Thursday, November 26, 2015

Cama CR Feeds the Homeless

We were happy this Thanksgiving day, that over 30 people showed up for a hot meal.  Thanks to the Cama employees, volunteers, and supporters who make this possible!

Happy Thanksgiving

American Thanksgiving often falls on November 26, which is also a holiday in Mongolia.

National Proclamation Day is celebrated today to remember Mongolia becoming their own nation in 1924, after beginning to fight for it in 1921.  It previously was a national holiday where people didn't have to work.  But this year they observed Genghis Khan's birthday instead on the 12th of November.  I guess this would be like our President's Day.

I've always seen the two holidays as very similar.  Our Thanksgiving is unique in the world.  Canada is the only other nation we know of that has a special day for giving thanks.  But this Mongolian holiday has overtones of our American thanksgiving.

We remember not only the 'blessings of heaven', that the sun shone and the rain fell in the right balance to produce crops, that decorate our tables.   We remember the pilgrim's plight through their first winter in New England, helped by the Native Americans.  

Mongolians were helped by the Red Man as well.  Though they consider themselves the ancestors of our American 'Indians', and there is cultural evidence to support that, it was the Red Russians that helped them win freedom from oppressive occupying Chinese.

So Mongolians, like Americans, have a lot to be thankful for today.  I hope you enjoy yours and are able to lift a mug of hot tasty beverage or a turkey leg to celebrate.

I am your representative in Mongolia.  A festive drink was just carried into my office, left over from our feeding of the homeless program.  I will lift this lukewarm mug of salty, milk-based rice-filled-with-chips-of-sheep-fat-floating-in-it tea on your behalf. 

I wonder if the pilgrims at Plymouth Rock imbibed anything this festive in 1620.  As hungry as they were, I'm sure something like it seemed tasty no matter how unfamiliar.

Happy Thanksgiving.  Let us be grateful for God and country today especially.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Back Inside

Today we went back inside our local prison to serve and offer hope through Jesus.  This was the first time since the summer break, and changes in the Mongolian penal system.

Last week's post was about an act of grace letting people out of prison.  I'm pleased to report about Boya, the prisoner who came to Cama last week.  He got some help here with various needs, came to CR on Friday night, was in church on Sunday, and has been here both days so far this week!  He's looking for work and is following leads.

Rebuilding your life from nothing is not easy, materially or psychologically.  The look of fear in his face sometimes is enough to break you.  It makes you understand how some prisoners don't make it long before they end up back inside.  Pray for him.

The good news is that we were back in the prison today with CR and Boya was not there.  In fact, he came into my office after we had gotten back and asked me how many prisoners were there, and did I know any of them?  Not many, only about 4 of 5 did I recognize.  I'm hoping that some who have heard the gospel of Christ, and followed some of the CR steps are finding freedom outside like Boya.  May God grant many the grace to follow Him, and discover how deeply they are loved and valued by their Creator.

Today many prisoners took the first step to rebuilding their lives, by giving them to Jesus.  Our pastor friend led about 30 prisoners to pray to receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life from Jesus Christ.  May God begin to grow them inside, so that they become strong enough to prosper and someday rebuild their lives on outside of prison walls.              

Pray they won't have to ever go back inside prison again.  Unless, God willing, they one day wish to join our team of prison ministers and go 'Back Inside' to set others free.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Act of Grace

Yesterday we heard word that the stores had cleared out all their alcohol of their shelves.

This morning I came into work to hear that 40 local prisoners were granted their freedom over the weekend.  As I was writing this, I got an email that nationwide, over 2000 prisoners have been set free from prison by a special act of grace from the president.

We were excited to hear from one guy who was a Celebrate Recovery participant at meetings at our local Darhan prison.  Then a little later a guy walked into the project center speaking English.  I sort of recognized him, but didn't know from where.   When he took off hit hat, I could recognize him easier with his shaven head.  It was Boya, a 20 year old I had in my CR support circles at the local prison.  CR Teacher Togsoo discovered a need for some clothes to wear, though Boya does luckily to have a place to stay.

We are wondering and wanting to pray for how this Act of Grace in these prisoners lives can be used to further our work as "Hands to a hurting world".  Wouldn't it be great to be able to see some of these lives set free to find Forever Freedom?  It starts with meeting immediate needs like food, clothes, shelter.  Pray we are enabled to meet the challenge.

Oh, why was the alcohol cleared off the shelves in the stores?  It was ordered to coincide with this presidential clemency.  They wanted to give the prisoners the best possible chance at a new life.  I heard that last time many of the repeat offenders first wrong move was taking a drink.  Let's hope Cama services and CR can help keep some off that road.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Hope for Homeless Week #2

Area Mongolians hear a message of hope as they are served tea while waiting for a meal.  Celebrate Recovery volunteers and workers lead this effort at our Cama Project Center.

CR Leader's Greeting - Take 2 Video Posting

Friday, November 06, 2015

Celebrate Recovery Leaders' Greeting

First time posting a video to the blog.  Will it work?

Feeding the Homeless

Our Celebrate Recovery Center started a weekly feeding of area homeless the last week of October.  This is a picture of the first turn out.  Fifteen folks showed up.  Week two, we had 17 people come.  They get not only something for to nourish their bodies, but a little bit of hope for their souls, through a short lesson based on one the 12 steps.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Our Reason for Being Here

Why are we here?  On Earth, the Universe, at this time in history?

I've been thinking and talking with our staff lately about purpose as we've been reading through The Purpose Driven Life together. It's translated and published in Mongolian.

Every Monday morning we're reading through one day of the 40 day plan.  Its going to take more than a 'month of Sundays' to get through.  But its worth it.

Its a little like having a mega-pastor show up to your morning staff meeting to share a message not once, but 40 times in a row!  Perfectly planned, published and respected throughout the Christian world, that Rick's not here in person makes crowd control easier.

So we're giving each person a chance to ask the questions at the end of the chapters, and to take turns sharing a personal purpose statement.  What's yours?

My newly minted mission might qualify as rhythmic poetry, if not iambic pentameter:
          "Man on a mission from God for what’s good and right, 
          through dark nights with the warmth and speed of light."

The Holy Spirit is the only one who can power and fire the light.  I am just a vessel, the bulb, and without Him, a little dim.  Renee may attest to the speed of light part, except perhaps when I'm holding down the couch!  I mainly include my mission statement here to help you think about yours.  And to see if anyone still reads this blog.  Let me know if you do, and whether I was right about iambic pentameter if you know.

What is your purpose?

The purpose of the project center I manage is, as part of CAMA Services International Mongolian NGO, "a Christian NGO that exists to equip and enable Mongolians to organize communities that will improve their quality of living, transform and develop society. To fulfill this purpose, we will work closely with and partner with Government Agencies, Faith Communities, and other NGOs."

Our vision is to see poverty eliminated in Mongolia.  Through our Wealth Development Project we organize people into saving groups and train them how to handle finances.

Our vision is to improve life quality.  Through our Family Counseling services, we offer healing to families who are considering divorce or battling other relationship problems.

Our vision is for a healthy Mongolia.  We offer health teaching and Celebrate Recovery to address people's chemical addiction and healing for all other 'hurts, habits, and hangups'.

What are we doing here?  We were put on earth to bring Glory to our Creator, and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  By receiving His grace and freedom from sin, he puts in us the desire to serve him and help others understand that there is hope.  When trapped people find that freedom, "the angels rejoice in heaven", God is pleased and so are we.

In the words of Esther, one of the greatest hero books of the Bible.  A princess, she was brought to a position of privilege and influence for a purpose of saving her people.

"For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?"

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Out of Gas

Josiah and I were on the way out to the ranch.  A car was stopped in the middle of the road.  We followed the line of cars around it until we saw the driver motioning for help.

He looked like a bit of a shady character when he ran up and asked if we had a tow-line.  I did, and told him I'd give him a tow.  Once we got the line hooked up he asked if we could stop at that store about 200 meters ahead.  "Just for a minute", he said.

I thought that was where he wanted to go, or maybe he would try to get some gas there.  He came running out with a glass bottle of clear liquid considerably higher in alcohol content than gasoline.  It was about nine o'clock in the morning.

We evidently weren't where he needed to go, so he got back in the car and honked for us to keep towing him along.  Soon he honked again, got out and motioned for us to get off the blacktop road and take a dirt road to the right.  He assured me the place was 'close'.

About 600 meters down this bumpy dusty road he honked again, got out and showed me a gap in the fence I should drive through to park his car directly behind his felt tent home.

I was relieved there was another gap in the fence on the other side where we could drive ahead out of his yard and back the way we came.

The man's name was "Turuu". He was very grateful, and asked me my name, and shook my hand.  He wondered if Josiah was my son.  Then he asked what I did.  This was my big chance to let him know I had something that could help him more than a tow.

Fortunately I had something with me to explain this without sounding preachy.  I gave him a card, which explains what Celebrate Recovery is, and where we meet.  This seemed to satisfy him without looking very close at it.

The last thing he said is that his Mongolian countrymen wouldn't stop to help him.  'They're bad', he said.  Then he corrected himself, 'well some of them'.

I'm sure if we hadn't have stopped some Mongolian would have eventually stopped or towed him.  Or maybe he would have had to walk a couple miles back to the gas station.

But would they have stopped at the store for vodka?  God only knows.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Trip to Eastern Provinces Hentii, Suxbaatar, Dordod

Three provincial capitals in 4 nights and 5 days over about 2,000 km, we connected with 4 churches, and 4 organizations. Our services and seminars were offered at 3 churches and 3 organizations. We were well received by all, barring one incident where an immigration officer came to find out who we were and what we were doing. For that in the future we need a letter and itinerary with official letterhead and stamp to show to local officials. Jeremy’s visa was fine.


COMBO Team, consisting of Dawaadorj and Baynaa, Togsoo, Bathoyag, and Jeremy, left Darhan around 7:30 am on Monday August 17th. A brother named Bayarcaixan from Berx, Hentii came with us as a guide and believer who attends CR in Darhan. We got through the city of UB by the airport and Zaisan bypasses, but still encountered significant traffic, especially in the former and finally stopped for lunch in a town named Bayannuur in the Central Province close to the Hentii border about 1:30.

We got into Underhaan, the capital of Hentii, about 5 o’clock pm Monday. We went to a church named Family of Jesus, which also housed an organization called Help International from Germany. We presented our services that evening at 7pm in a huge 20m diameter wooden framed Ger, with a concrete exterior. We were offered lodging in one of Help’s log cabins. The next morning from 11-2, another group of nearly 20 people gathered to hear our services again.
We left for Suxbaatar province from there and stopped in the first town called Monxhaan, where one of our contacts, ChuluunBurged lives and leads a small church. He served us a meal and showed us his church facility, then accompanied us on the rest of our trip. We were 7.

The road into Suxbaatar province was excellent, and we got into town well before the 7 o’clock start to our teaching time. The name of the church is Monxiin Gegee (Eternal Light). They first fed us food, then gathered about 20 or more people for an evening of teaching. I believe it concluded around 10pm. We slept at their church property, most in the meeting ger.
The next day we toured and prayed for the city from the central statue park, and began another session of teaching about 10 am. We concluded by 12 and left town soon after.

The road to Dornon was 200 km over dirt, but pretty decent quality. We could go 30 or 40 mph most of the way. The pasture lands there were green and pretty lush with new rain. We got into Choibalsan about 4:30, and found immediately our contact, Batbold. His welcomed us to his apartment and said we would sleep there. His church named River of Life was very familiar with CR because they already run it. They gathered to hear about it, and family and financial counseling in the third floor room of a local hotel. The next morning we went back there for morning prayer. All of the churches we visited practiced morning group prayer at 7 or 8 am.

We had a 2 pm appointment with a local hospital to hear about family health, so we rested a bit this Thursday morning after prayer meeting, and looked over and prayed for the city from a park or with statues overlooking the city, and also visited a similar Soviet War Memorial. We were treated to a nice lunch at Dawaadorj’s relatives home close by Batbold’s. One of their family is a new believer. Another appears to be connected with a Baptist Church in UB.
The seminar at the hospital on family health had a lot about marriage and relationships in it, and was well presented and well received. We left Dornod directly from that hospital.

The road to Hentii from there was not as nice as the one to Suxbaatar. Portions were new and well done, but others were completely gone or under repair. The dirt portions were wet and bumpy so a lot slower going than the road from Suxbaatar to Dornod. We got held up in Hentii because there was no electricity. So when we pulled into a gas station at 6pm, we were told we wouldn’t be able to get gas until 9pm. So we set off to a closer town on the way to Berx. We made it to the town of Bayan Ovoo about 8pm. They still didn’t have electricity, so we couldn’t get gas. Just after 9pm, we waited for the electric to come, filled up and got underway to Berx, where Bayaraa Ax said we could get something to eat and stay the night. We got there after 11pm, and they sat down to eat mutton about midnight.

The next morning about 7 we stopped by the church there to see and greet them in morning prayer at Shin Exlel Church in Berx. We left town about 7:30am and made it to Hentii by nine for an appointed teaching time at the area prison. Togsoo taught about 40 minutes on CR and the benefits of inner healing for all of us. Jeremy challenged the prison workers to consider passing on the teaching to the prisoners, that they will also find healing in doing so. The local pastor Oggie from Help International attended and promised to help facilitate any support they need to start CR there. The prison guard guy was pleased and possibly in immediate need of CR since it was suspected he had been drinking that morning already.

We were able to depart Hentii then about 11am Friday August 21st. We made it back to Bayanuur again about 1:30 for lunch. We got though UB faster this time, by the same bypass, but still got into Darhan only after 7pm, getting home closer to 7:30pm

We agreed we need to be less aggressive in our distance and scope of services. There 
were complaints that our itinerary and teaching time was too hurried. Going forward, the goal is not for us to promise to return every year or so often, but for these organizations to reach our to or return the visit to learn more how they can benefit from our services. Churches and organizations alike indicated intent to do that very thing. There were internal benefits to traveling together, giving each other feedback about presentations as well. Taking outsiders along from that region with us gives local credence, but has a few drawbacks.
Praise the Lord, the car and gas, and food money all held up, getting us safely back to our own homes and families.

Next time, we hope to head for Arhanghia and Hovsgol provinces, with more focus on our own Alliance Holboo churches as the hosts and recipients. We hope that Lxavga coming with us will enable us to offer Education Center information as well as Financial, Family Counseling and CR ministries on that trip. We will only plan to stop by to greet and encourage Erdenet churches on the way there or home. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Blessed Mongolia National Church Sports Tournament

Jeremy was asked to prepare and coach a basketball team from Darhan for this inaugural tournament.  Teams from churches across Mongolia entered teams in 5 sports from 27 provinces and districts.  Our Darhan team went undefeated until the final.  We were awarded the silver medal at the end of this three day tournament.

Celebrate Recovery Summer Camp

June 11-13 several of our CR volunteers attended camp organized by the Mongolia CR Network.  Testimonies and talks were given on the nuts and bolts and heart issues faced in this intense Christian 12-step ministry.  About 130 volunteers attended from all over Mongolia.  One of the farthest came about 1000 miles by public transportation on mostly dirt roads.  

It was cool during the days mostly and cold at night.  I slept in a ger with some other leaders.  We had to start a fire in the stove both nights.  The food was good and so was the fellowship.  Hiking the nature of the beautiful Tuul River valley was a highlight for me.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Josiah Turns Three

June 8th was worth the wait for the big 3.  Here's some views of the party to mark the occasion...

 Our little buckaroo led the cowboy clothes relay race, which the girls enjoyed too...

Josiah's Birthday Bike

Happy 3rd Birthday to Josiah!

Monday, June 01, 2015

Children's Day

One of the great things about Mongolia is the predictability of the yearly school calendar.

The first day of school is always September 1st.  The last is always June 1st.  They like to end the school year by celebrating the children.  Today is Children's Day.

Johanna and Lydia will participate in a concert arranged by their piano and horse-head fiddle teachers today at three.  Their classmates and parents will be in attendance.

Then usually the whole town of parents and kids and grandkids will flood the children's park, where there will be rides, and fun, balloons and such.  It's a pretty great day to be a kid in Mongolia.  Happy Children's Day!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Port Charlotte First Alliance Celebrate Recovery Team

Jeremy picked up the team about midnight on Thursday, April 30th.  But it was really already in the wee hours of May 1st we got to “Zaya" Hostel in Ulan Bator.

The team seemed very complimentary of the accommodation.  We prayed to thank God for safe arrival before going to bed after 1:30 am.  The hotel keeper lady J*v*a* even prayed with us!  Surprisingly we found out she was a believer and said she attends a big CR church in UB.

The next morning our host made us breakfast and coffee starting about 7.  We showered, packed and left the hostel a little after 9 am.  We drove a short way over to the CAMA Services Office on the 15th floor of the Golomt Tower. There the team went through Orientation with the Field Director.  He showed slides and talked about Mongolia and the history of the church and Alliance here.  The team changed money and paid their per diem fee before leaving the office after 11 am.

We arrived at Ubean, our field business as mission coffee shop, before lunch and met the owner and operator.  Upstairs on the third floor at the Grain of Wheat Center, we visited the Counseling Center and had lunch with our CR Coworker, a IW colleague and his two Mongolian CR Coworkers. 

We left UB about 2:30 needing to get to Darhan about 5:00 pm for CR at the CAMA Services Center.  We showed up about 5:45, in plenty of time for Dan to share his testimony to the group which followed a lesson taught by Dawaajargal.  Togsoo led our support group time and a homeless man with the shakes was in our group.  The team prayed for him and several others after we dinner of fried mutton pancakes.

We got home to the Darhan guesthouse about 8:30 pm, and the team was tired said they slept good Friday night.  

Saturday morning May 2nd, we went to the Seminar that the Darhan Pastors had organized.  That evening the CR Team hosted the Darhan Pastor’s association leaders to a dinner and Pastor Scott shared his testimony with them and fielded questions about CR.

Sunday morning, Pastor Scott spoke at Nik Dovnihon, the first Alliance Church planted in Mongolia.  Pastor Bob spoke at Living Word in New Darhan at 11am, then again at 2pm in Old Darhan’s “Fellowship” Church.  We all enjoyed a quick bite of Chinese food between services.  

Sunday evening at 4:30 began our first CR Seminar at the HOST hall, the same place where our Alliance and the “Fellowship” churches meet.  We estimate about 180 people attended.  After Dan gave his testimony, Pastor Scott gave a talk on the 7 features of CR.  Then Steve gave his testimony, and the big church divided into small groups. The pastors were all invited to sit with Pastors Scott and Bob.  Dan, Steve and Jeremy were all in the same support group with the translator, Baggie Pastor.

Monday morning was a rest time.  Jeremy picked up the team from the guest house at about noon.  The team toured the International Worker Kid’s school inside the Host building and had lunch with the Host (Kingdom Leaders Training School) Staff.  They spent the afternoon with Mark Wood, Host Director, and bought some souvenir art pieces before they left. Monday night, Dan and Steve shared at Living Word Church’s CR at 6pm.  Pastor Bob also attended. Jeremy translated in the men’s support group time.  The local AA leader sat in our group and said he hasn’t quite believed in Jesus yet, but is learning to appreciate Him.

Tuesday morning the team helped with our CR Center duties at the local sober tank and prison.  Steve’s testimony at the latter was really effective and reaped souls.  God even provided an inmate to translate for him.  His funniest comment was that translating the prayer to receive Christ was hard, because he himself wasn’t’ a believer!

We came back to CAMA Services to a lunch served in the CR Center, especially designed for volunteers serving in CR at their churches.  Once again the team funds for daily meals helped to cover the cost of these Mongolian’s lunch and provided an encouragement to them.  The question and answer period then was meaningful, but cut a little short because the local people didn’t all come on time.  Then the team visited and learned about the financial freedom and family counseling projects at the CAMA Center.

Tuesday evening at 5 our second CR Seminar started.  Pastor Bob told his testimony, took a break, then gave a talk on the 7 Pillars of CR.  Pastor Scott finished off the Seminar by telling his testimony.  We divided into small groups again then team meeting with pastors, this time Jeremy translating.  It seemed a divine time of sharing for many of the pastors battling deep spiritual and physical obstacles in tough places of ministry.  

As after a big day of ministry, the team had dinner in the Darhan guest house, together with Jeremy.  We talked over many aspects of CR, cross-cultural ministry.  It appeared to Jeremy and others agreed that God had showed up in scheduling meaningful moments of ministry in Mongolia.  The seminars and serviced rendered here by the team served to familiarize people with CR, and encourage the pastors and laypeople to pursue healing from the Lord. 

Wednesday morning we packed the suitcases in the car, and came to Jeremy’s home again for a time of prayer.  We stopped at the half way point between Darhan and Ulan Bator for lunch and coffee.  Then we stopped for pictures near a statue of a camel and took pictures.  But the team wanted to see inside a Mongolia “Ger” or traditional wool felt tent.  We stopped to pick up a hitch-hiker, and he invited us to his Ger home, and also two of his nearby neighbor’s homes as well!

We got into Ulan Bator and the CAMA Guesthouse there in the afternoon, rested a while, and walked down to the State Department Store.  There we found the food court and Pastors Scott and Bob ordered Mongolian “Bodes”, steamed mutton dumplings.  Dan and Jeremy ordered similar dishes, but Steve ordered the spicy pork.  That proved a significant event to effect his night’s sleep unfortunately. We spent most of the evening however letting the team shop for souvenirs.  

Thursday May 7th was the last day for the team.  It started at the Field Office across the hall from the guest house, where we debriefed the trip with the Field Director.  Then we went back to Ubean Cafe for more coffee and meetings with Brent Liberda about the CR situation in UB.  We had lunch there as well and talked a bit about future plans for partnership in regard to CR.  We talked about Port Charlotte First Alliance being one of our biggest CR Alliance churches.  

We in Mongolia are grateful for the partnership opportunity that began many years ago with a conversation of our Alliance International Ministries Vice President.  The CR Team that First Alliance sent to serve Mongolia did a great job and made a kingdom investment here.  God bless you in sharing your hearts and recovery through Christ.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Church Basketball Tournament

Disciple Making Authority

As a believer, you have the authority of Jesus to make disciples.  And so do I.  But both of us are highly prone to forget this, instead receding into ‘niceness’, hoping people will guess we’re Christians and ask us if they can be one too.

But this past weekend, I got asked by the local pastor’s association to serve as a referee for the annual inter-church basketball tournament.  The referee’s whistle was a new experience of authority to me.  I’ve always loved playing basketball, but never ‘judged’ many games before.  That’s the word they use for referee in Mongolian.

From 12 churches, 13 teams competed for about 13 hours!  The seats were full of excited spectators, mores that most of the tournaments I’ve seen here before.  The players were also pretty excited and got a little over-zealous a few times.  I had to separate a couple guys who looked like they forgot they were believers for a minute.  One of them still looked angry, so I called him over to me.  He didn’t hear me.  

But his pastor was right beside me playing on his team and wanting to inbound the ball.  I didn’t need to blow the whistle again because his own pastor’s voice got to him through the roar and distance of the gym.  He came trotting over to us.  His pastor said, “you need to ask forgiveness”.  Silence.  I took the whistle out of my mouth and said, “just say the word OK” and we’ll play ball.  “Za” he said, which means okay.  I blew the whistle, handed the ball to his pastor, and away we went.  No more problems or fist to cuffs.  

This was a discipleship moment may not have happened had the whistle reminded us both of our authority to make disciples.  

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Freedom for Captives

Celebrate Recovery a Way to Freedom for Captives

CAMA Services Center in Darhan, Mongolia offers Celebrate Recovery services.  Our center and services have a long history of visiting area prisons.

This month already our teams have visited two of the closes to Darhan.  A teaching on the 12 steps of recovery helps prisoners to face the choices and hurts in their life ended them up in jail.  Accepting their own wrongs can open them up to the idea of forgiveness and healing.  This is the same for all of us, whether we’ve been in prison or not.  Jesus said "everyone who sins is a slave to sin." (John 8:34)  Jesus came to set the captives free.  (Luke 4:18)

Many people in prisons are still too hardened to believe in Jesus immediately.  But we share our stories of finding healing and salvation from life’s problems.  Today we taught from the 12 steps which helps entitled "healthy mind".  After then lesson, in a small group surrounded by incarcerated men with shaven heads, we sat on the floor and opened up for sharing.  This is a place where even believers can benefit from sharing their own failures as scripture commands: “Confess your sins to one another, that you may be healed”.  If we’re asking non-believers to open up in this way, should we believers being doing so too?  

If not, be careful that sin doesn’t creep up to take you captive again.  Some prisons are spiritual and though they may not have bars and guards, they are just as real.  Scripture in teaches that those resistant to the gospel should be "gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.(2 Tim 2:26)

Friday, April 03, 2015

Good Friday

It's a grey day, and looks like it could rain, but I doubt it will.
Like a long ago day when the sky turned dark at mid-day.
These spring days after snow melts away
Leave dust, dirt and mud in every way

Soon the green of spring will come up and cover the tan
Of bones, bottles, baggies and road-scarred land
Like natural new growth of grass its Author rose in spring
And served new life eternal with nail-pierced hands.

Thank God the new and beautiful grows from what is old and ugly
Like being grateful something good will replace and grow where its muddy
God went through hell and dark days, even suffered murder bloody
So that new life and strength of weakness would replenish the wore-out earth.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Easter Greetings

Here we go getting ready for Easter weekend.  There was a few years ago a sunrise service on a hilltop outside Darhan.  People froze on that frosty morning.

This year I hear no talk of an outdoor service.  But an early morning prayer service instead is planned at our church.  Then instead of 11am, we are starting the service at 10.

It's funny that before you know it, Palm Sunday is gone and Good Friday is almost here.
Happy Early Easter.  He is Risen!

Friday, March 27, 2015

CR Seminar Weekend

It's funny how fast time goes by.  Its already a week since I last wrote on here.

Last weekend was busy with prayer retreat here in Darhan.  This week we are preparing for our Spring CR Seminar at the CAMA Center.  Like last time, the Mongolian leaders want me to set the tome with a word from the Word.  I will preach Ephesians 5 again.

But first I will start with one of their own Mongolian proverbs, which says, 'Reach Age 40, and then Just Taste' (a drink).  It sounds poetic in Mongolian, even though its a command.  The question is, has anyone ever obeyed it?  You and I were warned by our parents and teacher about what's right and wrong, healthy or not.  Have we listened?

Why should we be surprised when we reap what we've sown then?  It's a hard word I know.  But if we don't accept our own fault and wrong in where we end up life, every effort to change will be fought, mostly by our own pride and selves.  I think realizing our own faults and faulty choices is the way to overcome stubbornness.

The main reason I want to share from Ephesians 5 is because of verse 18, which tells you what not to do, and then ingeniously gives you something to do instead.  "Do not get drunk on wine, which yields to debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit"  God's Spirit gives us insight into and frees us from temptation.  But spirits we drink just give you a hangover.  On top of that sometimes it gets you into debauchery.  The hard truth is that people may start to desire things a certain age or stage.  The problem is that the debauchery you desire is not alway the only kind you get.  Disease, death, divorce or worse can come from drunkenness.  "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5:22,23)

One of the miracle things about the Spirit of God is there is no cost.  He is free in another sense to do what He wants as well.  Our seminar has a $2.50 price tag for two days of teaching, snacks and meals.  The tuition won't cover our costs.  And it won't buy the Spirit, who was sent from Jesus and the Father to believers to do good in this world.  He only comes by obeying the Word, and by grace at that.  But He can heal your heart, and expose and end the pain that we try to numb, manage, or medicate by various means.

So hopefully some people will catch the vision to start Celebrate Recovery in their own church or community from this Seminar.  Last seminar we hosted, a pastor came with one of his disciples from their countryside church.  A couple months later, they started CR in their town.  We will be happy if that happens again after this weekend.  They are Celebrating Recovery and drawing others with steep mountains to climb.

I am looking forward to friends from our old countryside town coming this time.  May God get the glory and growth for any seeds that are sown.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Grace Unlimited

Is there a limit to how much grace God will give?  I think the people of God could debate this for a long time.  It could be a more productive argument than that of eternal salvation being guaranteed or losable.  I think these kind of dialectic conversations can help open up our hearts and keep us from running to extremes.  "It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes." (Eccl. 7:18)

Is God's grace scarce, or in short supply?  There's a good list of extrememes to avoid before the above quote in Ecclesiastes 7.  One is being over righteous.  Are you tense?  Angry?  Scared?  When I am, I rarely admit it.  Once I'm over or through it, then I'm more open to talking about it.  But what is the medicine that helps me get over what ails me?  It's not more anger or fear.  That just shuts me down or makes me run in other ways.

The medicine is grace.  Like a lot of elixirs or antidote, it has to be used in the right way and correct dosage.  Using it everyday just because it feels good would be like continuing to take morphine years after the pain from the surgery was over.  Like the wrong use of chemicals, I would argue it is possible to abuse grace.  That doesn't mean God is short on grace, or runs out of it.  But like a doctor He might change treatments,  When we stop responding to grace or abusing it, He might need to use some of the other tools in the box.

Truth and Law are also valuable tools in the hands of God to heal and set us on the right path.  Because some people might abuse grace, should I never use it?  That would make about as much sense as not taking the antidote for poisoning because too much of it could kill me.  Well not taking the right dose of the antidote of a snake bite is equally fatal.

Grace through faith in Jesus is the antidote to Sin and its wages, Death.  Jesus came "full of grace and truth", and was also the fulfillment of the Law.  He obeyed it all so we don't have to and will never be good enough.  Jesus is good so we don't have to.  But once we taste His pleasure, he gives us the desire and ability to please God, because we want to.

We'll never be perfect in this body and world, but by God's truth and grace we can be sure of perfection in eternity.  In the mean time let's make sure we use grace without losing sight of truth. The Good News Translation states the same truth slightly differently: "Avoid both extremes. If you have reverence for God, you will be successful anyway."

Thursday, March 19, 2015

New Post

I think this is going to be kind of an open letter to the person out there that reads this blog.  Everyone else can sort of listen in if they ever check in.  First, thanks for reading.  Second, thanks for mentioning I haven't updated since the last time you read.  That lets me know you care enough to check back for new info.

I just changed the way my home page opens when I open my internet browser. One of the icons sitting there to be opened was a big B for Blogger.  So here I am blogging.

It's pretty encouraging to have Pastor Roy and Donna visiting here from Pennsylvania.  To be able to see what we do and hear and what God is doing through fresh eyes, is a breath of fresh air.  They visited the three projects here at the center today and were impressed.  We had lunch with the whole staff.  After we talked about further education, training and leadership, but mostly about relationship.  I thought this was going to be a long blog.

But my coworker at the CR Center just came in and reminded me about our step study we lead at 4pm.  That's one minute from now.

Other events in my day included a long talk with a Mongolian pastor we work with, seeing a former employee in our CR Center who I had to fire last fall.  Taking the rice-maker back to the Bible school, running Roy and Donna back to their hotel.

Maggie and Anika came into the center a few minutes ago and I hear their guitar lesson from here with our Mongolian CR Center worker named Bathuyaga.  It's good to blog now and then.  I hope this little web log shed a little light on all of us.  I'm late for a step study by 2 minutes.  But in Mongolia, I still have time to be early.  Good day.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

'Your Other Head'

Josiah and I went to the barber a while ago.  When I emerged without a beard, he wanted to know what I did with my 'other head'.  So also recently my beard had grown back and we were home and asked me again: "where's your other head?"  That was my first clue maybe I needed a haircut.  Sure enough we went to the barber again this week, and he asked me again afterward: "Where's your other head, dad?"  Kids say the darnedest things.

I heard his Mongolian teacher at pre-school thinks his language pronunciation is perfect.  Not bad for a two-year old.  He must be getting some vocabulary into his "other" head.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

"Only You" by Michael the Mongolian Songwriter

I believe it was about November 2005 when I first heard the Mongolian song "Only You"

We were up at the prison outside of Darhan about 10 miles.  After some Bible reading and testimonies that were mildly received, I was amazed by the way the prisoners joined in with the singing of this song to God with heart and feeling.  The chorus really reminded me of a Native American melody or something of a soaring battle cry in a minor key.  

Today a friend of mine from church stood up to talk for a little bit.  He was talking about this song and about how he had been through some terribly lonely and painful times.  I happen to know his story well, and that he never knew his father, and was raised by his mother and brothers until he was nine.  At that age his mother died, and he spent 8 years in orphanages in Ulaanbaatar.  

On top of that when he was a toddler he suffered an injury that disabled him.  Throughout his youth he went through many surgeries, which helped a little.  But he still walks today with a severe limp.  These are only the beginnings of some of the struggles he's endured.

"Only You" starts something like this:

"When I was sad and alone,
Only You were there...
Lost in the dark
You heard my prayer
By your own great Light and Love
You lo-ov-ed me"

then the chorus...
"Only You in my Life
Gave me faith and hope,
Only You by your own great love,
Loved me"

It is a sad song but is sung in churches because it touches to the depths of faith, hope and love.  Since that day in 2005 at the prison, its been my favorite Mongolian praise song.  

Now to hear my friend stand up in church today and tell about how he came up with these words soon after getting saved in the year 2000.  And later a friend of his coming up with the melody, they had each been used by God to create a beautiful piece of art for the church and kingdom.  God sent me the very author of these words to be my friend and fellow church-goer.  One church lady was in tears as she celebrated God sending us such a talented writer of a song sung all over Mongolia.

After he shared the story of the song, he played and sang it beautifully and we all sang along.  This was before the sermon and rest of the service.  But even after all that the people I talked to were still a little watery-eyed, his and mine included.  It wasn't hard to give my friend a hug and tell him great job.  

God bless Michael, whose Mongolian given name means Live-Forever.  I'm so glad he is in the family of God, where by the wounds of Jesus, he found a home in heaven, and a fullness of faith, hope and love forever.  May God get the glory from his story and song.

Weakness Turns to Strength

Today's sermon was about Hanna, the mother of Samuel, from the first chapter of 1 Samuel.  Hanna was a beloved married wife but her womb was barren.  So she begged God for a child constantly in the Temple.  She begged so fervently that the priest thought she was drunk while she poured out her heart to the Lord.  She promised she would dedicate her child to the service of the Lord if he would open her womb.

He did and she did.  "After he was weaned" Hanna took Samuel to the Temple to be raised and trained by Eli the priest.  Samuel was much more faithful than Eli's own sons, and was called and grew to become a great prophet in Israel.  He would later anoint the first Kings of Israel, Saul and David.  All this greatness sprang from a frailty in the flesh, which God overcame by hearing the prayer of a grievous woman named Hanna.

There were several good illustrations of strength coming out of weakness.  A pearl, jumping, and an arrow, are the three I recall.  A pearl is a response to a foreign invader into a living organism.  Then the oyster kind of cries, and makes a white surface around the sand way the preacher explained it.  Then this happens again until it becomes a pearl.

The second illustration was about jumping.  Anyone who has tried to jump high has discovered that the lower you get, the higher you can jump.  So our lowest points morally or spiritually were meant to illustrate the depth and height of God's love.  Keeping those lows secret robs God of glory.  But making them public gives us great power and glory to God.

The last similar illustration is the pulling pack of an arrow in a bow.  Ever feel like you're being held back?  Maybe its all for a purpose, so that when the time is right, you are released to really go far.  If you're only pulled back a little, you won't fly very far.

There was also one more about the Disney elephant Dumbo.  His ears were his shame growing up, but when he grew up and realized their purpose, they carried him to higher heights than all the lows of shame and teasing they had brought him.

The challenge at the end was that when God does his work of turning our weakness into strength, let's be among the 10% who come back to him and gratefully serve, and giving him glory.  Let's not be among the 90% who remember God when things are tough, get our prayers answered and then go back to our old life serving self and forgetting God.

Admitting our faults is to find true and lasting strength.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Goodbye Grandpa

Grandpa Bisheimer

I first met Renee’s Grandpa Peter Bisheimer at our wedding in Ohio in 2000.  A tall man, he loved his little gal, Grandma ‘Jenny’, who was with him then.  He accompanied and cared for her well, which I saw again when we were with them for the second time, in their condo in Fort Myers Florida a few years later.  

In 2005, as we were getting ready to go away for four years overseas service, Grandpa and Grandma came up to Ohio to say goodbye.  It was great to see what a loving patient man he was, already eighty years old, reading to 2 year old Lydia on his lap.  I remember saying when he was saying goodbye to 2 month old baby Johanna, ‘this is so sad’, because we didn’t know if either of them would be there when we got back.

That farewell in Ohio was the last time we got to see Grandma.  But in 2009, we went to see Grandpa again in Florida.  He hosted us all of us at his home and helped us on our way to Disney World.  He was so outgoing, and a friendly neighbor.  I remember everyone saying hi to ‘Pete’ around his condo.  

One morning he brought us all to the poolside ‘country club’ for a pancake feed.  I remember the girls really liking that, everyone liking Grandpa, and him being proud of his grand and great-grand children.  

He loved sunny Florida and liked to take us out to eat and to the area attractions.  He took us golfing, to the beach, and to the “Shell Factory”.

One time after he had moved back to Ohio to be closer to family, I told him I was going down to Florida to speak in a church, flying into Fort Myers.  He didn’t miss a beat, and quickly quipped:  “You can say hi to my bartenders”.  

It tickled me because though he may have had some of those in his early years, I never saw him take a drink, other than iced diet decaf pepsi on the rocks.  

Grandpa was a gentle man of faith to me.  He was the last grandpa I had, and maybe the one I knew best because he happened to live the longest.  I will miss his humor, handshake, friendship and presence as the family ‘patriarch’.

Two wars couldn’t end his full life of 90 years. I look forward to seeing Grandpa on the other side.  With him there, I know heaven will be a festive place to be.  

Welcome home Grandpa.  We love you.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Ice Sculptures and Lights for 2015

Ranch Ice Skating

Shell's barnyard proved the best skating rink in Darhan for us on Christmas Eve.

Project Center Christmas Party

Joy to the World

 The girls were asked to sing a song for Christmas in church at a Sunday morning service.

A Great End to a Good Year

Merry Christmas from Mongolia 2014 

Dear Friends:

It’s fun to reflect on all the food and presents and blessings of Christmas, especially after the frantic pace of preparation is finally past.  Christmas this year was a bountiful one for the Bergevin family.  The girls sang Joy to the World in church the Sunday before Christmas.  Johanna was especially joyful in singing.  

We started Christmas eve with a luncheon at work with our 12 Mongolian staff members of the project center.  Aggie, a young  mother and our cleaning lady agreed to cook the meal.  She decided on horse meat as the food of honor for the festive occasion.  She then borrowed a pressure cooker from the security guard Shinee, who did not know how to use it.  Neither did many of the rest of us.

As the preparations and smells were bustling about Cama Center, Renee’s head poked in my office door to say that horse grease was all over the kitchen and Shinee had burns on his face.  I set out for the store leaving the mess and smell in search of last minute items and burn ointment.  

Shinee fortunately escaped without blisters and was seated beside Renee when we finally sat down to a beautiful banquet to sing Silent Night and pray a blessing over the food.  The meat was tremendous.  The pressure and spicing must have been perfectly done because it was tender, flavorful, and moist, if a little cold from waiting for everyone to come to the table.  Praise the Lord there was no hint of that smell of a frothy horse rode down on a hot summer day.  Previous horse meat experiences have been so.

Dawaa, whose English name is David is the leader of Cama’s Financial Freedom Training and the Alliance Association of churches in Mongolia.  Dawaa told the story of Jesus’ birth, and explained the meaning of the word Christmas, and many of the symbols that surround the holiday, all pointing to Jesus, born to bring us eternal life. After the talk, he led us through Games with prizes. Though young, Dawaa is married to Bainaa, Cama’s Family Counseling Leader, and also the father of two young children.  He won most of the games, a new bible and did all the dishes as well.

Next we picked up the kids and new-to-Mongolia colleague Chelsea for some ice skating.  She was visiting from Ulaanbaatar where she teaches English after coming in August from Ohio to serve here for a year.  

The skating rink we planned to go to was packed with people.  Probably forty students circled on one end, while a hockey team in full gear filled the other.  Bad music blared out of blown speakers.  The people in the skate shack treated us like attraction in the zoo.  No wonder celebrities go so crazy.  Rather than be driven that way too, we drove away.  
The hockey rink by the sports complex looked promising when we pulled up.  But inside the fence there was grass poking up through snow.  
So off to our friend’s ranch we drove.  Their ice rink is a flooded part of their  barn yard, but the best in town for a peaceful Christmas eve skate.

Dusk brought bitter cold and the sinking feeling there was still a lot of Christmas shopping not done, and most stores closing about seven.  We stopped by the ‘Stuff Mart’ about six on the way home for a ham dinner.

While Renee put the finishing touches on Christmas dinner, Maggie, and Johanna needed to go to the pet store to shop for Lydia.  They got her some fish and asked me to hide it for them until Christmas morning. We got home to eat about 7:30 pm.  After dishes, Renee and I went out, both needing to shop a bit more, awkwardly we found out, for each other.

Most everything was closed, so we didn’t get each other much.  We got home about 10 pm.  We got the kids in bed and started to put gifts out at about 11.  We got into bed after 1 am.  

Mercifully, morning came just before 8 when Clara and Johanna came into our room announcing: “Merry Christmas!  There’s presents out there!”  We opened presents for about two hours or more.  The kids started right in on all the candy they had been given so there was no hurry for breakfast.    

Except for Josiah who opened a box of Apple Jack cereal, his favorite, and watched the rest of us open presents while he ate a big bowl of his present.  

We finished unwrapping around ten in the morning.  More coffee, then fried  eggs with last night’s leftover ham.  About the time we were wondering what kind of starch we would have with them, a knock came at the door. Mark and Toby Wood held out a fresh pan of cinnamon rolls from Cinda.

We had nothing planned the rest of the day until evening.  At 5 pm we arrive at church in time to greet the folks at the Christmas celebration.  But we couldn’t stay because the Darhan pastors had arranged for the whole body of Christ to sing Christmas carols in the center of town square at dusk.  

Unfortunately both events were supposed to start at five.  We figured they would start late so we showed up for caroling carrying our candles at about 5:35.  People who had showed up at five were already cold and tired of waiting.  We waiting about 15 more minutes before someone appeared behind a microphone to announce that the song leader was late.  A few minutes before 6 a group of singers and a man with his back to the crowd began to make some noise.  It was a mixed scale rendition of Silent Night.

We tried to sing loud enough to drown out the out of tune chorus ahead.  In the mean time, the cups they handed out to shield candle flame from the breeze were wax-coated and highly flammable.  Several had to be stamped out on the freezing concrete slab on which we stood.  After the first song, the singing improved and we all sang in one single chord. 

New believer Tobo came with his two kids.  Though they didn’t know the songs, but enjoyed holding the candles.  One of the kids singed a piece of the fake fur on his or her hood.  

The cold was unbearable.  Renee had to take Josiah to the car before it was over.  Lydia was also too cold to stick it out and followed suit.  

While we waited for the Wood family to meet us for dinner, we went to the theater square, where out front was a huge lighted Christmas tree about 40 feet tall.  More amazing than that were the 12 ice sculptures surrounding in a circle. Several pieces had colored lights inside them and all the ice was crystal clear.  The most amazing one was one of a Mongolian countryside  herdsman couple in traditional dress.  

Now it was 6:30 and time for our reservation at the Chinese restaurant.  When we talked about going there for Christmas, someone suggested we may need to sing “fa ra ra ra ra ra” and have roasted duck ala The Christmas Story.  But our waiter was Mongolian and we mostly ate sweet and sour chicken.  It was great as usual.  The fried spicy stir fried mutton, not so much.  But we took it in a doggie bag.  There was a kid who had been asking for food on the way in.  He was still there when we went to leave, and asked Renee so we gave it to him.

We got home in time to start Its a Wonderful Life with Chelsea.  It was fun seeing it with someone who hadn’t seen it much before, like seeing it anew.  Maggie and Lydia joined, but Johanna, Clara, and Josiah went to bed.

We were able to sleep in the next day a bit.  About 9:15 am the video calls with Ohio began.  The kids got to see the Papa and ‘Grandburger’ along with Uncle Aaron and Ashley.  Then Lydia had to go to her horse-head fiddle lesson.  Afterwards, the kids went out sledding.  

Jeremy joined Dawaa on a visit to our Cama employee’s home because his wife, who also used to work for us, has terminal liver cancer.  Dawaa anointed her and we prayed for healing and comfort.  I think she and her family were encouraged by the visit, and hopefully we will better know how to help them and support them in this trial after seeing them.

Around 4 pm, as the day’s light began to fade, we all pulled on our snow pants and warm clothes, grabbed the sleds and piled them and ourselves into he car.  We drove up the hill on the south side of town, parked facing north downhill toward Darhan and piled out and onto the sleds.

Johanna’s new red plastic one was the champ in new snow, but the yellow wooden one was a blazing bomber on the packed down dirt road surface.  Josiah’s new red sled ended up with a new hole in it when a sister rode it.

Dusk fell and the cold followed.  All piled back in the car and eased down the hill and into town.  The girls complained about cold toes.  The kids sat with Chelsea in the car as Renee and I went into a store to return the boots she got for Christmas, which were a half a size too small.  Then we dropped by the ice sculptures again and took some pictures.
Then it was home for Renee’s hot beef soup which some wanted to call chowder.  It was award-winningly good, especially after sledding.  Unfortunately she was unable to make rolls because the replacement bread maker part she got for Christmas was somehow the wrong size.   

The Wood family came up and we played cards.  They went home about ten.  We all had pie and sat down to watch the rest of Its a Wonderful Life.  

It was a wonderful Christmas, with plenty of food, fun, love and presents.  God be praised He is God with us in Jesus, Emanuel.  May we all sense his Love and presence in the gift of Life through the new year and eternity.

Merry Christmas from All of Us,

Jeremy, Renee 
Maggie, Lydia, Johanna, Clara, and Josiah

P.S.  We went to Ulaanbaatar on the 27th for New Years.  We enjoyed Pizza Hut in Mongolia!