Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Tsagaan Sar

Dear Family,

"Amar baina uu? Taivan baina uu? Ond Mend targan tavtai orov uu?"  This is what you say to everyone when you "zolgoh" (special greet) them on White Moon.  It is so much fun to say this to the older people!  It means, "Are you peaceful?" and "Did you enter the new year fat and comfortable?"  Super weird English translation, but so normal in Mongolian!  Anyways, White Moon was so great and I am happy to report that I entered the New Year "fat and comfortable" (well not fat, but comfortable)!  There was no Buuz-eating contest as there has been in year's past, but I did push myself and put up a high number!  I ate 85 Buuz in 3 days, which was like 2nd place among American elders. Elder Higgs broke 100, but threw it all up afterwards so that doesn't count! Haha!  I felt pretty solid about it, but for a Mongolian, it is normal to eat like 150 in like two days on White Moon!  (Buuz is a Mongolian steamed dumpling filled with meat.)

So here is what we did:

Thursday morning we all went up on Zaisan Hill to greet the Sun, which is a Mongolian culture thing.   All the Mongolians loved us Americans in our Deelths.  People were staring and wanting pictures with us up there.  Zaisan Hill is where Elder Neal A. Maxwell dedicated Mongolia for the preaching of the gospel.  The stares and comments towards us throughout White Moon were great!  People told us we looked better than most Mongolians, and some taxi driver actually said he saw a picture of us circulating on Facebook when we rode in his taxi!

Thursday and Friday, we went around house to house to members and older people that we had met within the Bayanzurkh area.  Elder Higgs and his companion both served there too, so we went around with them and visited some great people.  More stories about them when I get home. We just ate and ate and ate, and people just loved us for loving their culture and taking it all in with no problems. 

Saturday we had a missionary party at the church. We all ate Mexican food, and had a tournament playing that ankle bone game.  I was like an 8th seed, won in the 1st round, then got beat by a sister missionary in Round 2.  I was ashamed, haha!  Then we all watched "Meet the Mormons!"  It was great!  What a movie!  I'm sure you've seen it! 

This week we only taught one lesson. Same goes for all missionaries since it was Tsagaan Sar.   It's a hard week for the Work, but great for memories! 

I love you guys!  

Elder Harris 

Welcoming the sun from Zaisan Hill on the first morning of Tsagaan Sar!

 American missionaries and some cool Mongolians.  We are on Zaisan Hill in UB, where Elder Neal Maxwell dedicated Mongolia for the preaching of the gospel back on April 15, 1993.

Elder Pap and I.  Cool fox hats, yes?

My companion and I. 

 This is another family we met with!  Sorry the picture is blurry, I just wanted to show you the house decorations.

Us at a Bayanzurkh grandma and grandpa's house.  At every house during White Moon, you will see meat on the table, usually sheep or goat.  This one has the head placed on top.  Another thing you will see in every house is a stack of fried bread bricks called heveenbov.  They are usually topped with candy and sweetened white dairy products to symbolize the purity of the White Month.  

 A close up of the meat that was laid out on the table. You just cut off the meat you want to eat.

Us at a shaman's house.  They loved us.  The man on the left had me write him a letter with my signature on it.  Cool story for when I get home.

 Naraa came to UB all the way from Choibalsan for Tsagaan Sar!   So great to see her!  She's doing great!

 Another member's home....a grandma and a little baby girl.  Isn't she so dang cute!  Notice her little boots, I love them!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Excited for Tsagaan Sar this Week!

Dear Family,
So the white-wash blues are getting better.  Members are becoming a better help to us, slowly but surely.  Please help the missionaries in our ward!  Missionaries need member's help so much, no matter where we are.  Without them, we can't do anything. 
This week we only taught 4 lessons again. It's really hard getting into people's homes or even scheduling any appointments this time of year.  But our 16-year old investigator is getting baptized on March 6th, and we are super excited about it.  She is doing great.  She comes to church every week, and is doing great about reading from the book of Mormon, so please pray for her to continue the way she has been!  Her mother is struggling a bit with lack of time to meet with us.  She's super busy with a ton of responsibilities.  We will continue with work with her.   Other than that, with Tsagaan Sar this week, (White Moon, the biggest Mongolian holiday), NO meetings will take place, so we will just be patient and will try our best to get many referrals.  
So, as I said, the big Mongolian holiday is this week!  Tsagaan Sar, or White Moon.  It will be a lot of fun, and I am really excited to experience it.  Today Elder Papenfuss and I bought Mongolian cowboy hats to wear because it will be too hot to wear our Fox hats all day.  I also bought a horoog (the bottle of "smells" or fragrance that people share with each other) and I am really pumped about it!  I haggled pretty good for it :)   Because of the holiday this week, we will go out a lot with Missionaries in our Zone all day, and go to members and investigators homes for buuz (Mongolian dumplings) and whatnot.  I am not 100% sure what will be going on, because this is my first White Moon, but next week I promise a full description and pictures.

I'm so grateful to be here in Mongolian and to experience the things I'm experiencing and to learn the things I'm learning.  I learned something this week from President Benson that I have thought about a lot......I have been given these two years to become the best person I can become, and to acquire good habits that will carry me through the rest of my life.  President Benson likened missionary service to a master violinist who played for 10,000 hours over a life time to become a master.  I will serve for only two short years and I have the opportunity to become a Master in Christ-like attributes, reading and applying the scriptures in my life, and to develop an unbreakable character, in that short amount of time.  As President said, "The battle is really between the natural man, and our ability to be disciplined in choosing what is right."  I am starting to realize that as I change through the atonement and develop good habits, I am not just putting off the natural man, but changing the natural man into a more obedient and disciplined man, one who does not desire the things I once did.  I love that, and I love learning these lessons that President Benson teaches.

Not too much else this week. Not too many crazy things happened besides the random men yelling at us on the bus, then getting more mad when I understand them and talk to them, or people at the Market trying to rip me off because I'm an American and they think I can't communicate with them, and then I haggle them down just because I can...haha.   Also, a new Senior Couple came this week, and I am so pumped to be friends with them. They are from Idaho, Rupert, I think.  They are the Harpers.  They are ranchers, so I am looking forward to getting to know them. 

I have a really good story to tell you guys about something that happened this week, but I am saving it for when I get back home. Wait patiently please :)  Sorry, I know that is a major cliff-hanger.
I love you all!  I love my Area and I love my calling!

Elder Harris 

My companion, Elder Bilguun, and I.

 My Zone Leader companion, Elder Higgs.

 Elder Pappenfuss and I just chillin'.

District Meeting Shenanigans!

 KFC Monday!

Valentines left on my desk from Elder Higgs!  haha 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Hard, but Great Week in the Mission!

Dear Family!

Hey, so even though this week was hard, I still had great time!

Elder Higgs, Sister Jagii, Sister Bolor (the two Sister Training Leaders), and I represented our Zone in Missionary Leadership Council this week with President Benson. It was great, and we learned so much being with him for 5 hours.  President taught me how to make the best pancakes and he was so proud that I was able to learn his technique.  Pretty funny baisan!    We took everything we learned from MLC, and then on Saturday passed it all down to our Zone in a 2-hour Zone Training Meeting.  I conducted, along with Elder Higgs.  The two Sister Training Leaders did great in their parts of training the Zone.  We are so blessed to have THE best Mongolian Sister Training Leaders in OUR Zone.  Our main focus was about Personal Study and the foundation it sets for the mission and for the rest of our life.  President Benson said something that hit me really hard.  He said, "When you look back on your mission, you won't care about being an AP or ZL or Branch President or how many baptisms you had.  You will only care about the habits your developed on your mission, and the things you learned to convert yourself."  I loved that.  I kind of made a quote for myself about what he said.  "I need habits that will take me to the grave, carry me past the judgement seat, and stay with me throughout the eternities."  HABITS. That is all it is about.

My companion and I had many, many investigators this week.  When we called them, they all accepted to meet with us.  But then when we hung up, they must have all laughed and said, "SIKE!"  Yea, they all burned us!!   I told my companion....Welcome to missionary life!  We were blessed to get four lessons in, though, mostly  with the 16-year old girl we've been teaching.  With Tsaagan Sar (the big Mongolian holiday) right around the corner, her mother is still very busy, so we never were able to meet with her.  The daughter is great, and it looks like she has about two weeks left until baptism. Please pray for her!

Well, I love you guys!  Have a great week.  Hope you enjoy the pictures.

Elder Harris

This is our entire Zone at our Zone Training Meeting.

A "Selfie" of Elder Olivas, Elder Higgs, my companion Elder Bilguun, and me before church on Sunday.

Elder Bilguun, Oyunjargal, and me.  Oyunjargar is sporting her Vegas t-shirt!

P-Day basketball at the church!

This is my area....just chillin' outside the Like Hotel! 

Another shot of my area. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A Good Week in UB

Dear Family,

How is everyone! This week was good, even though the effects of white washing an area is setting in hard.   This week, we pretty much only met with the mom and daughter of the family we are teaching. We had originally set a February 13th baptismal date, but through fasting and prayer we are deciding to push that back.  They could be ready for a baptismal interview this Saturday and then be baptized on the 13th, but we would be rushing it and not truly allowing the Spirit to work or allow them to truly gain a testimony through faith and learning precept upon precept.  I was continually reminded this week of a quote by Elder Holland.  He said that our investigators are not just numbers and lifeless objects to count as a baptismal statistic.  I have felt that we need to give them the trial and test of waiting until past Tsaagan Sar (a big Mongolian holiday) for their baptism.  Most nonmembers drink tea and alcohol over that holiday, so that will be a huge test for them.  Some may think to baptism them before and then take care of a problem after, if something happens.  But I feel the complete opposite.  I have to testify that I have received this through the Spirit and not just relying on my own knowledge and opinion. They are progressing great, though. The mother works in a jewelry store in this huge fancy mall in downtown UB, kind of the equivalence of The Forum Shops in Caesars Palace.  Well she's been super busy all week and so she invited us to teach her at the store.  That was something new!   Something that many missionaries across the world do (teach in public places), but we usually do not.  We taught her the gospel of Jesus Christ right there in this store and our Witness was the store Bodyguard.  It was great....and spiritual to say the least.  She is nervous to pray in front of us, so pray that after we address that issue tonight with her, she will feel comfortable and have the faith to pray.

We have a few other referrals that we have been able to contact and schedule lessons with, but they keep burning us. Please pray that we will find more investigators. We are trying really hard to work with the Branch and get help, but they have been not too helpful.  Pray that the white wash blues will go away soon! 

My companion is doing good.   I must admit that training a new elder is hard, but things are good.  I'm enjoying where I live and the elders I live with.  I love living with Elder Higgs especially.  He is a true buddy!  Things I'm enjoying here in UB that I didn't have in Choibalsan is eating at KFC and being able to play basketball, soccer, etc. with a ton of other missionaries on P-day!  Don't worry mom and dad.  I'm being careful with my knee. The only weirdness I feel in it is when I walk across a sloped plain, if that makes sense.  When my "bad" knee is on the upper end of the slope, I hate it, but it is fine...just weird.  

I love you guys!  Have a great week!

Elder Harris