Imagine setting out on a journey in an icy, cold Mongolian valley. Your leader has discouraged you from hiring a jeep. Instead, he has prompted you to walk the nine miles necessary to find the nomadic herders you seek. Your goal is to locate a group of new believers and encourage them in their faith.
Learning to Contextualize in a Literal Valley of Ice
On a cold icy day, a group of seminary students set out searching for a group of nomadic herders that had come to Christ a year before. After asking around, they discovered the herders were nine miles up the valley, much of which was a ravine covered by a frozen river.
The seminary students asked their leader if they could hire a jeep to cover the ground more quickly. But, the leader discouraged the idea for this specific situation. In addition to the unlikelihood of them finding a jeepfor hire, the leader took the opportunity to encouraged them to contextualize.
He explained to the group that their ministry should be done in such a way that others could repeat it. Local believers in Western Mongolia were unlikely to be able to hire a jeep. Besides, Mongolians were used to traveling long distances either by walking or riding horses. The students needed to contextualize and set an example for future effective ministry in this region.
Fellowship and Joy
And so, they set out, walking across the long valley. Some of the miles were pure ice. One of the team members fell, but wasn’t hurt. According to the worker leading the team, the long journey turned out to be a joyous time
“Much of the way, we walked arm in arm. Amidst the rocky mountains – home to wolves and snow leopards – we sang praises to God, learned more about each other’s backgrounds and even had a little fun.”
The team eventually found the Christian herders, who eagerly welcomed them. They then began teaching the herders the Bible and ultimately baptized all three of them.
A Fortune Teller Meets God
Not only did this determined group find the Christian herders but as they were hiking, they also met Ganbaatar, a fortune teller.
Later, as the group sat around the stove fire, they talked with Ganbaatar about his belief in the divinity of the mountainous rocks around them. They asked him questions, “If you move the rocks, are they still a god?”, “If you throw the rocks, do they feel pain?”
As the Spirit moved, Ganbaatar no longer wanted to worship the rocks; he desired to worship the Creator of the rocks and prayed to receive Christ. Discipling him in the short time they had, they spoke to him about the need to turn from fortune telling. In response, Ganbaatar emphatically tossed his talisman into the stove, embracing the reality that he was a new man in Christ.
If they had simply driven in a jeep rather than walked, would they have come across Ganbaatar? It’s hard to say, but we know that God works all things according to His purposes.
It was a good day. “What warm fellowship we had eating hot goat soup, along with fresh goat curds. To make the day better, a goat was born. We returned that evening rejoicing in what the Lord was doing.”
What had appeared to be a daunting journey, was ultimately used by God for His Glory. The team had submitted to the wise guidance of their leader and as a result God had grown their faith and strengthened their relationships. Most importantly, God had gathered one more sheep into the fold