Saturday, March 28, 2009

My Ensign Moment

About six months into my mission I was transferred to a city called Darkhan. My companion, or the individual I had to live and work with, was a native Mongolian. Her name was Bat-Uyanga and she one of the meanest Mongolians I had ever met. When I first came to the country she was companions with a friend of mine. After being together two weeks, Bat-Uyanga stood up at a conference and announced she hated her companion and thought she was an idiot. (By the way that girl ended up going home early and Bat-Uyanga got sent to Darkhan.) Anyway, needless to say, I wasn't very excited about the transfer and the prospect of being ridiculed and bullied.

However, when we met at the train station I immediately recognized how much she had changed. She gave me a real hug and welcomed me to Darkhan. At first, I thought it was a joke, but as we continued talking, I realized she was completely different.

One night, about two weeks after arriving in Darkhan, I became violently ill. I don't remember if it was the cow heart or the horse intestine that did it to me, but I could not stop throwing up. At about two in the morning I remember throwing up one more time, and then passing out next to the toilet. When I woke up a few hours later I saw Bat-Uyanga asleep next to me on the floor. I quietly woke her and asked what she was doing. She replied that she was worried about me and didn’t want me to be alone. I had never experienced such charity in my life.

The next morning I asked her what happened when she left the capital and came to Darkhan. She told me she was raised in a communist home where Americans were the enemies. When she was 22 she was converted to Mormonism and decided to serve a mission. Up to that point, her experience with Mormonism had been completely Mongolian. She was taught by Mongolian women and her branch, where she went to church, was all Mongolians. Then she got called to serve a mission in Mongolia and, as crazy as it may sound, she felt like she had been thrown into a foreign country. All the missionaries and the mission president spoke English, and outside of six foreign missionaries, everyone was American. She didn’t know what to do. Since she could remember she had been taught to hate Americans and now she was being asked to live and work with them.

When she got sent to Darkhan, four months into her mission, she decided to make a change. She said every time she wanted to lash out at an American she would read the scriptures and pray. She told me how this exercise began to fill her heart with love and not anger. Eventually, she began to see us Americans as normal people, and fell in love with missionary work.

I will never forget how much she had changed at the train station, how she was asleep next to me on the floor or when she told me about how her heart became softened. When I become angry or impatient with people I think about her. I think about the daily choice she had to make to suppress her hatred for everyone around her and finally find genuine love. I was only with her a short two months, but during that time she taught me things I will never forget.

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