A large group turned out for the pie auction fundraising event at Smithville Mennonite Church (SMC), Ohio, to benefit Laura Schlabach's work in Mongolia. SMC is one of six Mongolia Mission Partnership churches. Photo by Kim Kellogg.

By Mennonite Mission Network staff
Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Laura Schlabach, a long-term international worker in Mongolia, shared her insights on God's work in Mongolia over the past three decades during a presentation in March at Mennonite Mission Network offices in Elkhart, Indiana. 

She highlighted the formation and evolution of the Mongolian Mission Partnership — a group of six Wayne and Holmes County, Ohio churches that support workers and projects through Mennonite Mission Network — and her roles within Joint Christian Services International (JCS). JCS is a consortium of international Christian organizations that works with the people of Mongolia to achieve their full God-given potential through development and relief while encouraging the planting, growth, development and unity of indigenous churches.

 

Schlabach served several years in administration in the JCS office in Ulaanbaatar. Eventually, she joined a community development project in Zuunhara for two years before moving to Bayanhongor where a branch office was opened. After 10 years, Schlabach moved back to administration in the JCS office in Ulaanbaatar where she now serves as a member of the executive leadership team as director of the finance and information technology departments.

Since arriving in 1993, she has seen significant changes and growth in the local church – not only in numbers, but in depth and outreach, especially in mission activities, emphasizing the importance of partnership and adaptability in mission work.

Schlabach also described the shifts in JCS's organizational structure in response to changing needs and government regulations, emphasizing a move towards a more program-based approach to ensure sustainability.

 


Schlabach said the needs of the church in Mongolia are very different than they had been 25-30 years ago. “Foreign church planters and evangelists were not really needed any longer, but disciplers and mentors were, and still are.”

Significant challenges included adapting JCS's structure not only to meet government requirements for non-governmental organizations, but to be more sustainable while maintaining its mission. Despite organizational uncertainties and personal struggles, Schlabach found reassurance in faith, describing a pivotal moment while praying for guidance during that challenging time — "I was given two words,” she said, “Surrender and serve."

Schlabach shared the historical context of Mongolia, including Chinggis Khan, the founder and first Khan of the Mongol Empire, which became the largest contiguous empire in history. The Mongolian church envisions spreading the gospel to the 40 countries that made up the Mongol Empire.

She described "Bless Mongolia" a Bible distribution project with the goal to reach every home in Mongolia. Since 2019, they have reached 63,000 homes. In 2022, Mongolian Evangelical Alliance (MEA) collaborated with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, to hold a two-day "Festival of Joy" in Ulaanbaatar which drew over 1,000 people each day responding to the invitation to follow Jesus. Both “Bless Mongolia” and MEA are partner organizations with JCS.

Despite the delicate balance of supporting local religious organizations while maintaining JCS's non-religious registration to continue their impactful work, Schlabach remains committed to her role, drawing strength from her faith.

 

 

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