Thursday, December 29, 2005

Christmas Day Service

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Another Party for Christmas

Two churches rented a hall and shared a common service to celebrate Christmas. They are both from the outskirts of town where our smaller church in Darhan meets in a tent (Mongolian Ger). We were hoping to go to church in a Ger on Christmas, but a big party of Christmas Day service was pretty good.
At least 50 people came up and shook our hands and squeezed the girls. It was memorable. I think we were the only non-mongolians there. Posted by Picasa

Christmas Eve Visitors

We had Christmas carolers from church. They "Wished us a Merry Christmas" and were gone. They must have had a long night ahead. It was okay because we were tired and the kids were in bed. Whichever one was still awake got to get up and see the spectacle. I have video, no photo.
There were about 20 of them.

Earlier, neighborhood friends of the girls happened to stop by in time for Cocoa, a Christmas Movie and the Christmas Story. The funny thing is they already know Jesus, and talked about where they go to church with thier families. The eight year old girl was especially shiny when she spoke of the Savior. God has been working in Mongolia long before we got here. Posted by Picasa

Everyday in Mongolia

Just a few word pictures to familiarize you a little more with our new home. Bones: Everyday we see bones; not just bones in general. The Mongolian people do not eat the lower leg of any animal. At first when I would walk past a leg, some still with hair intact, I thought that dogs must have gotten into someone's supper! --or garbage. This is sometimes true too. I also had that cool Old West feel of dust and prairie and an animal that met its end due to the cruelty of nature, or perhaps tribal warfare . . . ok, my imagination kind of ran away with that last one. I would see heads a lot too--this might explain the cowboy fantasies. The difference is, we learned in our first week here, the heads are valueable meat and would always be cleaned to the bone. It was only later I heard that they do not eat the chin/ankle meat. In conjunction with this, we just learned a proper use for these bones. A traditional mongolian game called Shagaag. It is similiar to dice or a funny american game called "Pass the Pigs." Depending on the way the bone lands it is one of four animals, the camel, goat, horse or sheep. They also have another game that involves just horses in a race. We were given a bag of these bones for a gift about a week before Christmas. The goal is to play and collect more and more bones.
Sunshine: Before coming here I imagined Mongolia to be somewhat like Montana--Big Sky Country--and that idea has not proved wrong. No matter how cold it gets here, the skies are most always blue with sun shining--what a gift!!!!!
Dust: Before coming here I never would have believed it if you told me. With temperatures well below zero and perpetual frozenness abounding still there is dust. It brushes your boots and the bottom of your long winter coat everyday. In my mind it is such a strange juxtaposition--the sand from beach and the ice from Siberia in cohabitation!
Knocking: Ok, I am including sounds too. Because everyone here lives in apartment block buildings and these also host most of the businesses including our school, most small convienient stores, salons, clinics etc. I am finding it very different from entering a public establishment in the States. You do not simply drive, park and enter the main door. You walk, try to determine the right entrance and you knock. The reason I mention the knock, is because I am noticing that Mongolian's like to have signature knocks. Let's face it, we as North Americans are out of practice at knocking, we rarely do it. We ring a door bell, enter a automatic sliding door etc. Mongolian knocks are somewhat like drum taps, very rythmic, steady and penetrating. Despite our apartment being concrete to the core, the one thing I can hear as I lay in bed at night is the knocks. They go on and on, sometimes, someone answers after awhile, sometimes after a long while people give up, sometimes it is someone cold and drunk knocking on our door wanting to get warm. As I enter school each morning I am practicing my signature knock. Right now it is a little mixed up and inconsistent. I will keep you posted as to the progress. P.S. I do not think Mongolians knock to see if the WC is in use, the times I have attempted it, the occupant has knocked back!:)

Saturday, December 24, 2005

School Christmas Party

Our language school threw a party for Christmas. Although the holiday is known here, and Christmas trees are part of the New Year Fesitivies, Christmas is not widely celebrated.

Our teachers know about Christ from an all-Missionary studentry. Some teachers are Christians and share in the wonder of Christ coming to earth to save sinners from every corner of the world. At the party were people from Mongolia, Korea, India, North America, Norway, Germany, Brazil, Tonga and Figi! Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Mongolian Churches Give Thanks, Celebrate Seven Years

Seven. That’s the number of years since God inspired a new work in Mongolia. Seven. That’s how many churches now grow here like trees beside streams of water. In this arid, windy country, trees are precious few. Seven fertile ones can make a difference. Over America’s Thanksgiving weekend, Seven Mongolian churches gathered in thanks to God – For Seven years of abundant life and blessings to come in eternal worship.

They gathered at the first church planted by the Alliance in Mongolia’s second city, Darhan – about a three hour drive from the Capital. People from churches in Ulaanbaatar and other towns came by train, which doubles travel time. Many began arriving Friday night. Some spent all Saturday preparing food for the big feast Sunday November 27th.

The building pumped with energy well before its scheduled 10 am start. Kids dressed for a creative drama darted up and down halls, in and out of rooms full of people. A few young people were putting shoe polish on their faces to complete their costumes. Later, they depicted spirits of darkness in a drama of conflicting kingdoms. It resonated through the crowd with cheers for the victorious outcome of the spiritual struggle.

Energetic singing and dancing filled the room and fogged the windows – which had to be opened. Even the icy outside air could not cool the lively room. Every chair filled to capacity, people crammed in the aisles and sat on the floor. Each church was introduced and stood to cheers from the crowd. Then someone said “KAMA”. The Missionaries took their turn, stood and were also heartily applauded.

Field Director for the Alliance (known here as KAMA) Dennis Maves delivered the central message. He preached the gospel and emphasized making disciples. Afterward, visitors were introduced. More than 400 hundred people stretched out their hands and serenaded the chorus, “We love you, we’re so glad you’re here, God loves you.”

The party is just getting started. Another church group has taken the platform. Bouncy dance music turns heads from the foyer. Up front about 10 people perform their choreographed routine. The mood of the room gets even lighter. Now up the stairs and into the packed room come platters of food. The servers squeeze up and down the aisles giving each person a meal of celebration food: roasted sheep, goat or beef, and salad.

In a celebration of food and pilgrimage in Mongolia on a Sunday in late November –
God’s people gathered to give thanks and worship. These churches will worship the Lamb Who Was Slain at the greatest Thanksgiving of all – around His throne for eternity. In Mongolia, Christ is gathering for his glory worshippers to fulfill that final celebration.

Seven years ago, God inspired the planting of a church in Mongolia. In seven more years how many Mongolian churches will give thanks in happy worship, on earth or in heaven?

Popsicle Weather and Home Made Fur Mittens

The other day, Renee and I with Johanna wrapped like a pappoose in sheepskin and blankets, got on the taxi on the way to school. The cold is getting real here. But it evidently hadn't phased the guy who got on after us. He was carrying in bare hands a popsicle, and as the taxi started again he casually took a bite.

Today, an old man took off his gloves to pay for something at the store. They looked warm. I asked if I could look at them. He said yes proudly. They looked really warm and well made. Then I asked where he bought them. He pointed to his wife and said she made them. Then he asked where I came from. I told him America perhaps also proudly. Then he started speaking Russian to me. It struck me as funny.

Local Newspaper Reports American President Visit

There were various articles and pictures in the printed version. Mongolian people were pretty excited about having Bush here, giving thumbs up signs etc. Kind of fun to feel valued, even if we are not here for our country, but because of our other citizenship in heaven.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Orange End of November

Maybe you can see some of our view looking West, snow-covered town, road, and mountains. Posted by Picasa

Monday, November 28, 2005

A Musical Trip to the Mongolian Steppe - World Music

Story features 10 minutes of sounds of this place we now call home, plus some rich photos, and:

Mongolian National Instrument

Body Contortion: Human Rope Tricks

John Denver's Country Roads by Mongolian Herdsman

American Stage Fright before small "obscure" audience

Sounds of a horse ride in the wide open space; "NO FENCES, a cowboy fantasy"

Heaven of horses

Unidentified Mutton Parts

Lulliby song for animals, (which sounds to me Native American)

Ghengis Khan Irish Pub venue for American Cowboy performers
with Mongolian translation

Sunday, November 27, 2005

A feat to be thankful for - or Four

Renee made the Thanksgiving pies. She would say she got a lot of help. I say I was thankful. Posted by Picasa

Getting Ready to Watch Holiday Movie

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Table of Thanks

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Thanksgiving in Mongolia

We gathered Friday night after school for great food with our mission family. Instead of turkey, we ate chicken, a rare delacacy here. It was even more special because it was American chicken! Someone found it in a store in the capital a month or so ago.

Everything was great, and yes, we are thankful for so many who make it possible for us to be here. And we're thankful to the One who 'gives every good gift'. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Here's the newest development and latest view from our house.

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A tough croud, you say?

I've talked to tougher ones. But having some experience in front of people is always nice when facing an intimidating audience. They were great listeners, even though they don't know the language I spoke in. One of the young guys from church, translated the little bit I said. They wanted to know how their place compared to American prisons, and what was different between the two countries. I got a resonating laugh when I mentioned some of vices that I was saved from. Posted by Picasa

A new friend - 20 years old

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"Mongolian Idol" - Visit to a Prison

This week I went to the local prison. It’s about 6 or 8 kilometers west of town. The dirt roads are smoother now glazed with ice, but still a little like riding a frozen sea.

We passed over our town’s frozen river on a long bridge. You could see footprints in the snow on the river where people chop through the ice to get fresh water. Sled tracks stretch up the bank and lead to a whole suburb of houses without phone, heat, or water.

Our little taxi negotiated the ice-glazed dirt road and delivered us to the guard house of the prison. The guards shook our hands and showed us to the gate. We walked in unaccompanied by them. Opening before us was a large prison yard with a basketball hoop, a clinic and three buildings. The huge white wall with barbed wire on top did nothing to slow the icy cold air from the surrounding foothills. We stepped into the large building. I noticed it was a little warmer, but not much. I had my coat on and never took it off. The guys greeted us in socks and sweats, with shaven heads. When we shook hands, mine were warmed by theirs. I guessed it to be between 40 and 50 (F) degrees in the big room where they gathered.

My young friends from church officiated what I grinningly considered an episode of “Mongolian Idol”. Like the televised American singing competition, each man, one after the other sang a solo of a new worship chorus. I was astounded at their courage, thinking I’d never seen such in any North American gospel meeting. The last one to sing “I have a Savior” was young and shy looking. But he sang, with feeling, in a nice voice the perfect melody. All contestants received a prize of winter socks. Various presentations of the gospel of freedom followed. They engaged.

When we left I was extremely cold, like to the bones. This is the first time I’ve really felt cold in Mongolia. On our way back past the guard house, one of them came out in the cold wind and talked to us in his shirtsleeves (rolled up to his elbows). Leaning against a cold concrete wall in the afternoon shade, he seemed in no hurry to get somewhere warm. I tell you it was within 5 degrees of zero Fahrenheit, one side or the other. I couldn’t wait to get out to the car, and next to some heater drinking hot liquids.

I came home to Renee and the girls in a dark apartment. A power outage had stalled a half-cooked dinner, and made it impossible that hot beverage. I guess I’m not conditioned for cold yet. The life of a language student in a warm classroom allows little acclimatization to cold. In that direction, this was my first small step in a long journey.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Home of Cowboys....President Bush Comes to Visit Mongolia

Check out a story on American Radio called: "Welcome to Mongolia, the Texas of Asia"
You can listen by clicking

The similarities to Western-American culture, the respect for hats, boots, livestock, and singing with all of them, are unavoidable. Since I've never been to Texas, I formally described Mongolia in terms of another colder Cowboy State. I call Mongolia the Montana of Asia.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Launguage Bloopers

The word for and in Mongolain is "bac," pronounced "bas." We begin every day with conversation, usually about what we did the day before. As you can imagine, my conversation generally includes my girls. I often find myself saying "maggie bac lydia." Jeremy and I get a good laugh out of this as it often computes in my mind as "maggie boss Lydia!!!!"

One of the first words the girls learned in Mongolian we heard them saying around the house in a typical child sing-song voice. It happened to be "baexgue," which is the mongol word for "have not." It was then that I realized that 1. they didn't know what they were saying, and 2. the reason they had picked up on this was probably due to the fact that their mongolian caregiver was repeating it as often as they asked for a forbidden item such as gum, cookie, candy. . .the list goes on:) (Stranger things have happened--we came home one day and asked the girls what they had had for lunch to which they replied "cookie dough"!!!!!!) I had made cookies and put some dough in the refridgerator for another day.

We are beginning to learn handwriting instead of printing. We actually pronounced the capital as "Ulaanbammar" when trying to decipher the writing. We thought print was difficult! Upper case B is a mongol V. Handwritten lowercase g is a mongol d. Lower case p is a mongol r. T's look just like english m's. Handwritten mongol e's look like an english u. And our personal favorite is the letter N which is written just like an english H. What an adventure!

School Days

I think back to this summer after attending our month-long language learning techniques course in Chicago, how hard it was to tell folks what we had actually been doing. This was especially true considering that we came back knowing not a smidge of Mongolian but actually some Spanish:) Let me see if I can now shed some light on that mystery.

Jeremy and I study at school for 3 and a half hours every day. Our school meets in an apartment exactly the same as ours. (The whole city has the exact same set-up) Instead of bedrooms and a living room their are 3 classrooms and a kitchen which can also be used as a classroom. (one of the classrooms doubles as the director's office and holds the school's computer.) Our school has five teachers including the director. Jeremy and I have a classroom and a teacher all to ourselves. This is the way this school works. At the same time there are others studying in all the other classrooms, some one-on-one, some two on one like us. This country has basically one language learning textbook written in English and this is used by all--Koreans, Brazilians, Norweigans, Indians, Figians, Tongans, and us too. This series of three textbooks takes about a year and a half to conquer. The teachers then are willing to do student-directed study. Some study biblical language, some traditional mongolian script, some business or medical terminology, and some just review.
In chicago we spent some time learning about the different learning styles and what our individual tendancies were. How to get the most out of our studies--whether we needed more book time or conversation time. Whether we learn best in a group setting or all alone in the quiet. How to learn so it sticks with us. Jeremy and I found our learning styles to be fairly opposite. This makes an interesting classroom setting five days a week!
We are hearing from most of our collegues sent out to all parts of the world that the learning atmospheres are as different as all the individuals themselves. Some study in an actual university. Some are in a high school type setting where they switch subjects and teachers. Some are in warm climates where the outdoor setting allows for much conversation. As we are legally in the country on a student visa right now--the current setting is our option. And, as the winter begins to get colder and colder, I imagine our converstion opportunities will be limited.
We have a great teacher who is beginning to sense some of our needs, although the mongol/russian learning style is very traditional with written tests every week and emphasis on book work. I could write more about this, but I will say we value your prayers for our study time, our teamwork, and continued variance in our learning as we go. As is to be expected, some days it feels as though we have turned a corner, and some days as though we have hit the wall. It is great to be reminded by collegues that we don't have anything to prove or a timetable to meet, we have as many years as the Lord gives us to learn all this and do not have to get everything the first time.


Since this is considered a journal, I may resort to some musings. I think another way to say cornucopia is "horn of plenty" although I am not sure if I remember correctly. As I think about the significance of these words in a north american setting, I wanted to reflect a little on the application here, in Mongolia. A few weeks ago we as a team celebrated Canadian thanksgiving. There are three members of our team with citizenship there. It was great fun to be together and to be thankful. We had beef instead of turkey, but it was an actual tenderloin from the capital! The "pumpkin pie" was made with another squash found in the capital, but tasted declicous. One thing about Mongolia is there is never a shortage of potatoes--so there was enough mashed potatoes and gravy to go around and around! What a refreshing time.

As I do my shopping here in Darhan and send shopping lists with the team who sometimes travel to the capital on the weekends, it is my tendency as a mother trying to provide and as one who has lived all my life in the states, to want to stockpile and fill my freezer for the long, cold, winter. I am quickly learning that this is not the way in Mongolia. A few examples. We have one "department" store here in Darhan. While we are pottytraining and trying to use cloth diapers, we still visit here pretty frequently for Pampers. They have Sam's Club style shelving from floor to ceiling. The pampers are displayed neatly from right to left on the shelf. Upon closer inspection however, I find that they are all size 5. I am looking for size 2. I pull one package aside to look at the stock behind it for a size 2, only to find that there is no "stock" behind it. The attendant was quick to tell me when I asked that they had size 5!!!!! I am learning to focus on what blessings are available rather than what seems to me to be lacking.

When ordering with a large group at a restaurant, we have quickly learned to diversify our orders. They may have chicken on the menu, but that may not mean they have it today. Also, this does not garuntee that they have enough for three servings! It is not uncommon for three to order chicken. The waitress returns to tell two of them that

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Forcast Calls for Fur (Snow This Week)

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VolleyBall Day with our School in a rented Small Gym

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Dinner With Teachers and Friends

After a day out getting some needed excercise and shopping, we are getting some much needed fuel in this restaurant. It's nice to have extra hands to hold the girls. Posted by Picasa

Bright Turn in Language Learning

Do you have a competitive spouse? If you're lucky you have a spouse who excells where you do not, and vice versa. It's a nice balance that God builds into a marriage, if you're fortunate.

Competition can be a healthy thing. It can drive us to our best. But have you ever say, played the same boardgame with the same person close to 20 times and never won a game? It kind of makes you want to play solitaire, or basketball for that matter.

That's how having Renee as the only other student in our class can be. Maybe I should have researched her grade point average more thoroughly - but then thoroughness is her strength.

Today we showed up to our class at a new time, not knowing if we would like it. And we had a third student show up! She is from Brasil and studied here a couple years ago. Our teacher says she may stay in our class a month or so. So today was a welcome change in our routine.

We like the new time frame and the new tri-lateral learning environment. Both feel healthy.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

I thought our view of the school yard with calves keeping the weeds down might interest you. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Horse Drawn Carts...

...can be seen everywhere, doing important jobs delivering furniture and building materials. We saw a piano being moved Saturday night with one of these. But this week Renee called me over to our window and said "Look". This guy way right outside our entry to deliver a bed. Posted by Picasa

Still nice enough weather to play outsite our doorway. It's nice being on the first-floor. Posted by Picasa

Lydia got some extra time outside today and gave this kid a precious piece of styrofoam.

Horse Hand 1 - This guy has in front of him a huge jug of milk that he was selling. He must have carried it to town from the farm riding on his horse...a pretty small pony. His hat is a traditional Mongolian favorite. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


It has been on my mind the past couple of days to insert a peice about the
beautiful Mongolian people that we encounter every day. So far we have
tended toward the tangibles... physical surroundings and events. Let's
face it, our language is so basic at this point that our interaction is mostly
limited to short phrases and facial expressions. Nevertheless, there is a
multitude of things to be discovered even with these limitations. I tend to
be a little more long-winded than Jer in my writing, but I will try to give a
brief painting:)

Children: There are many children!!!! They begin "Kindergarten" (our daycare/preschool)
at age two here, although not all attend. We live next to one of these Kindergartens.
We can hear the children crying when dropped off in the morning. Every little girl I see
has her hair neatly combed and usually in braids or pigtails--and it seems to stay
that way! I have to learn from them! The elementary girls all wear big, really big, white
bows in their hair. While the weather is still tolerable, the children reign in the courtyards.
Although most of the actual outdoor toys are ruined or gone, they always seem to have
something to play. I saw a group of girls making "soup" outside our window yesterday.
(For those of you who may not know, this is Maggie and Lydia's favorite pastime). I have
met several new mothers with babies Johanna's age. The babies are usually bundled in
almost a down blanket which is then tied with string from neck to toes to keep them tightly
. All that shows is wonderful chubby cheeks and a stocking cap clad head. The boys
all love to practice wrestling, and actual fighting is not uncommon either. Uniforms are worn
to school. The boys wear little pinstripe suits, and the girls, skirts and pinafores. There are
no buses here, so everyone walks or taxis to and from school. Usually they are in no hurry to
get home and I see them with backpack still on at 6 pm walking with friends. They love
to practice their English; and will follow you saying, "hello" over and over and laughing.
Sometimes they laugh hysterically as they repeat your own conversation they overheard in
English. Ondras, a girl I like to call Laura Ingalls because of her grin, is a very poor girl who lives
under a stairwell in an apartment building. I met her while living with our Mongolian family.
She is about 10 and was excited to play with Maggie and Lydia. She had us come and see her place to show me with an extremely sad face that water was leaking from above and had now gathered about two inches deep in her "home." She pointed to it several times. I felt so helpless. We have since met an American family living near her who I hope will help. She
ended the tour by reaching in a burlap sack and pulling out two happy-meal type toys, one for
each of the girls, and then re-padlocking her space. It was very interesting to me the way that
the culture has provided for her. In a place like Mongolia, an orphan left outside to brave the
weather would not survive. I do not think there are "homeless" people here in Darhan like their may be in a place like the Phillipines. Even though her living situation is not nice, to a small
degree, her needs have been met. I hope and pray that God by His grace is working in me to
look, listen and recognize the deepest need of these people, and preparing me, in a culturally
appropriate and Mongolian way to meet the need, alongside Mongolians themselves,when the time is right. I am sure it will be an "as you go" kind of service, and I look forward to it.

Monday, October 10, 2005

The girls ride their first Mongolian Camel just outside our apartment.  Posted by Picasa

Friday, October 07, 2005


Also in Chicago, the girls went to ‘school’ everyday that we had classes learning how to learn a new language. At the end of the four weeks, the kids put on a show with the song “I just want to be a sheep, Ba Ba BA Ba” as the showstopper.

The other day, Renee and I were having dinner in a restaurant. They hand you a menu, they return in a few minutes to announce that most of what you’ve read, they don’t have. So this day they returned to say they didn’t have any beef. We have already experienced Mutton and not sure we want to try Goat, or Horse meat without a Mongolian friend as a guide. Then the waitress points out that the Gulash is beef, and they have that. So when it comes it tastes pretty good, until Renee asks, “Do you think this is beef?” I did. But I also tasted some of the chunks of meat were smelling and tasting like Mutton. So I guess it had beef, and also Mutton.

So we amended our favorite children’s song from Chicago, "I just want to EAT a Sheep, BA BA BA BAH."

Language Learning

When we were in Chicago in June, we became friends with a family from Puerto Rico, relocating like us, but to a Middle Eastern country. They have two boys, who spoke mostly Spanish. This was a healthy concept for Maggie and Lydia, that there are words even their parents don’t understand.

Our first weeks in language study here, the girls have stayed with Orna, a Mongolian lady who comes to our house. At first it was tough for the girls to understand that she couldn’t tell them to go to bed, (or much else) because she doesn't speak English. This past week, they’ve really warmed up to her and celebrate when she arrives in the morning.

On our way out the door to school, I heard Maggie ask her: "How do you say (I forget what) in Spanish?" Even though they may think they’re learning that language, we hear them counting and saying hello and goodbye in Mongolian, when they think we’re not listening.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Here's a look at our 3 month old, almost. Posted by Picasa

Here's the newest excitement (and parental challenge) in the lives of the girls. As you can see, bunkbeds are quite a ball.  Posted by Picasa