Like today, most Christians in Russia know the Lord Jesus’ commandment: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth”(Acts 1: 8). But many Russians did not realize their responsibility to God: to become a blessing to people not only to their kinsman and community, but also in a foreign culture and religion. Especially when it comes to peoples like the Tatar-Mongols, descendants of the invaders, who kept the Russian people under a heavy yoke for a long time.
Today, Christians often argue like this: “Why go somewhere if there are a lot of perishing sinners around us, and Christians who need help?!” They might also add there is not enough money to repair the church roof, or heating. It seems that such arguments seem quite logical, but they contradict one of the main commandments of the Lord: “... but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:18).
The realization that we need to fulfill the will of our Lord in the middle of this summer prompted three Ural pastors and their two sons to leave their church ministry and family matters for a couple of weeks, and serve the needs of a small group of Christians in faraway Mongolia. Of course, this is not the first attempt by Russian Christians to serve outside their own country, including in Mongolia. We only wanted to be useful as God showed, and we indeed saw a special need ...
It took three days to drive through monotonous roads through swampy Siberian open spaces, but were later rewarded by indescribable landscapes of Altai nature. On the way, we stopped every nights in local churches, where we were overwhelmed by fellow Christian’s hospitality, and were able to participate in worship. Several new acquaintances and testimonies of missionaries left an indelible mark in our hearts, but these are stories for another time.
The main goal of our trip was in the Mongolian city of Bayan-Ulgiy. It is located about 150 km inland from the Russian border. In this city, 95% of the are Mongolian Kazakhs. As you enter the area, mosques are immediately evident - the religious centers of Muslims (although most of the inhabitants of Mongolia profess Buddhism, or Atheism). Many representatives of Christian organizations trying to do missionary work there were soon deported. Only sharing the gospel through personal relationships is effective here. Therefore, the service of local Christians has become a strategy and our ministry.
Maneuvering between adobe fences - a typical fence of this area, we drove into a spacious courtyard with several buildings. We settled into a traditional house of this area - a yurt. Although many Kazakhs already have flat-roofed hut houses, and some are building more modern housing, a yurt stands in almost every courtyard. Inside, our yurt looked pretty motley, because everything was hung and covered with carpets with national ornaments. Even a couple of sofas were moved into it from the house, but some of us still had to sleep in sleeping bags on the floor. The frame of the yurt is made of wooden rods insulated with felt and carpets. The entrance door to the yurt is wooden, and at the top there is a 3 foot wide hole with a view of the sky (It is a universally useful for lighting and airflow). Near us, in a small house where the Christian owners live, there was no water supply or sewage. Separately in the courtyard is a recently rebuilt room for worship. One time, a Muslim neighbor threw explosives into it at night when he found out non-Muslims were gathering there. So the owners had to rebuild it. Now it is the most modern building in the courtyard.
The next day after arrival, we were awakened according to local Muslim tradition by the 5am call to prayer! This is probably very common for locals, but not for Russians. After breakfast, we wanted to get to work - to pipe the water supply from the well to the house. We had to purchase plastic pipes, connectors, a pump with wires, and a boiler for heating water, but we had problems due to local holidays and traditions. At first, almost the whole city traveled miles away for national competitions, so most of the shops did not work for two days. Then, if shops opened, it was conditionally at 9 in the morning, but in fact - only closer to lunch. (By the way, often in the same way, Kazakhs gather for meetings, which they even laugh at, as opposed to German punctuality). It seemed that we had traveled back to last century. Searching for the necessary building materials at the stores tired us more than digging a ten-meter trench in rocky soil with a pick and crowbar! There were several forced alterations due to the quality of the building material, and on top of it the days were cold, and rained for a rare day and a half, so we slept at night fully dressed and almost swam between the walls of the yurt. Oh but how our flesh was humbled, and how many impressions were left! And how we appreciated the conditions the Lord gave us in Russia! Everything is known and evaluated in comparison to other places.
With God's help, we managed to lay and connect the water supply system on time, but this was only one of the goals of the trip. Every evening, meetings were planned for us with different groups of Christians: families, youth, children, with church members, and even leaders of other denominations. We shared our testimonies with them, preached, fellowshipped ... A dear brother and several young people from Kazakhstan helped translate. Almost all the gatherings took place in a sitting position on carpets, which was also hard for us to get used to! My bones were breaking, my pants were torn, but we tried to be like Kazakhs! It was unusual to eat with hands from your plate when the opposite is the Russian tradition, and guest take home all the leftovers in bags. But most of all, I was impressed by the interest with which the Kazakhs read the Scriptures and listen to the preacher ! There was not a tired or sleepy looking person!
From testimonies, we learned that the house owner’s wife first believed in Christ. Through her active evangelism in her circle of friends, many other women believed. However, her husband resisted for several years (Kazakhs generally do not particularly pay attention to the religious passions of women). But if a Kazakh becomes a Christian, then immediately relatives and society shuns them or worse. According to the Lord’s faithfulness, both her husband and two sons recently believed. Now they all need spiritual strengthening and prayer support in order to serve the Lord in this highly Islamic area. Attacks from false teachers, who have already led away several active members of this group, are a problem too. In addition to spiritual strengthening and protection, the group members wish to learn to evangelize Muslims.
As for our project, there is still a need to replace the wiring, to construct sewage lines, so we could not consider our mission completed. Now we are praying for the needs of this Mongolian group in our churches, and if God extends our life, we want to bless people again. Despite many difficulties and inconveniences during the service in Mongolia, none of our team members especially wanted to leave home. Even the night spent in the car back to the border did not overshadow the experience! We all returned home with new life and ministry experiences. We are convinced that having gone to serve in our “Mongolian Samaria”, we ourselves were spiritually enriched. Once again practically showing obedience to the Lord, hopefully bringing His return a little closer! We hope that the experience of our ministry will inspire other Christians, including pastors, for such ministry! Just pray and be a witness to Christ, not only in your environment, but also in your “Samaria.”