Frances and I have just returned from the Mongolian countryside where we were part of a team implementing the Gift of Love project. Witnessing the devastation and tragedy in the lives of so many rural Mongolians was heartbreaking: Widows and widowers trying to raise children with little or nothing, young people who have lost limbs to accident or disease, and others simply trying to survive in one of the most unforgiving places on earth.
Bat-Ochir was one of our Gift of Love recipients. He was in a motorcycle accident, in which his leg was severely burned and had to be amputated. He is the young man with the crutches in the picture below. He has a wife and four children. Work for the disabled in remote Mongolia is extremely difficult to find. Receiving a small number of sheep that will provide food for the family during the coming winter months was a real encouragement to him and his family.
During one visit we sat across the room from a herder named Munkhbat, who seemed especially sad. His is a particularly poignant story. Turns out his wife had died from an illness only days before our arrival, and he was devastated by her loss. He had been left with four children to raise and no one to help with their care while he was out with the animals most of every day. When we asked his plans for the children, he replied, “I just don’t know.” Sadly, he may have to divide the children between other families.
The gift of a few sheep did not take away the deep hurt that Munkhbat was was feeling, but it did show him that someone cared and wanted to help. In the harsh and sometimes cruel environment that is rural Mongolia, our small gift was more substantive than simply saying, “I’m sorry for your loss.” It was a positive act to help this family as they deal with the unimaginable loss of a wife and the mother of four small children.
In our travels, we were actually surprised to learn that in almost every case the recipients of our livestock did not want to slaughter all of what we provided. Most wanted to keep the small flock and watch them grow. One lady said that of the four sheep she had received last year, she used just one for food and kept the others for breeding. Now she has a total of seven sheep. They will use some of the males for meat and keep the females to continue growing their flock. In this way, rural recipients of our gifts are receiving not only food but also an opportunity to build a livelihood.
Everywhere we went, our acts of kindness were met with smiles and genuine gratitude. This is what Gift of Love is all about. We feel so blessed to be able to support this worthwhile mission, to serve the people of Mongolia. To all those who have contributed and continue to support our efforts, we offer our thanks and praise. May God be glorified.
Gerald and Frances Mitchum