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.)

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