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,