A Changing World
Mongolia continues to change at a dizzying pace, even to one accustomed to the constant motion of the Western
world. Reprising traditions and belief systems from centuries past has become almost commonplace in former communist countries. Mongolia is no exception to this rule. Recently, the statue of Vladimir Lenin that had occupied a prominent place in the center of the city was removed from its pedestal. True, it had been reduced to being a hangout for thieves and prostitutes. But it now remains to be seen who or what will replace him.
The metaphor of the disappearing Lenin is instructive when considering the spiritual condition of Mongolia today. A Western idea, communism, had usurped the position that Buddhism had filled for centuries. Nowadays Genghis Khan is the historical figure of choice, all the more since he is an authentic Mongolian. His burial place, for centuries assumed to be purposely hidden in the unexplored mountains of northeastern Mongolia, has supposedly been found. That, no doubt, will only increase the Khan-mania in this outpost of the northern Asian world.
So whither Mongolia? Some say that a return to Buddhism would be the natural expectation for the country, and with the assistance of mass media and government influence it has had some success. But Buddhism is not exactly attractive to youth infatuated with the Western world or to many adult Mongolians, in spite of its long tradition. Shaminism, in turn, has been making inroads in Mongolia the past few years. I often check the religion section of the State Department Store’s bookstore in the capital when I am in the country. There I have noted the preponderance of books devoted to the theme of Shamanism. But on my recent visit, I was surprised to find that almost half of the books were about Christianity- a dramatic upturn from past observations. So there is still room for the Christian message to penetrate hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Lutheran Bible School in Darhan
Meanwhile, the Mongolian Lutheran Bible School in Mongolia’s second largest city, Darhan, has graduated its first class. With the graduation of about 15 students in May 2012, there were questions as to whether new students could be found to study. That has proved to be no problem, as the current class of 21 students can attest.
This past November I taught the book of Genesis, breathing in the brisk cold air (-10 Fahrenheit in mornings) of one of the coldest regions in the world. Ah, but the hearts and desire to learn of the students were anything but frigid.
Normally I would walk 20 minutes every day from my cheap hotel to the church, observing children shuffling to school and adults going about their daily business. But one day, I noticed the streets were practically barren. I wasn’t quite sure who or what to expect when I arrived, but all the students were ready for class. Naturally I asked why the streets were empty. The reply: it was a new state holiday, the celebration of Genghis Khan’s birthday! As I attempted to learn more about the state holiday, I was cut off. “We’ve heard enough about Genghis Khan in our lives: now we want to learn about God!” I’ve never been so pleased to have one of my questions unanswered.
As we begin 2013, know that the God who created the universe and revealed Himself through His Son Jesus Christ, whose birth we have just celebrated, has a desire that all of His children would come back into His family! Please pray for the Lutheran Bible School and the students’ witness in Mongolia, that they would strongly proclaim the name of Jesus among their people.
Please pray for Cousin Shawn’s healing as well as Pastor Alexey Shepelev, so that he may find the funds for his brain operation.
Please pray for upcoming travel this next month to Russia, where I will teach at the Lutheran seminary in Koltushi. Please also pray that my trip to Finland for a new visa will be successful.
Thank the Lord with me for a blessed celebration of His birth and the New Year with family and friends.
To support my work financially, you may send a tax-deductible gift to:
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
P.O. Box 790089
St. Louis, MO 63179-0089
Mission Central, 40718 Highway E‐16, Mapleton, Iowa 51034
Make checks payable to The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Mark checks “Support of Matthew Heise.” Gifts can also be given through the LCMS website on my online giving page at www.lcms.org/Heise.
If you would like to partner with me in my ministry with ongoing support, congregations can contact Debra Feenstra for information on Together in Mission at 1‐800‐248-1930 Ext. 1651 or [email protected] and individuals can contact Julie Loehring for information on Mission Senders at 1-800-248-1930 Ext. 1047 or [email protected]. Thank you, and may God bless you in 2013 and in this Epiphany season!