In 2017, the Church of the Nazarene officially recognized the presence of the Nazarene church in Mongolia, where God has been growing a team of international Nazarenes who have faithfully helped to establish this presence.
In 1990, when Mongolia moved from communism to a democratic form of government, there were only four known Christians in the entire nation. While this nation, sandwiched between China and Russia, is struggling to stabilize its economy and government, thousands of its citizens are discovering faith in Jesus Christ. In one of the great “people movements” in church history, nearly 47,000 now identify themselves as Christians.
While the Christian population is growing at an annual rate of 7.5 percent – the eighth fastest in the world – it comprises less than 2 percent of the total population of over 3 million. Buddhists make up 35 percent of the population, with most of the remainder calling themselves atheists or “free thinkers.” Great multitudes are yet to be reached—in Mongolia’s modern capital city of Ulaanbaatar, home to half of the country’s citizens, and out across the high plains—the most sparsely populated region of the world.
Responding to this challenging opportunity, Sunny and Lisa Um, from South Korea, were the first official missionaries sent by the Church of the Nazarene to Mongolia on May 25, 2012. They made their home in Darkhan, a copper mining town and the second largest city in the country, and began language study. After months of Sunday worship times with only themselves and their daughter, others joined them.
“I came to Mongolia with my family in 2012. The next year, I started a home church with my family at our home. A few months later, I met a Mongolian pastor who wanted to open a church. So we worshiped together and we had a Bible study on week days,” said Sunny.
Sunny and the Mongolian pastor started a children’s church, where every Sunday, about 40 children would gather for Sunday school.
Then they looked for a new place where there was not yet a church, and settled on the Shirenor village in September 2014. They rented a space and began a Sunday worship service with one Mongolian family.
“God is so good to prepare a helper. As time passed, one woman came to church [and] asked me if it was church. I said, ‘Yes, this is church,’ That woman visited my church when we had a garage sale. After that, she brought her neighbors and friends. Her name is Urin-Tuya and she is my church leader now,” said Sunny.
In 2016, they constructed a church building. As their pioneer congregation grows, they are moving toward a membership of 50, which will meet the legal requirement for official recognition. On land the Ums acquired in the neighboring village of Shirenor, they dug a well to serve the community and built the first Nazarene church building (Yurt Church of the Nazarene) in Mongolia. Hospitality, water and youth activities make it a gathering place for the community.
“Every Sunday we worship the Lord with 30 to 40 local members. On Fridays, we have a leaders’ Bible study and Friday prayer meetings regularly. Praise the Lord,” said Sunny. “Now I am looking for [another] village where there is no church.”
Joshua & Christina Cho, also from South Korea, joined the Ums in 2013. After one year, they relocated to the city of Erdenet, where, like Darkhan, the Soviet Union established a mining town, boasting the fourth largest copper mine in the world. The Chos are building relationships through small group Bible studies, compassionate ministry projects and through their Mongolian language classes. A Work & Witness team helped them build a fence and a concrete slab for a basketball court for the youth of a neighborhood. In January of 2017, the Chos welcomed their first child, Nathan, into the family. They have returned to South Korea for the birth and the early months of the baby's life.
Chris and Courtney Troutman arrived in Ulaanbaatar, in 2013, under the Global Serve volunteer program. Chris grew up in Africa as a missionary kid. His dream is to connect with Mongolian people through music and the arts. After teaching English for a year at a university, the Troutmans have completed Mongolian language school and are living and working among the people of a ger (yurt) district. Courtney teaches English to children at an international school (mostly Mongolian & Korean students) and Chris is developing a community outreach center with Reggie.
Reggie, a native of Ulaanbaatar, has a remarkable story of God’s providence and leadership. While attending a Christian church in Ulan Bator (alternative spelling), Reggie felt led to study Bible and theology. She learned that the Philippines had many theological schools and, in a bold move, went to Manila. She enrolled in a school to improve her English, and looked around at seminaries and Bible schools. She visited Asia Pacific Nazarene Theological Seminary (APNTS) and liked what she found there. After a year of English study, she enrolled at APNTS and earned her Master’s of Divinity degree in 2015.
Reggie will be the leader of activities at a newly acquired community center. According to Rick Power, field strategy coordinator, “This will become a hub of activities, ranging from children’s clubs, English classes, life skills training and music jam sessions, to prayer meetings, Bible studies and, eventually, a fully formed church.”
Power added, “There's a dearth of Wesleyan resources in the Mongolian language. So, we're working to provide basic books and curriculum for the course of study and for introducing people to the Nazarene tribe.”
Building on the sound foundation established during these first five years, the small Nazarene contingency continues to reach out. God’s Spirit is moving among the Mongolian people and is adding to the church those who are being saved.