Mongolia

Can You Really Have Church in a Yurt?

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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.

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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.

 
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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.

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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.


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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.

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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.

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(Do you know someone who would be blessed and fed by these stories and faces? Pass it on?)

Awake, Alive (and Exhausted) in Mongolia

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I am still in Mongolia, but I have heard the news from the U.S. this week: the shooting, the bombs, the black fruit of hate. I invite you to another place for a few minutes. I want us to remember that there is bigger news going on——-that the kingdom of heaven is breaking out all around us. And even in faraway places where His name is not known. Come with me for a moment to see something beautiful and good?

I left Kodiak Friday night, spent the night in Anchorage, then flew out early Saturday morning. The planes were delayed everywhere. We landed in Mongolia in blasting winds Monday, 3 am. after circling for almost an hour, waiting for the winds to lessen.

I did not sleep for a second in all those hours. But when I woke up later, I saw this.

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Three days ago we drove out of the city into the countryside, into the tawny brown hills and mountains that have already seen snow since September. But this day, the snow was gone. We saw herds of animals everywhere.

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Half the country lives on the steppes, herding animals. In a nation of 3 million people, there are 30 million animals. It’s a hard hard life. Every year 40,000 move to the city, to escape living in the lap of a bitter wintry mother nature who plunges this land into -40 temperatures. Some years more than half the livestock dies.

Many Mongolians still live in gers (yurts), even at 40 below. I cannot imagine this life.

I thought of all this as we drove. We drove to Turtle Rock in Terelj National Park, a place called “Little Switzerland” for its alpine views. But for us, who did not come in tourist season, everything was brown, dry dead. Still, I loved the sparse beauty of it.

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In the short 3 months of summer, it looks like this:

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I would love to road trip through ALL of Mongolia, but I did not come to tour. I came to teach, to share what little I know with my brothers and sisters of God here.

And that itself is a grand adventure.

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Yesterday, I went to the School of Ministry with the women of LifeSprings. It was going to be an easy day. I was going to attend Jan Johnson’s all-day seminar, watching the rhythm of it to prepare for my own all-day seminar the next day.

But that’s not what happened. Jan’s notes didn’t show up. 100 women were coming through hours of traffic, on trains, in cars and busses from far parts of the country. They had waited 6 months for these classes. And now there was no class. There were no notes. No notes for Jan. No notes for the students. (The why of this doesn’t matter . …it was no one’s fault.).

There was only one option: ”Leslie. I hate to even ask this, but can you teach your class today?” I had finished preparing it the night before. I had my computer with me this day, by chance. but I was tired so tired. I had taught a 3 hour parenting seminar the night before. I had jet-lag brain, which is to say, no brain at all. I even brought a pillow to sneak away during the day to rest. How would this be possible?

But It was almost time to start. The women were coming in the door. I felt butterflies, I felt dread. I felt unprepared. But It was clear. This was what God was asking of me today. I posted an on-the-fly “HELP!” to my Facebook friends, asking for prayer. (YOU DID!) And at that moment, Duncan was in Alaska on a bush plane and he said he had an overwhelming urge to pray for me. (He DID!) Then the Lifesprings women, my new dear friends, surrounded me, laying hands on me, praying. I cried tears of fatigue. But when the prayer was over, I felt ready. God was going to do this with me, through me today. I was not alone. And He only asked for what I could give. He would do the rest.

And He did.

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He blessed far beyond my expectations. Do you know why? Because God LOVES these women! Because God has miraculously saved every one of them from atheism, Buddhism, from hard hard lives, and they NEED God as much as they need breath. (And isn’t God the very breath in our lungs?) These women have NO Christian resources in their language—-except what we were bringing them. And this day was GOD’S design—-not mine. I only had to say Yes.

And now, just the day after, I am seeing ALL the reasons God ordered it this way. SO many reasons. Women keep coming up to me and telling what God did—-something entirely new. Something so so deep. I only had to get out of the way of my fear. I only had to remember that God’s plans for these women were far greater than mine.

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It was a good good hard glorious day. And the fruit will go on and on. Not because of me. Because of Him.

I will tell some of these stories next time. I just want you to know that God is on the move here in this country. In incredible ways.

I am awake. I am exhausted and I am so wide awake. Because God is among us here in Ulaanbator.

And He is with you.

The next time God overturns your plans and asks you to do something hard, say Yes. Walk into it. Know the eagle-of-his-strength is with you and over you!

And watch what He can do through YOU!!

(And if you don’t believe me, listen to this incredible song [this is one of my favorite bands]):

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Have you experienced the eagle-of-His-strength recently? I would love to hear!!

Why I'm Flying to Mongolia this Week

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I am headed to Mongolia on Friday. I knew nothing about Mongolia until a few months ago. Here’s what I knew about this mysterious place: Genghis Khan, nomads, high elevation, far, far away, cool Asian robes, the Gobi Desert, horses and maybe eagle hunters? No doubt you knew more than me!


Here’s a map for all of us waving a finger somewhere over Asia:


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What can I tell you in this space? Mongolia is about the size of Alaska (which means twice the size of Texas). Only 3 million people call it home. It was taken over by Russia from 1920 - 1990 and became a democracy after Russian rule collapsed. As a democracy, Mongolians enjoy freedom of religion. People are looking for God and embracing Christianity.

I’m not going just as a tourist—though I will certainly do some touristy things. And I am not going because I am tired of Kodiak Island. Rain keeps, ummm, raining from the sky these fall days, but on Saturday Kodiak was the most beautiful place in the world! Duncan, Abraham and I took a road trip that day, on the only road you can drive on for an hour.

Why would I want to leave this?

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I’ll be gone for two weeks, too much of that time spent in the air, and the rest in Ulaanbaatar, the capital city. I’m heading straight into winter. Here’s the forecast for the first few days:

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So—-clearly I’m not going to lie out on the beach.

I’m not going because I’m aesthetically starved for beauty in this world.

I’m not going because I’m running away from my DH.


Or running away from my kids. We all like each other.

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I’m going because of the power of a 3-letter word.

“Leslie, would you like to come and teach in our School of Ministry?”

I was asked this question while speaking in Slovakia last spring. I am not brilliant. I am not famous. Out of all the people possible to bring seminary-level training to these women in Mongolia, why did someone ask me to go?

I don’t know exactly. I only know I said “yes.”

It started when I was a teenager. A youth pastor asked me if wanted to know God. If I wanted to be loved by my Father in heaven. I had been looking for this all my short life. I said yes.

I said yes to school and travel. To marriage. To more school. To children. Yes to listening for the voice of God. Yes to being loved when others couldn’t love. Yes to pursuing wisdom and understanding. Yes to following a love for words and ideas. Then yes to living out all the other yesses: which meant locking myself in closets and studying. Writing when everyone was asleep. Yes to sharing these words with others, wherever it took me.

(I said yes to some of the wrong things too: yes to anger, to bitterness, to despair. Yes to cowardice. Yes to fearing man more than God. And then I said yes to repentance. And every day I say “please, yes!” to God’s constant offer of forgiveness.)

Now to Mongolia. Why here? One day a woman came to Janice, the director of Lifesprings International. We are desperate for training. Will you come and teach us? she asked. They are first generation Christians. They have very few resources. Whatever teaching resources come to the country, they come to teach pastors. They come to teach men, not women. Janice said Yes. Yes to leading two years of training, study, knowledge, love, and ministry experience to this group of 100 women.

So—-we go. Three of us. And parents have asked for a parenting seminar. A church has asked for someone to come and preach the gospel to them. (Yes. and Yes.)

But Yes is not a magic word. here is the most important thing to know about this word. It is not the power of our “Yes” that opens doors and shapes our lives and our future. It is the power of the one whom we say “yes” to that makes this happen.

For our God is a “YES!” God. As Paul wrote, “

“Whatever God has promised gets stamped with the Yes of Jesus. In him, this is what we preach and pray, the great Amen, God’s Yes and our Yes together, gloriously evident. God affirms us, making us a sure thing in Christ, putting his Yes within us. “ (The Message)


I will be so grateful for your prayers as we go! And I’ll share with you whatever I can of this time in Mongolia.




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I don’t know what people are asking of you. What God is asking of you.

But when you say Yes to God’s Yes, what can’t you do together?

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