A little over a year ago, I was asked to be part of a women’s mission team to Mongolia in the fall of 2014. From the beginning, this was something I felt God called me to do. I had always wanted to be a part of a mission trip, but due to my teaching career and taking care of my disabled husband, it was a goal I left for my retirement years. But I felt so strongly about this trip that I retired from my teaching job early so that I could go.
It was amazing how God removed all obstacles and brought our team of nine women and two men together. In the months leading up to our departure in September 2014, the Malaysian plane was shot down near Russia, which borders Mongolia. Friends and family were concerned for my safety and asked if I was afraid. Afraid? My answer? “There is no safer place than the center of God’s will,” and I felt that was just where I was.
Our team saw God at work in so many ways in Mongolia. One of the programs that we interacted with was Streams in the Desert, a ministry that rescues women from prostitution and teaches them job skills through sewing, jewelry making, running a day care, and a cleaning service. We met with these ladies several times to talk about different ways of combining color and fabric, and shared ways of working with cloth. We also learned how to make a traditional Mongolian food called “boats,” and taught the women how to make soft pretzels.
On Mondays, this group of ladies meets for fellowship and a program. We were responsible for two of these Monday sessions held at the Papa Café in downtown Ulaanbaataar. The first time, the ladies asked if we were going to make collages. I was teaching on color, so they made color collages. I figured that would be the end of it. The second time, they brought catalogs and magazines with them to cut from to make more collages. It was suggested that their collages be on their life before Streams in the Desert and the life they hope to have. The ladies worked for about an hour and then each shared about her collage.
This is where we saw God. In my journal, I wrote this about our interaction with the women: “So heartbreaking, touching, and encouraging all at the same time. About their past life, they said things like ‘my life was meaningless, I was drunk all the time, I sold myself, I was like a dead tree – dead inside.’ The things they wanted for their futures were to save money, have a home, a car, a family, a husband who knows the Lord. So encouraging what they want for themselves.”
When I got home after three weeks in Mongolia, people asked about my experiences. So wonderful, powerful, life-changing. I could talk endlessly about what I experienced. God was so near. I hope to go back someday. There is still much to do and learn in Mongolia.
The thing that I appreciated so much about the Mongolian Christians is the way they depend on God. They have so little in the way of material possessions, and daily living for some is such a struggle and so much work, but still they are so joyous and hospitable. It really convicted me. I have so much, not just in material possessions, but also the freedoms and opportunities that we take for granted. I am accountable to God on how I am using those gifts. Am I bringing glory to God in the way I use them? This opportunity to visit Mongolia has also opened my eyes to see how we treat foreigners in our country. I was the foreigner and people there were so excited to meet us and gave us their best hospitality. Do we do that? I don't think so.
Members of the group who went to Mongolia mission trip (left to right) were Char Kellogg holding granddaughter Meadow Kellogg (who did not go on the trip), Allison Shetler, Raquel Gray, Janet Shoup, Lovina Brandt, Shannon Stutzman, Alberta Miller, Iva Marie Yoder, and Vanessa Hershberger.