Before arriving in Mongolia I had read something about its culture, the gers and so forth. However, being physically present in the land, it gives a more practical impression. Now two and half months are over since I set my foot on this blue sky land and every day is a day of learning something new. Recently, in July, there were Naadam celebrations. (Naadam is a national traditional festival in Mongolia during which several games are played – mongolian wrestling, archery, horse racing amongst others.
I happened to participate in these celebrations and it was a real fun. I learned a lot. Well, with my colleague Fr. Andres we happened to go to the Naadam’s horse race field outside the capital city. The place was characterised by heavy presence of Mongolians and tourists from different parts of the world coming to witness these great celebrations, many horses and camels, and cultural foods.
Mongolian Ger during the time of Naadam celebrations.
As we walked around we happened to bump into a Ger with a door wide open as it’s always the case with Gers here. (Ger: Mongolian traditional house. It’s round in shape, made of a heavy water proof canvas and pieces of wood. In most cases it’s portable. Ger also means home). So we entered inside where we were warmly received and shown where to sit, then served with various Mongolian dishes. Everyone present seemed to pay attention to us. There were also other people getting in, eating and going away. It was a great surprise for me. In many parts of the world it is very rare to find a house where you just walk into and you are received and served as a special guest! This kept me thinking. Then I remembered that some two weeks after my arrival in Mongolia I happened to travel with my community to Arvaheer, the province where we have our parish. On the way we stopped and entered into a family ger aside the road. There we were received well too, served with a bowl of fermented horse milk and some bread. We rested a bit, talked then left leaving the kids some sweets that we had carried.
The two incidences of such a warm reception moved me a lot. In Genesis 18,1-15 Abraham receives three unknown guests who turns out to be God who brought him some good news of the promise of a son. This shows how God blesses our generosity and openness of heart. I am certain that God is heavily rewarding the Mongolians for living values that many of them do not even know whether are gospel values. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ visited and received people from all walks of life and He invites us to emulate the same.
I bet there are more gospel values hidden in this culture and slow by slow I shall learn them. This experience comes as a challenge to the Christians who do not live the gospel values, yet people who are not yet Christians are already living them. To those of us evangelizing in different places, I think paying special attention to the local culture and its values can help a great deal in driving the gospel into the hearts of the people. May our mother Consolata accompany the mission in Mongolia.