Thursday, July 28, 2016

Week 30 - Playing in the mud :)

Hey!  This week was another good one!  

So after I emailed last week, we shopped and then went home to do laundry and get some stuff done.  And that night and the next day I realized the xuushuur was not a good idea.  It tasted sooo good, but then I got sick.  Not deathly sick, but I stayed home all the next day to recover.  We had to cancel all of our plans, which is never fun, but I had to.  

So Wednesday was much better!  My companion is now trying to get me to read less from a paper and just teach.  I have papers I can use that have everything written down.  Sentence by sentence.  So it's easy to just read.  But for two of our lessons I had to say other things and I only wrote down notes in English to help me remember what to say and which direction to go.  Sometimes I forget and just freeze.  But then a miracle happened!  When I asked my companion later that night what I said wrong, she said, "Nothing.  I was sitting there waiting for you to make a mistake, but you said everything grammatically correct.  And the Spirit was strong.  Don't change anything!!"  I could have cried because I was so happy!  In the grand scheme of things, it's really small, and I know I have a long way to go, but it was a moment I've been waiting for this whole time! :)  Also, at that perfect lesson, I ate marmot for dinner.  Yum.

On Thursday we planned and then had a district meeting.  And I always love district meeting.  I shared that we always need to remember our missionary purpose to help others.  And sometimes it just means that we need to go out of our way to help do little acts of service.  That's what the Savior would do, and that's what we are truly here to do.  I'm trying to make the guiding question in my life, "would the Savior do this if He were here?"  And then I try to act.  It doesn't matter if it's what we planned.  Sometimes it's the unplanned things we find in our path that make all the difference to ourselves and others.  We also had mutual with 4 young women, and they made Angry Birds bookmarks.  They are so cute!  The girls and the bookmarks! :)  

Friday was so fun!  We taught lessons and visited many people.  We planned for lots of different people than the people we ended up visiting, but it turned out so well!  I love being in people's homes and feeling of their spirit.  We are working a lot with the members right now to help them in any way we can.  And I love it!  

Saturday we did some service, and I got my hands really dirty!  We helped some ward members build a house!  It's made of dirt and water.  They make dirt blocks and then stack them and seal it with mud.  So we had a blast!  And it felt so good to help!  We went home and showered and had a meeting with the branch president and then went to the Branch President's house and ate more marmot for dinner.  Good times.  I seriously never can predict what I'll be eating...

Yesterday was another good day!  We had church, and the relief society lesson was about eating healthy.  And they got on a tangent about weird foods people eat in China.  And I couldn't help but chuckle as I heard them saying things like, "It's so weird that they eat this and that" knowing that, coming from America, it seems so weird that they eat certain foods.  Ahh culture is so fun! :)  We also met with our two grandmas, who are doing so well, and a cute member family yesterday.  

It's so fun to be busy and help people, even in small ways.  I love being able to give, and it helps me to let go of my problems and focus on others.  I think that must have been such a help to the Savior when He was on the Earth.  His life was not easy, but He spent His time giving and serving, and that must have made all the hard times worth it.  I know that's how it is for me.  

I love you all and hope you are so happy! 


Sister Bottorff

A message in Mongolian Mac and Cheese:
Translation: Sarah Bottorff Hovd Munkhgerel (my companion's last name)

Our desk in our apartment...

Our kitchen...

Helping build a mud house...

I love to serve!

Not bad, eh?

Angry Bird bookmarks - fun!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Week 29 - Naadam celebration in Hovd!


Today is Naadam in Hovd!  It was Naadam in UB last week and they celebrate the holiday on different days for different towns so people can travel the country and participate in different Naadam competitions.  It's pretty cool! We went to the stadium and celebrated today.  But I'm getting ahead of myself...

On Monday we had FHE with a family in the ward.  Everyone wanted to just celebrate Naadam and watch the festivities in UB.  You should look it up on YouTube.  They had camels and dancers and singers and maybe even fire. I'm not sure, but I heard it was awesome!  

Tuesday we fought with Naadam again, haha.  Everyone wanted to watch the wrestling on TV instead of meet with us!  Weird!  But we had some meetings and I love my investigators.  They were so nice to turn off the TV for our lessons.  And on girl's dad even joined our lesson!  It was so fun to feel the holiday in the air.  Everyone is so excited and involved!  

On Wednesday, we visited a ward member in the hospital and just sat with her for a while.  And then we taught our two investigator sisters.  One was in the countryside for a week or two (we thought it would be a month or two) and came home early, so we caught up with them.  We met with a member after that, and The Princess Diaries was playing.  I love that movie, but I didn't watch it.  Go me!  Then we had institute and went to the Branch President's house for Naadam food.  We saw a Kazakh wedding on the way!  The bride was so beautiful in her white dress!  They served traditional Xuushuur and they also served the milk drink with sheep tail.  Yes. Sheep tail.  I've eaten weird things but this is in its own category!

Thursday was church day.  We Skyped in for a zone training with about 20 other missionaries meeting in UB.  It was fun to see everyone, and the messages were all so good!  One was about the gift of tongues, and they talked about how we need to just enjoy the journey and remember that we are learning the language to love the people and help them.  We aren't learning the language to show how smart we are!  Which is such a good reminder!  It's been kind of a struggle because I'm the only non-native speaker in 1000 miles, and it's sometimes easy to forget that I'm not the only one learning Mongolian.  It's ok to not be perfect or sound native.  The important thing is that I try and show people that I love them.  It was a meeting well needed.  Then, we had mutual (youth activities) at the church followed by a district meeting.  We Skyped and talked about the zone conference.  It was so good!  We got to add our inputs, and everyone had such good things to say!  We talked about making prayers more meaningful and remembering not to get caught up in pride.  We need to be humble.  There's no way to do this work if there's no humility!  

On Friday, we planned and hen we went to the goat farm.  We didn't see any goats, but it's one of the most beautiful places.  And I love the family!  We ate yogurt together (a Mongolian staple). Then we taught one of our grandmas and had a fun time teaching her that she can be married and sealed to her husband for eternity.  She loved it!  And so did I!

Saturday was great because our investigators passed their baptismal interview!  I'm so excited for them!  After the interview, our other appointments canceled on us.  We call that being "burned".  And it's not fun.  And we got burned 4 times.  We weren't sure what to do, but we tried to get to work anyway.  And we prayed.  And miracles happened!  We found people we haven't been able to find. And our investigator, who we thought was out of town, called us and asked to meet!  And It was so good!!!!  And we also met with a new investigator who we will help serve this coming week.  They are building a house, and we get to help!  Yay!!  It was one miracle after another.  It reminded me to always pray and not to be discouraged.  Which is sometimes easy.  But if we look for God's hand in our lives, we will find it.

Sunday was also amazing.  After church we studied, tried to visit people and got burned again several times.  Everyone is gone for Naadam.  But then we found lots of members to meet with, and it filled our day with happiness! :)  And it literally filled our day. Our branch president's son is going on a mission today!  He was supposed to go in a week or two, but they called and asked him to go today!  So we helped with some preparations.  And when he gets his visa, he'll go to PHOENIX!!! So I'll take him a package from his parents when I visit Phoenix after my mission! :)

Today was awesome!  We went to the Naadam stadium in town.  They had the opening ceremonies with traditional dancers, singers, and even contortionists.  SO cool!! I took pictures of the Mongolian dresses because I'll get one made for the holiday in January!  I needed ideas! I borrowed something to wear from a member.  We met up with some members and ate xuushuur and watched wrestling and archery.  And I also kinda competed in a cool game with animal bones.  You put the bone on your leg and flick it.  The point of the game is to knock over a different bone with the bone you flick.  Kinda like bowling.  I did terrible, and they had me move really close.  Everyone was watching me.  I'll practice and get better with time.

I love being a missionary!  It's not always easy, but the miracles are happening!  I love you all!

Sister Bottorff

Cool wall mural

A bride and groom from Kazakstan.

Xuushur and milk with sheep's tail

Just some of the amazing and colorful characters of Naadam!

Archery competition

Two sisters in the crowd!

Playing a game with bones - kind of like bowling

With a beautiful lady during Naadam

At the stadium for Naadam

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Week 28 - but who's counting??

So this week was a little different because I got sick.  So it kinda messed up some of the days, so I'll just highlight the good things that happened.  And I'm better so don't worry about me one bit! :)

My birthday was great!  I had such a fun day, and the birthday wishes have been so nice!  I feel so incredibly blessed!  Thank you, everyone!!  We went to the river with the Young Single Adults in the ward, and it was so much fun!  We shared a spiritual thought and played.  It was so fun to be outside and see all the gers and the green grass and animals roaming.  It was like I walked into a painting.  It looked like what you'd expect to see in Mongolia!  We took lots of pictures, so don't worry!  Then we visited a family who surprised me with a HUGE birthday dinner!  It made me so happy!  They fed me stir fry and kim bob and potato salad and rice and a delicious kool-aid type drink.  And they kept saying, "  Eat, eat." They thought it was so funny that I became a baby on that day. Hahaha!  And then I ate so much.  We also did a Family Home Evening with another family and they so graciously gave me another birthday dinner!  So by the end of the day I was overflowing.  It was a great day!  So warm and fun!

We are teaching amazing people.  We are teaching a new little grandma who is 79.  And she is the cutest.  She wants to know everything right now and get baptized ASAP.  She knows the Church is true, and we visited her 3 times this week.  She inspires me.  

Wanna know who also inspires me?  Our other investigator who is a single mom and is giving up so much to be baptized.  If we tell her she has to start doing something or stop doing something, she faithfully and immediately accepts the challenge.  She loves the Gospel, and she says it's worth the sacrifice.  We keep telling her it is.  Because it is.  She and her kids are already set on going to the temple next year.  In fact, they started their savings account already.  And they are so cute! They get interviewed next week and baptized on the 22nd.  I just love them!  And they'll get baptized in the river!  So I can't wait!  We love them so much!  I want to go to Hong Kong next year when they go to the temple.  I mean, I'll be home by then, so why not?? :)  

There is some other fun stuff going on here, too!  First of all, I'm not sick anymore, so that's great!  And this week is Nadaam, a summer holiday, so everything is closed.  We are teaching the primary children some songs.  It's so fun!  My companion and I go to primary for about 30 minutes every Sunday.  I play piano and she directs.  And we are teaching them "My Heavenly Father Loves Me."  They'll learn it and perform it next month before I go.  I'm so excited.  And the kids are so cute!  

This week will be a good one.  We will have a zone training, so I'll get to Skype and see all the missionaries!  I kinda miss UB a little bit.  Well, mainly KFC.  And Burger King a little.  And these Russian cookies that I can't find here in Hovd.  They have knock off brands, but there is one that I'm in love with.  

I'm trying to think of other news.  I don't see lots of animals, just when we go to the outskirts of the city.  But I love when the cows get out and cross the road.  It makes me laugh.  And we are obsessed with baking recently. While I was sick my companion made me banana bread, and I can't stop eating it.  Thank goodness we can make things ourselves!  I love American food, too!  And so does my companion! :)  Oh, and I hit my 6 MONTH MARK!!! Woah!  Where has the time gone?  I'll be HOME this time next year!  Don't worry, I'm not trunky (anxious to go home), just amazed.

Other than that, my week was kinda boring and lame since I was sick.  But since I'm feeling better, I'll have more interesting things to say next week.  K? K.  

I love you all and I love this work.  I'm learning so much.  And I wake up every morning and thank Heavenly Father I get to be here and that I have such a strong and wonderful support group back at home.  I love you!

Sister Bottorff

I loved being at the river for my birthday!

Yay! It's my birthday!

Beautiful gers by the river

My birthday dinner - what a wonderful surprise!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Week 27 - It's my birthday, and my six month-iversary

It's my birthday and I'll do what I want... not cry... or disobey mission rules... I'll just.... still be a missionary but also be 24!  Woah.. that's weird...

Anyway.... On Monday, I got a haircut!  I cut off about an inch or two to get off the dead ends.  The guy was really nervous because my hair is so soft and they don't know how to cut American hair.  So that made me nervous, but it turned out ok!  We also got some lunch at a nice little restaurant in town - just because! :) 

Tuesday was full of meetings.  We visited 7 people, and it flew by!  We taught about the 10 commandments and repentance and the Book of Mormon and shared scriptures.  We visited a little grandma who has been a member for a long time.  She says she only wants missionaries to share "cool" scriptures because she's read the scriptures so many times.  She doesn't want the typical ones. Haha So then we got there and my companion said, "you’ll be sharing the thought."  I got nervous to pick a good scripture.  The pressure was on.  But I picked Moroni 7:13 that says that all good things come from God.  And we talked about her blessings.  And it was awesome!  I lead a discussion by myself, spur of the moment, in MONGOLIAN!

On Wednesday, we taught and taught, and it was election day.  So we went home early to make sure we were safe.  We taught 3 lessons, though!  So that was good.  And we had to cancel institute because on election day people can't gather together.  So It was kind of a quiet day.  And rainy.  But good.

Thursday was also kinda quiet.  We planned for the week because we had to wait for a text to go out, just in case.  But everything was good, and we could have gone out at noon, but we planned to stay in and plan anyway.  So we planned and then had a district meeting and mutual (youth activity).  All activities were successful and happy! :)  And I made cookies. And they were good.  

Friday we got to skype our new mission president – President Harper!  He did a brief getting-to-know-you meeting with missionaries in UB, and we got to skype in and listen!  It was so great to get to know them!  I will miss the Bensons, but I am in good hands with the Harpers.  They are meant to be here right now, and I love them already!  They should be coming for a visit to Hovd soon, too! :)  Then, we taught and made visits.  We taught a cute dad about fatherhood as he tended to his cute little 2-year-old son.  And we shared a scripture with a woman we haven't seen at church in months.  And we invited her to come back.  It made me so happy!  Then we taught someone how to family history work!  We are helping her put her family tree together! It feels so good to help people!!

On Saturday, we taught and taught.  And I loved it!  We taught about prophets and the Word of Wisdom and the Sabbath day.  It was hot outside.  But we did ok staying in people's houses and staying cool.  Gers are surprisingly cool, which is nice.  They lift up the bottom of the ger material, which allows for a breeze.  And they open the door and the top, which makes for a really nice place to be, even when it's hot!  

Yesterday we went to church and taught 5 lessons.  We only planned for 4.  Then 2 cancelled, and we found 3 others last minute.  But it was so good!  We taught people about tithing and fasting and prophets.  All of this teaching really teaches me about the Gospel and reminds me every day that the commandments and principles in the Gospel only help us to be better people.  That's something I love.  

Today is my birthday!  After studies, we took studio pictures and after emailing, I'll go to the river with the Young Single Adults for Family Home Evening.  Then we are having 2 other FHEs with families in the ward.  I'm really excited.  There is no place I'd rather be, and nothing else I'd rather be doing today!  I'm so grateful to be here!  Last year I never would have guessed I'd be spending my next birthday in Mongolia!!  I feel so blessed!!!

I love you all!! :)

Sister Bottorff

A neighborhood

A statue of Chinggis Khan

A fun picture with my companion

A studio photo