By Dr. Gerald Mitchum
A Mongolian herder went to a distant place to trade for a new horse. He proudly placed a lead rope on his purchase and started back on his long journey. However, there is a problem. There are no fences to hold his horse. Almost all of Mongolia is open range and there is nothing to keep this horse at his new home – no friends, no familiar surroundings, and no memories. He has been taken away from the world he knew and placed in another world, quite alien to him. He craves his old friends and the pastures he knew so well. He longs to go back to all that he left behind.
The herder finally arrived home and approached his ger with his new addition. He was tired and ready to rest himself from the long journey, but knew he could not simply leave the new horse with his already comfortable, complacent herd. Though they were “birds of a feather,” he knew his new horse would quickly take flight and return to his old life. If left on his own, he would fly away not to rest until his hooves felt the earth they had plied for years. He would whinny to his old friends as he topped the last hill to alert them of his return. The wizened herder takes a short length of rope and fashions a loop to slip over his new horse’s head, loosens it enough not to choke, but tight enough to avoid him slipping free. The other loop is placed on an old and reliable home-range horse. The old horse leads his new burden down to the clear water streams, through the rocks, and teaches him where the best grass in the valley grows. He is tied to this newly arrived “friend” for many days. The horse teaches him the ways of his new home and helps him forget the memories of the life gone past. Very soon, the rope is no longer needed. The joy of being accepted and now comfortable in his new home in the new herd, the losses of his old life are brushed away. The older horse, now exhausted from the lack of privacy and the grind of always having someone grazing beside him, revels in the knowledge that he now has a close friend in the herd who is adjusting well and contributing to the good of the whole herd.
Similarly, the new believer in Christ, Mongolian or western, is suddenly jerked from his old environment into a completely foreign world; it is the world of Christianity. There is a new language with words he doesn’t understand, new values that he’s not quite ready to embrace, and a whole new set of friends with different habits and lifestyles. They all read the same “Book” and ponder its pages with intrigue and wrinkled brow. They meet regularly together to sing, to worship and praise God, and to encourage one another. Just like the newly traded Mongolian horse, the new believer finds himself in a very strange world and wonders nervously how to fit in without feeling hopelessly out of place. He may sometimes feel like fleeing as well. Although he sits stoically in his padded pew, the pads do not comfort him from the lonely feeling of displacement from the past. He may yearn for his old life and long for some of those things left behind.
This is a wonderful visual of the Great Commission as it was clearly given to us by Christ Himself: “Go and tie yourself to young believers and lead them closer to Me.” This is the primary need anywhere we encounter young Christians. Connection is the only way the gospel of Jesus can truly impact our world. It produces multipliers and it leads to a strong and sustainable church.
CVM is dedicated to investing in people to meet their holistic needs – physical and spiritual. Veterinary fieldworkers build relationships through the doors opened by providing and teaching veterinary care and, as people come to know Jesus, they walk beside these new believers to help them adapt to their new life as Christians. They teach, comfort, listen, encourage, and introduce them to the joy of life in the Body of Christ. Evangelism, mentoring and discipleship are the keys to ensure new believers grow in understanding and maturity in their faith. Having friends to love, guide, and support you is essential.
This story is adapted from a prayer letter by CVM fieldworkers Dr. Gerald and Frances Mitchum working with V.E.T. Net in Mongolia. To find out more about their ministry, visit our website at https://cvmusa.org/serve/long-term/current-field-staff/mitchum/