Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him all creatures here below,
Praise Him above ye heavenly host,
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
I (Kim) am on the plane flying home from Mongolia. It is my tradition to write these updates on my way home. This year was amazingly good. It’s interesting to me that I wondered, “what am I going to write…it was so good?” Why is it easier to write hard tales than good ones? I guess we humans, especially me, like the drama of a hard tale.
Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t perfect. There are at least 50 people who worked and traveled with us this year that could offer lots of tales and who might reprimand me for failing to recount dramatic occurrences. But the Lord was so gracious and so merciful to us this year…and I am so grateful.
This was Kirk’s fifteenth and my fifth trip to Mongolia since December 2000. This was the sixth annual Searching for the Broken Hearts week and the fourth annual Mending the Broken Hearts week.
In the Searching for the Broken Hearts week, Kirk is trying to visit all the “aimags” (equivalent to states or provinces) of Mongolia in order to screen children for heart disease and educate physicians and families about the importance of having children with heart disease seen early before their conditions possibly become inoperable. This year 32 Americans and 13 Mongolians traveled with him for a week to the north of Mongolia where a people group of reindeer herdsmen live. Evidently this people group is very small, hard to locate as they are nomadic, and have not been reached with the gospel of Christ. They actually met a family of 12 and were invited to visit with them in their teepee (yes, teepee! There are actually lots of similarities in the Mongolian and Native American cultures and there is some belief that these people groups are related.) They met them on the last day before they were to move 300 kilometers north into the forest for winter (they say it is warmer in the forest). They were able to screen their six children for heart disease and were able to share the gospel with them and give them a Bible, which they accepted gladly. In addition, over four screening days in this region of the country, they were able to screen over 1100 children for heart disease. They found 12 with heart disease that required treatment and one was already treated in the subsequent Mending the Broken Hearts week. They gave away almost 300 Bibles and almost 1000 gospels of John.
As they flew into this region of the country, the team was reading in the airline magazine that this region contained the height of shamanistic religion in Mongolia. One team member even asked Kirk if he was going to change his evangelistic approach as a result. Our perspective on these trips comes from Mark 8:36: “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” We can mend hearts, but it profits these children and their families nothing if they lose their souls. Every child and their family members are offered a gospel bracelet, hear the gospel, and are offered a copy of the Word of God. This is done after they are screened. There is no compulsion. And there was no different approach this year. The gospel is the gospel. The Bibles and the Gospel were received with great gratitude and enthusiasm. We hope and pray many will continue to come to know Him by the Word of God that was planted in Khuvsgal. By the team’s best estimation, hundreds accepted Christ. We didn’t keep count, but Gani, a precious Mongolian who oversees evangelism for us on our team, wrote down every single one of their names so she can pray for them.
The second week was the Mending the Broken Hearts week in the capital, Ulaan Baatar. There were another 30 Americans involved in this week, 14 of who stayed on from the Searching week. For Hearts and Souls does this week in conjunction with Samaritan’s Purse World Medical Mission and Children’s Heart Project. This was year 4 for this project. I’ve written (and therefore experienced!) some gut-wrenching tales from this week each year. The first year our container of supplies did not arrive and we did everything with what was available in the Mongolian hospital and what we had in our suitcases. In years 2 and 3, we lost two precious children: Undermaa in 2006 and Bogi in 2007. Of course we had tons of praises from those years and lots of children successfully taken care of, but the drama of those years are prominent in the minds of those of us who experienced them. This is all hard to put into words. I absolutely believe in the sovereignty and perfect love of the Lord. His will has been done all four years. And He has had much to teach us as we have cared for His children. I have no criticism with the Lord over the past years’ experiences. But I confess I prayed for His grace and His mercy this year: “oh, please, Lord, can it not be as hard this year?” Every year this week in Mongolia is the hardest and most wonderful of my life. We work so hard and I don’t believe I’m ever as tired. But it’s so worth it knowing the impact we are having on the children we are taking care of.
The report is so good this year. We took care of 22 children. We did 9 surgeries requiring cardiac bypass and one without. Our team used devices in the catheterization laboratory to close cardiac defects in 8 children, so they wouldn’t have to have cardiac surgery. And we did 3 diagnostic cardiac catheterizations in order to determine the future operability of these children with cardiac defects. We had no deaths and any complications were quite manageable. We had the biggest team ever and all were sacrificial servants, making the work go smoother than it ever has. We felt we made the biggest breakthroughs ever with the Mongolians we were working with. We so desire to train them so that they can provide better care to their own children. In a sense, we want to work ourselves out of a job in Mongolia. We saw the most progress toward that goal this year. Most importantly, the gospel and the Word of God was shared with all the children and their families, as well as most of the Mongolian staff we worked with and many accepted Christ, or at least showed an openness to learn more about Him.
As I have reflected on this week as I prepared to write this, the word that comes most frequently to my mind is humility. I do not know if I have ever been so humbled. It is an awesome, indescribable thing to see the Lord so powerfully at work. I am humbled by even having to recount the story. Each member of our team has told me stories that have brought tears to my eyes. To see the Lord at work so powerfully in each member of our team as they answered His call to come to Mongolia and gave of their time, money, knowledge, skill, energy, and love humbles me. I wish I could single out every member of the team and tell you specifically how well they served. To see the Lord use us to change the lives of 22 children humbles me. The gratitude the families demonstrate actually pierces my heart. They bring us gifts I know they cannot afford and I so wish they wouldn’t. But I guess the Lord uses those heart-piercing gifts to give me a sense of the magnitude of the gift the families believe they have received. I don’t think the Lord wants me to miss it or count it lightly. Even the staff we work with gives us heart-piercing gifts I know they can’t afford either. It humbles me and convicts me to be much more generous. Finally, it humbles me to see the lengths the Lord will go to in order to bring even one to Him. Ed Morrow, director of World Medical Mission, who blesses us with his presence during this week every year and serves as our chaplain, reminded us of how the Lord loves and weeps over every person of Mongolia (and the entire world). He can bring these people to Him without us. The fact that He would allow us to share in it blows my mind.
The best gift we received this week was a post card for every member of the team. On it were pictures of the children we took care of this week and it said “Thank you for mending my heart and soul, from the children of Mongolia 2008.” There was no better gift.
In closing, I’d like to pray big. The need is great, in Mongolia and throughout the world. The Lord has blessed us with a dream team with a passion to serve Him through excellent pediatric cardiac care. I pray for the funding and the ability to send us all over the world. Also, we were extraordinarily blessed this year to be given, for the third time, a private concert by the Mongolian national symphony, an indescribably unique and fabulous experience. I’d love to share that blessing by having them provide a concert tour in the United States that would benefit pediatric cardiac care in Mongolia. God is very, very big. His will be done.