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James Gilmour Made An Eternal Difference!

Last week, in the light of the few folk that James Gilmour saw come to Christ, I asked a question: was his life and work wasted? I then asked my highly respected friend and colleague, a distinguished Mongolian Christian leader, to give an answer to my question.

This is his reply:
When I consider the work of the modern missionaries who have come and gone from among Mongols, I can see that some left a great legacy, some left terrible situations and some have been quickly forgotten. There are very few missionaries whose names shine like a star. One of them is James Gilmour, the Scotsman who lived and served among Mongols in a bad period in our history. He endured and left a lasting legacy, paying a high price. 133 years after James Gilmour’s passing, Ross Paterson, my dear brother, another Scotsman, a humble missionary among the Chinese and the Mongols, asked me: “Was James Gilmour’s life a wasted life”. To respond to his question I want to share a glimpse of the glory of God among Mongols. My name is Dr. BJM and I am one of the early Christians in the move of God there since 1992. Most of these writings are from my personal observation and in most cases I was a part of this recent history as an eyewitness.

Mongols have never been forgotten by God. God sent Nestorian missionaries in the early 7th century AD. Later, when Genghis Khan established the Mongolian Empire in the 12th century, among the six founding tribes, four were already Christian. Interestingly most of Genghis Khan’s daughters-in-law were Christians. There were many Christian mothers, fathers, warriors and statesmen in the Mongolian Empire.

But then as the Mongolian Empire spread and reigned over much of the world, the Christian presence somewhat vanished. Christianity became less widespread when Tibetan Buddhism was officially declared the state religion in 1640. It was the Mongols who gave the name “Dalai Lama” to the Tibetan religious leader.

But the Lord had not forgotten Mongolia. He moved amongst us. In those silent centuries God sent John of Carping, William of Rubruck, John of Montecorvino (who translated the Bible), Odoric of Pordenone, John of Marignolli, the Moravians, Isaak Jakob Shmidt (James Gilmour probably used Shmidt’s translation for his Bible distribution), Edward Pagell, Henry Augustus Jaeschke, William Augustus Heyde, Edward Stallybrass, Cornelius Rahmn, William Swan, Robert Yuille, John Abercrombie. These are the names of missionaries who prepared the path for James Gilmour. After James Gilmour there were missionaries such as Thomas Cochrane, Evariste Regis Hue, Pete (Joseph) Gabet, Theophile Verbist, Antoine Mostaert, Joseph Van Hecken, Frans Larson, George Hunter, Percy Mather, Cecil and Eleanor Polhill-Turner, John T. Gulch, Reginald Sturt, Stuart and Margaret Gunzel, Greta Nillson and Dr Gerda Allen and many more. Each and everyone made an impact on the Mongols in their time of service.

As a Mongolian pastor I want to honour their names and express my gratitude. If their descendants read this, they should be proud of what their great, great grandfathers did for us Mongols. I hope we may see all these missionaries in heaven in the Mongolian block, if there is such a place! All their lives were not wasted. The Bible says: “The world is passing away and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God continues to live forever” (1 John 2:17). The New Zealand missionary Dr. Hugh P. Kemp’s recorded this history in his book “Steppe by Step: Mongolia’s Christians from ancient roots to vibrant young church.” Dr Kemp himself was among us in the early 1990s and was one of my early mentors. 

Once more by God’s grace in recent years the Mongolian church has seen significant growth, from almost zero churches in 1991 to 600+ churches established among the Mongols, with more than 480 pastors ordained, and 10 or so Bible Schools and training centres equipping leaders and missionaries. The Bible has been translated in full with several revisions. Christian media ministries and publishing ministries are growing to provide all kinds of resources for Christians. After the last 30 years from 0% now 2% of our people are Christians, and they are serving all sectors of society to build our country on Biblical values.

Also God had a purpose to win more nations in later times when He raised up the Mongols in the 13th and 14th century as a world force. Because of the Mongol Empire, Mongols are known in world history. In some places, Mongols are more warmly welcomed than western missionaries because of this historic connection. The Mongolian church has sent missionaries in the past 30 or so years to the Middle East, Israel, Turkey, Russia, China, South Korea, Japan, some EU countries, UK, USA and Australia.

To the missionaries alive or with the Lord I want to say: YOUR LIFE WAS NOT WASTED. One plants, another waters, but God gives the increase (1 Cor 3:6-9). Without your diligence, patience and sacrifice we may never have seen such a growth in the past 30 years. Thank you and all glory to God.

By Dr. BJM

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