By Julie Cole
Cheryl Rosenkerr travelled over 5,000 miles to connect with her roots.
Rosenkerr, whose mother is Metis, did her college internship in Mongolia. She was surprised to find that many of the Mongolian people she encountered have similar traditions and facial features to some of those within her native ancestry.
What she experienced in Mongolia captured her heart.
“I knew I had to come back after that one month (internship),” she said. “A big part of me was left in Mongolia and I knew I needed to go back and get it.”
And she did just that.
After her final year of college at Briercrest College and Seminary, Rosenkerr returned to Ulaan Baatar, the capital of Mongolia, to teach at a private school for grades K – 11.
“(When my plane landed in Mongolia) it was midnight, so I was tired from travelling,” she said. “But when I got out of that airplane and this cool breeze hits me, I’m like ‘Ahh! I’m home!’ I didn’t have any regrets about coming back.”
The Briercrest alum found the assignment of teaching children to be a challenge.
“It was a learning experience because I was trained to work with adults,” she admitted. “And then I get into my Grade 2 class and I have 26 or 27 or these little ones and some of them don’t really know English. The first half of the semester I was so frustrated.”
Rosenkerr needed to find a way to bring order to her class.
“I learned some key phrases in Mongolian, like ‘Sit down,’ ‘Be quiet,’ and ‘What are you doing?’” she said laughing. “Then I got a whistle.”
After a year in Mongolia, Rosenkerr says she still doesn’t speak much Mongolian.
“I speak Monglish,” she said, describing her mix of English with Mongolian. “Mongolian is a very hard language to grasp. I picked up a lot, but it’s still not enough to have a proper conversation.”
Aside from the unfamiliar language, Rosenkerr has found many things in Mongolia that feel very familiar—much like her Metis roots.
“My Mom’s (skin) is a bit darker,” she said. “I showed a picture of her to my Mongolian friends and they’re like ‘Oh, is your Mom Mongolian?’”
When Rosenkerr went to Mongolia, she brought her friends there some bannock, a bread that’s she’s experienced in the Cree culture.
“(They said) ‘Oh, this is Mongolian bread,’” she remarked.
The young teacher participates in two different churches in Mongolia—one English speaking and the other Mongolian.
“I go to an international church – all in English—but people from all over the world (attend there) : Africa, India, Europe, Philippines, China, and Taiwan,” she said.
Rosenkerr also helped with children’s ministry at a local Mongolian church. She stepped back from this position when she realized an unhealthy trend developing.
“I saw they were looking to me as a foreigner who had all the answers for their church problems,” she said. “I felt God say, ‘You’ve been a light, you’ve been an encouragement, but now you need to step back from that and let the Mongolian people find out that they can do what you’re doing through Me.’”
Rosenkerr sees part of her job in Mongolia is to “raise up Mongolian leaders and back off a little bit.”
She plans on doing that by returning to teach for another year. There no other place she’d rather be.
“That is my home,” she insisted. “I am here (in Canada) on vacation. I really miss Mongolian faces.”