Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Mongolia Report

This past June, my parents and I went on a mission trip to Mongolia. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to see and participate in God’s amazing work in that country.

We spent most of our time in Khenti, a province in northeastern Mongolia. It consisted mostly of grasslands full of wildflowers. Distant mountains on the horizon marked the end of miles and miles of sky. This beautiful country is very sparsely populated (about 3 million people in 1,565,000 square kilometers). Most of its people are nomadic herders who live in gers (also called yurts/蒙古包). Each county has a central town (though by Taiwanese or American standards theyre really villages) with stores, gas stations, etc. Some people build wooden houses in these centers; others pitch their gers in the town, often in a relative’s back yard.  Others live in the countryside and only visit the county center to buy necessities like food and gas. Outside the central part of the country there is no running water, and all roads are made of dirt.

In Mongolia, my parents and I worked with an organization called V.E.T. Net. Based in Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar, V.E.T. Net was started by a group of Christian veterinarians to help provide veterinary training. Veterinarians are vital for a society so centered on herding. Yet veterinary training isn’t very good; some veterinary school graduates have never even worked on an animal. V.E.T. Net provides training and high-quality medicines to help these veterinarians serve their communities. Since it is a Christian organization, it uses this to open doors for the Gospel.

V.E.T. Net’s mission expanded over time to include other kinds of teaching. One program called Claim a County sends pairs of teachers throughout Mongolia. They run summer schools for the herders’ children, teaching English and Biblical principles. Some children only get to attend school in the summer because in the winter their families live too far from the county center. The English lessons attract many children from grades 1 to 12, and night classes for adults often begin, too. All the teachers are Christians, and frequently, the love they show to the communities lead to churches being planted. The program is very well-received. Some county leaders even beg the teachers to stay beyond the three-year limit.
My parents and I traveled to several of the counties involved in the Claim a County program. We traveled with my father’s friend Morris (an American who has done many short mission trips to Mongolia), a Mongolian driver named Jagaa, and the president of V.E.T. Net, Ganzo, who translated for us. First we visited a few areas where the program was over to encourage believers. My father led devotions for both our team and local people every day, except for one day when I led devotions. Morris, a businessman, led workshops about budgeting and personal finance. We also spent time talking to the locals with Ganzo’s help and listening to their stories.

We spent three days at the first county center and then moved to a second. But next day we heard some terrible news. A van carrying some teachers who planned to meet us had rolled over. We rushed toward the next county center, where my parents, Morris and I were supposed to wait while Ganzo and Jagaa went to help the accident victims. A local Christian leader went with us. Eventually, we reached a point where the road was so flooded that we could not pass, so we turned to find another route. But then our van sank into the mud. After a lot of pushing and gathering wood and stone to put under the tires, we realized we couldn’t get it out. My parents and I got in the local Christian leader’s car with Ganzo and drove toward the next town center looking for a truck to pull our van out. We finally found a ger with a truck outside, only to discover that the truck was out of gas. We agreed to buy gas at the next county center, bring it back and pay to use the truck. My parents and I were dropped off at a dormitory where we would be staying.

Ganzo and the local Christian leader got the truck, pulled the van out and went to get the other van. Meanwhile, we received a call from one of the teachers who had been in the accident. She was only a bit bruised, but the other teacher had injured her arm. The driver had seemed fine at first, but it turned out he had a concussion, and at this point its effects were just becoming plain. But no one at the dormitory knew enough English to explain this to us. All we were told was, “The driver … his body is very bad.”

Praise God, our team was able to pick them up and bring them to the hospital (really a clinic) in the center where we were staying. The next day Jagaa drove them back to Ulaanbaatar to get medical treatment. Now, they are all safe and recovering.

The county where we ended up was in its first year of Claim a County. We worked with two wonderful teachers, Mogi and Nara. I spent lots of time with Mogi, the English teacher. Her “textbook English” was excellent, but since she didn’t have much contact with native speakers, she had some trouble with pronunciation. So she had me teach the students all the new vocabulary, read passages out loud and generally help in the class. The children were very enthusiastic and eager to ask us questions about ourselves. They were divided into two classes: grades 1-6 and grades 7-12. Eventually, Mogi divided the younger class in half because of the age difference and the class’s size. It had over 40 students. I really enjoyed getting to know Mogi. She was a very kind young woman who clearly cared about her students and wanted to be the best teacher she could be. My parents and Morris visited Nara’s character education class and said she was also an excellent teacher.

After four days at that county center, Jagaa returned, so we moved on to one more county center. We couldn’t sit in on classes there, but we brought the teachers some supplies. We spent the night in a ger and then got up early to make our way across the bumpy dirt roads back to Ulaanbaatar.

I was continually amazed at the faith, generosity and hospitality of the Christians I met in Mongolia. The country is mostly Tibetan Buddhist, and Christians are an extreme minority, so they experience a lot of pressure from neighbors and relatives. But they have a truly inspiring love for God and for each other. The work I did in Mongolia was only a small contribution to God’s mission there, but it is a contribution I was honored to make.

1 comment:

  1. fantastic glimpse as to how different it can be to navigate in an undeveloped country! Your experiences reminded me of my own experiences in Russia 13 years ago when I first went there with a group. Thank you for going to Mongolia, Elizabeth. And thanks to your parents, also!