I knew I was preaching in a church on Sunday but I had no idea I would be preaching in a yurt. I did not find out until we were in the far outskirts of Ulaanbaator, Mongolia and the car drove down a deeply rutted dirt path to park near a yurt. Here? I get to be here? This church was just a year old, and composed mostly of nomads who had left the Steppes for the city, in hopes of a better life. Most of the believers were new converts. There was nowhere else I’d rather be.
I could tell the story of this day——of these amazing hours worshipping with these brothers and sisters. I could tell all about the singing, the prayer, the message, the laying on of hands and praying for the ill ones, and after, the feast of mutton dumplings, minced salad and milk tea in bowls. Everything about it was heavenly-humble, simple-beautiful.
And how they hung on every word—- as if these words from Jude about “Keeping Our Faith” were bread, meat, milk, water and life. Because they are. And they know it. Everyone who could took notes.
But I want to tell THEIR stories, and their questions because we need to remember from them. We need their stories and words perhaps more even than they needed mine. Are you ready?
This woman had been a a Buddhist her whole life—-75 years. She moved from the steppes here to this place, near the city. She had two goats and needed a place to graze them. But it’s not easy to find grass. She brought them to the yurt church because there was grass in the enclosure no one was using. She brought her goats there every day. One day the people of the church invited her in. She came. She had never heard of this Jesus. And soon she brought her husband. They have known Jesus now for almost a year.
Another elderly woman was invited to church by her daughter. She heard about Jesus for the first time. She could not read but she memorized the Lord’s Prayer. She went to visit her son in the hospital, who had liver disease from drinking so much. He lay in bed for 2 years. The doctors could do nothing for him. She came and began to pray the Lord’s Prayer over him, because that’s all she knew. And he began to get better and better.
He left his bed. He’s one of the leaders of this church now. He was a bad man before, he told us. He drank all the time, fought, was angry, spoke bad words. I looked at his face, All that was gone, He was now a man of peace who loved Jesus and cared for the people in his church.
One more. A woman who spent her life drinking, angry, fighting, desperate. A single mother with no job, then her daughter invites her to church and suddenly she hears a worship song for the first time. She hears about a God who is not far away, a God who is not dispassionate but who loves HER, who has come to be her LIFE. Her frozen heart melts for the first time. She could not stop crying. Now she is in full time ministry.
I have heard so many stories here of a saving God, a merciful God, a miraculous God who saved one life after another. And do you know the questions they asked of us this day? One woman has many grown children. They are all Buddhists, as are most Mongolians. “What happens to people after they die if they don’t know Jesus?” she asked, her one good eye fixed on mine. Another woman is afraid that after she dies her children will cremate her body and give her a Buddhist ceremony. “What will happen to me if they do this?” she asked, with worry on her face.
The men, all of whom were fathers asked us softly, “How do we become good Christian fathers?”
Wayne, Caron and I answer the best we can. They take notes of every word we say.
After these hours together, we leave, our hearts so full, my eyes overflowing.
Remember this? Remember your first faith? Those burning questions? Remember when you went to church because it brought life to you? Remember taking notes? Remember how it felt to truly KNOW you were God’s beloved? Remember when you trusted only in Jesus, nothing else? Remember when you had no hope but In Christ?
It’s not too late to recover that faith.
Please pray for these sisters and brothers in Mongolia. Their faith is strong, but there is much sickness, poverty and need.
And pray for us, the American church, that we would turn from our riches and our distractions, that we would return to our first love,
the only Love.
(Do you know someone who would be blessed and fed by these stories and faces? Pass it on?)