Monday, March 30, 2009
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".
Posted by Jeremy and Renee at 10:58 AM
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
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.
Posted by Jeremy and Renee at 2:40 PM
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.
Posted by Jeremy and Renee at 11:44 AM
Monday, March 02, 2009
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.
Posted by Jeremy and Renee at 1:16 PM