Friday, May 24, 2013

Yes, Another Great Ride

I just have to say that was quite a ride!  Seriously.  It began as a windy day in BHG and by the time we boarded the plane and left the runway, the wind did not die down at all.  Our ascent was bumpy and as we levelled out, the ride became calm enough to serve lunch.  After about an hour in the air, we began the landing - a very steep decline and a very tight turn.  By the time we made the turn, I was looking level at a hill/mountain - and the nose of the airplane was still pointing down.  It wasn't until we reached just above the runway that the nose of the plane lifted and we levelled out, the pilot having executed a perfect landing.  The translator and I just looked at each other, thankful the wheels touched first!  This was the same pilot we had going into BHG and he did not fail to disappoint.

After we landed, I headed into UB and I was able to meet the translator's husband and three children.  They invited me  to their place for some chicken soup.  They shared with me some of the work God has done in their lives, as well as the churches in UB.  It was once again encouraging to hear how God is working, despite many challenges.  One story they shared is when a couple is seeking a divorce, they need a three month cooling off period.  After that, they have the opportunity to pursue reconciliation and often with a Christian counsellor - in Mongolia!  So they are encouraged to see how the Lord is moving and Mongolia is opening up to the gospel.

I am presently at the airport in UB, having gone through customs, etc.  The flight is to leave around midnight and land close to 4:00 a.m.  I am thankful for this as it will begin to set my clock back to Canada time.

The Lord has once again been gracious as I have had an opportunity to share God's Word with church leaders.  But it is more than that as my heart has been encouraged by how the gospel continues to spread throughout the nations and how the leaders desire to fill not only their heads but also their hearts with God's Word..  After these few weeks, I can say again - our God is a big God!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The End of Two Courses

Today was the last day of teaching.  We wrapped up OT Survey in the New Testament showing how Jesus fulfills the Old Testament types and shadows - He is the new Israel, the new temple, etc.  We also talked about a robust gospel, that is Jesus saves us not only from our sins but to a new life.  We are filled with the Spirit, enabled to live out the life we receive by His grace.

The students also wrote two tests, Genesis yesterday and Old Testament Survey this morning.  Gaining a certificate is very important for these church leaders - they are very eager!  As I met with the main leaders over dinner tonight, they spoke about how thankful they are to have theological education in BHG.  It does not work for students to go into UB, as it is too expensive and they cannot be away from their churches or families for a long period of time.  To have theological education brought to them is a gift, they said. They are also thankful because it fits into their overall vision.  They are focusing on discipleship training but see theological education as vital so they have leaders who can build up disciples.  The leaders wanted me to thank Grace Bible Church for their support, prayers and efforts to build up the church in BHG.

The translator and I will fly out tomorrow just after 12 noon and then I will catch a flight from UB to Korea around 12 midnight, landing after 3:00 a.m.  If all goes well, I will fly out later in the afternoon and after a short stop in Vancouver will land in Toronto Saturday night.

One person told me they knew that the Bible was about Jesus but did not know how.  In going through the two sessions, they had a better understanding how the Bible fits together and how to speak about Jesus from the Old Testament. For the students to begin to grasp "how" Jesus is the centre of Scripture makes the trip very worthwhile!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Mongolian Landscape

It was interesting hearing one of the students thoughts as we were discussing the glory of God in Exodus 34 and how he maintains faithful love to a thousand generations and the consequences of their father's wrongdoing to the third and fourth generation.  This student mentioned they have been under a curse and now they are finally under the blessing - meaning that for many years, the gospel was not part of the Mongolian landscape.  There is a profound thankfulness from the students that the gospel has come and now their prayer is for the spread of God's glory through His grace.  That is part of the eagerness of the students to learn, as we speak about the storyline of Scripture, grace, forgiveness, guilt, repentance, sacrifice - all finding their way to Christ.

The long week is beginning to show on the students.  After lunch is really the toughest part of the day and so we maybe make it through 40-45 minutes and then we go for another break.  We have two more days of teaching and during that time, they will write two tests.

One of the other things that is happening this year is some of the students are coming forward and sharing some of their stories - mostly of brokenness and hurt. It is a reminder that the church leaders are not immune to discouragements, disappointments and hurts as they serve God and His people.  It is good to speak to them (via translator) and seek to encourage them in Christ.

God is gracious to the country of Mongolia - I trust He will continue to show His goodness, His Son, to the people.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Saturday and Sunday

Sorry about the title - not extremely inspiring but nonetheless, informative.

Saturday we spent the morning finishing Genesis.  We talked about how Joseph came out of prison humbled and praising God, how Jacob reminded us of the three truths of life before Pharaoh (short, hard and a pilgrim - not our final resting place) and how the Lord would come through the line of Judah (would we rather not have come from the line of Joseph, not Judah??).  We also prepared a message from Genesis 38, reminding ourselves of Judah's sin, Tamar's action and God's grace (they would have a son named Perez who would be in the line of Jesus).  Part of the goal of the teaching is not to only convey the information in Genesis but also to be an encouragement to the leaders, as well as show them how it is possible to preach from Genesis.

As it was Saturday, we only met together until 1:00.  In the afternoon, I went to a "wedding reception".    We went into the young couple's ger and with a few people had a milky tea and then a camel/goat/sweetened/partially fermented goes-down-oh-so-smooth drink.  It was this last drink from which I spent the rest of the day recovering  - went to the grocery store and picked up some green tea and tried my best to keep everything in their proper place.

Sunday - I woke up early to write a message I was to preach for one of the churches in the city. During the morning service, we sang, prayed and then I spoke.  We looked at the blind man and Zacchaeus, the one had nothing while the other had everything, according to the world's standards.  It was an opportunity to share with the people that Jesus alone satisfies.  Following the service, a number of us went out for a meal - we waited a couple hours for the meal to arrive as they ran out of fuel and had to run out for a refill. However, it did turn out to be an excellent meal of rice and chicken.  My choice of drink was Coke - I figured it was safe and not fermented.
This afternoon, I plan to get ready for the next week - Old Testament Survey.  We will look at the books from Exodus to Nehemiah.

So - Saturday and Sunday - culinary delights, cultural moments, communal worship - and fermented camel/goats/sweetened milk ... a weekend in the Mongolian countryside.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Working Our Way Through Genesis

It continues to be very windy here in Bayankhongor and because of the dry, sandy ground, it is also very dusty.  There are times when you look out the window and the dust is swirling in large patches.  One gets a sense of what a really strong wind storm may be like.

We continue to work our way through the book of Genesis.  We spent a fair bit of time working through Genesis 1-3 and the life of Abraham.  In travelling through the material, I have tried to press home are first of all the big story line of the Bible - it is not only the story of Adam or Abraham but also the story of redemption and how that impacts our teaching.  I also want to help them understand how they could preach from Genesis and Old Testament passages.  I asked them if they could/would preach a sermon from Genesis 13 and I got a non-committal stare.  So we worked through the passage, studied, prepared a theme and points and talked about how to preach the text in the context.  We saw how Abram learned to trust God in the midst of conflict (theme) and how he learned through 1. Worship 2. Growing in trust and 3. Growing in maturity.  We saw how Lot moved closer to Sodom while Abram moved closer to the place where he built an altar.  It was encouraging to see how they began to understand that you can indeed preach from Genesis and communicate and apply encouraging gospel truth.

Tomorrow (Saturday), we will conclude with the life of Joseph followed by a test.  Most days we have begun at 9:00 and worked through until 5:30 or 6:00 so they have been long days, especially for the students.  I think tomorrow we may end a little earlier and given them some rest.  I will also have the opportunity to preach on Sunday and look forward to worshipping with God's people.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

In The Countryside

Some people ask me if I like to ride rollercoasters and I say no.  When asked why, I used to answer because I am a chicken and I don't like what they do to my heart.  I think I am now going to answer because they are no longer a thrill - I have had the ultimate ride - flying from UB to Bayankhongor on a windy day.  Wow! The plane was about hour and a half late in taking off because of windy conditions.  However, once ready and cleared to fly, we were loaded on a bus which took us to the plane.  We then climbed into the plane and within 5 minutes, we are moving.  Seriously.  The guy explaining the seat belt-what to do if you crash speech was being bounced around as the pilot whipped down the runway at a very fast clip. The pilot took the corner on two wheels (so it seemed - he did not slow down very much at all!) and we are up in the air - bouncy,ducking, sinking.  Man, I felt sick. This is when you just put your head back and try to focus on not having to reach for that bag.

After a while we found some settled air and we were given a quick lunch.  Then the pilot started the descent - again, we were bounced around like a ball at my son's basketball games.  Somehow, we land rather smoothly and after thanking the Lord for safety, tried to find a way to stand.

So yeah, rollercoasters - so yesterday.  So calm.  Like a picnic on a calm night compared to an hour and fifty minute flight on a windy day in Mongolia.

After being driven to the church and eating a small lunch (for obvious reasons), I began to teach - 2 until 6.  The emphasis was how to view the Old Testament through New Testament eyes. We looked at some Biblical Theology and how redemptive history moves progressively forward toward Jesus who fulfils the Old Testament. When I asked them if they wanted to learn about typology, Jeff  who understands english, laughed - but we made it through, talking about shadows in the Old Testament and the reality in found in Jesus.

Today we looked at Genesis 1-2 and talked about creation, sovereignty, marriage, singles, human freedom - among many other subjects.

I was thankful to talk to my family today as yesterday the internet was down.  In all of the events, God has been gracious to as I hear of the challenges of the Mongolian church, but also the many, many blessings.  God is also raising up a faithful group of leaders who desire to learn God's Word, experience His presence and faithfully serve Him and His people.

Monday, May 13, 2013

A Few Days In UB

After landing late Saturday night and having a few days to spend in UB (planes only fly to Bayankhongor Tuesdays and Fridays), I have been able to rest, prepare for the courses and visit sights I have seen on previous visits. In many ways I am thankful for this times as I have inherited a head cold - the rest has been helpful.

One place I have always enjoyed visiting is the Shukhbaatar Square in front of the government buildings.  There are three statues, one being Chinggis Khaan, the great conqueror of nations and hero of the Mongolian people.  In the past, there havel been ropes to block one off from climbing the steps to get a closer look.  However, as I was walking towards the square, music began to play and men dressed in military uniform staggered the steps leading up to the great Khaan.  There was no rope and I was able to climb up the stairs and get closer to Khaan himself.  After some pictures, I was able to visit the museum just behind the statues.

One other place I was able to visit was Gandan Tegchien Monastery, a Buddhist temple.  In touring the site, I saw a lot of people bending, twirling objects, walking backwards over steps, even sitting on and rubbing a giant pair of golden feet.  I was thankful for the brief, visual reminder of the history and culture of many of the Mongol people.  I have yet to see a church building and yet I have heard from believers the Lord has brought many to saving faith and the glory of His Name spreads.

I fly out tomorrow morning around 8:30 and will begin to teach when I arrive.  The classes will go from Tuesday to Saturday and then Monday to Thursday. God promises His Word will not return to Him empty but will accomplish what He pleases (Isaiah 55.11).  It is good to be reminded of the power of God's Word - in Canada and Mongolia.  Please pray for the church leaders of Mongolia as they serve on the frontlines, seeking to faithfully proclaim God's truth.