Letters from Mongolia

From:Mongolianviews.com editorial staff

Interesting notes by a American mormon missionary boy in Mongolia. Mormon missionaries are probably one of very active proselytizing faith groups in Mongolia. One can easily note them in Ulaanbaatar by their clean cut shaved head and formal white shirts and ties.

ELDER MATT HUFF Guest writer

Editor’s Note: Elder Matt Huff, son of Roy and Jeanna Huff of Rexburg, is serving in the Mongolia Ulaanbaatar Mission. He left in June 2010 and is expected to return home in June of next year. His mother was kind enough to provide some excerpts from his letters to his family. This article appears in the July edition of Upper Valley LDS Life

Sept. 6, 2010

So I finally made it! I’m in Mongolia and living the missionary life. My companion’s name is Elder Munkhtulga and he is from here in Ulaanbaatar. We wake up at 6:30, get ready for the day, exercise, shower and make breakfast. Then at about 8 we start our personal study, 9 our companionship study, and 10 we have language study. Then we make our lunch or head out to an appointment, depending on if we think they’ll feed us. Being in the middle of town, it is a bit hard to find people, because most of the people we talk to live outside of our area.

Since we teach English here in Ulaanbaatar, we will probably serve here for our entire mission. The way we were able to get our visas is by being sponsored by a company or school to teach English, and so I was sponsored for one year to teach at the Science and Technologies College of UB.

Well, probably the most exciting stuff to talk about is the food. They don’t drink cold milk. They buy milk that is 6 percent and then mix it with water and boil it. It’s called Xiram. And they drink it boiling! Not quite, but hot enough that I drink it incredibly slow, and I’ve still got blisters on my tongue. They love meat. They eat something a lot like hotdogs all the time called Xyam, and we have it almost every meal – in boiling milky water, plain, cold and fried. It isn’t bad, but my stomach is just the most confused it has ever been.

Sept. 13, 2010

It is hard for my companion to have me as a companion because I’m not really allowed to talk to people about the gospel unless it is in their home. The Mongolian elders can talk to people on the street, but can’t tract. However, I’m not even technically called here as a missionary – just an English teacher. When I’m not in the church buildings, I’m not allowed to wear my name tag, which was a big surprise to me. It isn’t quite what I expected it to be, but I am grateful for the opportunity to serve the Mongolian people by teaching English, as well as the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

We do a lot of service projects as well. For example, this week we participated in a handicapped awareness project. We pushed people in wheelchairs down the streets of Ulaanbaatar, blocking traffic to get people aware of the situation that people in wheelchairs have to go through. The sidewalks in Ulaanbaatar are hard to walk on, let alone push a wheelchair on, so there were probably about 150 people in wheelchairs all gathering at the main square in Ulaanbaatar. We also helped an elderly Mongolian couple move, so we took apart their ger or yurt, packed it up into this little Mitsubishi truck and drove about two miles and rebuilt it again.

Oct. 3, 2010

My stomach has fully gotten used to Mongolian food and enjoys scorching hot food. However, my tongue doesn’t enjoy hot food as much, and is perpetually burned. But I’m working at it, and burn my tongue every day. So hopefully soon I will be able to eat boiling soup as well. Someday I am going to grab the little thermometer that came in my first aid kit and see how hot the food really is, because I swear it is boiling!

Oct. 11, 2010

My new companion’s name is Syxzorig, and he is a great guy. He has been on his mission for almost one year now, is from Hovt, and doesn’t speak English. So this will probably be the best thing for my Mongolian, and I’m looking forward to becoming better and better at speaking. Before my companion was transferred, we were able to meet with our English investigator! He just showed up at our church the week before last and sat through some of sacrament meeting before he had to leave. We talked to him a little bit and were able to get his number. Then this week we called him up and set up an appointment to meet.

When we arrived at his apartment, he was extremely excited to meet us, and we were a little weirded out. His name is Martin, he is from India and is here in Mongolia teaching teachers how to teach English. He accepted an assignment to work here for at least nine months, and thought that he would be fine with being away from his wife and kids for nine months. But he was wrong, and has been going crazy being alone, and has only been here in Mongolia for like two weeks. But we met with him, taught him about the Restoration of the Church, gave him a Book of Mormon that he was happy to read, and invited him to watch General Conference with us on Sunday. He loved conference and is looking forward to our next meeting when we can explain more about it.

Oct. 14, 2010

In other news, this coming week is going to be an exciting one. My first baptism! And it’s four baptisms! I may have mentioned before a family I have been teaching, and they are all finally ready to be baptized! Then one other sister will also be baptized this Friday, her name is BaasanSvren, and she is somewhere in her 20s. She has a great testimony of the Plan of Salvation, and officially declared me a disturber of the peace. She talked about after having heard about the Plan of Salvation, she couldn’t sleep all that night, and just knew that she needed to be baptized. I have had two other investigators say the same thing, but they are still in progress. So hopefully I will be able to continually disturb people’s sleep, until they know that they need to be baptized. That is my new game plan anyway.

Dec. 12, 2010

We walked to church yesterday morning, and I was being a good boy and wearing ear-muffs, a scarf, my coat and what-not. However, while we were at church some little kid stole my ear-muffs, and I just let it go. I figured I’d be fine, and he could probably use them more than I could anyway. However by the time we were heading home from church it had gotten way colder, and my ears kinda froze.

All in all, things are going great, and I love the work, the people, and the food is actually really good. My language is still in the works, but I have been blessed with understanding, and now just need to continue to work on my speaking. I have also been blessed with a companion who is a great teacher, and I need to take advantage of this time that I have with him, and learn how to better teach in Mongolian.

Jan. 9, 2011

Yesterday I did my first baptismal interview as district leader, and I must say I was kind of worried. It was with a 77-year-old grandmother (here in Mongolia they call all old people grandma or grandpa, no matter whose grandparents they are) and it went very well. She was well prepared by our sister missionaries, and had some very spiritual experiences. She had been religious before her husband died, and after he died she quit going to church. About 20 years ago. However a few months ago she was praying to God for help and guidance, and had a dream that the following day, God would send her a message. And our sisters found her on the street and invited her to learn more about our church, and that was her answer.

Jan. 23, 2011

Well all in all, things are going great here, and I am so grateful for this opportunity that I have to serve. The Sister Missionaries in our district called us on Thursday and asked us to visit the house of one of their less active members, named Oyunchimeg, and Oyunga. Oyunchimeg is the Mom, and Oyunga is her 14 year old daughter. About 2 weeks ago we gave Oyunga a Priesthood Blessing because she has been REALLY sick for almost 2 months now. In Mongolian they just describe it as “falling and pulling” which must be something like seizures. She just lies in her bed, moans and sweats, can’t eat and can’t sleep. When we gave her a blessing 2 weeks ago, they rushed her off to the hospital right after we gave her a blessing, and I wasn’t ever quite sure what had happened. When we arrived on Thursday, she was in the same condition, just lying in her Ger. So we gave her another blessing, and then after wards shared some scriptures, read “The Living Christ” and sang some songs. And she started getting better! I have given a lot of priesthood blessings since arriving here, but hadn’t ever really seen the results. As she started to get better, she told us she was hungry so I made Huushuur, (It was good!). By the time we left, she was walking around, talking and laughing, which she hadn’t done in months.

Jan. 30, 2011

Things have been going great, and everybody is pretty busy preparing for “Tsagaan Sar” or the “Festival of the White Moon” which is going to happen this coming week. It is a three day celebration, where people gather together as families and friends, eat lots of food, wear traditional clothes. The main food that they are going to eat is “Buuz”, which is just a dumpling really. Some families make 1500 of them, and some make up to 4000. So we have been doing service as we visit people’s houses, helping them make buuz and I have probably made 400 or so myself. At first I was terrible, and they were some pretty ugly dumplings, but I have gotten pretty good, even better than a lot of the Mongolians! So when I get home, I will teach anyone who wants to learn how to make buuz, (If I ever feel like eating them again).

The Missionaries visit lots of houses during Tsagaan Sar, and have made it a tradition to count how many buuz they eat, so I’ll let you all know next week how fat I am going to get!

April 11, 2011

As for the work here in Han-Uul, things are going great, we have a number of investigators, we just need to get them to church! It’s hard to have to stop meeting with people who aren’t progressing, but there are so many people here in Mongolia, that we don’t know who to meet with them all. Hopefully, we can get things figured out and meet with the people that the Lord needs us to meet with. The sisters in my district have a baptism this Friday, and then my companion and I have one coming up soon, but we just need them to come to church a few more times.

April18, 2011

Things are going great in Han-uul,. We had a baptism in our ward this past Friday, but that was sort of a night-mare getting it all figured out. Since I am the district leader, I prepare everything for the baptisms in our district, and on Friday a little 9-year-old girl named Mandokhai was baptized. So I went to the church at about 1 p.m. to turn on the water and clean up the building for the baptismal service that night at 6:30. However, our bishop didn’t have time to come over to the church and give me the keys to the baptismal font, or the changing rooms or anything, so I had to pick a lock to the door in front of our baptismal font, climb over the glass that is in front of the font so people can watch the baptism, and unlock all the doors from that side. So I conquered that obstacle.

However, earlier in the month one of the toilets in the girl’s bathroom got a leak, and some plumbers came and fixed it; however the baptismal font had no water. Right about then, Elder Wilson called me (he is one of the assistants to the president) and informed me that our mission president, President Clark, might come to see our baptism! So I started looking around, trying to figure out how I could get water to the font, and finally decided we would have to go underneath the building and check out the plumbing. That was an adventure. But we found the pipes that had been closed, opened up the valves, and got us some water. However, the valves had been closed for a while, and we got some really nasty, rusty, black water coming out of those pipes.

Eventually clean water started to flow, so we cleaned up the baptismal font, and got the font filled up with nice, warm clean water. The mission president didn’t end up coming to see our baptism, but everything turned out right, and she is now the newest member of our Han-Uul Ward.

April 24, 2011

The work is good. We are just having trouble getting people to come to church. They don’t understand that the reason that we want them to come to church isn’t for us; it is for them and their families! We don’t just wander around Mongolia trying to get people to come to our church, we are trying to bring them happiness. True happiness, that won’t fade when money runs out, or even when we die.

This past week my companion and I did a little service project for one of the families in our ward. A 28-year-old woman and her mother live alone out in one of the ger districts that surround Ulaanbaatar, and they don’t have anybody to go to the well to get them water. The daughter could get their water, but they live on the far side of the hill from the well, and she couldn’t get their water in the winter, so we have been getting their water weekly ever since I got here. Anyway, they wanted to plant a garden (because the church is advising everyone to) so we told them we would dig up the earth for them, and get it all ready for them to plant. We told them the day that we could come, and when we arrived they had left a little note that said they had gone into town, but had hid the shovels in the outhouse, and then also asked us to get some more water. So we thought, it wouldn’t take too long, even with just the two of us.

We got the shovels, and man were those things small, and not sharp. So my companion called one of his friends, and he came over to help us, but brought a shovel that was almost broken, and wasn’t any help at all. Anyway, we spent about five hours, got the dirt all tilled up, got some water for them, and then headed home. MAN did I get sunburned. But we got the job done. Now I am starting to wonder, who is going to get their water for the garden that they are going to plant?

May 30, 2011

All of the missionaries from the countryside came to join us for a mission conference, and we had two of them stay in our apartment. This caused a bit of fun today, as I only have one key to our apartment, and we weren’t going to be at home at the same times throughout the day. Anyway, to make a long story short, my companion Elder Haas and I were leaving the apartment after they had left, but they had the key, and we needed to lock the apartment door. So I got this crazy McGyver streak in me, and quickly grabbed my journal and pulled out the little bookmark string that it has in it. On one end it has a wad of sticky gluey stuff, and I put that on the knob on the inside of the door, shut the door, and was able to lock it from the inside, while standing outside. I was pretty proud of myself. However, turns out the two locks are different, and the key doesn’t work that lock. So when the other two elders arrived at our apartment, they couldn’t get in (as it was locked from the inside with nobody there). That was a mess. So we ended up calling a locksmith, having him bang on some stuff with a screwdriver and a hammer, and get us in, (if only I had had some tools...). Anyway, that was pretty fun, and I had my Macgyver streak in me kind of squashed, but I was still proud of being so resourceful, even though it ended up being for our worse. But maybe if I hadn’t done that, somebody could have just walked into our apartment and stolen everything... so who knows? Anyway, that was fun!


Rexburg native Elder Matt Huff is ready for a baptism in Mongolia



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