Sunday, February 26, 2017

Week 60 - Preparing for Tsagaan Sar

I am in love with my new ward!  And so many fun things happened this week!  I love every day.  They go by so fast, though.  That's my only complaint.
We went to the Hunu mall on P-Day and it was America.  I didn't know what to do with myself!  There was an ice rink and go-karts and a movie theater.  We indulged in popcorn and walked around the mall, trying out the couches in the furniture store and checking out every store.  They even had dinosaurs!  It's my happy place.  
On Wednesday we went out with the sisters in the Baynzurkh district!  It is my previous area, and Sister Bollwinkel also served there, so we took Sister Hansen and Sister Shreeve to show them some houses that would be impossible to find on their own.  I went with Sister Hansen (my missionary training center companion).  It was so fun!  We got a whole couple of hours to catch up and talk about our missions!  That really hasn't happened since the MTC!  A whole year ago!  We could use another 2 weeks to catch up, but we took what we could get!  We visited some really fun people and places!  We sang Happy Birthday to a cute grandma and took pictures and played on the train tracks.  That's my favorite place.  Maybe ever.  I loved being with Sister Hansen!  And I am excited for her to serve In Baynzurkh.  She is going to love it.  But that's no surprise - it's a great area!  
We had a great rest of the week!  We are meeting with the cutest 18 year old girl.  She is progressing really well.  She was half way through her missionary lessons when I got here two weeks ago.  She is progressing and loving the Gospel.  She keeps her commitments and says she receives answers to her prayers.  Her aunts and uncles are Church members who are a great support to her.  I'm so proud of her.  We teach her commandments and parts of the Church and she so readily accepts it.  She has such great faith!  
I also taught a lesson in English this week!  A member in our international branch has an Indonesian friend who wants to learn more about the Gospel, so we had a lesson in English!  And the sister seemed so excited to learn!  She even came to Church on Sunday!  She has a Christian background, which is really rare here.  She loves Jesus Christ. And I'm excited to help her in whatever way I can!  
We have another investigator who has been investigating the Church for a while now and is getting baptized next month!  She's more than ready.  Her children are members, and she supports them.  She has showed such great faith as she has relied on the Lord to overcome her challenges and is so prepared to be baptized.  I feel like I've walked into a perfect ward!  The people here are so prepared and humble.  We received another 2 referrals this week of people to teach.  One family and also a 23 year old man.  They are so excited to learn more!  They are just busy with Tsagaan Sar coming up next week.
Tsagaan Sar is the biggest holiday in Mongolia.  Everyone wears traditional clothing and visits family and friends for the entire week.  There's lots of gift exchanges and eating TONS of buuz, the national food.  Steamed mutton dumplings.  They make about 2000 of them for the week.  Sister Bollwinkel and I will do our best to help people make buuz this week and then not eat too many next week.  It starts on Sunday, February 26.  So we are prepping this week because everything will be closed next week.  We're buying lots of yogurt and Coke.  And fruit.  And ice cream. Cuz ice cream is ALWAYS on the list! :)  The ice cream is cool here because you buy it in a bag and cut it.  No ice cream scoops needed!  Can someone change American ice cream so that it's in bags when I get home?  I like it the way they have it here.  
We had a split on Saturday with 2 sisters!  That just means I go out with a sister missionary and check on how she's doing and offer to help however I can.  We also party for the day.  And we checked off all those things.  I went with Sister NELSON from the Air Force Academy!  It was a blast!  We talked about all sorts of fun things.  And we visited people and ate good food.  I'd say the day was a raging success.  We lost power in our apartment that afternoon, though, and ate PB&Js since we couldn't cook.  I also got ready in the dark on Sunday morning.  Fun stuff.  The daily adventures continue!  
Today's adventure occurred on the way to email.  It's probably a little over a mile to get to the post office, so we decided to get a taxi.  But the traffic was so bad.  Like SO BAD.  Worse than I have ever seen.  We decided to walk until we could see that the traffic was better, but we ended up just walking.  And passing hundreds of stationary cars.  Good times.  So I got my exercise in today! :)  
I love you all!  I hope you are having adventurous weeks!  They make life more fun!  Have a great week!  
Sister Bottorff

A dinosaur experience in the mall...

and even a camel to ride :)

We love sitting on the tracks - as long as there are no trains!

I love packages from home! 

Spring is coming! The ice is melting!

The traffic this morning was bad - much faster to walk!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Week 59 - I love my new area!

Hey everyone!

This week has gone so fast! I feel like so much has happened since I emailed last!  Sister Shreeve and I are no longer companions, but she is in good hands with Sister Hansen!  I'm so excited for her!  She's so excited, too! :)  I just told her not to like Sister Hansen MORE than me by the end!  :)  

I'm now with Sister Bollwinkel!  And we are not only over one new ward.  We have TWO!  And it's been so fun!  I got the transfer call on Tuesday night.  I was SURE I'd stay in Baynzurkh ward one more transfer.  They called at 9:45 (I was hoping for a call at 9!)  and I was shocked.  I couldn't' believe I was leaving!  I started packing all of my things and calling my people.  I love this ward! I will miss the people I have come to love so much.  They are such special people who will always be close to me.  I feel like Baynzurkh was where I really got to grow up as a missionary.  It's where Sister Guild and I came in fresh and had no idea what we were doing after only being in the country for 5 months.  It's where I trained cute Sister Shreeve and where I came to quickly love the amazing members who love the missionaries.  It's where I came to love the cute kids in the primary and my faith-filled investigators who don't want to turn back to their old lives because they have come to see what the Savior's love really feels like.  It's where I visited my less actives and served!  It's one of the few places where the people felt like mine.  I'll miss it.

But don't you worry about me!  I LOVE my new area!  I'm with Sister Bollwinkel and we brought snacks to help us through the two blocks of church.  Sister Bollwinkel and I get along great.  She loves snacks as much as me!  And ice cream!  And baking good things like cookies!  We have stuffed our almost-week together full of all of those things.  There were also some veggies in there, too, so don't worry, Mom and Dad!  

My area is HUGE!  It is part city and part ger-district.  Now I've served in the South, East, and West ends of the city!  I serve from the airport, which is super far, all the way to almost the Baynzurkh church building.  It's a blast!  The pollution is not as bad and the mountains are so pretty! :)  I love it!  The people are so nice, too!  There are lots of little grandmas, and seeing them just makes me so excited!  They kiss my cheeks and send me home with goodies. Last night's grandma sent us home with juice, trail mix, and cookies!  

We had an English meeting on Saturday, and they catered pizza.  We talked about English.  This transfer I'll teach at Sister Bollwinkel's school (11th graders) instead of the university!  It should be fun.  It's good times in high school.  We start on Friday!  

So basically life is great!  I love my people!  I can't believe how blessed I am!  While I didn't see the change coming, it feels right.  And I have come to love the people in my new areas so quickly.  I love being a missionary!  I have seen God's hand every day.  And I'm trying to make every day count.  They go so fast.  Time flies when you're having fun, right?  

I love you all!  

Sister Bottorff

Companion photos!

A lane in our new district

Narrow alleyways

Who doesn't love cookies and ice cream?

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Week 58 - I think I've changed!

The past few weeks have been so funny because I always go outside and turn to my companion and say, "Whoah!  It's seriously so warm!  It can't be that cold!" And we go about our business and it feels like it can't be colder than about 15 or 20 degrees.  And then we saw the doctor the next day and he says it's been in the -30s and -40s.  Well, I've changed.  Because now I am super warm when it's apparently super cold.  But I'm sure I'll change back when I get home. Don't worry!  My strange body is only going to be weird here! :)
Anyway, this week has been good!  I had an awesome preparation day with Sister Hansen and her companion, and Sister Olsen and her companion!  We made it a game day at her house.  We played Bananagrams and Headbanz and Scum.  It was a blast! And we made and ate pizza, too!  We also wore sweat pants. So it was basically one of my favorite P-Days.  We met with our investigator family that night and shared about the Book of Mormon.  I'm still reading it and marking where Christ is mentioned, and it's my new favorite thing!  It's like a scavenger hunt! :)
Wednesday we taught our new member who got baptized on Saturday!  Sister White hosted the lesson, and she made us delicious brownies.  I love her house!  And then we helped some people with English questions they had and then Munkhgerel came into town for a meeting and an English placement test and the baptism!  The party began!!! 
Thursday was one of my favorite days ever!  It started with English class.  Nobody came, so we wrote in our journals and talked about this fun transfer we've had!  Then we had dinner at KFC before heading over to the Church.  The baptism was perfect. 50 people came.  The talks were perfect.  Munkhgerel talked about baptism and the amazing journey she's taken since we met her in Hovd.  Then her daughter Solongo talked about how her mom has been her best investigator of the church.  She is so excited, and we all cried.  The missionaries all sang "Families Can be Together Forever" in Mongolian, and then the baptism went perfectly. She is officially baptized!!!  And then she bore a powerful testimony about her journey from not knowing God to knowing Him and then knowing that she will live with Him again someday!  She was beaming!  We were crying.  And my cheeks hurt from smiling.  They still hurt. 
We had Family Home Evening with her the following day, and it was a party!  Solongo had a bunch of friends over, and our grandma read her journal entry from the day before! :)  Let me tell you, my cheeks hurt even more from smiling.  And I loved hearing her perspective.  She felt so loved.  And it made me so happy!  
Other than that, life has been great. It's starting to snow again, so it's getting warmer! :)  The pollution still smells bad and saturates my clothes, but now I'm getting more used to the smell.  It's just becoming a part of me.  Seeing my people happy makes me happier than I thought I could be. Today is my 13 month mark, and I have seen so much happiness in my life and in the lives of others in the past 13 months.  I love you all!  I hope you have a great week! :)
Sister Bottorff

I love this family!

I guess it's time for some new socks :)

Friday, February 3, 2017

Week 57 - Big changes and so much happiness!

This week was so good!  Our family home evening plans were cancelled, but that's ok! We got lots done during our last P-Day (preparation day) including shopping for sweaters and dancing on an empty bus! Good times! :)  

Tuesday we went to the countryside part of our area and visited with a cute grandma and her daughter.  They are so nice!  Nice enough to load up our bread slices with 3 TBS of butter each!  And sugar!  That's how they eat their bread here!  Some use less butter, though.  We also taught our fun investigator girl!  After the lesson, we had a party singing songs and laughing and eating Indian fry bread type bread!  

Wednesday was so fun! We taught an investigator and then went to institute with her.  She then had her baptismal interview and PASSED with flying colors!  She is so ready, and I'm so excited for her!  Watching her change has been such a fun experience!  She has gained such great faith and a love of her Savior.  It shows in her face.  

Thursday was English teaching day.  Nobody came, but I wrote a lot in my journal! :)  Then we taught our grandma investigator, and she had her final lesson before her baptismal interview this Saturday!  If you ever want to talk see someone making major changes in life, it's her!  She exudes light in her eyes.  She lives the Gospel and understands how happy it can make her.  She loves the Savior!  She knows Him.  And I'm so blessed to have been able to watch her grow since I met her this summer in Hovd.  

Friday we watched a new missionary broadcast!  There are some big changes in missionary work!  We have a lot more flexibility in our schedules and longer P days!  They will start at 8am and end at 6 pm.  We are so excited to have an extra 3 hours to get stuff done and rest on our P-Day!  It got me thinking about being a more effective missionary.  Something I loved from the broadcast was that we need to make our people and the Savior the center of our work.  We can't expect to think about ourselves and be effective missionaries.  I made a goal to start fewer sentences with the words "me" and "I".  I need to stop saying things like, "I'm not good enough" or "I said so many good things in that lesson!" and instead say more sentences like "Christ, through His love, helped me so much in that lesson!" and "The Holy Ghost will help me to say the right things, despite my imperfections."  That puts the focus where it should be and leaves a lot less room for doubt.  I am so grateful I could be a part of the big changes happening in missionary work!  I love them already!

On Saturday, we participated in a district meeting, and our grandma passed her interview!  She was in the interview for an hour, but she was just so excited to talk to the district leader about all that she learned since meeting with us!  She is so amazing!  Also, our 20 year old investigator got baptized!  What a happy day!  She was glowing, and so many people came to support her.  I felt overwhelming love for her and feel like we will be good friends for the rest of our lives! :)  At least, I sure hope so! :)  She is going to do amazing things with her life, and I'm excited to see her growth.  

Sunday we met with our grandma again and watched Finding Faith in Christ.  Then she bore her testimony.  She shared that she never imagined herself believing in God and Jesus Christ, but since she has gained faith in them, her life has changed for the better.  She feels better physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally.  She is so excited and ready to be baptized this week!  I am thrilled for her! :) 

Last night we shared family home evening with a sweet family.  We shared testimonies, and the 6 year old boy shared his testimony with such firm faith and power.  I love hearing the testimonies of children.  They say everything just right – from the heart.  

I feel so blessed to be a part of this great work.  This is the Savior's work.  He is in charge and I feel so overwhelmed that He has allowed me to share His message of faith, hope, and joy.  I love the people here more than I knew I could love! :) 

I love you all! Have a great week!

Sister Bottorff 

Quiet time - walking down a country road...

Yes - you can eat dirt and worms here :)

Sweet, pure, and humble children - may we all be

A common P-Day activity - laundry!

 What else is there to say?