‘Jesus people’ bring the gospel to Mongolian nomads

An SMU team to Mongolia learned how to rely on God for every decision during their time in the valley.


Jess Lindner

The seven Biola guys that traveled to Mongolia invited people to their film screening for the first time on Monday October 10, 2011. | Jessica Lindner/THE CHIMES

Ethan Froelich, Writer

The seven Biola guys that traveled to Mongolia invited people to their film screening for the first time on Monday October 10, 2011. | Jessica Lindner/THE CHIMES

At the Monday night showing of the documentary on the Student Missionary Union’s Mongolia team trip, members of the team reflected on what God had taught them. For six weeks during the summer, seven men from Biola went on a journey in Mongolia, living the life of nomads on the high steppe while sharing the gospel with over 70 Mongolians they met on the way.

A calling to Mongolia

Mongolians are men of the high plains, living in guhrs or yurts, which are tent-like homes that can be moved to different places in a few hours. There in the yurts of strangers, the team sipped fermented goat’s milk instead of Starbucks coffee. It was a meeting of two different worlds, two different places in time, that had taken months of planning and prayer.

Senior Kyle Donn had prayed fervently about where God wanted him to serve during the summer since his opportunity to lead a trip to Sri Lanka with the Student Missionary Union had fallen through. After looking at a map he had bought from Borders, Donn considered going to countries like Brazil, Mauritania and Ecuador but each failed to develop. Then a friend showed him a documentary of some Canadians who had gone on a mission trip to Mongolia, and God made it clear that this was where Donn should lead a team.

From then on, all the pieces fell into place. Frank Maldonado joined the group, documenting the trip with his camera, and senior Blake Lawson, joined who knew about horses that they would need to buy on the journey. Junior Miles Bocianski, sophomore Stefan Carlson, senior Geoff Nelson and senior Jeremy Driggs also joined and the group was complete.

Governed by God

The group arrived in the capital, Ulaanbaatar, on June 17 and after a few days of gathering supplies and meeting their translator, Maidar, they felt God calling them to the least-visited Mongolian province of Uvs.

After hiking for a few days in the region, Donn remembers seeing a “white line of rocks pointing to an ominous valley” the group felt certain they needed to visit. Bocianski recalls that God was always in control on the trip. The decision to go into the valley proves that point. This was the valley in which the group would spend the next 23 days.

Quickly, however, the team’s heroic, idealized version of their trip hit many obstacles. There were raging rivers to cross, miles to trek each day, firewood to gather and a totally different culture to learn.

At one point when crossing a rushing, waist-high river, Carlson fell in the water which made him remember that God still decided if he would cross even the next obstacle and that each step in the journey was governed by God.

Being the “Jesus people”

With the challenges came remarkable blessings. One day, while trekking in the mountains, the men were approached by a Mongolian man named Dawa with his flock. After telling him about the gospel, the man admitted that after hearing of Christ months ago he had been unwilling to accept Christ unless something happened that year to change his mind. With the arrival of the American team from so far away, Dawa decided to put his faith in Christ that day.

Word quickly spread through the valley that the “Jesus people” were coming and people were prepared to hear the gospel and were even asking for it to be explained to them once Donn and the team arrived.

“This didn’t fit into my box of what missions was,” Donn said.

His formula for sharing the gospel did not always work and he realized that God is the one who ultimately softens hearts to be receptive to the gospel.

As the final day of their stay in the valley came, the group focused on the kids, organizing games to play and having some final talks with those around them. The group had traveled some 80 miles, talked with 70 people, 17 of which put their faith in the Lord.

Sometimes, life is nomadic in nature. It requires constantly seeking God for the next river crossing or long, arduous hike into the unknown. During the summer seven men walked blindly into a country thousands of miles from their own, only to find that God had been softening the hearts of 17 people in Mongolia in anticipation of their arrival.

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