Saturday, June 17, 2017

I Made It Home!

My wonderful Sisters,

So I wanted to let you know that I made it home all safe and sound. It was the absolute most hectic 24 hours of my life and I know that Heavenly Father was really helping me out because there should have been no way that I made it home because I had SO many problems trying to make it and traveling alone internationally is not fun at all it turns out. It is really just kind of a lonely affair. I don't think that I ever want to do it again solo, so I really need to get started on finding that next companion of mine (hahah, just kidding, but not really).

To begin, it turns out that the agents in Ulaanbaatar really do care about the kilos that your suitcase weighs and I was about 2-5 pounds over on each one. Before even starting my trip, I had to open up each suitcase and wipe off the top layer to cut down on weight; I think that I flustered the agent because he kept saying that I was 2 kilos over and I kept asking what the pound equivalent was because I didn't know. Finally, I took about 1 pound worth out and he just said fine without weighing it again and let me through to enter the terminal. The flight out, then, was booked to capacity and the flight attendant/gate agent basically told everyone that they were only allowed one personal item (like a purse) and made us check the carry-on, it was really weird and I was anxious and accidentally bit all my nails off while waiting because--just like the buses--I was one of the first to line up, but people kept cutting me, so I was the second to last to board. I was charged $100 for a 'third' bag, tsk tsk, it was just a carry-on!

All is well that ends well, I paid the fee and made it one the plane baraga l nail-less and more flustered than I should have been, but it was okay. During my flight to Korea, I started to study my Mormonii Nom and the girl sitting next to me started helping me with pronunciation. She was 13 years old and attends the 1-p school, is incredibly nice and I read 1 Nephi 1 with her where I read a verse in Mongolian, then she read the same verse in English. She was truly cute, by the end of the trip, she was reciting Mongolian poetry to me and being courageous with her English that she knew. I just kept thinking over and over again how much I love Mongolia and the nice people here, even my parting interactions testified of it.

My time in Korea was something else, though. I had a four hour layover and had been up since 3 AM because I couldn't sleep, so when I got off the plane, I made the main objective to find the gate, then I would try to rest. I walked the exact same path that we ran through on our way to Mongolia where we went down to Gate 28, just to be sent back to the Customer Service desk by Gate 12 to get the boarding pass, but it turns out that United Flights will print their pass at the gate, conveniently located at the neighboring gate of 13, so I didn't have to actually run the same route, I also passed the same Jamba Juice that Sister Bottorff wanted to make the last thing she had before entering a foreign country, and I couldn't help but just mentally relive the whole experience in my head. This time, I checked in at the gate a good 3.5 hours early.

Once I had my pass, I thought about how much time would be sent sitting, so I decided to spend some time walking around. I started to pop in and out of the little stores near my gate, not looking for anything in particular; however, as the minutes ticked by, I started to realize that I was feeling some weird emotions inside of me. I wasn't completely sad, I wasn't completely happy, I wasn't completely hungry, I wasn't completely tired--suddenly it dawned on me: I was lonely. For the absolute first time since my mission began, I was completely alone and without a single friend next to me--the little girl became my friend on the way over (her little brother came by and she even told him that we were haiz boloj baina). Now, I was in this completely busy airport completely alone and I was feeling it. So I randomly kept walking around, losing the bounce in my step little by little when I saw this sign for a lounge and decided that I had time, so I was going to see if it was like the other lounge on the way over with the free shower. Next to the sign was another sign saying that there was a Prayer Room and I thought that if there ever was a person who needed a minute to go somewhere to pray, I probably qualified, being a lonely missionary.

As I walked around, I couldn't find the prayer room, but saw that there was a Korean Museum that I could walk through. I am not a museum-going type of person, so I wasn't drawn to it originally, but I saw this huge bell and it looked soothing, so I walked in and there was a button on the wall saying that I could make the bell ring. I couldn't resist so I pressed it and the sound was beautiful. Then there were free postcards with ink stamps, there was also a free picture-making stand, and the room was full of soothing nature sounds--I feel like Heavenly Father lead me directly to that room in order to have me experience a little peace and stop thinking about being alone. It worked. I still had about 2 hours and decided to lounge on one of the chairs when I accidentally started to doze off. The most miraculous thing happened, right before I started to fall into deep sleep due to exhaustion (again, I had been up since 3 AM and it was now 2 PM), it was like somebody shook me awake. I looked at the time and instantly booked it back to my previously-found gate to wait in a line to board--but I stopped and had my first Jamba on my way. All of those feelings of self-pity were swept away and didn't return (discouragement doesn't come from God, after all).

The Korean flight was long. Very long, like 11 hours long. I had a seat next to the window and saw some of the most amazing sights, though! I saw the sun setting from above the clouds, I saw completely clear skies and more stars than I could count, I saw a lightning storm cloud and the lightning lighting the clouds from above, then, near the end of my flight, I saw the sun rising slowly lighting the skies, too. There were movies playing in the cabin, but you needed earbuds to hear anything and movies without sound are not as interesting as the ever changing heavens.

Then, when we landed in San Francisco, there was 'congestion' at the customs gates. We ended up sitting in the plane for and extra hour, then I got stuck in the customs lines for an hour, and my 4 hour 'stress free layover' disappeared and I had a very hectic time trying to get to the gate for my flight to Denver as our plane also arrived late to begin with. To my eternal luck, my next flight experienced a 1.5 hour delay!! So, the original 1:15 PM departure time turned into 2:30 PM and I got through Customs at 1:25, made it to the Security point at 1:35 PM, cleared customs by 1:55 PM, then RAN THE AIRPORT to get to my gate and made it through by 2:10 PM--just with enough time to call home from a stranger's phone and tell my Dad that I was going to be late. While we were in customs way early on, there was a soldier who was also trying to get home through Denver and he called the Customer Agency and due to scheduling, if I missed by original 1:15 PM flight, the next available one would be 6 PM, 9 PM, or the next morning. So when I made it to the gate to board my flight, I thanked Heavenly Father for the delay.

I made it on and made it home. Completely pink-eyed and my head a little fuzzy and hair dirty, but I was home and that is where my heart is. Seeing my family again after all of this time away became the most amazing blessing that I could have ever asked for.

So, all the stress was completely worth it.

With all my heart,

Jessica (I was promptly released from my Missionary Calling at 8 PM on Friday night)


Thursday, June 15, 2017

See You Soon!


I will be seeing you in a few short hours.

Love you!

Sister Jessica Olsen


Monday, June 12, 2017

A Full Allotment of Joy

Dear family and friends,

So this is it, my last email and I have been thinking a lot of what to write about. I was sitting at breakfast this morning and Sister Mason described the feelings of a former departing missionary, 'my heart is pounding and I feel like I can go a run a full marathon right now, but I can't because I can barely move.' I understand that, it is a really weird feeling to be so excited about going home, but there are times that I don't feel like I am leaving, it is just another exchange coming up, and that I will be here for another couple months. I don't know, I have never been so happy and anxious at the same time, but I know that the minute that I see my mom for the first time again, everything will become perfect and all of my anxiety will completely disappear. Home is where the heart is and I love serving those around me. 

The thing that I kept thinking about in regards to this email and my service here in Mongolia is that I have never loved nor served this well in my entire life. Every moment that I am awake, I feel better if I am helping someone else. There are the moments of being absolutely exhausted and all I want to do is sleep, that is just a normal part of being a person, but I love knowing that I can help make someone's day a little easier if I just take a minute to help them any way possible. I am still the same me ready to debate with anyone at the drop of a hat, but I think a little more before I act/speak and my life has become a lot more peaceful because of it all. I am learning how to become a peaceable follower of Jesus Christ. 

But man, that joy! I am happy all the time. I go to bed knowing that I am contributing my little part, not really completely knowing the full affects behind it, but knowing that just the effort alone will cause a difference. This week, though, I have been able to visit those that I call my friends and family here. I have been able to go back to Songino for a day and say good-bye to Binderiya (my first baptism and the apple of my eyes) and Tsenjaw (the emee that has been bed-ridden since last Spring when she broke her hip; but guess what, she is walking now! I almost cried in happiness when I saw that, she is healing and I love her like I love my own grandmother). I have been able to spend time with every single one of my former companions (who are still here) and I can see their growth and leadership here on the mission as they start to become the senior missionaries and confidently lead wherever they are placed. I have been able to relax with my MTC sisters and take comfort in knowing that we have made lifelong friendships and that they have become my best friends--knowing secrets, goals, and eating lots of junk food together. This has been the greatest blessing of my life.

This week has been a very crazy one: emergency splits and moving apartments 9 days before going home, ward missionary activities, saying good-bye to my Mongolian friends, and finding myself back in an apartment with 4 roommates again. The thing is, it is all the same. This is the Lord's work and I love it all, there are so many blessings around me all the time. I know that God is. I know that Christ lives. I know that the Heavens were opened once again, revelation flooding the earth, due to the simple faith of Joseph Smith to find counsel in the Bible and to follow it. We have a loving Father who is full of wisdom and desires to help you, we just need to ask. Then once doing so, get up off your knees and get to work because faith without works is dead.

It is like accepting a mission call. You don't quite know where you will go, who you will meet, what you will be asked to do, but you have the confidence that everything will work out. I truly testify that coming on a mission and serving the Lord has been the absolute best decision of my life. My joy is full.

With all the love possible,

Sister Jessica Olsen

So one Wednesday, we received a call from the Zone Leaders saying, 'hey, there was a split and you and Sister Shreeve need to move across the street into the Jargalant apartments and then our apartment would be taken by other sisters.' What the, I only had 9 days left of being in the country and was a little bit of a bad sport about it (as demonstrated by the picture), but my companion was a champ. 

I just didn't want to think about packing up COMPLETELY, but it was a good dry-run. I still have too much stuff.

Look at that, here we are all comfy and slightly moved in. I have downsized once again and will need to go through one more round on Thursday, but I get to sleep on the top bunk in the meantime and it is like an adventure every single night. 

It is like being back in my second apartment all over again in Unur, except this apartment is nicer and the washer machine is awesome.

Some of my favorite families! One is a little blurry, but what can you do.

So let me tell you about this day. My quads were absolutely dead for some reason and my legs kept buckling on me as we were walking, so we ended up changing some appointments so that I wouldn't fall on my face. 

We had to run a quick errand to the Bayanzurk and on the way home, we ran into a member from Unur and had a great conversation. I told her that I was still in contact with Sis. Wilkins and she lit up saying how much she loved here (another testament of the longterm love that members have for missionaries and vice versa).

As we kept walking and arrived at home, this little girl ran up to my companion and gave her a yellow flower. Then, she ran to her little brother and took his flower (giving him a gentle pat on the head saying that it was a good thing that he was doing and that it was fine), and then ran up and gave me the flower. This has become the most precious flower that I have ever received because it was given to us for no reason at all except that the little girl was being nice (I think that she is the landlord's daughter of the complex that we moved into 2 days earlier).

It was so incredibly nice and they are alive and doing well on our kitchen table at this very moment.

So many of the trees here are cottonwood, which means that there is fluff flying around in the air like a spring blizzard. My companion and I decided to add to the fun

Here are the last of them.Just random ones and the last that I will send from this side of the world.



Monday, June 5, 2017

My Final Full Week as a Set-apart Missionary

Dear family and friends,

"Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called to declare his word among his people that they might have eternal life." 3 Nephi 5:13

This morning, I woke up and the moment that I opened my eyes, I felt like a ton of bricks fell on me. This is my final full-week as a fully set-apart missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After this week, I will then go home and I am excited about the upcoming trip home and I am looking forward to hugging my mom and dad, all of my sister and brothers, loving on all of those little nephews and nieces, and meeting little Charlotte for the first time in my life. I can't wait to walk into the door and really full-on tackle Lucy because she is the one that really has no idea that I am coming--dogs really just can't talk. That's okay, though, one of my pet-peeves, talking animals. I just don't like the idea.

I digress. Today, I want to talk about the miracle that has been my life for the last 18 months. There is power when your sole purpose is to go about just trying to do your best to help the people around you; you are always one step away from being completely worn-out and exhausted, but you are also excited to leave your house the next morning. You do not want to NOT go out and try to help someone, even if every time you open your mouth to try to talk, they become confused--Mongolian is a beautiful and difficult language that I am determined and WILL MASTER one day. I will become completely fluent if it is the last thing I do, so that means a life long journey of language study. That is also besides the point, what I am talking about is joy in service.

Growing up, my parents were very intent on getting their daughters out of the house every Saturday and out doing service with the other Young Men and Young Women of the Denver 3rd ward. It was mornings of pulling weeds, raking, hosting car washes, more weeds to be pulled, more yards to be worked on, and we never were told that we could just sit-out of a service project. If anything, we were always the first ones on the scene because my parents liked to be prompt. I can see the long-term good benefits that this as given me throughout my life. Before my mission every Saturday morning, I would be the one trying to help install ceiling fans, paint room after room after room, moving people, building things, helping in any small way that I could. I was able to use my tools, my hands, and a willing heart to help.

Now as a missionary, it is just a given. With every appointment, I sincerely ask, 'is there anything that you need help with?' and every missionary really means it. How can we help you? How may we serve you? It is our pleasure and our purpose. This week, I do not have a lot of opportunities to serve through service projects, but I get to go and say good-bye to all of these good people that I have come to love with my full heart. I would do anything that they asked me to do if it would help them have a happier day because that helps me feel like I am fulfilling my purpose and I cannot help but smile at the thought. I am planning on taking a trip out on Saturday to visit an Emme that has been bed-ridden since last Spring and I am going to bring her some banana muffins that she really loves but cannot make because she does not have an oven. I am going to surprise a different lady that I have not seen in 7 months who has not been going to church and i want to let her know that she has not been forgotten, but we still care about her.

It is through being a missionary that I have really come to understand how to give and give and give. The more that you give, the easier it becomes to continue to serve because you do not have a personal agenda, you just want to help others have an easier life. I am making plans of how to keep serving, but I am so grateful for this opportunity. Submitting that missionary application really has become the best decision that I have ever made in my entire life and I am going to serve those around me until that very second that I board the plane to come home (I am traveling completely alone), but I will be nice to the people around me, make conversation, ask about their life, and give service through listening. Then I am coming home and I cannot wait to start helping all over again.

I want to end by just quoting one amazing Primary song:

Give said the little stream,
Give oh give, give oh give.
Give said the little stream
as it hurried down the hill.

I am small I know but wherever I go the grass grows greener still.

I love you all very much and will be seeing you in a very short time.

Sister Jessica Olsen

Mongolia is beautiful.

This has been my final baptism as a missionary baix aa. His name is Altangerel and he is 9 years old, he is such a cute little guy who goes to church with his grandma almost every week and just needed the lessons in order to qualify. Teaching him became one of the most humbling experiences of my life and I am very grateful to be able to be his missionary.

This was our Saturday District meeting and we teamed together with the Elders in our ward: they made an apple pie and we would bring the ice cream. Oh man, we also had our meeting outside, it tasted like happiness and America. I swear, I have the best ending District in the entire world and all of the Elders are so completely sassy. Really, the things that they say are hilarious.

This is my ward parting 'gangster' picture and Bilguun! I didn't think that I would ever see him again, but he came for one day before going out to the countryside for a summer vacation. I love this kid and here are some pictures of my home and of church.

Mongolia is so seriously BEAUTIFUL. 

HAHHAHAHHAHAHAHA, so do you see how wonderful and graceful my companion is jumping over this stream? So behind the streams were yaks and everyone was getting there faster than me and for some reason, I ended up with 3 cameras in my hands. So I wanted to go to closer too, and that stream is straight grossness of nasty run-off of terribleness that you have to get over, so I tried to be like her and jump over. However, I counted down and started running to get over it, and I FORGOT TO JUMP. Hahahaha, seriously, I had the intent to jump and just ran right through it instead.

Who does that? Don't worry, no amputation was necessary, but I did shuud shower the second that I got home. I felt like a fungus was growing on me feet all day because of it. So gross. But the yaks were beautiful, those hairy little cows.

I love hiking so much! And climbing trees--there was an ant on that tree that was the size of my pinky-ish. That might be an over-exaggeration, but not really. It was huge~

Here is proof, everything is in the bag. Also, all of my planner covers. I started this really cool project where I am cutting out all of my favorite moments/days and putting it in a different notebook to make a memory collection, of sorts.

I am working on my final planner right now and it is so cool, but here are all of the covers.