Feature

White as Snow

A prodigal comes home in Mongolia

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My first encounter with the woman wasn’t pleasant.

I did not feel well from an overnight train ride in Mongolia, so I sat on a large cement block on the ground across from the Zaminwood Sarang Church, where I was helping lead a seminar. But instead of resting, I began to be annoyed by cigarette smoke blowing in my face. I looked around and found two women smoking at the other end of the cement slab.

They probably had not washed their faces and clothes for a long time. It was still early in the morning, but they were already quite drunk. I gave them an angry look, but they did not care. That made me even more annoyed.

I stood up and moved two steps away, as far as I could and still remain in the shade. Zaminwood, a southern border city, is built in the Gobi Desert; even in the morning, it is too hot to stay out in the sun. While I was watching, the women lay down one by one on the dusty ground, which was covered with human excrement and vomit, and dozed off.

According to Toksha, a church member, these two women were among seven alcoholics who lived in a shed across the street from the church. Somehow they managed to prepare food to sell at the crowded railroad station, which is probably how they could afford liquor and cigarettes. The church had reached out to them with fresh food and soft drinks, and as a result, several were saved from their addiction and joined the church. But others had resisted help.

My second encounter with the woman came with a miracle.

We were having a short break during the second day of the seminar when I heard my wife crying out in a desperate voice. Alarmed, I ran toward the sound. I found my wife and an Alliance international worker, “Y,” in the dark shed, holding one of the “smoking women” and praying for her healing and salvation.

They had found her there weeping because of severe pain in her legs. The room, full of stench and garbage, wasn’t any bigger than seven feet by twelve feet. In the stove, plastic bottles were burning with other garbage. In that small room, the seven alcoholics huddled together, almost unconscious. The dreadful condition of the people made my wife and Y cry out to God.

Something happened at that moment. God touched the woman’s body and heart with His hands; she was healed instantly. After that, she stuck with my wife and showed up at the evening service we held in another church. Entering the building despite the people’s frowning looks, the healed woman jubilantly said to my wife “Saeng” like a little girl speaking to her mom. What she meant was “I feel no pain now.”

That was my third meeting with her. Unlike the two other encounters, she was sober and relatively clean. She must have washed her hands and face before coming. She clapped and sang praises to the Lord and promised to stop drinking.

That evening, we were scheduled to have a baptismal service for three members of Zaminwood Sarang Church. We had almost finished baptizing the last person when the woman burst into the room, demanding that we baptize her.

We were not sure what to do. First, she didn’t look sober. I have never heard of anyone being baptized while under the influence of alcohol. Second, she had not attended the preparation class for baptism. My reluctance gave in to her desperate attitude. She was in tears. What prompted me most to baptize her, however, was what Jesus exhorted us: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven” (Matt. 18:10).

Before the baptism, Y asked her, “Tani ner hin bae” (“What is your name?”)

“Binechagang,” she bashfully answered.

Binechagang means “very white” in Mongolian, but her face absolutely betrayed her name, reflecting years of addiction and malnourishment. That is why she felt embarrassed.

But, oh, how glad she was after her baptism. She ran to my wife and hugged and kissed her. “Binechagang,” I told her, “your heart now became white as snow by the grace of Jesus Christ.”

She gave me a beautiful smile. May I never forget the scene! Though she looked dirty and dark outwardly, she shone like an angel. She was like a prodigal child who found salvation in her Father’s bosom.

We discovered later that Binechagang had escaped from her wife-beating husband nine years earlier. (Domestic violence is widespread in Mongolia.) While on the street, she began drinking heavily and was taken to a treatment facility in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital. But she escaped and ended up in Zaminwood.

Five months after her baptism, Binechagang, 43 years old, went to be with the Lord. I wonder what would have happened if my wife and Y had not visited the shed and prayed for her healing that day.

When we planned this trip, we did not know what was in store for us, but each day brought surprises. It seemed that God had prepared a special feast for us. Every service had a special testimony of people who accepted the Lord as their Savior after rejecting attempts by local Christians. Binechagang was one of those who had resisted.

In Mongolia, we have wonderful teamwork between Alliance international workers and local church leaders. Each has its own part, but God set aside an important ministry for us, the short-term team. “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever” (Dan. 12:3).

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