I'll get to my trip to the countryside in a moment, but I have to tell you about a first for me in Mongolia. I had supper tonight (chicken and Greek salad - very tasty and no ill effects - very thankful) and on my way home I stopped to get some groceries. After picking up a few things, I was walking down the sidewalk looking for a place to cross the very, very busy road when I saw a group of three young guys heading towards me - they seemed somewhat unstable on their feet and a little happy. One of the guys approached me and I did not know what he was going to do. I know that alcohol and violence are a problem as well as pick-pocketing.
I was carrying a bag of groceries and this young man (he came to about my shoulders) leaned into my chest and gave me a subtle head butt. I didn't know what was going on. It didn't hurt at all but I did not know what he was going to do. My money was well protected but I know these guys can wrestle. However, he simply moved on down the street with his buddies - thankfully.
And now that I am safe in my 12th floor apartment and writing this, I wonder if instead of a moment of potential violence, he was simply trying to reach out and become my friend. I wonder? Maybe it was a cry for help? Seemed like a rather nice guy and maybe I mistook his rather aggressive stance - you know, judged him too early - for hostility when I should have been more open. Oh well, just thankful to be safe.
Today I had the opportunity to go out into the country. The Mongolian countryside has a rugged, dry beauty with wide open plains surrounded by rolling, steep hills. The countryside is vast. After a 45 minute drive, we first arrived at a new statue of Chinggis Khan - gigantic Chinggis. Made of steel, this vast structure is like the America Statue of Liberty and the Canadian ... the Canadian ... oh well, I'll move on (boy, that was uncomfortable, eh?). It was quite magnificent. After stopping off the beaten path by a river and having a small fire with some snack food, we travelled to a 1500 year old monument to dead Turks (not Turkey but the ancient Turkish people). Cylinder stones planted in the ground many years ago still contain noticeable writing while a broken stone table 20 metres away lays crumbled. There are also stones "planted" every metre or so apart from one another in two lines that run 200 kilometres through the countryside in remembrance of all who died in their wars. 200 kilometres! It is said in those days war was so prevalent that 25% of men would die in battle. It was a real moment walking through history, remembering our fallen world and longing for Christ to return once again.
Tomorrow morning I will be preaching in a church of one of the students. Please pray that God's Spirit may lead and the Words of Life may penetrate the hearts of the hearers.