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!