“Melissa, we need to find you a herder with lots of camels to marry.” You wouldnt believe how many times I heard this in the two weeks that I recently spent in a village in mid-west Mongolia. I made the mistake of telling everyone I was not married when they asked me the first day. I also made the mistake of telling them that I could eat ALL Mongolian food. So I was offered an array of delicacies ranging from fatty mutton soup, to sheep head, to goat intestines, to curdled sour milk drinks. When they saw that I could eat it all, then they were quite convinved that I was fit to marry a wealthy camel herder. Wonderful.
The reason I spent two weeks in this village is because I was invited there by the local governor to teach some English classes to students and adults in the community. I had visited this village last summer so I knew some of the people already, but this was a unique trip in that I went there by myself and lived with a family with no one from my organization with me. No one in the village knew any English (including the two English teachers that I worked closely with), so it was a good immersion experience. In my two weeks out there, I taught over 300 children and 50 adults from 10 am to 8 pm every day. I ate nothing but meat, flour, and the occasional potato. I sat around in the evenings watching over-dramatized Korean soap operas with the Mongolian family I was staying with. I helped the children round up the goats in the evening and I even tried my hand at combing a few cashmere goats. I met with the handful of local believers and encouraged them as best I could with my limited Mongolian. I went to people’s gers and sipped tea for hours while looking at their picture albums. I spent many hours walking by the river and praying for the community. And I read 7 books in 14 days because when I wasnt teaching English, rounding up goats, or sipping tea in peoples’ homes, there literally was nothing else to do.
One night after I came home from a particularly exhausting five hour English teaching session, I was a bit irritated to see that five people had come from out of town to stay with my host family. When I came inside, I saw that two kids were sitting on my bed, going through my stuff. I wanted to just walk right back out the door and into the night to be by myself for awhile, but I felt a little prompting from the Spirit to stay. So I got on the floor and started helping them make dumplings for dinner. As I entered into the dinner making process, I actually started enjoying myself. The conversation was light and fun, and after a few minutes, my spirits greatly improved. The power went out around 11:30, just as we finished making the dumpling soup, so we all sat around by candlelight eating together. They all wanted to know about America and I was even able to share with them about my faith and what Christians believe. It ended up being one of the best nights I had with my host family. I am continually learning to be stretched beyond the limits of my own comfort to allow God to reach people, and I think with every trip to the countryside I will learn more and more in this regard.
In June I head to the countryside again for two months. It will be another immersion experience, and undoubtably a challenging assignment. However, I am excited at the thought that the place I am going is unreached with the Gospel and that there will be many opportunities for me to engage life with the people there and be used by God in new ways. Life is a crazy adventure, and mine, a little crazier than most, but I wouldnt trade it for anything.