ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia (BP)–In an Ulaanbaatar conference room, five Mongolian men ages 26 to 57 sit around a table, fanned out like spokes of a wheel. One is a former Buddhist artist. Another served as an army officer for 26 years.
Along one wall is a map of Mongolia with pinned-on yellow triangles. The plain ones stand for ministry sites visited. The 10 with an adorning cross represent new, indigenous churches. Lines partition the Mongolian region into five slices — one for each of the men gathered around the table.
For two years, these men have traveled the countryside together, bringing the Gospel to isolated, nomadic communities. Now they will ride out separately, each carrying the Good News to one of the outlined regions.
These are the men of Steppe-by-Steppe (named after Mongolian prairielands, called steppes). Each month these believers travel to the outlying areas of Mongolia, showing Bible movies and discipling believers to establish churches and strengthen existing ones. Under the discipleship of Southern Baptist worker Will Everett,* the men have shown movies to more than 25,000 Mongols in 84 communities since 2006.
“These guys blow me away with what God’s done in their lives,” Everett said. “More than anybody else in the country, these guys know its pulse. They are the experts of Mongolia.”
These men are not the first to travel to Mongolia’s outer aimags (provinces). When the country opened up in the early ’90s after communism, American believers trekked to the countryside to show the JESUS film on ger (tent home) walls and at other venues. Many accepted Christ through the campaign.
A decade later, a survey of the country’s churches found discipleship to be lacking. Driven by the success of the JESUS film, believers identified a set of 10 movies about the Bible, from Genesis to the New Testament.
The men trek to the nomadic areas one to two weeks monthly, showing a movie each night and using the story to bridge the discussion to “Who is Christ?”
They offer Bible studies each morning and either filter new believers into existing churches or disciple them to form their own.
Sometimes the team’s efforts are met with anger: chairs flying when the movie doesn’t work, antagonists pulling the plug during a showing. Yet there are also stories about people flagging down a ride to the movies. Others have followed the team to the train station, walking in snow for miles to see them off on their continuing journeys. One member recalls digging a hole in the Gobi desert for a spontaneous baptism.
Distrust often can turn to hope when these believers tell the difference Christ has made in their lives. Tumen,* a former military man who once struggled with alcohol, shared his story with alcoholics in a community marketplace. Approximately 60 men cried at the end of his talk. Building seminars from such experiences, the team is addressing villagers’ needs — and providing material that can be repurposed for prison ministry.
“Ministry to those outside the city is new ground,” Southern Baptist worker Marie Dawes* said. “Even Mongols are asking, ‘How do we do this?’ It’s going to have to be nomads to nomads. [They are in] the most unreached area.”
*Name changed. Dea Davidson is a writer for the International Mission Board.