the learning house

where everyone (especially me!) is learning . . .

A Privilege???

My husband and I have lived in Mongolia for more than 8 years now. Eight years . . . that’s a long time. Yet that’s how long it took me realize something very important about missions and about our calling to be here. For years I have heard my husband, George, when talking to folks about ‘what we do’ here, say, “It’s a privilege.” I would think to myself, “Well, that sure sounds nice and humble.” But I don’t think I ever really ‘got’ it. I mean, I don’t think that “privilege” is the word I would have used myself. Did I really feel like it was a privilege to leave friends, family, and all that is familiar, comfortable and convenient to go live in a foreign country where I would experience culture shock and basically have to learn to talk all over again? If I were honest, I’d have to say no. A different word was stuffed deep down in my heart where I wouldn’t actually say it out loud for fear of not sounding Godly and humble . . . sacrifice. (See everything I’m giving up for you, God?¬†)

My attitude, perspective, and heart changed last week though. Why last week after 8 long years here? Because last week the rug was almost pulled out from under our feet. Last week, Immigration attempted to shut us down. Last week the threat of having our visas revoked and having to leave immediately was very real. We had a short-term team of 17 people here – all of their passports were confiscated. For the following 24 hrs our fate was up in the air as interrogations, accusations, interviews, and meetings took place. And prayer. Much prayer. Crying out to God to have mercy and allow us the privilege of us serving here longer. I wasn’t ready to start packing. I didn’t want to leave. There’s still so much to do! We aren’t finished yet! We just started building the medical clinic. Please let us finish this, God! It was in the midst of these cries that it dawned on me . . . being here really IS a privilege. Missions IS a privilege. Serving God, wherever you are, IS a privilege. Unfortunately it took almost having it taken away for me to realize it.

To make a long story short, prayer warriors rallied, intercession was made, and God answered prayer – our Governor and a Member of Parliament ended up backing us and our work (because of the positive impact our center has on the community, the relief work we do, and the medical clinic we’re building) and even threatened the Immigration official that there would be trouble for him if he didn’t back off.

Pheeeeeeewww. *Deep breath* *Sigh of relief* And a new perspective. A new attitude. Gratitude for the privilege it is to be here for one more day, week, month or year.

Construction is under way for the new medical clinic!

Construction is under way for the new medical clinic!

What are you taking for granted in your life? Pray for a new perspective and a heart of gratitude. ūüôā

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Entrepreneur of the Year 2012

Finally . . . some pics of George getting his award (You can read all about it in this post). In the pictures with him are the Former President of Mongolia, the President of the Chamber of Commerce of Mongolia and some other Members of Parliament.

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Thank You Cards – An ancient custom?

In today’s age of technology where it’s so quick and easy to send an e-mail, text message, IM, or twitter, is it really necessary to send a hand-written, snail-mailed Thank You card for all the Christmas gifts we’ve received over the holidays? Maybe, maybe not, but I’d like to suggest a few reasons why it’s a good idea, particularly if you have young children who don’t use the above mentioned technology.

When we send a quick email thanking the grandparents for the gifts they sent our children, by not including our children in the process, we fail to teach them the dying virtue of gratitude. So help your child appreciate not only the gift, but also the giver, by helping them make a Thank You card.

For younger children it can be as simple as sticking stickers or stamping stamps on a blank card, then you can write a note describing how much your child is enjoying his/her new toy. Older children can sign their own name or write their own note.

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I find this process also helps young children remember who gave them each gift. While we make the cards, we look at pictures and talk about the people who gave the gifts and how much they love them and how happy they will be to know their gift is appreciated and enjoyed.

Writing a Thank You note for each and every gift could be tedious and may not be necessary, but where I think it’s especially meaningful is in the case where the gift giver was not present when the gift was opened (which is most of our gifts!). So for example, if Grandma or Grandpa didn’t get to see your child open the gift – didn’t get to see the joy on their face and watch them play with it – then I think it’s important to send them a note sharing how much your child loved the gift or their reaction when they opened it or their favorite thing about it, etc.

Another thing I did this year was take some pictures of my kids in their new clothes or playing with a favorite new toy, then print the picture and make a card with it . . .

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I’ll admit that I do not always write a Thank You card for every gift, but it’s something I’m working on because I want my friends and family who are so thoughtful and generous to send us gifts to be encouraged by what a blessing they are to us and for them to know how much their gifts are loved, used, enjoyed, (sometimes eaten!),¬†and cherished.

Do you send Thank You cards?

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And the Husband of the Year Award Goes to . . .

(drumroll . . .)

You guessed it . . . George Kenworthy!!! (applause, cheering, etc.)

O

Let me just back up a bit here . . . since I started blogging a few months ago, I’ve wanted to write something about my husband, George, because he’s so amazing and I think the rest of the world (or at least my WP followers) should know it. The only reason I haven’t is because he’s a fairly modest and pretty private kind of guy. But I can’t keep silent any longer . . . it’s time to brag a little on my hubby.

Not only is he a terrific husband and a hero to our two young children, but he is also¬†a very hard worker and an¬†outstanding leader.¬†But one of the qualities that I admire most about him is his passion for learning. In addition to running our small English school, teaching classes, and building a medical clinic for the poor, he is currently working on¬†a PhD 2 PhD’s. Yeah, two. I mean, who does that, right??? So when I named my blog The Learning House, the subtitle should¬†probably read “where everyone, especially George!, is learning.”

So why 2 PhD’s? Well, the first is an EdD from Nova SouthEastern in Florida and is directly related to our ministry here¬†. . . George was asked by our organization, ReachGlobal, to research how we as Westerners can more effectively partner with nationals and better achieve our organization’s motto: Develop, Empower, Release. His focus is on Release¬†– How can missionaries as well as other non-profit and international organizations release¬†a ministry, work or project to the nationals in a way that is good and healthy for both sides. So he’ll be tackling issues such as dependency, control, cross-cultural communication, and knowledge sharing.

The second PhD is from the Mongolian National University in Ulaanbaatar. Again, he was asked by a member of Parliament¬†to conduct research and write a dissertation that could lead to policy change with regard to Mongolian business and relationships with international organizations. They want him to research a few Mongolian businesses and then come up with a plan that could help Mongolia move forward more independently without relying so much on foreign aid (read “control”) and how to make their economy job-producing for the next generation.

George’s hard work is paying off as we see God answering prayers and providing the funds needed for the medical clinic (breaking ground this May!!!) and forging inroads and significant relationships in Government and Parliament with influencers and change-agents who see what we are doing, the positive results in the community, and want to partner with us to make things happen.

I was obviously kidding about the Husband of the Year Award, but George is actually getting an award – tonight in fact. The Mongolian Chamber of Commerce & Parliament are awarding George with Entrepreneur of the Year for 2012. Of course we don’t do what we do for awards, approval, or applause, but being recognized in this way is not only a great honor but also a big encouragement – like a little boost of energy and motivation¬†to keep you going even when the going is tough, the work is grueling, the stress is mounting and you feel all alone. Congratulations on this well-deserved honor, Baby. I’m so proud of all your achievements, but most of all I’m proud that you are honest, hard-working, compassionate and a wonderful role model for our children.

(pictures to follow)

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Homesick for the Holidays

My husband, George, and I first came to Mongolia at Thanksgiving time, 2004. That’s right, the¬†beginning of the holiday season. What were we thinking??? I can still remember how dismal that first December seemed. Cold. No, cold¬†doesn’t quite do it justice. Hmmm, how about -40, frozen toes, icicles forming on your eyelashes, cold? And dark. No Christmas lights – anywhere. No Christmas trees. No Christmas music playing in the stores.

One afternoon George, trying to create a little Christmas spirit, put on some Christmas music at home. It seemed like a good idea for about 2 seconds – before I knew it, all I could think of was the family gatherings I’d be missing back home, the Christmas Eve candle light service we wouldn’t be attending, and several other traditions we wouldn’t get to participate in . . . and I was instantly home-sick. Picture me curled up in the fetal position on our bed. Needless to say, we didn’t listen to any more Christmas¬†music that holiday season. We didn’t embrace Christmas at all that year – we just tried to get through it.

I’m happy to say that we’ve come a long way since that first Christmas . . .¬†We have a Christmas tree adorned with hand-crafted ornaments made by little hands . . .

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And an Advent Calendar to help us teach our kids the significance of Jesus’ coming into the world and to anticipate His birth . . .

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And gradually as our young family grows we are developing new traditions. One tradition that I started after our first was born is making a photo calendar each year to give to¬†all of our extended family back in the States and Canada.¬†Not only is it a great keepsake for myself and fun to look back on highlights of the year, but our family appreciates it since they don’t see the kids throughout the year.

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Our kids, now 3 and almost 5, know there will be gifts in their stockings and under the tree this year but they also know that the reason is Jesus’ birthday and that we give gifts at Christmas to show our love for Jesus and others. Yeah, they’ve heard of Santa in some movies and storybooks but that’s about it. They’ve never sat on Santa’s lap or heard of a wish list. In fact, the other day George¬†asked¬†our daughter what she wants for Christmas and she didn’t even know how to respond . . . she just stared at him with a confused expression for a second and then shrugged her shoulders and said, I don’t know. I’ll just know it when you get me it. I’ll just see it and then that will be what I want. I know it won’t be like this forever, but boy am I cherishing it!

OOAdmittedly I miss some of the razzle dazzle, hustle & bustle, parades, parties & festivities of the holiday season back home, but I’ve come to appreciate the simplicity of celebrating our Savior’s birth on Christmas. So although throughout Mongolia, December 25th still comes and goes like any other day, within the walls of our little apartment something more significant takes place. And the bitter cold and deep darkness are replaced with warmth and light.

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My name is Terri and I’m a complainer.

stop_complainingComplaining is one of my pet peeves. I can’t stand to listen to the ungrateful whining . . . “Really, we’re having this for breakfast again?” . . . or “But I don’t want to wear those pants – they’re not fancy! . . . or “Not this cup, Mom. I wanted the purple cup!” Really? Just be thankful for what you have and STOP COMPLAINING. That’s right . . . I hate complaining – when my kids do it that is. But¬†what about my complaining?

In Bible time with the kids we have been learning about Moses and the Israelites in their journey through the wilderness to the Promised Land. If you’re familiar with the story then you know that time and time again, the Israelites complained to Moses . . . We’re hungry. We’re thirsty. We’re going to die here. Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die in the desert? We had it so much better in Egypt . . .¬†etc. And time and time again, God displayed his power and might, providing for their needs in miraculous ways, and showing mercy on¬†a whining, sniveling, ungrateful people. So this was the ideal¬†segue for reminding my children that whining and complaining make God sad and how important it is to be thankful for what we have and remember that God has our best in mind . . . now when one of my children complain I remind them of the Israelites – “You sound¬†just like the Israelites, remember???”

But this week as we read a passage from Numbers 11, I felt convicted that I¬†was the one who needed a refresher course on gratitude. Why is that? There were the Isrealites, after a year in the wilderness, after a year of God’s faithfulness – in fact they had just celebrated the 2nd Passover – celebrating God’s victory over Pharoah and their exodus from Egypt – and already they are complaining again. Annoying, right? So God sends down fire as a little reminder Who is in control here and then on they move to the next camp. Any guesses what happened there??? That’s right – more complaining. And this is the one that got me . . . the one that sounded like echoes of my own discontentment and to be honest, sometimes even contempt, living in a foreign land. So what were they complaining about? What do I complain about??? Food. But God provided manna for them to eat so what’s the problem? Well, they were sick and tired of manna. They wanted meat. They remembered the good fish they ate in Egypt. They missed onions, leeks, garlic, cucumbers and melon. They were so unhappy that they romanticized their life in Egypt and minimized the inconveniences. It all sounded a little too familiar.

What it boils down to is that I’m not really that much more grateful at times than the Isrealites were. I lament the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables here. I remember the good food we ate in America.¬† I miss corn on the cob, strawberries and blueberries, broccoli and asparagus, pork, ribs, steak, the list goes on. I get tired of making everything from scratch. Everything. I get bored with cooking the same recipes over and over. It seems I have the same short-term memory issue that the Israelites had. I sometimes wonder if God isn’t up there thinking, Really, Terri? Have you already forgotten your excitement over the granola bars and chocolate chips that came in a care package just last week? What about that box of Frosted Flakes you couldn’t believe you found at the store earlier this month? I thought you were happy with the fresh juicy mandarins available at the market lately? Well, sure I was delighted. For a moment. And then my thoughts went right back to all the other things I can’t get here. Isn’t that just like us humans?

So how can I – how can we – cultivate a heart of gratitude and learn to be content whatever our circumstances? In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus – I Thessalonians 5:18. The secret of happiness is . . . NOT comfort food, NOT shopping, NOT more stuff. It’s simply giving thanks. When my focus is on what I do have rather than what I don’t have, or better still, when¬†my focus is not¬†on what I have at all but rather on who I am in Christ then suddenly strawberries don’t sound so important. The Israelites might have complained less if they could have kept sight of the goal – the mission – the Promised Land. And so it is with us with me. Gratitude requires a shift in thinking. A change of perspective. From me to HIM. From my life to the one who gave His life for me. Let us be thankful and so worship God . . . – Hebrews 12:28.

What helps you to stop complaining and be content? How do you try to cultivate a heart of gratitude in your children?

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Confessions of a Homeschool Mom

When my husband, George, and I moved to Outer Mongolia 8 years ago, the truth is . . . I knew that some day if the Lord blessed us with children, I’d have to homeschool them. That’s right, I’d have to . . . in other words, be forced to, have no other choice but to homeschool our kids. That sums up my attitude toward homeschooling . . . back then, that is. I dreaded it. But here we are 8 years later with a beautiful 4 yr old daughter and sweet 3 yr old boy, and guess what? I am homeschooling them. And the truth is . . . I love it! It’s not this big scary daunting task that I thought it would be; rather,¬†I have discovered that it’s a fun, exciting and very rewarding adventure. ¬†If you just rolled your eyes and you’re thinking, “Yeah right,” or maybe you’re scared like I was, then¬†I hope this blog will offer some encouragement, ideas and insight . . . and if you’re thinking, “That is so true!”, then my¬†desire is to share ideas and learn from your valuable experience. Welcome to the learning house . . . where everyone (especially me!) is learning.

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