Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Dear Family and Friends,
Three months have passed since my last update, but pressing projects and responsibilities have quickly filled the weeks between. I believe that the Lord is doing some special things here in Mongolia, although many times we probably only see tiny glimpses of His bigger work in this nation.
Although the Mongolian church we attend has very good Biblical teaching each week, they still like to have us share some teaching or preaching from time to time for the young people or others that stay after the main service. In December and January I shared some messages on the character quality of virtue.
Typically in our public character trainings we don’t make direct references to the Bible or Christian terminology, but in some of our trainings with Christian groups we have the freedom to teach right from the Bible. This not only gives greater depth and insight into the character qualities, but God has given us as Christians “exceeding great and precious promises” that empower us to live lives that reflect the character of Christ, and to shine as bright lights in the world. (2 Peter 1:3-4, Matthew 5:16)
The character quality of virtue provided a good opportunity to share a two-part message on how to respond to temptations that we face in our lives, based on specific promises and the practical application of God’s Word in these areas. I had tears in my eyes the next week as I listened to a young man joyfully share before the church a testimony of how he is now experiencing victory over a sin in his life as he applied these principles.
Our much-loved pastor Enkhee was growing weaker from his battle with cancer, but continued to be a powerful witness for the Lord. He came to church for the New Year celebration, but was too weak to leave his home much after that. Many friends and relatives came to visit him, trying to encourage him, but usually it was the visitors that went away greatly encouraged by Enkhee’s faith and trust in God. A number of his former university students and acquaintances turned to Christ as they witnessed the joy and confidence of a man resting in the sovereign purposes of a faithful God.
On February 1st, we received a call from Ideree and learned that his father Enkhee had gone to meet the Lord He loved. He passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family. Some of the relatives commented that he looked very peaceful and his face was shining. They had never seen the passing of a Christian before, and it was in stark contrast to the great fear of death usually experienced by those who do not know Christ.
Nearly a thousand people gathered the following Monday for the funeral. Pastor Enkhee was well known in Christian circles throughout the city, and many churches were represented at the service. We sang two of Enkhee’s favorite hymns, Amazing Grace, and a Mongolian version of Because He Lives. I wish you could have been there to hear the swelling of hundreds of Mongolian voices as we reached the chorus of that song!
Enkhee’s family was a living demonstration of the power of God’s grace. Even as the Lord’s grace had carried our family after Isaac’s passing a year and a half ago, we saw the Lord holding their family and keeping them strong and radiant, even through the sadness of saying goodbye to their beloved husband and father. Life is fragile and so quickly past, but has the brief opportunity to lay up treasure in heaven that will never fade away.
Although they very much would have liked to be present for Enkhee’s funeral, Mom and Dad were still away in Thailand where they were taking three weeks to visit two missionary families there. The Morse family is third generation missionaries to that area. We met their family in Oklahoma City a few years ago, and our family enjoyed reading two books about their work in Burma and now in Thailand. Gleaning insights from the Morses’ many years as a family on the mission field, my parents learned about their translation work, and discussed various other aspects of the ministry.
One of my Dad’s highlights on the Thailand trip was meeting an evangelist that was the sixth generation of the second convert of Adoniram Judson. You may recall that in 1813 Adoniram Judson was the first American missionary to Burma, and labored for nearly six years at great sacrifice before seeing a single person come to the Lord. His faithful service laid the foundation for much fruit that the Lord would bring in years following.
Neil and Diana Gilbert are another missionary couple that my parents have known for many years. I remember when I was about twelve years old, and we packed a care package to send to them while they were serving in Africa. Currently serving at a children’s home in Thailand, the Gilberts were delighted to host my parents for part of their time in Thailand. An ordination service and a baptism were two highlights that they enjoyed together.
Returning to Mongolia just before the Mongolian Tsagaansar (“sa-GONE-sar”) holiday, Mom and Dad were glad to see all of us again. This trip to Thailand was actually the longest time that my parents had ever been away from their children. Tim and Angie were away in Korea during this time as well, so the Waller children remained as the only foreign staff to continue operations in Mongolia. The extra grace that the Lord gave and each one trying to help carry the responsibilities allowed this time to go very smoothly.
Tsagaantsar is probably the biggest annual holiday for Mongolians, and perhaps somewhat comparable with our Christmas, or the Chinese New Year. Families get together and visit relatives and friends, enjoying traditional food and giving gifts. Tsagaantsar literally means “white month” and is a way of trying to starting the New Year as clean, white, and good. A lot of symbolism and superstition is often mixed in, leaving a confusing mixture for the Christian to sort out Buddhist and Shamanistic rituals from historical traditions.
For new Christians this can be particularly difficult, as they are often pressured to drink or violate other convictions. This year, with the first day of Tsagaansar on Sunday, many families could not understand why a Christian family member would leave their family responsibilities and go to church instead of giving the appropriate honor to their grandparents and parents. For many Christians, this gave a special opportunity to share of their faith in a living God, so different from the empty rituals that can never take away sin.
Our family was graciously invited to visit a couple families from our church on the second and third days of Tsagaansar. Dressing in traditional Mongolian attire, we rode in taxis to the home of Dorjbat’s family. Dorjbat’s mother had come to Christ after Isaac’s funeral, so this has made their family special to us.
Two things will be found in almost every Mongolian home on Tsagaantsar. The steamed back of a sheep on a large platter, complete with tail, and another large plate with a special tower of flat bread bricks, fried in oil, topped with sugar cubes, raisins and a food made from dried yoghurt. (See the pictures section below for more details.)
Greeting the host family is done a special way during this holiday. After taking off your coat, you start with the oldest person present, extending your arms to each other, hands open and palms up. The younger places his arms under the arms of the older, and leaning forward, you exchange the special greeting “Ammar ban oh” (Do you have peace?). Our church people also say some kind of blessing, but I couldn’t quite catch all of it.
Following the greeting, the guests are seated, again in order of age, giving the most honored seat to the oldest, and they are served milk tea and buuz (“boatz”). A traditional Mongolian food, buuz are something like a steamed meatball wrapped in a noodle. Many families make several thousand buuz (by hand) in preparation for this holiday. The ones served by Dorjbat’s family had good flavor and were made with horse meat.
On the following day we enjoyed another special time of fellowship with Enkhbold and Narantoya and their family. Tim had the opportunity of leading Enkhbold to Christ several years ago in our apartment, and they have been faithful members at church, and dear friends to us. Enkhbold shared his vision of how he wants to see his whole family involved in ministry, just like what he sees our family doing in Mongolia. He is currently a driver for VetNet, a Christian organization here that is taking school teachers, veterinary services, character training, and the Gospel message to countryside provinces and towns all over Mongolia.
Returning to our work responsibilities, I continued in earnest to finish a programming project that I am doing for our Oklahoma City headquarters. I enjoy the work, but so many pressing needs and opportunities here are just waiting for me to finish this project so that I can give David and Tim more assistance with the many trainings and training requests that we have going.
But God designed our bodies with limits. In late February, my little choices in spending too many hours at the computer with poor posture and not enough exercise suddenly took their toll. I had never really had difficulty with my back before, but I spent the better part of that week in bed. David’s skills that he learned while working with a chiropractor in the States again came to the rescue, and I was slowly able to get back to work again. Some better chairs and other changes have improved things quite a bit since that time.
We continue to receive many requests for character trainings. Last time I talked with David, we had over ten different groups that have asked for character training, pending final arrangements and scheduling. Most of these are from the city, but additional repeated requests from outlying cities and countryside towns are also awaiting our response.
Among these requests was one from Third Hospital, a large hospital in Ulaanbaatar. Khulaan, the Director of Nursing at this hospital had been led to the Lord six months ago by Dr. Choi, the same man that so helped our family with Isaac’s illness. A good friend of Khulaan had attended a training that we did at another hospital two years ago, and felt that this teaching would be a great benefit for the staff under her care. They wanted to start with a smaller group of the 200 doctors, nurses and staff that Khulaan was directly responsible for.
Returning from the first training, David described their response. After an elaborate introduction by the training coordinator, David began teaching on the quality of Attentiveness. When he first came to the front, this group of professionals looked with slight amusement as this 20-year-old began with some opening comments. The amusement grew as they began to realize that he was not preparing to introduce the speaker, but he was the main speaker.
In contrast to the typical Russian-style lectures that these staff were used to hearing, David went on to illustrate the teaching points with object lessons and personal examples, utilizing many of the teaching methods we have found to be so effective. Amusement turned to surprise, then to keen interest as they began to realize how important attentiveness is on the job and at home.
Thrilled with what took place at the training, Khulaan called Naranchimeg, the Director of Nursing at First Hospital and Medical University. Attending one of the trainings at Third Hospital, Naranchimeg has also begun arrangements for character trainings for her staff at First Hospital. Although she is not yet a Christian, she has talked with Christians while visiting the United States, and told us that she feels character and the principles from the Bible are very important for nurses and hospital workers.
Last week Naranchimeg registered for the upcoming Basic Seminar, wanting to know more about these principles of life from the Bible. Her position at First Hospital essentially gives her the ultimate responsibility for training nurses in Ulaanbaatar, and in effect, for all of Mongolia. God is truly opening some doors in the medical community here!
Anticipating the arrival of Kate Reimer from Australia, Erin Randall from Texas, and Melody Dornink from Minnesota, we began working on the necessary paperwork for visas and residence permits. This can be a rather complicated process in Mongolia, and requires a great deal of paperwork. As in many former Communist countries, it is especially important to pray for favor in the eyes of the government office staff as applications are submitted.
In past experiences we have had some difficulties with one particular office that grants residence permits. Even though our foreign staff are all volunteers, we still have to obtain work permits for the “work” that we are doing here, including a clear explanation of why CTI needs foreign staff for these positions. Work permits are not easily granted, due to frequent misuse.
This time things were different. Not only did they grant us the work permit without any difficulty, but they started asking more about what we are doing here. As Puujee explained what we teach in our character trainings, the worker exclaimed, “That’s what we need in our office here! How can we get character training for our staff?”
Preparations are also heavily underway for the Basic Seminar that we have scheduled for April 16-21. Already we have about a hundred registered (including children), and this promises to be the largest Basic Seminar yet held in Mongolia. The seminar will be held in English and Russian, and this year we are also adding the Chinese and German languages.
A few weeks ago we gave a preview of the Basic Seminar to some leaders from the Chinese church in Ulaanbaatar. -A small church that we hardly knew existed. After watching the first session, one lady exclaimed, “We have never had any teaching like this before!” Currently about a dozen Chinese people are signed up to attend the Basic Seminar.
New opportunities are rapidly unfolding in Korea, and a translation team has just finished a first draft of the Basic Seminar transcript. Tim and Angie may be called upon to assist further in the work in Korea in the months ahead, but we are excited to see the doors that God is opening there. About half of the Christian churches in Mongolia were started by Korean missionaries, although most have since transitioned to Mongolian leadership.
Please pray with us that the Lord will continue to raise up laborers for the doors of opportunity here in Asia, and that many lives will be impacted through the upcoming Basic Seminar. Of course a “seminar” is not the answer, but God’s Word is the answer, and this seminar gives some of the most practical and clear Biblical teaching that I have seen anywhere.
- We praise the Lord for the wonderful testimony of Pastor Enkhee and his family as Enkhee finished his race in this life. The family remains strong in the Lord’s grace, with Ideree taking over the leadership of the church, and Sodnom traveling to America to be with her daughter and son-in-law for the birth of their grandchild.
- In preparation for the upcoming Basic Seminar, we were able to finish some minor revisions and print a Mongolian/English Basic Seminar workbook. This is a great help to Mongolians who are attending the English Basic, and are not familiar with some of the larger terms used in the seminar. Rather than the photocopy job we had last year, this year we were able to have a hundred workbooks professionally printed and bound by a local printing company.
- Sodnom and Enkhee’s son Ideree has been working with us for the past several years, but has become more and more involved with the Holy Way church, taking over the church leadership responsibilities with his father’s illness. He is currently in a countryside province where he has been invited to spend a month teaching the principles of the Basic Seminar to a church of new believers there.
- John Christian, one of the World Vision leaders was disappointed to not find any English Good Friday service in Ulaanbaatar. He called up some missionary friends and organized a service, inviting a number of missionaries. It was a really wonderful time! Some of the missionaries had worked in Mongolia for years, but had never actually met each other before.
- One of our biggest prayer requests right now is for the Basic Seminar, held on April 16-21. Pray that the Lord would do a special work in the hearts of the people that come. A few people are also traveling up from China for the seminar.
- We have about eight Koreans coming later this week. They will be here for the week of the Basic Seminar, and a couple weeks after, learning about our work in Mongolia. Most of them are pastors, and are wanting to see how they can develop a similar ministry in Korea.
- Pray that everyone would be healthy for next week’s Basic Seminar. We have had a bad cold/fever that has gone through a number of our staff recently.
Christmas cards! Near the end of January we received another
package of mail, and we enjoyed reading the Christmas letters from
many friends in the States.
In contrast to the fear and uncertainties of a Buddhist burial, we
rejoice in the certainty that we will see our Pastor Enkhee again!
Here you can see a closer view of some of the food served at
Tsagaansar. The thermos has “milk tea”, a salty tea mixed with milk.
On the left you can see the sheep back, complete with tail. On the
right is the special tower of bread. Older people make a taller
tower, but it must always be an odd number of layers.
A character training at Third Hospital. Last Saturday we also held a
training at First Hospital with over 200 in attendance.
Matthew enjoyed the experience of staying in a ger
for his ninth birthday.
Climbing mountains is an opportunity that we don’t get to enjoy near
our home in Wisconsin. The Waller guys did some hiking for
Matthew’s birthday, and enjoyed a picnic lunch at the top.
You can see many more new pictures in the Prayer Updates section of our family website.
Of the various aspects of daily life that stand out in Mongolia as being distinctly different than the States, one would have to be the running water. Just turning on the faucet invites a surprise. There might be hot water, cold water, brown water, no water, a slow trickle, or an explosive blast of air that sends water shooting all over the bathroom. (I experienced all of these in the past few days.)
Rather than having individual water heaters for each building, the hot water is supplied by the city. It is heated at a central plant, and piped through the city, going through various substations for reheating. In our building, the water also requires booster pumps to get it to reach our fifth floor apartments. For some reason these pumps are turned off at night, so sometimes there is no water pressure till 7:30 or 8:00 AM when the pumps are turned on.
Our landlord has been very gracious, and made the arrangements for the pumps to be turned on early in the morning, although we are probably the only ones in the building (or maybe in the district!) that take showers at 5:30 or 6:00 AM. Actually they turned the pressure so high in the last few days that it actually burst a pipe in Tim and Angie’s apartment yesterday, giving them an entirely different adventure at 4:00 AM!
I had to smile the other day as Tim finished praying, and commented that maybe we are the only Training Center where we actually pray for water in the morning. 🙂
(Note, some of these irregularities are related to our building, and others to the water supply in our district. Some people probably do have very reliable water service in Ulaanbaatar.)
Thank you for your prayers for us in this important time! There is an air of expectancy with the Basic Seminar scheduled next week, and we look forward to seeing what the Lord will do in the weeks to come!
Adam Waller ~ MyAllForChrist@CadLinx.com
Family Website ~ http://cadlinx.com/wallerfamily
“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” – Galatians 6:9
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