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In His Time

When I was a teenager, “In His Time” was one of my favorite songs. I’m not much of a singer, but I loved when the girls would split off into the echo, creating a lovely harmony. Even though I understood, cognitively, what the lyrics meant, I never felt that His timing was any different from my own, and the only singular meaning I attached to these words was that the time of His second coming would be beautiful and in accordance to His distinct timeframe.

Although there were many significant milestones in my life: when I was baptized, when my father passed away, when I was called to be a missionary to Mongolia, when I met my husband and got married, when I had each of my four children, when I started and finished each of my degrees, etc., and even though some of these events came from out of the blue, I always felt that I was in sync with God’s timing—that is until recently.

Some of you readers may have been around long enough to know that I was one of the pioneer missionaries to Mongolia, in the summer of 1992. This was back when, upon the fall of the Soviet Union, Mongolia, by default, became a fledgling democracy. There were massive shortages of power and food, the infrastructure of the entire country was in shambles, the weather was blisteringly cold, and there was a spiritual void that desperately needed to be filled.  There were maybe a handful of Christians at best, and no Adventists. I was inept, inexperienced and ill-prepared, but my shortcomings made me truly depend on God for everything.  To say that I endured many hardships would be an extreme understatement, but the Holy Spirit poured blessing upon blessing on our efforts and the seeds began to bear fruit. It was an unbelievably poignant experience, and I count the nearly five years I spent in Mongolia as some of the best years of my life. 

When I left Mongolia in the fall of 1998, the Seventh-day Adventist Church had grown from zero baptized members to more than twenty, with a regularly attending congregation of nearly 100 young people, and official recognition to operate as a religious entity. I felt very much like a young mother leaving her children behind when it was time to go, and for years afterwards, Mongolia occupied a special corner in my heart. I kept in touch with our Mongolian friends, and although it took over a decade, in 2010, my husband, four children and I went back to Mongolia for the first time. Much had changed—for the better and for the worse—as is often the case; and since then, we have made multiple short-term mission trips to help the still-young church.

I was invited to speak at another evangelistic crusade, held in the fall of 2016, and at that time, I met the new Mongolia Mission president, who happens to be Korean. Pastor Yohan Kim shared some specific needs of the Mission with me and urged me to return to Mongolia. He was adamant that God had not blessed me with near-native fluency in the Mongolian language for naught, and that my talents were urgently needed again.

Our Adventist church is now over 2000 members strong, and the second-generation Adventist youth desperately desire the opportunity to study in an Adventist setting. Although we have one small church school attached to the Ulaanbaatar Central Church, there is no real program for secondary education, so the children are left adrift from middle school on. Pastor Kim insisted that my background in education (as a teacher and administrator) plus my know-how of the Mongolian language and culture, made me the ideal candidate for propelling Adventist Education forward.

BUT, the timing wasn’t right for me and my family. My husband was a newly selected Lt. Colonel in the USAF Dental Corps, with only five years left until attaining eligibility for a very generous military pension. I had one daughter in college (a sophomore), another who was a junior in high school, a son in middle school, and our youngest daughter was only in 3rd grade. We had mortgage payments, car payments, two widowed mothers for whom we were responsible, and I had just started my doctoral studies. On top of all that, my health was shot—years of overworking and stress had taken their toll, and my body had broken down. So, the timing just didn’t make sense.

We love our Mongolian brothers and sisters and had always planned on returning to Mongolia, but not until my husband retired, my youngest was off to college, our mortgage was paid off, and our finances were more stable—which we figured would take another ten years.

So I balked, and reasoned, and argued. But the Spirit was unyielding.

I finally laid out some Gideon tests—four of them—all of which I deemed were impossible to fulfill. They weren’t really conditions to be met, they were more like excuses that would enable me to repudiate God’s calling. Which just goes to show why we shouldn’t test God. All four “tests” were definitively resolved in a matter of a few weeks. I had nowhere else to turn. Our family fasted and prayed, then put the matter to a vote. Because this was a life-changing decision that would affect all of us, we felt that each member should have a say in the matter. The result was a unanimous decision to obey. We figured we couldn’t run away any more and that it would be best to submit before God sent a giant fish after us.

So, here I am, nearly 25 years to the day when I first set ground on this virgin mission soil—ready for round two. From a secular point of view (actually, from any reasonable point of view) we are nuts, but that’s all right. God’s pension plan is more secure than anything the military can offer us, and since we have experienced His provisions in the past, we know with absolute certainty that He will continue to provide—we’ll just have to wait and see how.

I have been given the task of establishing the first Seventh-day Adventist academy in Mongolia. Unfortunately, with the recent resurgence of the communist party and a nationalistic awakening of the Buddhist religion, this will not be an easy undertaking. In some ways, things may be more difficult than church-planting was back in the early 1990s—frankly I feel quite overwhelmed. However, this is His mission, and His timing, so I will just keep trusting Him and moving forward, because “He makes all things beautiful in His time.”

Joanne (Park) Kim, is the recently appointed Education and Development Director for the Mongolia Mission. Please pray for the new school project, check out the website, and see how you can become a partner in this special ministry:  gatewayiec.org

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