Pastor Urje (second from left in the circle) meets with teens for discussion. PHOTO: CHIN CHO
By Christie R. House
In Ulaanbaatar, the largest yet still remote city of Mongolia, Urje led a carefree life without much purpose. That was until she had a car accident and was confined to bed for a time. A Christian visited her and shared the gospel. He asked if she would pray the prayer of accepting Jesus. At the time, she didn’t really believe that praying would change anything, but she prayed anyway. Afterward, she found Gerelt (meaning “light”) United Methodist Church, where she attended worship services and was also hired to clean the church, since she needed a job.
Then Urje had a dream that sheep were following her. She could hear their “baa-baaing” behind her. She thought, “what a strange dream!” The dream returned to her a second time. She asked her missionary pastor, the Rev. Millie Kim, what this could mean. Pastor Kim suggested God might be calling her to ministry. Urje prayed about it and before she knew it, she was studying at Trinity Theological College in Singapore, where she received a Master of Divinity. When she returned to Mongolia, Urje was appointed to pastor Gerelt UMC, where she had first served as a church cleaner.
Another pastor, Munkhnaran, was at one time in her life considering suicide. She suffered with a chronic disease. But then, she heard about a medical mission team coming to Ulaanbaatar from the United States, and she met them for a medical check-up at Khonkhor United Methodist Church. She stayed for the worship service, and for the first time, she heard John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…” read by the local pastor, Naranbaatar.
Even though the medical team from Nashville had no cure for her disease, her visit planted a seed of faith in her soul. She still goes to the hospital twice a week for treatments, but her perspective has changed. “I thank God for my poor health because it makes me rely on God’s power completely,” she says. Her favorite Bible verse is 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (NIV)
Munkhnaran also earned a Master of Divinity degree and returned to her church appointed as the new pastor, which was renamed Ezenii Urgoo UMC, meaning “The Lord’s House.”
The UMC of Mongolia has 12 churches and 12 local leaders, nine of whom are women and three are men. Five of these have met the qualifications to be mission pastors. But these two women, Urje and Munkhnaran, are taking the next step – ordination as Local Elders in Mission, roughly equivalent to elders in annual conferences.
In October 2022 during the Mongolian UMC annual meeting, Bishop Jeremiah Park, the mission initiative’s presiding bishop, officiated the ordination ceremony. It was a historic moment, not only for the United Methodist Church in Mongolia, but for the whole United Methodist connection.
Leaning back and moving forward
For the past six years, the Rev. Chin Cho served as the missionary coordinator of the Mongolian Mission Initiative. Grace Cho, his wife, oversaw Christian education for the church. At the end of 2021, they returned home to the United States, but Rev. Cho continues to guide the church during the transition to a new director, the Rev. Dexter Ceballos from the Southern Tagalog Provisional Philippines Annual Conference East.
One of the first ministries of the Mongolian mission, Grace Hospice, was established by the initiative’s first missionary, Helen Sheperd, in 2005. This ministry has continued to grow and change under Mongolian leadership. Grace Hospice director, Dr. Altankhuyag, told Rev. Cho that they began praying in 2012 to find the resources to build a 24-hour hospice center.
Grace Hospice is one of only five hospices in Mongolia, and the other four have their own hospital for 24-hour service. The staff of Grace Hospice conducts home-visit care, taking the hospice to the patients.
Dr. Sang Chun Lee, from Detroit, is a frequent United Methodist visitor to Mongolia, coming with church mission teams to provide periodic care. Back in Detroit, he cared for a patient that recovered well and wanted to donate to something Dr. Lee valued. He knew of the hospice staff’s desire to open a 24-hour facility, and he suggested a gift to this building project. His patient made a $50,000 initial gift.
“That became seed money to start the project,” Cho explained. “When we shared the need for this project, many Korean United Methodist churches also contributed. We raised about $176,000 to build this 24-hour hospice center. We can accommodate 10 patients to care for them fulltime. This is a dream come true, and we named this hospice “Compassionate Sight,” from Matthew 9:36, so doctors and nurses will have the same heart and eyes of Jesus to care for patients with a compassionate heart.”
Caring for elders and children
While Chin Cho continues officially with the Mongolian Mission Initiative, Grace Cho has continued to serve as a volunteer with Christian education.
When they served in Mongolia, Grace helped the Mongolian church start the Happy Kids Afterschool Program, supporting children of low-income families. The program supplies nutritious food and educational programing. It started at the Kairos Mission Center, which has a small library. Children and youth participate in the library reading program and they can also take lessons in musical instruments, arts and English classes. The national leaders have expanded this program to three locations.
Grace helped to start another new program, Teens for Christ, late last year. This program is resourced by a Mongolian leader named Batbayar. He relates to the global Youth with a Mission organization. Teens for Christ meets three times a week for Bible study and fellowship. During the Mongolian school spring break, they conducted a one-week Bible training event. Grace says in July they will participate in two weeks of discipleship training at Chingeltei UMC in Ulaanbaatar – for 60 teens and teachers!
“Imagine,” Grace noted, “the sleeping arrangements for 60 people in one church. A mission team is coming from Korea and they will offer Bible study, discipleship training and music training.”
Grace has overseen the translation of Christian books, from both English and Korean texts to Mongolian. “New curriculum is a big need in Mongolia. Sunday school material, Bible Study curriculum, guidance for teenagers, we’ve also translated inner healing books and a curriculum book for the parents.”
Christie R. House is a consultant writer and editor with Global Ministries and UMCOR.
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