Date

May 3, 2019

Area

Jardgalthant (Jargalant), Mongolia

Companion

Elder Wadsworth

Week 4, Mongolia

Сайн байцгаана уy миний хайрт ах эгч нар аа?

How is everyone doing this week? We've had a crazy week in Jargalant. The food has absolutely destroyed me this week. I've been sicker than I have in a very, very long time. My stomach has been only what I can describe as very unsettled. I've never felt the feelings I felt this past week. I'm not exactly sure what I had. My guess would be it's my stomach adjusting to the new foods and bacterias. A few people have told me I have a parasite. Beats me. The thing that sucks about Mongolia is that healthcare is pretty much nonexistent, especially in the countryside, and medicine is outrageously expensive and impossible to find.

If there's an actual medical emergency they just try to fly you or send you by train to Hong Kong and that's your best shot.

Luckily, we have a mission doctor. However unluckily, we are currently between doctors since the last doctor left a week before we got here and the new one just got here this week. I've just had to let nature take it's course and hope for the best. I have a good comp though. He consoled me with stories of how when he was in the countryside he got really really scared of dying. You see, right now we're in an area called Jargalant and even though the area is in the ger districts and isn't at all inside the actual city, we still live in the city and the area is considered a "city area" because it's on the outskirts and can be reached from the city. However, it's possible to get sent all over the country, thousands of kilometers from the city, all on your own. That's where he's been and tells me where I will go one day. We call that the "countryside" because that's literally just about all there is.

While we has in the countryside, he said he thought that every little sickness was going to kill him and he got really paranoid. "When you're the only English speaker for hundreds and hundreds of miles, you can't speak this insane language, there's no hospitals anywhere and your best chance is a 6+ hour train ride to the city where you catch a plane to Hong Kong, the isolation really gets to you and messes with your mind. Every little cough and pain suddenly become much more concerning." He then additionally said that he was lucky to be in Darkhan, one of the closest countryside areas, and told me that with my visa type I could get sent just about anywhere in this country. Khovd, which is essentially Kazakhstan from I've heard. It's about 1,500km from UB and they speak, look, act, and live totally different out there. Selenge, which is directly on the Russian border, so close that you could walk over to Russia. Both those places for examples with plenty of other possibilities. He told me that sometimes he'd have the thought that if anything serious happened to him that he'd be good as dead. Then, he'd think, "Wow, I could die out here and no one would know." I only share an account of this exchange because I find it very amusing and interesting. First of all, the fact that 2 different people could serve in the Mongolia Ulaanbaatar mission and they could both come out of it having served 2 completely different missions. It totally depends on the type of visa you receive.

Our visas are the only reason we're in this country. For simplicity's sake, I'll only explain the 2 main types that you can receive. The 1st is what we call a school visa. With this type of visa, you are hired by a school or university to teach at that facility for the entirety of your 2 year tenure and in return they certify and renew your visa. However, this means that you must remain in the vicinity of the city for your whole mission because you still have to teach every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 8:00-4:30. That is your main job and the only reason you have your visa so you have to honor that commitment. Most people receive a school visa as it is by far the most common visa type for people out here. Even our mission doctor had to become a certified English teacher and received a school visa teaching English medical terms at a medical school downtown.

The 2nd type of visa is a church visa or a Deseret International Charities visa although both are essentially the same and we refer to both as just "church visas". With this type, you are allowed to teach at any church building or meetinghouse as well as any institution or business, and sometimes even schools. They only have a handful of these visas to distribute so it's very rare to receive one of these. I really lucked out in getting one. But, with this visa you can be moved anywhere in the entire country since you don't have any obligations to teach at any schools. Your visa is renewed either by the church or DIC so you also don't have to consistently meet with your visa sponsor like you do if you have a school visa. Basically, we're the flexible ones that get sent to crazy areas working the interesting gigs. But, this is how the Gospel is spread across the country to even the most remote areas.

Everyone who has a church visa and has gone out to the countryside just tells me how insanely extreme and difficult it is out there. There's a very unique aspect and quality to the experience that it is. They tell me to enjoy seeing people, especially fellow Americans, now because the level of isolation out there is unreal. They say it's a different planet out there. I don't have any pictures yet but if you search google images for "Mongolian countryside" then you'll kind of get an idea of what it's like. To be honest, I have no idea what it's really like so I can't say for certain but what I do know is that I'm eagerly looking forward it. To have the opportunity to go out there and have all that time, so far off the grid, for self-reflection, introspection, and peace to really turn to God and rely on Him, hopefully strengthening my testimony beyond what it's ever been. At least when I'm feeling very lonely, I can't understand anyone, and they can't understand me, I'll have God to talk to and rely on. It'll be a culture and way of life that would be so different from even life here "in the city" and certainly from life back in America. I'm looking forward to embracing the experience and the culture and to loving and serving the people.

On another note, what I said last week about just being good and going couldn't be any more true and I've definitely seen that this past week. Laying around, feeling sorry for yourself doesn't get you anywhere. So, we pushed through this week, stayed busy, and continued to work and serve and the Lord has definitely blessed us for it. We found 10 new people to teach which is incredible. Especially for both of us being brand new to the area, whitewashing it starting just a few weeks ago. It still amazes me the ways that the Lord overcomes the obstacles of a mission where we can't even really be "missionaries" and He still finds those who are ready to learn about the Gospel. We've had a lot of crazy experiences gaining new people to teach the past week but I'll just share a couple.

One morning, I was throwing up in the bathroom and came out to find out that we had received a phone call from a member asking us if we could come give their friend in the hospital a blessing. I said, "Of course, let's go," and we got ready and left. Just before we did though...

IMG_0597.JPG

Yet another sandstorm began moving in. The hospital was the direction that the sandstorm was coming from but we decided to go anyways. Some would say that's a mistake and you know I probably wouldn't argue with them because once it hit us, it really sucked. But, we just couldn't help but feeling that we needed to give this blessing so we continued to press on.

IMG_0634.JPG
The calm before the storm.

After we introduced ourselves and gave her a blessing she thanked us immensely and said that she knew about Jesus and wanted to find out more about our church. Suddenly, the reason for pushing through a sandstorm while feeling very nauseous, having eaten nothing the past 2 days, and running on adrenaline made so much more sense. To say it was all worth it would be an understatement. I'm just so glad that we were able to help that lady and that God truly does have everything planned out as long as you just go and give it your best shot with faith in Him and His plan.

On Friday, the same woman that we got water for a couple of weeks ago called us back up and asked if we could come back out to her house to get water for her again. To be honest, in my mind I had my doubts. It was hard and physically strenuous enough last time as it was not being sick so I wasn't really sure it was even possible for me. At this point I hadn't eaten or kept anything down for 3 days and I wasn't sleeping at all at night. I was extremely nauseous and tired already but I said a prayer and asked for the strength to be able to help the lady then got dressed and told my comp that we should go help her. He hesitantly asked me if I was sure and I just responded to him saying that I really feel that we should do this.

So, we headed out and caught the hour and a half long bus ride that took us out to her place. We got there and took the water containers and her 300 Tugriks, literally the equivalent of 11 cents in America, and headed over to the "well" like last time. This time, however, it was closed. I was confused. I wondered why we would've come all this way just to find out it's closed and we couldn't even help her. I was so confused as to why God would do this to me. He knows I was really sick and that the long, crowded bus ride only made me feel worse. Why would He prompt me to come all the way out here for a big waste of time?

Feeling somewhat defeated, with our heads down we began walking back towards the woman's house, empty water containers in hand. As we got there, she came outside to meet us but found that we were struggling a whole lot less with carrying the water jugs than we should have been at that point. She asked if there was no water and we told her yes. Just at that moment, a little boy in a bright blue jacket walked by dirt road outside and the woman shouted out to him, calling him to her house. He came over and she asked if his house had running water. He responded yes and she said "Well how would you like to make a little money?"

My comp and I followed him with the water jugs, having no idea where we were going but paying attention to our surroundings so that we could backtrack our steps to the lady's house. After jumping a long ditch that appeared to be a dried up stream and navigating some rough, dirt filled terrain, we arrived at a large fence that was boarded up so no one could pass through. The boy jumped it and disappeared without a trace. "Really?? You have to be kidding me," we exclaimed. The boy took us on a wild goose chase, took the money, then ran. We couldn't believe we fell for it. After standing there in disbelief for a couple of minutes, we decided to begin the trek back to the lady's house, again empty handed. Just as we did though, a little hose poked it's way through one of the crevices in the fence. At first it didn't register but once it started shooting out water we quickly realized what it was for. Just like that, after many many long trips going through some crazy terrain and jumping a dried up stream with full water jugs, we managed to fill up all of her water jugs. It was exhausting but it didn't seem to fully hit me until after the whole ordeal was over. The Lord had truly provided a way for me to accomplish it all and help the lady out, lifting and supporting me every step of the way.

After it was all said and done, she thanked us with a nice, boiling hot glass of water and a referral for 2 people that she knew that were interested in what church was all about. Again, the Lord had provided a way, not only for us to help the lady, but also to find more people who were ready to receive the gospel. I felt extremely foolish and sorrowful for my inner frustration at the beginning of it all. I didn't have the foresight that our Beloved Heavenly Father has and so because of that I couldn't see the big picture and was getting upset at the little things that happened along the way to make it all happen and fall into place. Sometimes, even when things look like they're not going your way and it's not working out, you just have to trust in Him and believe that just quite possibly, He knows more than you.

This email is getting long but I just want to finish it off by sharing a very special experience I had yesterday. We met with 8 interested people, 5 of them who were brand new we met for the first time. Remarkably, none of those 5 people had ever heard about Jesus before or knew who He is. In particular I will talk about our last lesson of the night. It was about 7:30 and was with a woman named Undurmaa and her son, Tulga. We taught them the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and it was incredible. Truly incredible. It was the best lesson I have ever taught on my mission. The presence of the spirit there last night was so strong and undeniable. Every single person in that room felt it. Her faith and desire was so incredibly strong even though she walked into that lesson not even knowing who Jesus Christ is. By the end, she shared her love for our Savior and said that it makes sense that if the fullness of His church and His authority were lost, that there would be a need for a restoration of His Gospel and His proper authority. Just to see the change in her over the course of about an hour was astonishing.

The most extraordinary thing for me was that for about an hour, I literally spoke Mongolian. I understood about 95% of what was said and actually spoke for about half the lesson, nearly half an hour without any prompts, papers, or even preparation. It was completely by the Spirit and I was able to say nearly everything I wanted to say and I believe I was able to say everything that Undurmaa needed to hear. I had never spoke anywhere close to that much in a lesson before. It was usually a couple really choppy lines and a testimony at the end but last night I was a full participant in the discussion and was understood completely by everyone. I have never seen a more tangible manifestation of the Gift of Tongues before. That definitely wasn't just me talking last night. Heavenly Father needed this woman to learn about His church and I was just lucky enough to be His means for doing so. I've never been apart of such an amazing experience before but I am so grateful to have had that experience.

My language ability seems to be back to normal today as I seem to be comprehending my normal occasional word here and there and not being able to respond. But, for some reason, last night it came to me so naturally. I still can't rationally and logically work it out in my mind. All I know is that the Gift of Tongues is real and that the Lord really can perform miracles when necessary. Elder Wadsworth and I aren't perfect. Heck, we're nowhere even close. But, we're trying and we're working hard. Sometimes, that's all it takes for God to do great things through you. Of this, I can bear my firm witness. When I look back at the week that I've had, I can honestly say that it's been an extremely hard week and that it's come with it's hardships for sure. However, we've worked really hard and the Lord has been with us every step of the way. I would say that the week that we've had has been incredible by any standards. To think then, that all of this has happened in a non-proselyting mission where we are "undercover missionaries", not wearing name tags, not saying that we're missionaries, and not even having the ability to talk to anybody about the church and about God unless we're in their home by their invitation, just completely blows my mind. This church is true, without a doubt. The message of the gospel is incredible and truly changes people's lives. Elder Wadsworth and I are baptizing 3 of our investigators tomorrow and just the changes that we've seen in them alone has been amazing. I'm so very lucky to have the opportunity to be here and to be apart of this work. The Lord is spreading His gospel and the message of the truthfulness of His church throughout all the world. It's a beautiful thing to see.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

-Ахлагч Жуyнз




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