next we went up a huge staircase to a little mountain to a Зайсан look out point and just took in all of Khovd and it's greatness!   An interesting bit of information...The Khovd Province is known mostly around the world for their….(drum roll).....SNOW LEOPARDS!  Yes Kinzie and Addisyn….SNOW LEOPARDS!  I know that the Snow Leopards we saw at the Boise Zoo are from here. To see a snow leopard in the wild would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for someone, but that time was obviously not today for us!

Next we were off to the airport to catch our plane back to UB, but when we got to the airport we realized our flight was not until tomorrow.  The dates are off a little over here, I guess ;)   So we just made good friends with the taxi driver and will be using him tomorrow for our taxi.  Elder Hatton and I are having a great time and really have become great friends. He is a stud. Honestly the most humble kid I have ever met and he will be a life long friend.  He is truly an amazing disciple of Christ.

Well, the days are getting few…..Don't really know how to describe the feelings I have. Ээжээ дахиад тэврэхэд бэлэн байна гэвч Монгол эх ороноосоо уугуул нутагдаа буцахад яг үнэн хэлэхдээ бэлэн биш шүү. Би бол яахав дээ хөөгдөж явна л даа гэвч зүрх сэтгэл минь Монголдоо үлдэнэ ээ...

Бака-
Ахлагч Харрис

Thanksgiving Dinner with our District.

 Elder Bat-Orshih, me, and Elder Mulder here in ховд монгол (Khovd, Mongolia).

Western Mongolia National Museum.

 Here we are at the Western Mongolia National Museum.  Elder Hatton and I.

Western Mongolia National Museum.

 Elder Hatton and I are here in Khovd, Mongolia.  We flew here on Saturday and will fly back to UB on Monday.  We are splitting with Elder Mulder and Elder Bat-Orshih.    We took this from a lookout point.   Khovd Province is known mostly around the world for their…….. (drum roll) ...SNOW LEOPARDS!   Yes Kinzie and Addisyn….SNOW LEOPARDS!  I know that the Snow Leopards we saw at the Boise Zoo are from here. They are obviously like a once-in-a-lifetime see for someone, and that time was not today! 

Here is where Khovd is located in relation to Ulaanbaatar in the center of Mongolia.   You can also see Choibalsan in the far eastern part of the country.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

This is your Frozen Mongolian Missionary Son!


Dear Family,

Well this past week was good, nothing too crazy.  It got super cold, just out of nowhere.  I mean COLD!  Way below "0" cold!  Mom, if you ever come to this beautiful country, which I know you will, you cannot come in the winter.  You will FREEZE, then die!  This week, we had -24 degrees in the evening when we were walking to appointments.  Funny thing is, we don't even wear beanies in that weather.  We are just so accustomed to it that -24 means nothing.  Ears are a little cold and that's it.  Welcome to Mongolia!

This week we were able to meet with one investigator.  His name is Kharibold and he is 30 years old and in law school and pretty smart.  He is a super fun investigator because he really wants proof for everything, and he likes to talk science.  He wants the scientific reasoning behind a lot of subjects.  We are really trying to teach him simple truths and to help him understand the principle of faith and help him to understand how the Holy Ghost can help him know the truth of all things.   We are praying that his heart softens and that he will decide to be baptized on December 12th, before I leave.  His mother is a great member and he testified to us that he has seen how the gospel has blessed her and her family.

Also this week, we went and met with two less active brothers, Tsogtsaikhan and Dashjamts.  President Benson came with us.  It was such a treat to have President there with us.  We were able to teach such a great lesson, but man, it is nerve racking when President is sitting next to you in a lesson because his Mongolian is flawless, I mean perfect!  Anyways, the lessons were great and we brought the Spirit into these brothers' homes.  Brother Dashjamts came to church on Sunday, so that was real special.  Brother Tsogtsaikhan is homebound, so we took the sacrament to him and his sick mother on Sunday after church.  It was a great experience.  He had no bread, so we just used dried crumbs from old Tsaagan Sar boov (hard pastry) for the sacrament.  You make do when you have to!

Elder Bilguun and I are doing great!  He is an amazing Elder. I love him and am so thankful for him in this part of my mission.  I am learning so much from him and he is giving me far more than I feel like I am giving him.

Anyways, it is really cold here!  Too cold!  I get snowflakes on my eyelashes and eyebrows when we are out and about!  I just went out and bought new socks to double layer them when walking around outside!   Have I told you lately that I love Mongolia!

Love,

Elder Harris, your frozen Mongolian missionary son


FROZEN!

 My comp and me!   Elder Bilguun is an amazing Elder. I love him and am so thankful for him in this part of my mission.  I am learning so much from him and he is giving me far more than I feel like I am giving him.

 Proselyting on the bus windows!   Lehi’s dream and the tree of life!

At the fireside with Sister Esplin and Sister Marriott.  My comp and I are sitting on the right-hand side on about the 3rd row.  You can see the back of our heads!  Great meeting.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

This week was pretty awesome!


Dear Family,

This week was pretty awesome!  Elder Bilguun and I are just loving our time together. Well I know I sure am, and the smile on his face seems like he is too!  He is such a great missionary!  He's truly a huge blessing to me here in my last few weeks here as a full-time missionary.  He comes from a member family up in Erdenet, Mongolia.  He got baptized when he was a kid with his mom, and later his father followed, along with his little sisters when they became of age.  His father is the Branch President of one of the Erdenet branches now, and his mother is truly a saint! I have had the opportunity to meet her twice and she is just so nice and tall and looks just like Elder Bilguun so much.  Elder Bilguun is such a great member of the church and always has been a great example of a kid who followed the prophet.  Sounds weird, but he is just a kid who loves the prophet with all his heart and understands his calling as a representative of Jesus Christ.   Elder Bilguun and I did some pretty great work this week and were able to teach a few lessons, and boy did that feel good. We have a goal to get a baptism in the next four weeks before I go home. We will be working really hard for that! 

Well, the big surprise of the week is that Sister Esplin and Sister Marriott (and their husbands) came to Mongolia for a few days while they were traveling in the Asia area with Elder and Sister Wong. They are General Auxiliary Leaders in the church.  Sister Esplin is the first counselor in the Primary General Presidency and Sis. Marriott is the second counselor in the YW General Presidency.  They came and did a focus group with Mongolian Primary kids and with the youth.  They also went to a few gers and met with some members, like my sponsor Sister Ukraine Naraa.  Sister Esplin went there and then shared about it at the fireside that was held.  Sister Ukraine Naraa teaches her little nieces and nephews a scripture a week, and shares the gospel with them daily.  Sister Esplin brought Sister Naraa up on the stand and asked her some questions and gave Sister Naraa a chance to share about how learning scriptures has affected her nieces and nephews who she takes care of.  It was awesome!  Sister Esplin gave a talk at the fireside about how the adversary tries to destroy our family by distracting us from what matters most.  Sister Esplin is just the sweetest most humble lady I have ever talked to.  Sister Marriott is a little southern women who is funny and has the biggest smile!  You may remember her as a speaker from October's General Conference.  Hearing a southern accent here in Mongolia was sure a treat, let me tell you!  She gave an amazing talk about what a high five means.  I want to tell you about it but that would take a lot of time!  I will tell y'all in 4 weeks!

Afterwards we were able to take pictures with them both and that sure was a great experience!  They both loved us Elders and were so grateful for our service.  Elder Bilguun and I actually have a really funny story with them and Elder Wong of the 70's from this weekend.  We were getting in the elevator in the church to go home Thursday night and there they all were…..Sister Esplin, Sister Marriott and their husbands, Elder and Sister Wong, and President and Sister Benson.  Well we both were introduced to them all as the Assistants and we got to introduce ourselves and talk for a little bit. We have a mission rule that we must wear these masks to prevent us from breathing in all the smoke/pollution because we are in the second most dangerous polluted city in world, UB.  Well President gave all those leaders masks and explained the rule, etc., and well we didn't have our masks and the mission doctor had already gone home so we couldn't get new ones.  So we just left real quick so we could get home on time, and well they all saw us leave the Bayanzurkh Building without our masks.  So we got home and we got a nice little text message from President Benson. Then we felt terrible and like we had committed a huge sin since we were disobedient about always wearing these masks, especially in front of those leaders. We went to bed kind of sad.   But then first thing Friday morning we were given an opportunity to redeem ourselves!  President called us around 8 am and told us to go to the church office and get copies of Neal A. Maxwell's Dedicatory Prayer (from when he dedicated Mongolia for the preaching of the gospel back in 1993).  He told us to call him when we had them.  So we busted over to the church and got those papers, then called President.  He wanted them because he was taking the auxiliary leaders and their husbands up to the top Zaisan Hill to read the prayer, along with our new missionaries.  Zaisan Hill is where Elder Maxwell offered the prayer 22 years ago (June of 1993).   Well President was driving on a road about a 15-minute walk away from us, so we needed to hustle and catch up with them.  So we took off running....with our masks on of course!   We caught him at a red light that if we would’ve gotten there any later he would have been gone through that light and been a lot farther for us to catch.  So we ran up to the car and President just yelled “Thank you!" and that he loves us, and all the leaders just waved and smiled at us.  It was pretty funny, but terribly hard to breathe in the mask.  Anyway, I think we redeemed ourselves.  So this week was good!  I love Mongolia!

I have homework for all of you this week.   Please read Elder Neal A. Maxwell's talk, "Why not now?"   That is your homework!  Do not waste time and don't put off the blessings that come from giving yourselves up to the Lord and declaring that He is the Christ. 

Love,

Elder Marc Harris


Sister Cheryl Esplin with some of us missionaries.  Sister Esplin is the first counselor in the Primary General Presidency.

Sis. Neill Marriott with a few of us missionaries.  She is the second counselor in the YW General Presidency.

Elder Bilguun and I up on top of Zaisan Hill in UB.

 Up on top of Zaisan Hill.  

Up on top of Zaisan Hill in UB with the President Benson, the auxiliary leaders, and all the newly arrived missionaries.  We are reading Elder Neal A. Maxwell’s dedicatory prayer when he dedicated Mongolia for the preaching of the gospel.  Zaizan Hill is where Elder Maxwell offered the prayer 22 years ago (June of 1993). 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

This Past Week: Experiences of a Lifetime with People I Love and Respect so Much!

Dear Family,

Wow, we just barely got back from our weekend trip to Murun.  We just pulled in here to UB at about 5 pm on Tuesday evening. Boy was it fun.  So we pulled out of UB at 7 am Saturday morning, and headed to Murun.  On the way up there, since Elder Bilguun and I didn't eat breakfast due to an empty fridge, we starved. Our mission driver/secretary/everything-man, Brother Batbold, thought it was funny to make us starve so we "jokingly" said we will just start to fast. He then pulled off the road to a little guanz (food place) just past Bulgan to get food for himself and Brother Bayarjav and Sister Suvdaa.  It was funny and he sure got a kick out of making us suffer!  He honestly is THE man, I love him.  

We pulled into Murun around 5 at night and Elder McHam, who serves up there, and I were able to go meet with a little family who were potential investigators and invite them to church......and they came on Sunday! That night we all spent the night up in Murun and went to church Sunday morning.  That little branch of the church is really something special.  I have been so blessed to travel the countryside and spend Sundays across this beautiful Mongolian country. They met in this old Russian-style apartment building, more or less, on the first floor where it looks like a store should be.  It was small with just three rooms, but they sure do fill it up with tons of priesthood brethren and women and children.  President Benson called a new Branch President during Sacrament Meeting.  The new Branch President is Buyanbat, who is a missionary I served with. He just got married to another sister missionary who I served with named Zaya.  They are young and now are leading a Branch.  Sunday night we headed up to the Ger camp next to Hovsgol Lake. The drive was beautiful but it was dark by the time we got there so we could not see the lake.  We pulled in and the local family that runs it asked us if we wanted a Ger or a little baishen (shack house).  The Mongolian elders were not too excited about staying in a ger because they know how cold it would get, but obviously I had to put my foot down and make an executive decision and say the ger is where we are staying!  HaHa.  Luckily, they understood that this would be mine and Elder McHam's once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and they complied!  So we got settled in and got the fire going and then dinnertime came in the main little cabin dining hall of the ger camp. They made us some great food!  But they had this jam.....Oh my!   This jam!  It just might change your life just hearing about it from this email. I took a picture of it! Words cannot do it justice, but I will try to explain this jam to you.  It comes from a wild berry up in the mountains around Hovsgol Lake. This wonderful blessed Sister who owns the place and is a less-active member with her husband, well she makes this jam. It is just two ingredients, wild berry and sugar, that's it. Manna from Heaven!  So President stays at this place every time he comes up here because it is like $25 a night, but usually less. They were closed, but since it was President who was ordering a stay for a night, they opened and let us stay there. So needless to say, he knew about the jam.  He was talking all about it on the way up, and he did not lie.  Needless to say, it was heavenly.  So we put the jam in this hot drink called "hyaram."  Hyaram is boiling hot water that has milk added to it.  We just pretty much drank it up. She also made hushuur.  President and I sat by each other and just downed like three glass bowls of it that night, then we even took some leftovers of it to our ger for the night with hot water to mix it in for drinking purposes. 

After we finished dinner, President had a quick little fireside in our ger where he talked about how to be a real man.  Brother Bayarjav and his wife Suvdaa shared how the church changed their lives in 2002 and their conversion stories.  Then President had Brother Batbold share about what being a real man means.  President Benson says that Batbold is the most honorable, man he has ever met.  I learned that being a man means #1, being true to your covenants and #2, being trustworthy.  Batbold shared about how his 20 years of service for the Mission has changed his life and how missionaries have the best opportunity to change their lives and others. He talked about how he only has to be asked to do something one time and he does it without a reminder from anyone else and how he has lost trust and faith in some missionaries because they were not true to their word.  I really learned a lot about being trustworthy and true to my word, and the importance of someone believing in you rather than them just loving you. 

Well as we were getting ready to go to bed, Elder McHam and I went down to the lake real fast and got about three glasses of fresh lake water (right from the lake) and just enjoyed the purest water you will ever drink. It was literally amazing.  If I wouldn't have told you that it was lake water you would have thought it was bottled Aquafina from Costco!  No lie.  After drinking the water, we rushed back to the ger and got the fire going. We had to be up and ready at 6:45 a.m. to see the sunrise with President so we set the alarm for about 6:20 just to be sure.  Well during the night, boy did it get cold! At 2:00 a.m. the fire burned out, and Elder McHam took his turn to make the fire.  Again at 4:00 a.m., it died out again and I got up to build it that time.  It took about 10 minutes to get it going again since I was just starting with ashes, a few logs, and my mouth breathing air into the furnace.  The fire  got ripping again and it kept us warm for the rest of the night. 

Well at 6:28 a.m., President swung open the door to our ger as we were just getting dressed and was really impressed that we were both up and awake getting ready before 6:30!   He thought it was hilarious that we both just looked at him, kind of in a daze, and said nothing when he walked in.  We were both just so tired from being up during the night to keep the fire going!  We got in the car, headed up to a mountain and watched the most beautiful sunrise over the lake.  It was FREEZING!   Easily 30 below zero with the wind chill. We stayed up there, took in the scenery, sang "High on a Mountain Top" in Mongolian, and headed back down for more Jam, oops I mean breakfast!  Well, we downed like three more bowls of jam and then got to spend a few minutes down by the water before we left.  I drank some more water and took in the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be there with my companion and Mission President, then we headed on back to Erdenet for the night. We worked there for the rest of the night with Elder Browning, Elder Kettley, Elder Memmott, Elder Buyanbadrah, and Sister Bolor Erdene and Sister Harker.  It was fun and I was able to meet my companion's mom and family again at the church in Erdenet.  Only in Mongolia do you get to meet your companion's family with your companion and it is okay! Well we got up, President came over and did some studies at the place we stayed at with some Elders, and we were off again back to UB.  The best things about riding in the car with President Benson for a long time is just hearing stories about his life.  He truly is a great man.  I love him. He is a great example to me. He is loved by all and is such an honest, smart man. No one has a better mission president than I do!  I mean he is only 36!  Also, we get to eat great food with him!!  :)

President shared with us a lot about being an RM, keeping covenants and being active in all the activities being an RM has to offer. He talked a lot to me about skill sets and acquiring skills.  His boss that hired him as an attorney right out of college was in San Diego.  He then sent him to Singapore after five years to run a huge real estate focused law group in Asia with a new firm owned by a Stake President in San Diego.  He chose President Benson to run the entire operation, an area of law that he wasn't even trained in as a Attorney.  President is a patent lawyer, remember.  President was shocked and asked why him?   Yes he knew Mongolian and Chinese, so he could converse with the foreign executives and what not.  But plenty of attorneys who have experience in real estate,  could have done that.  Well he told President that he does not hire skill sets, he hires people he trusts then teaches them the skill sets.  I found that very profound. A man's word is everything.  He told me to just acquire skill sets like I have been, and the job/profession will find me.  I need to be proactive in looking, but acquiring skill sets will provide the road for any job, if I am trustworthy and can solve problems instead of creating them.  Brother Harper shared tons of insight from his years as a President of a large potato factory in Ruppert, Idaho.  He hired a 25-year old guy to be the new president just because he was trustworthy and solved problems.  I really enjoyed talking for hours with these two men that I respect so much. 

Well we are home now. I will never forget this past week. We now have to train the 13 new missionaries tomorrow on a lot of things, like the ins and outs of our mission, and how to be good missionaries, etc.  President trains them on obedience for an hour and brings on the heat.  Elder Huckvale will train the trainers.  Then we have a Zone training tomorrow night.  Elder Huckvale is my Zone leader, so it is always a blast and a special opportunity to learn from him.  I love this country and these people. 

I love you guys,

Elder Marc Harris


All of us missionaries at sunrise with President Benson at Khuvsgul Lake.

 My companion and I at sunrise with President Benson at Khuvsgul Lake

 President and I at Khuvsgul Lake at Sunrise.

This old Russian-style apartment building doubles as the LDS church building in Murun.  The church is on the first floor where it looks like a store should be.  It was small with just three rooms, but they sure do fill it up with tons of priesthood brethren and women and children.  President Benson called a new Branch President during Sacrament Meeting.  The new Branch President is Buyanbat, who is a missionary I served with. He just got married to another sister missionary who I served with named Zaya.  

Elder McHam and I spending the night in our ger!

 Had to get the fire going.  It was COLD!

 Ger camp next to Khuvsgul Lake.

This is the JAM I’m talking about in my email.   This wonderful blessed Sister who owns the place where we stayed makes this jam. It is just two ingredients, wild berries and sugar, that's it!   Manna from Heaven!

We put the jam in this hot drink called "hyaram."  Hyaram is boiling hot water that has milk added to it.  We just pretty much drank it up. 

 My companion, Elder Bilguun, and I down at Khuvsgul Lake before we left.

 Khuvsgul Lake.

 Khuvsgul Lake.

 (Here is Khuvsgul Lake is on a Goggle map.  You can also see where Murun is in relation to Ulaanbaatar.)

Monday, November 2, 2015

Thirteen Missionaries Arriving this Week from the MTC

Dear Family,

This past week Elder Murat and I were able to get some pretty good work done. Despite only teaching one lesson last night, we were able to find another investigator whose mother is a member of our Ward.  His name is Haribat and is a lawyer.  He is pretty good guy and really wants to know what the truth is.  He took a liking to me and just smiles at me and says “Harris!”   It is pretty funny.  He is in his mid-20's and a good looking guy, has an education, and wants to know all about the church, and that is something that you don't really come by too often here, or at least I have never.

Well this week is transfers. We will have thirteen new American missionaries here this week and also 6 missionaries that are still in their training phase, so that is 19 new missionaries with 19 trainers. That is 38 missionaries and about three-fourths of our entire mission. From what is planned, most American missionaries in the mission will all have to be in the city and all Mongolian missionaries will go out to the countryside. Almost all leaders in the city will also be trainers and that also goes for the AP's. So my new companion might be a brand new American. We will see though! 

This week I got pretty sick.  Not like with a cold, but just no energy.  I can't wait to just sleep all day on December 18th in my bed, or on the carpet in the basement.  I literally had to sleep all day one day this week because I could hardly get up or raise my head up, my companion also.  I think that also comes from having like no money at the end of the month for food. Just preparing for college I guess… haha!

Elder Huckvale and I went on a split this week and had a great discussion about our mothers and being open with them. I really love Elder Huckvale and how he pushes me to be a better person. I think we were almost both in tears as we talked about our mother’s love for us when we needed it the most in the hardest parts of our lives.  I love you mom.

This week I have been reading in the Book of Acts quite a bit. I really have come to love Paul, his change and his desire to spread the gospel.  Mostly, I love his determination and perfect decision to follow Christ.   Paul was preaching the gospel, going from place to place among the Gentiles and among the Athenians.  In chapter 18, he comes to Corinth. They bade him to stay and in verse 21, he, .." bade them farewell, saying, I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem: but I will return again unto you, if God will. And he sailed from Ephesus."  Paul needed to be back in Jerusalem for his Sabbath day. He was ready to sail across the ocean waters just to make it back for the Sabbath day. Are we also willing to do that? We are covenant people. Do we keep our covenants like Paul and do whatever it takes to get to church and renew our convents no matter the distance? 

I love you guys,

Elder Harris

Huck and I. 

This is a great family in our ward. They had us over for dinner last night and made us huushuur!  So good! 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Grateful for the Opportunity to "Change!"


Dear Family,

So this past Thursday, we were supposed to go to Murun, but it was pushed back to Friday.  Elder Murat and I ended up driving to Darkhan first with Brother Batbold in the Mission Land Cruiser (I thought they were way comfy....wrong.)  We got there, gave some water filters to missionaries, and went to Erdenet for the night.  Then we got the word that the trip to Murun would  be pushed back until November 11th. That was a bummer for my companion because he will be an RM by then.  The 4th floor of the Bayanzurkh Building had a lot of welding done on it, and it made President Benson's home smell terrible and all smoky.  So he took his family to a hotel and just couldn’t  leave them alone if they were not at home.  So the trip to Murun was pushed back. Instead we worked with the Erdenet elders for a day, and I was able to meet my old companion, Elder Munkhbold’s, family!  They knew exactly who I was when I walked in.  The next day we took a taxi back to Darkhan to hit the train to Selenge, Mongolia to do splits with the Zone Leaders up there. So we got here Saturday night, went to church here, and will leave tonight around 9 p.m.  It is a 9 hour train ride back to UB….not looking to forward to that one.  

Here in Selenge, we have met some great people, and done some great work. Today for P-Day we took a taxi to a little city called Altan-Bulag, which is literally right on the Russian border. It was awesome!  I definitely walked right to the border fence, and stuck my foot under it and touched the Mother Land Russia for a great picture! Just on the other side of the fence is a really old church in Khyagt, Russia. It looks pretty cool, and maybe you can find it on Google or something and see just where I was. Anyway, there were watch towers and guys marching with AK's and large guns off in the distance, so taking pictures with your back to Russia was pretty scary to say the least.  I now have been to South Korea (stopped there on the way to Mongolia), Mongolia, and Russia (haha) on my mission, and soon I will go to China (on my way home)!  So much for saying three years ago that I didn’t want to go to Asia on my mission!  What was I thinking?!   

Mission life it great. I am tired, but that is okay.  I love what I am doing.  I love my Savior, and what he does for us.  I am so blessed to have the opportunity for change. Change means everything. It is our purpose.  A prophet said that our purpose is to go from bad to good, and from good to better.  Elder Bednar said that is more or less putting off the natural man, then becoming like a child. How I pray for us all to change, to love our neighbor, and to become who Christ suffered us to become.   When the times get rough, or you think you are never good enough for the change that God and His Son's perfect Atonement has in store for you, remember that He will make of you a masterpiece. You will make of yourself merely a smudge. 

I read this in Personal Study today.  I love the early brethren of the Church. They really understood the word “change."

"As you know, the Brethren used to announce in General Conference the names of those who had been called on missions. Not only was this the way friends and neighbors learned of the call, more often than not it was the way the missionary learned of it as well. One such prospect was Eli H. Pierce. A railroad man by trade, he had not been very faithful in Church meetings.  His mind had been given totally to what he demurely calls “temporalities.” He said he had never read more than a few pages of scripture in his life and that he had spoken to only one public gathering (an effort which he says was no credit to himself or those who heard him). He used the vernacular of the railroad and the barroom with a finesse born of long practice. He bought cigars wholesale—a thousand at a time—and he regularly lost his paycheck playing pool. Then this classic understatement: “Nature never endowed me with a superabundance of religious sentiment; my spirituality was not high and probably even a little below average.”   Well, the Lord knew what Eli Pierce was, and he knew something else. He knew what I’m pleading for today. He knew what Eli Pierce could become. When the call came that October 5 in 1875, Eli wasn’t even in the Tabernacle. He was out working on one of the railroad lines. A fellow employee, once recovered from the shock of it all, ran out to telegraph the startling news. Brother Pierce writes, “At the very moment this intelligence was being flashed over the wires, I was sitting lazily thrown back in an office rocking chair, my feet on the desk, reading a novel and simultaneously sucking on an old Dutch pipe just to vary the monotony of cigar smoking.” (For my friends in the English Department I would just hasten to add that the novel reading was probably a more serious transgression than the pipe smoking.)  He goes on. “As soon as I had been informed of what had taken place, I threw the novel in the waste basket, the pipe in a corner [and have never touched either to this hour]. I sent in my resignation . . . to take effect at once, in order that I might have time for study and preparation. I then started into town to buy [scripture].”

Then these stirring words:
Remarkable as it may seem, and has since appeared to me, a thought of disregarding the call, or of refusing to comply with the requirement, never once entered my mind. The only question I asked—and I asked it a thousand times—was: “How can I accomplish this mission? How can I, who am so shamefully ignorant and untaught in doctrine, do honor to God and justice to the souls of men, and merit the trust reposed in me by the Priesthood?   With such genuine humility fostering resolution rather than defeating it, Eli Pierce fulfilled a remarkable mission. His journal could appropriately close on a completely renovated life with this one line: “Throughout our entire mission we were greatly blessed.” But I add one experience to make the point.  During his missionary service, Brother Pierce was called in to administer to the infant child of a branch president whom he knew and loved. Unfortunately, the wife of the branch president had become embittered and now seriously objected to any religious activity within the home, including a blessing for this dying child. With the mother refusing to leave the bedside and the child too ill to move, this humble branch president with his missionary friend retired to a small upper room in the house to pray for the baby’s life. The mother, suspecting just such an act, sent one of the older children to observe and report back. There in that secluded chamber the two knelt and prayed fervently until, in Brother Pierce’s own words, “we felt that the child would live and knew that our prayers had been heard.”  Arising from their knees, they turned slowly only to see the young girl standing in the partially open doorway gazing intently into the room. She seemed, however, quite oblivious to the movements of the two men. She stood entranced for some seconds, her eyes immovable. Then she said, “Papa, who was that . . . man in there?”  Her father said, “That is Brother Pierce. You know him.”  “No,” she said, matter-of-factly, “I mean the other man.”  “There was no other, darling, except Brother Pierce and myself. We were praying for baby.”   “Oh, there was another man,” the child insisted, “for I saw him standing [above] you and Brother Pierce and he was dressed [all] in white.”   Now if God in his heavens will do that for a repentant old cigar-smoking, inactive, swearing pool player, don’t you think he’ll do it for you?  He will if your resolve is as deep and permanent as Eli Pierce’s. In this Church we ask for faith, not infallibility." (Elder Holland (For Times of Trouble) March 18, 1980)

-Elder Marc Harris

My comp, Elder Murat, and I in Altanbulag border port.

Me with my foot touching Russian soil!

This is where we were, right on the Mongolian-Russian border.

A long-time member here in Selenge, Sister Enkhsuren. She always feeds every missionary when they come into Selenge! She made us some amazing tsuivan! 

Elder Bat-Erdene and I on a split in Selenge.

SNOW! It was cold too! 

Chasing pigs!

A Burger King in Mongolia!  And a Double Whopper in my mouth! 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Zone Meeting in Darkhan, then to Murun

Dear Family,

So this will be short this week.  Sorry, but I'm short on time.  This past week was pretty good.  My companion and I went to Darkhan for a Zone training there. This coming Thursday, I will be flying to Murun with President Benson and others.  I'm looking forward to that and will let you know all about it next week.  Also, this week  Elder Murat and I found quite a few new investigators and have started to meet with them. I am very hopeful and see success coming from them. We taught 12 lessons this week, which we are very excited about.  It is super nice being busy.

Love,
Elder Harris

My companion and I traveled up north to Darkhan for a Zone Meeting.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Trains and Taxis between Zuunharaa, Darkan, and UB

Family,

Well not too much this week.  I got back to UB from Zuunharaa. It was kind of crazy all week riding on the trains back and forth from UB to Darkhan and to Zuunharaa, etc.  One morning at 1:00 a.m., Elder Ulziijargal and I were supposed to catch the train from Zuunharaa to Darkhan for a Zone Training meeting we had to be at.  Well we slept through the train and the only way to get there was to take the train south to UB and catch a taxi from UB to Darkhan.  We went a long ways south to go back a long ways north.  Good times on the night train!  We had to laugh at ourselves.

Not too much missionary work was done this week in my area of Selbe.  That is how is usually goes for AP's, unlike other missions.  Most missions have AP regulations that are 100% opposite of ours.  They have to lead the mission in baptisms and lessons weekly.  Mongolian AP's have not had a baptism in over a year. Hopefully we get one!  That's our goal. 

I will be going to Murun on October 23rd with President Benson, Brother Harper, and Brother Batbold.  I am super excited about that!  Then if I get to go to Khovd before I leave, I will have been to all three far places in the mission. Crossing my fingers. 

This week I loved General conference.  I prayed to know how to be the best RM I can be. That prayer was answered in so many ways, that I barely had room too write all of it on my note pad.  I know Heavenly Father is mindful of me and has called messengers to warn and protect us. Those messengers are called Prophets and Apostles and they, like in the days of old, are here on the Earth.  I know this is true.  I am so thankful for the great week of conference and for the many answered prayers and counsel that I received from the Lord's called messengers.  I am not trunky by any means, but I am excited and pray daily to be an amazing returned missionary. 

Elder Harris


Zuunharaa city limits.

 Zuunharaa.

Duush Mountain, above Zuunharaa.



Thursday, October 8, 2015

A Russian sister, a wheelchair, and a smile.

Dear Family,

Right now my companion and I are in Zuunharaa, on an assignment from the President.  I had a very spiritual experience in Sacrament Meeting yesterday.  As I walked into the church, I saw a white woman, Svetlana.  Weird.   I knew she was Russian right away, she just had that look.  I walked up and she said in Mongolian, "Elder….", and I replied, "Harris."  She smiled and sat down.  Next we were called to go down from the 3rd floor church building and carry the Branch's 2nd counselor, Brother Erhembayar, up the stairs.  We walked down, grabbed him in his wheel chair and carried him up the stairs and rolled him over to the stand for him to take his seat. I then saw a woman, Sister Sansaraa, running around after a baby, and she was just smiling from ear to ear, talking to her child with the sweetest, softest voice.  Sacrament started, and testimonies were shared.  Sister Svetlana bore her testimony.  With a soft, slow voice, speaking perfect Mongolian, she thanked her Heavenly Father, and said that she was so grateful to have made the right choice.  Next Sister Sansaraa bore her testimony and said how great it was to be back to church.  She and her husband, married in the temple, had been inactive for about 3 years, and were reactivated 3 weeks ago.  She said that in the past 3 weeks everything in her family's life changed. The meeting ended, and after church we carried Brother Erhembayar back down the stairs. He smiled at me the whole way down the stairs as I carried from the front. Then it hit me hard. I love this place. I love this gospel. I love my Savior. He is always there waiting to help, succor, and bring us back into his fold. How blessed am I?

For the closing song in Sacrament Meeting we sang, "The Spirit of God", and as I looked through the large windows behind the pulpit, looking over the beautiful mountains that surround this town and I couldn't hold back the tears.  Jesus Christ is our Lord and King. His gospel is here in the Earth, and it changes people!  It has changed me forever, and forever. Not only me, but a Russian sister with a solemn testimony of gratitude, a man in a wheelchair with strong faith, and a woman whose smile shows how she feels with the gospel's light back in her life.

"We'll sing and we'll shout with the armies of heaven,
Hosanna, hosanna to God and the Lamb!
Let glory to them in the highest be given,
Henceforth and forever, Amen and amen!"

Elder Harris

This is  the little town of Zuunkaraa that we visited.  This is the Kharaa River running through it.