Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Pure Joy Mongolia Q & A, part I

I’ve been asked a lot of questions about my trip to Mongolia since I got home. In trying to come up with a good way to share about my experience, I thought I’d post in the Q & A format to make it easier to read. That way, you can skip over whatever parts are boring! So here are the questions I’ve been most asked:

What is Pure Joy International?
Pure Joy International is a ministry that takes a team to different locations around the globe in order to encourage the hearts of missionary women (and by extension their families) by providing them a 4-day, 3-night retreat free of cost. During the retreat, the women are treated to great worship and speaking, meals and snacks, and a gift each time they enter the room. You can read about Pure Joy in more detail on their website,

      How did you get connected with this particular Pure Joy trip?
A good friend of mine, Penny, has been going on trips with Pure Joy for years. I’ve always wanted to go based on what she had to say, but never felt like the time was right. Then about a year ago, I sat in my favorite Mexican restaurant in Jonesboro (El Acapulco) across from one of my favorite people, Pam Rusher. I was in town for a weekend visit and we were catching up on life when she mentioned that Pure Joy International was taking a trip to Mongolia in 2013. Mrs. Pam and her husband, the late Dr. Buck Rusher, served for several years in Mongolia with the International Mission Board. I came to know and love the Rushers as an Arkansas State college student between their terms in Mongolia. When she mentioned the upcoming retreat in Ulaanbaatar (the capital city and their home while in Mongolia), I immediately said, “I want to go on that trip!” Eleven months later, I found myself sitting in the Dallas airport, waiting to board a 14-hour flight to the other side of the planet.

Penny on the left, Mrs. Pam on the right.

      Who are the women on the team?
The team was made up of 10 women. Some had been on trips with Pure Joy before; others, like myself, had not. We all had a role on the trip: photographer, hospitality, techno guru, etc.

      How long was that flight?
Long. We flew from Little Rock to Dallas, then Dallas to Seoul, South Korea, then Seoul to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. The longest flight was 14 hours.

      Did you eat anything weird?
I ate sheep meat on the first day. It wasn’t terrible. I also tried horse meat, which didn’t taste much different from beef. It was kind of bland. And on the last day I ate something called a fish ball. I thought it was a dumpling but once I put it in my mouth I knew I had made a terrible, terrible mistake. I can’t even describe it without wanting to gag. Lesson learned: don’t trust the dumplings.

The sheep meat pie.

       What was the coolest thing you saw?
We saw a gigantic Chinggis Khan memorial that was pretty impressive. That was also the day I befriended a Mongolian vulture. And, the performance we saw of traditional Mongolian singing, dancing and contortion…ism? Is that a word? We saw a contortionist.

Chinggis memorial: 250 tons of stainless steel

What was your favorite part?
Not including the retreat (which I’ll share about later), I loved seeing the Mongolian countryside. I learned that Mongolia’s nickname is Land of the Blue Sky, and we definitely saw why! It was beautiful and memorable.
Land of the Blue Sky

      Would you go back to Mongolia? Do you want to go back to Mongolia?
I would go back in a heartbeat! Though we didn’t spend much time with native Mongolians because we were focused on the missionary ladies, the Mongolians we interacted with were very friendly. They are known for their hospitality and we experienced that, too. Also, they need the gospel. Alcoholism is a big problem, especially among the men (due in large part to a heavy Russian influence for so many years). They are heavily Buddhist and also shamanism is growing in influence. When we asked him, the sweet Mongolian man who drove our bus on our sightseeing days said he’d never heard of Jesus.

      Are you recovered from your trip?
I think I’m physically recovered; jet lag wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be. My mental/emotional recovery is slower. (On my first day back at the BCM, I think I cried four times that day.) As recently as this morning I found myself choked up over one memory or another. A couple of people have remarked that I seem ‘off’ or not myself. My answer to that is, I hope I’m ‘off’ forever. This trip had some far-reaching effects on my life, and I hope I seem a little different from here on out. Even if it means I keep getting teary-eyed about it, that’s okay with me. I would rather this experience continue its profound influence on my life than to move on and become callous to it.

Part II is still to come (where I’ll talk about the retreat and my most meaningful experiences).


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