Monday, August 18, 2008

From Sukhbaatar to Ulaanbaatar to Seoul to California!!!

Hey all!

So, the team is now back in the United States. We left from Seoul, Korea, on Tuesday at 2 PM, and arrived in San Fransisco on Tuesday near 8 AM. Crazy, huh? =P We had a couple hours at the airport, and then we took two seperate flights out. I flew up to Oregon to meet up with my family (which is where I am now), and the rest of the team flew back to LAX.

Sorry that we havn't posted anything about the last couple days in the country. It's been sort of hectic the morning of finals. We got to the Center at the usual time, and Mr. and Mrs. Aspinwall began to make copies of the tests, while Mr. Cragoe and I finished up designing the certificates that we were going to hand out to the students. We had two seperate certificates; one for if a student passed, with our signatures, the Center's seal, their picture, and their passing grade. The other one was for those who didn't pass the class; it had all that the other had, minus the passing grade. Thankfully, only two students out of both classes scored under a 70 (the passing grade).

The tests went off without a hitch; the last thing that the students had to do was a 5 minute skit (in English) featuring one of the topics that we had covered over the course. The students paired up with 3 or 4 other students to write and act out these skits. We had some pretty awesome (and hilarious) results. One team acted out a Mongolian fok tale about the "Wise Hedgehog":

A Hedgehog and a Rabbit get into an argument one summer, over who gets the apple that fell out of a passing fruit cart; to decide the winner, they challenge eachother to a race, which is to take place the following morning. Now, the Rabbit thinks that he will beat the hedgehog without a problem; afterall, he is the fastest creature in the forest. But, meanwhile, the hedgehog formulates a plan. He goes over to his twin brother's house that evening, and explains the crafty plan. The next morning, the Rabbit and the Hedgehog meet at the starting line, ready to race. They count to three, and set off. The Rabbit takes off like a thunderbolt, and is at the finish line in next to no time. Yet, to his surprise, the Hedgehog has already arrived before him. The Rabbit cannot believe his eyes, so he challenges the Hedgehog to race again. The Hedgehog agrees, and off they go. Again, when the Rabbit reaches the finish line, he finds the Hedgehog already there. Frustrated, he finally admits that the Hedgehog is faster, and deserves to have the apple. What the Rabbit doesn't realize, is that the Hedgehog's twin brother was also at the race, waiting at the other end. When the Rabbit started off, the Hedgehog lagged, stopped and turned around to go back to the starting point. When the Rabbit reached the finish line, it wasn't the Hedgehog that the Rabbit saw, but the Hedgehog's twin brother. That is the story of the Wise Hedgehog.

That's my shortened, badly written version of the story. =P The group did a great job acting it out, with dialogue and even some Hedgehog Hats.

After the groups performed their skits, it was time to add up all of the scores and fill out the certificates. We gave the students ice cream and had them play games while we tackled this. Once we had the certificates all filled out and ready to go, we presented them to the students in an Award's ceremony, one at a time. Then we continued to play games, and reminded the students of the bible study that was to take place in the Center the following night.

Friday afternoon, most of us went to the river with Becca, Weston, and Tugee, the neighbor boy. It was Grace, Rachel, Joe, Mr. Cragoe, and I. It was a great time, floating down the river. We even got into a mud war. Rachel and I got the worst of it all over our faces, making jokes about "Mongolian facials". But after we washed it all off, we both admitted our skin felt softer.

Friday night, the Mongolian believers usually have a bible study (in Mongolian) at the Center. For this week, they had asked us to invite any of the students that we wanted to bring... we invited all of both classes. Mrs. Aspinwall and Becca had also invited the family owners of the Felt Factory that we had gone to see the previous weekend. We didn't really know who would show up for sure until Friday night, when the study started. Tsenguu and Munkuu came, and this time Munkuu brought his sister, Sanaa, who was also one of our students, and his father. The Felt Factory family came, and so did another student from the adult class. I was really excited to see these people there. The whole night was exciting and encouraging, really. The first bit of the bible study I didn't understand, as it was taught by a Mongolian in Mongolian. The teacher was the husband of Ariuna, the head of the Center. His family had had us over for dinner the previous week. I tried to follow along with some of the scripture reading, but that didn't last. Later, I was told that he gave his testimony, and followed it with a challenge (though I never did figure out what that challenge was). After that, Mrs. Aspinwall gave her testimony, with Ariuna translating. She also presented the "Wordless Book", a colourful bracelet that she handed out to everyone. The bracelet explains the whole Gospel, with each colour representing a different event or element. It seemed to be recieved extremely well, with only a couple technical difficulties with the translating. Everyone give a hand for Ariuna. =)

After bible study, the Mongolian believers presented us with gifts, and presented Joe with a birthday cake, complete with the song (it was his birthday on Saturday). Following that, the games broke out. Somebody had given Mr. Cragoe a traditional Mongolian game, consisting of sheep's ankle bones. It was played like dice; each side of the bone represented a different animal. When you rolled a "horse", you got to move one space ahead. Munkuu and Sanaa spent some time teaching us how to play. We also played Mongolian Uno again with Magnai; he had taught us at the lake on Sunday.

Please continue praying for every single Mongolian that was at that bible study for their first (or second) time! It was so exciting to see them there, and I pray that the missionaries there in Sukhbaatar and UB will be able to connect with them and build relationships that lead to the Lord. That really was the whole point of this trip.

The next morning, it was time to leave Sukhbaatar. We said goodbye to Becca and the kids; Peter and George were the ones driving down. We took two cars. No trains this time.

We spent all of Saturday morning driving down to Ulaanbaatar, and arrived in the early afternoon at an apartment that the Sukhbaatar team owns (and uses for such trips to UB). It's the same one that we stayed in when we arrived in the country. Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning were filled with sightseeing and shopping; we went to Sukhbaatar Square, the "National" Department Store, a cultural show, out to dinner for Joe's birthday, a massage, and a monument towards Mongolia and Russia working together in WWII. One the walk down from the monument, Rachel, Mr. Cragoe and I came across a man with an eagle. It was 1,500 Tugriks for us to hold it (about $1.50). We paid it, and took lots of pictures. =)

Sunday evening was our flight out of Mongolia. Peter drove us to the airport, and walked us in as far as security, giving a few last minute tips before he left. We all have said Peter is one of the most hospitable, obliging people we've met. We said our goodbyes, headed through security, boarded the flight, and left Mongolia. The consensus was that we were all sad to leave, but eager to get home at the same time. Regardless, we had a long trip in front of us.

It was a few hour flight to Seoul, Korea, where we stopped for a delayed layover; two nights and a day. We basically had all day Monday. In the morning, we visited a historical palace near the edge of the city. After lunch, we split in three ways: the girls went shopping, Joe and Mr. A went to the hotel for naps, and Mr. Cragoe and I headed out of the city for a hike. We were to meet for dinner at 7. Mr. C and I headed to the outskirts of the city via subway, sort of figuring out the lines and stops as we went along. I still don't think we had it all the way figured out. We got to our stop, eventually found our way to the trailhead (partially following a guidebook's instructions, partially following our gut). It was said to be a 4 hour hike; Mr. C and I were pressed for time, so we made it in a bit over 3 hours. Unfortunately, it was a cloudy day, so the view from the peak was pure cloud, but we got a peek of the city about 3 quarters of the way up, through the trees. It really was a great view. Definitely a hard hike though. There were countless loose-rock stairs (think upwards of 5,000), a heavy backpack to carry, and mostly-all Korean signs that we pretty much had to guess on. We took turns with the backpack, but I have to say Mr. C carried it more than I did (it was, afterall, his backpack). I'm really glad we went; it was a real great experience finding our way on the trails, in the somewhat confusing subway system, and meeting some random people from different corners of the world. We were an hour late for dinner, by the way. =)

The next day we left for the U.S. After a pretty noneventful flight, we arrived! I headed up to Oregon, and the rest of the team headed home. And here we are. =)

Thank you all so much for taking the time to read what went on with our trip, and most importantly, praying!!! I really feel that God used this trip in a lot of ways, for a lot of different people. Pray for the Mongolian Sukhbaatar church too; their starting to really grow on their now, and God's guidence is needed in all the decisions they have ahead of them.

Thanks again you all, and have a great remainder of the summer!

Go with God,


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Hey all!

Here are some pictures from this weekend. They're all from Mr. Cragoe's camera, cuz we can't load the one's from our other cameras, due to technical pickiness. =P

Go with God,


Sukhbaatar Square
The "Mother Tree"
All of us together, the day Julie left
Playing "Mongolian" Uno at the Lake

Flippin' Flapjacks for the American Breakfast
Mr. Aspinwall and Munkuu
In the Felt Factory
The Girlies!
it's just the way it is..

Dinner at Ariuna's
Mongolians walking
View of Sukhbaatar from an evening stroll
The Police Station

Last day of Class =(

Hey all!

Well, Mr. Cragoe and I just finished up our last full class time today... and Mr. and Mrs. Aspinwall are in the middle of theirs at the moment. I just took off my piggy nose; the topic today was wisdom, in honour of which we acted out the Three Little Pigs.

Tomorrow is the final test, including two written tests, one on the idioms and one on vocabulary, a oral pronunciation quiz, and their final projects, which they have been working on since the beginning of the class. The final project is for groups of 3-5 to perform a five minute skit giving an example of one of the concepts that we've discussed. Most of the students seem to have enjoyed this thoroughly, staying near half an hour after class in order to work on it. I can't wait to see what they've come up with. After the test and final presentation, we're serving ice cream and just "hanging out"..playing games, talking, etc. Twil' be good. =)

We've had a few students drop out since Monday; our class total today was 13. We hope and pray they will come back to the school for classes, so that they may create and build on relationships with the families and Mongolian believers here.

We got most of the students' email addresses today, so hopefully we can stay in contact with them after we leave. For the most part, it seems like the students have really enjoyed the class, with all it's topics, silly skits, and songs. One girl in our highschool class gave Gracie a postcard, with a little note saying something along the lines of, "I am very glad to have met you, Grace. I hope we will be friends forever". Today after class, Nomuun, one of our students, came up to me and said, "I am very glad to have met you and Dave. Thank you." This sort of thing is so encouraging!

Also, today at the end of class, we invited the whole class to come to the bible study held here at the Center on Friday night. Tomorrow we'll follow it up and see who's interested. After that, it's in God's hands who comes.

Keep praying for all of these students!

Go with God,


p.s. wow! One group of the students just came in and asked me what the word is for a "rabbit's beard" (whiskers). They've been here since the end of class, in the library working on their project, for more than an hour! They're skit is called "The Wise Hedgehog". They said it's very funny. I can't wait. =)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Hey, Mr. Edsel (and everyone else), it's Dave. For those of you who don't know, I think I'm related to Mr. Edsel, as much as I hate to admit it. It runs in the family, what can I say. Speaking of which, "it runs in the family" is one of the idioms we're teaching in our classes. We've been having great fun teaching these classes and dialoging with the students. They catch on quickly and seem to be enjoying themselves. We have been learning things along with them, like not to follow words like "ship" with "sit." The results can be a bit embarrassing, just ask Brook.

It's about 6:30 p.m. here on Monday. I'm in the computer lab with Brook and Joe. Rachel and Grace are home helping Becca Bunnell with chores and babysitting. They trade off with Joe every other day in coming to the center or staying home.

This weekend was very interesting as we visited the Mother Tree on Saturday. It was especially interesting for me from a pest control standpoint: all those pigeons--what a mess! And I wonder what comes out and night and eats up all the food left there. As an Arborist, I was appalled at the conditions the poor trees were subjected to: literally thousands of pounds of junk hung all over them, the soil compacted hard as a rock and the roots worn down and bare. Not to mention the acid conditions when it rains and all that tea turning into, well, tea. As a follower of Jesus, I was saddened by the darkness and oppression of these people and their animistic practices: worshipping the creation rather than the Creator.

Sunday, at the lake, I wondered how much water I could swallow and not get Giardia given that this is a watering hole for thousands of livestock. So I tried not to swallow. Later, I pictured the Mongolian Church gathering here for baptisms. Please pray for that to happen soon. Oh, and Mark, sorry to burst your bubble, but I'm the one who hung the wire cross on the tree.

Food here has been interesting and good. Much of it comes from China, except our bottled water. It's from Mongolia. Some of the slogans on the bottles include "Voyage Mineral Water: Much better taste than others" (as long as it's better than some, I suppose it's good enough) or "APU Natural Mineral Water: Pure ground water of Bogd Khan mountain formed 800 thousand years ago." Leftover communist propaganda, I guess. The "Voyage" water says, "To be stored 6 months." Hmmm, aged nicely, I see. So you can see there is a need for proper English instruction here.

I guess that's it for now. Ruthi, I love you and miss you and all of our 14 children. I hope the business is going well. Maybe you could check on that for me.

Love to all,


Hey all! So, here are the pictures we've been promising forever. These are still of before Friday. We'll try and get more up from the weekend soon.

Go with God,


English Classes


You asked how the actual English classes were going. In short: Great! The students are probably a little worse at English than we expected, so we have to be careful with our presentations - to make them simple. But Dave & Marla, Brook and the kids have been hugely creative - working out skits and songs and puppet shows. I just do what they tell me. You should have seen our version of Goldilocks and the 3 bears featuring Brook as Papa Bear, me as Mama Bear and Dave as Baby Bear. I'll try to get them to post some pics tonight.

Our classes are designed for lots of interaction to get the students practicing their English. I don't think Mongolians are used to this. So it took a couple of days for the students to get into the swing of it. But, now it's working great. As we sit outside of Dave & Brooks class, we hear animated conversation, outbursts of laughter and applause. That has to be a good thing.


Weekend Update

Hi, Mark here. It's Monday afternoon. Dave & Brook are finishing up with their class. Marla and I will start ours @ 5:30.

Bottom line: I'm very encouraged. Here's why:

1) The 'American Breakfast' idea worked great. The goal was to get some personal conversations going-- and we did. Almost all of Dave & Brook's class showed up on Friday (17 students). They invited two of the students to come to the Friday Bible study -- and two showed up (one they had invited, and one they had not invited came anyway).

We (Mark & Marla) had ten of our students show up for our Saturday morning breakfast. (There seems to be higher attrition in our class. It may be because we're not as fun as Dave & Brook). But, the whole gang hung around talking and singing songs and playing Uno until almost noon. In the process, I think we discussed spiritual things with almost every one of our students. We'll be looking for opportunities during the next couple of days to invite them to the Mongolian Bible Study next Friday (Thursday is the final examination & Ice Cream Social).

The invitation to the Mongolian Bible study is a great, natural transition -- allowing us to "hand off" our students into the care of the local brothers and sisters.

2) The Mongolian believers are excited and stepping up to the mark. Last Friday night they had 6 new folks. Three of them we had a hand in inviting; three of them had been invited by local believers. In God's providence, unbeknownst to us, the Ariuna and her sister Enkee had been talking to the felt factory owners about Christ. We showed up on Saturday, saw their artwork (Jesus & Mary, Buddhist "god" and nativity scene) asked if they believed in Jesus (they said "I want to...") and invited them to the Bible study. Ariuna was blessed and suprised to see them at the Bible study. Right after the Friday night meeting Ariuna was on her cell phone calling the new visitors and inviting them to the Sunday picnic at the lake. (I wish I had such follow through). Including a dozen Americans, we had about 30 folks at the lake on Sunday. It was fun and relaxing -- a great way to introduce the newcomers to the family of God. Pray that God will continue to expand their vision and give wisdom on how to establish a truly Mongolian church.

An interesting note: a prior post told about the Mongolian custom of hanging colored scarves on certain "holy" trees for good luck, etc. I noticed, at our picnic, that someone had hung a coat hanger, shaped into a cross, on the tree next to where we were eating. It is fascinating how Christianity get's re-translated into each culture.

3) The American long-termers are faithful and wise, and are letting the Mongolians take the lead. That is what is needed.

4) Suprisingly, it seems that Christianity has sort of reached "critical mass" in Mongolia. I've heard from a couple of different (Mongolian) sources that it is not as strange to talk about Christianity as it was a few years ago. It seems that there are enough believers that it no longer seems like a bizzarre foreign cult. People are willing to give it a listen. One of our students was telling Marla that Mongolia has freedom of religion, but there are really only 3 religions in Mongolia: Buddhism, shamanism and Christianity. It's nice to be on the list.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Good news!

Hi - This is Marla. Great News! Seven new Mongolians came to the Friday night Bible study and many of the existing believers who had not come for a while also came. Two visit0rs came from Dave's class and one lady we met at a felt factory we visited during the day. We started talking to her and invited her to the study only to discover that two of the Mongolian Christian women had also been witnessing to her. She not only came to the study but also came with her family today to the Lake. The other visitors were invited by other Mongolian Christians. It seems that our visit has inspired a lot of excitement. The Bible study was lead by a Mongolian and he did a wonderful job (or so I was told - it was all in Mongolian). He was very nervous because it was his first time teaching a group but Peter Bunnell said that he did an excellent job and inspired a lot of discussion around the concepts of sin and grace. The Mongolian believers were so excited. This was the first time that they ever felt like they were ready to actually start their own church. They decided that they want to start meeting on Sunday as well as the Friday night study and they started by inviting everyone at the study to have "Borhok" at the Lake today, Sunday. They all came and we had a great time. Borhok is the traditional Mongolian feast of mutton, potatoes, cabbage and carrots pressure cooked in a Milk cauldron with hot rocks. It was really good!

We are having a wonderful time and the kids are doing great. Brook is doing a wonderful job teaching and Joe, Rachel and Grace are taking turns helping with the teaching and helping Becca at home to take care of the kids and make meals, etc. We are very proud of all of them. We could not ask for a better team. We have all had many opportunities to talk to Mongolians about spiritual matters. Keep praying!



The Weekend

Hey all!
So, it's Sunday night, after a full (yet great) weekend.
On Saturday morning, we had our American breakfast for the adult class. The adults seemed to like the pancakes more than the highschoolers did; a fact that we have yet to understand. Again, the breakfast was a huge success. Most of the students stayed til after twelve, talking and learning songs from Mrs. Aspinwall, or playing Uno with a few of the rest of us. I was helping with flipping pancakes and cleaning dishes with Rach, Joe, and Grace til near the end, but joined in on the game for a few minutes. I have to say, it was the most competitive game of Uno that I've ever played. =P

After the breakfast, Peter took the team on a quick walking tour of Sukhbaatar. We had two of the students from the adult class; one of which, Otgoo, is actually training to become a tour guide. He told us a bit about the history of Sukhbaatar. (It means, literally, "Axe Hero". He was a leader of Mongolia in the late 19th/early 20th centuries.
At the end of the walking tour, we walked to Sharon's apartment for lunch. Sharon is the short-term member of the Mongolia Team. She's halfway through her two-year stay here in Sukhbataar. We ate lunch, hung out, and watched a bit of the Olympics (in Russian).
After leaving Sharon's, we stopped by home to drop the kids and Becca off, then Peter took us to the "Mother Tree". The majority of Mongolians are animistic, and leave offerings, scarves, and incense at this imposing tree in order to elicit it's help. The tree was completely loaded down with scarves; red, for health, blue, for peace, white, for education, and so forth. It really is an important culture point, but it was quite sad to see all these people fruitlessly worshiping creation. Before leaving the place, we paused to pray for the people and beliefs of Mongolia.

Today (Sunday) we walked over to the Kenworthy's for a goodbye breakfast for Julie, a Peace Corps employee (and also a strong believer) who has been here for the past two years. The long-term team here has gotten to know here over the past couple years, and it really was a bittersweet morning for everyone, as our team has had the oppurtunity to spend some time with her in the last week. Be praying for Julie, as she's leaving tonight.

After breakfast, the team, the Bunnell's, the Kenworthy's, and Sharon all met up with the Mongolian believers at the In-Motion center. There were also a few non-believers, two of which, Tsenguu and Munkuu, are from Mr. Cragoe's and my class. We all headed out to a lake about half an hour outside of Sukhbaatar, and spent the afternoon swimming, talking, and eating *true* Mongolian barbeque. A few of us (Mr. Cragoe, Rachel, Joe, and Mr. Aspinwall) joined Magnai, Tsenguu, and others to learn a new "Mongolian" way to play Uno. It's quite fun, and much faster paced than regular Uno. We'll have to teach ya'll when we get home.
This whole afternoon was a great time, getting to spend time with the Mongolian believers. Also, continue praying for Tsenguu and Munkuu. They both seemed to have a great time today, and I'm hoping and praying the love of God was shown to them.

Mr. and Mrs. Aspinwall should be posting more (and more detailed) about this weekend! For now, I'm a bit pressed for time. We're having breakfast for dinner tonight, and my waffle's up. ;-)

Go with God,


P.s. we'll get pictures up from this weekend either tonight or tomorrow at the school! We still have those other pictures we've been promising on a computer at the school, so we'll try and get those up tomorrow as well.