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.
I can’t recall the last time I missed an entire football season. Traveling on the Around-the-World Semester® II means that there will be one less Steeler fan watching this winter. Ever since I was a little girl, I grew up in Steeler country watching football with my dad, uncles, and brother every Sunday. Not to mention, every summer the Steelers bombard our little town of Latrobe, PA and host their training camp at St. Vincent College right near my house. It’s a Pittsburgh tradition that anytime you travel internationally, you take a picture with your terrible towel. This tradition is a reminder that even though you are far away from home, Steeler nation is represented wherever you go. Traveling with my terrible towel in my daypack, I am constantly reminded of my home culture, memories, and where I come from. Being a Steelers fan is a part of me that cannot be removed and I am proud to carry the towel on this trip.
So far, the towel has been hoisted above a ger in Mongolia, above the Great Wall of China, on top a boat in Ha Long Bay Vietnam, on the beach in Thailand, in the slums of India, in front of an obelisk Ethiopia, at a palace in Slovakia, and many more to come. God has blessed me with this trip in serving him, and I am forever grateful to be trekking around the world with this community, towel in hand.
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!”
On our first Saturday in Mongolia, our group visited the palace of the Bogd Khan. All of the museums and tourist spots in Mongolia have a strange rule: No cameras except for those which have been paid for. Our team decided that we wanted one camera, and since mine is the best on the trip, I was deemed camera man. And this was no small business. I was equipped with a press badge and a separate ticket for my camera. I felt very official. Every time one of the museum workers saw me operating my camera I would show them my badge and that was enough to keep them from telling me no. Of course, as the group photographer, I spent most of the trip in the back of the group taking pictures of everything from tapestries to ceiling tiles, from statues to grand architecture. Though I was not able to investigate the palace as thoroughly as I would have liked, I was presented with the chance to practice my photography in an amazing location.
As we passed through the gate, the architecture was astounding—lofty roofs held up by tall pillars; graceful walls complimented by curving ceilings; small stone critters graced some of the edges along the roofs of buildings. Almost every wall was painted with scenes and diagrams from the mythical history of Mongolia. Inside of the buildings was as impressive as the outside. Some of the first exhibits we saw were large wooden statues of what appeared to be mythical creatures. There were also large tapestries containing images which I associated with the history of Buddhism. Several rooms even contained large metal statues of Buddha and other images. As I rushed through the museum at the breakneck plod of a photographer, I did not take the time to fully comprehend any of the art. But I was able to enjoy the environment and the culture as I took notice of it between adjusting settings and setting up the right angle. Catching a glimpse into the world of a people who seem so distant from us was quite an opportunity, even if it was only through the lens of a camera.