By Knowing Him
Motivation from Mongolia
Mongolia. Just the name conjures up images of distant lands and exotic places, and awakens in me the impulse to get on an airplane. So you can imagine my pleasure when an invitation to do missionary training in Mongolia recently came my way.
As part of a trip to train Pioneer Mission Movement (PMM) couples for the Northern Asia-Pacific Division, we would go to Mongolia to meet with the four PMM families serving there.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church in this largely Buddhist country is quite young. In the early 1990s Americans Brad and Kathy Jolly—missionaries from Adventist Frontier Missions—restarted the Adventist work in Mongolia that had languished during the Communist era.
The General Conference followed with the establishment of a mission office currently directed by Australian missionary Paul Kotenko. Recently, the Northern Asia-Pacific Division sent four Korean pastors, Park No-Young, Lee Yong-Ho, Park Sang-Bum, and Shin Hyun-Chul, to plant churches in Mongolia.
Visiting a ger (yurt homes common in Mongolia) and tasting mare’s milk was certainly exciting. But the high point of the visit came on Sabbath as we worshiped at the storefront church begun by Pastor and Mrs. Shin in a middle-class section of the capital, Ulaanbaatar.
The Shins live in a nearby Soviet-style apartment block, and the church group originally met in their home. When the group outgrew their apartment, they rented a room under a cybercafé. Of the nearly forty people in attendance that Sabbath, most had been baptized within the last six months. All were new believers from a Buddhist background.
A visitor could easily sense the joy of the group. During Sabbath School, a man stood up and said, “The best thing I ever did was get baptized. That was the best day of my life!” A woman agreed, “Yes, the best thing I ever did was come to this church. Here I have found Jesus and a family.”
Less than two years ago, both of these people had little or no idea who Jesus is. Most likely they didn’t even know any Christians. But their hearts were receptive, and when someone moved to their community, learned their language, became their friend and introduced them to Jesus, they were ready.
Two-thirds of the earth’s population adheres to non-Christian religions. Few of them have a witnessing Christian presence in their community. In fact, a recent Barna study found that even in North America, hardly any Hindus, Buddhists, or Muslims have a Christian friend.
Almost always, non-Christians around the world meet Jesus through someone who seeks them out, speaks to them in their own language and makes an effort to be their friend. Today there are billions of people who have not yet met Jesus.
No one part of the Adventist church has the resources to meet this challenge. In fact, the task is too big for all of us. But, as evidenced in Mongolia, by working together—church organizations and supporting ministries, laypeople and clergy—lives can be changed through the power of the Holy Spirit.
What if we as a church were to focus two-thirds of our energy and resources on reaching adherents of non-Christian religions? What if we doubled or tripled the number of missionaries who live and witness in those communities? What if we could forge new relationships among all those engaged in the church’s mission to optimize our effectiveness?
And, what if I make friends with the Buddhists who run the Chinese restaurant downtown?