Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A World to be Thankful For - Week 48

Dear family and friends,
Can you believe it, November is over and I am quickly approaching my one-year mark of being a missionary (Jan. 5 evening was when I was set apart) and I have realized that there is so much that I have to be thankful for. More than anything else, this year has taught me how much I love my family. They have supported me with every phase of life and have been there when everything seemed to work out perfectly and have also supported me when I decide to do something extremely different than I ever thought and serve a mission. They have supported me through emails, letters, getting me ready for this mission, loving me throughout my entire life; I have never known anything else than the feelings of love from them.
Without more than a breath difference, I am also extremely thankful for the friends that I have been fortunate enough to make. With family, I won the jackpot, with friends, I have tried to earn your respect and love slowly and surely throughout my life. You are very important to me and have helped me also through the thick and thin. It is really humbling, when all is said and done, because I am so indebted to everyone's love and kindness more than I can ever really explain. The most that I can really say is thank you for everything that you have done. Even my companions have been amazing--I feel so thankful for it all.
So, to celebrate all of the things that I have in my life, we had a Thanksgiving together as Sisters in our Zone. Due to other restrictions, we are very limited on get-togethers, so this was one really great experience. All of the sisters pitched in and brought something delicious and it was like Thanksgiving in America, except we are in Mongolia and our Thanksgiving Dinner was of chicken and other items. I had a package of jello and stuffing that I was able to contribute (thanks, Andreina!) and everyone ate until there wasn't any food left. We were able to meet at one of the apartments (it used to be a Senior Missionary Couples, so it is nice!) and listen to Christmas music from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, do a small training, and just eat. It was so much fun.
Also, my school schedule changed again and I am now teaching teachers! It is amazing to teach people who are so excited to learn and I think this is one of the coolest parts of my mission. I help share the gospel with those who are ready to receive it (we do not proselyte, so only those who first approach the missionaries from personal interest are those who are taught), and as an added service, I teach English to professional teachers and help them improve their lives in other ways. It is one of my strongest hopes that there is something that attracts those that I teach to also want to learn about the gospel so that we can help them on that level as well. However, one thing that I have noticed that is different between teaching Teachers, who are excited to learn, and the 11th Graders, who it is like pulling teeth trying to get them to participate, is that those with true desire learn more. It doesn't matter the level that they begin at, so long as they try, I will help them every step of the way. If they so much as open their mouth and start to ask me a question through English, I will patiently wait to allow them time to figure out how to say what they want to ask or I will try to help guide them in saying the sentence/question that I think they have. As soon as they ask, I will teach them and help them as much as possible.
If I have this much patience as a very imperfect person, how much more patience does your Father in Heaven have? If we just ask, He will teach us. If we have a true desire to learn, He will allow us to completely excel in whatever we ask. Yes, it is going to take work. Just like the teachers needed to first ask me for help, the same is for Heavenly Father. He respects agency. He is not going to force me to learn and because of that, it is up to me to move forward. In my 11th Grade class, I try to force them to learn and hold their grades as ransom, but it never works out well. You cannot compel people to do anything.
Our Heavenly Father's plan is perfect. All we have to do is ask, and then be happy knowing that He will help. That is just something that I have been thinking of, but I think that I will try to get a picture next week. I love the teachers so much! They are the highlight of my teaching assignment. :)
I love you all,
Sister Jessica Olsen

So to keep up with the tradition of my favorite shopping day, here are the spoils from my 'Black Friday' excursion. That is right, all I bought were socks and pine nuts--heregtei zuils (needed things). Hahaha, and the first one is my victorious entry. :)

So I have kind of been a slacker about taking pictures this week, so I don't have a lot to share, but here are some more.
I forgot my scarf today, but luckily it is a warmer day, and I took a picture with my comp where she is enjoying hers and my neck felt exposed (I haven't not had a scarf since September), then other random moments with some of my favorite people and some of the sisters in my ward. I went on Saturday and helped them clean, but I absolutely love these ladies.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Taking the Best Guess and Moving Forward - Week 47

Dear family and friends,
May I tell you about the most amazing experience that has happened on my mission thus far? Well, that is not really a fair statement, how about one of the best moments that I have recently experienced? It was on Sunday and we were having our Stake Conference for the West Zone. Due to the far that our Stake Center is under construction (maybe, all I know is that I have heard rumors about getting one), we had our Conference in a rented auditorium and it is in a different location, one that I did not really pay attention to getting to until Saturday night when I was told by the ZL's that we were meeting in the different place.
Anyway, so my companion and I jump on a bus and I just go for it and it turns out that I really am learning the bus routes because I navigated purely by signs and remembering my routes, we made it there with plenty of time. I then was able to spend 25 minutes before the conference greeting different members and it was like a mini-party every time I saw someone from my ward show up--I was so proud of their diligence in coming. It is like being a little momma of this ward because I take so much pride in their success. Then, as not to be rude, I tried to give equal enthusiasm for other members in different wards that I didn't know, but was still proud of them for braving the icy roads and stinkin' cold wind to make it.
About 2 minutes before the meeting was about to begin, I was settling down next to Sis. Brezenski, one of my really good friends and roommates (but not companions), when I looked around and noticed that one of the American brothers who was here for work was sitting completely alone. Now this brother is amazing and is the husband of one of the mission office workers (he came here for his work) and does not speak any Mongolian, so my companion and I moved to go sit by him. As we sat there, I made a little joke where I told him that I couldn't translate because I only understood 1 out of every 15 words spoken and he said that it was fine because the church usually had a translator come. Well, after about 10 minutes in, the translator never showed up and so he was sitting there, having braved the elements, and was not getting anything from the conference. I have been fighting off a semi-terrible cold all week and so I was halfway to falling asleep (sorry!) before this thought came to my mind: quit being a slacker. I realized that I had the luxury of semi-dozing and still getting a  little out of the meeting whereas this brother sitting next to me did not. So I had to change.
Suddenly, I knew that I had to try to translate. The most amazing thing happened, as soon as I tried, suddenly I was understanding almost everything. I was able to translate for him 1.5 hours of conference and I have never felt more in-tuned with what was happening during a church meeting. It wasn't perfect and I was not able to translate verbatim, but he was given a very good synopsis of what was happening. There were moments where I wasn't sure what exactly was being said, so I would make the best guess possible, then as soon as I said my guess, the speaker would say something that correlated. It was a correct guess! This is the gift of Tongues in my books: taking a guess and guessing correctly. My dad was the one who gave me this idea and it has changed everything.
I just need to guess. I need to try to understand everything that I possible can, then just take a leap of faith. I need to guess when to get off the bus in order to attend conference and turn out that I was correct, I need to guess as to what is being said and be okay with not having absolute surety. That will come, but only after I act. It was like a lightbulb falling from the ceiling and breaking on my head (hahahahahaha, this actually happened to one of my poor comps) with the clarity that this idea brought. I just need to act.
That is all that faith is: being okay without the absolute certainty, but knowing that you have sure hope that what you are doing is correct. I don't want to make too light of this when I say just guess, but that is really what happens, you guess. The Lord will help you learn how to guess correctly and grow.
I am going to keep moving forward with this mentality and make my way through this mission. IT really works. The Lord loves His children and will give them guidance when they ask and when they are in motion.
I love you all,
Sister Jessica Olsen
So this picture happened where there were cows feet away from where I just walked out of a ger teaching--so cool! Then if you look closely at my comps glasses, it is so cold that they will frost over and then that frost freezes (hahahahahahahahahah, I love her so much. She is resigned to the fact that life is hard in Mongolia with glasses), then that is my 12 hourly allotment of pills to get over my cold right now.

We had tacos! I now teach English until 5 PM on Wednesdays, my comp teachers until 7 PM, so we have dinner with the STL's on Wednesday because of our English switches (4 comps in one day, that is a normal thing here).
It was delicious

So this is what happened while planning this week, my desk is such a mess. This is how I plan who to meet with, more pics of the snow. I was decorating my planner (putting a picture on the cover) and that is why is was torn apart)

This little girl is my pride and joy, I love her so much and she is INCREDIBLY smart.

These are more pics that I took 2 weeks ago, but wasn't able to send home

Just a quick note before I log off:
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, do some Black Friday shopping (my other favorite part of Thanksgiving), and enjoy the people you are with.
I love you all!
Sister Jessica Olsen

Monday, November 14, 2016

And The Temperature Drops - Week 46

Dear family and friends,
This week has been amazing: stressful, cold, fun, overwhelmingly humbling, and a good turning point. The purpose of a mission is that you are taking the thing that you hold most precious to your heart and you try to share that with everyone around your through word and deed. Yes, life is hard. Yes, you get cold (or really hot, depending on where you are and the season). But as my mission president once said, 'wake up every day and expect to see a miracle.' Miracles I have seen this week and I feel like a different person for it.
I was a little arrogant when my mission began and said that I hope that this mission doesn't change me. I hoped to remain the same person on the hopes that I was already a good person, so there wouldn't be many changes that are needed. Boy, was I wrong on that. I was a good person, but now I am becoming an even better version because I am really learning how to do hard things. I am learning how to go from good to better in the hopes of becoming truly great some day. After all, we are all children of God and hope to be exactly like Him some day, so a lot of growth is necessary.
Most of this started with seeing my first investigator that I had the privilege to see take the first lesson to stepping into the baptismal waters this week, then receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. She was like a beacon shining by how bright and happy she was all along the way from when we extended the baptismal invitation, when she passed the baptismal interview, and when she bore her testimony after becoming a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I feel better because of the example that she has set for me on truly loving what you believe.
Then I had the opportunity to have a really good companion who is diligent, funny, and pushes herself to learn as much and as quickly as possible. Just an example, during a companion study we were getting ready to plan for the day's lesson and I asked her what she thought we should teach, her response was that she wanted to teach a harder topic that she had never tried before (repentance)--funny thing is that I had never taught it either without someone more experienced taking the lead. So, because she was brave enough to push herself to grow, I had to grow also. She is great and extremely smart; I am learning at an accelerated pace.
Hahah, and then the weather started to drop this week. All of the buildings are made of stone here with a layer of Styrofoam to try to insulate the stone from the cold, but the cold just kind of radiates from everywhere--the floor, the walls, the ceiling. Despite the best efforts of the radiator, I am always cold (and this is still the warm part of winter). I am now wearing about 3 shirts, 4 layers of tights, legwarmers, and don't dare to leave my house without a beanie, mittens, and  scarf. I love Mongolia even though it is not in love with me. Lol, but I feel like a marshmallow and between all of the layers, I look like one of those kids that can't put their arms down. Life.
Life is good, I still have all 10 fingers and toes, and I am learning that 5 degrees really isn't too bad, this week we are supposed to drop to -27 degrees, and again, this is still the warm part of winter. All of the older generation keeps telling me that this is the year that it is going to be the coldest in 60 years and all of the livestock is going to die. That sounds like fun, but on a positive note, I hear that we do not go outside when it gets to -50, so that is a plus. That and Spring is right around the corner, right?
I love you all,
Sister Jessica Olsen

PS- I currently do not have my card reader, so all pictures are donated from my comps. Thanks!

I LOVE Mongolia and the Ger districts

Hahahah, it is like a behind the scenes shots.
Yes, this is how I always look.

These are pictures of the Ger districts with snow. It is like hiking up solid blocks of ice right now and you start to slip everywhere--seriously.

The ground is packed dirt, so the dirt and ice just kind of blend together and it makes for an interesting walk, but look at how pretty it is.

Starting next week, my P-days are now on Tuesday, so it is going to be one day later than usual, but do not fret, it will come. :)

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

A Week of Changes - Week 45

Dear  family and friends,
So, when someone walks off their mission, it leaves a world of chaos behind and I feel like I was sucked into a not-so-fun vortex this week, but do not worry, things are looking better. I have a new companion and her name is Sis. Austin--she just came here about 2 months ago and I am back to being a trainer again. Also, she is really in the early stages of learning Mongolian, so ever single day is a crazy adventure right now. I try to teach her everything that I know, but there are times where I just stand there as confused as she is. The Lord must have a funny sense of humor because I feel like I have been pulled through so many hoops lately. I have had 6 different companions within 30 days--that is insane. 
I have learned a lot, though, ever since I have had to truly lead. Lol, let me tell you about one of these experiences. 
So here in Mongolia, we use the Cyrillic alphabet (the Russian alphabet) and that is what I can most easily understand. However, when it comes to texting, all of the letters change into the Roman alphabet and it is pure phonics by that point, but it looks insane. So on Saturday, my new companion and I went to visit one of my favorite grandmother's in my ward who is genuinely one of the nicest ladies that I know, but has an extremely hard time understanding American-Mongolian, but she tries so hard. We taught a 30 minute lesson and about halfway through, I received this text:
Hi sisters ta nart 30 min uilchlel hiih zaw bnuu
This has been my first Mongolian text that I received and for the past few months since I have started, I have refused to use the phone. So I have never had to try to read Mongolian through the Roman alphabet. I was staring at my phone a little flabbergasted for about 10 minutes before I just took a wild guess that they wanted us to teach a 30 minute lesson. So I replied:
Margaash uu? Tegne ee. ('Tomorrow? I can.)
Then came this reply which really confused the heck out of me for about 20 minutes:
Uguiee unuudr I sum tsewerlen uilchlele heregt bsiin zawgui bol hepeggui de.
Now this one really had me confused. The first thing (Uguiee unuudr) I knew meant 'no, today'. So now I was racking my brain as to what was happening on Saturday and I knew that it wasn't a lesson, but still had no idea what they were asking me for. The member that I had just visited lived about 15 minutes away from the church where we were going to be having a District Meeting, so the entire walk I was just trying to read the message aloud to figure out what it was asking. When I was at the front door of the church, it finally dawned on what it was asking me to do. They wanted to know if I had the possibility to help clean the church for 30 minutes--ironically enough the same place that I was heading. 
My companion and I were able to help, I understood the message, replied that I was there, and then I received a 'thank you' text from her. Oh my heck, it was so much work to figure out that one. That is only one example of the craziness that I now have to figure out. Some times, I think that this mission is all about humbling the heck out of me and helping me see my own stumbling blocks (like not learning how to read text messages earlier when I had a trainer).
Life is hard, but I made it through the week. I have a baptism this Saturday, so no matter what, even if you have learned as quickly as you possibly could or have slowed down your own growth, the work will go on. You just get to decide how comfortable you will be while everything is progressing.
I hope your life is good also!
Love you,
Sister Jessica Olsen
So these pictures, this is generally how I look now (all bundled up), this is another example of Mongolian writing (handwriting is also completely different from the Cyrillic alphabet, so this language has me learning about 4 different ways of trying to understand it), and of me and my comp as well as roommates as we made a pizza to break the fast yesterday. 

So the other day, my first investigator passed her baptismal interview, so this was my celebratory meal! Also, that night, my companion ate some bad food and started throwing up that night, I generally take about an hour or two to fall asleep, and my other roommate just hasn't been sleeping lately, so we had a minute party. This is a once-in-a-mission sort of party, so we had to take pictures to celebrate.

Hahahahahahahah, so here is some more proof that I officially look like a marshmallow all the time and a little like Baine from Batman. This was me during the 'companionless' days this week and just went on random exchanges with the STL (Sis. Bollwinkel!) and Sis. Brezenski.
In Sis. Brezenski, there was a cat, in a ger, that was completely carpeted, and we sat on the floor. I feel like none of these things ever happen in Mongolia and almost all Mongolians hate cats, so this was a fun moment.

Here are some other pics, but look at how pretty Mongolia still is, despite all of the smog.
I didn't take too many pics this week, so this in kind of it, but my other comp, Sis. Brezenski took some beautiful pics that I will send next week.