IN THE COUNTRY SIDE / EN EL CAMPO
Hello friends, it’s almost been 2 months sense our last update and for that reason this edition will be full of stories for you to read. Therefore, prepare yourself, grab yourself a cup of coffee, for we hope you enjoy as much as we enjoyed that last few weeks.
During the final weeks of May and the first few weeks of June we were adjusting to our new home, new job, new country, and new friends. All that time looked like trying to figure out how everything works here, trying to learn a few new words in Mongolian, looking for where to get things we needed for our home, figuring out how our organization runs and attempting to evangelize all at once. However, little by little all of our focus adjusted to preparing for our upcoming trip. We bought food, clothes, equipment etc. Also, we prepared different resources for courses and training that Aemilii I would be giving.
For this trip, it was planned that we would work in 4 counties in Zavkhan province: Tes, Bayantes, Asgat and Numrug. In each county, there is a small town and in each town the idea is to give summer school classes to the children. Teachers were sent to each county to teach English, Character, Gymnastics, Preschool classes, Math etc. There were 4 teachers per county: 2 teachers to give elementary and middle school classes and stay in the local school dorms. The other 2 teachers were the preschool teachers. They gave classes to children from age 2-6 who lived outside of the towns. In order to do this, they set up 2 Gers (yurts) in the countryside. One was for the classroom and the other for the teachers to sleep, cook in and well live in. This way, the nomadic herder families were able to bring their children for the day.
Aemilii and I traveled with the province director and driver. First, we went to each county to leave the materiales to the teachers and help prepare and begin classes asap. After this, we spent about a week in each county helping the teachers in the English classes, and giving English classes and computer classes to local adults. We were able to connect to the children by spending time with them playing volleyball and other organized activities in order to build friendships in order to have the opportunity to share our faith outside of class.
So, finally, the day to head out on our trip arrived and I will try to tell everything in chronological order as well as add pictures. Before anything though, we had to make it to Zavkhan province. That meant we had to drive more than 1000 km (more than 700 miles) through mostly paved roads but beaten due to the harsh climate in a car that, let’s just say, doesn’t have the best shock system. It took us 2 days of travel. We traveled through mountains, calles, rivers, deserts, forests and small towns. We saw animals from camels, yaks, cattle, and many many many horses, sheep and goats.
And then we arrived to the closest county. We immediately started to help build the preschool Gers (Yurts) and deliver materials. That same day we continued on to the next country and that’s where the paved roads ended. We traveled 120 km on dirt roads to the next county to stay in the dorms. The next day was pretty much the same: setting up the Gers and delivering materials then move on to the next county until we made it through all 4 counties.
The first town was Tes, which was located the farthest way of the 4. In this town we were able to give classes. Aemilii helped with the summer school English classes and together we taught an adult English class. We met the mayor and were able to organize a computer class. He asked specifically for help in PowerPoint and video production. I taught the class to government officials, local teachers and military members of the community. This week, the local christian pastor of a house church invited me to preach. It’s very rare to find a church in such remote towns. It is rare to see even 5 believers. The truth is there is lots of work to be done. After the Sunday celebration we were able to spend time in fellowship with the believers and go down by the river for a BBQ (of course sheep BBQ), games and good conversation. During those 5 weeks in the countryside we ate a variation of mutton in almost every meal in various forms from soup, sheep with rice, sheep pasties, sheep doublings etc. To be honest it was hard to say goodbye to this cherished town after just one week. We had started to establish friendships and developed strong relationships with the children. Well also the town had really nice showers and well that’s not always the case in every county.
The next county was Bayantes, this week the strategy was going to be similar, but in the countryside the government moved up the Naadam celebrations by a week. So this week we weren’t going to see many classes. There’s because two days were holidays and full of competitions and the next day many people rested from all of the festivities. It was very special to celebrate Naadam in Bayantes and share them with the students. Here we did not teach adults but we helped more with English classes for the children.
The following week we were in Asgat, most of the time we were not in the city but instead stayed where we set up the preschool Ger which was about 20km from the city. This is a very nice location near a river and very close to the Russian border. There, at least 20 children per day came to receive classes. We camped there and spent several days without cell service, without electricity and without much water. It was a very nice experience, and we spent some quality time with the teachers and the husband of one of them who took us there. Actually this coupy live in the town above (Bayantes) and are two of the very few Christians in the entire county (less than 7, as we understand it).
Finally, we move on to the last canton, Numrug. We spent more days there, we saw the last days of classes, we helped with the English classes, we shared with the children and with the teachers. We got to help the children prepare a presentation which involves an activity where the children present to their parents songs, dances and some of the things they learned in the classes. After this, the teachers from all 4 counties met us there to spend a couple of days together, and then we returned to the city.
The trip in general was an amazing experience. First, saw how God has allowed us to reach the ends of the earth and share with the people there. We better understand the need there is and how we can be part of it. The truth is that there is a great need, people who have never heard absolutely nothing about Salvation. People who have heard but it is a very difficult decision for them to make because of the pressure from their families and Buddhism. Buddhism is not like we see it in the movies (passive, a peaceful lifestyle, many times they even say that it is not a religion, it is a philosophy). No, it is extremely oppressive, controlling, ritualistic and very interested in money. Then there are the few people who have heard and accepted the gospel, but are new in their faith with a great need for discipleship of our brothers in Christ. The need in Mongolia is great! As for physical needs, perhaps the most difficult is lack of water. Water is both a necessity and a luxury in many places. There are rivers and wells, but there are no pipes. The cold is so cold that it freezes pipes and tanks. We learned to "bathe" with a 1-liter bottle.
The last days of the trip were quite hard, we were sick for various reasons. But despite this we are happy with this experience, excited for the next trip that we do not know when it will be and for the amount of work and opportunities that there are for us to do. And for others who want to come.