My Experiences as an English Teacher and Missionary in Mongolia Ulaanbaatar (Jan 2016 – Jul 2017)

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Mailing address:
Sister Jennifer Hansen
Mongolia Ulaanbaatar Mission
Post office box - 242
Ulaanbaatar post office - 49
Ulaanbaatar Mongolia, 13381

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

There's no "You have unlocked the 'GIFT OF TONGUES' power-up!"

Саин баинуу!!

Happy birthday to Mom on Sunday! Hope you had a good one. Each Sunday they have creamery ice cream at the MTC, so I ate some ice cream in your honor.

Last week was very challenging. Because we are now 3 weeks in, we all feel like we should be speaking a lot more Mongolian, but we're not in a game. There's no "You found the '3 week checkpoint' you have unlocked the 'GIFT OF TONGUES' power-up!". And there's no cool sound effects. Disregarding the ones that I make involuntarily. The language classes move forward and we feel like we are staying stagnant with our abilities, and can't keep up.

We now have 2 investigators- бипгуун and ганбаатар. We switch off teaching them every other day. Then yesterday, one of our teachers pulled Bottorff Эгч and I aside and said that his boss (the language manager guy) asked us to teach him as an investigator as well. We don't know why. So now we essentially have 3 investigators. Luckily, we will be teaching this new one in English. It actually will be the first lesson we've ever given in English. We've only ever given Mongolian lessons. It will be interesting to see how it goes, because up to this point we've been terrified of being asked questions, because we don't have the skills to answer. But now, if he asks a questions, we can actually have a real discussion and not read from a script or flip through a dictionary for 5 minutes. So hopefully, we will be able to really teach by the spirit, as we have been praying to do so since we've arrived.

Hansen, Bottorff, Olsen, Guild, Heacock, Urness
Saturday, Bottorff Эгч and I were asked last minute to do a musical number for sacrament meeting the next day, but the MTC music library was closed, and we didn't have anything prepared, so I did a piano solo of "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" that I had brought with me. I didn't have any time to play it before hand, so it was essentially sight-read, but it went very well. I was grateful to play the piano again, because I feel the spirit more through music then anything else. I don't know if anyone else felt it, but it was a good boost that I needed for the new week. 

Here's a quote in my notebook from Janice Kapp Perry last week :"Music helps you learn things very quickly that otherwise might take a long time to learn. 

Something about putting the words to music pushes it deeper into your heart and has more staying power."

Thank you for the letters and the love.

Ханисэн Эгч

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Happy Birthday Mom

[Paper Letter mailed 1/20, received 1/23]
[Posted by Jennifer's mom.We received a handwritten letter (YAY!) from Jennifer on Saturday, for my birthday. A great gift! Just wanted to share a few things that she had in that letter.]

Dear Mom,

 Thank you for sending so many letters - sometimes I get so divulged in what I am doing I forget  people have lives outside of the MTC. It's a good reminder that there are real people that care about me!

So here's a funny story - my district was all joking around, and we decided we are going to convert the whole country of Mongolia by convincing them that their flag represents the Plan of Salvation.
Let me Clarify:

Crazy stuff, eh?

Anyway, hope all is well at home & you have a great birthday! xoxo

2 Nephi 4:26-30
1 Peter 4:12-14

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The MTC is like drinking from a Fire Hydrant

"The first week at the MTC is kind of like drinking out of a fire hydrant. You get some water, but mostly just get hit in the face."

Me and my companion Sister Bottorff
Sometimes I get really discouraged and frustrated that I'm going to be in the MTC for so long, because it is really hard. Like, actually really hard. But then I sit back and think of why it is a blessing. So here are some reasons why I am grateful to be in the MTC for 10 weeks. 

1) Mongolian is so dang, freaking difficult. I'm going to make a lot of mistakes, so why not get my big ones out of the way now?

2) My district has been handpicked from the "best-people-in-the-world" bucket of names. Each come from a completely different background and contributes something very special to our group. We are all best friends and will have the next 8 weeks to strengthen and support each other.

Back Row: Bottorff, Hansen, Garcia, Cowles, Heacock, Wilding, Urness
Front Row: Olsen, Guild, ?(maybe teacher)
3) Each Sunday and Tuesday we have devotionals with special guest speakers who are often general authorities or other prominent church leader. For those missionaries speaking English or a native language, they're in and out of here in 10 days days. They're gonna miss out a lot of good stuff. Also, we figure being in Mongolia will be kind of like a drought in that sense, so we're trying to absorb as much here as we can. 

4) JANICE KAPP PERRY, YA'LL. You know, the music legend of the mormon world? She led the entire MTC in a medley of her most popular primary songs, and the spirit in that room was nearly tangible. Elder Urness is a convert, and he did not grow up singing those songs, so he didn't know any of the words. But he felt the power of music and wept the whole time. The simplicity and profoundness of the children's songs have impacted me since I was a sunbeam, and it was such a blessing and tender mercy to hear Sister Perry speak. 

5)While we're on the topic of music, I want you to imagine a room. In that room is every MTC president from around the world and their wives. Also in that room is Neil L. Anderson, and apostle of God. The rest of the room is packed to the brim with hundreds of missionaries. Ok, good. Now imagine all those people singing "I'll Go Where You Want Me to Go" at the top of their lungs. Yeah, I lived that. 
Sisters learning Mongolian: Bottorff, Hansen, Olsen, Guild
So, second week of the MTC was good. I can comfortably offer a simple prayer and testimony in Mongolian. We're pretty much teaching every day at this point, so it really forces us to memorize a lot. 

Here's a Jen story that anyone who knows me well might enjoy:
This morning in the shower, I am happily unaware that I am singing the Jurassic Park theme song for all to hear, then was awakened from my la la land when I noticed that I was trying to make dinosaur noises and was more successfully sounding like Chewbacca. I hope everyone else showering loved it. 

Есүс Христ бол аврагч гэтгийг би мэдэн. [from Jen's father: Google translation is: "Jesus Christ is the Savior, knowing I getgiig", which I think means: "I know that Jesus Christ is the Savior."]

I would write more but that took me like 10 years to figure out where all the letters were on an English keyboard. 

Ханисэн Эгч

Q/A:Well Dad, I'll try to answer some of your questions, but you sure ask a lot of them.

Here's a bit of info on the other missionaries in my district. Elder Cowles (pronounced Coles) and Elder Urness are both converts within the last 2 years. They're so awesome. Elder Urness is our district leader. You asked who has the most experience with other languages. Nobody, really. Elder Garcia and Sister Olsen know a bit of Spanish. Elder Heacock and Elder Cowles learned the cyrillic alphabet before they came to the MTC, so they had that advantage the first day. But everyone is pretty much on an even playing field.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Week One

I've nearly completed my first week at the MTC. The spirit is very strong here. In our first orientation meeting thing, we sang "Bring the World His Truth" from the children's songbook, but the last words were changed to "We are as the army of Helamen, we have been taught in our youth, and we ARE NOW the Lord's missionaries to bring the world His truth." It was very neat.

My companion Sister Bottorff
As you know, before I entered the MTC we met Sister Bottorff at Zupas during lunch. Little did we know that we would be companions for the next 9 weeks, as well as best friends. I have a testimony that our companionships are inspired, because neither of us would have made it through this first week without each other. We get along so well, and have to laugh all the time, because if we weren't laughing we'd probably be crying because Mongolian is so difficult.

We arrived at the MTC on Wednesday and immediately began language class. We taught our first investigator on Friday in Mongolian. Before we went in to teach our lesson, Sister Bottorff and I were still using our flashcards to learn the alphabet. For lack of time, it was a train wreck. Friday was very discouraging. Mongolian is so extremely difficult and we practice and study for hours and hours and hours a day, it is so exhausting. I'll say a sentence 100 times then not remember how to say it 2 minutes later. Then each morning when we wake up it is nearly impossible to recall what we learned the previous day. We've quickly realized that we will never make it without help from the Savior.

Elders: Wilding, Urness, Cowles, Garcia, Heacock,
Sisters: Olsen, Guild, Bottorff, Hansen
We taught our second lesson the next day. (I would tell you our investigators name, but it is in Mongolian, and I can't spell it in English, and I don't know how to type in cyrillic.... but it sounds like Gerscthaye, sorry you're just gonna have to use your imagination) We still knew very little, and had a very limited vocabulary, but we taught of families and also prayer. We taught her how to pray, then I had the impression to sing the primary song "I pray in Faith" that tells us how to pray. We sang it in English, but changed the words "in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen" to Mongolian. The Spirit was so strong in that classroom! She began to cry and said thank you, thank you. Another testimony of the power of music. Even though words are not understood, the spirit can always teach through music. I'm so grateful 

Besides that, things are well. Our district is amazing. There are 9 of us- 4 Sisters and 5 Elders. We have all become very good friends, and need each other because we are all struggling through Mongolian together.

Our written prayer in Mongolian
  Funny story, we were in a class with lots of other missionaries, and a sister not in our zone made a comment that "language class is hard, but for the most part you can understand what the teachers are trying to tell you." Our district all looked at each other and said, "She's learning Spanish."
Hahaha yeah. Try sitting in Mongolian for an hour, then see if you understand what they're trying to tell you.

We have 3 teachers- Boyd Ax (brother) Higgs Ax, and Standley Ax. They all are previous Mongolian missionaries. Higgs and Standley were companions, and just got home in July.
In our zone we have missionaries learning Thai, Mong, Laus (spelling?) Cambodian, and Vietnamese. I don't know if you heard, but since I've been in the MTC they've opened a new mission in Vietnam. Very exciting.

Sunday was amazing and so needed. We were able to take a break from studying and focus on feeling the spirit. We realized that because we have been so overwhelmed and stressed with the language, we have kind of been missing out the spiritual edification that the MTC offers. We are now trying to set goals to help make the two more equal. But Sunday, Sister Bottorff and I sang with the MTC choir, and it was wonderful. The director is awesome. He started by telling us a story of a date that his daughter went on, then said "I just like talking about dating to people who can't." He's a huge comedian, and really lightened the mood in the room. But we sang Joseph Smith's First Prayer, and he bore a powerful testimony of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon.
We get to go to the temple today, and we are so beyond excited. It is so needed. Hope I answered some of your questions, and hope everything is well at home.

I know that God is more involved then we realize, and he is closer than we think. Even though that is hard to remember sometimes.

Until next time....

Love, Sister Hansen

Sunday, January 10, 2016

New Mission President Announced

[Posted by Jennifer's father]

LDS Church announces 2016 mission president assignments 

(Effective July 2016)

Jeffrey C. Harper and his wife Kim were just serving in the Mongolia Mission until late 2015 and the missionaries loved them. They are from Rupert/Paul Idaho.

Here is a picture of the Harpers in Mongolia with their English Sponsor (from Sister Hartley's Pikore page).
CLICK HERE for full article from Deseret News

Thursday, January 7, 2016

MTC after 1 Day

1/7/16 (recieved letter 1/11/16)

Dear Family,

I literally have 10 minutes to write this letter, but our Branch President said we have to write home tonight saying we are safe & healthy & happy.

Today was our first full day at the MTC. My district is wonderful. Mongolian is freaking hard. Tomorrow we are expected to teach a real life investigator the first lesson in Mongolian. She doesn't speak English. Today I learned the alphabet. This'll be great.

There are 9 of us in our district - 4 sisters & 5 elders. Each of us come from a very different backgrounds & experiences - 2 Elders are converts in the last 2 years. Only 2 missionaries are under the age of 20. We are all becoming great friends. Bottorff and I just laugh constantly because we don't know what else to do.

Here is what my name tag looks like:

Much love,
Sister Hansen

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

MTC Drop off

[Posted by Jennifer's father]

Since the farewell, Jen has been way ready to go. The last 10 days were a chore to get her to finish her shopping or pack her bags. She just wanted to go.

The actual drop off was less traumatic than expected. The family shed a few tears, but not Jen. She was smiling and ready to escape her helicopter parents.

It was raining at the Provo temple, so it forced us to hurry and take a few pics, and get back in the car. No time for long farewells.

Before the temple, we stopped to eat at Zupa's. We had no idea it was the official missionary luncheon spot. There were like 8 families eating last meals with their missionary. We asked a few where they were going, and SURPRISE, one sister was going to Mongolia. She will be in Jen's group. Her name is Sister Bottorff from Colorado. Tender mercy. Even Jen was excited about that.

Finally, all the prep is over and she is a missionary. She will do great.