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The teacher leading the fifth-grade class at the Tusgal School in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. (Andrew McChesney / Adventist Mission)

‘I Don’t Want to Teach’

But God had other plans for the woman who is now principal of the only Adventist school in Mongolia.

By Tserenpil Otgontuya, as told to Andrew McChesney, Adventist Mission

When I had to choose an area to study at the university in Mongolia, I immediately thought, “I will never be a teacher.” My mother was a kindergarten teacher, and I had no patience for noisy children. Whenever I visited my mother, I saw screaming and fighting children.

But God had other plans.

At church, the pastor asked me to teach the children’s Sabbath School class. I said, “No, I don’t like children.” He encouraged me to try and showed me some felts of Bible stories. The felts intrigued me, but then I saw the children. “No, no, I can’t teach them,” I said.

I married a university professor, we had a child, and we moved to a small Mongolian town to work as missionaries.

My husband asked me, “What do you want to do in this small town?”

“I don’t know,” I replied. “But I don’t want to teach.”

After university classes, my husband invited students to our home, and I cooked simple, healthy food for them. In Mongolia, meat is a vital part of every meal, and the students were shocked that our table was filled with dishes made of grains, fruits, and vegetables. They asked, “What kind of food is this? Why don’t you eat meat?” I found myself teaching them the biblical health message.Tserenpil Otgontuya, the 40-year-old principal of the Tusgal School. (Courtesy of Tserenpil Otgontuya)

At the same time, I made friends with other mothers in the neighborhood, and when they visited, I told Bible stories to their babies. I thought I would never teach, but I seemed to be teaching all the time.

My husband planted a church in the town, and then he was asked to further his education at the Adventist University of the Philippines. I prayed to God, “Please help me. What should I do in the Philippines?”

I was still praying that prayer several months later when a university professor visited our new home in the Philippines. He asked me what I wanted to do for the 2 ½ years that it would take my husband to complete his studies.

“Maybe study accounting or nursing,” I said.

“Let’s pray together, and maybe God will show you His plan,” he said.

I checked out the university’s nursing program and learned that it would take five years to graduate. I went to the business department and found out that an accounting degree would four years. I was thinking about taking accounting when I passed by education department.

An education teacher and I began to talk, and we immediately established a connection when I learned that he had been to Mongolia. He was the first person whom I had met in the Philippines who had visited Mongolia, and I was eager to talk with him!

After a few minutes, the teacher suggested that I study education.

“Hmm, maybe,” I said. I didn’t want to give an emphatic “no” because he was so kind.

The teacher said, “Since you have a daughter, why not try elementary education?”

We talked and talked. Eventually, the teacher had to go to a class, but he suggested that I visit a kindergarten run by the university. I was surprised by what I saw. The children seemed calm and happy. The female teacher looked so comfortable.

I made further inquiries and learned that I could obtain an education degree in three years because I had taken general education classes in Mongolia.

My husband and I had a long conversation that night. The Adventist Church didn’t have a school or even an Adventist teacher in Mongolia. I wasn’t sure what to do.

My husband said, “Maybe it’s God’s plan for you to become a teacher for Him.”

“Hmm, maybe,” I said. But all my distaste for teaching had disappeared.

I graduated in 2 ½ years — at the same time as my husband.

Back in Mongolia, I helped establish the first Adventist school. A few years ago, I became the school principal. I love children and teaching!

Today, the Tusgal School has 124 students, mostly from non-Adventist families. They study from kindergarten to 12th grade. A Thirteenth Sabbath Offering in 2015 helped us expand our classrooms. But enrollment is growing fast, so we plan to open a boarding academy for the ninth- through 12th-grade students. The Thirteenth Sabbath Offering in third quarter 2018 will help build that boarding school.

Looking back, I really praise the Lord. Sometimes relatives ask, “But you said you would never be a teacher. Why are you a teacher?” I tell them, “You never know who you will become. Only God knows. When we are patient and obey, God plans our lives for us.”

Tserenpil Otgontuya, known to friends as Ogie [pronounced: Oj-i], is the 40-year-old principal of the Tusgal School in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.