By Jerry Harding
“Please send 100 teachers of the Christian faith able to clearly show that the law of Christ is best. If persuaded, I and all under my rule will become His followers.”
So wrote Kublai Khan to the pope in AD 1271 after Marco Polo had visited his land. At the same time, he invited Buddhist Lamas from Tibet to do similarly.
The Mongol Empire begun by Genghis Khan was at its zenith. It stretched all the way from Korea in the East to Hungary in the West. It was the largest empire of contiguous conquered lands the world has ever known!
The pope was distracted with political fighting in Europe and sent only a few illiterate monks—ten years later! By that time Buddhism had taken root and was thriving.
Today the remnant country of Mongolia, located between Siberia and China and about the size of Alaska, has a population of 3.5 million—half of whom live in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar.
Small groups of Christians from London arrived in 1817, but by 1924 they still had not planted any church.
Communism arrived in Mongolia in 1920, and all religion was severely oppressed. More than 30,000 Buddhist monks and priests were executed, and another 70,000 were exiled or imprisoned. In 1989 there were only four or five known Christian believers in the whole country!
Things changed in 1990. Communism fell, translators completed the Mongolian translation of the Bible, the country opened politically to the outside world, and a move toward God began to sweep the country.
The Communists did one good thing: they raised the literacy rate from 2% to 94%. Today there are 100,000 believers with Bible studies, prayer groups, and Sunday services in all of the 18 provinces.
In August 2015 a team of four from Advancing Native Missions visited Mongolia to witness what God was doing. The team included Oliver Asher, ANM’s President; Alex Asher, his son; Dan Reichard, ANM Far East Desk Director; and myself. (Hear Dan’s reflections on our April podcast episode.) We wanted to see for ourselves what God was doing and to see if there were any Christian leaders that ANM might come alongside of and help.
We were amazed beyond words! We were witnessing the 29th chapter of the Book of Acts! Incredible conversion testimonies…marvelous answers to prayers…the freshness of genuine faith…a desire for outreach to the unreached that is as natural as breathing! The church was thriving! Hallelujah!
Apostle to Mongolia
A person that God has graciously used as an integral part of the growth and maturity of the Mongolian church is a Korean missionary who has spent 24 years of his life fulfilling his divine calling to the Mongolian people. Pastor Hwang and his wife, Baysa, with their disciples, have been instrumental in planting some 25% of the 800+ Christian churches in the country—plus Mongolian churches in Europe and Australia and 17 congregations in the U.S.
There have been many affirmations regarding the ministry of our dear brother, but perhaps my favorite comes from Rick Leatherwood, author of Glory in Mongolia. He wrote:
“It’s January…and 15 young men make their way to the church offices amid 20-degree-below-zero temperatures in the 6 a.m. dark to hear the word of God taught by young missionary Hwang.
“It had been my privilege to light the fire in Mongolia and baptize the first two believers, but it was Pastor Hwang who knew how to make disciples. The meetings went on through the cold winter, then spring. In the summer everyone would go on outreach, and then in the fall the teaching would begin again.
“Today those young men are now perhaps 38 or 40 years old. They have wives and three or four children [each], and are pastoring churches. They are discipled. It wasn’t the twenty-below-ness, or the 6-a.m.-ness; it was the everydayness that made these men into disciples of the living God.”
Yet the job is far from done. Christians in Mongolia amount to 2.3% of the population, but they are eager to reach their countrymen for Christ.