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‘JESUS’ film opens doors to homes

ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia (BP)–Jeffrey Dawes* and a Mongolian believer hiked to a hillside village to see if there was anybody there who could help them start a church.

Seemingly at random, they walked up to one of the traditional nomadic tents called gers. But God had already prepared the hearts of the family living there. They had watched the “JESUS” film several years earlier.

“We love Jesus,” the father told them. “We’ve been waiting to have a church in our home.”

So the Dawes family and Mongolian believers began to knit together a ger (home) church.

Simultaneously, God was preparing the heart of a self-described Mongolian country boy named Ganaa* to start home churches among his people.

At age 18, his life changed when his father died. Fears about his future plagued him. Religious studies dissatisfied him. His mother struggled, asking, “God, are You there? Why is my life this difficult?”

Ganaa found the answer to his family’s pleas one night in 1992 when believers showed the JESUS film in his community. Buying a New Testament the next day, he trusted in the Lord after reading the book cover to cover.

In the mid ’90s, Ganaa began attending a church started by Southern Baptists. His involvement helped him understand the Mongolian saying of togetherness, “one person is not family, one wood does not make a good fire.”

A year later, Ganaa surprised his mother by leaving his lucrative career as a train mechanic to attend Bible school and serve at the church. After ministering for 10 years, he suddenly knew it wasn’t enough.

“I’m not just pastoring one church,” he said. “God’s calling me to the whole nation. My personal goal is to plant churches.”

While reading up on church planting, Ganaa came across David Garrison’s
book “Getting Started.” Staring at the cover of a man nailing a steeple to a house, the image registered with the Mongolian. Instead of houses, he saw gers.

But an initial attempt to teach his congregation about starting churches in homes was met with resistance. The membership liked things the way they were and didn’t want to get involved with starting churches from scratch.

So Ganaa decided he needed to start fresh with a group of believers who would know only the fellowship of a home church.

Each Sunday Ganaa now organizes worship services for a group of doctors, nurses and medical personnel. Shine Alxam (New Steppes) church began two years ago as an English Bible study in the home of Dr. Buck Rusher and his wife, Pam, who served as Southern Baptist short-term missionaries.

Now the church meets at one of the city’s hospitals. Ganaa and his wife, Naraa,* lead the group in their native Mongolian language.

On Sunday afternoons, Ganaa teaches two other families how to start churches. One family will soon move to a Kazak area. The other will serve among the northern Reindeer People, named after their livelihood of herding reindeer.

Ganaa says his strategy is to build relationships with non-Christians, drawing on the communal nature of the Mongolian people. Combating their deep-rooted beliefs in Buddhism and shamanism — including the concept of more than one god — he is striving to multiply Mongolian churches by going family to family.
*Name changed. Dea Davidson is a writer for the International Mission Board.

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  • Dea Davidson