Mongolian government officials hosted by Southwestern Seminary
Paige and Dorothy Patterson, president and first lady of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, hosted a government delegation from Mongolia during a visit to the seminary Jan. 26.
According to the delegation’s sponsor, Jerry L. Smith, founder of Change The World/LifeQwest Mongolia, the purpose of the delegation’s visit to the seminary was to build relationships that would open doors for bringing theological education to that Asian country located between Russia and China.
Mr. Luvsandorj Gunchin, the president of the governing presidium in Darkham Aimag (aimag means “state” or “province”) in Mongolia, and Mrs. J. Batdulum, a Darkham Aimag foreign affairs officer, led the delegation on the official tour that included stops in Houston and Irving, Texas.
“It is wonderful to be here,” Gunchin said. “It is beneficial that I am at Southwestern Seminary because my knowledge expands about humanity, God and education.”
Mongolia is a land-locked country slightly smaller than Alaska, with a population of about 2.8 million. It is economically dependent on Russia to the north and, even more so, on China to the south.
The government does not impede churches from proselytizing or the people from converting to Christianity. However, Christian organizations are required to register with the local government authorities. Gunchin is the official who issues religious licenses in Darkham Aimag.
CTW/LifeQwest Mongolia is an independent ministry supported by private donations. Smith, its founder and president, is a Southern Baptist who has ministered in Mongolia for 10 years. Smith said that one day the Lord impressed him with Romans 13:1, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities.” So Smith presented himself to the chief of police in the Mongolian city of Hongor. The official was surprised and impressed. That led to many open doors of ministry in Mongolia, and eventually Smith planted New Life Church in Hongor.
At Southwestern Seminary, Smith was accompanied by his pastor Ken Branam, pastor of Plymouth Park Baptist Church in Irving, Texas, and Brent Edwards, coordinator for the Baylor Network. Each man has been involved in taking the gospel to Mongolia and supportive of LifeQwest Ministry.
The United States government estimates that 50 percent of Mongolians are Buddhist Lamaists, 40 percent claim no religious identification, six percent are either Shamanist or Christian, and four percent are Muslim. Branam has led his church to send mission teams to Mongolia. The church partners with LifeQwest Mongolia ministries.
“Our people are excited about their ministries there,” Branam said. “We are committed to the relationship with Mongolia over the long term.”
Edwards has visited Mongolia several times, and has studied the needs and conditions of that country. He notes that humanitarian-based models of evangelism seem to be particularly effective there.
“The first Mongolian Christian was baptized in 1989,” Edwards said. “The poverty and infant-mortality rates are so high there that bringing humanitarian aid like medicine or education are effective to drawing people to Jesus Christ. From there, it is then possible to plant churches.”
Edwards explained that Mongolia traces its history back to Genghis Khan in the 13th century. To this day Genghis Khan is considered a national hero, he said. The people of Mongolia are descendents of the Mongol empire that at one time encompassed Asia and large portions of Europe.
When the Mongol empire collapsed, China ruled Mongolia for several centuries. The Soviet Union backed Mongolia in gaining independence from China in 1921. Soviet communists soon laid claim to Mongolia and installed a communist government which controlled the country until early 1990s.
Soviet communist policies and industries exploited Mongolia’s natural resources and caused the mostly nomadic population to begin populating urban centers. When the Soviets pulled out of Mongolia, the emerging democracy was left struggling with the effects of losing subsidies and economic support.
Presidium President Gunchin said that young people in Mongolia who leave the country to get an education often do not come back. The primary system of education has been successful in providing children with the basic tools of reading, writing and communicating. However, educational opportunities beyond the secondary level are sparse.
“One of our biggest needs in Mongolia is education,” Gunchin said. “We have a very high literacy rate. Ninety-nine percent of our people can read and write. Many speak more than one language: Russian, Chinese and English, as well as Mongolian.”
When he heard that Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson was an avid big-game hunter, Gunchin invited him to Mongolia to hunt.
“Mongolia has a space of land that is wonderful for hunting,” Gunchin told Patterson. He said there were many kinds of wild animals to hunt, including elk, bear and wild sheep.
After visiting Southwestern Seminary, the Mongolian delegation met with city officials in Irving, Texas, and signed a sister-city proclamation with the city council and mayor of Irving. Branam, a graduate of Southwestern Seminary, said efforts to bring the sister-city relationship to pass have been underway for three years.
Mongolia made international headlines last November when George W. Bush became the first sitting American president to visit. He held talks with Mongolian government officials inside a traditional tent, called a ger. Bush praised Mongolia for its troop support in Iraq, and thanked its citizens for sending aid to the United States for Hurricane Katrina relief.
“Americans and Mongolians have much in common,” Bush said in remarks from the capital city of Ulaanbaatar. “Both our nations were settled by pioneers on horseback who tamed the rugged plains. Both our nations shook the yoke of colonial rule, and built successful free societies. And both our nations know that our responsibilities in freedom's cause do not end at our borders, and that survival of liberty in our own lands increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands.”