At age 22 while living in Mongolia I developed a severe chronic pain condition that effects every aspect of my life. Continuing this blog reminds me that life's challenges are stepping stones meant to lift us, not roadblocks meant to defeat us.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Mongolian Pics

July 27, 2009

My Dearest family!!!!! :)
Thank you sooo much for all the e-mails, it was fun getting last week's and this weeks, I had forgotten about you all not having e-mail, and last week the power went out while we were e-mailing so if it hadn't, I probably would have gotten your letters :) Thanks again, they mean so much, and it is fun to hear from all of you ;) california sounds good! the ward, and fancy pants lane, haha ;) hope the little house works until you can fully move in :)
Things are good here! better! it was quite the week, it started with splits with the training sisters. Splits are great, but I was reallllyyy nervous for this one because they wanted me to stay in my area, and have my comp go into the city. that means I would act like the senior comp, lead the way, etc. We had 5 lessons to teach that day, and family, think of how skilled I am with directions..... haha ;) put me in a rep district with hardly any addresses, or among a bunch of identical buildings, surrounded by people who speak a different language, haha, after being in the country 2 - 3 weeks, and I am pretty lost ;) I didn't think i could even find the houses of the people we were supposed to teach, let alone lead the lessons, etc. But, you pray really hard and that always helps, ;) and have faith that God knows what he is doing, and it was actually a great experience! The training sister is mongolian, and the first night she only spoke mongolian and when I didn't understand she would just look at me haha, (we got in the taxi and I couldn't even say how to get back to my apartment, I don't think I have ever felt so inadequate haha) so I was nervous but the next day she spoke more english, and was way sweet and so nice, and we were able to find the places we needed! knowing me, that is a complete miracle ;) we walked, and if it felt right and looked kinda familiar, we turned, etc. we taught good lessons, and as I kept apologizing when we went a wrong way or something, the training sister kept saying "we don't know, but God knows" and that is so true :) I learned a lot from it and have felt more responsibility for this work ever since. I think the split was what I needed!
oh! and it flooded this week! a lot! one of the biggest rain storms in years, we were in a rep district in an investigators home when it hit, I have never seen so much rain and there was tons of hail, people had to shovel it. It flooded the streets in front of our apartment but did the most damage in the rep districts where everything is dirt and mud, streets turned into little rivers and fences, outhouses, and roads were washed away. it was quite the thing to see, and the paths are really rocky now because all the dirt was washed away.
And the language is coming, this week one of the girls we taught asked how many years I have been in mongolia. I don't tell this to brag (I didn't understand the question so that shows I have a long way to go ;) but I do know that it is impossible for us to have learned as fast as we have without God's help. When my comp said I had been here 3 weeks the girl was shocked, I asked what was wrong haha, the Lord truly has blessed us, and it is cool to see how suddenly it gets easier to speak when we are teaching a lesson. I gave a talk in sacrament meeting yesterday, and I know I could not talk for 10 minutes from my heart, without God's help. it truly is a miracle.
Most of our investigators went to the countryside for the next 2 months, so we had to find some new people this week and we started teaching two new families that I am really excited about! This is hard work, but the people make it so worth it :)
um, I think that is all, the work is progressing and I am learning, I love you all sooooooooo much, and hope you have a great week!!!
ashley (sister manspield as it is pronounced here, I feel bad, it is really hard to say) love you!

Monday, July 20, 2009

July 20, 2009

hello family,
here is a little about mongolia ;) the church is growing. and there are some really strong members, and it is exciting to see young families, and the first generation of mongolian children that will be raised in the church :) We keep busy here and not everything is successful, but some are and it is really exciting :) our ward has 10 missionaries (5 companionships) assigned to it, how cool is that?! that there is enough work in one area for 10 missionaries :) our area is broken into 4 areas, each of the elders have one and then the sisters cover them all and teach where ever there are women who want to learn. Each missionary companionship tries to talk to at least 10 people a day and invite them to learn more, and then we all send our referrals in and send them to the missionaries in their area so it is a good and effective system. We get a lot of referrals and it is really cool going from lesson to lesson :) Not every lesson follows through but we do get to teach a lot :) last week 2 girls (14-15) walked into the church just because they were curious and my comp and I happened to be there waiting for another investigator who never showed, so we got to teach these amazing two girls, then they came to church on sunday and it was really fun trying to talk with them even though I understand pretty much nothing, they already have a baptismal date and are so excited about the gospel! They are in the other ward's area so other sisters are going to be teaching them, but it was fun to help :) and the 19-year-old girl I mentioned last week moved so we don't get to teach her but I heard that she is an investigator in her new area so it is all good :) So you have the people that soak up the gospel, and then there are the families that you want sooo badly to accept it, and then don't. It is those times when I wish I could speak a little better, pray with them a little better, etc. But the Lord knows His children and is in control.
I am getting used to mongolia and loving it, each car/bus ride is an adventure and it is fun to see new things everyday, and to meet amazing people. And I am liking their sour milk candy that I thought was so gross two weeks ago haha, its really good. and we ate stomach. very chewy, but it was cut small enough to pretty much swallow it so it wasn't bad. I think that is about all, the field is white and we are working, I feel a little helpless sometimes but the language is coming and the Lord helps. I love you all, hope you are well, and hope to hear from you soon!
ashley (sister mansfield)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

July 14, 2009

Hello family :)
I am so glad you made it to California! That sounds like quite the caravan ;) good job driving everyone, I am glad the one tire blowout wasn't bad, and that you all are safe :) Thanks for the e-mails and updates, dad I am sure you will be missed in Illinois but I am excited for the huge hospital, that will be good :) sarah, jake have fun meeting people, I know that can be hard but you two are amazing, so I am not worried at all ;) Tori, one rule for you... you are not allowed to meet anyone too cool in the singles ward ;) swim a lot for me okay?! linds way to drive the huge truck, you were always the best driver of us kids ;) (so far that is, jake I am not saying anything bad about your driving skills;)
Things are good here. Been an interesting week, I think every day is going to be interesting from here on out ;) mongolia is awesome and the people are so amazing, I still don't understand much at all but I always needed to work on patience, and things are good :) one of the branch missionaries we work with told me "mongolian life is extreme sport" and it is kinda true ;) I always liked extreme sports ;) I got a little sick this week and lost my voice for a few days, it was pretty funny, combine a strong american accent, poor grammar, limited vocabulary with a really hoarse voice, and I was basically impossible to understand haha! ;)I tried saying a simple hello to a group of kids and they stared and one said the mongolian equivalent of "what you say?!" we all laughed when they found out what I was trying to say ;) I am actually grateful for losing the voice because now I am even more excited that I can talk, and it is helping get over the fear of talking.
We got to go to a youth activity, and the youth in our ward are amazing! the church is in good and strong hands here in the mongolian youth. We also have been teaching several kids, and it is cool to see how well they grasp the gospel. Some of the two strongest church members I have met are 10 and 12 years old. Their dad is drunk often (and a really funny drunk, he knows I just came from america so he tried to act out the conversation for me and it was reallllly funny) but the mom is a strong member as well. We also met a 19 year old girl who is related to a family we are teaching and I am really excited about her, she is trying to learn english so we were able to talk a bit more, and she loves everything about the gospel so far! The nomadic life makes missionary work kinda hard sometimes, people often move to rural country side, and have no way to get back in touch with them, but they know where the church is.
The mongolian hospitality is also amazing, for better and worse ;) most food and everything has been fine, there is this hot milk, water, and butter drink that takes some getting used to but isn't bad, yesterday I had some that was realllly old, and that was a bit hard to get down. It is the big mongolian national holiday this week, and we switched p-day and all missionaries got to go to the opening ceremonies and horse races (little bitty kids race! and it is the horse that wins, not the rider, it’s really cool) out in the countryside and it was really neat. I will try and send pictures next week. so a lot of people kill a sheep, and eat the whole thing this week, and we taught a lesson in a little rep a few feet away from a half gutted goat, a bowl of intestines, and the head and feet, it was kinda funny to look up while bearing testimony about God and see the insides of an animal ;) reminded me of alaska dad. oh! and I held a real olympic silver medal this week! A member had us to her apartment, and her daughter won a silver medal in shooting a few years back, it was so cool!
All in all things are good, it is a bit hard to want to badly to teach and help people understand and to be so limited but the spirit can help make up for it, it is good motivation to learn this language though ;) I love you all, and enjoy california! linds and josh, enjoy illinois ;)
love you, ashley, sister mansfield

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

July 7, 2009

Hello family! :)
I am doing so good :) Dad thanks so much for the e-mail, you always know what to say :) it was funny last night I had a dream with the whole family in it, and we were doing normal stuff, and then this morning I heard city noises and mongolian out the window, woke up in a little bed, and was really confused for a minute, haha, it still keeps hitting me that I am in mongolia ;) But I am loving it!!! I am on the very west side of the city, in a ward (yeah we have a ward!) called onop. Most of our area covers a sprawling hillside of rep districts, it is so neat, I have never seen anything like it. it is really hilly and just dirt, and people put a fence made of about anything around a patch of ground, put a rep in it, kinda stick a number on the fence to symbolize an address sometimes, and it just stretches like that way far. My first night we tried to find some addresses of referrals and hiked all over it. People live in such humble circumstances, but they are happy and wonderful people! My companion is this amazing little mongolian sister named monktsetsek (eternal flower;) who is about 4 feet tall, and happy all the time and very patient with my endless questions. She speaks a little english, and knows a few words, it has been interesting communicating but we are figuring it out, and she is helping my mongolian a ton! :)
The language is interesting, I honestly don't understand anything. I catch words here and there but I can't even tell a sentence apart from another, and a lot of mongolians speak really quietly and it is hard to hear, and way fast of course, it has been humbling ;) the first day or two it was hard not to think about the language, it seemed impossible to learn but all is well, everyone keeps saying not to stress, this mission is not about the language so that is now what I believe. My companion can teach, I can add my simple testimony, and smile a ton. If the only thing I can help people know about the gospel is that it makes you happy, that is good enough for now. And I really am loving this! it feels so good to be working with real people even if I have no idea what they are saying and can't even remember their name, (mongolian names for some reason are soooo hard for me!) We have taught a few people so far and visited several, and done a lot of street contacting which is really fun, I really feel like a missionary standing on a street corner and talking to everyone :) it is funny I'll start the conversation and most people laugh when they hear me speaking (or trying to speak;) mongolian, but it is a good conversation starter, and then my comp takes care of the rest. I have been trying to talk a lot because that is how you learn, and a lot of times people laugh but I have no way of finding out what I said. My mission president said his biggest advice was "fear not" and I have been trying to do that. I seriously love this place so it is not too bad :)
our apartment is good, all the apartment buildings are really old and have no lights in the halls so it is pitch black until you can get the door open but we have a great place :) it is on the sixth floor right on the edge of town, we don't have hot water but I hear it sometimes comes on. Food has been fine, oily but totally manageable so far :)
um sorry I am rambling... the work is good here! our ward is so strong, I loved going to church and seeing mongolian youth pass the sacrament, and meet the relief society president (who is one of the most funny persons I have ever met, and I don’t even know what she said ;) and bishop, there were several investigators and the ward is so welcoming, I am glad I am here or the first transfer because I can't take very good care of the investigators but the ward does :) We went to a baptism (they have them every week in the city :) and it was really exciting, 5 people were baptized :)
boy it is hard to describe mongolia in an e-mail! feel free to stop reading if this is long ;) oh! Driving is crazy here. There aren't really lanes, and it is normal to be 3 inches away from another car or bus, the drivers are talented. and buses and meekers (mini vans that 20 people fit into) and fun. and you cross the street frogger style here, walk out into the traffic, wait, cross the next lane, etc, I admit that is the only thing here that has scared me a little ;) other random things, I love mongolian homes :) whether it be a small apartment with no furniture but a stool or two, a rep (which are amazing and homey and comfortable, they are a perfectly great place to live) or a closet under some stairs. Two of our members live in closet like spaces under staircases and they had covered the walls with all kinds of posters, cereal boxes, wall paper, etc and they looked great. And I love mongolian kids. have to be the cutest ever. And they are always willing to talk even with my poor mongolian.
All the mongolian members and missionaries here are amazing and so strong, this mission has I think the most sisters out of any mission because so many mongolian sisters want to serve! i love you all, thanks for your prayers and support, and good luck with the move!! sounds busy, please please drive safe, and know I love you! :)

cate, kat, alyssa, hi! I am out of time but love ya! (cate, I am sorry your dad got that new assignment! wish your family luck for me, miss you and you all are amazing)

Friday, July 3, 2009

July 2, 2009

hello family!!
I made it to mongolia :) they are letting us e-mail to let you know we are alive and well ;) the flights were good and went smoothly, I am feeling the time change and jet lag a bit but it will go away soon, and we got here about midnight two nights ago. We have our transfer meeting tomorrow morning so we have been at the mission home until then, my mission president is amazing and mongolia in an amazing place, I don't really know where to start. We did what they call a Dan Jones experience yesterday, and they sent us out to street contact. I was with two awesome mongolian sisters and we went all over for 6 hours, and I can understand hardly anything. We went out to a rep district and taught a family there, (the buses and vans that are like taxies are a fun experience, driving and walking across the street is crazy here), walked around the city and taught another lesson, and I have a lot of studying to do, but I am happy to be here.
It is hard to explain what it is like but I already love the people, many live in such humble circumstances and the church is growing! I love you all, and I think p-day is monday so I might write again then from my new area, I hope you all are well and it was so fun to talk from the airport! This is truly a unique place and I have never been anywhere like it, this is going to be an adventure.
It is humbling not understanding anything or being able to communicate, but it will come! I am well, happy, and I love you all! ashley