Still in Mongolia (no small thing)!
In risk of writing yet another letter that seems more like a newspaper/history book, let me try to fill you in on what has happened in the mission since last week.
Seven days ago: Elders Jolley, Wilson and Huff finished their missions and left along with Elder Naef who left a few days before. It was tough, but we knew it was coming. Elder Boyd and I were combined together temporarily, but indefinitely while waiting for our new companions to come from the MTC in Provo. During this time five of the American missionaries had been put on a ten day "must leave the country order". However they had been on this before and we were sure that the mission would just appeal to a higher court as had been explained by the mission leaders and all would be good. There was no anxiety or real urgency there.
And so the next three or so days with Elder Boyd were fantastic. We spent a couple of days in Khialaast and some time in his area of Chingeltei. It rained for the entire time we were together. Wednesday morning Elder B was in for zone leader council and stopped by for lunch and it was so great to see him. We talked for a while and then parted ways. It was drizzling as we started the day, but we went without jackets anyway. We met with a new member which went great because Elder Boyd and I were just thinking on the same wavelength the whole time. Our second investigator wasn't home and unfortunately at that point the clouds unleashed fury. Since there is no drainage system the dirt roads were instantly a river and we were more than wet. In a panic we ran to a member's house who wasn't home, but we were able to stand on her "porch" and wait it out. The rest of the day went along the same lines with a free taxi ride at one point from a lady who felt bad for us. By the end of the day we had mud up to our knees. One of the best days ever!
The evening was not as fun. We found out that a less active member's ger had burned down and their youngest child had been lost in the accident. It was crushing. I had been in their house on tens of visits over the past 5 months. Elder Boyd and I immediately found the house to where they moved and talked to the father while trying desperately to say anything consoling. Later we returned with the branch president and the sisters and a few members to again try and comfort the grieving family.
While we were there President Clark called trying to get a hold of Sister Ouynerdene's companion who was teaching English. When I talked to him he said the news wasn't good and we could tell that something was up. Later that night we found out that the five on "must leave orders" would have to leave and even more shocking they had to leave by Friday. That led to an emergency transfer/impromptu devotional on Thursday night where the five all received new mission calls essentially and bore their testimonies. There was such a unity of spirit and emotion in the room like I've never felt; a strength as missionaries and members of this worldwide church. When Sister Berg got up to finish the meeting she sang "I Stand All Amazed" wetting every eye in the room. The five are headed to Oakland, Chicago, and Washington DC. Elder Call my MTC companion is one of the five heading to Oakland with Elder Wilson who stayed with Elder B and me before going to Khovd two transfers ago.
Then in the most bittersweets of bittersweets the President came and found me and Elder Boyd after the meeting to tell us that our visas have been renewed and we are almost certainly clear till next year.
So where has the emergency transfer landed me . . . Songino, on the very western part of the city with Elder Robbins an Elder who got here in April. Because the center of the city really sits very far to the east we are extremely far from pretty much everything.
We have gone at it hard this first two days to just figure out where everything is, walking like crazy and checking so many addresses.
The ward is so amazing! The bishop met with us before church and was just telling us how excited he was about missionary work and how he wanted to go out and work with us. Wow!Then after I blessed the sacrament (first time) and bore my testimony a returned sister missionary got up and gave the greatest talk on member missionary work of all time. Several times she talked about the difficulties of expressing her feelings in English during her mission. But seeing her speak helped me realize that so much of your mission is about what kind of member you will be when you go home.
These first couple days in this new are have been a blur. But we should get our feet on the ground soon enough. Maybe next week because this week is Naadam! (a huge festival and holiday. Google it). I'm pretty sure we may be going to the opening ceremonies with Elder Robbins' sponsor and then Thursday is an all mission celebration outside the city.
Friday before I moved, I was also able to preform a baptism for the Sisters which let me say goodbye to so many awesome people in Khailaast including five new members. Elder Boyd also had a baptism, so we had an awesome experience. Also the President Clark came.
Wow what a week!
I'm promising pictures and amazing spiritual experiences for next week, but that's all for now.
Note from the Editor: We are so grateful for the blessing of the renewed visas while so sorry for those that had to be reassigned. So many of you were praying with us and we truly believe it has been divine intervention that has resulted in the extension. Thank you so much for your prayers.