How's everyone doing this week? It's been a good time here in Jargalant as always. I mentioned a baptism in my last email. We had 3 teenage girls who were all friends on date for Saturday but one of them didn't feel ready so she didn't get baptized. The other 2 were more than ready though. Their testimonies are incredible and their faith is really strong and only continuing to grow.
I baptized the girl on the left and I swear she has the longest name in the world haha. In Mongolia people don't have surnames. They just have one name. However, if you want to specify someone you can refer to them as belonging to their father. So if I was Mongolian, my name would just be Colton. If you wanted to specify who I was or differentiate me from another Colton you would refer to me as Drew's Colton since my father's name is Drew. The thing is, Mongolian is a case based language so if I want to make a word or name possesive, I add something called the Genitive case on the end of the word. So, it ended making her name extremely long.
I found out her "full name" the day before the baptism so I wrote it down so that I could practice for the baptism. It literally took a whole line in my notebook. I asked a native Mongolian missionary who I was with how I would pronounce the name and he laughed and said "That's a difficult name for even Mongolians to pronounce. Good luck." Obviously the pronunciation isn't going to translate directly to English but the closest I can come is:
baadzardraackchaageenbatssetseg. It was hard but after a lot of reps I was able to get it down and say it smoothly during the baptismal service. It was a great experience and extremely cool to see their progression from beginning to end, how far they've come, and how much they've grown.
Since this is a non-proselyting mission, we don't wear suits everyday, we never wear name tags, we never take scriptures out of our apartment, and we can't talk to anyone in public about God or religion or anything. The only time we can ever talk about that stuff is when we are invited into someone's home or if they are in the church building. Since we don't knock doors or go around talking about Jesus, we do lots of other things here. One main thing is service. I've talked about getting water for people, sometimes we help build gers, other times we split firewood, etc. The second main thing we do is teach English. Before coming, we took classes and got our certifications to be an English teacher. That's what got us our visas and that's what allows us to be here in the first place. If anyone at all asks us who we are, even if they ask us about God or Jesus or church, we have to respond that we are English teachers. Just about the only way that we find people who are interested in the church is through members. So, we do a lot of member missionary work and reach out to them a lot to help us. They are a huge reason why the work is starting to really pick up out here in Mongolia.
Last week, my comp and I began a new English teaching job. Before that, we were only teaching a free, community English class once a week at a building called the Bayanzurkh Building (We call it the BZ). This building is a multi-functional building owned by the church that has 5 floors and has lots of things on the inside. There's a distribution center to buy church books and materials among other things, a chapel where Sunday services are held, and on the 5th floor, the mission home where the mission president and his wife live. The mission doctor's office is also located in this building along with the headquarters of Deseret International Charities (DIC) where all of our visa and English teaching matters are handled. But, one of the coolest things about this building is that there are big classrooms for teaching English. Right now there's about 8 missionaries teaching at the BZ. Missionaries with church visas who are in the city teach there and sometimes other places since they can't teach at schools. It's kind of like our temporary job until we get shipped out of the city to teach somewhere else way out in the countryside.
But, last week we got an additional English teaching job, just as I mentioned earlier, except we aren't really teaching English. We are English website consultants for a travel agency. We have our own desks and computers and we help this travel agency with their website's English. The thing is though, the woman at the head of this company also started a non-profit website to raise money and awareness for cancer and palliative care in Mongolia since that seems to be a huge problem that is rarely ever talked about or even acknowledged. Her mother died from advanced, stage 4 cancer and was seeking palliative care which is what brought all of this to her attention. She has the whole website created in Mongolian but her English isn't very good. She has a little bit of English on the website but there are a ton of typos and grammar and fluency mistakes. So, we're there to help translate the website to English and make it sound coherent, professional, and well-written so that it can be further shared and awareness spread. We do that on Wednesdays from 12:00-5:30. I thought I was done with my days of revising and editing but apparently not haha. It's a lot of fun though and it's definitely for a good cause. I'm learning a lot from it.
Something funny that happened last week was that during my community English class at the BZ, I looked out of the window and saw a lot of smoke behind the BZ. Confused, I walked up to the window to get a closer look and discovered a huge fire in an overgrown, abandoned looking field next to an abandoned parking lot. I looked next to it to see a few shocked people pointing and screaming. I realized the fire wasn't controlled and the flames starting shooting even higher, upwards of 10-15 feet. It was barreling through the dry field and heading straight for the BZ. I told one of my students to call a firetruck since I can't speak Mongolian very well. He did and after like 15-20 minutes a single firetruck showed up with just one guy working to put it out. Luckily, he was able to somehow get it out before it reached us since it had burned through a lot already at that point. Just a typical day in Mongolia I suppose.