January 24, 2010
About a week ago, the Elders’ Quorum President from Khailaast Branch where we attend church approached Richard. He told Richard about a family who needed assistance. Sister Lofgren and her companion and Elder Smith were present while the Elders’ Quorum President told about the family, and they concurred. They told about the grandma in the family who just stays in bed under piles of blankets because the ger is cold and because she can’t get walk. They told him that the ger has no power so they use candles at night, and that the father makes only about 2,000 to 3,000 tugrugs a day which is about $1.50 to $2.25. Richard told Sister Lofgren and Sister Munkhsaikhan that if they could get the grandma’s size and information, we’d see if we had a wheelchair left that would fit her because we are almost at the end of distributing this year’s wheelchairs.
Sister Lofgren and Sister Munkhsaikhan brought in the grandma’s measurements and we were happy that it was the size of one of the remaining wheelchairs. So, the two sister missionaries set up an appointment with the family for us to go with Sister Lofgren and Sister Munkhsaikhan to take the wheelchair to the grandma.
We borrowed the mission SUV to take the wheelchair. Sister Lofgren told us it was really good we were taking the SUV because the family’s ger was high on a slippery hill. On the way, we stopped and purchased a few supplies to take to the family.
As we drove through the ger district on the way to the family’s ger, we were glad we had the SUV, because the “road” was slippery. When we rounded the hill and saw the ger ahead of us, Richard drove across the icy hill down to the ger. We didn’t realize what a slope we had traversed until later.
As we got out of the SUV and started taking the wheelchair inside, we noticed two young children coming over the slippery hill headed down to the ger. The children were hauling heavy water jugs. The small child trailing behind his older brother was crying loudly because of the heavy load and cold. The sister missionaries quickly climbed the slippery hill and helped the children carry the heavy water containers the rest of the way to a neighboring ger.
As we entered the one-room ger, we found a happy family of three children, a slender father, a mother whose smiley face and long dark hair appeared almost angelic, and in a small bed pushed against the exterior circular wall of the ger and far away from the fire that was in the center of the room, we could barely see the shriveled face of the grandma whose blank eyes peered out from underneath a thick pile of quilts. A few neighborhood children poured into the ger to watch the arrival of the strangers and sister missionaries. Sister Lofgren told us that they were all investigators and that in two days the mother of the family, named Tsetsegmaa, was going to be baptized.
It was a sweet experience to watch the father of the family tenderly fold back the heavy pile of quilts to reveal the petite figure of his mother while we, the sister missionaries, his family and the neighborhood children watched. Then he and Tsegtsegmaa tenderly wrapped the frail woman in her fancy dell and pulled on her boots. He then lovingly picked her up in his arms and gently set her in her new wheelchair. Then he pushed her in the new wheelchair close to the toasty stove. Even though she could barely hear or see, she knew what was happening and tears of joy watered her eyes. She raised her head toward her son and whispered in a trembling voice (in Mongolian), “Do we need to pay them some money?”
“No,” was the answer, “it’s a gift.”
We had a fun time taking pictures of the family and saying good-by. Then Richard and I left the sister missionaries there so they could teach the family another lesson and we headed for the SUV.
That’s when we realized what a slippery, icy slope we had traversed on the way in. Even though Richard is a wonderful driver, it took all of his skill to figure out how to drive the SUV back up the slippery slope and onto safe ground. After a few tense moments, we were greatly relieved when the SUV pulled over the top of the hill and we were on our way back home. (Note: the ger we visited is just above the middle of this photo.)
On Friday when we attended the baptism at the Chingeltei building, the whole chapel was filled. It was fun to see Tsegtsegmaa there with her family and to see the Khailaast Branch members gather around her to wish her well. She just beamed. It was wonderful to see her family and friends gather around her. The tradition here after a baptism is for those who are baptized to bear their testimonies. When it was her turn, Tsegtsegmaa walked to the podium carrying with her a small plastic bag. As she bore her testimony and thanked the missionary sisters and Elder Smith who taught her, she pulled a candy bar out of her bag for each of them, handed each one to her tiny five-year-old daughter who she asked to deliver the candy bars to the missionaries. Then I heard the Mongolian word for wheelchair and a thank you. Again she reached into her bag and pulled out a candy bar for Richard and then one for me. Knowing of her meager means, I was touched by the "Widow's mite" type offering. I was amazed by her gratitude and her generosity. The Krispie Rice candy bar touched my heart!