Missionary in Mongolia: “Christianity does not mean a comfortable life, Christianity is eternal life”

Ruslan Andreichenko and his wife Svetlana have been doing missionary work in Mongolia since 1994. The parents, all five of whose children were born in Mongolia, still live on visas… They fell in love with the Mongols, opened several churches and are actively involved in evangelism, including through national TV channels.

In the interview, the missionary shares his 30-year experience of ministry and life in an Asian country: the importance of devotion to God and forgiving in advance, the characteristics of a foreign mission: what does it mean to prepare for service and how does a missionary take care of himself and his family? How to preach about Jesus to the people of Mongolia? What is unique about Mongolia and Mongols?

Ruslan, how did you understand that you had to go to minister in Mongolia?

I began to believe in Jesus in 1992 in Noyabrsk, Tyumen region, although I am originally from Kherson. A month after my repentance and baptism, I returned to my hometown, and then a street evangelist preached to me for the first time about calling and serving God. His words really touched my heart. I went to Bible school where I met Svetlana, a lovely girl and spiritual sister in Christ, who later became my best friend, co-worker and a wonderful wife!

In the second academic year of the Bible school, it was necessary to complete a professional internship according to the study faculties. I specialized in praise and worship and she specialized in missionary work, so she decided to practice in China. However, God was pleased to send her to Mongolia to lead a mission team.

During this trip, an opportunity arose to establish a church in the city of Erdenet. We were ordained and sent to Mongolia to develop this new ministry.

After graduating from Bible school, we got married and instead of a wedding trip, we went to minister in the Church of the Great Comission in Kherson, which was led by dear pastor Vitaly Shalukhin.

Having received a serious spiritual education, we deeply devoted ourselves to the Lord full-time and actively joined the ministry of the young Kherson congregation. Soon, however, a letter arrived from Mongolia inviting us to return and continue what we had started.

So, in December 1994, we began real missionary work. Why the real thing? Because a foreign mission is radically different from a mission in a neighboring village or town, on the other side of the country or even in a neighboring republic.

Before that, both Svetlana and I participated, first separately and then together, on very daring mission trips. They organized and led teams on mission trips across the country and even to other nations and cultures. But as it turned out, serving in a country where you don’t even have the right to be and preach the gospel to people whose language you don’t know requires a completely different equipment, preparation and determination.

We were ready to trust God, but as it turned out, we were not at all ready for real missionary work and didn’t know what lay ahead for us in the near future. When we arrived in Mongolia, we soon realized that we had to relearn how to become missionaries.

Can you give examples of what exactly you weren’t ready for?

Actually, we didn’t know anything about what we should know (laughs). What we have studied in missiology about how other missions functioned, how they sent out missionaries, has nothing in common with reality.

I am not saying that we have been taught wrongly, but the teachers’ beautiful or scary stories about the religious stories of other missionaries are just theory, and missionary practice is a whole other depth. Only those who worked there and the mission itself can open access to this depth for young people.

Churches that operated during the Soviet era or were born from the ruins of the USSR were basically not engaged in foreign missions. Fortunately, the expanses of the homeland were yawning in the face of spiritual lack of plowing. The selfless asceticism of hundreds of Christian families who, like Abraham, left their birthplace and went to North, Central Asia, Siberia and the Far East, deserves to be imitated!

I know some of them personally, and they are people of great faith, worthy of example, who have borne and bear many good fruits for the Kingdom of God.

Their experience is quite unique, but in some ways very similar to ours. Let me explain. The fact is that the home church, even allowing the movement of missionaries, sent them as if to some kind of test: go “for God’s sake”. Later they were almost forgotten and often not involved in their work in any way! Interestingly, this attitude continued and developed into a kind of “sending culture” of missionaries.

When we went on a mission, we were also basically ready to either break through or die, thinking like this: Paul made tents and God will give us what we need. Amen. God is faithful and cares for His messengers, and we have seen and felt the power of His love. We lived and live in it every day.

But missionaries are not forced migrants or emigrants, and their task is not to assimilate and survive, but to save and build the Kingdom of God, establish churches, open hospitals, feed the hungry and clothe the naked! And these are completely different levels of goal setting.

Zerubbabel was called upon to rebuild the temple and received everything necessary for the task. This is probably why we read in the letter of the missionary Paul, where he talks about equipping missionaries: “…you do well to send them forth in a dignified manner before God.” (3 John 1:6 – Estonian Bible). And the expanded translation of this text further reveals the meaning of the words “in a dignified manner before God” in calling the church to actively participate in missionary work.

An expanded translation of this text reveals to us the following meaning: they are to be equipped and sent out so as to TAKE NOTHING FROM THE GENTILES WHOM THEY ARE GOING TO SERVE. And this is not the speculation of theologians, but an important organizational preparatory part of any undertaking, and especially of a mission (by the way, a mission is a military term that means the performance of a given task in a foreign territory).

But according to the prevailing “sending culture”, we were completely unprepared for the mission in this regard. You had to survive and learn almost all the time.

In the latter, by the way, it was not necessary to reinvent the wheel, but to study the experiences and tactics of foreign missions that had sent missionaries for 50-100 years and, of course, were more thoroughly prepared.

And we, mind you, were the first missionaries to go on a foreign mission, into a third world country and unfortunately we didn’t know or do anything at the time.

What challenges did you face as aspiring missionaries?

The first thing we faced was who will solve the visa problems? Here, in any government department, you cannot say: “I came to preach the gospel, give me a visa.” Suppose the apostle Paul traveled within the Roman Empire, where no one questioned him about his right to enter and stay in the country.

Today, the reality is completely different. And if getting a tourist visa is not difficult, getting a permit for a long-term stay requires more serious consideration of this issue.

Firstly, firstly! (laughs) – it’s funding. Usually, all missions decide this question beforehand. They find sponsors and assign them to missionaries. They develop a separate personal household and service budget, create a system of reporting, transportation and movement, medical care, children’s education… For example, in Mongolia, the right to work is reserved only for citizens of the country. Foreigners cannot acquire this right independently.

Second firstly. Language barrier. To overcome this obstacle in reaching people with the gospel, the missionary has only two options: learn the language or find a translator. Unfortunately, missionaries don’t always realize how dramatically addressing this problem affects ministry effectiveness.

According to many mission canons, language learning is crucial to the decision to send a missionary to a particular country. Not all missionaries have the humility, perseverance and talent to master languages, and therefore choose a shorter and no less effective way – serving through translators.

The ideal translator would be an ardent Christian who serves with devotion and at the same time solves the missionary’s problems that arise without knowing the language, laws or mentality.

Typically, such translators grow “on the strength of the missionaries’ own faith, patience, and sacrifice,” and this process takes no less time than learning the language.

One way or another, the language barrier cannot be overcome or avoided, so making a plan and having a budget to overcome it is a very important part of both missionary training and missionary service in general.

In our case, there were quite a few people in Mongolia who spoke Russian and Mongolian. Getting higher or special education in the Soviet Union was available to almost everyone.

During the first 10 years of learning Mongolian, which was not easy for us, we attracted many translators and then we were able to “raise” our own. Sister Tsendsuren has been our faithful companion and an integral part of our team for 20 years.

How difficult was it for you to culturally adapt to Mongolia?

We had the least problems with cultural adaptation, because Mongolia was in many ways similar to the country of the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, it was secretly called the 16th Republic, although before the 1921 revolution it was a province of China, and de jure to the world it was until 1948.

Until then, you won’t see Mongolia on any old map because no country in the world recognized it. Mongolia was recognized as a sovereign country only after the Second World War when the borders were revised as a country that fought on the side of the winner.

A bit of history. After World War II, the Soviet Union began to literally industrialize Mongolia. The railway was built, complete electrification was carried out, the education system, higher and vocational schools, communication was organized, schools, hospitals, institutes, roads, mining companies, heavy and light industry, agriculture were built… The Mongols traditionally did not grow anything and were only engaged in cattle breeding and fodder preparation.

What makes the Mongols special in terms of evangelism?

In the years 1921–1992 laws were passed in Mongolia that forbade any religion. The first translations of the New Testament into Mongolian were made by missionaries from England.

When everything suddenly became possible and free in 1992, a huge number of missionaries from all over the world poured in here. In 1992, Mongolia was a country completely untouched by the gospel.

In this post-Soviet space, it turned out that religious history does not exist.

If there were Baptists, Pentecostals and underground churches in the Soviet Union, there was nothing here. Even Buddhism was forbidden, and even more so, words like Christ, Jesus, baptism, sin, hell did not exist. There wasn’t even the word “God”. The missionaries themselves figured out how to name God. Many said that Burkhan (the now generally accepted translation of the word god) meant idol, and used the complicated expression “Mr. Creator of the Universe” to translate this short word.

For the first few years, we told the Mongols that we came to tell them the good news and asked: who wants to receive Jesus? People willingly received Him, responding specifically to the word “receive.”

Especially since, according to their understanding, we were not just foreigners, but those who literally built their country over several decades. That’s why, for example, even an 80-year-old man called me “Ah” (older brother), which is not typical of the Mongolian vocabulary, but was allowed only as an expression of special respect.

To many, the phrase “accept Jesus” was like “adopt my last name and you will have a good life.” Partly because of this, Christianity spread rapidly in Mongolia at first. People accepted Jesus, attended meetings and joined them. But by God’s miracle only a few were converted and began to follow Jesus.

In the late 90s, Mormons poured into Mongolia and people from Christian churches began to join them, and this was considered completely natural for their national mentality. They heartily accepted what was given to them.

Mongolians are also very musical people, especially they love not only music, but national music. Every Mongolian knows five to six dozen folk songs about horses, mountains and the sun. They really like to wear national clothes called “Del(i)”. They have great respect for their saints, especially the Tsagan-sari.

Mongolians are very emotional, very open, very empathetic and have remarkable language skills.

What religion is dominant in Mongolia?

It can be said that more than 92% of the population are Buddhists, Muslim Kazakhs, and also some atheists, Christians, Mormons, etc. The government promotes Buddhism, although the state is considered separate from the religion. But in fact, Buddhism has been very strongly supported since 1992 and is considered a cornerstone of national unity and cultural revival.

Interestingly, Mongolian Buddhism (Lamaism) found and occupied its niche thanks to the vulnerable superstition of the Mongols – it was combined with business in a unique way. When problems or failures arise, people run to the lamas, and the lamas resolve the situation in the spiritual world through prayers. Moreover, each lama (Buddhist priest) has his own price list: so much money for reading (prayer) for success in business, so much for family happiness, so much for not getting sick… Those who come pay money, bring gifts, and the lama reads and sometimes gives advice on what mental action to use to change the situation.

And that’s it, there are no other religious manifestations in life! Buddhism in Mongolia is not essentially a set of beliefs, it “solves” physical problems through the spiritual realm. The Buddhist approach is very practical: if there are problems, we go to the lama to solve them. If the lamas don’t help, let’s move on.

There is also a large Kazakh diaspora with Mongolian citizenship living in Mongolia, they are Muslims.

Christians are 1.5% of the 3 million population in Mongolia.

There are also quite a few Mormons who started working here in the late 90s. They can be seen in the solid red brick “kingdom halls” built in every city, town and village.

If Buddhism is so popular, how do you preach about Jesus?

Proclaiming the Gospel here is not easy precisely because of the general consumerist attitude towards religion: “Christianity should help me live the way I want.” According to the local understanding, religion should help and solve problems. Not to teach them how to live, but to help make wishes come true.

But we preach the gospel differently: “Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me.” This is the essence of the gospel. If Christ died for us, it means that we died to ourselves.

Tell us about your experience, how can a missionary support himself?

Yes, spreading the gospel involves money. Faith without missionary work is irrelevant.

The need for provision is a good reason to cry out to God: “Lord, I need provision.” Therefore, the future missionary should stick these questions to God on the walls of his secret prayer room: “Show me where to dig! Show where to sow! Show me what to do?” The missionary must deal with these and other matters of provision on the personal level of his faith and relationship with God. The mission is a CHALLENGE OF FAITH!

And if today’s missionary wants to go on a mission, he must do everything in his power to equip his ministry with everything “necessary for life and godliness.”

Find sponsors, establish partnerships with brothers, sisters, churches, ministries and sign contracts. Spend enough time and effort on it, but prepare your financial part.

Equipment solves many problems. Wisdom says: “If a problem can be solved with money, then it is not a problem, but an expense.”

You will encounter misunderstandings, rejection, new difficulties, but even so, the success of the mission begins with victory in this matter. This important victory is the beginning of many victories for you!

Missionaries are called to teach people about God and how to be led by the Holy Spirit, but it starts with them here and now.

We must learn to accept rhema ourselves and walk according to the Lord’s will. First of all, this is your service, in some ways unique and inimitable, although similar to others, but it cannot be said that missionaries have rules that are the same for everyone and work for everyone.

If a missionary does not hear God and follow Him, he cannot teach it to others! We are not to make disciples of our doctrine, but disciples of Christ. Our task is to connect them with Christ and so that they themselves want to follow Him.

Ruslan, what is your ministry doing? Share.

Currently, we have a congregation in the town of Erdenet with its own building and all traditional Christian services. We are actively engaged in evangelization. We have set up our work in such a way that people are constantly evangelizing.

We deal with social, cultural and educational projects. We recently opened music courses (we teach guitar and piano). In cooperation with other churches, we conduct children’s and youth programs. Our city is provincial, and when the children finish school, they usually go to study in the capital, Ulaanbaatar, so we only have 3-5 years to “sow” the good seed of God’s Word in their hearts.

Several years ago we received instructions to start a ministry in Ulaanbaatar. So in the last couple of years, the responsibility for Erdenet Church has fallen more on the shoulders of my wife Svetlana and our Mongolia ministry team, while I spend a lot of time in the capital.

Our small metropolitan congregation is called Bethesda. This church is for Mongolians and Russian speakers. Right now it’s more of a prayerful work to grow and build a team. We also dub the programs of Christian preachers and post their Christian content on Mongolian TV channels. We are engaged in prison service.

There is one extremely important point that I want to mention. During my nearly thirty years of service, I have had the opportunity to meet hundreds of missionaries. For the most part, the Mongolian mission was a kind of “trip” for them, and their activities were focused on the implementation of some project of their own.

On the one hand, it’s not bad! On the other hand, many such projects were “contrived” and did not meet the real needs of the local churches, but instead directed their human resources and clergy attention to the implementation of these “well-funded” programs, replacing the need to seek and develop in the divine vision, which gave birth to a separate layer of “serving staff” in Christianity.

I am sure that missionaries and missions need to be much more careful and spiritually attentive in this regard. We don’t take beautiful photo reports and applause to heaven. You must see the real need and after having the “vision” take care of the “lasting fruit”.

For example: 30 years ago there was a catastrophic sanitary and epidemiological situation in Mongolia! People did not have the opportunity to wash their bodies at least once a week. I proposed to many missions to start building public showers and baths, but no one responded to me. Now Mongolia has almost solved this problem with its businesses, but the real answer to this need could have become an open door to the Kingdom of God!

At this moment, God opened my eyes to another need, namely, acute iodine deficiency, which affects both adults and children without care. The national salt iodization program was already suspended in 2011 due to inefficiency, as Mongolians traditionally salt hot food and as a result of heat treatment, all the iodine evaporates.

In response to this need, God gave me the opportunity to enter the international iodine deficiency elimination program developed by the talented Ukrainian scientist V.N. Melnichenko. As part of this program, we organize meetings, lectures, seminars, and of course, if possible, reduce iodine deficiency and certainly preach the gospel!

Effective implementation of this program in this landlocked continental country can eliminate iodine deficiency and related diseases for many years.

What is most important to you in missionary work?

Making people disciples of Christ, for me the most important people are people who want to listen, change and are ready to seek God. Just as land is most important to a farmer, so are people to us. One of the most important tasks is to prepare the ground so that the gospel can then be spoken.

A missionary must be devoted not only to his vocation, but also to the people, to live with the people and breathe the same air, to show them his faith not only in words but also in deeds, and to be an example with his faith.

It is important to me that people see Christ. Too bad it doesn’t always work out.

Missionary work is not fun trips for fanfare and “likes”. It is a difficult daily priestly work, with the only difference that the priests of the Old Testament sacrificed animals, but the missionary sacrifices himself.

I’m talking to you right now, but my wife is suffering from migraines. It’s been more than 20 years, we don’t know for sure what exactly is wrong with her. The migraine disappears only when she descends from the “mountains”, but all of Mongolia is located at an altitude of more than a thousand meters.

And it’s not just about us. We know many missionaries and each story is actually a confirmation of how incredibly difficult it is.

If a person goes on a mission, he must deny himself, take up his cross and only then go on a mission for Christ. I’m not scaring anyone, I’m telling things as they are.

True Christianity is not church-parochial, but full devotion to God, it is the Christianity of the apostles who gave their lives for Christ.

Jesus Himself was a missionary. He left the perfect divine nature and heaven, came to earth, became like a man in all things, shared our needs and lived for men and died for our salvation. This is the work of a missionary in a nutshell! Mission is when you leave comfort and go in the name of the Lord to where people need the gospel, where people need your example of faith, testimony and divine salvation.

What advice would you give to those people who are not sure about the mission call?

My advice is to go by revelation and trust God. And if God guides you, do not, under any circumstances, turn on the “reverse gear”.

If God has given a word, then you must open the closed doors and put that word into practice. In spite of everything, find in your life or death enough strength and means and opportunities to realize this word…

Churches need to be taught how to do mission trips. If the church wants to reach the people where it is, it has to find a place to send its people, where to send its funds, and God blesses and empowers it to reach the people where it is to reach its people.

I say to aspiring missionaries: if you feel that in your heart you have the desire to devote yourself to God, definitely dedicate yourself to the mission. Go, study, find sponsors and travel, move forward in this direction.

Christianity is not about a comfortable life, Christianity is about eternal life.

Everyone should think, “Lord, what is Your will? I want to fight for victory, so that Your will is done here on earth as it is in heaven.”

And this is where the things that Christ spoke about—daily bread for every day and forgiveness—begin.

You have no idea how much You need to forgive in missionary work. To future missionaries, I would like to say: you must learn to forgive, as one wonderful preacher said – forgive in advance.

In fact, unforgiveness has stopped many missionaries. For a while in my life, in our ministry, I was not aware that I had not forgiven. I thought that was the way it had to be, but at some point I realized that I was moving in the wrong direction, because unforgiveness leads us astray. And the missionary must be ready to forgive his neighbors and his enemies, to love his enemies, to do good to his enemies and not to curse them. It’s called being a vessel of mercy.

Thank you for the interview.

The interview was prepared by the CITA press center.

Source: Миссионер в Монголии: Христианство — это не про комфортную жизнь, христианство — это про вечную жизнь | Статьи на inVictory

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