The year was 1992. The place was Mongolia. Campus Crusade for Christ’s 186th dubbing of the Jesus Film was showing in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar in the Mongolian language. An 11-year-old boy named Enkhmunkh (pronounced “Enk monk”) and his friends wanted to see it.
Two years earlier, communism fell. Freedom of worship was declared and foreign missionaries poured into the country. The boys wondered, What does this freedom of religion really mean? All they knew was anti-religious propaganda and the Buddhist rituals their grandparents secretly practiced. Things were new. Choices were available.
Curiosity drove the young boys to the theater in the –50º temperatures of January. After the film they stayed for a contemporary Christian concert by recording artist Randy Stonehill. The air was electric, yet peace filled Enkhmunkh’s soul. A tingling spread throughout his entire body. The movie and the concert proclaimed the same message—Jesus died for us, loves us, forgives and saves us.
How can that be? But Enkhmunkh felt it was really true. As he walked home that night, he repeated what he had heard, what had captured his heart.
“The God of the universe actually knows my name and loves me!” With each step, he emphasized different parts of that sentence. The God of the universe love ME! The God of the universe KNOWS me! Joy overwhelmed him.
Foreigners Bring Growth
Enkhmunkh read the newly translated Mongolian Bible, but needed someone to help him better understand it. He wanted fellowship and went looking for a good church in Ulaanbaatar. In November 1992, Everlasting Dawn Church opened under the leadership of a Korean missionary named Pastor Hwang. Enkhmunkh met Pastor Hwang, who led him to the Lord, baptized him, and agreed to disciple him.
Enkhmunkh’s growth in the Lord was monumental. It wasn’t long before he was teaching Sunday school. His friends embarked on the same journey and as an early teen Enkhmunkh was leading them and others in a youth group.
He felt the call to full-time service, so in preparation he attended Bible college and seminary. In 2003, Enkhmunkh left pastor Hwang’s church to establish a new church in Ulaanbaatar called Living Faith Christian Church. He and his three coworkers have a great desire to reach the Mongolian youth and raise up the church of tomorrow—all with indigenous Mongolian leadership. Enkhmunkh’s team has planted three churches within Mongolia and many others in the surrounding region.
A new era for missionaries in Mongolia
Foreign missionaries are leaving Mongolia as the government attempts to foster indigenous religious movements and restrict foreign influence. The young native church is thriving. Its immediate goal is to reach 10% Christians in Mongolia by 2020. Today 4% of the 3.5 million are now Christian. Long-range, its leaders aspire to see the Gospel spread throughout the historical kingdom of Genghis Khan. It was the largest contiguous land empire in all of history, from Japan in the east to western Europe and Jerusalem in the west, and from Siberia in the north to India and Vietnam in the south. The Good News is extending out along the same routes, back to Jerusalem through the heart of Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, athiestic communism, and Judaism.
In 1989 there were only four or five known Christians in the whole of Mongolia. Today that number is over 100,000. This movement began with American missionaries. Koreans did the bulk of discipleship. However, the Mongolian teenagers who accepted Christianity in the nineties, like Enkhmunkh, have grown up. They have turned into outspoken leaders of Mongolian Christianity.
This is just in Mongolia. Now in the hands of these native missionaries, what numbers will we see in another few decades?