LAX (Gate 148)
I’m sitting here surrounded by my people (mainly adolescents glued to their iPhones) – except the only problem is that I feel like an imposter. I look like them (albeit tanner), but can’t understand half of what they’re saying or speaking (no thanks to you, Mom #totallynotbitter). A layover in Beijing is going to be extremely interesting, to say the least.
But I digress (as I usually do).
I’m headed off to the mystic and enigmatic land of Mongolia – a country that has always been on my this-will-probably-never-happen bucket list. To say that I’m excited would be an understatement. Why am I gallivanting off, yet again? I FINALLY get to lead a Quiet Hour mission trip! It’s been 7 years in the making and I still don’t think I’m ready…but then again, if it were up to me, I probably would never feel ready to lead a mission trip.
Inadequate. Unequipped. Scared. Mentally unprepared. These are just a few words that come to mind if I were to describe how I’m feeling right now. I always anticipated that I would be on fire and ready for whatever is thrown my way. Unfortunately, I feel quite the opposite. (Surprise! Keri Mau is human too!) However, this is probably a really, really good thing. I was reading a blog post this morning that really hit me. It said, “God is not working toward a particular finish – His purpose is the process itself. What He desires for me is that I see ‘Him walking on the sea’ with no shore, no success, nor goal in sight, but simply having the absolute certainty that everything is all right because I see ‘Him walking on the sea’ (Mark 6:49). It is the process, not the outcome that is glorifying to God.” (From utmost.org “God’s Purpose or Mine?”) This reminds me of the first Quiet Hour mission trips I went on in 2009 to Fiji. Pastor Joedy Meleshanko (sp?) had read us a story and in the end told us, “It does little good…to make the trip and miss the journey.”
God is working in each and every one of our lives. He’s not so much concerned about our destination as He is with how we get there. I’m confident that He will be working in my life as I lead this mission trip – as I talk logistics with the local conference, as I interact with the locals, as I get to know our team, as I report back to headquarters. I know it’s not going to be an easy journey, but I know I will become a better person at the end of it, and that’s what matters.
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia (hotel room)
The past 24 hours have been a whirlwind. Slept for most of the flight over to Beijing (which should come to no surprise to anyone who has ever spent long periods of time with me in any type of transportation, although, to be fair, it was technically past my bedtime…) and then had a few hours of layover there. Annnnd, yupp, people had no clue I was an imposter. They all spoke to me in Chinese, but by now, I’m pretty good at the I-kind-of-know-what-you’re-saying-but-I-need-to-look-clueless-or-else-you’ll-talk-to-me-more-in-Chinese look. Our flight to Ulaanbaatar was delayed a bit due to inclement weather, which, BTW, if you thought SoCal’s smog was bad, think again. Beijing’s smog issue is WAY worse than you could ever imagine. Count your blessings, folks!
So, something to note about me – I tend to get the short end of the stick when I’m traveling. This time was no exception. The suitcase that Quiet Hour gave me to take over here got flagged. (Side note: This has happened to me before in Panama…definitely inwardly groaned when this happened yet again…) I was taken to a small room where they motioned me to open it. Inside of said suitcase contained more than 200 pairs of reading glasses (to give away during our eye clinic), boxes of ibuprofen (for our free health screening clinic), stuffed animals, and t-shirts. They kept talking amongst themselves and finally asked if I had a bill. This confused me for a moment until they told me that all this stuff was taxable. Now, the problem with that is that because all of this was donated, I had NO clue how much this was all worth. I explained this to them multiple times, even when they motioned me to write it down on the form. I offered an official letter from Quiet Hour explaining why I had all the supplies and even told them I’d call them. They talked amongst themselves (this also included multiple side glances at me), and they brought in more than six different customs officers, plus they called different people on the phone. Of course I was praying hard the whole entire time! After what seemed like eternity (realistically, it was probably only 20-30 mins), they motioned me to close the suitcase and one of the officers told me to, “Have a pleasant stay!” And that was that. WAIT. WHAT JUST HAPPENED?!?! Honestly, I have no clue what all went down since they were talking in their local dialect and didn’t really explain anything to me. All I know is that I didn’t have to pay any tax on the contents that were in my suitcase! PTL!
Two of the local church ladies (and one of their cute daughters) were there to take me when I finally left the small holding room and they whisked me away in their tiny car. Ulaanbaatar is a big city, but not the type one is probably used to. There aren’t any towering skyscrapers or a skyline in general. The only word I can think of to describe this place is: vast. It is wide with many buildings; busy with many cars. There are beautiful rolling hills behind the buildings that I really want to explore. However, it’s not quite like any place I’ve ever been to. I usually can find many similarities between different countries I go to, but so far, in the limited time I’ve been here, I can’t seem to find a country that this reminds me of. But then again, I didn’t really expect to. Who knows, maybe I will find similarities by the time I leave!
After checking into my hotel room (and before you criticize a mission team for staying in a hotel, it is quite…sparse), we walked across the road to a large market. This market has tons of vendors in small stalls all selling the same merchandise (depending on what section of the market you’re in). I’m still not really sure how they chose which vendor to buy from since they all looked the same to me and seemed to have the same prices. We bought a few simple groceries since there isn’t really any place close by that sells food and the hotel doesn’t have a running kitchen.
Whilst unpacking some things, I found, to my dismay, that China airlines had confiscated my power bank and lithium battery for my Nikon that I had placed in my check-in. Apparently, those two things are not allowed in your check-in. This is the first time I’ve encountered this while traveling since I usually put those two things in my check-in to make my carry-on lighter. Just something for you travelers out there to be aware of!
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia (Hotel room)
At the end of yesterday, I was feeling pretty confident about things. I had a ton of time alone in the morning to regroup and rejuvenate plus the meeting I had with the two local pastors in the afternoon was quite productive.
However, after waking up this morning, I was met with a dump truck of problems and issues (trip related and personal). It’s as if God is trying to tell me…”Hey, you still need Me, remember?”
I’m reminded by situations like these that I really can’t do this alone and that I really do need Him in every aspect of my life.
Please pray for one of our team members who is having issues getting a visa to come over here! I’m confident that God can get him over here, even if it’s a few days late, and if it’s His will.
Today is a new day with new challenges. I’m ready for them, but only with His help.
“Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and will show thee great things, and difficult, which thou knowest not.” Jeremiah 33:3 ASV
Layover in Beijing.
My current POV. AKA, my backyard.
I briefly woke up during my first flight to snap this…sunrise?