Two weeks from today I will come back to the USA. It’s surreal! But it’s the truth. So I’m making every day count. Camp last week was a total blowaway; God is really moving in our church. Now we’re in the crunch time of transition between the summer team and the serve team. Please pray the transition is smooth!
Camp was incredible. The location certainly helped, but it was also a blast playing games, spending time with Jesus, hearing incredible teaching, and worshiping Jesus. Thank you for praying- I think that part of why it was so good was the prayers of many friends around the world.
Coming into camp, things were hectic. We had to plan and facilitate everything, and it was a huge endeavour. We were hoping around 30 or 40 people would come, believers and nonbelievers alike.
What ended up happening was so much more incredible.
When it came time to leave for Gachuurt, the village where our camp was located, there were close to 80 people who showed up. Half of the people there were complete strangers to our team- our church proved how bold they were by inviting many lost people! One of our girls invited literally just about everyone she knows. She ended up bringing at least 10 girls and guys, most of whom did not know Jesus.
One of the people she brought was a guy named Amara. He did not know Jesus, but throughout the camp he experienced the presence of God and heard the gospel. Through conversations and lots of time with Landon Weaver and Josh Franzen, he ended up deciding to give his whole life to Jesus. He was also freed of a smoking addiction, and he got baptized at church on Sunday after spending 3 extra days in the countryside with Landon, Alex, and Bret Franzen.
Several other people believed in Jesus for the first time at camp- somewhere between 10 and 15. Of these, some were people who had never heard about Jesus, and some were people who had been in the church for years. All of them came to know God personally at a level they didn’t know was possible.
We also baptized 10 people in the river by our campsite. It was amazing to see Mongolians baptized! They really really get the gospel. I mean, really. And they fully understand the weight of following Jesus and being baptized. It was powerful. Also, a few people were re-baptized, including Jeff and Elijah. Those who were re-baptized did not understand the meaning of the gospel or the meaning of baptism when they were first baptized. This time it was a very significant experience done in obedience to Jesus.
Two big highlights of camp for me were my personal times with God and the unity God was building in our church. Personally, I was in heaven. Gachuurt was one of the most breathtaking places I’ve been, and the whole time (with the exception of three or four unbelievable moments) it was completely surreal. The weather was beautiful, the hills went on forever, the mountains were tall, the river was wide and blue, the livestock roamed everywhere, gers dotted the plains, at sunset the light was heavenly, at night the stars were infinite, and there were actually trees. The whole thing was a huge gift from God.
As for the unity of the church, I saw many friendships begin forming between new and old believers, as well as new church and old church members. This was HUGE! Every time I saw one of the old church girls hugging one of the newer members, or one of the new guys talking with an old church guy, I got so happy. God is doing it!
Although none of us really felt it at the time, camp was extremely monumental. At times it was freezing cold, exhausting, breathtaking, hilarious, physically challenging, overwhelming, and completely insane. But God was there. We met with Him in power- especially during our worship times. And many people’s lives will never be the same because of what happened there.
So I thought I’d let you in on some of the guys I’ve been reaching out to. Maybe sometime I can give you faces to go with the names, but for now the names will have to do.
Although I certainly wouldn’t say I’ve found the person of peace or the guy or guys, I have been able to really invest deeply in a couple of groups of bros. More importantly, I’ve been able to connect many guys to Antioch Mongolia- hopefully in a way that sticks!
These are just a few stories of what it’s been like to abide in and follow Jesus here…
Brandon met Eba and Battery in his first two or three weeks here. They were walking down the street with a guitar, and God highlighted them to Brandon, so he went and talked to them. He told them he communicates with God through music and through God’s spirit. “Spirit? What is that word- like a ghost?” they asked. “Yeah! It’s like ‘God’s good ghost’,” Brandon replied. Ever since, these guys have been affectionately referred to as the “God’s good ghost” guys (GGG for short).
Brandon and I have hung out with the GGG guys so much. Battery believes in science, Eba believes in shamanism, and their friends mostly believe in buddhism. The first time we spent time with them, Brandon and I both shared our stories and clearly communicated the gospel from creation to christ. They were very open to the gospel, but not at all ready to believe in Jesus.
As I have spent time with them since – at open mic nights, coffee shops, lunches, and walks in the city – Eba has become much more open to the gospel. He has a hard time believing it’s all not just a bunch of myths, but at the same time, he’s had some very interesting experiences recently that he can’t shake.
One night he had a really vivid nightmare in which demons were chasing him and trying to kill him. The next day, he got beat up by some drunk guys while walking down the street at night. When we talked that week, he didn’t know what to do with it all, and he finally asked God to show him if He was real (something Brandon and I had been telling him to do for weeks). He’s still figuring things out, but I believe that he’s close. If he comes to know Jesus, it’ll be huge in his family and in his friend group. And he’s also a very talented guitarist and musician, which we need.
Please pray for Eba! He’s the one I am fighting for the hardest, and probably my closest lost friend here in Mongolia.
One day Elijah double booked. He couldn’t hang out with two guys in two different places at the same time, so he handed off one of the two to me. His name is Zolboo, and he was a barista at the coffee shop down the street we often hang out in. One day Elijah prayed for Zolboo, and he was so amazed- it was the first time anyone had ever prayed for him. I was excited to hang out with him! Elijah gave me his number, apologized to both of us, and then went out to the edge of town to hang out with his other friend.
I met Zolboo at the coffee shop and we walked over to a big square to find a restaurant. We had talked before at the coffee shop, but as we spent time together we really hit it off. Over lunch I found out that Zolboo believes in Jesus already- his sister’s friend was a Christian and had shared the gospel with him before. It was surprising and encouraging to find this out because sometimes it seems like Christians are hard to find. But God is at work- he has been and he will be!
Although Zolboo believes in Jesus, he’s definitely not a Christian. He believes in many things and thinks there are many ways to God. Still, he’s very open to the gospel, and clearly understands the difference between believing in Jesus and following Jesus. I told him about the exclusivity and inclusivity of Jesus’ call, and reiterated that following Jesus is a decision he has to make. Zolboo is another guy who’s close. Let’s pray God shows him Jesus is the only way!
Immediately after we parted ways, I felt like God told me I should pray for him. But I had already walked into my apartment and the elevator was already on its way down. Still, I felt a strong tug. A tug I couldn’t ignore. As the elevator doors opened before me, I knew I had to make a quick decision. I badly wanted to simply step onto the elevator, go upstairs, and rest. After all, by now Zolboo was probably pretty far away. Still, I want to live a life of radical obedience- of risk. Of faith. And would it really be that inconvenient to run back outside and chase Zolboo down?
I turned around with the elevator’s mouth gaping wide and sprinted out the door. As I ran through the courtyard I hastily pulled out my phone. I tried to make my fingers press the right buttons to call Zolboo as I raced in the direction I thought he left. Then I saw him! He had almost reached the street when he answered and turned around.
I was out of breath when I finally pulled up to him and explained that I wanted to pray for him. He gladly accepted and seemed blessed although nothing cool seemed to happen. But the best part had nothing to do with Zolboo.
Ulana and Aza
Right after Zolboo walked away, I turned- and when I turned I immediately saw two guys playing guitar on a bench. They looked like they were having fun. I decided to join.
One of the guys allowed me to play his guitar, so I pulled out my most impressive licks and then played along with Casablanca, the song he was listening to. They were enjoying it, so I showed them a few more songs. As we got to know each other, I learned their names, Ulana and Aza. Ulana is a particularly tall 21 year old with mediocre guitar skill. Aza is a thin 27 year old professional singer.
Soon after meeting them I asked what they believed in. Ulana said he believed in himself, and Aza didn’t speak English so I never got an answer. Then, I discovered they are in a band that practices in the building next to our apartment building. I invited all of them to our musician lifegroup the next day.
At lifegroup, Aza and Ulana connected well with our people and we found out some amazing things. First of all, their whole band wanted to spend time with us. Second, they loved us and they loved lifegroup. Third, Aza was a believer- actually, he used to be a worship leader! He didn’t know we were Christians at first, but when we started talking, he realized pretty quickly. He said he still believes in God, although he hadn’t been to church in about 10 years.
The next morning, his prodigal streak was broken. He and Ulana loved church, and Ulana was incredibly open to the gospel. Unfortunately, their band will be going on tour for about a month soon. But they’ve both hung out with us several times since, and although they aren’t following Jesus, they seem very open to the gospel. Aza is a good musician, too! I’m believing that when they get back, Brandon will be able to pull these two onto the worship team and into the church.
My best friend in Mongolia. Bumaa doesn’t speak english that well, but he’s got such a great heart. And he speaks Russian. So we usually talk in a weird mix of Russian and English.
Bumaa’s sister Bubara is one of our key girls, and hangs out with my friend about 20 out of 24 hours every day. She and almost all her family are believers, and are involved in a couple of different churches here. I’m not sure how my friend met her, but she has been consistent, faithful, and so helpful throughout the trip. She and my friend fasted and prayed about whether or not she should join Antioch and felt peace about it, and ever since, she’s been nothing short of an answer to prayer.
Bumaa came to our musicians lifegroup with his sister several weeks ago, and we hit it off pretty quick. He’s got a great style, a great ear for music, and genuinely loves God. I think he’s been drained of community and life has been difficult, but being with our team has been really helpful for his faith. We’ve hung out a lot and played music together. One day I played Young Love for some people and he asked me to teach it to him- he picked it up pretty quick! He has such a good ear.
One thing that bonded us is his big dream of going to Hillsong College. If you didn’t know, that was my biggest dream in High School too. Looking back, I’m so grateful The Lord didn’t give me that dream – not because Hillsong isn’t amazing, but because if I had gone there I would have never had my life transformed the way it was in college and I would have never been a part of the Antioch Movement. And I feel ridiculously privileged to be able to say I’m a part of Antioch! I’ve never found another church family doing so much around the world for the gospel, reaching the unreached, and literally making history. Praise God, he always has our best in mind!
Right now, I need to make a crucial decision about Bumaa. I don’t want to pull him away from his church, but if he isn’t growing OR serving there, it would probably best for him and for the kingdom for him to jump into our community! Please pray that I would have heavenly wisdom in this situation, and that God would guide the whole relationship and situation. I really do want what’s best for the Kingdom, whatever that is.
This weekend is the big 20-year celebration of Antioch Mongolia. As you know, my team is planting a new church, but all of our work is built on the foundation that has been laid by the older generation for the last 20 years. There is a movement of house churches throughout the nation, and our church in Ulaanbaatar is merely a piece of a really huge puzzle God’s putting together here. Jimmy Seibert and others who were involved in the church from the beginning will be here, and there will be a lot of celebration and thankfulness for what God has built here! He really does make all things new.
Other than that, I didn’t make a video update or anything, and there’s nothing else crazy that’s happened (other than one of the wildest experiences I’ve ever had with God- ask me about it), so I figured I could give you this instead:
Some of you may be familiar with this song. Some of you may not. It’s is a song from my new band Glenmerle. I made a really simple acoustic version while I was here in Mongolia, and although I don’t plan on selling it or promoting it right now, I wanted you to be able to at least hear it :)
Take it as a thank you for praying and staying involved in my life from thousands of kilometers away!
Please pray our team and our church stay unified. That is crucial. Pray that I know the Father’s heart and his love. Pray for our unsaved friends to have a revelation of Jesus that would cause them to open their heart and give their life to Him. Pray for us to continue to have divine appointments and walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. Pray for these last two weeks to be sweet!
Thanks Josh Franzen for this sweet picture!