Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Typical Day

So, what takes place here in Mongolia? What happens in a typical day? Let me begin with last night as it was rather special and then we will end with tonight.

After teaching class yesterday, I was invited to a student's home. We walked up the three stories of a very run down building and the door opened to a spacious apartment with a beautiful family. This man has 4 children and I was able to meet them as I entered. I also met his wife who invited me to the kitchen were we sat and had supper. The man of the apartment invited another student and the four of us had a time of fellowship. I was able to ask about their lives and the church in Mongolia (the man spoke English) and they were able to ask me questions. After the meal, we played a game, talked some more and then had a word of prayer. It was a rich time of fellowship and you could sense the Christian unity. On the way out, the man showed me his home and in one of the rooms was his 92 year old grandma - a short, hunched over lady. I took pictures of her with her family and then reached down to shake the elderly ladies hand while she pulled me to her and kissed my cheeks. What a blessing to see how the gospel impacts a whole family and the warmth of fellowship in Christ.

After being driven home, I got ready for bed and was asleep by about 9:30. I woke up at 6:00 and began to prepare for the day by reviewing Romans 4-6. After some serious instant coffee, I was picked up at 8:30 to begin class at 9:15.

This morning I began with a devotional asking how the church grows in maturity? We looked at the end of Hebrews 5 and saw that the church must go from drinking milk to eating solid food. There were some questions about sermon preparation and ministry in general that lasted until 10:30 - time for our first break. I had originally wanted to begin with Romans 4 but once the questions started pouring in, these immediate ministry concerns became front and centre. At the end of this time, one of the students talked about the need for all sorts of demands in ministry, such as mentoring, church planning, evangelism, etc. The interpreter told me what he had said so I thought I would address the concern after the break.

I said I would like to make four comments about the man's question but then we should really begin to look at Romans. I said first - be patient because growth happens over time; second - do not panic - God is sovereign; third - love your wife and children (God first, then marriage and family, then church); and fourth, preach the Word (make it your main goal to preach the Word and pray for the people - all else leads from this). It was a unique moment as this young Mongolian church grows in their faith and knowledge.

We began to go through Romans 4-6 which lead us through justification, propitiation, faith, saving faith, faith and not the law, assurance, representation and many other teachings. One of the aims for me is not only to bring them through the book and teach them doctrine but to first show that doctrine impacts all of life and second to show that God gives grace to preach the Word.

We finished a little early today at the end of Romans 6. I travelled back to the apartment to get ready to take a family out for dinner (this is the family that took care of me last year and also has done a lot to help me this year). While we ate in a Mongolian Grill style restaurant, near the end of the meal the lights went out. No problem - they just brought candles to the tables and life went on. (The power has gone off in my apartment several times, one time for about 30 minutes. If you are on the elevator and the power goes off, you just have to wait until it the power is on. So, every time I get on the elevator, I pray that God will keep the power on!!)

I arrived home to email my wife and family and write this quick blog. During the day there are still those special, real moments. A man received a call to hear that his child was sick and was going to be brought to the hospital. Before he left, he asked for prayer so the men sat, prayed silently, concluding with one man praying for the young child. Then there are the moments when we are going through Romans and their faces light up with the truth of the gospel. These brothers and sisters have been God's gift to my life and I have learned a tremendous amount about vulnerable, simple faith in ministry.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Every Nation, Every Tongue

One of the great joys of meeting with God's people is singing. This morning I walked for about 10 minutes to Zion Church (some of the churches have very interesting names, at least from a North American perspective: Salvation of Word; Glory of Jesus; Eternal Life; Amazing Blessing; Light of Life; Star of Grace; Jesus' Sheep Herd; Light Future - some of the church names represented from the students in the class)to be greeted by the pastor - one of the students in the class. He is a quieter man, gentle and very kind. As the people gathered, it became very obvious that there were a lot of young people. They opened with a few words and then began to sing with enthusiasm - an older man on the drums (yes!! it is true), a younger man on the guitar, and a young lady all helping with the singing. Singing filled the building - loud, enthusiastic and filled with expressive actions. It was a joy to see the young church of Mongolia express freely God's amazing gift of salvation, to see young people lifting their hands and voices to the Saviour and to see young and old celebrating the goodness of God. I knew two of the songs: Create in Me a Clean Heart and Hosanna, Hosanna. They sang in their tongue while I sang in English - what I consider a foretaste of the glory to come. I really wish that I could take my family and church family and fly them all to meet the brothers and sisters in Mongolia and worship God together, singing the praises of the Almighty - one Lord, one Saviour, one God, one gospel, one family.

They asked me to come up and preach and I began by bringing greetings from my family and my church family - what a privilege to connect God's people with God's greeting, the ties that bind believers who have never met. I preached from the book of Ephesians beginning with Ephesians 2 and the great gospel message - Christ's kindness expressed through his salvation. And then we went to the great prayer of Ephesians 3 and saw the enjoyment of the kindness of Jesus through his great love. We finally ended in Ephesians 4 and saw how we are to express that great kindness in our lives. My goal, by God's grace, was to show by God's Word that the Christian life is not just a list of do's and don't's but is a relationship in the great love of God and the reason we do what we do as believers is because of God's kindness in Christ.

I was just so happy to preach to the people, a people who have so much to teach me in so many areas of my life.

After the service, I was able to meet some of the people and then I had lunch with the leaders and their wives. I asked them how we could pray for them and they responded that the government may take their land to build apartments - please pray the government would not touch the land as God did not allow the lions to touch Daniel or the fire to touch his three friends. They also asked for prayer as they grow as a church in Mongolia - the church is only 18 years old, the freedom of the gospel coming in 1990. Please pray that God may continue to grant them an enthusiasm for evangelism and that they may grow in maturity in the knowledge of God's Word. Almost every church leader I ask about how we may pray for them respond with the need to be taught so they may train the next generation of leaders.

Before we left, they prayed for me - I don't know what they said but you could sense the warmth of Christian love in Christ. I asked if I could pray for them and I prayed God would bless and guide the leaders and the people and that the great gospel would shine bright for the glory of God in Mongolia.

Revelation 7:9: After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. and they cried out in a loud voice:

Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.

Canadians and Mongolians will be together one day even though miles separate now and they will stand side by side, basking in the glory and love of the Triune God, singing: Salvation, this great salvation, belongs to God, who sits on the throne and the the Lamb, our Saviour, to whom be glory forever and ever.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

My First Mongolian Head Butt

I'll get to my trip to the countryside in a moment, but I have to tell you about a first for me in Mongolia. I had supper tonight (chicken and Greek salad - very tasty and no ill effects - very thankful) and on my way home I stopped to get some groceries. After picking up a few things, I was walking down the sidewalk looking for a place to cross the very, very busy road when I saw a group of three young guys heading towards me - they seemed somewhat unstable on their feet and a little happy. One of the guys approached me and I did not know what he was going to do. I know that alcohol and violence are a problem as well as pick-pocketing.

I was carrying a bag of groceries and this young man (he came to about my shoulders) leaned into my chest and gave me a subtle head butt. I didn't know what was going on. It didn't hurt at all but I did not know what he was going to do. My money was well protected but I know these guys can wrestle. However, he simply moved on down the street with his buddies - thankfully.

And now that I am safe in my 12th floor apartment and writing this, I wonder if instead of a moment of potential violence, he was simply trying to reach out and become my friend. I wonder? Maybe it was a cry for help? Seemed like a rather nice guy and maybe I mistook his rather aggressive stance - you know, judged him too early - for hostility when I should have been more open. Oh well, just thankful to be safe.

Today I had the opportunity to go out into the country. The Mongolian countryside has a rugged, dry beauty with wide open plains surrounded by rolling, steep hills. The countryside is vast. After a 45 minute drive, we first arrived at a new statue of Chinggis Khan - gigantic Chinggis. Made of steel, this vast structure is like the America Statue of Liberty and the Canadian ... the Canadian ... oh well, I'll move on (boy, that was uncomfortable, eh?). It was quite magnificent. After stopping off the beaten path by a river and having a small fire with some snack food, we travelled to a 1500 year old monument to dead Turks (not Turkey but the ancient Turkish people). Cylinder stones planted in the ground many years ago still contain noticeable writing while a broken stone table 20 metres away lays crumbled. There are also stones "planted" every metre or so apart from one another in two lines that run 200 kilometres through the countryside in remembrance of all who died in their wars. 200 kilometres! It is said in those days war was so prevalent that 25% of men would die in battle. It was a real moment walking through history, remembering our fallen world and longing for Christ to return once again.

Tomorrow morning I will be preaching in a church of one of the students. Please pray that God's Spirit may lead and the Words of Life may penetrate the hearts of the hearers.

Friday, September 26, 2008

So, a few things have happened ...

I moved ...

to a unoccupied missionaries 12th floor apartment. The arrangements are a little better as there is hot water (in the other place, hot water was rare - not that I am complaining!!) and it is more centrally located.

I finished Systematics I with the class ...

we were able to discuss the doctrine of Scripture, God, His creation, and His decrees and providence. We began with a devotional each morning and then from 9:00-4:45 (with a lunch and 2-3 breaks) we discussed God's Word. This morning they wrote the test and in the afternoon, we began to look at the book of Romans. We made it through the first 4 verses and then they began to ask questions concerning practical areas of church life. One man mentioned that there is much confusion in some of these matters so it was a really good opportunity to discuss and look at how to apply God's Word to church life.

I have made some plans ...

the family I stayed with last year is going to take me out into the countryside and we are headed to some statue of Mr. Khan. Also, I have the opportunity to preach this Sunday morning at 11:00 for one of the pastors attending the class. And finally, I am going over to one of the student's house Monday night for supper. This is a great privilege to be invited and I am very thankful to God because one of my prayers has been that I will connect better with the students.

Thank you again for your prayers. I have been somewhat tired and am thankful for the rest I will be able to have this weekend. We have had some very special moments in God's Word as we looked at various gospel truths and I very much look forward to digging into the book of Romans with the pastors of Mongolia.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Super Hero Moments

As I begin to write, it is presently 5:50 p.m. Tuesday night in Mongolia. I arrived safely Saturday night around 12:00 at night and got to my apartment at around 1:00 in the morning. I was so thankful to God for a safe flight.

It is good to be back and I am thankful to have some familiarity with the surroundings. It still takes a while getting used to the traffic - it is completely insane. For example, if there is not a lane, they will create a lane all on their own and it does not really matter if another vehicle is heading straight for you - that is his problem, not yours. Crossing the street still ranks up there as one of the most dangerous moments in your life - EVER!!! Agility, a keen eye and lightening speed all come together in a great "super hero" moment as you bound across the street and hopefully don't get wiped out by someone honking their horn.

These past two days 17 students have met to study Systematics I. It is a tremendous time to share God's Word to these church leaders. At one point today, we talked about how the knowledge of God leads to practical living. It was one of those moments in the class that you could sense God's presence as we talked of knowledge that leads to greater worship of God. If we are going to truly worship God, then we must see His glory and taste and see that He is good, so that all the other false gods that we taste pale in comparison. We also saw how in 1 Corinthians 8:1 knowledge does not puff up but leads to a life of love.

This year I am intentionally seeking to get to know the men and women better. The language is a huge barrier but I was able to talk with 2-3 men and learned more about their ministries. It is a real privilege to stand alongside of these leaders and serve God with them.

I walked home after having supper last night at around 8:00. Actually, I had supper at the Irish Pub (that one is for you Nick!!) and had bacon and eggs - nothing like breakfast for supper!! During my 45 minute walk I saw a fwy young children begging with one little boy holding his even smaller sister and another little boy swaying and in a very quiet voice singing; I saw a number of drunk men, staggering, one man in particular trying to find a wall just to brace himself; and I saw just lots of ordinary people enjoying the night life. Sights like this common all over the world emphasize once again the need for the great gospel of Jesus Christ to penetrate Mongolia.

Please pray for the leaders of Mongolia - the church is growing and God is moving. Pray that the church might serve with passion and faithfulness for His glory.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Has Such A Great Thing Ever Happened?

The plane landed in Seoul 2:30 a.m. Saturday (or 1:30 p.m. Friday Cambridge time) and I was thankful to the Lord for a safe and relatively smooth flight. One of the highlights - or at least I thought it would be a highlight (and so would my children!!) was the showing of the movie Kungfu Panda. Sadly, I had not slept for a very long time and even a panda doing karate could not keep my determined eyelids from shutting.

Today I have been able to sleep, read, email my family and just wander - what else do you do until 7:30 in the evening? It has struck me once again in my wanderings the amount of people that fill this hallway and country.

As I wandered, I prayed that a great gospel presence may be found in Korea and Mongolia. As we have been looking at the book of Deuteronomy, my prayer for the people of Mongolia is Deuteronomy 4:32: For ask now of the days that are past, which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and ask from one end of heaven to the other, whether such a great thing as this has ever happened or was ever heard of. While Moses would go on and talk about creation and the exodus, he would point to a greater message - Jesus and the good news. Has there ever been a greater thing to happen than the life, death, resurrection, ascension and promised second coming of Jesus? Please pray with me that this message of the great grace of the only God through Jesus may resound from one end of heaven to the other.

On a more personal note, I really do thank you for all your prayers. I will miss meeting with God's people at Grace Bible tomorrow and trust that God's presence will be felt and enjoyed for His glory. It is tremendously comforting to know that I have a church family who will pray and who will care because the gospel has so radically changed their lives.

... know therefore today, and lay it in your heart, that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other. Deuteronomy 4:39

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Mongolia and Hot Tubs

Well- my second trip to Mongolia begins. I am presently waiting in Toronto Airport for an 11:50 p.m. departure so I only have another 2 hour wait. After waiting in line to hand over my luggage, the kind gentleman ushered me to the window with the sign above it reading PRESTIGE CLASS. Now this is the life, I thought, they have upgraded my ticket! I can see it now - I will stretch out the entire flight, maybe take a dip in the hot tub that I am sure is on the plane somewhere (did I bring my bathing suit???), and then finish off with a fine three course meal- maybe T-bone steak with some mashed potatoes and a pile of gravy.

I am loving this. The kind lady behind the counter processed my luggage (I was a little over because of a huge container of peanut butter I am bringing the family I stayed with last year - but she let it through. One of the perks of my new status, I thought) and then handed me my ticket. Seat 51!!! I thought - PRESTIGE has taken a hit these days.

Knowing my hot tub moment was over, I asked one more question before a real Prestige person presented himself - is it an aisle seat?

She nodded yes and I walked away a happy man. An aisle seat! May not be a hottub but on a long flight, it ranks right up there.