Thanksgiving, Boov, and the Gospel Lens

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge (1 Corinthians 1:4-5, ESV).

Last year the Mongolian church celebrated its 20th anniversary.  It’s estimated that prior to 1991, there were just four known believers in the entire country; we are so thankful today that that number is now upwards of 40,000!

In many ways, the Mongolian church’s challenges are similar to that of the young church in Corinth—divisions, sexual immorality, and misunderstandings about worship and doctrine. All are issues that the apostle Paul addressed in his letters.

During this Thanksgiving season, we are grateful for how God is giving Mongolian believers increasing knowledge about how to live out their new faith within their centuries-old animistic culture. British missiologist and theologian Bishop Lesslie Newbigin has defined this phenomenon well: “The gospel is like a lens through which we see the world in a whole new way. It changes how we view our identity, our priorities, and our culture.”

Tsagaan Sar

Looking through the gospel lens sometimes means that new Christians do not participate in old activities. But this lens can also reveal a richness and depth in a cultural practice that was previously invisible. This is the case with Mongolia’s Tsagaan Sar  (“white moon” or “white month”) festival.

This three-day lunisolar New Year’s holiday celebrates the passing of the worst part of winter. It also is a time to commemorate the unification of Mongolian tribes under Chinggis Khan (Genghis Khan) in the 1200s.

Boov—a stack of fried bread piled with candy and cheese—is at the centerpiece of Tsagaan Sar feasting. Its base is made of fried dough, and it’s always made with an odd number of layers; the first represents joy; the next symbolizes suffering; and the top layer always represents joy.

Many Mongolians also place a pineapple-shaped decoration atop the boov. When I’ve asked about this, I’ve been told that it’s a crown, a symbol of Chinggis the king (“khan” means king).

Jesus the King

Viewing this traditional dish through the lens of the gospel lends a whole new understanding to Mongolian believers. Who is the only king who brings joy through suffering? Jesus.

It will take the Mongolians many years and generations to work out the details of what it means to be followers of Christ within their culture. But God has enriched them in every way through Jesus Christ and His glorious work. We are so thankful.

By Mark Wood, serving in Mongolia

What You Can Do


Praise God for tens of thousands of new Mongolian believers! Pray that they will continue to mature in their faith. Please use Alliance Prayer requests to pray for Alliance workers around the world.


  • Give to the Great Commission Fund (GCF) to support Alliance workers in Mongolia and across the world who are extending the hope of Christ to the lost and discipling new believers.
  • Give now

Learn More

Read “Tsagaan Sar: New Life in the Dead of Winter” to learn more about this fascinating Mongolian holiday and its symbols pointing to the good news message.


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