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butteville-church-1200wLight traffic greeted us as we headed north on Interstate 5 out of  Salem, Oregon. On this chilly Sunday morning in January, our destination was Butteville Community Church. Nestled between the Willamette River and the fertile farmlands south of Portland, in the 1840s Butteville was one of the first  settlements in the Oregon Territory. We were scheduled to talk about our mission trip to Mongolia during the adult Sunday School hour and then share about our ministry in Japan during the morning message.

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Departing Chinggis City, Mongolia

We were especially excited to talk about Mongolia—Pastor Ken had mentioned that a Mongolian woman had become a Christian and been baptized in the church in recent years. She and her American husband had moved to a ranch in Arizona, but the congregation still had fond memories of their time with them.

When we arrived at the church, Pastor Ken came up and said “Guess what! Tseggy (not her real name) is back for a visit—with her children and her parents from Mongolia. They’re coming to the morning service!”

We shared with an unusually knowledgeable Sunday School class, and not long after we had finished, in walked Tseggy with her non-English-speaking parents. Pastor Ken had already told us Tseggy’s father was “a tough nut to crack,” but when Gary greeted him with a friendly “Sain bain uu!” (Mongolian for “Hello!”) his eyes lit up.

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Mongolian teen praying for his country at a national youth conference

Meanwhile, my greatest joy was talking with Tseggy about Mongolia. She wanted to know how receptive the Mongolian people were to receiving the gospel of Jesus. When she left Mongolia more than 14 years before, she was not a believer and knew little or nothing about Christianity. When I shared about our experiences with the Mongolian church, her eyes glistened as she asked, “Are there really Christians in Mongolia?” She and her husband had sold their ranch recently, and were planning to move to Mongolia later this year. She asked me (a missionary from Japan!) to connect her to a church in Ulaanbaatar where they can fellowship when they get there.

What are the chances? To meet a Mongolian Christian at a church in the historic, but sparsely populated Oregon countryside, and then being able to help her find a church in her home country! It was as if God was again reconfirming the value of our ministry trip there last August. Oh … and another astounding “coincidence.” In addition to English, Tseggy is fluent in Japanese: She studied for a Master’s degree in Japan! What an amazing God we serve!