It was a young, vibrant church community that began to pray and fast three years ago for a spiritual awakening in Mongolia.
Many Mongolian believers actively share their faith with others, and the evangelical churches have a strong sense of unity, regardless of their denominational background. Two years ago, when Franklin Graham accepted their invitation to hold a Festival in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, the churches plunged in enthusiastically.
But what those fervent believers saw God do Sept. 10-11 was beyond what many had expected.
“God’s amazing blessings are pouring down on our nation in these days,” said the Reverend Bayasgalan Lkhagva, general chairman of the Festival of Joy with Franklin Graham. That morning, 21 new people had shown up at his church. The previous evening, the pastor had seen more than 1,180 people respond to the invitation after Franklin’s message, and he was about to see yet another 1,150 come forward after another Gospel message from Franklin.
From the upper level of Steppe Arena, another pastor, Nyamjav, was heading up the onsite prayer team.
“It was like a reward for our prayers,” he said. “When Franklin invited people to come forward, at first I was nervous; I thought not many people would come forward. But it was like an ocean wave—so many people came. It was amazing. It was the most joyful event of my life. I had tears in my eyes.”
Although Christianity has been known in Mongolia for hundreds of years, churches were shut down during the communist era, from 1921 to 1990. By 1989, there were only a handful of known Christians in the entire country. Churches began to reopen in 1991, and in just 31 years, the number of evangelicals has grown to some 60,000. Today, Mongolia has about 650 churches across the country, as well as several local Christian TV and radio stations.
As in many countries, COVID-19 took a toll on churches. Post-pandemic attendance has been 30-40% lower than before the pandemic. But believers said the timing of the Festival was perfect, as they are learning to gather in person again.
Another challenge facing the churches today is materialism, explained Moujic Munkhbaatar, who serves as an international field representative with Samaritan’s Purse. He committed his life to Christ in 1992, when there were still only three churches in Mongolia. “In the early 1990s,” he said, “people were very, very open to the Gospel. But at the same time the Gospel came in, the materialistic worldview came in. So more and more people now are going after money, thinking that if they become rich, they can solve all their problems.”
In the face of materialism’s allure, Franklin’s Saturday evening message hit home for many. He preached on the Prodigal Son, who wasted his inheritance on pleasure, only to realize that money and possessions can never satisfy one’s soul.
“The more you try to fill your life with things, the more empty you become,” Franklin said. “But you see, God loves you, and He wants to come into your heart; He wants to come into your life. And tonight, I’m going to give you that opportunity—to invite Him to come into your life, into your heart. God has a plan for your life. He wants to give you peace and joy.
“Tonight, you can have a new beginning—cleansed from all of your sins, with the hope of Heaven. But you have to make a choice. This young man had to make a choice, and you have to make a choice. And I’m going to ask you to do that right now. If you’re here tonight, and you’re not sure that your sins are forgiven; if you’ve never invited Jesus Christ to come into your heart; if you’ve never trusted Him as your Savior; you can do this, right now.”
Hundreds came forward. Among them was a 13-year-old girl who said that she goes to a Christian school but doesn’t have any friends, and she has been very lonely. She was glad to discover that Jesus could be her Friend, and she committed her life to Him.
Two teenage boys spoke with a counselor and rededicated their lives to Christ that evening. Like the Prodigal Son, both have suffered. One has an abusive father, and the other is being raised by a single parent. “My life is so miserable,” one said as he explained why he knew he needed to come back to Christ.
A 36-year-old university professor came forward Saturday evening and received Christ. “If I do not repent of my sins,” he said, “I will be in hell. I want to be saved.” He said that when a friend had shared the Gospel with him previously, he had never understood it, but Franklin’s message made it clear.
Many who responded to the Gospel had been invited by family members or friends.
On Sunday evening, 60-year-old Nyamdelger and his wife, 57-year-old Otgonbayar, were brought to the Festival by their 17-year-old daughter, Azzaya, who has been a believer for two years.
“It was a great event,” Nyamdelger said. “I received Christ in my heart. The message was great, and I understood the Gospel.” His wife, Otgonbayar, received Christ, too. “From today on, I want to follow God,” she said.
Medical school student Mandakhgerel, who is studying neuroscience, invited several friends, and one of her classmates went forward to receive Christ. Mandakhgerel said she no longer feels lonely as the only Christian in her class; now she has a friend at school with whom she can talk about God.
Pastor Bayarbileg encouraged the members of his church to participate in I Am Andrew, writing the names of 10 people on a card, praying for them and inviting them to the Festival. But one person on his own list was extra special—his mother. He had prayed for her for many years, he said, and when she went forward on the first evening of the Festival and received the Lord, Bayarbileg’s heart was filled with thankfulness. His mother has begun attending the church he pastors and has been touched by the warm welcome she has received from believers there.
Enkhsaruul lives in Sukhbaatar Province, hundreds of miles east of Ulaanbaatar. She came to Ulaanbaatar a week prior to the Festival in order to invite people to the event. Why? “Because it’s the Festival of Joy, and we really wanted to bring nonbelievers,” she said. “When I heard about the I Am Andrew Project, I started writing down people’s names, and I ended up with a list of 100 names.” Of the 100 people on her prayer list, 26 attended the Festival and 12 made decisions to follow Jesus.
“We are very thankful that God has given us the opportunity to have this Festival, especially after the difficult situation of COVID,” said Pastor Bayasgalan, the general chairman. “Of course, the Festival is just part of the evangelistic ministry. After the Festival, a big job is waiting for us. God has given us such a great harvest, and now we need to work hard to disciple those people.” ©2022 BGEA
Saved for the Glory of God
Purevdawaa used to work as a pushcart peddler at a bazaar, or market area. He was already deaf before suffering a beating three years ago at the hands of someone he considered a friend. The beating robbed him of his sight.
Since then, he has struggled with depression. He wishes he could find work in order to provide for his family, but currently no positions are available at a local factory that hires blind workers.
He came to the Festival of Joy and understood the Good News as it was communicated by tactile sign language for him. He went forward at the invitation, and along with hundreds of others, he received the miracle of salvation as he repented and put his faith in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.
“It is still hard for Purevdawaa to accept his current reality,” said Pastor Bulgantamir of Hope Church, which ministers to deaf persons. “But after attending church, he started to repeat God’s Word in sign language, and he believes that God will lead him and use him for His glory.”
Water of Life
In districts with no running water in homes, people come to fill water jugs at community wells. Fifty churches partnered with BGEA in two days of “water well outreaches,” purchasing water for residents and offering to have them sit and enjoy a cup of coffee while their jugs were filled. During those few minutes, a church member would present the Gospel and invite the person to come back to the well and catch a bus ride to the Festival. Volunteers distributed 10,000 Festival invitations at the wells, and some 1,100 people came to the meetings as a result of the outreach.
Photo: Logan Ryan/©2022 BGEA