Becoming the ‘Toast’ Of Mongolia, By Jeff Anderson
Every summer I go on a mission’s trip to somewhere in East Asia. This summer was no different as it became my 11th straight summer on a short-term trip and our family’s 23rd trip in 20 years. In March I received an invitation from Javkhaa Ganbaatar, president of the Christian Youth Association in Ulaan Baatar, which is the capital and by far the largest city of Mongolia.
Lily and me at the Toastmasters club
Javkhaa had been a student here at Regent University, where I work. He had spent three years as part of our CBN/Regent Toastmasters Club. Javkhaa had graduated with two Masters degrees in 2011 and gone back to Mongolia. He asked me if I would be interested in coming to Mongolia and teaching English as a second language and public speaking.
I have been teaching (English as a Second Language) ESL since I was a Presbyterian missionary in Tokyo, Japan, in the late 1980’s, so this was right up my alley. I also am an adjunct faculty member at Tidewater Community College, where I teach…public speaking!
Fortunately, I have taught ESL on many trips overseas, so I found my books and lesson plans, made copies, and was ready to go. As for the public speaking portion, I have taught from four different books over nine years at TCC. I also had plenty of material from eight years with Toastmasters, so I was able to quickly put together a one week course for public speaking.
I was joined on my trip by my daughter, Lily, who teaches third grade at an international school in China. My ticket to Mongolia had me go through Beijing, so Lily got a ticket on the same flight and we flew up to Ulaan Baatar (UB) together.
For my flight over, I applied the Biblical principle “Ask and you shall receive.” For the Chicago to Beijing leg of the trip, I asked at the gate counter if I could be upgraded to Business Class. I got a curt “No” and boarded the plane. Ten minutes later the same gate lady was at my side telling me that they had a gift for me…an upgrade to Business Class! It never hurts to ask!
Worshipping at Eternal Love Church
My first Sunday there I was taken to Javkhaa’s church, Eternal Love. Things are still pretty rough in UB as the toilets for the church were two outhouses near the front door! Christianity itself is making great headway in Mongolia. When the Russians pulled out in 1991, there allegedly was not a single Mongolian believer. Today the church stands at around 80,000 Christians!
During my free time between classes I watched the Olympics on my hotel room TV. All I saw were judo, archery, table tennis, and badminton. Not a single swimming, gymnastics, or track and field event! That lets you know where the interest of the Mongolians was.
The ESL class was morning and afternoon. Javkhaa’s American wife, Skye, who is a school teacher in UB, taught from 9:00-11:00AM. I then taught from 11:00AM-noon, and again from 2:30-3:30PM. Then Roger Dutcher, who teaches at the American School in UB, taught 3:30-5:30PM.
Our students were a lively fun group of 20-somethings. While Roger and Skye taught grammar, I put it to use with fun games, competitions, exercises that got the students out of their chairs, and songs. The students – and I – had a blast! I also had typed up various parables of Jesus and at the end of my class passed one out each day for homework. The students had to figure out what the parable meant.
Then to start off each day’s class the next day we would discuss the parable. My students, some of whom were Christian, we very perceptive and able to discuss these with ease.
The Mongolia Toastmasters and my class
In the evenings, I taught public speaking in a meeting room of a ritzy hotel ($320 per night to stay there – oh my!) My 22 students were business professionals. The first night I had them all giving short speeches. I taught well, but what really impressed them were the DVD’s of past Toastmasters champions from the World Championship. These speakers literally blew them away!
On the Friday night I was asked to give a speech to the class, so I gave my Christian testimony. Some of the others in the public speaking class were believers and all week long were giving speeches regarding their faith. It was tremendous!
On Thursday night I took my class to the only Toastmasters club in Mongolia, the Mongolia Toastmasters Club. Our attendance doubled the number of people usually at a meeting to 40 people! The introduction of all of us guests really stretched the two-hour meeting out. The meeting itself was quite rigid in how it went, but things moved along quite well. Table Topics started off the meeting.
The Table Topics master called for 10 volunteers to come up front, whereupon she had each person draw four words from a hat. Each person then had to make a 1-2 minute story using those words. Javkhaa and my daughter went forward. When it came time for my daughter’s turn, she turned it into a mission’s moment by using the words in the story of how Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Javkhaa won the contest and when the “ah” counter gave her report, she had Javkhaa down for only one “ah.” I was very proud of him as when I was “ah” counter at CBN/ Regent club during a Javkhaa speech, he would give 40 “ah’s” in a 5-7 minute speech. Toastmasters had done a good job with him!
I had been asked early in the week to give a speech. They had me down as third and last speaker. The first two speakers had business-like speeches. Then I came forward with one of my competition speeches. It knocked them for a loop! I received not one, not two, but three ovations from the audience as the club president kept thanking me over and over. During the evaluation segment of the meeting I was not evaluated, which disappointed me.
I always like feedback and would be interested in what the club thought of my speech. I guess the applause said it all. At the end of the meeting I was presented with a coffee mug emblazoned with the club’s logo as well as a painting of Genghis Khan, the founder and Great Khan (emperor) of the Mongol Empire, which became the largest contiguous empire in history after his demise.. The club president proclaimed that I was the first Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) to come to Mongolia. Well, I’m not sure about that, but I can say I was the first DTM to come to a Mongolia Toastmasters club!
On Saturday our public speaking class had a speech competition. Three people dared to be in the table topics contest, for which we had certificates, and four in the international speech contest. The winner of the international contest modeled herself after one of the world champion speakers she had seen on my DVD’s. She was fantastic!
Now that I am back home, my influence continues. First, Javkhaa told me on my last day that during the week, the Christian English students had been inspired to evangelize the non-believers in the class during the class breaks. One of my non-believing students told me “Now I am thinking about Jesus. I am thinking I need to go to church.” She has since e-mailed to tell me that, yes, she will go to church!
Also, Javkhaa has let me know that he is going to start the second Toastmasters club in Mongolia using the public speaking students as a base to draw from. I have been asked by many there to please come back, which I hope to do another year.
Jeff Anderson is a media producer at Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA, and an adjunct professor of speech at an area college. He can be contacted by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org