As I write this, I am sitting with Carlie on the floor of our room…in Mongolia. Although we have only been at the orphanage for seven days I feel a great sense of home here. I cannot possibly put into words or into a blog how glad I am to be in this country and with these kids. Well, for one reason because I didn’t think we were going to make it at all. Our plane took 3 hours to leave Omaha. And after it finally did we thought our plane was going to crash. I’ve felt some bad turbulence in my life but nothing like this. Many people were hysterically crying during the flight. At one point I saw a cup fly to the ceiling as the plane dropped a good 6-7 feet. It was on that flight that the steward told us that we would miss our flight from Las Vegas to LA- which meant that we would miss our flight to Mongolia. It would cost us an easy grand to get new tickets. So as we finally landed in Las Vegas we ran off the plane to try and get a rental car to drive the 4 hours to LAX to maybe still catch our flight. But luckily I doubled checked our next flight and it too was delayed. So we ended up not missing our plane to LA! It was a very adventurous beginning to our trip to say the least.

Once we landed in Mongolia and Baatraa, the orphanage director, picked us up it was very evident that we did not come for vacation but to work. He told us that the cook just quit and the main caregiver was on vacation for some time. Baatraa’s smile and laughter was very comforting to Carlie and I. We knew after our first “hello” that he would be a joy to work and live with while we are here. Upon our arrival we were met by Batraa’s wife, Azaa and the sweetest kids I have ever met. There are 3 boys and 7 girls ranging in age from 9 to 18. It is abundantly clear that Marc Ivanchak, WEGO, and the directors of the orphanage are doing a phenomenal work here.

Our days thus far at the orphanage have been filled with frisbee, soccer, basketball, hiking, painting nails (Carlie not me), picking weeds and rocks from the harvest fields, food we can’t even begin to pronounce, and a lot of laughter. I am not too sure if I feel more like a brother or a father but I know that I feel an incredible amount of love for each of these kids. They are all very hard workers. Very quick to do their chores and to give a hand where needed. Personally, I love the boys. Odko, 9, who is the newest arrival to the orphanage, calls me “Zach brother”. He is a constant shadow and I am doing all I can to teach him to catch a frisbee with his hands and not his feet. Bimba is the oldest boy, 12. He is a great athlete and I think he will be an even better leader. Jack, 9, has a smile that is much bigger than he. When we wrestle he wraps his whole self around one of my ankles. It’s quite funny. All of the girls have the softest smiles and most caring hearts. Three of them are sisters: Zaya is 14, Tuya 16, and Titzka is 18. Khurlee, 17, knows a lot more English than she lets on and Tsengel, 12, is a power plant of energy and smiles. Dulguun and Burnee have the sweetest spirits and they have been very kind and comforting to us. Carlie and I love the laughter that each of them bring.

Communication has not really been a problem. All of the kids know enough English and we are learning enough Mongolian to get by. But we still all point a lot. The older girls can understand most of what we say. I attempted to lead a church service on Sunday. Baatrra and Azaa went home for the weekend and so Carlie and I have been “in charge”. The oldest girl, Munkhtsetseg (Titzka), was supposed to be my translator for the service but she was in bed because she wasn’t feeling well. So I had some help from a few of the other girls. I shared with the kids from John 3:16. I said that Carlie and I are here in Mongolia because we want them to know God’s love and because we want to give to them just as God gave Jesus to the world. I think that was communicated. But I have quickly learned that we are here to show and not to tell. I hope that we get to teach Truth while we are here. I hope that the few words that we share with them will have an eternal impact. But I know that what we actually say here is not why we have come. We are here to be: to be Christ, to be loving, to be present. “Christ in you”, as Marc Ivanchak told us. So our words will be few but we will holds their hands and play games and share smiles. I already know that is why we are here. This is going to be a great 7 weeks. We will do all we can to communicate via email and this blog but our time in town will be very limited. I will try to get internet at least once a week.

Please be praying for all of the kids: Odko, Bimba, Jack, Burnee, Munkhtsetseg, Khurlee, Tsengel, Zaya, Tuya, Dulguun and David (who is in Bible School in town). Pray that they may study hard in school, too. Pray for rest and encouragement for Baatraa and Azaa. Azaa’s, sister has just been diagnosed with Lukemia. Pray for God’s joy and salvation for the people of Mongolia. Please be in prayer for Marc and WEGO as they not only run this orphanage but many other ministries across the globe. Please be praying for Carlie’s health. We had to take her to a health clinic yesterday because she had a bad case of food poisoning that was encouraged by the cow intestine dumplings that we had for dinner the night before (it was actually my favorite meal so far). Pray also that Carlie and I will be Christ in flesh while we are here. And please join Carlie and I in praying Psalm 78:1-8 for the kids.

Here are some pics:

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