Mongolia is known as the “land of the eternal blue sky” and is home to one of the few remaining nomadic cultures in the world. According to estimates, 30 to 40 percent of its population of three million live without a fixed address, taking care of animal herds. On the other hand, those who do not depend on agrarian and pastoral activities live in the busy and polluted capital city of Ulaanbaatar, the coldest capital in the world.
Every quarter of the year, members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church support mission projects around the world. Usually, part of the mission offerings on the last Sabbath of each quarter is assigned to specific initiatives. In the third quarter of 2018, mission offerings were destined to fund projects in the Northern Asia-Pacific Division, which includes Mongolia, China, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, and Taiwan. Within that territory, about 1.6 billion people live, but only 3 percent of them are Christians.
In Mongolia, donations from around the world will help to finish the first Seventh-day Adventist boarding school in the country. New buildings are being erected on a plot of 15 acres (6 hectares), about 35 miles (56 km) from the capital. Dining room, dormitories, and boarding school blocks are ready after a US$700,000 investment. Another US$400,000 is needed to build classrooms and the administration hall.
“The cost of building in Asia is much higher than, for instance, in Africa. Much of our expenses have so far been in infrastructure, including heating, water, and electricity,” said Pastor Diogo Santos, who has been serving as a missionary in Mongolia for more than a year. “In our construction, we have used coated containers to reduce expenses,” he added.
Santos said that the boarding school is due to open in mid-2019, with an initial capacity of 84 students. The vision is that in five years the institution may reach 500 students and also offer higher education.
In the short term, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is trying to develop a farm on a plot of land adjacent to the boarding school to serve college students and the surrounding community.
Santos is the vice principal of Tusgal Seventh-day Adventist School, the only school managed by the Adventist Church in Mongolia. It opened in 2009 with four teachers and 14 students. Today, it has 30 faculty and staff members and 147 students, and 35 percent of students are Seventh-day Adventists.
“I am optimistic about the future of Adventist education in Mongolia,” Santo said. “Boarding students will stay away from pollution from the capital, domestic violence, alcohol, and cigarettes. Living surrounded by nature, these teenagers will learn the biblical principles that can change their lives.”
Russian missionaries began preaching the Adventist message in Mongolia in 1926. However, Adventists only returned to the country after the communist regime ended in 1991.
Elbert Kuhn, who currently coordinates the Adventist Volunteer Services office at the Adventist Church headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States, spent a decade as a missionary in Mongolia. Since then, the South American Division church region has sponsored several missionaries to serve in the region.