A DAY “DOING WHAT MISSIONARIES DO”
Because of jet lag and an exhausting day, Thursday night we had already hit the wall and were fast asleep when Elder Henson from Songino (Song gun) Branch called us about 10:15 p.m. He asked us if we would like to go out on an exchange with him the next day and do what missionaries do while his companion went out with a member of their branch. Because our mission president had called a fast for a revival of effort in missionary work, dedication to the work, and success in the work, Elder Henson and his companion wanted to divide and conquer to help the work along. Since Elder Lasson and I were exhausted after a long day, we hadn’t recuperated from jet lag, and we had already gone to sleep from, our thinking was a little foggy. We reasoned: we had received two assignments—Humanitarian Director and Head of the English Teaching Program--which we were trying to learn about and get up to speed on. We couldn’t imagine being gone from our new assignments for a whole day out of our first week. We rationalized, “We have important things to do.” So, we told apologized to Elder Henson and told him we wouldn’t be able to go with him. That night we prayed about it and as we awakened in the morning, it became clear to us that what Elder Henson was trying to accomplish was honorable and we needed to support him in his desire to accomplish the work. So, hoping that he hadn’t already found someone else to go with him, we called him and told him we would love to go with him. He was happy to have us go with him, so, we met him at 11:00 a.m. at the Songino chapel and started out for an adventurous day of “doing what missionaries do.”
First of all, we boarded a bus with Elder Henson, which we had been told was a “no, no” because of skilled pickpockets and other dangers, but we felt very safe and comfortable with Elder Henson at our side. He was friendly and courteous to the people, and we enjoyed seeing this side of Mongolia.
Our first visit was to a one-room ger that belonged to a member of the Church and her family. Bending our heads low so we could enter the ger, we were surprised to find the circular room to be neatly-kept room with pink, flower-patterned fabric covering the walls. Two small beds were pushed against the walls of the room and were neatly covered with patterned rugs and blankets. The wood floor looked clean and cared for. A small bare wooden table stood near the middle of the room. Two chests of drawers held living essentials and one held a television. A small kitchen cupboard held dishes and cooking supplies. The small wood-burning cook stove sat right in the middle of the floor with a stovepipe to vent the smoke extending up through a hole in the ceiling of the ger. A well-loved photograph of the emee (grandma) and her young er nohore (husband) dressed in a military uniform hung on the circular wall. The petite emee had been napping in her bed on the right side of the ger which is the woman’s private area of the ger. So, as we entered the ger, we walked to the left respecting her private space. She smiled a welcoming smile and sat up to greet us. Her granddaughter graciously smiled, turned off the TV which the young children had been watching, pulled two short stools and a child’s folding chair close to the table and motioned for us to sit down. As soon as we sat down, she poured each of us a small bowl of hot, salted, milk-water from a teakettle and some wedges of flat bread, which she pulled from a small side cupboard.
As Elder Henson began his lesson, the young children rolled over each other on a bed while a little tot, looking like a China doll, slept on unbothered by his siblings around him. Elder Henson shared with them the story of the first vision. He asked the young mother to read a scripture passage about the restoration. When he finished, Elder Henson asked the little boy (who was about 5 or 6 years old) to tell him the story. The little boy had seemed distracted by his younger siblings during the discussion, so we were really surprised to hear him answer. According to Elder Henson, the little boy recited back the story of the first vision—almost verbatim.
After the lesson, Elder Lasson and I bore our testimonies to the family. Elder Henson helped to fill in a few gaps in our language skills. After that and a prayer, I asked if I could take a photo of the family. The grandmother, who had snuggled back down into the quilts on her bed during the lesson, got out of bed and came over to me. She sat close to me and motioned for the two of us to have our picture taken together. After taking the picture, we showed her the digital photo; she smiled with a pleased look on her face. We felt a bond with her and felt grateful for her warm acceptance of me in her home in spite of my language limitations.
The next ger we visited was a home on a hill. A young teenage girl told us her mother didn’t feel well, but we could sit and visit with her on the hill above their home if we wanted, so we followed her up the hill. As we sat on the rocks and Elder Henson chatted with her and a little neighbor girl, we spotted her mother coming up the hill. As she approached where we were sitting, told Elder Henson that when she heard we were there, it revived her and made her feel better, so she climbed the hill so she could join us. Then she took my hand and led us to the top of the hill. It was a beautiful sight. As we looked out over the colorful rooftops of red, green, blue, and yellow and green countryside, she told me that she knew America was beautiful, but she thought her view of Mongolia was beautiful, too. And, indeed it was.
As we admired the view, she graciously, she sent her daughter back to their modest home for a blanket. When her daughter returned, the woman spread the blanket on the ground and invited us to sit. After a sweet prayer, Elder Henson again gave a beautiful lesson—this time about the importance of being a light to others. When he was finished, I bore my testimony and Elder Lasson bore his. The Spirit testified of the truthfulness of our words. Wiping away tears, the woman and I hugged. I felt our hearts knit together in love and unity under the blue Mongolian sky.
After a few contacts weren’t home, we were invited into a very humble ger. The people had very little, but still welcomed us into their home. Diaperless, the baby rolled around on the partially-dirt floor. The woman offered me the only stool in sight and invited Elder Henson and Elder Lasson to sit on a low bed blanketless bed. These people were hungry for the good word and sat attentively as Elder Henson taught them. As he finished, they said they wanted to be baptized and Elder Henson set up an appointment to return to teach them more.
We left and after walking to another contact and not finding anyone home, a couple approached us and told Elder Henson that they wanted to be baptized. We were a little shocked to have someone out of the blue approach him and say that. They said they didn’t have time to talk right now, but they had talked to other missionaries and had decided that they knew the Church was true and wanted to be baptized. Elder Henson set an appointment to return and teach them more at a later date.
On the way to try to find another member to visit, we hopped into a Meeker or mini-van. Elder Hanson said he had one time seen 28 people in one. I could imagine maybe 15 or twenty at the most, but not 28.
Not finding the right address, we headed back to the church for a baptism. Elder Henson baptized a woman and a man. We took pictures during the day and at the baptism, which we later sent to Elder Henson and his mother. In a return e-mail, he told us that his mother was really grateful to receive the pictures because they were the first pictures she had seen of him in a year and a half.
Even though we walked miles and were exhausted at the end of the day, we felt strengthened by the Lord. We were grateful we for this experience. It helped us to love Mongolia and the people here. We also felt very appreciative to Elder Henson and will always be grateful to him for sharing this wonderful experience with us on our first Friday in Mongolia. We felt truly blessed have spent a wonderful day “doing what missionaries do.”