Sumpteretc's Blog

What's on my mind at the moment

Category: missions

unread books

Well, I only watched about 15 minutes of the State of the Union address, but I don’t suppose I missed a lot. I’m guessing it was mostly “Rah, rah! Let’s fix the economy and create jobs. We need more bipartisan effort, and I fully support our troops.” Did I get most of it? I’m cynical about a lot of things, but politics is high up on the list.

I’ve been reading Alexander Pope in my free time, and I am amazed at how many well-known phrases came from his “Essay on Criticism”–“a little learning is a dangerous thing,” “to err is human, to forgive divine,” and “fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” I’ve barely heard of Pope, so I was shocked to hear such common phrases originating with him. I’m reading “The Rape of the Lock” now, which I have actually heard of, although I know precious little about it.

I spent a big chunk of my afternoon listening to a webinar on “10 Commandments to Counteract Dependency” with Jarvis Ferguson, Ibero-American area director for Global Partners. It was some pretty challenging stuff, as our church here is very dependent on North American dollars, and I haven’t seen significant moves to break free of that system. I want to encourage the church toward greater self-support, but we’re basically starting from zero, so it’s going to take some major brainstorming and probably progress at a rate slower than I would like. My friend Dave Horne gave me the book When Helping Hurts back in October, but it’s still in a stack of a bunch of unread books on my desk. I think I’m just going to have to make reading it a part of my weekly schedule, so that I can get some clarity on how to begin to resolve this issue.

This stack of books is actually beginning to bug me. There is so much that I would like to read, but I just don’t make the time for it. I’m devoted to finishing this volume of the Major British Writers before I get too heavily into anything else. After Pope, I just have Boswell and Johnson, so maybe I’ll get through it sometime this year!

Speaking of books, I saw an interesting sign here in Ulaanbaatar yesterday; it said “Center of English Book.” I think if you’re going to bother to have an English book center, you ought to go to the trouble of using proper grammar in your signage. I suppose they could have just been referring to the center of a particular volume, but….

Tiffany has been helping me with some of our donor communication, so we should have a print newsletter coming out in the next week or so. Since everyone reading this must sure have an e-mail address, you probably won’t get a print copy, but if you do, save me some money next time by sending your e-mail address to By way of communication, we’re also working on getting a video postcard put together. There are a few churches that have requested videos, but I hope we’ll be able to make it available to whoever would like to see it.

Visa Situation

I’ve written elsewhere about the situation we are facing regarding our visas to stay in Mongolia, but I’ll try to clarify a bit here. We are currently on student visas until November 15 of this year. Following that, we need to come up with some rationale to stay in the country legally. Our plan was to leave on November 15 for the Philippines, teach a 3-week Bible college course, take a little R&R and return to Mongolia around January 1 to finish out our final year on the field.

I recently started putting out some feelers. I saw an ad in the paper for a foreign relations manager for MongolTax, Mongolia’s first and largest tax consultancy firm. They soon called me for an interview and offered me the job the same day. They wanted me to start full-time the next day. I needed to get permission from our missions agency as well as from the government, so I stalled a bit. The more I considered it, the more uncomfortable I felt about it, so I ended up sending an e-mail today declining the job but asking that they keep my name on file in case the job is available or re-opens at a later date.

So, we are still searching for a different opportunity. Our hopes, in order of preference, are: 1) get a church worker’s visa, 2) Tiff get a part-time job (possibly teaching music or English) and me work full-time at the church on a companion visa, 3) me work part-time and help the church on the side, and 4) me work full-time and try to squeeze in church work. The MongolTax was basically going to work out to priority #4, so I want to make sure we’ve fully investigated the other possibilities before we make a decision.

stolen bike

Just before prayer meeting tonight, Glenbert asked if he could talk to me. He said, “You know how I borrowed your bike a little bit ago? Well, I took it to the market, and somebody stole it.” Glen is quite a joker, so I wasn’t exactly sure if he was being serious, but this time, he was. Apparently, he parked it near the stand of one of our church members, but when he came back, it was gone. Nobody had seen anything. He reported the theft to the police, but I imagine that means almost nothing. Glen has offered to replace it but 1) I’m not sure he can afford to, and 2) we’re only going to be here a few more months anyhow.

Tiff and I were talking the other day about emotional attachments, and I mentioned that I didn’t think I was too heavily invested in anything. Maybe the bicycle is a small test of that. Honestly, I don’t really care that much that my bike is gone. Probably students borrowing it have put more kilometers on it than I have. If I accept any payment from Glen, it won’t be because I need it, but because he needs a lesson in responsibility.

This is not a lesson needed only by Glen. It seems like the students often fail to show care for a borrowed item. We bought a computer for the library, and in just a few weeks, the hard drive was corrupted and had to be reformatted. The students didn’t care for it as they would if it were their own.

And the problem goes to the macro-level, too. This is one of the things that’s wrong with paternalistic missions. If the sending nation is forever subsidizing pastors, building schools and hospitals, the receiving nation never learns to take responsibility. The building didn’t cost us anything; why should we take care of it? And that probably goes on the governmental level as well. It’s looked on as meddling (or imperialism) if the US government gets too hands-on in another country. But if the US only sends money and doesn’t make sure that money is being used to set up systems of responsibility, it’s almost sure to be foolishly spent.