Thursday, February 27, 2014

5 Points for Prayer

1. As those of you following Rachel on Facebook will know, we received our Alien Residence Cards this week. Contrary to what I had understood, they are valid only until mid April, as they are tied to one aspect of  the College's registration. Essentially this means that we are only currently guaranteed to be able to stay here until mid-April, at which time our registrations and permissions will need to be re-processed so that we can stay longer. Of course, this was the situation 6 months ago when we had to leave. The general atmosphere of registrations and permissions seems better at the moment, but obviously we don't want to be forced to leave again in mid-April

2 . As our last newsletter spoke about, I have quite a teaching load at the moment, around 14 hrs face to face a week. It take me at least 16hrs or more to prepare for those lessons. It also involves teaching a Hebrew exegesis subject which I am enjoying, but Hebrew is not a strong suit in my myriad languages. Another one of these subjects is a left-over from my incomplete last semester, and it takes considerable time to prepare (New Testament theology). It is scheduled to finish up in a few weeks before our Spring Break. But it will be replaced with a 4hr a week evening class for the second half of semester. In this regard you might pray for general endurance and ability to get my work done and not be overburdened.

3. We are involved in two churches here, an English-language and a Mongol-language church. Our English language church is currently in the process of re-registering. As you might have gathered, all this registration is burdensome and uncertain for practically every organisation we know of. We serve on the steering committee of this church, and registration at this stage is vital in order to issue a visa for a full time pastor who is scheduled to come. As a number of key leaders are leaving shortly, we would very much like this to happen so as to avoid me becoming some kind of de facto pastor of the church!

4. In March I will accompany a team of students from the college on a mission trip to Zabhan province. I am looking forward to the gospel being preached, believers being encouraged, and students engaged in ministry. I am nervous about a 10 day trip in the countryside living 'Mongolian-style'. It is well out of my comfort zone and dietary practices. Pray for God's sustaining grace, provision, and protection.

5. Lastly, and related to point 2, I am not only a full-time teacher here, but I am also a PhD student. So it's incumbent upon me to make steady and faithful progress in my research, which happened while I was back in Australia, but certainly I've achieved nothing in the last 2.5 weeks here. Please pray that I can carve out solid and sufficient time, and have very good mental focus to do some very solid research this semester, as I am at a point where some good forward progress and written material needs to be made.

~ Seumas

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Returned to the land of ice

Yes, we are back in Mongolia.

After a fairly (relatively speaking) straightforward flight to Korea, hotel stopover, and flight to Mongolia, we were landing on a clear Saturday afternoon with the sun shining and the temperature in the negative teens. We had some apprehension about having only a document assuring us we would receive visas, but it turned out to be a straightforward process and visas were speedily placed in our passports!

And the first new thing to notice was that the conveyor belt for luggage has been upgraded in the airport. Modern living! We picked up our luggage and then headed out to be met by our friend Puje. He is the one whose son has ongoing health issues; the two of them had been in the US recently and the prognosis is looking good that one day his son might give up his medication and live a 'normal' life. Praise God.

It has been a busy week for me (Seumas) in particular. We had a very warm reception at both of our churches on Sunday, especially at our Mongolian church, which was very nice for us.

On Monday things were a little bit quiet. I went to visit the college but Monday is rest day so zero people were present. We also went to visit our Mongolian teacher, which was a good reconnection.

Alas, in the difficulty of getting into our apartment on the Saturday night (one lock had been changed and we had two sets of keys and didn't realise that the lock had been changed so it was confusing), one of my bags had fallen to the ground. When I opened up my tablet on Monday night I realised that the screen had been shattered quite comprehensively. Actually the touch screen still works, but the glass is cracked all over. I have some moderate hope of getting it fixed here but it seems unlikely. Also a tap stopped working so we had to get a building plumber to come and look at it. And my monitor didn't want to talk to my computer (we at least fixed this with a new cable). Lastly my printer doesn't like windows 8 and so now I have to print everything through Rachel's computer. Many frustrations!

On Tuesday I was straight into work. I discovered just half-way through the flight, in Korea, that I have to teach the second half of a course from last semester. Also I have to make up about 3 weeks of missed classes. So this week I taught 14 hours of class.

Also on Tuesday we went out to Immigration with the college secretary. This was to file our registration. It used to involve fingerprints and photos, but ours are on file, so it kind of went quickly, except that we didn't have all the right documents.

Then on Wednesday it was determined that I also need to have some medical tests for my work permit! So the secretary met me at school and we went off to a Mongolian district hospital. I was quite dubious about this. It was very crowded. Once we arrived she phoned a nurse she knew. Then the nurse led us into another building and we queued for some blood tests. They only do 50 tests or so each morning, and if you don't get a number, too bad, unless you are pregnant, or a foreigner with friends. Mongolia is definitely "who you know". I was quite pleased to see a needle come out of a sealed bag so at least there is some chance it was fresh and I won't die of blood-borne diseases. Then we had to go back to the main hospital building for an x-ray. A similar system seemed in progress but I was taken in as the last person of the morning to get an x-ray (at 9:30!)

Also I am scheduled to go with some students on some kind of mission trip to the North west. I don't really know anything about this yet. I suppose it will become clear-ish in due course.

On Thursday the Dean of Students approached me and asked if I could preach Friday chapel. So that was another thing to be done. Fortunately I was preparing to preach on Sunday and work through a sermon that I had previously done and connected with material I taught in class this week. I never enjoy preaching through a translator but it is the only way. Also there was some misunderstanding about one of my classes, so I had to teach a class (Ezra-Nehemiah) unprepared on Friday.

Then we had church music practice. Music practice is often preceded by choir practice so I inadvertently joined the choir! Musical instruction in Mongolian is an interesting experience. Rachel also came and sang. Band practice followed choir practice so it was about a 12hr day at college.

In other college news, there are some financial issues for the college at the moment. Please be in prayer for these. If you would like more details, email me.

Saturday we had a committee meeting for the International church. Since we left the country right after we were asked to join the steering committee this was actually our first time at a meeting.

And that's a week back in Mongolia! It's cold (below -20 most days), the air is very bad (I am wearing a mask to and from work), the people are pleased to see us, and life is busy like everywhere.