by Gerald and Frances Mitchum
Why are we here, and how will God use a veterinarian and teacher in what he is doing in Mongolia? was the question ringing in our heads. We were to learn that credentials were not a priority with God.
IT WAS THE LATE 1980s and the symbolic wall of concrete and barbed wire was crumbling between East and West. The success of capitalism had outlasted the dream of communism and socialism. On the other side of the world, a nation with its own rich history was caught in the downward spiral with the old Soviet Union. The years of dependence on Russia and the Eastern block nations was abruptly ending. The “overnight” exodus of the Russian military and industrialist paved the way for the hatching of a fledgling democracy that would become the independent nation of Mongolia.
It was an unsettling day when we arrived at the airport in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. There were few commodities to buy following the exit of the Russians and our worldly collection was packed in our suitcases. We entered the airport—a dark, archaic building with no electricity at the time. The conveyer belt was disabled and the luggage was delivered by dump truck. We were picked up and also dumped into a dirty apartment with little food and no contact with people for some days.
Why are we here, and how will God use a veterinarian and teacher in what he is doing in Mongolia? was the question ringing in our heads. We were to learn that credentials were not a priority with God. “Then Amos replied to Amaziah, ‘I am not a prophet, nor am I the son of a prophet; for I am a herdsman and a grower of sycamore figs’” (Amos 7:14). If God could use a sheepherder, was it possible that he could also use us?
The constant twisting and jarring of the Russian vehicle took its toll on human and truck bodies. Russian vehicles were similar in design and construction to cars made in the 1930s and 1940s in the West. They were prone to breakdowns and it was essential to have a driver who was also a mechanic. Drivers had a strong and proud profession and were paid more than doctors in many cases. Their value was hard to estimate since at times they were the only thing standing between us and death. The extreme winters and temperamental springs and falls could bring life-threateningly harsh weather just over the next rise.
It was a cold day as we were driving through the valleys on our way to a small village. Being lost was not an uncommon problem…in fact, it happened almost every time we went to a new place. Some of my fondest memories are from the adventures while lost in the Mongolian countryside. The doors of the gers (Mongolian Nomadic Tents) always pointed south and acted as a compass when the sun or stars were behind clouds.
When all else failed, we would stop at a ger along the way and spend a half hour drinking milk tea and listening to directions… getting directions always resulted in a lengthy conversation. The old herder would point with his chin as he described in detail how to get to our destination. During this trip, all of the herders had moved away from their summer grazing sites in the valleys. There were no “ger-compasses” and no one from which to ask directions. The sky darkened and it became more difficult to follow the worn tracks.
Eventually, we saw a pinpoint of light on the side of a mountain and turned from the valley to find the light. Winding our way up the grade we saw two gers nestled on the side of the slope. It was indeed a relief to find a family that could give us directions. A woman came to the door and we greeted her with the common greeting, “Does your dog bite?” Wolves were common and dogs were kept to protect the livestock. These dogs sometimes made the mistake of taking us for thieves and we were careful to be sure the dog was friendly or securely tied. She gave us good directions and soon we were on our way and arrived an hour later at the site where we were meet by anxious herders.
Our work was completed and we decided to get an early start back to the city the next day. It was pitch dark when we left and soon we found ourselves hopelessly lost… again. We drove back and forth looking for the road that we had followed on our way to the village. Fortunately, we saw another ger in the mountains and drove there to get directions. The ger door flew open and to our surprise it was the same woman who had given us directions the night before. She was incredulous when she saw the same lost faces. She said, “Just wait a few minutes while I get my things and I will just go with you and show you the way.” We were never lost again on that trip. Our guide gave exact directions at every turn and we always knew exactly where we were.
We often struggle to know God’s will for our lives and jis plan for our future. That is not really the preeminent need. With God in the van, we don’t really have to know his plan or his will. If I am walking along beside him every day, I don’t have to know where he is going. I simply have to stay close to him and hang on to his hand. Just following Jesus is much easier than trying to know and understand every twist and turn of life.
Today, there are over seventy Mongolians and several westerners working together in a team we call Mongolia V.E.T. Net to spread the gospel across this nation. God is using veterinary medicine and community development through education to reach an unreached people. Some sixty small churches and home groups have sprung from this ministry and thousands have now heard the precious gospel of Jesus Christ. Simply hanging on to him is the secret to all that has happened in this forgotten nation.
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In 1994, Gerald and Frances Mitchum joined Christian Veterinary Mission, moving to Mongolia the following year. The national organization Mongolia V.E.T. Net resulted from this ministry, now reaching across the entire nation. Over 3,800 individuals heard the gospel last year.
EMQ, Vol. 52, No. 1. Copyright © 2016 Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMQ editors.