After about a six-hour journey we arrived at Darkhan, a city in northern Mongolia. A church of the Mongolian Evangelical Lutheran Church worships there in a building that used to be the barracks and offices of soldiers of the Soviet Union army back in the days when the communists of the U.S.S.R. dominated Mongolia. It would have seemed impossible back then to think a church would be praising the Lord in that building but now that is the case. In rooms where Soviet soldiers used to hang out, children are hearing the good news of Jesus while surrounded by beautiful art work, as seen in the picture above.
We got to meet some of the people of the church. Some years ago one of them was facing challenges that seemed impossible to overcome. He had gone to Russia looking for work but couldn’t find any. He was homeless and the weather was turning dangerously cold. He wanted to return home to Mongolia but there didn’t seem to be any way. Some months before somebody had tried to share the good news of Jesus with him but he had no interest. Now in his desperation he cried out to God for help. Through a variety of miraculous events, God worked things out for him to get back to Mongolia. Eventually he came to the Lord and is now a very inventive, talented man who, with his wife, helps manage a factory that makes high-end felt slippers that are sold in Norway. The factory is in a building next to the church and is a fruit of the ministry of the Norwegian Lutheran Mission.
It’s impossible to imagine how a family that had a 6-year-old son die could find any comfort. A family in the church in Ulan Bator suffered that kind of tragic loss recently. The funeral for their little boy took place one of the days we were in Mongolia. We visited their home with the pastor and a number of family members and spent time in prayer for them. The family was at the worship service on Sunday. At their home and at the worship service it was encouraging to see the congregation come around the grieving family to offer comfort and support.
The mom shared briefly during the testimony portion of the worship service. She was crying and much of the congregation was crying as well. They were living out the Bible’s call to “mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). It also seemed like, when the mom was sharing about the pain of losing her son, some of the other moms in the congregation held their little ones a little bit closer. Tragedies like this can remind us that life is fragile and precious and a treasure to cherish.