Sunday, July 23, 2017

Week 82 - I am the evidence of my experiences...

Wow.  How have I come to this point?  It's something that's been creeping up and also coming so fast all at the same time.  My final email? My final pday? My final week?

I'm not entirely sure what to say.  So I'll start with the fact that I have already lost sleep over not seeing some of my most beloved people again.  That is the very reason I came to Mongolia in the first place.  The people. And they mean more to me than words can express.  The Christlike people I have met while I have been here have changed my life forever.  They teach me that I can be better.  And I'm forever indebted to them.  It's my hope that at some point in the time they changed my life I was able to do some good in theirs.  Heavenly Father is so good. When a good thing happens, many people are blessed.  I've seen that in my life.  All of the people I've come to love would probably say it's been a two-way street of life bettering, but I'd say I've come out as the most blessed.  

It's weird to think that the hopes I had for my mission are now memories.  I don't have many material evidences of the experiences I've had for the past year and a half besides a couple of souvenirs and pictures. I am the evidence of my experiences.  I have a stronger testimony of my Savior and His restored Gospel that is on the Earth today.  I have seen, with my own eyes, the changes that the Gospel makes.  I've learned to receive personal revelation and listen to and understand how God answers my questions.  I've seen His hands in every moment of my mission, making the most beautiful experiences that were custom made for me to see His love.  I've felt that love for others I've served.  I can't help it.  

I learned to make the last of the main Mongolian foods on Monday night.  Our member has made that her quest before I go home, and it'll make my life so much better.  Sometimes the food is weird here, but I know I'll miss it.  

On Tuesday night, we went to institute with our investigator, who is lovely in every way.  Institute was so good. And so many people I loved whispered my name during the class to get my attention.  I love them all. It was like a spiritual feast and a reunion!  

I learned ballet from a little six year old while her grandma made calzones for dinner.  Turns out I'm not as flexible as I was when I was six.  But I can still do some of the moves.  The six year old was impressed, so I'm good with it.  

The sweet grandma we visit regularly read the scripture we shared about hope, and she said, "We have hope because we know God!  We need to work, though.  With hope we can go with God."  She's not understandable 99% of the time, but I sure did understand that.  Heavenly Father wanted me to know that.  That's why He let me understand.  See what I mean? These people are top notch!

It was my last Sunday yesterday.  They had ward conference, and Elder Toronto of the Asia Area Presidency presided.  Then they had me bear my testimony.  No pressure.  The members of the stake leadership were also there, which included my lovely former companion and her new husband.  And all these people I love so much!  As the sacrament was passed to me by Munkhgerel's husband, I turned to him and he suggested I give a cup of sacrament water to the little boy who toddled up to me at the piano during the prayer.  So I offered it to him.  He looked up with these big brown eyes and looked so angelic.  Heavenly Father taught me about how I've been using my last year and a half offering the Savior's love and sacrifice to all.  And I couldn't help but feel grateful that my companion's husband gave me the chance to give the water to the little boy.  The lessons in Sunday School and Relief Society were given by Munkhgerel and her husband. They may have been the best lessons I've heard in church.  Not that I'm biased at all.  But they talked about God's love and knowing us personally.  And overcoming fear by focusing on God's love.  Perfect for me.  Straight from heaven.  Everyone came up afterward to wish me well and hug me.  It was pretty sad for me.  But at the same time, I'm just so grateful that I met them at all!

This week is going to be great.  Going out for a girls day today and then spending my last day in my area tomorrow visiting people.  Thursday I'll have a farewell dinner and then get on a plane on Friday.  I can't believe it!  It's been wonderful.  Some of the best 19 months of my life.  Some of the times were hard and trying, but the 10% of difficult was swallowed up in the 90% good.  It's opened my eyes to see how much Heavenly Father is mindful of me.  

And as I come home, I can't help but think of Elder Holland's talk about good things to come.
I know that as hard as it is to say these goodbyes, I'm also looking forward to a great future. The good things can't stop here!  And they won't!  Because Heavenly Father loves us so much, and our purpose on this earth is to have joy!  

With that, I love you all! I am grateful for the experiences I've had which have changed who I am.  And I look forward to seeing you soon!  I love my mission!  I love the Lord!  See you soon!

Sister Bottorff

With my companion in the rain

I made buuz - I can be taught!

Archery is a major sport here - and it's fun!

Some more pictures of this place I've come to love...

Monday, July 17, 2017

Week 81 - Naadam, a visit to my birthplace, and home-made huushuur

I know that nothing in this world is completely perfect in every single way, but this week was about as close as it could get.  Looking back on it, I can't think of a single sour point.  Here's why:
Monday after email, we had a lovely pizza lunch with Sister Brezenski and Sister Peterson. Then the four of us went to get the traditional dresses Sister Peterson and Sister Austin ordered from my new member in Unur.  I got to see her!  She is the cutest!  I had to say goodbye to her, but I know I'll see her again soon!  After all, I'll be visiting in the next few years.  That's what I've decided.  We finished that activity a little sooner than expected, so we had extra time before our evening appointment.  It turned out perfectly because the city square was filled with people having a party before Naadam.  Everyone was dressed in their traditional clothing.  There was a concert!  And a fashion show!  The evening finished off beautifully with a slight breeze and making Naadam huushuur with a member.  She's determined to help us learn to cook Mongolian food, and I am so grateful for that!  I hope everyone is ready to eat well when I get home!  
Tuesday was Naadam - my new favorite holiday!  It's basically 4th of July mixed with the Superbowl (without football) mixed with a street fair.  And it's heavenly.  The celebration started out at the city square where the military band played, which led a parade down to the stadium.  We got tickets to go inside and we had great seats!  The performance was much more than I was hoping for.  There were yaks, camels, fire, horses, singing, dancing, ger building, and a full-blown parade at the end!  I was in heaven.  My cheeks hurt from smiling so much!  Everyone gave us so much attention because we were foreigners in traditional clothes.  Now I know more about what it's like to be a celebrity.  Now everyone can scour the internet for random pictures with me and a bunch of Mongolian people.  We had a little get-together at our house for lunch with the sisters after the ceremony and then headed out and checked out the street fair!  More heaven.  
We had a meeting with a new investigator that night.  She is so awesome, and she already knows the Church is true.  I can't believe that my ability to love someone is so instantaneous these days.  I looked at her and instantly loved her and wanted everything good to happen to her. She's lovely, and we met 3 times this week.  We read the Book of Mormon with her, and she wants to read it every day.  She already knows it's true.  And I want to be just like her when I grow up.  She's younger than me, but that's ok! :) 
Another perfect day was Wednesday.  We got permission from President Harper to go see our stake president and his family at their summer cabin 25 km from the city.  If we are talking about perfection, it was that day.  Nothing went wrong.  The weather was warm but not too hot.  They fed us the best food.  Pork and chicken and huushuur and salad and fruit.  We explored their backyard together and enjoyed conversations about their inspiring conversion stories and good times on missions.  I will miss this family so much.  But I won't think about it.  That's how I'll cope with that one.  
I went on my last split this week.  I went back to my birthplace in Unur with Sister Mason.  The two of us made miraculous time visiting literally everyone on my list.  Remember how I totally burned my mouth on soup at my VERY FIRST dinner appointment?  Well, we visited that family and she made soup!  And she let it cool for a good 20 minutes so I wouldn't burn myself again.  We laughed and reminisced and sang together, and she gave me a beautiful scripture cover as a parting gift.  I'll miss her so much!  Dang it!  Leaving this place is not going to be easy.  We also visited my first new member and I tried not to cry as I said goodbye.  Thank goodness for Facebook and emailing and modern technology.  I keep telling myself it's not really goodbye.  I'll see them again!  

I love these people more than I thought I had the capacity to love anyone.  And loving so many of them was not something I ever thought was possible.  But Heavenly Father keeps making room in my heart.  It's one of His many miracles.  He loves us, so He lets us love others.  I'm not sure how He does it, but I'm sure grateful He does!  
I love you all!
Sister Bottorff

What a privilege to hold such a magnificent bird!

A sweet family, sweet memories, and bittersweet good-byes

I will miss the birthplace of my mission

And home-made huushuur

A military band plays...

... and Chinggis Khan listens 

We are ready for the Naadam festivities!

The opening procession was amazing...

... with lots of music,

and other performances,

that describe Mongolia's history.

Mongolian archers are phenomenal

Apparently the Romans tried to conquer Mongolia...

but things didn't go so well for them.

I'm so grateful to have experienced the Naadam opening ceremony!