Sunday, December 31, 2006

Ice Rink - Near Home

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Happy New Year!

To celebrate we stopped by the local ice rink. People were pretty excited about the holiday, everyone saying Happy New Year and chatting. They also set off fireworks from right on the ice, and we heard a big display will go off tonight at midnight. So the girls are pretty excited about New Years. And so are our Mongolian neighbors, and now maybe we are too.
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No Skates her size, so Lydia settled for ride on a chair/sled.
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Friday, December 22, 2006

Mystery in Christmas Madness

Considering the slower pace of life here, you might expect us to be less hurried that all the bustle I imagine in North America at this time of year. Maybe we are. But at least by Mongolian standards, this week feels like a blur, and it's not even over yet. We had guest in town last night for dinner. This afternoon was the girls' Christmas program at school. Tomorrow is our school's Christmas party. It happens to be scheduled for the exact same time as the C&MA project center Christmas party. This is the place where all the cross stitch and quilting work is done, where our health clinic operates, and where some of our collegues have offices. So we don't yet know how to be in two places at once. But we're having friends over afterward!

Then we have church Sunday. Dinner at friends Sunday night. And then we're invited to another Church Christmas celebration at 3pm Christmas day.

We were talking to some Norweigen people lately, and they painted a relaxing picture of Christmas in their country. It sounded like all the parties were actually AFTER Christmas.

You know that lull that comes after all the presents are ripped, and gifts are returned? You kind of think to yourself...What do I do until New Years? I submit to you the answer: Have your Christmas party! And enjoy some time away from all the bustle before we celebrate Christ's coming to revel in the mystery and wonder of it.

Think about if someone said to you first this morning: "you will see a baby laying in an farm animal's dinner?" That would be a strange thing to say. Not as strange as seeing that sight just as it was told. The awe of Jesus is not so much that he was laid in a manger, or that it was prophesied exactly so we wouldn't miss it. His mystery is in Who He is. And when the world seems crazy and erratic, we can find our peace again in remembering who we are not in how much we give, receive, shop or socialize. We can find our place again in remembering Whose we are. Recall His mysterious birth, as a reminder and historical precursor to our spiritual birth and remember your wonder at that first glimpse of a life lived in faith and peace.

Thank God we're not hosting a Christmas party. Maybe next year. After Christmas!

I enjoyed reading something on the mystery of God lately. Have a look.

Monday, December 18, 2006

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Well good news and bad news. On our way to school last week we saw a portable fence being erected in the shape of an oval. The next day there was dirt heaped up all around the outside of the fence. And then we figured it out. The hose was stretched over the fence from a nearby apartment, filling up this fenced area like a huge bathtub. They craned in a little building with a chimney coming out of it, and poof, an instant Ice Rink.

Now when we walk home from school we see kids having a big go on the ice. We tried to join in one day, but found they didn't have kids sizes. Probably the only one of us that could be fitted for skates would be Renee. I guess if we break down and go skating in our boots over Christmas break, Renee will lead the way.

Monday, November 27, 2006

IM Family Portrait

All of the CMA families serving together in Mongolia gathered over Thanksgiving weekend. Here we are after enjoying a great meal. Thanksgiving weekend wasn't all eating though. We had a lot of spiritual and mental excercize to do. Saturday and Sunday was spent dreaming and seeking a revamped mission strategy. Our Field Director arrived on the same flight as us 14 months ago. And this summer, more new and returning families came to serve Christ in Mongolia. And we are a multi-national family. We have people born all over the world: Canada, Korea, Vietnam, South Africa, and America. It takes a village. And ours is global. Posted by Picasa

Friday, November 24, 2006

Country Girls

On a recent trip to the countryside, Maggie and Lydia try their hand at feeding some calves. Posted by Picasa

Family Visit

Visits to Mongolian homes are usually a hit with the kids because of all the treats that come out. See Johanna's elated smile smeared with jam from bread and butter set out for us on this morning. Posted by Picasa


It's counter intuitive, but God's gospel that their is joy in giving thanks also for the difficulties of life. I think in part it's because of the growth and character that pain can build. "Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance". Romans 5:3
The whole chapter is here....

Sunday, November 12, 2006

All Dressed Up and a Party Too

Since trick or treating wasn't really an option, we were happy the girls got to go to a Halloween Party. Two pinata-like items packed with candy were exploded to the cheers and grabs of everyone. Underneath the dismembered pumpkin a huge pig pile of people formed where the candy fell. Maggie and Lydia were right in there getting there fists as full as they could. Posted by Picasa

Ayeee Halloweeny

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All Saints Eve

Here's a picture with some local English Language students from nearby colleges who came for the lesson in Western Culture. They bobbed for apples, frosted festive-shaped cookies, drank spiced cider, and learned about the Christian roots of Halloween. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

"I Got a Rock"

So I'm playing with the kids before dinner. Maggie is nearby cutting out pictures from her magazine that she has a subcription and gets every month. Out of the blue she mutters the phrase, "I got a rock." It's the punchline from the It's the Charlie Brown Halloween Special that we watched a few nights ago on DVD. It was sent to us last year. I guess media makes the longest lasting gifts. "I got a rock": That's the same phrase I remember saying after watching the show every year at halloween on TV. (If you never saw the show, it's Charlie Brown looking in his treat bag to find out what he got from the previous house)

Monday, October 30, 2006

Completion of Book Two!!!!!!!

Well, we are two-thirds of the way through our Mongolian language course textbooks--you can see the most recent has-been in the background. I celebrated by drinking the newest treat we have found--an asian variety of instant hot chocolate! Not too bad by the way! I improvised a little on the marshmallows:) Can you guess what that might be? Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Horse Hors DeVours

I caught a whiff of the smell of horse in the air today. It's a pretty common smell since we see horse and carts everyday here. It’s pretty common to see people riding around on sidewalks or roads in town. The smell in the air today reminded me of something I ate last week.

I was walking out of our school and our principal was in the break room slicing up some cold cut meat for her lunch. She handed the plate our way and said in Mongolian: "Try some horse meat?" I was in a courageous mood and popped a piece in my mouth and walked out the door.

About half way home the flavor was still with me. It hung in my mouth like the smell of a sweat-lathered horse on a breezeless day. For me the smell is not all that bad, and even carries some good memories, when it remains in smell form.

But its parallel taste is not one I have yet grown to appreciate. I'm sure I'll get many more chances to acclimate to this Mongolian delicacy. Until then, I have no trouble remembering what it tastes like.

Brown Herd on White Lake

About 10 miles north of town the other day, we had to stop to let this herd of camels cross in front of us. They were headed toward White Lake, so named because of the salt flats on its shores. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Alliance Women Horse-Cart Ride

Ladies from churches all over America visited Mongolia this week. On Sunday they worshipped in 5 churches within a 150 mile radius. Here they are on Saturday taking a leasurely, if not luxurious, ride on the main road of Darhan. Posted by Picasa

New Words and Animal Noises

Johanna is picking up new words and phrases all the time. She knows "rice, water, eyes, mouth" and has become quite a nose honker, doesn't matter whose nose: "beep, beep".

She learns probably two English words to one Mongolian word. Though she's not above using animal language either. Here she's giving her impression of a baby bird, saying cheev, jeev - which is Mongolian for "cheep, cheep." Posted by Picasa

Our New Teacher

Boya showed up at an Alliance Women Rally on Saturday. She's only been our teacher a couple weeks or less. And she's really appreciated explaining Mongolian scripture to us. Said she'd never read the Bible before, and never even seen one.
Renee shared her faith story with her this week. And we have really come to appreciate her style of teaching. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Romance of Life at Home and Abroad

There are moments when it sinks in that we actually live in Mongolia. This week on my way home I walked through the town square. Located high on a hill, you can see the whole town and surrounding countryside for miles. It occurred to me the privilege we have of living in a far away land, learning an exotic language and living among a people rich in culture, history and hospitality. Did you ever think of living abroad, perhaps imagining yourself the American in Paris, on a cobblestone street, contributing to their society and being the object of their children's attention?

In many ways our life is like this. Americans appear to be some of the most adored foreigners in Mongolia. It's strange to live in a land where strangers don't speak to one another, but speak to us all the time, (many times in our language) smiling at our kids, trying to get their kids to talk to ours. The attention is nice most of the time. It's what I imagine being a celebrity would be like. I was just thinking that not everyone gets to experience this and it's something special.

But this kind of romance wears off eventually. When it does, I have to again remember our purpose here. It is bigger than being a curiosity, or being curious about these people, their country or culture. Our purpose is to bring glory to Christ helping his church to change lives all over this part of the world until He comes again. As lofty as that may sound, there is only one step before us now, one Holy Order to carry out: Learn the Language.

As often as we crave for something more helpful, more meaningful, more glorious to do, the same work order comes back to us: Learn the Language.

How do we do that? By studying, yes. But moreover by living here, working, playing, shopping, cleaning, cooking, talking, complaining, suffering, thinking, Mongolian. When you break it down into these ordinary daily activities, Life abroad doesn't seem so romantic.

Life in Mongolia is still just life. But when we remember why we're living abroad, purpose to all the little things returns and the weariness of studying in this stage of life is relieved.

So what's your purpose? Is it to love and train people for a life of purpose, and life that matters? Maybe it is to shepherd a people - at work, church, or at home to their highest and best potential. Is it your purpose to bring glory to Christ? Maybe your purpose involves a simple but wearying task. It could be as simple as reaching out again in faith to a loved one or friend, or letting one go by that same faith. The Romance of Life is about putting forth your full effort and resting in God's ability. For us the path to our potential passes through our task for the remaining year: Learn this language!

Is there a seemingly insurmountable task in your life you need to face with faith and proceed toward fulfilling your purpose? I think there's a clearer longer look at a Life of Glory and Romance ahead for all of us. Our way may pass through a difficult thicket or bog, but it nevertheless is passable with our faith fixed on Christ and his purpose for us in eternity.

Celebrating the Little Things - Dirty Diaper

Having a child sick with vomit and diarrhea this week, the sight of a solid diaper this weekend brought an unusual surge of thankfulness at something usally not all that pleasant. You may think this a funny thing to celebrate, but you may be grateful this isn't a photo journal entry ;)

It reminded me of the blessing of good health. When I look at Johanna bright and alert, with a good appetite, and gaining her wieght back, I see the power of prayer, and God's care for us.

It also reminds me that God can be praised for the most common and unexciting of things. Thank you for your care and prayers for us and for our health. And remember to be thankful for yours.

Proverbs 15:30
A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Countryside Portrait

On a trip to the countryside in August, we visited this family. They treated us to fresh bread and homegrown cucumbers, and took us on a tour of the surrounding area. Johanna didn't make the trip. She had another appointment. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Renee On Mongolian Saddle

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Harvest Colors Us Glad

When the sight of foods make you reach for your camera, you may be a little desparate. We're really not. We can find canned corn almost always. But there's nothing like eating corn fresh from the cob. This stuff was grown by local people who are learning about corn from friends of ours who are Peace Corps Volunteers. This picture was taken just before we sat down to dinner and found out that about half of these ears of corn were actually Feild Corn...not Sweet Corn! I guess the quality of seeds at this distance is a little hard to verify. It is still good to see and eat beautiful produce from the One who gives sunlight, water and everything else. Posted by Picasa

A Car Story - "POOF!" Goes the Tire

Thank God we got a car! It's a Toyota Prado, which is a scaled down version of a Landcruiser that they sell in Japan. Ours was directly imported from there. It's a 1996 4-wheel drive, has a medium-strong engine with decent gas-mileage, and seats 8 people. It's a good fit for us.

It’s great to be mobile again. It’s nice to know that life without a car is possible, but it’s even nicer to be free to drive anywhere we need! Sincere thanks to God, and all His people who gave so we could have experiences like this one:

A few weeks ago the car was filled with people on a 90 km trip. We arrived at a town that has no church and really wants one. The people received us and took us for a tour around the valley. Standing on a nearby hill, we could see its great beauty. On one side was the meandering river, with good sized fish visible from the bridge. On the other side yesteryear’s combines were harvesting golden grain on a mid-September afternoon.

We drove through those fields and over 10 kilometers of dirt roads and back to the home of the man acting as tour guide. We went in and ate a meal his wife had prepared. We said goodbyes and thank you, walked out the gate of the yard, grabbed the keys, and glanced down to see a flat left front tire. Thank God we had a spare! But then to change a tire, you need tools. And we didn’t have the right ones. Some theft-resistant lug nut wouldn't let us get the wheel off!

That was 6pm exactly. Out came the Mongolian men carrying axes, and other metal implements in various shapes and sizes; all instruments of assistance, I hoped.

At 9pm the car hasn’t moved, but the sun has. The sky that was bright red a few minutes before is now lit only by a massive display of stars. Bright as they were, they couldn't light the work going on in the dark next to our car. The blown tire is finally off the car now. The new problem is that the spare won’t go on the hub, wrong bolt pattern.

Out come the men with the ax and metal instruments, this time adding a tiny keychain flashlight to their set of tools. By this tiny light, they break the good tire off the spare rim, break the bad tire off its rim, and put the good tire on the original rim. I’ve never seen car tires put on or off rims by hand before. But this quiet dark night, in the countryside, I saw it three times!

Now air is needed to fill the good tire on right rim. Where do you get air when the one gas station in town is closed? You go to a truck driver’s house of course. Tripping over hidden obstacles on unlit dirt roads, we walked around the sounds of strange barking dogs, and wandered our way to the other side of town to the truck driver’s house.

He’s out of gas, and can’t bring his truck (which has a compressor) to fill up our tire with air. But curiously he gives us the last of his gasoline, about one cup of it. Why? The truck driver's friend drives up to show us how to use the gasoline to solve our dilemma. This guy lays the rim and tire on its side and pours the cup of gas on the sidewall so that it drips in between to rim and tire. Someone lights a match and POOF, the tire has air inside.

Though the tire is sealed with air in it, it’s turns out to be too little pressure. The guy who almost pulled off this pyrotechnic feat said there wasn’t enough gas. He came through in the end though, be giving us his spare rim and tire, which amazingly fit well enough. Because of the Mongolian method of taking the theft-proof lug nuts off, we only had 4 working bolts to secure this oversized tire. We couldn’t turn real sharp or go too fast, but we finally got moving just before midnight, and made it home just before 2am.

Was I ever glad Renee and the kids weren’t in on this trip! The whole experience seemed amusing pretty much all along to my traveling party. They came to see this town that is known among our church people as wanting a church but doesn’t have one. All of us got to see more of the town than any of us expected. They kept assuring me that this is how things are done in the countryside: Mongolian style. Now I see another reason why Mongolian people have such a “can-do” attitude. It’s a necessary attitude for survival.

My efforts to locate the right tools and or parts by phone were fruitless. And so the education about life in Mongolia continues…And I think in what seemed to be a comedy of mishaps, along with a memorable story, some key friendships were made for God’s purposes.

It was a screw in the sidewall that caused the blowout and made it all possible.

How we were able to purchase this car without completely raising its full purchase price of $13,300 is another story. Suffice to say, we still welcome contributions to this important tool.

And Thanks again to all who already gave!

Bergevin Vehicle Fund
Christian and Missionary Alliance
PO Box 35000
Colorado Springs, CO 80935-3500

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

River Baptism

Our chruch had service at the river on this Sunday in August. The congregation sang hymns while people waded into the water to be baptized. The river runs right along the village area of town. A bridge crosses the river just upstream. This really was a public testimony of comitting to follow Christ. I heard 16 people were baptized this sunny, but none too hot of day. All were fully immersed, and the water WAS cold! Try that for comittment! Just like natural birth is not easy, the symbol for spiritual birth in this case was not overly easy either. Posted by Picasa

Monday, September 04, 2006

Mutton Bustin'

For those who haven't heard of this Rodeo event, Johanna is here demonstrating the general idea.
Mutton is the meat of choice for Mongolians. Our taste may yet prefer the junior rodeo event over the mealtime thrill. Posted by Picasa

Last Joy Ride of Summer

This Children's Park in Ulanbaatar is stocked with rides. We had the run of the place this overcast day in September. Tourists are clearing out, and people of going back to school. A fun time was had by these five kids, and the two big ones who were along with them. Posted by Picasa

First Day of School - That's Their's Behind Them

Maggie and Lydia join their parents' first day back to school. All over Mongolia September first is the official opening of the school year. This was Lydia's first time ever to go to "kindergarten". We would consider it pre-school. Kids are in the same class for as many as three years before they're ready for first grade at age 7. Lydia was excited to go as the photo shows. But reality set in a while later, when she found herself in a class full of people who spoke only Mongolian. Thankfully she speaks and understands, but looked ready to go when we came to pick her up.
Renee and Jer are thankful to have the same teacher as last year (never a guarantee) and a morning study schedule. That frees us up to do afternoon language practical experience. Thank God!
Johanna is starting this new year with a new Home Teacher, basically a babysitter who speaks Mongolian. The lady is a friend of the family and we hope Johanna is happy with her while we're away at school. In the long run, she may gain as much as us in language proficiency from this arrangement. Posted by Picasa