Friday, November 25, 2011

Thankgiving for An Encouraging Word

A sharp dressed young man stands in the foyer of the CAMA project center as I walk in...

Inside I smell our Vietnamese food cooked by our IM Family friend for our Thanksgiving meal.

The same guy then says to me in perfect English: "Could I talk to you?" I tell him sure.

"I'd like to know how I can enroll in (I'm thinking he's going to say English courses) the Church", he says.

I ask him, "Are you a believer?" And he says, "no I'm just interested".

I tried to mask my surprise and amazement and pointed down the road to our church building, got his name, and found out he is already a student of our CAMA English teacher.

It takes a team eff Teaching English, Cooking the Food, or whatever you do, "do it all for the glory of God." Jesus said, "He will build his church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it."

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Life Rebuilt

A Life Rebuilt

In 2001, River of Love church moved into a vacant office building. A large structure with lots of rooms, an auditorium; it held a lot of potential. But it lacked a good heating system or insulation and was famously cold. Most everyone who has attended River of Love has a story to tell about how severely they have froze. Too cold to use in winter, it became uninhabited and fell into disrepair. Windows were broken and bricks were stolen right off the structure. The auditorium wood floor was torn up and burned for firewood. The fence around the yard was missing so many planks it looked like a toothless grin. The name and face of Jesus in this little town was under a load of shame and disgrace.

Spring of 2011, the church decided to do something about it. They made a God-sized plan to dismantle the building and reassemble it smaller and warmer. They made a list of materials. They noted that the building frame was loaded with more bricks and lumber than they would need which could be sold. But they still needed 4,000 dollars worth of materials. Thanks to Alliance people’s giving to our approved Work Special account, we were in a position to bless God’s church in Mongolia with needed assistance.

At the same time, a new assistance program called Food for Work was born at the CAMA services project center. The program targets unemployed men by offering work in exchange for food or other non-cash compensation. The idea being that if they are at work and don’t have cash, they won’t be as likely to dive into a drinking abuse cycle. While they enjoy the fruit of their labor in the form of a meal, they also hear hope for rebuilding their life from God’s word. “Man does not live on bread alone”.

July 6th, a Food for Work team joined a few locals to begin rebuilding the fence around River of Love. A cold rain bore down on us from the north. It made the ground softer, but the railroad tie posts heavier. That evening, muddy boots and clothes tramped into the condemned building to sleep on a linoleum floor in the building’s one usable room.

Under the demolished auditorium floor lived a family of dogs. Down the hall a homeless family squatted without the blessing of the church leaders. Settling down for a sleep would not have been easy had we not been so tired from the work. Drifting off to sleep there were thoughts of what other unwanted inhabitants might be haunting around. A screeching sound woke us from sleep in the middle of the night. What was that? Out into the hall I crept to find out. A howling cowering puppy cried in a corner of the dark hallway. He was more scared than I was, and bit ferociously when touched. It was at least a little less scary that what I might have imagined lived in such a forsaken place.

Soon the fence was finished, and the real work began. Demolishing the church building began by pulling down the exterior bricks and dismantling the roof tiles and frame. Then the floor boards were removed sorted and stored. Windows and doors were removed and stacked up and stored. Soon we were pulling down walls made of massive 2-inch rough sawn planks covered with lath and dried dirt. (Noticeably absent was any kind of insulation.) The ceilings were just as heavy built and covered with tons of dirt and coal ashes. They made terrific plumes of dust when the crashed to the ground. Lastly, the frame itself had to be dismantled. First we tried to pull it down with ropes, then pushing from the corners, then hitting with sledge hammer. Cheers went up when it finally fell.

At meal times, men who had never heard the good news of new life and forgiveness listened to God’s word. We sat in the shade and digested our food and discussed what was read. Among the workers hearing God’s word for the first time was a man named Happy. He had helped on a previous Food for Work project and proved both useful and faithful. He was especially pleasant to work with because he was so thankful to be out of Darhan, where his drunkenness demons seemed to have a stronger hold on him. Church leaders began to ask about him when he was gone. They prayed for and cared for him.

Soon the rubble of the old building was cleared and a new floor was built on the old foundation. Getting the new floor level was a big challenge. The Apostle Paul was right; it’s no fun building on another man’s foundation! But soon it was nailed down and wall erected, this time 6 inches wide stuffed full with wool, foam and fiberglass insulation.

The frame covered less than half of the old foundation footprint. And half of that became a parsonage with a special heating system to keep the church space warm all the time.

Church leaders decided on November 20th for the grand opening. The ladies worked away decorating and preparing. The Saturday before the big day teams spread out all over town inviting people to the party and sharing the good news. An old classmate of a leader had never heard the gospel before and prayed to receive Christ.

The Church building was packed with people the next day, and plenty warm. Songs were sung, speeches given testifying to God’s goodness, gifts of appreciation given and finally a group picture taken to commemorate the beginning of a new chapter for River of Love.

As the crowd dispersed a mid-aged man holding a new bible nodded at me. Someone took his picture. Curious, I inquired to find it was the guy who received Christ yesterday.

Happy, the man who did so much good work on the building, still has a long road to recovery from alcohol. The last time I saw him at the River of Love church I told him “Jesus loves you”. He shyly looked at his shoes and smiled an “amen”. Now he is faithfully following Jesus and attending Celebrate Recover class Saturday nights at the CAMA project center. Whenever I see his bright smile, which is still minus more than a tooth or two, I see the love of Jesus working on him, and I see hope of a life rebuilt.

River of Love Grand Reopening

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Missionary Kids' School

Maggie, Lydia and Johanna with their two friends are part of a one-room MK school. They have one kid in each of 5 grades.
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Darhan Prison Heart and Soul

This week I went to the Darhan prison with a team from the Cama Project Center. Dr. Pham and his team taught about health for the heart. They asked me to talk and lead the folks in prayer about the heart’s function in matters of faith.

The prisoners especially enjoyed the game “Healthy Heart”. Dr Pham divided the audience into two teams. The players took turns rolling dice to advance. Some squares were labeled, “you quit smoking, advance three spaces” Others were marked “heart surgery”, “eating too much grease”, with a ladder that slides you down a level or two.

My part was to demonstrate the other use of the heart, prayer from the heart. God says that we believe with our hearts in Romans 10:10. “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Mongolians have the same idea that belief is a matter of the heart.

So we prayed the Father and Creator of Heaven would give them faith to believe in Jesus and join the family of God. After all, none of them has ever seen Mongolia’s founder Genghis Khan, yet they believe in him fervently, heart and soul.

The visit with the prison workers promising to invite us back soon. Amazingly that’s actually something to rejoice about! I think we were all encouraged, heart and soul.

Friday, October 07, 2011

On the Job Drinking -- Drives you to Prayer

The more you live here, the more used you get to seeing people buy vodka at all hours in every store you go into....even in the early morning hours on their way to work.

This week Renee and I saw a man on the walking along at 9 am with his freshly purchased bottle. Yesterday morning I saw two men walking to work each drinking a big can of beer.

But even worse is smelling alcohol on the breath of people who work in public places, and offices.The hardest is having people who are trying to escape the demons of alcoholism, people you've come to know and love, show up to work late and smelling of liquor.

Life in this country is hard. Scarcity, poverty, and the power of sin can drive a man to drink, even a woman. Lately, a lady collecting bills came to our door with what smelled like paint-thinner on her breath. A man from the heat company showed up on official business. When he talked and all I understood is what he drank for breakfast.

I hope hardness and darkness here would drive people in another direction -- to their knees before the only One with the power, knowledge and presence to save and set free.

The only way that will happen is if we willingly lead the way and bend our knees to Jesus on their behalf for as long as it takes.

Today a worker came and confessed he fell off the wagon and was in no shape to work....

It's hard when you see it on the street, but it's much harder when its someone you know and are pulling for to escape the alcohol trap. There's only one way from here - forward on our knees.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Food for Work Job #2

I guess we're about half done with the rebuild. Using old wood and nails from the previous building has been a bit tedious. Sometimes you have to start 5 nails to drive one. In the same way, you go through many workers from week to week. But eventually you end up with a set of folks that can bring about the finished product. But the church is not the building. We, God's people are.

So it says in 1 Peter 2;6 "you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house[a] to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."
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Resurrected Church Hall Frame

These walls have 3 layers of insulation, where as the old ones had only dried mud.
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Brick by Brick

These bricks were so loosely slapped up that they were easy to pull down by hand. Therefore, many of them had been stolen.
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Inside Old Church Building

This building was built 20 years ago, and came to us ten years ago. Since then it has deteriorated to be unusable. This area was a part of the sanctuary at one time. Even when it was usable it had a reputation of being reliably a few degrees colder than the winter weather cold outside!
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Tearing Down

As daunting a task as demolition is physically, the implied committment to rebuild is greater still.
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Food for Work project #2 this summer began by rebuilding the broken down fences around the community of faith in Baruun Haraa, a small town about an hour south of Darhan. One of the books of the Bible we studied after mealtimes was Nehemiah. He was a man sent by God to rebuild a people ruined by rebellion. He began by getting them to work rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.
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Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Fun as a Root Canal

Dear Diary,
I began yesterday at a dentist appointment. It's been more than a week since I gave my eye-tooth there - had it pulled. It looked like there was no other option after trying many others to remedy an old root canal I had when I was 16. That procedure was long and involved, and if that's not bad, the doctor said afterward said it might give me some trouble since they didn't drill deep enough. It lasted 23 years.

Remembering that experience, I was braced for a pretty bad morning. The doctor said the only way to check for sure that the tooth next to the pulled one is really dead is to drill without novacaine. That sounded like a blast from the past so we tried it and it worked! No pain as he drillied about and inch or so up into the canal of my very front upper tooth. Then they have these neat rasps that they used to drag stuff out of the hole that goes nearly up to the bone. Am I being too dramatic?

The crecendo was when he got something green about the size of a mosquito out showed it to me and said: "That's your nerve" At one point he dropped an instrument or somehting which I tried to grab for him, and he noticed my hands were kind of clammy. "You don't need to be afraid", he reassured. The one bright spot was I didn't have to get an injection or wait for the numbing to come.

Next to that, haggling over building materials and running all over town to find them, and trying to keep things at Kama going seemed pretty easy.

Only problem now is that they infection that was still in the old tooth socket seems to be leaking out and making me a bit sick. He said this chronic infection can be cleared out by something he injected through the front tooth's newly opened canal. I'm hoping that works.

On top of that I would welcome prayers to get this long episode behind me.

I'd rather have the fun of a root canal anytime versus the systemic sickness that seems to be associated and sticking with me at least 6 months now. But thank God I'm still moving. This truly may have been too dramatic, once and for all there it is....

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

New Worker

It's nice to be on the interviewer side of the table. You get to ask people about themselves, help them see how much they have to offer, and actually get to choose who you want to work with.

It's hard to choose too, because you know the ones you don't choose might really want or need the work. This week our new worker at the KAMA project center started. His name is Amaraa and is working hard on some hard plumbing jobs, when that has never been his main thing. But it's a pleasure to see men of God get their hands dirty and learning new skills that will hopefully help them lead their families, and God's church more effectively and fruitfully.

I hope we will get into his main thing Thursday: building. In process I pray we help men change: "no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone." Ephesians 2:19,20

Settling In

Looks like we're going to make it into an apartment the same size we moved out of 4 years ago. Some of our furniture has changed, and not all of it will fit from the house in Bulgan, but we are able to use some of it as office furniture at work. So it all works out.

The girls are getting plenty of play time with their American friends on the first floor. Summer free-time is in full swing for them. Mom and Dad are starting to horn in with the gentle nudges toward getting them to read. Second and third waves of trying to give them constructive activities are piano and possibly dance lessons.

Right now though the prospect of getting our routines together in a new home and new work is starting to become a visible near future reality. And that's something to be grateful for.

There is a comfort in having a home and having food in the cupboards. Just have about 10 more cardboard boxes to work through and get rid of, then we're really moved in, thank God.

Cold Shower

Believe it or not, Mongolia is not always cold. But the water is.

Tonight I took a polar-cold shower and it wasn't at the request of Renee.

Monday morning, turning the hot water brought nothing but a sinking hollow sound out of the faucet. Then we heard that is would remain that way for the whole week. Cold water for dishes not much fun, cold water only for shaving isn't either. So I was putting off the inevitable cold shower, hoping to somehow make until Friday, or hoping it would come on early.

But some guys at the local basketball court waved me in for some hoops, and I came in the house dripping with sweat and not excited about just letting it dry and climbing into bed.

So you're in there trying to keep your feet and hands from going numb. Splashing water sparingly enough to keep the ibii jiibiis at bay, but copious enough to rinse the soap.

Then the big rinse of the hair was like getting up the nerve to plunge into the Puget Sound on a hot day. That 'take your breath away' cold is the same here.

I've always liked cold water swims because I claim its an easy way to burn calories. I was in there thinking I might have burned more calories in the shower than in the three games of basketball that caused me to take on in the first place.

(The hot water is off to give people the chance to repair or replace rusty pipes)

Only three more days to go...

Monday, June 13, 2011

BBQ Season in Mongolia Arrives

Went out of town a few miles to picnic by a lake (not pictured), and grill some burgers (pictured), where some camels grazed (also not pictured, oddly enough). Maggie, Clara, Anika, Toby, Lydia, and Johanna taking it all in.
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Farewell Picnic for Miss Karen

The girls' teacher Karen ( playing catcher), is going back to the US after teaching at the Darhan MK school for two years.

Baseball on the prairie

Johanna takes a swing for the (whoops, no fences).
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Thailand Vacation

Blue water in front (pool) and blue water behind (ocean). That about sums up what we need in a vacation. God is good and kind.
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Making Friends

Juniper Tree, the place we stayed, had a great place for kids of all kinds to play.
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Three Hour Tour

Vacation in Thailand is one of our few chances for adventures involving oceans.
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Monkey Island

Some liked it better than others
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After hike into huge cathedral-like cave

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This just in....

Vacation Roooocks! Clara in a cave.
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Johanna and Clara Enjoy a Boat Ride

Clara maybe not as much...but at least not seasick-green.
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Super Grandpa, to the Rescue

Jerry, a hero to Clara her parents
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Jerry and Ann pose with Renee at Darhan's Horsehead Fiddle Park

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