Mongolia – beyond the sky

Ganbat is a church leader in the Brethren church in Mongolia; Sami (Romania) is the director of Right Time ministries and serves alongside Mongolians.

I am Ganbat, son of the steppe. My native homeland of Mongolia is a brilliant composition of eternal blue sky, peaks of snow-clad mountains, vast steppes and beautiful sand dunes in the Gobi Desert. The birthplace of Genghis Khan is a living example of nomadic culture, and its independent and generous people have a great love for nature. When you leave the capital, Ulaanbaatar, and go into the countryside, it feels like moving to another world. Come to Mongolia, stop and breathe, and you will see the wonder of God’s magnificent creation.

Historians write that without Genghis Khan, Mongolia would not exist. Our ancestors conquered much of the Asian continent, but the culture and religion of those under their control often survived. Archaeological artefacts and petroglyphs attest to the previous existence of Christianity in Mongolia circa 1,000 ad. Historical records reveal that Christians once lived in four Mongolian tribes: Hereid, Merged, Onguud and Naiman. However, for centuries Mongolians have practised Buddhism, guided by its teachings that eternal life or a good rebirth are determined by good deeds. Traditionally, Mongolians have worshipped the sky, believing that they are destined for Heaven. Mongolia’s great history contrasts with its current economic weakness and social issues. In 1990, the socialist system was overthrown in a bloodless revolution that established a democratic Mongolia. Since, then many things have changed, one of which is freedom of religion for everyone. Almost every religion has come into the country. Among them are churches that have distorted the Bible and spread false teachings. This has led to negative misconceptions about the church. Christianity is considered to be foreign and church leaders have a lot of work to do in explaining and correcting theological differences, and in sharing the real purpose of the church and the truth of the gospel.

A New Generation
In Western culture, many Christians have been raised in believing families for generations. But for us, we are first-generation Mongolian Christians. I used to practise Buddhism myself. Why did I then believe in Christ? The promise of the true God, who opened my eyes, was different from anything I’d known. I realised that God gives eternal life to anyone who sincerely believes, that He is ready to forgive anyone and that believing in God was possible for me too! Fifteen years ago, my wife, Azure, and I were saved by Christ our Saviour and baptised. I began to walk in faith, following His calling and serving as an elder at a Brethren church in Ulaanbaatar. Every day His Word inspires me and my faith grows. We are an ordinary family, overcoming daily challenges with the Lord, learning through His wisdom, bringing up our four daughters in the way of Christ and serving in the Brethren church in Mongolia.

The promise of the true God, who opened my eyes, was different from anything I’d known.

Called to Serve
In the last 30 years God has been guiding the steps of His servants towards Mongolia. After the revolution, unlike other countries that came out of the shadow of communism, Mongolia did not have any believers to take advantage of the freedom its people had just gained to start sharing the gospel or plant new churches. Nevertheless, many missionaries and Christian organisations saw the change as an answer to their fervent prayers and started new ministries. In a short time, Mongolia had one of the fastest growing churches in the world. Serving in this country is not an easy task. Buddhism and Shamanism keep people in darkness. Harsh, long winters make life difficult. The capital city suffers from pollution and the countryside is remote. After the elections in June 2019, a lot of people were disappointed with the result.

The communist party generally does not support Christians and sometimes even encourages persecution. In the past, they have put a lot of pressure on the churches and many have closed. But these factors do not hinder the spread of the gospel; there are many who preach it and numerous souls are being won by its power. Among those who are joining their efforts to make Christ known to the Mongolian people are a young couple called by God from Romania, Sami and Ani.

Serving in Mongolia
Sami and Ani were both blessed to be raised in Christian families in Romania. At the age of 17, Sami moved to Italy to follow his life dreams. After almost two years, he realised that the things he was chasing were unable to fulfil him. Wanting to learn more about God, he went to Bible college. He felt a calling to bring the gospel to people for whom access to it was restricted. Sami joined a short-term mission trip to Mongolia where he met Bayra, a local believer, who had studied in Australia at the GLO Bible College. Sami heard of Bayra’s strong desire to plant a new church and the need for more labourers, and God placed the needs of Mongolia in his heart. Commended by the assemblies of Romania, with the support of Kairos Mission Agency, Sami began serving the Lord in Mongolia in 2012.

Ani came to know the Lord aged 11 and, by the age of 17, she felt God calling her to serve Him overseas. She joined various short-term mission trips. In the summer of 2014, she volunteered to help in Mongolia
with a couple of summer camps where she met Sami, who was organising the camps. They were married one year later and moved to Mongolia. Sami and Ani share a concern for orphans. In 2016, they began fostering Chinzo, a two-year-old boy, and two years later a baby girl called Sarah, with a desire to adopt these lovely Mongolian children. In 2019, the Lord also blessed them with their first biological son, Ruben. They fellowship with a small group of Mongolian believers in Ulaanbaatar.

Sami and Ani joined Bayra and his wife, Tumenjargal, in working together to serve the church in discipleship and evangelism. An hour’s drive from the city centre, you will find hundreds of Mongolians living in round tents covered with skins or felt, called yurts, which are the dwellings of nomadic families. Over the last few years, Sami and Ani, with a family of Mongolian believers, have been developing a community centre in one of the largest districts of the capital city, Ulaanbaatar. Under an NGO, they established Right Time Mongolia to reach the youth of this community through music, sport and education. The population is growing fast and schools are overcrowded. Private education is becoming more popular but most are profit-oriented. Right Time hope to start a private Christian kindergarten based on Christian principles and slowly build on that foundation. Sami currently teaches full time at the English School of Mongolia, while working alongside four full-time Mongolian workers and other volunteers at Right Time. The ministry is mostly supported by churches and individuals from Romania.

Sharing the Gospel
When a Mongolian meets another, he never complains at the beginning of the conversation, he generally answers, ‘Life is good.’ We have a culture of greeting and blessing with kind words, but there are times when we must share the hardships of life. Therefore, bringing the good news to Mongolia, requires that you stay and talk a little longer with people. We must live side by side with our neighbours, be a part of society and seek God’s plan. Today, the focus is often on science-based intellectual development, but faith remains inextricably linked to society. The need for the gospel has not diminished. God and the truth of His Word never change. We can look beyond the sky to the Creator. I thank the Lord that we have the same God and same eternal hope! Let us keep serving Him, sharing the gospel.

• for Ganbat and Azure, and their daughters
• for Sami and Ani, for Chinzo and Sarah and their adoption, and for Ruben
• for Bayra and Tumenjargal
• for the Right Time ministry, the staff and volunteers
• for more Mongolian people to be reached with the gospel and for believers, as they share their faith
• for the local church, for biblical discipleship and spiritual growth.

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