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Editor's note: Jim Jewell of Rooftop MediaWorks wrote this article to promote the ministry of LifeQwest, a Houston-based ministry that works in Mongolia.

As a huge red-ball sun sets through the brown haze, the frozen Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar, a sprawling city ringed by the majestic, snow-covered Hentiyn Mountains, prepares for another winter night. Many of the nearly 1 million people crowd into crumbling Soviet-era apartment buildings, heated by two immense underground power plants that belch smoke into the valley. Others huddle into hovels that climb the hills on the outskirts of the city, burning coal and wood fires to ward off nighttime temperatures that will sink to 30 degrees Fahrenheit below zero.

As dusk turns to darkness, boys throw themselves on passing trash lorries. They get first dibs on the new booty—metal, glass bottles, cans, and anything else that can be resold—at the dump. The garbage trucks race up a winding, gutted dirt road through neighborhoods of small, dilapidated homes barely visible through the smoky air. At the top of the hill is an apocalyptic vision of street urchins huddling around open fires, sorting through trash heaps strewn across a barren landscape.

Even with the temperature descending from frigid to glacial, the children are not bundled as Western visitors are—in polar jackets, thermal underwear, fur-lined boots, and Thinsulate gloves. The kids have only an extra layer of ragged clothing, or, at best, a light winter coat and thin gloves. Some have tennis shoes. A police officer tells the children how they can escape the cold at the child identification center. Members of a church group invite one of the boys to dinner, but he refuses, for unknown reasons.

When the temperature ...

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In the Magazine

January 2005

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