Team Mongolia 2012
Numbers of Days

25 days in the mountains south of Ulaangom.  One day longer than our original plan, one day shorter than our during-the-trip-revised plan.  Each day filled my journal with 2-4 pages of happenings.  Filled with new foods, joyous occasions, descriptions of newly encountered people, and frustrations, confusions, and difficulties with personal belongings usually involving the words “damage” and “mine”.  It was certainly proved that Mongolia, as I perceived 4 years ago when watching the documentary “Long Way Round”, is a place where one goes to grow up.

Our days were spent sawing wood, splitting wood, milking goats, and loving each-other and all who we encountered.  Jeremy and I are blessed and in awe that God gave us these men to bring together and name ourselves Team Mongolia 2012.  On four occasions we were able to share the Gospel with large groups of people.  Two church-services that we put on - a traditional coming-of-age party for 3 and 5 year olds (to get their first haircut) - and an end-of-the-summer bash.  Each time there was one person who caused distraction and forced us to pray and fight for our Lord that his name not be slandered so and each time the Lord answered by removing the distraction.  Whether through another, sober Mongolian, or the heckler generally becoming suddenly bored and leaving - distractions were no issue.  Gods name was proclaimed and glorified.

  The Nomads themselves met us with fierce hospitality and a deep love for music and family that had us continually feeling compelled to tell them that they were reflecting aspects of our Lord upon us.

Through this we were continually reminded that we were not bringing God, not bringing Jesus Christ, not bringing the Holy Spirit to these valleys, but we were coming to utter his name.  To put language behind the wonders of his fingerprints.  To give him his wholly deserved worship in a family Gher for the first time in any generation because he is holy.

The distractions, the confusions, the damages, the pain -it is all to be forgotten.  In Colossians Paul writes “remember my chains” as an encouragement to the church.  So someday us 7 brothers will look back to our experience here and the pains we had to share and encourage…but for now I will leave you with this:

Praise the Lord.

Praise to him who alone deserves it was spoken in 35 families Ghers.

Praise will be shouted in 3 more earthly families who whether all of some joined our eternal family. We don’t know exactly how the Lord moved.  We can’t give you a solid number of “saved souls”.  We can say, however, with confidence, that we are at peace.  That we feel we glorified the Lord and shone his name as brightly as our ugly-yet-beautiful, middle-of-sanctification, Kingdom please come fully sooner souls were able to.  And when we were at our worst, the Lord shone the brightest.

Our best guess is that 7 souls were saved while we were there.

We believe that we were the first missionaries in this valley, ever.

We encountered a number of Christians in the valley during a small version of Naadam.

God loves Mongolia.

Back in UB

UB is the common abbreviation for Ulaanbaatar. We arrived here yesterday, just past midnight. The countryside was amazing. During the backpacking trip, we were able to visit over thirty families where we were able to share the Good News. Parker will share more about that momentarily.

We hiked out of the valley on Sunday, and we left left Ulaangom on Monday night.

God provided for us very abundantly in a number of tangible ways this week so far.

We had taken the public bus system to Ulaangom, and we had to find a bus ride, 1400 kilometers back to the capital city. Public buses are the most affordable way to travel across the country. (I believe a previous blog entry mentions the ordeal of traveling on the public bus.) However, on Sunday, at the bus depot, we discovered that all the public bus tickets had been sold out until the middle of August. Maidar, our interpreter, tried to negotiate a price with some of the van drivers who also do business in the bus depot parking lot, but none of them were within our budget.

Just then, we remembered that one of the horsemen that we met in the countryside had mentioned that his brother was a van driver. Here, the Korean-manufactured vans are called microbuses. In a van that is originally designed to fit twelve people including the driver, fourteen passengers are crammed in, including small children, plenty of baggage, and two drivers to take turns. Because this particular driver was a relative of a friend that we had made, he gave us a discount, and we were able to rent out the entire van!

The microbus travels about twice as fast as the public bus, and we had a far more comfortable (and more importantly, much safer) journey back to the capital city.

Mongolians do not travel on Tuesday, and if we left on Wednesday, we would not be sure whether we could arrive in the capital city by the time we had made reservations at the hostel, so the latest we could leave was on Monday night. Flying by plane was far too expensive, so this was our only option.

We had secured a ride back to Ulaanbaatar, but we did not know if we could find a place to stay in the middle of tourism season. Thankfully, I have some distant relatives in UB that I had been hoping to visit. My parents are from Japan, and one of my cousins married a Mongolian woman. She lives in Japan, but her family is still in Mongolia. We called them and asked if we could stay, and they said that we could stay for as many days as we needed!

As the transit across the country neared an end, I became a bit antsy. I had only met one of the people that we would be visiting. I did not know what to expect. None of them are Christians. On the bumpy road, we were slowly approaching yet another opportunity to make known the glorious name of Jesus. (The microbus is indeed faster than the public bus, but we barely went faster than 40 mph.)

We parked in front of an apartment complex in the western part of UB. We were met by a man, dressed in white. I was delighted and surprised to hear him greet me in Japanese. This was my cousins wife’s sister’s husband. He helped us carry our luggage up five flights of stairs into a very, very nice apartment. We were greeted warmly and were served tea, juice and many wafer-cookies.

Soon after our arrival, I met with a woman, perhaps seventy, named Nina. She is my cousin’s mother-in-law. The last time we met was four years ago. She came to all the way to our home in California for her daughter’s wedding, which my father conducted. Through my father, she heard the Gospel for the first time in her life.

She was delighted to see me and kissed me on both cheeks. She showed me an album of photographs. She speaks very little Japanese and I learned very little Mongolian in the last month, but we spent time together, looking at those photographs. Some were from her childhood. Many were of her children and grandchildren. I was in one of the photographs.

We arrived very late, and soon went to sleep on the floor of the plush living room. Weary from travel, we were glad to sleep in. The water had been turned off for plumbing repairs, so, after we did devotions in the morning, we were taken to a spa to wash off layers of dust and stink.

When we returned home, Nina, had prepared for us the most delicious dumplings. My cousin’s wife’s sister is a doctor, and she is in the process of renovating a building to open a new private practice office, so we offered to haul doors and rolls of carpet upstairs. When we were finished with that, they took us to their summer home, about five miles outside the city. That’s where we are now.

It just so happened that it was their cousin’s birthday, so they were in their summer home, which was just down the street. We had just eaten a delicious dinner, so we went over just to sing Happy Birthday. But they would not let us leave without eating more food.

It is wonderful. It is like a dream to be welcomed, all of us, as family. They are delighted to have us, and they are even more delighted to see us enjoying their hospitality.

Please pray for us. This is an incredible opportunity to share the Gospel. Maidar is not with us. (We will meet him again later in the week.) Please also pray for me. Since these relatives speak Japanese, and no English, our ability to communicate with them now rests on me. This evening, we had the opportunity to talk about our purpose in the trip. I was able to tell one person about the Gospel. He was unwilling to accept, but he was gracious to listen. God is continuing to provide and lead us!

We are ecstatic about the food, and comfort and hospitality. We have another jam-packed day tomorrow, meeting local long-term missionaries. We were invited to stay at another relative’s house tomorrow night. We hope to help out again with renovating the clinic on Friday.

May we be faithful to preach the Gospel in the avenues where He leads us to preach the Gospel. May God graciously redeem any opportunity we might fail to take.

Shoh

Excited to Leave for the Valley

Since we do not have internet very often, we are posting twice before we leave for the valley.

First of all, let me say thank you to everyone who has been praying for us as we venture around in Asia. God reminded me of your dedication to us and I am so thankful.

We leave from Ulaangom tomorrow for the countryside, and I honestly could not be more excited. For the most part, I have felt more like a tourist than a missionary. I suppose that is what comes from going to a people group that is hard to reach.

To leave Ulaanbaatar and arrive in Ulaangom, we went by bus. It was a great experience that stretched us to say the least. The bus had about 30 people and it originally held about 20, and the luggage was in the aisle next to where we sat. Unfortunately, the road was not well maintained so the bus was weaving between potholes. After the two day bus ride consisting of the bus breaking down, running out of gas, and us changing our definition of personal space, we were grateful to be in Ulaangom and out of vehicles.

In any case, thank you for your prayers, and please continue to pray for our translator, Maidar, because he will be speaking a lot to many families over these next few weeks.

In Christ,

Jordan Woods

Time to head out!

Hey all! This is Trevor.

As of now, we are in Ulaangom and head out tomorrow for the backpacking part of our journey. God has blessed all of us already with incredible opportunities for ministry as well as good health and stamina. Our time in the city has been great and we are extremely excited to seek the nomads and spend multiple weeks with them in their every day lives while spreading the Word and showing God’s love as best as we can. We already have many crazy stories to share (much too long to share now) but are ready and excited to see what God has in store for us as a team and individually as well. I am happy to share also that we are growing stronger daily as a team and truly focusing on what matters and really striving to glorify God in everything we do. I have so much more to share and can’t thank everyone enough for the prayers and support but we have a lot we still need to get done before the day is over so I must end you with this. I can’t wait to see you all again and pray that you stay God strong.

Love,

Trevor

Yes, God.

So,
As you know: We have had trouble with lost luggage twice and trouble with hotel reservations already.

I got too stressed. I did not trust in our Lord and his peace. Now, in down time and through journal and prayer and bible I’ve had time to think with my brothers.

If we lose luggage; if we can simply not backpack due to lost gear…and if all we have is the clothes on our backs -at least we have plane tickets to the capital of Mongolia. If all we have is our lives we will still go to serve God and his beloved in Mongolia.

For now, he has lost our luggage simply to remind us to run to him, and gracefully returned it. So we will backpack to serve the nomads still.

-parker

God’s Sovereignty in Mongolia

WE ARE IN HONG KONG! I am so excited to see how God is going to use us. I know how faithful he has been up to this point. It is incredible that we were able to get this far, we know we are under the loving arms of our Savior. I know that God has been so good to us and I know that we now are on our to to be obedient to his call in a foreign land.

Is this where the rubber meets to the road? I really don’t think so, this may just be where the road turns to dirt and the comforting street signs disappear. Now we have to give up what we relied on for comfort in our homes and find new avenues of peace. God has been driving this car for a long time now and now the rubber meets a new terrain. For me its terrain that I have prior experience with, but only as a team member. So this path will be a new challenge as I lead a group of very capable men with my beloved brother Parker. What a stretching experience it has already been. I remember talking with people at the end of the last semester and I said that I already have learned so much about leadership and we haven’t even left yet. It is good that God has been pruning this vine so that we all can be prepared to display the Spirit’s fruit in Mongolia.

I really have absolutely no idea what God has in store. It is like Francis Chan says in his bookForgotten God, we cannot waste our time thinking about what God has in store for us in the future because God wants us to be experiencing the Spirit right here and now. So my prayer is that we will be fully present wherever we are on this God given journey. God has us here and now for a reason. I write this as I am sitting next to two sleeping passengers on the plane. If God wakes them and allows for a way past the language barrier then I’ll have a chance to remind myself that talk is cheap. Now I remember that my previous words are much easier said than done.

Oh and as you heard, we left one of the suitcases in a friends car back near Biola and Trevor pointed this error out just as we were checking it for our flight. We urgently called our friend Nathan to inform him of this crucial problem. Luckily his phone was dead. Yep, straight to voice mail. So we waited, thought of what we could do, then we waited some more; called him again, no answer.  The funny thing is that we forgot that God called us to Mongolia. So we brought this predicament to the Lord in prayer, acknowledging our dependence on him. While the group continued to pray I called Nathan and he answered, I told him that problem and his phone died again. We received a call 20 minutes later saying that the bag was on its way. God reminded us very early on in our trip who was in control. Yes, we made a mistake and yes we could have avoided a stressful situation, but God use this to show us how incapable we are and how capable He is. Who do we have in Heaven but you? God is sovereign, which means he is responsible for equipping and enabling those he has called. This was a great initial reminder for whose will has and always will be guiding our paths. His providence sustains every breath and every piece of luggage!

Hong Kong

I’m amazed at how God has given us so many moments in which we have needed to rely on His providence to get by, and we’re only like 20 hours into our trip. At LAX we realized we were missing a bag when we were checking in, and that we left it in a friends car. So after a loooooong string of phone calls we finally got a hold of him and were escorted through security with ten minutes to spare. At first were freaking out but Parker reminded us rather then freak out we should be praying and relying on the Lord, and by the grace of God we made the flight and got to HK safely.

We’re safe and sound here in Hong Kong for a day, but it turns out that Trevor’s bag got taken by accident ( him and the person who took it had the same bag and they got mixed up ) so were trying to contact the person who has Trev-bot’s bag. Keep this in prayer ! We know God has got us though, and whatever the outcome we know that it will work out for good. Still it would be ideal to have Trevor’s bag back so pray with us :) ummm I’m gonna go snack a bit.

-Charlie

Journey

In ten days, we begin the transit to Mongolia.

The trip has already begun. We continue where others have gone. And a dearness has begun forming between us as a group, with some people we have yet to meet, as well as with mentors, donors, rope holders, and past/future SMUers.

I love that the physical destination is a backpacking trip. We will take two planes to travel nine thousand miles to arrive in Mongolia. From the capital city, we will travel eight hundred forty miles to the west. Then, we hike in a valley, not to go through it, but to be in it.

Ernest Hemingway said, “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”

We journey toward a journey. Our goal is an ancient one: to invite beloved souls into the journey through this present valley of death, following Jesus into life. To know Him is an eternal pursuit.

Jesus Christ who calls and sends -
He, our Way and blessed End!

Sometimes I wonder if evangelists and missionaries dwell in a layer of consciousness in which the entire scope of human history appears momentary. Like the visions of prophets who’ve seen the ancient past or distant future, advocating eternity must make all of time here seem alarmingly short. Perhaps the six precious weeks we toddle as short term missionaries will project something onto the next sixty or so years of our lives.

Dear brothers, let’s joyfully run after Jesus.

Love,
Shoh

Hello Brothers and Sisters,
It will be our joy (or possibly slight burden) to update you with our journey’s progress in Mongolia throughout this summer.  As I have seen some of the other teams blogs started with introductions to the team members, I suppose that is where I shall start our blog as well.
Starting left to right in the picture.
Geoff Nelson: G-wise is our Team’s student mentor.  He was a part of Team Mongolia 2011 and has been an irreplaceable source of knowledge, wisdom, and gear for us in preparation.  You can be praying for Geoff to be blessed for choosing to continue to minister to his co-workers at a sweet-nursing-gig he’s lined up by working as a CNA for a year previously.
Jordan Woods: Captain is an extensive source of experience and level-headed thinking in calm situations through previous out-of-country missions and eagle scout achievements of various undoubtedly impossible sorts.  Pray that Jordan steps boldly and confidently into the role God has called him to in life - to be a man of God.  To allow no one to look down for him being youngest.  He began this journey before he joined our team, and we see the level of love and passion he has already reached…my goodness it is just exciting to have him with us.
Trevor Miller: Times New Romans is our resident-reality-check-man.  A week before school got out for the semester, most of our team was sitting around a table talking over the trip and Trevor kindly interrupted to remind us: Guy’s it is simple, glorify God.  Trevor is handsome, and funny.  Pray that Trevor’s first mission trip and truly cross-cultural experience is one where he seeks only what he reminded us: simple glorification of God.  Tangible results come second to that.  Thanks Trevsky.
Charles Welikala: Charles-Charlie-Chuck is going to be an astoundingly uplifting part of our team this year.  On our team retreat, backpacking into the wilderness with blisters from new shoes, an oddly fitting backpack hurting his back, and the constant drain from the sun: Charlie could be found hiking along singing praises to our Lord with his ukelele adding a sweet tasting melody to the backdrop of God’s fingerprints.  Pray that Charlie doesn’t have any gear malfunctions in Mongolia, and that his encouraging music seeps into the hearts of nomads by the grace of God through his Spirit.
Jeremy Driggs: Aunt Jemimah is my terrific Co-Leader.  I find myself constantly grateful for God placing him into this leadership position with me.  He is a true spiritual leader to the team, constantly sending out feelers to decipher the spiritual health of the guys.  He was a member of Mongolia 2011, and now is able to return to continue the relationships God allowed him to begin last summer!  Pray that Jeremy and I remain a healthy Co-Leader relationship in which brutal honesty and humility are key. 
Shoh Ueno: Shoh-no achieved his nickname because we constantly find ourselves cutting him off.  From research.  He’s in love with the idea of learning every little aspect of Mongolian culture.  Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t inherently a bad thing..but we had to get down to team-building and such as well.  Shoh is an invaluable asset to the team through his seeking of the Spirit, organization skills (Jemimah and I lack this.), and general Anthropology major eccentric-ness.  (I’m complimenting you Shoh.)  Pray that Shoh is able to express the love and appreciation for the Mongolian people he has already attained once he meets them face-to-face.
Now myself, Parker Gross:  P-town is the name they’ve given me.  Most-likely because I am enough man to take on an entire town of men whose name start with P.  In a pottery-making-competition.  Thank you high school art.  Pray for me to seek humility in leadership, and sin in my heart that I may offer it to God to be taken away.

We depart 3 weeks from today on July 2nd at 11:50pm from LAX.  Our road is a harsh one (3 day car-ride..and I thought my 24-hour drive from Dallas to Biola was bad…), but pray that even now we understand our journey of ministry has been at work since we first praised Christ!  (And in context of our out-of-dimension-of-time Creator, since forever.)  Pray for worship.  Everywhere.

Praise the Lord all you nations;
extol him, all you peoples.
For great is his love toward us;
and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.
Praise the Lord.  -Psalm 117

Hello Brothers and Sisters,

It will be our joy (or possibly slight burden) to update you with our journey’s progress in Mongolia throughout this summer.  As I have seen some of the other teams blogs started with introductions to the team members, I suppose that is where I shall start our blog as well.

Starting left to right in the picture.

Geoff Nelson: G-wise is our Team’s student mentor.  He was a part of Team Mongolia 2011 and has been an irreplaceable source of knowledge, wisdom, and gear for us in preparation.  You can be praying for Geoff to be blessed for choosing to continue to minister to his co-workers at a sweet-nursing-gig he’s lined up by working as a CNA for a year previously.

Jordan Woods: Captain is an extensive source of experience and level-headed thinking in calm situations through previous out-of-country missions and eagle scout achievements of various undoubtedly impossible sorts.  Pray that Jordan steps boldly and confidently into the role God has called him to in life - to be a man of God.  To allow no one to look down for him being youngest.  He began this journey before he joined our team, and we see the level of love and passion he has already reached…my goodness it is just exciting to have him with us.

Trevor Miller: Times New Romans is our resident-reality-check-man.  A week before school got out for the semester, most of our team was sitting around a table talking over the trip and Trevor kindly interrupted to remind us: Guy’s it is simple, glorify God.  Trevor is handsome, and funny.  Pray that Trevor’s first mission trip and truly cross-cultural experience is one where he seeks only what he reminded us: simple glorification of God.  Tangible results come second to that.  Thanks Trevsky.

Charles Welikala: Charles-Charlie-Chuck is going to be an astoundingly uplifting part of our team this year.  On our team retreat, backpacking into the wilderness with blisters from new shoes, an oddly fitting backpack hurting his back, and the constant drain from the sun: Charlie could be found hiking along singing praises to our Lord with his ukelele adding a sweet tasting melody to the backdrop of God’s fingerprints.  Pray that Charlie doesn’t have any gear malfunctions in Mongolia, and that his encouraging music seeps into the hearts of nomads by the grace of God through his Spirit.

Jeremy Driggs: Aunt Jemimah is my terrific Co-Leader.  I find myself constantly grateful for God placing him into this leadership position with me.  He is a true spiritual leader to the team, constantly sending out feelers to decipher the spiritual health of the guys.  He was a member of Mongolia 2011, and now is able to return to continue the relationships God allowed him to begin last summer!  Pray that Jeremy and I remain a healthy Co-Leader relationship in which brutal honesty and humility are key. 

Shoh Ueno: Shoh-no achieved his nickname because we constantly find ourselves cutting him off.  From research.  He’s in love with the idea of learning every little aspect of Mongolian culture.  Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t inherently a bad thing..but we had to get down to team-building and such as well.  Shoh is an invaluable asset to the team through his seeking of the Spirit, organization skills (Jemimah and I lack this.), and general Anthropology major eccentric-ness.  (I’m complimenting you Shoh.)  Pray that Shoh is able to express the love and appreciation for the Mongolian people he has already attained once he meets them face-to-face.

Now myself, Parker Gross:  P-town is the name they’ve given me.  Most-likely because I am enough man to take on an entire town of men whose name start with P.  In a pottery-making-competition.  Thank you high school art.  Pray for me to seek humility in leadership, and sin in my heart that I may offer it to God to be taken away.

We depart 3 weeks from today on July 2nd at 11:50pm from LAX.  Our road is a harsh one (3 day car-ride..and I thought my 24-hour drive from Dallas to Biola was bad…), but pray that even now we understand our journey of ministry has been at work since we first praised Christ!  (And in context of our out-of-dimension-of-time Creator, since forever.)  Pray for worship.  Everywhere.

Praise the Lord all you nations;

extol him, all you peoples.

For great is his love toward us;

and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.

Praise the Lord.  -Psalm 117