Saturday, November 20, 2010


After flying through some rain and a bit of turbulence, we finally break out of the cloud cover and see Beijing sprawled below us. We don't get to see the Great Wall, it was below the cloud cover as we passed over it. That's okay, we'll see it up close and personal later.

After a smooth landing, we make our way through the bustling airport with relative ease. Dr. Ron is a good leader. All the guys, as always, are very helpful to the women, as we struggle with what now seems to be unnecessarily big and heavy luggage. Funny, it didn't seem that way coming over here. It all seemed so necessary then! I brought less this year than I did last year, and still I had too much stuff. Maybe next year I'll just bring a backpack, if I can find one in my hand-painted periwinkles design! We make good use of the luggage carts supplied by the airport, and with the guys always handy to load and unload them, we find we can drive them very well.

We pass through all the requisite check points, and all sign little papers attesting to the fact that we're in the very best of health. Those who are suffering from Genghis Khan's revenge (we have a few of those) make no mention of that fact, but just smile bravely and sign the papers.

Near the exit, we are very happy to see our guide, David Wang, waiting for us. He looks happy to see us, too. I'm sure the idea of losing 20+ Americans for whom he is at least marginally responsible is not an idea he entertains with any comfort. Those of us who were here last year remember David, and Eloise and I know it's usually a good idea to stick close to him, because he is constantly dropping little bits of information that are helpful and interesting. He tells some of us that he really enjoys working with our group, that we're one of his favorites. Awww, I'll bet he says that to all the tourists! Still, he seems sincere.

He leads us outside, and we stay close, like sheep bunched up near a shepherd, as he challenges the traffic that is constantly circling the airport exits. There is no one directing this traffic, there are no lights or signs, it's just survival of the fittest and victory goes to the brave. David steps out in front of several cars, brakes screech as they come to a halt, drivers cast thundercloud glances our way, and we all pour across the street in David's wake.
There is no other way. I'm sure the Chinese drivers are muttering something unpleasant about American tourists. The street is wide and wet, slippery with the recent rain. I clutch the handle of the luggage cart I'm pushing, grateful for its steadying presence, as my knee wobbles and threatens to give way.

Finally we reach the enormous bus which David has waiting for us. The driver loads our luggage underneath, with some help from our men, and we get on board. The bus is roomy, comfortable, good a/c, and the driver has a cooler with bottled water placed just inside the door. It's a welcome sight. We are all thirsty, and in spite of the attentions of the cabin staff on the flight, we are also a bit hungry.

We are taken directly to a restaurant for a late lunch, no stopping at the hotel yet. We are all tired, and it's late, but David wants to get as much into the day as possible, and our late arrival has made it a challenge for him. The food is decent, but from experience we know that we're going to have much better meals while we're here. I think he chose this place for speed.

We leave the restaurant and get back on the bus, not really sure what's coming next. David announces that we're going to the Great Wall. At this hour? It's late afternoon, and the shadows are growing long. It seems to us that it will be dark soon. I guess we're forgetting that in this part of the world, it looks like evening long before it really is. The bus makes the long drive out to the Wall with ease - traffic is lighter than usual, perhaps due to the hour. I remember the landmarks, and know that we're going to the same place we went last year. The place of smelly restrooms and hundreds of unbelievably determined vendors. Oh, mercy. Maybe my knee and I will just stay on the bus.

However, a pleasant surprise awaits us when we arrive. Instead of the congestion and stupefying heat and humidity I remember from last year, I see that there are very few vehicles here, very few people, and most of the vendors are closing up shop and pay little attention to us. It's also much cooler. Not cool, but not the smothering, oppressive heat from last year. I decide I can handle this, if my knee will let me. I can only imagine what the Wall looks like in this slanting, golden light, and I really want to find out.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


NOTE: Remember that the "post" dates do not relate to the date of the occurences. This trip to Mongolia actually took place in 2005.


It's 9:15, and we're still on the ground. No book, no pillow. Both are in my luggage. I had reasoned that I wouldn't need them on such a "short" flight. Somewhere in the Beijing airport, David Wang is waiting for us. David is the Chinese tour guide who shepherded us through Beijing last year, and who will do so again this year, if we ever get there.

At 9:50, the cabin staff passes out customs forms for us to fill out. Also, a set of rolling stairs has been put in place next to the plane, and a uniformed young woman has boarded. Naturally, this makes us wonder if we'll be deplaning after all. The rumor mill works very well in a confined space like an airplane, and the rumors are flying now. The most popular one is that we will be taken to Beijing by bus, and our luggage will just get there the best way it can.

It's 10:35, and nothing has been said or done about deplaning. The young woman left a few minutes ago, but the stairs are still next to the plane door. We are still the only plane "rerouted" here. The weather is beautiful, and the story of the storm over Beijing is beginning to smell like old bait.

At 10:45, I dig into my camera bag and produce the box containing my medications. I rob an aspirin tablet from tomorrow's supply, and swallow it. With all this prolonged sitting, the prospect of deep vein clots comes to mind, and I want to keep my blood thinned down. I give one to Eloise, too. It can't hurt.

Finally, at 10:55, I can stay in my seat no longer, and get up to walk around a bit and visit the lavatory. On the way back, I get into a conversation with a cabin attendant, who says we will probably be departing in about fifteen minutes. So much for the buses. I'm grateful for that. However, another plane, a small one, has landed farther down the way and people are deplaning, so who knows? Their luggage is being unloaded as well, though, so it's probably a local flight.

At 11:00, cabin staff serves a round of cold drinks and coffee, and an announcement is made that we'll be departing in about twenty minutes. Hmmm. We've heard the "twenty minute" speech before, back in San Francisco. We shall see.

It's 11:15. The plane's doors are closed, the stairs are moved away from the plane, and the pilot cranks up the engines. It looks like we just might leave this mysterious little place after all. You can bet we're going to be looking for wet tarmac and puddles in Beijing. There had better be some. Bright sunshine and dry ground are going to put some very big holes in the story we have been told.

The big old aircraft lumbers down to a crossover, makes a left turn and rolls to the runway, making another left to line up for takeoff. There it sits with engines revving up, wings dipping a bit like a huge bird flexing its flight muscles. It begins to roll down the runway, but isn't gaining much speed. It veers off the main runway and makes a hard left turn onto a crossover, then another left, which takes us back almost to where we started. The plane rolls past our original position, turns left at the crossover again but this time it makes a hard right on the runway, headed opposite to the direction we were headed the first time. We roll all the way to the end of the runway. I know this is so, because when the pilot puts the big jet into a slow pirouette and turns it back around, I can see that we're within a few feet of the grass. We are now facing the same direction as we were the first time, only we're back at the very beginning of the runway. We have a lot more pavement ahead of us this time.

We sit here, engines revved, passengers thinking light thoughts, pilot no doubt begging the big craft for every ounce of power and thrust it can produce. Finally he releases the restraints and the big jet surges forward, going faster and faster. A final run for the money, and we're in the air. Praise God. As the "lightening" sensation is felt, I'm looking out the window and see nothing but the end of the runway and a lot of grass below us. Obviously, this little airport wasn't designed to play host to a guest as large as our airplane.

The announcement is made that we'll be in Beijing in 46 minutes. After about twenty minutes, we enter a lot of cloud cover and encounter some fairly rough air. As we get closer to Beijing, there is rain. I guess the story was true, but it really did seem strange to us, sitting out there in perfectly clear weather.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


We have no difficulty waking up at 4 a.m. In fact, we were both awake for quite a while before the alarm went off. Who could sleep on those beds? Feeling a bit battered and bruised, we got up, grateful for release from the obligation to try to sleep any longer, since it was futile anyway. Since our suitcases were already packed, we were dressed and ready in no time at all, and downstairs well before 5 a.m., to join our group. A smiling young man from the hotel took most of the luggage downstairs, with some help from our men, bless their hearts. What would we do without them?

The bus arrived and the luggage quickly disappeared into its underbelly. We boarded, ready and anxious to get this flight behind us. The trip to the airport was very short, and soon we found ourselves unloading again and heading into the Ulaanbaatar airport. Susan, Batsengel, Oyuka and the others saw us off, and were waving at us through the windows as we disappeared beyond the gates. We'll miss them.

The trip through the Ulaanbaatar airport is a breeze, compared with what we know awaits us in Beijing. Since we were there very early, there was no crowd, no lines, and we were at our gate in just a few minutes. Oh no! That gives us time to shop, and I don't need to spend any more money! However, Eloise and I know this airport from last year, and know very well that there's a shop downstairs that sells some beautiful cashmere goods. I try to forget that little fact, and make a real effort to stay in my seat. Alas, one of the men mentions that he'd like to pick up something in cashmere for the lady in his life, and naturally, I can't let the poor guy fumble around alone. I offer to show him the shop. Fifteen minutes later, I have made my own purchases and am sheepishly returning to my seat upstairs. Oh well, one doesn't visit Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia very often.

Very soon our flight was called, and we boarded, ready for the trip back into China. One of our men noticed a plane sitting off to one side, which he was very sure was Air Force Two. He's a pilot, so I'd think he would know. Since we were taxiing at the time, we only got a glimpse of the plane, but he felt sure he was right. Naturally, we wonder why Air Force Two would be here, but no one knows, so it goes into the file for Unexplained Things We Have Seen.

The plane is in the air quickly and we settle back to enjoy the excellent breakfast served by the Miat Airlines cabin crew. As always, they're Mongolian, they're efficient and pleasant, and take very good care of us. We expect to be able to see the Great Wall this time, as there is no cloud cover visible. After a while, when we are beginning to think we might be near enough to Beijing to be able to see the wall, we feel the plane begin to slow and descend. We haven't seen the wall, and just as I'm wondering how we managed to fly over it into Beijing without seeing it, the pilot opens the intercom to make an announcement.

It seems we are not approaching Beijing. We have been rerouted to another airport some distance away from there, due to "bad weather." We don't even see any clouds. This seems very strange. Still, there's not much we can do but ride along and see what happens. Naturally, we wonder if this has anything to do with the presence of Air Force Two in this part of the world. That would be enough to merit some pretty tight security in and around Beijing, I would think, especially if Air Force Two was headed there.

The plane is definitely descending, and the strange, convoluted outlines of the Chinese mountains are beginning to take shape. After flying low over some farmland and a small town, we make an easy, uneventful landing at a very small airport. Easy, but I did have the impression that the pilot was using all his tricks to stop the big plane. It's 8:07 a.m. local time, wherever we are.
Someone finds out that we are at the airport for a town called Hoh Hot. I will certainly be looking this up on the map when I get home! The pilot tells us that there are "very bad storms" over Beijing, which is about forty minutes flying time from here, and we can expect to be on the ground here for about two hours. Aargh. This is not a pleasant prospect, but of course, safety comes first, and if there really are storms over Beijing, then we'd prefer to be right here, safely on the ground.

Naturally, there is a lot of conjecture as to what is really going on. For one thing, since Beijing is a busy international airport, and if all flights are being rerouted due to bad weather, we would expect that there would be several planes here with us, waiting out the storm. This is not the case. Other than one freighter, we are the only large plane on the ground. The freighter is deserted, looks like it could have been there for a while. There are two or three small ones, but no airliners. This seems very odd.

At this point, no mention is made of deplaning, and the more experienced travelers among us explain that it will be unlikely that we will be allowed to do so, due to immigration policies. As though anyone would want to venture off into the wilderness we see around us, but still, we have to understand. We prepare for a long wait. A few people get up and move around the plane. At one point, a cabin attendant makes the announcement that everyone needs to return to his or her seat, as the plane is "unfueling." Exactly what that process is, and why people need to be seated while it is going on, we're not too sure, but everyone complies. Except one man. Why is there always one in every group?

This particular man has drawn my notice already, and his non-compliant behavior does nothing to reassure me now. He is about fifty, tall and thin, with dark skin and long dark hair worn in a ponytail. His features are unusual, I cannot easily identify his ethnic background. There is an Asian component, but there is something of the Middle East as well. He never makes eye contact with anyone. He never stays in his seat either, but instead wanders the aisles all the time. Finally, after another announcement from the cabin staff, he sits down, stays about two minutes, and is up and off on his aisle-walking once more. The staff never confronts him. I look around for something to conk him with if anything happens, but can't find anything but my camera. It's too light. Oh, well. Telling myself I'm being melodramatic, I settle down to wait with everyone else.

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.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The big high point of the evening was the fashion show presented by the children. They modeled some of the clothing that was made for them by their own housemothers, working with our sewing team. It was beautifully organized, and the children were well-behaved and cooperative as always.

Obviously very proud of their new garments, they stepped out on the stage with confidence and big smiles, the girls pirouetting perfectly as they showed off their pretty new plaid capes, or their sleep-over style pajamas. One might expect girls to enjoy such a production, but even the boys seemed to have a lot of fun as well. These kids are just remarkable. They have such poise and presence, it's hard to imagine that they've come from such terrible backgrounds.
Here are a few pictures you might enjoy:



This next picture has little to do with the fashion show, other than the fact that it was taken in the sewing room. Still, I just had to let you see these two faces. Can you imagine trying to control and channel these two little guys, every day?


In the next installment, you'll have a real treat. Some of you might be able to guess, but all I'll say is - Little Nate!

Tune in tomorrow.....