Sunny and Lisa Um, from South Korea, are the first Nazarene missionaries to Mongolia, officially opening the Nazarene work in that country on 25 May, 2012.
The people known as the Mongols, led by Ghengis Khan, conquered Eurasia and China, forming a vast empire that lasted a hundred years before it broke apart in the 14th century, and came under Chinese rule in the late 1600s.
Today, Mongolia is a country in Central Asia, north of China and sharing a border with Russia. The modern nation won its independence from Chinese rule in 1921 and installed a Communist government. In the 1990s, the country saw a peaceful democratic revolution, and is now governed by coalition government and a Parliament.
Religious freedom was granted in the constitution in 1992, according to the New York Times. About 60 percent of the 3 million people are Buddhist, and about 40 percent claim no religion, according to the U.S.’s CIA World Factbook (www.cia.gov). The Times reports that Shamanism is a growing religious movement.
The couple say that Mongolians are seeing expanding materialism, urbanization, shamanism and development of important resources. There are about 600 Protestant churches organized in the country, 300 of them formed through Korean missionaries like Sunny and Lisa, they said.
For the past year, the missionaries have been living in Darkhan, the second largest city in Mongolia, where they have been learning the language, which, fortunately for them, is similar to Korean. They plan to start a Bible study in their home for people who are interested. Although they are the first Nazarenes in the country, they work closely with other Korean missionaries for mutual support.
“We need others because it is a lonely place,” they wrote. “We need a Nazarene family.”
Fortunately, two more Nazarenes are on their way. A couple will be coming soon as volunteers to work in a university in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar.
“They are Westerners and will have a harder time being accepted,” said the field strategy coordinator.
The decision to put them in this setting is because universities in Mongolia are often hubs of international activity and are more accepting of Westerners. The new missionaries will be able to teach English to eager students, as English teachers are in high demand there.
Pray for the new work in Mongolia and for Sunny and Lisa and the Western missionaries who are on their way. Specifically, pray that the missionaries will quickly learn the language and culture, that they will find local translators to help them communicate in the meantime, and that they can plant a new home church. Pray for God to bring people to their attention who are open to the good news about Jesus Christ and in whom the Holy Spirit is at work.