It is official. My wife Darlene and I know our plans.
I mentioned before that my wife Darlene has learned Russian and that I wanted to see her use that language in a meaningful way in our lifetime. The time didn’t seem right until now. It also helps ease my mind that Dr. Mike Rosmann is waiting in the wings to extend this column to my loyal readers.
We are prepared to leave behind the column, my consulting and mediation work, seven children, their spouses, and our 23 grandchildren to do something else. This something else is demanding and strenuous.
Beginning the middle of May, we are going to serve as missionaries in Mongolia for 23 months. If indeed we are going out to pasture, this is the biggest pasture there is.
There is nothing cushy about Mongolia. It is a sparsely settled land of 2.7 million people of which 1.2 million live in the capital city of Ulaan Baatar. Thirty percent of the population is nomadic or semi-nomadic herders who make their living selling wool, cashmere, milk, meat, and animal skins.
Mongolia is located south of Siberia and north of China. The winters are cold and windy with lots of sun- something like North Dakota. Nothing new- at least not for us.
The herders with their goats, sheep, cattle, camels, yaks, and horses underwent a summer drought in 2009 followed by a devastating 4 month winter of snow, ice, and bitter cold. The death loss from the herds was horrific.
With the worldwide recession, the market for high end cashmere products plummeted. Herdsmen were in trouble with their lenders calling in loans and repossessing their tent homes and remaining livestock. There were disputes about collateral and herd counts. Displaced herdsman and their families migrated to the capital in search of jobs and a fresh start. Any of this sound familiar?
A church mission.
We will be serving as missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The church has a program for senior couples to serve 6, 12, 18, or 23 month missions worldwide. Couples pay their own mission expenses.
Many of these missions have to do with education, employment, temple service, manning visitor centers, family history and genealogy, humanitarian service, proselyting, leadership training with local members, and office support. Couples can request the kind of mission and service they are willing to provide. Church leaders make every effort to accommodate the needs, abilities, and desires of senior couples as these assignments are made.
Darlene has had 15 years of background and study with the Russian language. I have taken courses in Russian these past two years. We inquired about serving in a Russian-speaking country.
The Church missionary department responded that they had a need for a senior couple in Mongolia where the people over 40 generally speak Russian as a second language. Also the Mongolian language uses the Cyrillic alphabet which will make it easier for us to learn the language.
Our fifth daughter served as missionary in Mongolia so we were familiar with the country through her experiences. We were delighted with the mission call to serve in Mongolia. Our particular assignment will be to assist the Mongolian people and church members with family history and genealogy work. Again, this is one of Darlene’s passions she has developed over the years.
There are 5 senior couples currently serving in Mongolia with two more couples arriving this spring. The rest of the missionary force consists of single young men and women in the 19-25 year age range. The church has been in Mongolia for 18 years and has about 9,000 members. It is the fastest-growing Christian denomination in Mongolia.
Continued contact. I will have a blog, drvalfarmer.blogspot.com, where I will be posting some of my thoughts and photographs from Mongolia. Those who wish to follow our adventures and experiences in Mongolia may do so.
Before May, I will be renovating my website to consolidate my writings into more readable segments, particularly those articles on family management in agriculture. When I return in 2014, I will resume my farm family consultation and mediation work. Readers can access archived articles on my website www.valfarmer.com for a one-time $5.00 subscription fee.
My two books, "To Have and To Hold" and "Honey I Shrunk the Farm" will be available and distributed for the next two years by my daughter, Tassa Barney, JV Publishing, PO Box 207, Grover, MO 63040. They are currently on sale at $8.00 and $7.50 each with a combined $2.95 shipping fee. The books can also be ordered through my website, using PayPal.
If any of you wish to communicate with me can do so through the JV Publishing address above or through my email at [email protected]. In the meantime, after my column concludes at the end of March, we will be visiting our children and grandchildren in North Carolina, Mississippi and Utah. We will be attending our son Trace’s graduation in Civil Engineering from BYU at Provo, Utah on April 20.
We will be taking a week-long immersion experience in Mongolian and receive tutoring via our daughter and also with a Mongolian speaker using Skype.
Retirement is going from one kind of work to a different kind of work. Work is defined as sustained effort toward a meaningful goal. "You only grow when you come to the end of something and begin something new." – John Irving.
Maybe we aren’t going out to pasture after all.
Val Farmer is a clinical psychologist specializing in family business consultation and mediation with farm families. He lives in Wildwood, Missouri and can be contacted through his website.