Serving in rural Mongolia
20 Apr 2021
In many countries, you won’t be issued a visa to be a missionary. Mongolia is one of those places, considered by missionary organizations as a “creative access country”. This means that when God called us to serve there, discipling the young Mongolian church, we needed to find a way to enter and remain in the country that was not based on religious work.
We were given the opportunity to own and run a business in a fairly small town in rural Mongolia. The business was started by English missionaries with the express goal of providing local and reliable employment to the community, where work was hard to find. They particularly wanted to employ and support young Christians, to meet their practical needs and give them some stability, while also providing them the opportunity to be discipled and to grow in their faith.
Twenty-five years on (11 under our ownership), the business has grown, but these goals remain. It is now comprised of a guesthouse, cafe, bakery, and tour company, and provides employment to around 25 full-time staff, with an extra 10 or so people in the tourist season. It supports local nomadic families through home stays, horse rides, and cultural visits, and provides work for local drivers and guides. Our business brings tourism to the local area, helping the local economy enormously. However, just as importantly, it gives us immediate connections with our employees and their families and provides the opportunity to build long-term relationships with people, which is so important in discipling. Owning our own business shows locals that we are serious about living and investing in the community, and in them as individuals.
In a town where employment is hard to find, where regular pay cheques are rare, where the demanded work hours are often unreasonable and even illegal, and in a country that runs on bribery and corruption, it’s not hard to stand out in business. God’s standard of ethics is rarely unappreciated by those on the receiving end. We have received, several times now, national awards simply for paying our taxes in full and on time.
This very visible face of the business is important in establishing our credentials and integrity as business visa holders. Our high profile and varied business create connections through all echelons of society, from the provincial governor to nomadic herders, and our good reputation often wins us respect and opportunities to speak into people’s lives.
As Christ met people’s practical needs with His message of salvation, we too can do this hand-in-hand with bringing the Good News to the nations.
Look us up: Fairfield Guesthouse, Cafe, Bakery & Travel, www.fairfield.mn.
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