Peru continued….  

First morning, we woke up to the smell of breakfast and new friends. We had a small three person team from Philadelphia joining us for the week.

It was a very busy week of work. It’s hard sometimes to look back on a trip and write. And almost impossible to write (at least for me) while on a trip. Instead if giving a play by play and every detail of each day I think I would rather keep this simple and to the point.

God spoke to me while in Peru. I watched very dedicated people persevering through things I cant imagine. I can’t image starting a children’s ministry in a cleared away section of a giant garbage dump. Among the smell of burning trash and dirt and grim. The day we rode into ELIM was one I will never forget. Like I mentioned in my last post about Peru, I get motion sick. We rode into ELIM on a very bumpy dirt/ garbage road. People who had been before said ELIM is an oasis, they said it was beauty in the midst of decay. And I must say, I didn’t see it. Not at first. I was getting motion sick and then we picked up a ton of children and they piled into the bus, triggering my minor cloister phobia . Bumping down the road I tried to smile and hide the fact that I thought I might lose my lunch any minute. We get to ELIM and the children get off the bus, my panic starts to subside a tiny bite and then I smell the dump. My eyes welled up and my stomach churned. I felt nauseous and like I was in the wrong place.

My mind, well my mind was talking to God. Are you kidding why is this all about me right now?  Help me suck it up and be happy and have joy for these children. God how can I be thinking of me right now how selfish am I? I was very distracted while there and during many other ministry activities we participated in during our week of service in Peru. God revealed my selfishness and self centirdness. He helped me see this in other areas of my life and the need for change in my heart. He taught me about focusing on Him and how he sees everyone.

I saw the perseverance of the couple doing ministry together and was deeply touched and it ministered directly to my soul. Seeing this couple singing with the children and dancing and sharing so much joy with them helped my heart change and become totally different. It was in that moment I saw the oasis everyone had told me about. The beauty among the decay and black smoke.

I feel like my experience with them helped to replace my heart. Like God reached out and took my old nasty encased in steal heart and replaced it with the new caring, mushy, vulnerable heart. One that cares and loves more and better then I ever thought I could or would want to. I felt this change start before I left and this just finished the job.

So, my trip to Peru was amazing and life changing . We helped a few amazing ministries and now they have a building that’s painted and some new sports equipment. They have more people who will probably be helping on a long term basis and they can better continue leading children towards Christ through sports. And I got a new heart. Seems like I got the best part of this trip. Didn’t even feel most of this till I got home.

So, instead of this post being about all the good we did in Peru. I guess it’s more about all the amazing work Peru did in me.

I will try to get some pictures up soon with more information about the work we did and more about the ministries we served while there. But, this is the message God put in my heart to share about Peru right now.

Not sure if they will read this but I want to say thank you to Brent and Stephanie for all the love they show for these children and for their perseverance and trust in the Lord. Their relationship and how it reflects Gods love is truly one that has changed a heart forever. My heart.

God spoke through the ocean! 

My last day in Portugal I sat by the sea. We ( my friend and I) decided that even though it was overcast and somewhat windy, we would go to the beach as we had planned. It was not what I would call a typical beach day. I was a little hesitant if I’m honest. But, I never told her that. We took some food and a few beach chairs so we could relax by the ocean and take in the beautiful view and refreshing sea air one more time before we prepared to fly back to opposite sides of the world where we came from.

We went to the same beach we went to the day we got to Portugal. But, this time the beach, the tide, the feeling it gave you, was totally different. Just six days ago we had the warm sun washing over us and a wide span of beach to walk along. The waves danced gently on the shore and we explored tide pools that had clams and all types of life living in them. But, on this day the water out weighed the beach and the air was full of a heavy sea smell and mist surrounded everything as the waves washed ashore, leaving behind sea foam that was a result of heavily churning water. The delightful tide pools we explored for over an hour were no where to be found. 

The air was a tiny crisp but refreshing and the sound of the waves was intoxicating. We set our chairs in a spot where we would be safe from the rising tide and wrapped ourselves in the soft blankets we each brought and sat there in awe! 

My interaction with the ocean is very minimul so if you are one who is familiar with the ocean some of this may seem a bit elementary but for me it was profound and majestic to say the least. 

As we sat there, there where two to four rows of billowing waves coming in. These waves would start almost out of my range of eyesite ( I’m sure they probably started much farther then I could see)  They would well up slowly as though the water was taking in a deep breath and then roll into an even larger mass before rolling in over itself as the force of itself became too much to bare. They roll over and make a white feathery crest as they cascade in on them selves, only to well up again and again repeating this beautiful rhythm until at last it would reach the shore. Dispite the massive power and force that had welled up it would meet with the shore gently and wash over it calmly and almost mythotical. 

These waves have emence power and make a huge impact yet they flow around the smallest obstical, effortlessly it gives way to the smaller object in its way. It flows around it and conforms to its shape, sometimes following a completely different path then it had been headed down. 

As I sat there, I silently spoke to the Lord about His power and how He holds this very sea in His hand. How large and bold and powerful He is. Just like the waves. Then He spoke to me about His love for me and how I should love others. 

Like the waves, they start far off in the distance, they well up and can become very intense (like love). Love is powerful and has a large impact on those who receive it. (Like the shore received the waves). It is something we should be bold in and allow it’s great power to inspire awe in us. Yet, real love and true love like that of God is gentle and mild. It’s bold and powerful strong and impactful, as well as gentle and forgiving. Giving way to obsticals and flowing effortlessly down what ever path it comes to. It conforms to any shape, any size, any demand, any obstical. It is wide enough to cover the ocean and deep enough to touch the most harded of hearts. Love, especially Gods love is beautiful and sometimes overwhelming it’s hard to take in all at once. 

My eyes searched the shore back and forth trying to take in every moment and it was difficult. I was in awe and wonder at how the water keeps its rhythm and how the water just knew where to go and how to flow. Much like Gods love, at least to me. Trying to take it all in and wondering how it keeps perfect timing and how He knows how to make things flow for me. He spoke to me so loudly in those waves that it changed my view on love. Love is something we are it is how we flow it is how we use our power, our strength. Love is something to be respected and cherished. And most importantly it is something that we can only do fully if God is the one setting it into motion. When God is at the center of your love for others, it will not matter what you get back in return. The waves don’t expect the water on shore to rush out and meet it! The waves just come in and are gentle and flow. God, loves us unconditionally He flows with us and is with us down every path, even ones He would not have chosen for us. He gives way and takes shape wherever we are in our walk with Him. Slow and steady welling up with love for us. His gentle love changed my heart so much, I almost feel like I have a new heart. A heart willing to love like He does. Or at least to try. I pray for God to fill me and all those reading this, with the bold powerful love that makes a huge impact. I pray He helps me deliver that love with gentle kindness and Grace. That I would have the ability to flow as the waves not easily thrown off course but willing to give way to others. I pray for my love to be deep and meaningful and far reaching like the Lords. 

The business of business (in faith) 

I’m writing this because business is confusing. At least for me, I’m not a business person. But, I feel God has called me to start a business. Not a non profit just a regular old business.
So, you mix faith in things “unseen” with money and business plans and partnership agreement of the “seen” and you get one wacky balance of things. At least I’m trying to keep them in balance.

So, business partner, check! Got one of those, now what do I do with them? Well we need a partnership agreement I suppose and we need to figure out our business structure. Sounds pretty easy. Just write down every single detail of how you make decisions and settle disputes and try to cover all your bases so you don’t have issues in the future. How hard and time consuming could that possibly be? 😳

Thankfully I have a great partner and another on their way. Should probably put a clause in the partnership agreement about me blogging about our business shenanigans.

Now time to figure out what in the world a dividend is and how to make stock available. Seems a little over board but in order to make the right choice the first step is knowing your options!

God help me to follow your will in this, keeping my eyes on you and following your lead. Help me to use the resources you have given me and knowledge I have to do the work to get me where you want me. Amen!

Peru 2015- The Journey there (October 11,2015) 

On October 11th 2015, I left with a team of seven other people to go on an adventure to serve the Lord. We began our journey with fresh coffee and a flight from Cleveland to Dallas and then into Lima, Peru. 

All flights ran as scheduled and all team members where excited for the moment we touched down in Lima. We rushed to our confirmed flight to Trijllo, Peru. 

NOTE: I said “confirmed flight” at least that’s what the email said just a week earlier. 

So, baggage in hand and clear of customs we stood asking “what do you mean we have no flight?!” The team paused and took a moment to process the fact that we are in Peru and now had no ride to our destination a good 9.5 hours away. 

We (a team mate and I) had researched bus fare and locations as well as airfare while booking flights. So, the team piled into a taxi and when I say taxi I mean a van with two rows of seats. Eight people and fourteen pieces of luggage go screaming off in a Peruvian taxi into Lima traffic. Traffic that puts traffic in every other place I have been to shame. The rules about speed and right of way are mere suggestions, and no one is looking for any suggestions. Just tons of cars, buses, and semis all trying to get where they need to be before anyone else can get there. Have I mentioned I get motion sick pretty easily? A fast twenty minutes later we are at the Plaza Norte bus depot and mall! This place is huge. 

  
Thanks to the amazing cab driver and the friendly people at the Ittza Bus company we get bus tickets for eight. Two hour wait and 9.5 hour bus ride through and up the beautiful desert/ coast area of Peru we arrive at Casa de Monica. The women who’s house we will stay at for the next 7 days.

I have never felt more welcome or more at home so far from home. These nice ladies cooked for us every day and cleaned up after us. (We did our best to pitch in with dishes and may have gotten a great recipe  or two.)

  

We got settled into our new home and got ready for a busy day of ministry work, breakfast is at 7:30am. 

Life changing choices. Who’s willing to make some?

It has been weeks since I posted so I decided to just sit and write and see what happens. Warning: This could get messy! Let’s talk about choices.
I have been praying as usual to God (that is Jesus Christ for me). I have been seeking guidance and looking for direction. I feel as though there are a thousand things going on in my tiny little world (my brain) and I need to sort them out and make a choice of what to get rid of. I need to identify the things that are distractions and focus on the things that are getting me closer to the end goal. Only problem is I’m not a 100% what the end goal is. I have a good idea of what I think it might be. But, I can’t be 100% certain.
This for obvious reasons makes it difficult to sort out the garbage. I believe that in life we make a collection of choices and these choices make our life what it is. Ok, that’s not just my belief that is a general fact. Some of the choices we make are good for us, and some of the choices are bad for us. Some of us make more good choices and some of us make more bad choices. Most of us make our choices based on what we have learned and where past choices have gotten us. If past behavior seems to have done well for us and we like the direction we are going then we continue to make those choices. But on the flip side, if the choices we are making are leading us in a bad direction we have the MOST important choice to make. Do I continue on this path making these choices that seem to be taking my life down a horrible path? Do I stay where I am because I have become comfortable with failure? Or, do I chance it and risk a different type of failure? Do I step out of my comfort zone where I might get hurt in new ways and the price of failure is a little higher? I now this could be the chance to get out of the failing life I have right now. But, do I really want to risk it?
If anyone has stood at this cross roads you will know what I’m talking about. If you have not than that last paragraph might make no sense to you. I made this choice four years ago. I was tired of knowing exactly what was going to happen and not liking what that was. I would be over worked at work, I would be taken advantage of in relationships, and I would drink and continue to have money problems and a low sense of self worth. I knew that if I continued going the way I was going I would be a slave to this world and all the evil in it. I knew I would just be another cog blindly grinding away my life so the machine of the world would function. Not that the world needs me to function. The world will use any one, just look around.
I had thought since I was a child that there was something “out there” calling me and that there was “something” I was “supposed” to do. I can’t explain it. I have always had this internal voice that tells me there is something better and I need to make a choice. I would need to get uncomfortable and not know what the end result would be in order to follow this “calling.” I would need to step out in faith and trust something I can’t see. I would have to change the choices I had made over and over and over and take a new risk.
The important point I want to make I guess is that sometimes we don’t know where we are going. It doesn’t mean we won’t get there. Ever since I started to allow God into my life and started listening to Him, things have gotten down- right exciting and thrilling. I may not know 100% where I am headed but, I know where I have been.
My old choices got me to a place where I was drunk and miserable packing up my apartment by candle light because the power had been shut off, after my husband left, writing in my journal while praying for a way out of my misery. Pretty sure that was a turning point for me. It’s sad how far we have to fall before we are willing to look up for help. The person I had been the first 30 some years of my life was not the person God intended me to be. That was the person the world wanted me to be. Deceived by fear and trapped by the world’s ideals of how we should be. Work like crazy, make money, do better than your neighbor, compete for attention, have better things then everyone, brag about your vacations and try to out-perform every one, then get drunk on the weekends to celebrate your victorious week of labor and one upping everyone. How exhausting!
My new choices have taken me to the other side of the world, yes literally. They have helped me form some of the greatest friendships. I have been given my self-worth back (something that I don’t know if I ever really had) and an identity that I never knew was inside of me. The person I have been becoming the past four years is the person God wanted me to be from the beginning. Ironically, I don’t know that I would be this person had I not faced the demons of the last 33 years.
Even though the fear of change and making choices you may not understand might seem terrifying and not logical. It has proven to be the best choice of my life. Even if you’re a person who doesn’t follow God make some new choices and take a chance and see what happens. While you’re doing that ask God to give you some strength and courage to reach your full potential. Even if you don’t follow Him (God) he will listen to you. How awesome is that! My relationship with God started as a screaming match with the air. A very one sided screaming match I might add. I lost my patience with life and knew there was something more. I could feel it. I screamed that if He (God) was really there then He better show Himself and show me what it was He wanted from me. Sounds dramatic I know but, that’s how it started for me. I tell people sometimes that even if you’re screaming at a God you don’t believe it, it is better than ignoring one you do believe in. It took many years to change the habit I once had and it took work on my part to be willing to step out into scary places and become willing to change. I had to walk away from a lot of people that were not good for me at the time. They individually are great people. But, having them being in my life at that time was no longer good for me. Some of the choices you must make to start heading in the right direction can be very difficult and hard to stick with. I personally couldn’t do it myself. I need God, and people who follow Him to help me through the journey of turning my life around. Nothing happens over night. Everything in life comes about from one small choice made one after another over time.
So, I will end with a question and you can make the choice.
Do you want to stay as you are today?
Are there things that you want to do with your life that you’re afraid to step out in faith and do?
Are you willing to step out of your comfort zone to do them?

Mongolia (part 2) 

As I was writing this post yesterday something distracted me and poof…. No more blog post. It helped me remember some of the things God was showing me while I was in Mongolia.

There everything was very focused. My time had purpose and the things I was doing all had a common goal. Teach English, share Christ. It was really that simple. We spent time with our students in school and outside of school. And every moment we where together was time to practice English and an opportunity to share love with them and work our faith into conversations.

I would love to at some point get into all the details about the crazy amusement park we went to or share with you about the fun games we played at camp. But, for right now. I want to keep this simple.

The lessons on staying focused and working effectively have spoken so strongly to me that it has me reevaluating everything I am doing in in my life.

I feel the Lord saying STOP being so busy and get to work. If we are busy running all over the place trying to make others happy or being involved in too many things we don’t have anything to offer any of those things. We are so stretched thin we have little to offer. When we earnestly seek God and ask for direction. We need to realize that when He speaks that’s the answer. Not here’s your calling now fill in every spare moment with other things to keep your brain occupied.

I’m speaking from how I have delt with my life. Too busy to be effective. Time to slow down and take another look at the directions God has given me. One step at a time.

A little catch up (My time in Mongolia) part 1

Well, it seems I have a little catching up to do!

Last time I posted was before I left for Mongolia.  This trip was so amazing that even when I had time to write I was having a hard time trying to write about everything going on.  So, let’s see how things go now that I have a chance to look back on everything.

First, we can start with the fact that God showed up in a huge way at the last minute with the funds to go.  I was getting down to the wire with a total of $1200 left to raise.  Of course the night before the money was due I got notifications that two very large donations had been made.  One for $450 and another for $1500.  No matter how many times God shows up and wows me I am always left in awe at His amazing timing and provision.  So, I had all the funds and reassurance I needed that this trip was Gods will for my life right now.

I met up with my family for a farewell breakfast.  Everyone was there.  My mom, sister, niece, grandmother and even my dad.  My mom and dad haven’t wanted to be in the same place at the same time in years.  Glad to see me going to the other side of the world helped break that issue.  Not even sure if it was ever an issue or if it was just perceived to be an issue so we (my sister and I) never invited them both at the same time to anything.

My emotions where going crazy.  I was excited to leave and a little scared of flying by myself.  I was going to meet up with total strangers and hope we became friends so I wasn’t alone for a month.  So, I got dropped off at the airport and said my last good byes. It was strange and amazingly exciting being on my own.  I mean it’s funny to even think that way. I’m an adult and live on my own and take care of myself.  So, I’m always on my own. But, there is something invigorating about leaving all your safety nets behind and running towards God and the great unknown.  Trusting all will be well.

At this point  I checked my luggage and began the long game of hurry up wait.  Hurry to check in and get through security now wait for boarding.  Hurry to find your seat on the plane, now wait for take off and landing.  Hurry off the plane and grab some lunch in North Carolina and then wait for the flight to Houston.  Hurry to meet up with the people you will call your team for six weeks and then wait and wait and wait as you fly the twelve hours from Houston to Beijing.

Just getting to Mongolia seems like a note worthy adventure.  Another flight transfer and then forty people loading luggage onto a bus, some last minute paper work a slew of directions from a stranger I just met and have no choice but to trust, a short bus ride and there you go.  Your sitting in the U.B. City Hotel in the heart of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia surrounded by strangers, exhausted and full of adrenaline with no where to go and burn it off.

Now what?

Now, we try to sleep…. What time is it?  10pm.  Why is it I still light out?  Because of where Mongolia is.  When does it get dark?  Sometime around 10:45pm.  Are you kidding me? Nope.  So, I wrestle my eyes closed and sleep as soundly as I can with the sun still up.  Five a.m. rolls around and I wake up to use the bathroom and the what do you know?  The sun is peaking out and is already starting to fill the sky with its light.  Did it ever go down?  I feel as though it was always up.  The first week at the hotel I spent most of my time in training.  But, when I wasn’t in training I was trying to catch the sun while it was down, just to prove to myself it actually went all the way down. I was convinced that the sun never sleeps in Mongolia.

So, got together with our teams for a meeting. We got a chance to go exchange some money and get our barrings in the city.  Then we had a pretty free weekend.  We could go any where and do anything. Only real rules, no alcohol of course, no smoking and no motorcycle taxis.

All the other trips I have been on in the past where through my church.  So the rules are similar except you also have to stay with the team, don’t wonder on your own, only use the team transportation and only when the team goes somewhere.  It’s sort of a lock down feeling comparatively.  And for good reason.  The church has a different responsibility then the type of organization I went with this time.

So, needless to say I was excited to feed my wonder-lust and go exploring.  Thankfully, my small team (only two other guys both about 22) had the same excitement and we went exploring together!  First, we found the food we liked.  Then coffee and the most giant shaved ice with berries I have ever seen, then we started finding the short cuts to make the 45 minute walk to downtown  a more tolerable 35 minute walk.  We eventually got this down to about 25 minutes I think.

Anyway, on to training week.  We spent the first week learning what not to do.  With every culture there are dos and don’ts.  So here are few in case you ever find your self in Mongolia.  Don’t give people money with your left hand and never hand it with the money between your fingers.  This is a huge insult. Never write a name in red and even worse don’t ever write a box around it.  Death announcements are written like this.  Don’t point with a finger use your whole hand to direct attention to something but on the flip side staring is totally o.k. If you give out prizes in class don’t throw them to students.  We think this is fun they get extremely offended.  Bumping into people by mistake doesn’t faze anyone and no apology is needed but if someone steps in your foot they will grab your hand and squeeze it.  (This is something I have gotten so used to I find myself doing it still). Any car is a taxi, this I found weird.  If you need a ride stick your hand out and someone will pick you up.  Sometimes it’s a taxi sometimes it’s someone going that way that could use a few extra bucks.  All seem fairly safe to get into,as long as you can tell them where to go. We learned to always have toilet paper with you, public bathrooms don’t always have it. That is if you can find a public bathroom.  And public drunkenness is not taboo and you will see many drunk people walking around.  It is not against the law.  We then learned better ways to do things, more cultural differences, lesson planning and team building.  We learned where we would be going for the next three weeks and learned more about our individual towns.  Ours was the farthest city east, and we discovered it would be a 12.5 hour bus ride to get there. I was less then enthusiastic about this.  I get bus sick and had heard stories of how the “rest stops” consist of the driver pulling over and men going on one side of the bus and woman on the other.  Just, find a spot and let it loose.  I mean I have been camping before and have used nature as a toilet many times.  But, it’s usually hiding behind a bush or a tree.  Not, lined up in a flat grassy plain with sheep wondering past.  Needless to say, I waited for hours till we arrived at the stop with “actual toilets”….

What?!…. This isn’t a toilet.  Are these 2x4s over a deep hole full of *#}t?!  Oh my gosh!!!! What have I gotten myself into?  The first time I used what my team mates and I affectionately nick named The Hole, I was mortified.  It’s a deep deep hole about 10 feet deep about 5 feet wide and then depending on how many “stalls” long.  First, stop had no doors but did have sides and a roof and partisans between each Hole to make stalls. There are no seats, no nothing.  Just stand on the 2x4s squat low enough over the huge gap between them and try not to pee on your pants or your own feet.  Also, pray to God everyone before you had good aim.  Never mind the people walking right past you as you awkwardly take care of business.  Oh, and don’t drop anything!  This is not the time to check email or scroll through your Facebook feed.  Not that you would have service out there anyway.  So, my first encounter with the hole left me feeling less then excited to be on this journey.  Back into the bus for the second leg of the trip.  Dusty roads all around, the bus driver honking to get the herds of the road.  Sometimes sheep, sometimes cows or horses.  This journey was a true test of my endurance.  Every muscle aching and my brain working overtime to process what was happening.  I prayed very diligently during that journey trying not to have expectations about the final destination.  Also, praying I would make it there and adjust well to my new home.  Thankfully, I did make it.  One lady kept getting sick on the bus and all though I felt bad for her, I’m glad it wasn’t me.

Home sweet home!

The Royal Palace Hotel… Breakfast included every morning, no gym but my room was on the fourth floor and no elevator so that counts.  The upside to being the only girl on this three person team was I got my own room! Beautiful room, very nice bathroom, A/C, and a pretty view.  Oooohhhh WiFi! Now I’m getting excited!

Flip on the A/C and lets get my things settled into place and make this place home.  Turn on the hot water and see how the shower works.  Turn on the hot water, wait turn ON the hot water…….. Are you kidding?  O.k, minor issue no hot water.  We can just wait it out and see if it works later.  Thankfully my team leader was with us and my room was changed quickly. So, we packed up all the things I had found a home for and we wheeled them down a few doors.  No problem. Can I sit still yet? Can I lay flat and stretch out? What a marvelous feeling to finally be “home.”

Monday morning

My first day of teaching class ever!  Turns out my intro students are brilliant and learn really fast.  We blasted through my lesson plan (mind you this was my first lesson plan and I worked on it longer then it took me to teach it).  We finished what I planned in about an hour! I started to sweat.  What am I going to do for the next five hours?!  Thankfully we ran out of things to do in time for our first break.  So, I dismissed my class and headed for the bathroom….

Wait… Where is the bathroom….. Oh my goodness you have to be kidding me! Its a Hole! I thought I was done with these things.  No running water at the school and the electrical was questionable so we never turned on the classroom lights.  To the hole I went, trying to gather my thoughts about how to make it through the day with no more lesson plan.  Then God reminded me I just have to get through till lunch and He would help me.  I hated the Hole but the nice little walk to the Hole gave me many moments of good solid prayer between breaks.  All though I found my self avoiding water in the beginning hoping I would avoid the Hole.  I later learned how dehydration effects your mood and gave up on this plan. Started drinking almost 3 liters of water a day just to feel normal.  I eventually conquered The Hole and lost all my hesitation in using it. This is a story for a later time.

Back to the dreaded “failed” lesson plan.  Turns out I work pretty well with no plan.  My students and I worked through the book.  A bunch of fun activities and games came to mind as we worked and we all had fun and they learned.  After the first few days we found a groove and the class room time seemed to flow most days.  I could tell when they needed more practice or a break or a fun game.  And they learned they could ask me to go over and over things if needed.  My tiny little class became its own little community and we started to grow closer to each other and learned to understand each other better.  We had a huge language barrier but despite that fact we had inside jokes that only our class would laugh at and funny little things the ladies would tease each other about.  It’s amazing to me that we can hardly understand each other, yet understand each other perfectly.

Naadam Festival!

For a few months I researched Mongolia and looked at amazing photos of mountains and white fluffy clouds and horses and Naadam.  Everyone dressed in bright colorful traditional Mongolian clothing beautiful horses racing across country . And here I was on the other side of the world in the back seat of a car racing down a dirt road to see the first horse race of the day.  We dipped and bobbed and weaved our way through a maze of dirt and grass.  Followed by others doing the same.  Some to our left and some to our right.  It seemed like a race all on its own.  We got to the location got out of the car and headed for the excitement.  Then we wait and wait and wait.  The horses had left earlier for their 40km run out and we where waiting for them to return.  It was hot and the sun was beating down. The stands where lined with colorful umbrellas and every moment you look up the crowd multiplies.  We took pictures with our students and stood and talked in the heat as we melted into the sand.  We found out that most of the riders are under 7 years old! And occasionally horse and rider leave in the morning and only the horse makes it back.  The child is obviously hunted down and returned to safety later.

So, after what felt like eternity in the scorching Mongolia sun we saw a tiny spec in the distance.  The crowd started yelling.  We got our cameras ready and the owners of the horses rode out to great their hopefully winning horses.  There are only 5 top horses per race.  Once the winner arrives the horse is taken to a large pen to be paraded around as people on foot and horse back attempt to wipe their hands and hats on the winning  horse. The winning sweat brings good luck and prosperity all year.  There was so much chaos I just  joined in and will have to remember the moment as photographing everything going on was proving to be difficult and not worth missing out on the action just to snap a shot.

I do have a lot of pictures, but I discovered that sometimes life is best lived and documented later.  Back to the chaos.  The first horse of the Naadam is back sweat has been slathered on all who wanted it and just as fast as it started it ended. Men on horse back ride away in a hurry and spectators return to there vehicles.  Cars and motorcycles race back to the arena for the opening ceremony.  My team and I laughing bouncing all over the back seat as we race back over the dirt roads we raced in on. Wondering why you would have a race before opening ceremonies and giggling as we sat in traffic.  This was the first time I saw a goat being carried on a motorcycle. That I did get a picture of.

Once we returned to the stadium we could see all the people that had been specs under umbrellas.  Everyone was wearing their traditional clothing.  It’s so beautiful.  The feel in the air was one of excitement and joy that they where celebrating.  I will not go into every detail of the day right now.  Perhaps I will sum this up with the lessons I learned while at Naadam. One,it is a fantastic and beautiful event full of love and pride for country and I was blessed to be invited.  Two, there is always a worse Hole I will spare you the details but this was like nothing I had seen before.  Three, Hosher always smells good (not sure what it tastes like since I can’t eat the crispy golden dough meat pockets).  Four, burgers in Mongolia no matter how tasty they look are is still Mutton (my arch nemesis) even when they look like a beautiful burger from the U.S. we will discuss this later as well.  Five, archery is more exciting when your the one doing it.  Six, the first day of wrestling at Naadam leaves you wanting more.  And seven, if your students ask enough horsemen if their English teachers can sit on their horse one will eventually say yes.

Off to the museum!

Our students took us to their museum.  It is in an old soviet building and the museum has room after room of their history and Art.  It was very interesting and I felt honored that they shared with me.

The rest of our time in this city we built on these friendships and became very close with our students.  Each one of them was special in their own way.  We shared time with them at the beach with their families and I got to swim with cows for the first time.

We went out to karaoke clubs and a dance club a few nights.  We had a wildly amazing time completely sober dancing like maniacs.  Or students had a blast learning our horrible dance moves and we learned theirs.

We had a student who went through surgery while we where there and my team mate (her teacher) had his class make get well cards and we went on an adventure to buy her flowers.  She was so touched because no one had ever done something like that for her before.  Then a week later I was sick and taking antibiotics for a tooth. I missed school and the four ladies from my class showed up at my hotel room with juice and sat with me for a while. It was so nice to have that type of community that far away from home.  That time while I was sick could have been devastating to my spirit and really could have knocked me into a negative place.  But, God provided the comfort I needed to help me through.

We finished out our three weeks in Choibalson we went on the great cake expedition to find a cake to celebrate our closing ceremonies at the school.  There is no Giant Eagle to wonder into and order a cake in Choibalson.  You have to find a baker. It’s not always the easiest task.  My team and our students found one on the other side of town in a basement.  The cake turned out beautiful and the means of getting it and transporting it made it even more special. We handed out certificates, we took millions of student teacher selfies, we received gifts from our students and we cooked for them.  We told our winning students they where invited to camp and said sad good byes to those not coming. We cleaned out our classrooms and bid farewell to The Hole.

Back, on the bus two days later we had 12 hours of bumping and bouncing to process what we had just accomplished.  I honestly slept a ton on the way back but I did reflect.

It is strange when your sole purpose in going somewhere has such a subtle presence.  I went to share God and the hope of Christ with these students.  But, the way you share on these types of trips is so different. It really does help me see how every day living and actions show people where Christ is in your life.  You can be well read and know the Bible inside and out, you can have intellect and be able to talk a good game and be persuasive with your words.  You could be an amazing story teller and captivate people with Gods goodness.  But, only if those people understand the language you are speaking.

But, the actions you take everyday being gracious when invited.  Being interested and involved and letting people into your life.  Getting down at a dance club and having fun and not judging someone’s lifestyle.  These things show love no matter what language is being spoken.

We did have times to share our faith verbally.  Through cultural lessons we shared the Christmas story and shared about Easter.  We even shared about mental, physical and spiritual health. And many other times we had opportunities to share while teaching.  But, nothing can replace playing cards in our hotel room and walks home from school.  Time at the most terrifying amusement park ever and all the other time we spent with our students.

One of the last nights we where in Choibalson one of the girls found an iPad!  She was so excited and thrilled she found it.  It was better then hers and you could tell she really wanted it.  But, she paused and then you could see the look on her face go from joy to confusion. Something in her was telling her to return it or at least try.  That’s something I don’t know if she would have thought a few weeks earlier.  She did end up returning it for an award. But, I remember her saying, we don’t return things when they are found here.  But, I know you’re Christians and you would try to return it.

Something we did while we where there let her know these facts.  I never said I would return it.  Not till after she did.  But God showed through us in ways we aren’t even aware of.  It is an amazing reminder that it isn’t us!  We aren’t the ones winning souls  It’s the Lord. We just need to be available for Him to shine through.

My adventure in Mongolia does not end here. There is still more to come. But, it is time now for vacation. All though we had a blast in Mongolia and my photos if you have seen any make it look like I was on a month long vacation. I assure you the time spent there was some of the hardest work I have done. The travel alone takes a toll on your body and every system in it. So, for the next week I will be enjoying another adventure that the Lord has blessed me with. I will be in Algonquin Canada! enjoying Gods majestic beauty, with 23 other people as we paddle our canoes through the back country. Completely cut off from technology and totally tuned into Gods presence. I’m sure this adventure will get a blog post all its own when I return. So stay tuned for that adventure and Part two of My Time in Mongolia.

May God bless you and His Holy Spirit inspire you.