Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Settling into Ohio

It's been almost 2 months since we moved into our house in Akron, Ohio.  We live near a nice park named Firestone, after the man who founded the rubber company here.

The girls love to walk or ride bikes to the park to play.  Maggie learned to ride a bike a few weeks after we got here.  She like to ride around the block on sidewalks whenever she can.  Lydia and Maggie had soccer camp in the park for a week.  They loved it!  

Maybe that will be a good experience to get them ready for 1st and 2nd grade in September.  It will be their first time in American school.  Firestone Elementary School is adjoins the park.

We just returned from summer vacation at Lake Erie.  Renee and family have spent a week in a white cabin overlooking the lake for the last 31 years.  The girls enjoyed 6 nights of splashing in the lake and spending time with their cousins.  Six girls under 7 years old was an adventure. 
Add to both sets of parent grandma and grandpa to even the score at six adults for six kids.  A great time was had by all.

Soon we'll travel out to Washington state for more summer fun with the grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles out there.   

Wednesday, May 06, 2009


We're all safely back in the land of our birth, except Clara, who is enjoying her first visit to America.  California is nice and temperate, and we're working through jet lag while staying with family.  Last night we went to a little league baseball game to watch the girls' cousin's team.

The Braves won, with some key plays contributed and runs scored by 3rd grader Zach Bergevin. Sitting on lush green grass eating great pizza from the concession stand and chatting with other spectators, smiles from a passing stranger, all made for an enjoyable American experience....

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Leaving Home

Late night packing here for a Wednesday morning departure - the first step in a long journey back to America for a year.  We will leave Mongolia on May 3rd, spend some time in California on vacation.  They on May 17th we'll arrive in Akron, which we'll call home for a year.  

The good news is, when we leave our home in Akron in summer 2010, we'll be coming back to this home in Bulgan, for a longer 3 year stint, which is twice as long as we've lived here so far.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Monday, April 20, 2009


Clara joined in the singing and body motions of the kid favorite 'hallelujah' on Sunday.  She seemed to be singing it the whole day thereafter.  Seeing her squatting down and saying the same title word over and over again is pretty entertaining.  She doesn't quite have the "praise ye the Lord" part down yet, but she sure stands up and stretches her hands up over her burred head.  

I don't know why it tickled us so much.  I guess it's her excitement that resonates.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Straight Talk

We were reflecting the other day with some fellow team mates how Mongolians don't mince words, and aren't afraid to tell you if you do something well, or badly.  They are not overly polite.

Last night was a volleyball context, the second this year I was asked to participate.  Both have been for the parents of the girls schoolmates.  It's a pretty good idea actually.  You get to have a chance to mix it up with all the other parents you've been passing in school hallways all year.

So this morning, in the hallway, a lady whose kid is in another class met me on the stairs.  She greets me with..."You're tall, but how terrible you play?"  From my stunned silence, she guessed that I didn't recognize her with her sunglasses on and without her spectacular serves, bumps and sets from the previous evening.

I told her I do recognize her.  She says, "well how about basketball?  You wanna place a bet on one-on-one?"  Out of another stun I was narrowly able to muster, "now?" She said "no", thankfully and something else, but I was already inching away, easing down the stairs.

I often think of Mongolians as indirect when it comes to confrontation or conflict, like other asians perhaps.  But when it comes to calling it like they see it, they can be pretty straight up.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter

Being a little sick, I think all our expectations were lowered a little for this year's festivities.  And that lessened anxiety made for a peaceful and thoroughly enjoyable day of celebrating resurrection.  

Breakfast was a little delayed by searching the girls for ticks.  We had a 50 percent carrier rate, and flushed both offenders down the toilet - the ticks not the carriers.  Then also involving a toilet, one of the girls didn't quite make it there before spilling her cookies.

Nevertheless, we were all ready for church at 11 am.  Our two neighbor boys recited my favorite verse, which is especially poignant at Easter:  "Then Jesus told him, because you have seen me you have believed: Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed." - John 20:29

Baycaa and Tamiraa and I then hid 47 hard boiled and candy filled eggs all over our yard.

Then those two left on horseback for the countryside, a three hour ride, to return our horses to the man who will watch them for us while we're in America.  Our only other visitor being Peter the local Peace Corps volunteer, the Easter scripture reading and singing proceeded in English.
The last half of John 19 and all of 20 cover the death and resurrection.  Lord I Lift Your Name on High was a fitting concluding song, led by Maggie and Lydia, complete with hand motions.

These same two older girls then dashed over to the neighbors to get them for the egg hunt. Their one year old son was carried around carrying a basket by his 13 year old sister.  They may have found the most in their first egg hunt ever.  Then out of the windblown sunny yard, and into the house for a easter basket pow wow.  No face was more chocolate covered than Clara's. 

Johanna, still in her Pajamas, which she wore all the way through the egg hunt, stood up from eating cookies and sidled up to the table wanting help peeling one of her three boiled eggs.  She was the one who had thrown up earlier.  An hour later she was devouring chicken and mashed potatoes.

The one year old neighbor boy Boyna also packed away his share of mashed potatoes.  So much so that by the time his family were seated with their food, he was full and inconsolable, so they had to eat in shifts, which they didn't seem to mind.

Renee made great rolls, which our neighbor surprised us by asking for the mustard, and slathered all over the several that he ate.  The rolls were also useful in demonstrating the broken body of Jesus as it was shown in his Last Supper.  Grape juice also allowed for borrowing Jesus' imagery.  It was good to share a good meal among friends and remember Jesus and his friends doing the same thing.  Peter and Otgonbayar read the Mark 14 Last Supper scene in English and Mongolian after everyone was full.  Otgoo's wife Enxee said she loved Renee's rolls, but could not take the chicken, or the vegetables.  But she loved the fruit salad.

Our neighbors stayed to chat and play before saying thank you and "happy Easter" in English several times.  Then they walked to their house, two yards away.  

Peter stayed for coffee and conversation about some of the movies of ours he was returning, and brought a book to share with me.  Then I dropped him off at his apartment on my way our to the countryside.  

Baycaa and Tamiraa were sitting in the Ger of my friend Naranpurev watching TV when I got there.  I sat down long enough to get the obligatory cup of milk tea, and find our my friend was not at home.  So off we went to find him.  My two worn out horses were tied to the corral as we walked past them to the car.

We walk in another Ger and say hello to everyone.  Then I recognize one of the ones who answers is Naranpurev, shading up after a hard day cutting all the manes off his horses.  They serve us tea, horse milk, and hoe sure (meat pancake - My stomach just growled writing that)

So we go out and help clip the last couple horses, turn them all loose, throw the saddle on top of my car, and drive back up to his house.  There we discuss our leaving for America, what he is to do with my horses while we're gone, and many other things.  What I really enjoy is that he is talking to Tamiraa and Baycaa as if they are grown up, not ignoring them because they're 15 and 11 years old like usual.  We talk out by the corall, and the wind carries our voices down the dry gully until Naranpuruv waves us inside saying, "why are we talking out here?"  

We sit down on the floor next to the table, and dinner's on.  First boiled beef ribs and goat back bones in one central huge bowl with two butcher knives as our only shared utensils among 4 people.  The women stay away from the table, except to serve something to it.  Goat's a little tuff, but not that bad a flavor.  Then comes the dried goat jerky soup with nuggets of fat that dwarf the pasta shells.  The first bowl was so good, I had to have another.  It came up that today was Easter, and I asked Tamiraa to recite John 20:29 to them in Mongolian.  He did, and they talked about that for a while until the conversation returned to the more solid ground of horses and racing for some time.  I was still impressed how much the boys were being allowed to talk. 

Then I said we better go.  They said drink tea first.  We won't let you go until you take something white.  So one cup of white milk tea, and we stand up and walk out of the home stead tent.  My herdsman friend follows us to the car making me promise to visit again before we leave Mongolia.  

Not long after getting home, a family of four came walking up our path and came in.  The girls had just started watching a DVD episode of Little House on the Prairie.  So Renee sat the lady, and her three kids down at the kitchen table and entertained them all for over an hour.  It came time for bed for the girls.  They all said their prayers like angels and fell asleep with no talking.  
Did I mention it was a Happy Easter?  Here's hoping a day in the life can look like this more than once a year.  Imagine consecutive days better than this in that Eternal Country, as they sometimes call heaven in Mongolian.  Happy Easter from here until we see you there.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Little Jo Peep

Leading her sheep, and there's also some sheep behind them.
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Barn Yard Visit

Saturday, we went out to visit our friends who raise livestock about 10 miles from town. Here's the view of the homestead and barn yard.
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stays inside where they are making pastries; pretty much dough fried in fat.
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Letting her little sisters know how it is...
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Spring Work

Our shepherd friends are in the thick of spring work. Here Goya gives Johanna a baby kid to hold.
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Johanna wanted to make sure this 12 hour old calf didn't have teeth before she got too close.
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Combing Out the Cashmere

This is Bataa. He is combing out the fine hairs from underneath the coat of this goat. The bag behind him is full of raw cashmere from several goats. After he finished this goat, they weighed the bag to find it was about 2 pounds. That bag last year would be worth close to 40 $US. This year it will bring less than 10$. But typical of Mongolians, they didn't complain about the price, only that its a really busy season in the countryside. "No free time".
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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Family Photo

Here we are at a hotel in the capital for a prayer conference.
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Reverse Offering

Some of you may have heard of the radical concept of reverse offering with regard to passing the plate in church.  The idea being that if you have an offering, you put it in.  If you don't have food, you take something out.  I thought it was a really original and perhaps useful idea when I heard it several years ago.  One church we were in even tried a more controlled approach of this innovation.

I did not know that the idea was at that time already in use in Mongolia.  On top of many hills here are piles of rocks that are considered holy, or at least a representative of the spirit of that area.  So Mongolians have for years added something to the pile, and walked around it three times.  If they don't have a cloth, bottle, food, then a rock or even money will suffice.

Yesterday my neighbor, who is believes in Jesus, stopped by for a visit.  I was asking him some questions about Mongolian religion.  He said he and his family have never followed many of these customs.  Said his dad used to have no qualms about helping himself to visible cash that other people places up there.  Said that he himself has never been afraid to pick up bills worth up to 5$ that other people had recently offered to that spirit, mountain, or whatever.  

So maybe this helps me answer the question about what I should have done when my dog starts eating the food someone standing right there has just offered to the shrine. 

15 Year Anniversary

Not ours!  Scared you a little, didn't we now?  I guess the only thing scary about us getting older is that you are too!  No this was the anniversary of True Way church in beautiful downtown Bulgan, and we were invited to participate and speak.  So we thought we better show up on time.

We walked in at 10 am and were ushered to a back room to wait.  We were seated there until the service began around 11 am. That was time enough to meditate on why we forgot our cultural knowledge learned so many times:  When you show up on time, you're an hour early in Mongolia.

So by one am, our part in the service had come to a close and thoughts drifted toward home, lunch, nap, or anything else.  The girls were getting antsy too.  

Finally after a big round of testimonies to God's faithfulness over the last 15 years, we were walking out to the car.   Then they wanted to know if we were coming back for fellowship time that evening.  The clock in the car read 5 minutes to 2.  

Thankfully some of the neighbors we'd invited over for "peace talks" showed up that afternoon.  So we had fellowship with pre-believers in the comfort of our home instead of at the church.

I guess a four hour church service was enough to commemorate God's work in Bulgan.  It's a good reminder to me that God is at work wherever you go, long before you get there.  This church was started by a Russian lady in 1994.  Since then it has had many, many leaders.  So many of them have fallen from grace, and out of ministry.  

Yet the church and the testimony of God's people remains.  He's still saving people and restoring them.  One lady stood up and said that it was her first time to speak of her faith in front of everyone at church.  She was nervous, but she testified that God had saved and changed her life.  I told Lydia, who was sitting on my lap, that the lady had never spoken like that in church before.  Lydia replied, "Neither have I".  And it seemed as if she'd like to.

It's good to have fellowship with other churches.  It gives a perspective that we lose when alway concentrated on our own fold.  And opportunities for cooperation with God's people for his glory are an added benefit.  This week the pastor and elder and a few people and I will accompany our CAMA doctor and team to a tiny countryside church.  People will be seen by the doctor, and introduced to the gospel of Jesus, some for the first time.  

Whether they find eternal life, or improved health, the renown of Jesus we hope will be shown.  And the tiny fold of God's people that meet in that country church will be encouraged and keep following Jesus and proving him true and faithful in an unknowing and often resistant context.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Kid Callers

Our home is evidently getting famous as a place for kids to play.  They love the basketball hoop outside.  But the girls seem to be hearing stories of hide and seek and toys and playing here.  

A couple neighborhood girls called Renee out to the gate today.  She went out to see what they wanted.  They said they wanted to give her some Mongolian gum, and each held out a stick to her. She took them graciously and came in the house.  Then looked down and read: "Wrigley's Spearmint Gum", on them.  I guess they were hoping giving a gift would smooth their way into playtime. If not now, then sometime in the future.  Nevertheless a generous gesture, in keeping with Mongolian character. We know what 'Mongolian gum' tastes like, and you probably do too.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Milestone Day

This month two significant events occurred on the same day.

Clara took off walking with wild abandon.  She had been a reluctant toddler before getting on her shoes and tearing around everywhere.  Joining the bipeds opened her up to another venue for play.  She joined the ranks of the outside players and especially liked going back and forth over the melting snow on a sunny day.

That evening Maggie crossed into untrod territory as well.  She sat me down to hear her read a paragraph of Mongolian language, and didn't miss a word!  She's spoken Mongolian since she was three.  But now at age six she can read and write two languages.  And as always, her pronunciation is better than ours, so it gives her reading a certain flair that mine lacks.  It's a funny thing to admire your child, but I like it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Walking the Dog

Took a walk to the top of a nearby hill this weekend.  Brought our dog with me.  On the way up, I was impressed with how he seems to be growing up, acting less like a puppy.

Now up on the tops of most hills here are little cairns of rock piled up over the years or centuries. Many are believed to have bones of saints or something spiritual underneath it all the stones that have stacked up over time.  Part of people's routine when they go up to visit an ovoo is to place another rock on them.  

On top of the hill overlooking our house there is a special ovoo, that actually has a foundation about 3 feet high and some staves to hang scarfs and colorful objects or offerings.

Rocks have piled up so that when people place offerings now it's about 4 feet high.  So when people were putting cookies and other edible stuff on the ovoo in offering to the spirits, how do you suppose my dog decided to join in the ceremony?  Of course he started standing up on his hind legs and eating the cookies.  So what does a good missionary man do in that case?