Parting with Sweet Sorrows

Written by Ben Helge.

Saying goodbye remains one of my least favorite events in life. But it’s not the goodbyes I say to my family that get to me. Those are more like “see-you-laters.” I truly dread the goodbyes that might be the last time I ever see someone, and my first goodbye of this nature happened upon leaving the dormitory of MIU.

I often can’t explain what happens when I travel, but I develop friendships that emulate having been friends for years. Upon arriving in Mongolia, I met Johnny, a foreign exchange student from Korea studying at MIU. Our friendship developed through late nights of laughing, vegan meals, and simply talking. We came to the point of dropping by to hang out, loaning clothes to each other, and sharing about our being away from home. A brotherhood of foreign blood was present.

Despite all of our time shared together, there I stood, having to load the bus and leave another friend behind. As tears filled my eyes then, they do so now as I write. I was reminded by Johnny to be thankful where ever God may lead, whether to Mongolia or the streets of Irvine. I thank God for meeting Johnny and look forward to meeting again whether it be in Korea, the world, or heaven.

Sharing Testimonies and Heart Stones


Written by Ellie Johnson. Photo by Adam Lee.

I was sitting on a river’s edge after riding a horse for an hour and a half through the green hills of the Mongolian countryside. I spent my time thinking, praying and admiring God’s beautiful creation. River rocks were under my toes, submerged in the brisk water, and just as I noticed a little heart shaped rock, our horse-trek guide, Azza, sat down next to me. I can’t quite remember how the conversation started, but it led to Azza asking me questions about Jesus and his love. This wasn’t the first time Azza had asked questions on our four day trek, but it was an intimate, purposeful meeting for the two of us.

Azza’s parents are Buddhist, but she attends a Christian university and has been exposed to the Bible, or the “Holy Bible” as she always refers to it. Azza described to me how it amazed her the love and kindness she saw from our whole group. She expressed, “I see you guys hugging and smiling and laughing all day starting in the morning.” She then went on to say, “I see this light around your group that I cannot completely explain.” What a perfect lead-in to sharing my testimony. This was the first time I had shared my testimony. Before the Around-the-World Semester began, I was nervous and felt unqualified to share my testimony. When the focus was taken off me and put on God, He worked in an incredible way. The moment was natural and beautiful.

Azza and I enjoyed the rest of the trek talking, laughing, and singing together. When it came time to say good-bye we exchanged emails and hugs. It took us a long time to part from each other and for the first time on the trip I got teary-eyed while saying farewell to someone. We have already begun emailing and staying in contact. I will always be grateful for the opportunity God gave me to get to know and share his love with such an incredible girl. She left me with a hug saying, “Ellie you are so kind and special and I will always remember you.” It is my hope that she remembers God’s love she felt through me and continues to seek and ask questions. As we left each other, I left with her the little heart shaped rock that I found underneath my toes the first time we talked.

Ganchlmaer Menhzharyaal

Story by Katryna DaCosta. Picture by Amber Arandas.

I met this little boy at the Don Bosco Orphanage Center. I was captivated by his charisma and his drive to learn more. His name is Ganchlmaer Menhzharyaal. He is the youngest boy, at age 8, in the orphanage. Prior to living at the orphanage, he was living on the streets of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia with his grandmother. Although he was in the hands of a loved one, his grandmother was and is still unable to provide for him. She could not get him to school, properly feed him, clothe him, or give him sustainable shelter.

Since his grandmother is still around, she is able to come and visit him. He loves her very much. He used to run away to go see her before she came to visit him. If I could, I would provide the means for him to live with his grandmother if he was willing to continue his education in Mongolian and English. Interacting with him as well as the other boys has been a blessing. Seeing his huge smile and excitement when he saw me was truly heart-warming. For all that this young boy has been through so far, he remains cheerful and eager to play with the other boys or a stranger like me. Teaching him different ways to hit a soccer ball while playing volleyball brought far more joy then I could have imagined. He is also quite a little beast on the soccer field!

Ashoqullah from Afghanistan

Written by Josh Geisinger. Photo by Seth Preuss.

I met Ashoqullah on our first day in Mongolia amongst a crowd of other Mongolia International University Students. He stood out to me because his arm was bandaged, his front left tooth was chipped, and his English was coherent. He commonly went by “Johnny”, but Ashoqullah is from a remote region of Afghanistan north of Kabul. He refined his English by working with the U.S. Military as an interpreter for 3 years.

Ashoqullah was very interested in talking about American life, discussing food, and telling me about his home. He was interested most of all in me and my life. We would talk for hours about college life, our hopes and dreams, relive stories, and even discuss our beliefs. Ashoqullah was always drawn to our group and I later found out that he is in Mongolia because he is currently in exile from his home. He never talked much about it, but suddenly it became clear that we were some of the first people to actually ask him about his life – to care about him as a person.

When we said goodbye, he told me that we would continue to communicate and that maybe he would visit me in California someday. I asked if I could visit him in Afghanistan once he is able to return home. He responded that he would take me in as a brother. I look forward to that day.

First SHOUT

Written by Robyn Cornish. Photo by Mariah Neilson.

Shout has always been a student lead worship service. It changed my life during my freshman year at CUI, giving me an outlet for out-loud praise to my God. It only made sense to carry the traditional service with us around the world. I did not get as far as asking someone to prepare a message, so the first Shout of the Concordia 2012-2013 academic year was an all worship night. We all sat on the courtyard ground of the dorms at Mongolia International University on our yoga mats, wrapped in sleeping bags, worshiping together.

I took some time preparing the set list outlining five stages of relationship with God: Being Called to Worship, Falling in Love with God, Answering His Call, Being on Fire for God and finally Living a Life of His Service. Lyrics of the songs corresponded with these stages.

Had someone told me I would be worshiping God in Mongolia a year ago, I would have said they were crazy. To my surprise, I sat on the cold cement strumming Prof. Lee’s travel guitar and sang at the top of my lungs, “Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, grant us, oh grant us your peace!”

The Golden Cathedral

Written by Lauren Shea. Pictures by Lauren Shea.

As we left the gates of MIU, we entered a whole different world. On the streets were many carts venders selling all different kinds of fruit. Hanging from the fruit carts were delicious, mouth-watering candy bags for 500 togrog. There were cars and buses driving by using their horns like no tomorrow. Children were walking the streets alongside the many stray dogs from all over the city of Ulaanbaatar. After a 20-minute walk taking in the scenery, we finally made it to the big, iron gate of the Ulaanbaatar Orthodox Church. We followed one another inside to the courtyard of this massive, beautiful church.

We scoped out the structure of the building, took pictures, and sat on the steps near the front door of the church. We talked about the beauty of this exact location and all the great things the trip has showed us so far. To our surprise a tall, skinny man appeared and seemed to shoo us away from the church. Laughing at our embarrassment we scurried towards the gate. Instead, the man opened the doors to the church for us to go see inside. Looking around at one another, we all decided to take his offer and sneak a peek.

Walking into the church was breathtaking! Gorgeous, colorful artwork covered all the walls. A spiral staircase led us up to the balcony that gave us an up-close view of the huge, golden chandelier and of all the paintings on the ceiling. The man shared all kinds of information about the church with us and even allowed us into the office building of the church.

Saying our many thanks to this generous man, we headed back to MIU, delighted to learn more about the beautiful gold and white church that we all see each day from our windows.