Timehop reminded me that four years ago today, I was flying from Chicago to Seoul to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. I spent three weeks in the Asian country (south of Russia, north of China), and that trip remains one of my absolute favorite traveling memories, in large part because of how it came to be.
In the fall of 2010, Samaritan’s Purse Children’s Heart Project sent 14-year-old Sarangoo and her mother, Byamba, to Peoria, IL for heart surgery. They stayed with a couple from my church, and the rest of our congregation poured food, entertainment, and love into their lives. Except me. I was recently returned home after college and five months in Senegal. Bored with the familiar and feeling very single amongst married or dating friends, I was depressed. And in my depression I couldn’t be bothered to help someone else.
Luckily for me, there was another depressed person in the mix. Gany was Sarangoo’s translator, and their host family sent out an email that essentially read: “Gany is bored! Will someone take her out for something fun?” That sounded exactly like me, so I volunteered. We went out to eat at Culver’s, took pictures of the Holocaust Memorial at the mall, and played the piano at my parent’s house. Almost immediately, I knew I had found a kindred spirit. Continue reading
Outside Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia – July 2011
Sometime around five years ago, I decided that James 1:27 (“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world”) ought to be taken literally. I am still determined to adopt someone someday, and while I’m not opposed to single parenthood, I’m holding out for a marriage first. For a while, though, I considered working in an orphanage. When I mentioned this to Gany, a Mongolian girl working as a temporary interpreter in my hometown in Illinois, she invited me to visit the orphanage her church runs in Mongolia. Several months later, I did just that.
Every summer, The Children’s Place orphanage goes to a camp in the countryside to escape the polluted air of the capital city. Gany and I joined them for several days. Our taxi played a Backstreet Boys CD on repeat as we bounced down country roads and avoided massive potholes flooded with water. At the campground, the door to a simple one-room building opened, and five children ran to greet us. I had never met any of them before, but one grabbed my bag and two more grabbed my hands. I immediately knew that my heart wasn’t going to escape this visit untouched. Continue reading