Monday, October 31, 2016

On Becoming a Mom - Week 44

Dear family and friends,

I want to start this letter as more of a tribute to all of the missionaries who serve in their home country, especially our native Mongolian missionaries. In Mongolia, there is one major city that half of the entire country's populations live in (which is also where I am currently living) called Ulaanbaatar, then the rest of the population is kind of dispersed between about 5 other smaller cities or just out in the countryside with their cattle, horses, sheep, or goats. There really aren't that many places to go. As such, when a Mongolian gets a calling to serve in Mongolia, they either go out to the countryside and serve where there is a lot less convenience and ability to buy necessary items, or they serve in the city that they live. Ulaanbaatar is also not big at all, is is about the size of the Denver Metro area, so you can ride a bus and go from one side of the city to the other within 1 hour (including bus stops and traffic, so it is really less time than that). You literally serve in the city that you live. You walk down the same streets that you have walked down friends with, you see the same people, the only difference is that this time you are a set-apart missionary and that makes all of the difference in the world.

So that is what happened. I was given the privilege to become a 'mom' here where I train a sister who is just entering the mission field and needed to learn how to do everything who just happened to also be a native Mongolian. I felt like a mom, too, all week where I cared about how she was doing, I tried to teach her everything I knew, I praised her accomplishments, and I felt sorrow during her suffering. It was a really great four days, that unfortunately ended far too soon. Like I said, being a missionary is hard and it makes a huge difference. There is no such thing as an easy mission: sometimes you need to adjust to different foods, different languages, and other times you have to adjust to different expectations, and missing your family even though you are less than 20 minutes away from where they literally live.

Missionaries who serve in their home country are strong. In the beginning of my mission, I felt like it was easier to remain a mission because it would be too hard to get home quickly and expensive to buy a last-minute flight from Asia to America. It was easy to stay a missionary because there really wasn't any other alternative (we all have agency and I knew that the mission would make arrangements to go home if I got to that point, I am not exiled to Mongolia). Those who can go home and want to go home, but don't, deserve a lot of praise. They are making hard decisions every day and it is not that the desire to go home decreases, but it is more like their desire to stay on a mission becomes stronger. They are stronger.

Today, my first daughter went home. After watching her walk into the car and seeing her drive away, a little piece of my heart broke. She is still a strong person and she is still going to do good things, but being a missionary requires a willing heart and relying on the Lord to strengthen you when you feel that you do not have anything else to give. This is the greatest privilege that I have yet lived. It is also hard. I am not in my home country, I am different from the people around me, but I honor those making hard decisions every day. Good luck, keep living your faith.

With all of my heart,
Sister Jessica Olsen

Always remember, faith is knowing the sun will rise lighting each new day. Faith is knowing the Lord will hear your prayers each time you pray.

Here are some good things that happened this week, my mini taught me how to make food on Tuesday!

We had one really fun FHE on Tuesday! A bunch of Mongolians shouting Uno, it was fun

I have been adopted in as a native, I swear I blend in perfectly. These are some of the new missionaries going out to the countryside. There is one with a dream companion (Monkhgerel who is an STL in the countryside) and one with my really god friend. We have decided that we would be future companions soon

Monday, October 24, 2016

Avoid the Mission Midlife Crisis! - Week 43

Dear family and friends,

As crazy as it is, did you know that you could have a midlife crisis out here in the mission field? It is when you realize that you are only at your halfway point and there are another 9 months ahead--it can be a really great thing or it could be really bad. I know about this because I hit that point this month where I thought to myself, is this something that I want to do for another 9 months?

Luckily, the Lord has a way of interfering and keeping your mind on the work to the point that you forget about that want to go home. Also, He gives you really good leaders. This week, I finally has my STL (Sister Training Leader) exchange with Sis. Bennett--she is on fire even though she is going home this week after serving a very successful mission--and she got me back on track. During our 1-day exchange, I just kind of mentioned that I was starting to feel like I was getting into a rut and I didn't really feel like being a missionary for much longer, then she gave me a really good secret. Everyone feels that way at some point or another. It is that feeling of just wanting to sit back and relax because you have been living and working non-stop, but the antidote was to find a bigger purpose. So that is what we did.

I finally made some big goals to keep going strong until the very end of my mission. I want to read the Book of Mormon through Mongolian 3 times before my mission ends (from front to end) and I can do that if I stay on track with the 90-day challenges: just do it over and over again (and right now I am still on track and am in 3 Nephi 6). I want to complete the entire Mission Library (all of the standard works--I am in Acts in the New Testament, Deuteronomy in the Old Testament, and I have finished the other ones already--plus 5 other books). I want to make a really good 42 Principles Book (this is where you take every topic in Preach my Gospel and find a good way to teach it and write it out for practice in English and Mongolian). These are hard!

Plus, I want to be able to do a 5 minute plank and I want to be able to do a standing split before this mission is over. You also need to concentrate on your health!

So good news, I am avoiding the mission midlife crisis. It is hard, but I love what I am doing.

Love you all,
Sister Jessica Olsen

PS - Sorry this letter is a little short, the keyboard that I am using is a little muuhai (ugly and generally just bad)

So this is a picture of the smog that is going to be coming in (and the reason that once Nov. hits, it is a face mask time all the time), Sis. Bennett getting me in gear by showing me her really cool 42 principle book, and my comp found her name on the Cola bottles.

Getting ready for the day :)

Monday, October 17, 2016

P-Days are Complicated - Week 42

Dear Family and Friends,

Changes are fun, but I really like having my P-days on a Monday, it is just better that way. Here, some missionaries teach English on Mondays, so the mission is split for Monday/Tuesday P-days (Monday being my preference). Last week, I was in a trio that caused for Tuesday, but everyone rejoice, I am back to Monday (at least for today and next week). I LOVE MY LIFE!

Also, having a Mongolian companion is one of the coolest things and very peaceful. All of the stress is taken off when it comes to understanding everything because I know that she is there and has such a rock-solid testimony that she can handle the crazy questions, but then comes the difficulty of trying to understand each other. Lol, there has been so much miming happening in my life right now, it is funny. I feel a little like a rubber-band being stretched; I am not being asked to do anything that I am not prepared to do (I know that I have the capacity to speak at a deeper level), but man, it is sometimes uncomfortable. Because she is a mini-missionary, it is only for another week, but yours truly is learning. At an accelerated rate. It is great. It is hard. I know that it is only through the Gift of Tongues that this is possible.

This week, though, I have learned that I LOVE a new Mongolian food that includes Kim Chi and sausage and rice, I never liked kim chi until now, but it is delicious. So we are going to set a goal next week to learn how to make tons of Mongolian food like the different breads and kum bam (I probably butchered that spelling) and learn as much as possible while I have this opportunity. Then on Oct. 28, there is going to be a new transfer. Life is including so much change right now.

This letter is a little more on the bland side of life, but really, my week was a week of miming. We met with some of our investigators and ALA's, I started the lesson, but then every single person went off at the very end in such rapid Mongolian that I couldn't keep up. I do know that they are receiving help for my companion, and they are kind enough to slow down when they start to talk to me again.
(Hahahahahah, this week reminded me of when Leo said that when he first met us and was learning his English, we would talk so fast that he didn't understand. Now he does, but I totally understand the feeling now.)

Life is great, the weather is starting to get really cold and I am looking forward to Spring already. Keep praying that I stay warm, but the cool thing is that there really is no such thing as bad weather, only bad dressing. On Saturday, for instance, Mongolia went through a warmer spell, so I wore light layers. Then, it decided to turn bipolar when I was out in Tahilt (the outskirts of the city) and this frigid cold wind came through and I was SO COLD. I then went home, grabbed all of my heavy layers, and when I went back out, it was totally fine. I am getting ready to say good-bye to being warm, but only until Spring. I will be warm again, I know it.

I love you all,
Sister Jessica Olsen

PS - This is a picture of me, my comp, and the other companionship living with us. Then that is a picture of the snow (it is coming), and the last is of Sister Bennett, my STL, who is leaving next week.

So I broke YET ANOTHER mirror, but no worries, it was only the handle. By this point, I think that I have about 40 years of bad luck heading my way, but don't worry, I threw some salt over my shoulder to counteract it.
Here we are also at lunch after the training, we both just happened to end up there are the same time, great minds think alike.
Also, my comp and I have our fist Big Plan together--three hours of solid Mongolian, it was pretty intense, but very gratifying.

I love the children here! Last night, my comp and I went over and did service and here are her two daughters. I braided their hair and we drew pictures together and they reminded me so much of my nieces. Also, look at this baby, isn't she just so ridiculously cute!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Week of Three Transfers - Week 41

Hi family and friends,

Oh my heck, some weeks fly by because of all of the fun that you are having, other weeks take a little longer because there is a big change in your schedule and you just need to get back in the groove of things, and then this last week happens. This has probably been one of the longest weeks of my life and every single day it was something new that happened, I still feel like my head is spinning and I have been so stressed the entire time. So as I mentioned last week, my companionship with Sis. Bollwinkel came to an end on Monday, so one Tuesday, I entered into a new companionship. Then, due to other circumstances, one of my really good friend's mission ended, so her companion joined mine and I became a tri for a few days. Then, yesterday, there was another change where a mini-missionary joined for the next two weeks at least and our tri was split and now I am a trainer.
Oh man, talk about changes, but nothing really changed. I am still living and serving in the same area, sleeping in the same bed, and keeping a same schedule, but all of the different people have left my head spinning. Also, the band-aide was ripped off and I am SYL-ing (Speaking my mission language) basically all day. I am speaking more Mongolian than I even knew that I had in me; I also now know what it feels like to regret procrastinating the day of my repentance. I should have been learning Mongolian so much better than this point, but my new Mini is so stinkin' cute and nice. This is also her 3rd mini mission and had been well-trained, so it is just like having a Mongolian companion without having to do any intense training. Life is great.

Also, this week we were able to watch conference. Can I just say, I think the best part of it was Elder Nelson's talk about joy and when he said, 'do not let anything interrupt your joy'. So, has anything been getting in the way of you being happy? This week was hard because of all of the changes and I regret to say that my joy was interrupted for a little bit, but after hearing that simple message, I have decided that I am not a victim of circumstances and I will not let anything get in the way of being happy. We are commanded over and over in the Bible to be of good cheer, so it is something that we should actively work toward, I am learning. Every now and then, I feel like I have been happy by pure coincidence, but not anymore. It is going to be amazing and wonderful and when it is not, I need to find a solution. Hope is an active commandment and requires work just as much as happiness does.
So, I am going to try. To learn my language, I am going to carry a dictionary and notebook for new words, I want to speak to my companion. To lower my stress, I will keep hope in my heart and a big perspective. I am thoroughly convinced that I will not make or break Mongolia, being here is simply one of the greatest privileges of my life. I just need to be prepared to work hard and give my very best effort, then take comfort in knowing that I get credit for trying (lol, do you remember that one?) and that I need to have uninterrupted joy. That is not to say that I will not experience less than ideal circumstances, but rather, I will not let the stress enter into my heart and pull me down.
I love Mongolia. I love what I am doing and have joy with me.

I love you all,
Sister Jessica Olsen

So this is me with my Mini (in the white Jacket, yesterday was a long day in my life and I was extremely stressed about having to start speaking Mongolian 24/7, so please excuse my tired-looking face), me as a tri, and then proof that friendship can extend past language barriers. This is with one of my investigators and her cousin, it was so funny!

Look at all of these companionship that were happening! Friends with everyone!

Celebrating the end of a companionship! These are the Kinder eggs that I got that represent her and they work! One was of a pig (NOT her) that was holding a blue boom box--a boom box that is exactly like the one outside of our apartment! Also, the next was a triceratops, exactly like one that she carries all the time. Coincidence? I think not. :)

Oh my heck, isn't this the coolest hat ever! Also, I have my winter jacket, now I am off to buy my boots

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Halfway There and Living on a Prayer - Week 40

Dear family and friends,
Hahhahah, this song was gong through my head last night and it was so funny! I figured that it was revelation as to what to write about and how to label this letter, pretty great, right? Can you believe that I have been a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for 9 months now? As of tomorrow, everything is all downhill in that I will be going home sooner than the days that I have still being out here (I don't know if that makes any sense), but I feel like this is where all of the growth is happening. I understand the pattern of Mongolian spoken language, I know a lot of the city, and I feel like I have a really good bearing of how to do my work here. The most amazing thing happened on Saturday in that I realized that I can actually start to speak the thoughts that are going on in my head rather than just memorized phrases. We went back to meet with the member that declined the finalized baptism date last week and talked to him again, and it is such a wonderful feeling to actually be able to talk by the Spirit and be understood to a certain degree. I mean I really talked with him and his wife! I am still baffled that I understand as much Mongolian as I do, it has been such a struggle getting to this point. I still read the Book of Mormon aloud everyday (I am in Alma 33--halfway done with the Book, too!)  and can now read to other people (natives) and not have every word corrected, that is HUGE because Mongolians do not understand my very broken Mongolian. I LOVE MY LIFE.
Everything is good! I celebrated my mom's birthday by almost coming down with an ear infection--it wasn't a true infection, so I was sent home clean and clear. My companion was feeling a bit ill the day before, so we also spent a day with her recuperating and me hanging out trying to do a thousand things at one time, but not really finishing a single task. What was really great was that at the end of the night, we both still really enjoyed being missionaries out here. I did learn how to make a hot pack with some rice and socks, that has changed my life out here.
Then Saturday night hit and I received some semi-terrible news. It turns out that there was a Visa approval for a Mongolian here who was serving while waiting to go to America, so she is heading to the MTC on Tuesday, meaning there was a little shuffle. I am no longer going to be companions with Sis. Bollwinkel after Tuesday. This is awful. We were told since the beginning of this transfer that we were too happy together and that we needed to share our happiness with others, so it has happened, I am getting a new companion. I think that the biggest bummer was that we had plans for the rest of the transfer and that the work was really GOOD with our investigators, but that is the life of the typical mission. So, for the 4th time in my entire 9 months, I am getting a new companion. It is a little strange because I average 13 weeks per companionship whereas the typical mission will change every 6 weeks--I was with Sis. B for about 15 weeks. Life. 
Things move on. Sometimes you get really lucky and have an AMAZING companionship, but we are still teaching companions for the rest of her mission, so everything is still fine. I am sometimes a little more dramatic than I need to be.

I love you all!
Sister Jessica Olsen

I have one AMAZING companion! Here we are at our study desk and her making the last delicious day meal for our transfer.

Shopping and planning and visiting people. That is the typical life of a mission here. :) The shopping more on a P-day than any other time, but look, Cinnabon!

And Baptism Days! These are such fun days, it is like a mini celebration every time

School is in full swing and I love these goobs. Also, here is some service and an LA that is amzing and coming to church! I love progression!!!