I’m trying to think how I can cram all that has happened this week into a few paragraphs. Most of this last week was filled with Carlie and I acting like we knew what we were doing: Carlie teaching English, me teaching piano, helping to tear down a ger, and us both farming. We spent several days harvesting potatoes and carrots. I have spent a good bit of my life outdoors and in no way do I consider myself a city boy, but I have never pulled anything out of the ground that is edible. It was a real beautiful thing to be a part of. The proceeds of these organic vegetables help support the orphanage. We all worked hard cautiously digging and pulling and getting burnt by the sun. The kids had a competition to see who could dig up the largest potato. Technically I think I won because I pulled it out of the ground but the trophy went to Dulguun because it was her row of potatoes that I was digging up. I got so upset that I threw all the potatoes at the sun and turned them into a sky full of french fries- which were actually quite delicious. OK- that last part is not completely true. But seriously, I have never felt more rewarded in my labor. These dirt stains on my hands are a reminder that I should be more prone to help and to serve my friends.

And that is one of the greatest things I will take from our time living at this orphanage in Mongolia. These kids have never felt like orphans or charity cases but friends. We have not come to do some great project for them but to simply join alongside of them in there everyday lives: at the dinner table, on the soccer field (which I’ve been told by the kids to tone it down some), in the fields, getting slaughtered by twelve-year-old Bimba in chess every time we’ve played but once, and so on. I truly love each and every one of them as a friend and I think that is how it should be.

One of the highlights for the week was on Sunday. To celebrate all of the kids hard work and their starting of school on Tuesday (yesterday), we went to Terelj National Park. It is a beautiful vast open land whose rock formations mirrored The Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. We all had a great day together. The Mongolian government does not allow the orphanage to take its kids to a Christian Church. They say we should not force religion on them although it is quite OK for them to be taken to a Buddhist Temple. So we have Church ourselves at the orphanage, or as we did this Sunday, in a beautiful National Park. I spoke on Colossians 3:17 and talked about the importance of giving thanks to God through every area of our lives. I think it was good for them to hear that picking potatoes and doing their homework can be just as God honoring as saying a prayer or singing a worship song. One of my favorite parts of the day was when I asked the kids following my “sermon” what song they wanted to sing. Odka shouted, “Jonah!” There is a song I wrote about Jonah that he makes me sing 4 or 5 times in a row everyday. He almost has it memorized. It’s not exactly a worship song so we opted for “God Is So Good” in English and in Mongolian. But it really meant a lot to me that he would be so enthusiastic to sing one of my songs.

Yesterday was a great day for the kids but a rough one for me. The night before the power was out so I didn’t really get a good look at the rice I scooped out of the pot. It was a traditional Mongolian meal- rice with goat milk (it literally comes from the goats that the orphanage owns next door). I spent all day in bed and the bathroom. Not fun. I was most upset because I missed most of the kids first day of school. All the kids dressed up in nice collared shirts and ties. They were so good looking. Carlie made them pancakes in the morning and lasagna for dinner. It was a real treat, I hear. Yes, I missed my only chance at American meals in two weeks. Oh yeah, Carlie, Baatraa, Tseteg and I went in to town on Monday to get Tseteg ready for College. We took her to chicken restaurant to celebrate. We also got to buy a pressure cooker and a keyboard for the orphanage.

Please be in prayer that we might make a good profit on all of the vegetables, for the kids exams and homework, and for better luck in the health department. We are certain that we have already been helped, encouraged, and strengthen a great deal from your prayers.