Saturday, July 11, 2009


We returned to the bus at the appointed time, and headed for the Cultural Show. This is always a highlight of our stay in Ulaanbaatar, and I'm looking forward to it. We are not as early as I'd have liked, and end up sitting in the back. Next year, if I'm along, I'm going to push for getting there very early, so as to get a front-row seat. However, Eloise and I had a pretty good perch where we were seated. We were up a bit high, and the way the benches were arranged there was no one directly in front of us. We were on the last row, so the wall behind us was a welcome backrest. Also, I had a good place to park my left foot and found a comfortable position for my knee. I managed to get a few pretty decent pictures, too.


These young girls are able to twist their bodies into shapes that make your back hurt just to observe them. Their joints are so loose that I don't understand how they can even stand up. You'd think they would just collapse, like a marionette with the strings cut. They're extremely graceful, every motion is fluid and smooth. I'm sure they've trained since they were toddlers. You don't get that limber overnight.

Some of the entertainment seems strange to Westerners. There's a type of singing that is enjoyed by Asians, but that gets on our last Western nerve. It's a high, shrill keening which is no doubt very difficult to do, but which has the effect of fingernails on a blackboard to us. As I told Eloise, just a few more minutes of that singing, and I'd have confessed to being Jack the Ripper.

The music is different, too. Some very familiar pieces were played, some of the classics, but they sound very different when played on Asian instruments. I have to admit, I liked it. The music is strange, but pretty. There were some dance numbers, which apparently tell a story, and involve highly stylized and intricate steps and posturings, and very elaborate costumes. Then, of course, there was the throat singer.

If you read last year's journal, I told about the throat singer then, too. Throat singing is unique to Mongolia, and I'm not sure of the origin. It's very strange, and only a few individuals have mastered it. It involves a technique whereby two tones are produced at the same time, by one voice. I compare it to the sound you get when you whistle or hum in front of a fan. You hear a double tone, something to do with the Doppler effect, as the sound you are producing is bounced back to you at the same time. That's how the throat singing sounds. Two different tones, produced at once. I don't know how they do it, but it's very interesting. They aren't able to sustain it, it sort of pops in and out as they sing, but it's interesting, nevertheless.

After the cultural show, we went to dinner. We were ready! We've been here before, last year, and remember that the food is good. We were seated at a long table, and Eloise and I were fortunate to have Batsengel and Oyuka (Bubba and Bubbette) seated across from us. Oyuka is charming, well-educated and very nice. Her English is excellent, we had a good conversation, and enjoyed our time with them immensely.

Dinner was good, and the highlight was dessert. An ice-cream sundae! Yep, complete with a cherry on top. It was so good! Our bus driver was seated near us, and left before we were finished, saying he didn't want dessert. Well, no problem. Batsengel wasn't about to let that sundae go to waste, so he ate it! Oyuka just looked heavenward, stating that "he eats like that all the time!" It's just delightful to see them so happy together.

After dinner, we returned to the hotel, anticipating a good night's sleep. Big surprise! Our beds were as hard as marble. The floor couldn't have been harder, and indeed, I considered relocating, but decided against it. I found myself longing for my almost-as-hard, lumpy bed in Darkhan. At least I had learned how to conform to the lumps. This bed was just unbelievably hard. I told Eloise I was afraid to go to sleep, because I feared having a nightmare about being dead and laid out on a slab! It would be too believable. I don't recall the beds being like this when we stayed here last year. A good slab salesman must have come through!

Finally, through an effort of will and mind, and with fatigue a very strong factor, we managed to get to sleep. We'll be up early in the morning, to catch our plane to China.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


It's Tuesday morning. Our mission here in Mongolia is ending, and we'll be heading for home this morning. Just as it was last year, it's a bittersweet time. Certainly we're ready to go home, anxious to see our families again (and to sleep in our own beds!) but we're going to miss this place, and these people. We have been so graciously received, so kindly treated, made to feel so welcome and appreciated - well, we're just going to miss these folks!

As instructed, we have brought our luggage into the big anteroom outside the dining room and left it there. It will be loaded into the bus that waits for us downstairs. After a final good breakfast in the dining room, we make our way down and gather outside, chatting with our interpreters and other Mongolian friends. One of the construction workers has brought his wife and little son to see us off. He and Bobby have become good friends, and he just wanted to say goodbye. Here's a picture - did you ever see a cuter little kid?


Finally, everyone was there, and it was time to get on the bus. Omar and Pastor Alex are not with us. They left a few days ago to go back to the states. There were prior commitments they had to fulfill, and we understood. We're just grateful that they came over with us and saw us through the perils of the Beijing airport, and had the privilege of participating in the baptism at the river last week. We're now in the capable hands of Dr. Ron, who has made this trip several times, as have some of the other guys, so we know we'll be okay. Our Chinese tour guide, David Wong, will meet us in Beijing.

We board the bus, and find comfortable seats. Again, it's a large bus, and we have plenty of room. We're accompanied by Susan Smith and Nicholas, as well as Badmaa. In addition, Batsengel, Oyuka, Mango and Goldie are along to translate for us. Of course, Badmaa translates too, but she can't be everywhere at once. As I've said many times, we are well taken care of on these trips. I have never, ever, felt unsafe, or even mildly insecure.

The trip into Ulaanbaatar is uneventful, the highlight being the stop at the halfway point. Same old wretched outhouse, though I must admit there have been some improvements. For one thing, it has been moved over several feet, to a new location on the hillside, and apparently, the old site was covered with dirt. An excellent decision. Also, some shrubs at the edge of the gravel parking area, which were very tiny last year, have grown quite a bit, and provide a bit of a screen across the front of the little building, which serves to block the prevailing wind a little bit. The smell was present, and strong, but didn't knock you out of your shoes like last year.

In addition, a new gas station has been built across the road. This is really progress! Now, when I say "new gas station," don't think "truck stop, mini-mart, showers, arcade, etc." Think tiny orange building about fifteen feet long, and perhaps a cold case where sodas will be kept. At home, it wouldn't attract much notice. Out here, just below the Siberian border, it will be a landmark.

We encounter a small hitch. Our bus has a flat tire! On a car, that's no big deal. On this enormous bus, it's a very big deal. Undaunted, our driver sets about to change it. I think he was prepared to struggle through the job alone, but was very relieved when some of our men pitched in and helped him. Big, burly David and several others helped wrestle the spare from underneath the front end of the bus. Mercy, it's huge! Feeling very grateful for the fact that I'm female, and therefore not expected to get involved, I stand and watch with admiration as the guys manage to coax the flat tire off and get the replacement installed. The job is finished, everyone congratulates the workers, and we can get under way again.

Back on the bus, and again rolling through the beautiful Mongolian countryside. I experience again the twinge of reluctance to leave, just as I did last year. This place is simply beautiful. Wild and spacious, big skies and rolling hills, animals ranging free, no fences in sight - it's lovely, and it very quickly carves a place for itself in one's heart.

I said there were no fences. Well, that's not quite true. At some point, Eloise and I began to notice a very odd thing. Along the side of the road, there were little "fenced" areas occasionally. They were about twenty feet off the road, and were about twenty feet wide. It's hard to determine the length, because we were moving rapidly past them, but I'd guess it at about a hundred to a hundred and fifty feet. The "fences" consisted of sticks, not much more than twigs, with what looked like orange twine strung between them. At first we couldn't figure out what they were enclosing. Then we noticed that there were some baby trees planted at fairly regular intervals inside the little enclosures. Grass and weeds were growing up around them, and we missed them at first. They were only about three feet tall, so were easy to overlook. Most looked brown and dead, but a few appeared to be alive. I can't say they were thriving, but they did seem to be trying.

There has been very little rain here recently, and the grasses are not very green. Judging by the fact that the grass around the little trees was also not very green, we concluded that no one is watering them. Someone has gone to some effort to plant the trees, and to put up the little toy fences, but without water, they'll never survive. Winter will hit here in about eight weeks, and without some well-watered, deep-reaching roots, the little trees will be lost. It's too bad. Also, the little fences, which were apparently intended to keep the free-ranging livestock from nibbling on the little trees, would be completely ineffective. I can't imagine that string keeping anything out. A cow probably wouldn't even see it, and would walk right through. Well, at least someone tried, and maybe a few of the young trees will survive.

We made it into UB just fine, and went directly to the Tokyo Hotel. We checked in, dropped off our luggage, and got back on the bus. Lunch is on the agenda, and we're ready! We went to another hotel, reputed to have good food in their dining room. The hour is late, however, and we decide just to have a good bowl of soup and move on. I'm glad we didn't order a huge meal, because it took forever to get that bowl of soup! When it finally arrived, however, it was very good, very filling, and we enjoyed it.

Back on the bus, interpreters close by as always. My precious Goldie stuck to me like Velcro. She was concerned about my unstable knee, and I could feel her little hand beneath my elbow at every turn. We went to the big State Department Store, for some requisite shopping. I really needed Goldie there. More than once, she whispered to me, "You don't want that, that's tourist junk." She helped me buy a few nice things, though. At the state store, you make your selection, and give it to a sales person. She writes it up and gives you a slip of paper, which you take to a central desk. That's where you pay, after which you return to the sales person and give her the receipt, and she then gives you your merchandise. An unwieldy system, but I suppose they have their reasons for doing it that way.

We returned to the bus at the appointed time, and headed for the Cultural Show. I'll tell you more about that event next time.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

After the fashion show, and some visiting around, Jerry left momentarily and returned carrying the child who has become, for many of us, a symbol of the work being done in Darkhan. If you read last year's journal, you know the story of Chinzorig, or Little Nate. We named him for one of our team members, Nathan, who was with the team that found him and who took such a personal interest in him. For those of you who have just joined the journal list, here's a brief synopsis. Last year, our humanitarian aid team discovered a four-year-old boy, handicapped and developmentally very delayed, hidden in a closet by his family, with the apparent intention of letting him starve, thereby reducing the drain on their almost non-existent resources. He was rescued by Jerry and company and brought back to our hotel, where he was examined by our physicians. The consensus was that while he does have some deficits, probably from a birth injury, much of his problems at that time stemmed from lack of nutrition and little or no stimulation and basic human contact and care. He was a pitiful sight, indeed. Obviously deeply depressed, he just lay in passive resignation to whatever his fate might be. Well, things are different now, after a year of loving attention, affection and good food. He's had some basic physical therapy as well, and his progress is astounding. You be the judge:



When Little Nate was rescued last year, he could barely lift his head, and as I recall, he was unable to roll over on his own. Now, he is still unable to walk, but with a friendly hand for balance he can stand and bear his own weight. He is never without a huge smile, and the smile widens considerably whenever anyone makes eye contact with him. He is just joyful all the time! He obviously loves Jerry, and fairly wriggles with happiness when he sees him. Jerry loves him, too, and takes great fatherly pride in every little increment of improvement and accomplishment that Nate achieves.

This little boy is what it's all about in Mongolia. Jerry tells the story of how he went to Mongolia to plant churches. That's what he thought God wanted him to do, and he was willing. Then one day, a tiny child tugged on his pant leg and asked for food. This was a first for Jerry, and it started him thinking. That's how a Christian listens for the voice of God. If your heart and mind are open, God will enter and plant the seed of what He wants you to do for Him. So, when Jerry made himself available to God's prompting, it soon became clear. He said it was a very clear mandate. God told him to feed His children, and He'd take care of the churches. And so, in the late 90's, Change The World became an active ministry in Mongolia, feeding children, taking them off the streets and out of the sewers.

I said Little Nate is what the mission in Mongolia is all about, and that is true, because he and the other children are the passport into the whole Godless society. Through the children's home, and the feeding programs, and the medical missions, and the demonstration of God's love that the people see every day, they begin to realize that there may be something they're missing. Jerry is fond of saying that when you do something for the Mongolian people, sooner or later they will ask you why you're doing it. The answer is "because my God told me to." Naturally, someone who comes from a background that may be atheistic, polytheistic, Buddhist, animist or whatever, is going to ask "Who is your god?" At this point, Jerry fairly dances with glee, and says "I'm so glad you asked!" And he tells them. Obviously, it works. People have been baptized by the hundreds, the church ger is overflowing, local churches are springing up in the towns and in the countryside, meeting in private homes if necessary. Pastor Midor seems to be going everywhere at once, and it's all just beautiful to see.

In a country where the land is 95% government-owned, and owned by a government that doesn't recognize or embrace Christianity, something very special has taken place. That government has deeded over some beautiful land, over a hundred acres of choice riverfront. That's unheard of. They know full well what the Change The World mission is all about, and yet they gave the land anyway. Does this sound like God is at work? I can hardly wait to see what the next ten years will bring.

Right now, there is an urgent need for operating funds. For the past month, the CTW staff has worked without paychecks. It has been necessary to remove the children from the excellent but expensive private school they were attending, and they're now in the public school system, where they only go for a half day and the quality of education is poor. At least they're in school, not scavenging in a gutter. There will be no more new clothes, other than what the housemothers can make for them, and the supply of fabric is running low. Food is not an issue. There is plenty. Not only do they grow a lot of food in the greenhouses and fields at the CTW compound, but a whole shiphold container has arrived, filled with food from the states. No one will be hungry. Still, Jerry wants the best for his kids, including a quality education, and the staff cannot work forever without paychecks. They have personal responsibilities, too.

So, here it comes. I included a little commercial in last year's journal, and I'm going to do it again this year. Any gift you could see your way clear to send would be appreciated, and put to very good use. Nothing is wasted in Mongolia, and that's even more true of the Change The World operation. Every penny is used wisely, and stretched beyond all reason. I would ask that you think about it, pray about it if you wish, and then send whatever you feel God would want you to send. Here's the address:

Change The World/LifeQwest Ministries
P.O. Box 153029
Irving, TX 75015-3029

You may wonder why an Irving address? Can you imagine the difficulties it would cause if hundreds of checks, drawn on American banks, began to arrive in Mongolia, in denominations of $500, $100, $20, $5? The logistics are staggering. So, a central post office box was established here in Irving, and some of our church staff gathers it and deposits it into the CTW account here in a local bank. This bank account can be drawn on by the mission in Mongolia. It simplifies everything, and eliminates unnecessary cost.

I was asked by an acquaintance if I thought I should send money to a mission in Mongolia right now, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when so many of our own citizens are in need. I can answer that easily. Yes, I do think I should. The victims of Katrina picked the best country in the world in which to experience a disaster. There are hundreds of agencies already at work, churches and private citizens are at work, giving aid and assistance to those who need it. The government is at work also, and I am contributing to this, as is every other American, through my tax dollars. So I feel perfectly free to make the personal decision to continue to help in my small way to finance the work in Mongolia. When I remember the light in the eyes of Little Nate when I reached out to ruffle his hair, and the huge smile he gave me when I took his little hand for a minute, I have no doubt that I'm doing the right thing. I can't do much, but the reward is huge.

Well, the fashion show is over, the children have been taken back to their homes, lots of good-natured kidding and joking has taken place this evening, I have my cherished scarf, and it's getting late. Eloise and I wander back to our room, taking about half an hour to make a 30-second walk, as we stop and chat with people who have become so dear to us. Badmaa, true to her promise, has managed to buy two bottles of the hotel's catsup for me, and refuses to let me reimburse her. She is such a joy, and has such a generous, giving spirit. I thank God that I can call her my friend.

We have sorted and packed our belongings, leaving a few things behind for the staff. Those things will be used, we have no doubt. As we get ready for our showers, we realize that the bathroom floor has large, white globs on it, and there are some in the bathtub as well. In addition, there is a puddle, as water is steadily dripping from overhead. The water isn't particularly clear, either. Apparently someone is staying in the room above ours, and their plumbing must leak as bad or worse than ours. The water has seeped through the ceiling and loosened the plaster, which is falling in ploppy chunks, landing in the water on the floor. Hmmm. This could be a problem. Since all the plumbing leaks to some degree all the time, we wonder about just what might be growing in the floor/ceiling that the water is filtering its way through.

Then we remember that we're missionaries in Mongolia. We are resourceful. We don't dash from the building, screaming "Black mold! Run for your lives!" Instead, we pull the heavy-duty plastic wrapper off the case of bottled water that was provided for us, and slit it down a couple of sides, so it makes a strip about three feet long and two feet wide. We attach this by means of a a piece of string and some tape, to the exposed upright pipe that extends from floor to ceiling. The pipe is just outside the bathtub, and by shaping our plastic just right we are able to catch about 90% of the dripping water and funnel it into the tub. Ha! It works! I wish I had taken a picture, but I didn't. Of course, we have to stand in the channeled stuff when we shower, but that's what soap and water are for. We just washed our feet last, before getting out of the tub.

We make a final appraisal of our luggage, and decide that we're leaving enough in Mongolia, in one way or another, that we'll now have room for the fruits of our shopping trip in China. At least, maybe I'll get by without having to buy another bag like I did last year.

It's getting late, and we have to be up early in the morning. Tomorrow, we go back to Ulaanbaatar, and from there on to China, and in a couple of days - home! What a beautiful word - home.