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Making a Difference

It's a privilege to be a small part in nurturing the faith of new believers.

By: Jared Dye

If you come to Mongolia in the summer like we did, you'll discover a relatively flat, dry country. Coming into Ulaanbaatar (the capital), the main things that you notice are the dust, the heating pipes running all around the city like giant worms, and the gers (traditional Mongolian houses) in their little wooden enclosures on the outskirts of the city.
Being an ex-Communist country, Mongolia's architecture and infrastructure leaves a lot to be desired. Most apartments are over 30 years old, drab and run-down. The plumbing and electrical wiring in almost every building are enough to give any tradesman a nightmare! After only a few short months (the growing season lasts a short 90 days), winter moves in to stay. Temperatures plummet to below -30 degrees Celsius on a regular basis, and the definition of a warm day is -15 degrees. You begin to omit the minus, something like: "What's the temperature today?" "28 degrees"… Smoke and smog is obnoxious in the winter, caused by thousands of ger stoves, as well as poorly-regulated industry, and a mean temperature inversion! (Don't ever believe 'visibility' reports of 700 km, which we've seen on the internet!) There are no such things as snow-plows here (due to the poorly-constructed, uneven bitumen surfaces) – all ice and snow is cleared by gangs of road workers armed with picks and shovels. So the streets and foot paths are always icy.
We have a varied job description. Our primary 'official' job is teaching English. However, at the moment there aren't many students coming to the language school. Our class sizes range from three to twelve. A few years ago, foreign teachers were rare, so our school was flourishing due to the volunteers coming through on a regular basis. But over the last few years more and more competition has developed from other language schools in Ulaanbaatar. The school is looking for new ways to become known, and recently started television advertising. For the mission, the main purpose of our school is to make contacts in the community and lead people to Christ.
Our second 'official' job is church planting. Since we are based in Ulaanbaatar due to the teaching, we have tried to run a home group once a week. To attract our English students, we have a simple English Bible study. (We are not permitted to talk about religion in class.) Still, we've had an interesting time with the home group – some weeks not a soul turns up, while other weeks we have a couch full of enthusiastic Mongolians, most of whom are new to Christianity. The best news is that several of them have begun to take an interest in church, and we hope to be able to encourage their new faith. It's really amazing to see their openness to Christianity, which you rarely see in Australia.
Apart from teaching and a home group, we have a few projects that we are trying to get going. We've just finished writing up a seminar, which we're going to present to some of the outlying churches in Mongolia. We wanted to take a Bible story and bring it to life for people by filling in cultural and historical background information. Hopefully some of the church leaders can take our seminar as an example for what they can do with other stories. Most Mongolians love singing, so the mission president would like to see a worship CD recorded with national instruments, which could be used both in remote and new churches. We are trying to coordinate the first stage of this project and get one CD produced by professional musicians outside the church. The idea of that is to give church members an idea of how Christian worship music can be combined with national instruments to create uniquely Mongolian Christian music. In our spare time, we help with maintenance jobs around the mission and any other odd jobs that need doing – we can assure you there are plenty!
There are days when we wonder what we're doing here, and if we're really making any difference. I guess every volunteer feels that way sometimes. No matter how 'glorious' a volunteer's account may sound, most of the time life isn't like that. However, there are also times when you get a beautiful surprise, when you learn about the changes that are quietly happening in someone's life, like this little story below.
Otgoo is one of our students. She has only been a Christian for about four months. The evangelistic programs run by the first Australian team to come here played a part in that. She now regularly attends our home group as well as another home group. We can see her faith growing and some beautiful answers to prayer that she's shared continue to build up her faith and others' as well. It's a privilege to be a small part in nurturing the faith of new believers.
There is a lot of work to be done in Mongolia, and the mission is looking for more volunteers. If you know of anyone who's interested, this is a challenging and fun place to work in, far from boring.

By: Jared Dye and Lyndelle Webster are currently serving as volunteers in Mongolia.

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Jared Dye and Lyndelle Webster Local neighborhood gers. Vegetarianism her is strongly recommended...!!