By Don “Doc” Sanders
When I was a boy, my Dad would often use “outer Mongolia” to describe the location of anyone or anything that was a distance from us — including the closest fertilizer plant to our farm, about 40 miles away.
He’d be impressed that I recently returned from outer Mongolia — or rather, the real-life independent nation of Mongolia, situated north of China and east of Siberia, more than 6,000 miles further away from home than that fertilizer plant. I was invited by the Christian Veterinary Mission (CVM) to participate in their V.E.T. Net mission project in Mongolia.
About 25 years ago, Gerald and Francis Mitchem were called to create V.E.T. Net and bring the gospel to the people of Mongolia. They realized that to be successful in introducing the gospel it was important to help Mongols by improving the care of their horses, sheep and cows for a better quality of human life before they could evangelize. I have been a CVM member for several years, so I was delighted by the invitation to provide training and veterinary support to help Mongolian dairy cow owners improve the productivity of their animals.
For about 20 years, V.E.T. Net also has been training Mongolian horse owners in equine health and care practices — which is very fitting considering the important role of horses in Mongolia’s legendary history. Only recently did Mongolians become more serious about producing milk from dairy cows rather than just yaks.
Around the early 13th century, Genghis Khan led a defensive force in the region. He eventually organized it into a horseback brigade. It is estimated he commanded between 60,000 and 100,000 cavalry troops who fearlessly performed lightning strikes on neighboring countries and enemies who might threaten the Mongolian empire.
Genghis Khan had a reputation for being innovative in war. His light brigade was undermanned and under armed compared to enemies such as the Romans. His troops relied on the decisive, lightning speed of their horses, allowing them to attack before the opposition could mobilize.
Mongolian horses are a unique breed. They are small in stature, weighing 700 to 750 pounds to promote speed. And they are extremely hardy, adept at surviving on their own in 85-degree summer heat or winter cold of -40 degrees F. They are also self-sufficient, able to forage on their own for food and water.
Genghis Khan’s military staff developed stirrups attached to the saddle that enabled warriors to ride at full speed while standing and turning to fire arrows at the enemy. These warriors were extremely accurate archers, even at a full gallop.
Genghis Khan led his army to capture many territories and people in the 25 years of his rule — more than the Roman army could accomplish in 400 years. And his empire was larger, comparable to the size of all of Africa and most of Europe. His Mongol army controlled the land in nearly every country they conquered.
Genghis Khan was fair to the people of the lands his army conquered. His directives brought religious freedom, cultural communication and expanded trade, as civilization bloomed. He strategically controlled the Silk Road. This was a network of trade routes that connected the East, West and Central Asia with Europe. It was essential to the religious, political, cultural and economic development throughout Asia and Europe until about the 18th century.
Vastly more progressive than his European or Asian counterparts, Genghis Khan abolished torture, granted universal religious freedom and obliterated feudal systems of aristocratic privilege. From the story of his rise through the tribal culture to the explosion of civilization that the Mongol Empire unleashed, this was nothing less than an epic story of how the modern world was made.
Genghis Khan was especially sensitive to religious cultures of the domains his army captured. If the people cooperated and recognized his rule, he largely let them worship as they desired. He also stimulated cultural development, without imposing his will on these countries, to choose other alternatives.
The last Khan emperor was a great-great (to the 9th power) grandson who ruled Mongolia until 1924. It was at this time when Russian subversives and the Bolshevik revolution overturned the long-stayed reign of the Genghis Khan era. The Genghis Khan dynasty was and still is the longest continuous reign in history.
Many of the ancient Mongolian traditions continue today. Mongolia is a Buddhist country. But Christian emissaries, like the CVM program, are permitted to provide social support programs for indigenous Mongol people if they pay significant fees to the government.
The Christian Veterinary Mission, based in Seattle, is a network of veterinarians, vet technicians and volunteers who provide support to indigenous people in many countries through equine and food animal training, veterinary education and human support. Their support helps individuals become more self-sufficient and food secure. V.E.T. Net is a CVM satellite support service that operates in Mongolia.
Prior to V.E.T. Net involvement in Mongolia, equine colic was treated by blowing smoke into a sick horse’s rectum or pouring vodka through the nostrils. And bloodletting was still an accepted treatment.
During my tour, I discovered that dairy herd management is light years behind veterinary support for horses and companion animals such as dogs and cats. There’s plenty of catching up to do.
On Sundays I worshipped with the V.E.T. Net team and Mongolian Christians. Christians are a distinct minority as the government is dyed-in-the-fiber Buddhist. At my first Sunday service, hymns were sung in Mongolian. At least the melodies were familiar. After the service, as is tradition, light hors d’oeurves were served before worshippers departed for lunch with family and friends.
The snacks were unique. (I hope you’re not reading this over breakfast.) They consisted of boiled horse guts filled with liver, kidney, blood and spleen chunks. The organ meats were inserted into a loop of small intestine, both ends tied shut, then boiled. I easily identified the organ meats as I stabbed them with my fork and bit into them. The boiled intestine was particularly recognizable for being so darned hard to chew.
The best option was to just swallow without prolonged chewing. I equate it to swallowing a slimy horse-sized pill. This delicacy was also served with fermented mare’s milk. Apparently fermented mare’s milk is available in alcoholic and nonalcoholic versions. I haven’t tried the alcoholic version. It is considered an insult to decline an offer of fermented mare’s milk. And there was little chance I could escape it. One of the local livestock owners with 700 horses allegedly had a 55-gallon drum of the stuff, if we ran short.
I’ll stop here for now and let you digest this. I’ll be back with more on the modern-day story of Mongolia.