Joys and concerns for Methodists in Mongolia
Participants in a teachers’ seminar (Christian education teachers) on resources for Lent and Easter, Mongolia UMC mission. PHOTO: MONGOLIA UNITED METHODIST MISSION
By Christie R. House
When Chin (James) Cho arrived in Mongolia as a missionary in 2015, the Mongolia United Methodist Mission Initiative consisted of seven churches, two children’s ministry centers, a hospice ministry and some additional health services.
Chin, a local pastor with the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference, moved to Ulaanbaatar with Grace, his wife, and their two children, Joseph and Hannah, to serve as the mission’s country coordinator. The Cho children were in middle school in 2015. Today, their son Joseph is a sophomore at Boston University and Hannah is a freshman at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
When Grace Cho arrived in 2015, she served as a volunteer. In 2019, she was commissioned as a United Methodist missionary and now serves as coordinator of Christian Education.
In 2016, the Mongolia Mission Initiative became part of the Southeast Asia and Mongolia Provisional Central Conference, which includes other mission initiative churches in the countries of Laos and Vietnam. Bishop Jeremiah Park of the Susquehanna Conference is the presiding bishop for the Mongolia Mission.
A church that signs
Currently, the mission includes 13 Methodist churches led by national leaders. Among them is Chingeltei Ephphatha United Methodist Church, a congregation of Deaf members whose primary language is Mongolian sign language.
Ekhjargal Erdenebat (called Enji) serves as the youth group leader, choir director and interpreter for the sign language service at Chingeltei Ephphatha UMC. Her parents are Deaf: “It was a challenge for me to have Deaf parents when I was little. Kids mocked me. However, as I grew up and started signing for the Deaf service, I realized that this is actually a gift from God.”
Enji, who works part-time for the church and part-time as a sign language interpreter for a local TV station, says that God reached out to her family at just the right time. Finding Christ through the Christian Deaf faith community renewed her family, encouraged her father to break his addictions and enabled her parents to find work to support the family. She joined Chingeltei UMC after they moved to Ulaanbaatar and she says her life has been enriched and blessed by God.
The Mongolia Mission today
In January 2020, Chin Cho brought together leaders and members of the Mongolia Mission for a family retreat. All participants shared their joys and concerns about current situations in their churches and projects. They discussed a 3-year plan to become independent, both financially and as leaders of their churches.
Currently, the Mongolian UMC has three Mongolian mission pastors. At the annual meeting in September 2020, three candidates were presented for ordination as Local Elders in Mission and two more candidates as mission pastors. An accountable leadership committee consisting of church and project leaders is being formed to plan and make decisions for the United Methodist Mongolia Mission.
Christie R. House is a consulting editor and writer with Global Ministries.