(I’m SO behind on posting….sorry!)
It’s interesting to watch how people interact with each other and transform after a few days of being together. I was a tad bit worried about the dynamics of the group in the beginning since we have such a large age gap (young and old), but it’s turned out quite nicely. I’m pleasantly surprised and I continue to learn so much about each person as the time goes by.
Friday was spent preparing for the weekend as well as getting to know the different church sites more. Ideas were formed at each site – I really wanted each group to really take ownership of their program and am happy to report that both have and I’m so incredibly proud of them!
Planning at Site 1
Sabbath was a super long and tiring day, but so worth it, of course. I got to hop back and forth from each site with the film crew so I could keep an eye on both places during the day.
Sunday was a complete blast! Our group got to attend the Danshig Naadaam, a traditional Buddhist festival that is only held twice a year (we got to go to the semi-naadaam, or the mini festival). The festival is held in the middle of nowhere, basically, and there are tons of people, vendors, and horses all around. It’s kinda cool to see these random horses all over the festival – but it’s a thing, and totally normal. We got there in time to see a bit of the traditional dancing, but the really exciting thing was seeing the horses race to the finish line! I’m not entirely sure how long the race was (in our heads we were thinking about actual horse racing in circles), but it was quite a distance. When we arrived, they were roughly 20km away from the finish. We saw a cloud of dust before we saw the actual horses…and there were a LOT of them. The thing about the horses here is that they’re relatively small horses. This means that the humans that ride them need to be even tinier. And boy, were they small! I’m pretty sure they were no older than 10 years old or so. (Or so it looked…). Some of them played dirty too, whipping no only their horses, but those around them too. There was even one kid wailing away with his helmet AND whip. It was pretty crazy.
A few people decided to ride camels – which btw, Mongolia camels are the only ones with two humps! Then we ate lunch where us non-veggie people got to try traditional flat dumplings which were delicious. Before we left, a good portion of our group tried out their archery skills, which was quite entertaining, to say the least.
Today we finally got to start our clinics! We had a basic health screening that included testing people’s blood sugar and their blood pressure and giving some health advice based on those numbers. Our team were champs and saw 50+ people in the first day. I facilitated the eye clinic and since we only have one translator, it was just myself and Purue. I’ve never had this happen to me in the 5 times I’ve helped/facilitated the eye clinic, but since she’s had so many eye issues herself, she was able to catch on in the first 20 mins of us starting. I basically just sat there as she talked and listened to the patients. Since we’re focusing on only reading glasses, it was a lot easier as well. This is probably the least stressed out I’ve been while dealing with the eye clinic. This allowed me to run over to the ger district where the other half of the group was helping out with a Pathfinder’s/Children’s program.
The ger district was on the outskirts of the city. The hills are covered in sectioned off land with brightly colored roof-tops mingled with their traditional houses – the ger (or yurt, if you’re in Russia, apparently). Might I pause a moment to mention that the people here in Mongolia are so genuinely kind and hospitable? Because they are and so much more!
The film crew (who I bummed a ride off of) was able to interview a couple that have dedicated their lives to serve their community and spread love and the Gospel. Bolo and her husband live in the ger district, on top of one of the hills (a prime spot) and have started a Pathfinder’s club (scout’s club) to reach their neighbors. Their ultimate goal and dream is a big one, but I’m confident that they’ll reach it. They’re hoping to have a Christian broadcast station – TV and radio, a church, a clinic, and a daycare in that area. Lofty goals, but they’re already well on their way to achieving it. It was so inspiring to hear their story and talk with them about their ministry. I’m certain that if I come back and visit in a year or two, so much more will unfold in their lives.
Wow, so much has happened in the last few days – I haven’t been able to keep up with blogging.
I’ll just touch on a few things of interest right now.
- Pastor Filip (one of our youth pastors that came with us) has led out in our youth friendship ministry that they are starting here at the UB (Ulaanbaatar) Central Church. The plan was a little ambiguous in the beginning, but as time passed, the group was able to come up with a pretty cool idea. There is a basketball court right across the street from the church and they decided to have a 3-on-3 basketball tournament to get the community youth engaged. It was well attended and they were all invited the next few nights to play games at the church fellowship room. Quite a few youth have showed up so far and it’s been exciting, not only for us, but the church as well, to have this type of engagement. The vision and hope is for this to continue and gain interest in the church as a safe haven. Who knows what will happen in the next few months and years?
- The pastor and his wife celebrated their anniversary while they were here and we surprised them with a cake during dinner! These people have been so hospitable and have sacrificed so much to take care of us (HoHo, the wife cooks all our meals while taking care of 4 small children!).
- I was hoping no one would get sick during the trip, unfortunately, half the team has one-by-one been getting some sort of 24-hr stomach bug. Wade was the first victim and then I, world traveler, of all people, got sick the next day! I was so frustrated since I hardly ever get sick while traveling, especially THIS sick (I couldn’t even get out of bed because I was so nauseated). I’m thankful for the whole team for rallying behind me and doing what they needed to do during the day (we were changing hotels that morning), and especially to the film crew for taking over and giving me meds while I was bed-ridden (shout out to Bryan, Rachel, and Andy!).
- After resting in bed all yesterday (I did have to leave the hotel room twice to run important errands, but this was after the worst was over), I finally felt well enough to be in command again. Today was spent having many meetings and conversations about different projects, financing, and scheduling issues for the remainder of the stay here. We’ve worked out a good portion of them, thankfully, but, as Pastor Joedy used to say on his mission trips, “It’s always something.”
(Side note: I actually still felt pretty sick by the end of the day…too much, too hard, but the show must go on!)