Gift of Love 2019

The following is an edited extract from a December report on the V.E.T. Net Gift of Love program by V.E.T. Net missionaries Andrew and Chris Spence.  In it we have a story reported by a team of V.E.T. NET missionaries from Ireland.


Dear Friends,

What an exciting time it has been, as V.E.T. Net staff and friends have been busy distributing the sheep for this year’s Gift of Love program. There are still a few areas that have not yet been visited,  but the majority of the distributions have been made.  The stories that have come from these efforts are extremely touching.  What follows is just one of the many heartwarming examples of how Gift of Love is impacting lives.  This one comes from a team from Ireland that has been working as part of our V.E.T. Net team.

In Uganga the local vet chose three widows to receive Gift of Love sheep to help support their families. One of the widows was unable to come to receive her sheep, as she was with her son,  who was joining the military that day.  Instead, she sent her 22-year-old daughter on her behalf.  This daughter was recently divorced and had a one year old daughter; but she was already a believer. During the presentation of the sheep, the Gospel was shared with a short message. Nuda, one of our Gift of Love volunteers, invited all of the ladies to our hotel room later in the day to learn more about Jesus. All three of them came, along along with another lady they brought, as well!  All of the ladies gave their lives to the Lord, received prayer for healing, and provided personal testimony. The lady who came as a guest was given the name “no name” at birth; now she is a child of God, known personally by Him!

That same day we met a small group of six believers who have been meeting regularly in a local church. We were staying another night in Uganga, so the church agreed to invite some local people the next night to hear the Gospel. That next night the three Gift of Love recipients came — along with their friend — and the size of the church congregation tripled in size!  As the meeting was ending later that night, we were concerned that each of the ladies would have to walk home alone; so we began making plans to form groups to accompany each of the ladies. Shortly, we realized that the ladies in the church were already planning on personally driving each of the ladies home in their cars. It was beautiful to witness the church actively reaching out and befriending these new believers.  God is good!

 

Sheep

 


As we conclude our highly successful Gift of Love operations for 2019, we offer the following as prayer requests and praises:

Prayer Requests:

  • For the successful distribution of the remaining Gift of Love animals, for the safe travels of our volunteers, and for the open hearts of all recipients
  • For our continued positive relationships with all recipients

Praises:

  • For the generosity of all donors in 2019
  • For the open hearts of the people touched by the Gift of Love program and for those who have been personally involved in assisting with the program this year

Thank you for your part in helping to make the Gift of Love program possible. We look forward to reporting the final results from our 2019 program early in the new year. May the Lord bless you richly, just as you have blessed others.

In Him we trust,

Andrew and Chris Spence
V.E.T. Net Gift of Love Foreign Advisors

December 2019 Prayer Letter

Psalm 96:3 – Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

Dear friends:

This year Frances and I wanted to send you a Christmas greeting with an extra special meaning. So this letter comes to you following our month-long trip into the Mongolian countryside, during which we witnessed first-hand the glory of what God is doing via V.E.T. Net in the lives of people in the remotest regions of the country.  What we saw filled us with memories that will be with us for the rest of our lives.

During our month of travel, we witnessed God doing miraculous things in a nation where He had been unwelcome for hundreds of years. Now, the curtain has been torn, and the Spirit of God is living in the hearts of people across this land. Some of the nomads we visited live in places — and in conditions — you could not imagine in your wildest dreams. One family we visited had their closest neighbor  stop by for tea while we were there. When we asked, “How far away is their ger?” we were surprised by the response: “Oh, they live about 10 miles from here!” 

Remote XMAS 2019
Merry Christmas from Mongolia

Ulaankhuukhen is the “old” woman in the burgundy del sitting next to me in the above picture.  Just to be clear, she is the same age as me — so maybe “old” is not the best term to use here!  Ulaankhuukhen is the leader of a large family, some of whom are seen in this picture. Although her husband is dead, she has 12 children and a large number of grandchildren. The grandchildren go to school in the town which serves as the county seat, where they live in dormitories or with relatives. Ulaankhuukhen also spends time in town, where she helps look after a number of the children while they are attending school.

V.E.T. Net works in this county through the Claim a County project, even though this village remains a dark seat of Buddhism. Through the efforts of Claim a County teachers and the local pastor, Ulaankhuukhen came to know the truth about the Christmas Child. Like her, the first visitors to the Messiah were nomadic shepherds, so it was easy for her to accept this aspect of the Christmas story.  In due course, she asked the Savior into her heart. Now, all 12 of her children have claimed Christ as their Lord.

Tamara is the V.E.T. Net teacher responsible for the Claim a County, Watering with the Word, and Gift of Love programs in the far eastern state of Sukhbaatar (Tamara is on the left, in the front row of the picture).  During this year, we were busy implementing the Gift of Love in several of the counties in this state. The gift of giving is an amazingly powerful act. Hard hearts melt as some of the poorest people in the world receive a gift of sheep, bringing hope into their desperate lives. Although they butcher some of the animals, they keep most of the sheep and join them with the flocks of family or friends, thereby ensuring a steady supply of food for the future.

Tamara has friends across the state, and we met many of them as we stopped to provide training in schools and to offer our support in the local churches. People’s lives are being touched by the love of Christ, which is shared freely by those working with V.E.T. Net.

As we approach Christmas, the Holiest of seasons, we wish to express our gratitude to those of you who have given so sacrificially to make our work at V.E.T. Net possible. Perhaps simple pictures such as this one can help you understand how your gifts are making a difference in the lives of those who have been largely ignored as unreachable in the past.  Please place this photo where you can see it often, as a reminder to pray for Ulaankhuukhen and her family, and for the other isolated people of Mongolia.

We wish you a joyful and spirit-filled Christmas as we celebrate together the birth of Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Together in His service,

Gerald and Frances

2 Thessalonians 3:1b – Pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored.

Gift of Love – Witnessing the Impact

Frances and I  have just returned from the Mongolian countryside where we were part of a team implementing the Gift of Love project. Witnessing the devastation and tragedy in the lives of so many rural Mongolians was heartbreaking: Widows and widowers trying to raise children with little or nothing, young people who have lost limbs to accident or disease, and others  simply trying to survive in one of the most unforgiving places on earth.

Bat-Ochir was one of our Gift of Love recipients.  He was in a motorcycle accident, in which his leg was severely burned and had to be amputated. He is the young man with the crutches in the picture below. He has a wife and four children.  Work for the disabled in remote Mongolia is extremely difficult to find.  Receiving a small number of sheep that will provide food for the family during the coming winter months was a real encouragement to him and his family.

Bat-Ochir
Bat-Ochir

During one visit we sat across the room from  a herder  named  Munkhbat, who seemed especially sad.  His is a particularly poignant story.  Turns out his wife had died from an illness only days before our arrival, and he was devastated by her loss. He had been left with four children to raise and no one to help with their care while he was out with the animals most of every day. When we asked his plans for the children, he replied, “I just don’t know.” Sadly, he may have to divide the children between other families.

Munkhbat
Munkhbat

The gift of a few sheep did not take away the deep hurt that Munkhbat was was feeling, but it did show him that someone cared and wanted to help. In the harsh and sometimes cruel environment that is rural Mongolia, our small gift was more substantive than simply saying, “I’m sorry for your loss.”  It was a positive act  to help this family as they deal with the unimaginable loss of a wife and the mother of four small children.

In our travels, we were actually surprised to learn that in almost every case the recipients of our livestock did not want to slaughter all of what we provided. Most wanted to keep the small flock and watch them grow. One lady said that of the four sheep she had received last year, she used just one for food and kept the others for breeding. Now she has a total of seven sheep.  They will use some of the males for meat and keep the females to continue growing their flock.  In this way, rural recipients of our gifts are receiving not only food but also an opportunity to build a livelihood.

Everywhere we went, our acts of kindness were met with smiles and genuine gratitude.  This is what Gift of Love is all about.  We feel so blessed to be able to support this worthwhile mission, to serve the people of Mongolia.  To all those who have contributed and continue to support our efforts, we offer our thanks and praise.  May God be glorified.

Gerald and Frances Mitchum
November, 2019

October 2019 Prayer Letter

Psalm 96:3: Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

Dear friends,

The old grey van had found its final resting place next to a fence in Bayan Uul County in the state of Dornod. It had been relegated to the junk pile, where its only value was as a source of spare parts. The tires and wheels had been scavenged, and it sat immobile on its axles. It was nearly useless.  But to one desperate family, it had found a second life as a much-needed home.

The rusting door squeaked open as two young girls climbed from the wreck. They were followed by their disheveled mother, Gantuya, who gently cradled their one-year-old baby brother in her arms. Their father had been sent away to prison, and the family was left to fend for themselves. They spent their days searching for a few bites of food to avoid starvation.

One day, a strange vehicle pulled alongside the family, and the passengers began asking Gantuya questions. Later, she learned that she and her family had been chosen as recipients of the Gift of Love project that was being implemented by Mongolia V.E.T. Net. She was told that her family would be receiving four sheep for their winter meat supply.

Mongolia V.E.T. Net works with the county governors, the governor’s executive assistants, social workers, local veterinarians, and other community leaders to choose the neediest families in their county. The animals are given in the fall, when they are in good condition and the temperatures are cold enough so that the meat can be prepared and stored without spoiling.

It was October and the nights were becoming very cold. Soon Gantuya and her children would face dangerously bitter conditions. V.E.T. Net created an awareness of the plight of this needy family. The county governor and leaders of the community began to collect funds, and soon there was enough money to purchase a ger (a traditional Mongolian dwelling). Now this struggling family will have a warm place to spend the winter, and plenty of food.

Mongolia V.E.T. Net began the Gift of Love project in three counties in 2017. In 2018 the project grew to 67 counties in 11 states, and 519 families were recipients of animals. In that year, there were 2,224 sheep and goats distributed to some of the neediest families in rural Mongolia. Every dollar that V.E.T. Net receives for this project is used to purchase sheep and goats for the needy. There are no administrative or implementation fees subtracted by V.E.T. Net. Even better, the whole community gets involved. Many people are learning the joy of giving through this project, and generosity is becoming contagious.

We are grateful to those of you who have participated in the Gift of Love. Frances and I will be traveling throughout Mongolia this fall to meet with many of these recipients. We want each of them to have a better life.  And we want each of them to hear the wonderful news of the Savior who loves them and understand that even though they are poor they can become “rich” beyond measure by accepting Jesus into their lives.

Together in His service, Gerald and Frances

2 Thessalonians 3:1b: Pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored.

Monument to the Past

Mongolian Monument

Historically, religion in Mongolia was dominated by Buddhism and Shamanism, the ethnic religion of the Mongols.  As late as the early 1900’s there were hundreds of Buddhist temples throughout the country, and nearly one-third of all men in Mongolia were Buddhist monks.  With the fall of Communism in 1990, Christianity was given a long-awaited religious foothold in Mongolia. Today, Mongolia can count tens of thousands of Christians among the faithful.

Right outside the front door of the V.E.T. Net headquarters building in Ulaanbaatar is a monument to the workers of another era. You see, our building was once the administrative office for the leather and shoe-making industry during the Soviet occupation of Mongolia. One side of the monument reads: “Glory to the worker proletarians,” while the other says: “For the celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the Great Bolshevik Revolution from the Leather Industry Union.”

Today, this building is no longer staffed with forced laborers of a failed socialist society.  Instead, it is home to a team of young veterinarians and support personnel intent on improving the lives of Mongolian herders and the rural communities in which they live – and on spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

We are presently undergoing due-diligence in an effort to purchase this building that we have been leasing for a number of years.  We are trusting that God will provide us with the guidance and the resources necessary to take this important step, if it is His Will.  We have faithfully followed God’s lead during the last 25 years and will do so for this effort, as well.

Is V.E.T. Net having an impact?  You decide:

Not long ago, the son of a retired veterinarian who lives in a U.S. care facility managed by V.E.T. Net’s umbrella organization, CRISTA, was touring a remote area of the Gobi Desert during a visit to Mongolia.  While there, he struck up a conversation with a man who professed to be a Christian.  When asked how it was that he became a Christian, the man told him proudly, it was because of V.E.T. Net.“

How cool is that!

2 Thessalonians 3:1:  … pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you.

 

Metamorphosis

VET Net’s internship program is designed for recent graduates of the Mongolian Veterinary School. They have very limited opportunities for practical, hands-on experience, so the training received as interns is their best preparation for veterinary practice in rural areas. Their eyes grow large as they experience first-hand things they have only seen in the pages of books.

Of course, we want to help these young veterinarians become competent practitioners, because V.E.T. Net needs young, energetic, and capable veterinarians to fill the expanding needs of the organization. But we also have other reasons for providing this program:  We are seeking veterinarians who share our goals, our values, and our vision.

Puujee is one of our recent interns, having joined the program in May of 2018. She is a vibrant young woman with a wonderful personality. Every morning at 8 AM you can find Puujee joining in the singing of worship songs and listening intently to the V.E.T. Net devotions. She works closely with Solonogo, another V.E.T. Net veterinarian, who is also a committed Christian. For months, Puujee has observed closely the lives of these people who call themselves Christians, taking stock of how their faith is an integral part of their everyday lives. Recently, Puujee decided to follow Jesus, to make Him part of her everyday life.  Puujee knows that this is a life-changing decision.  As she says, “Now I am a new person. God has changed me into a new creation.”

We rejoice with this young woman who has placed Christ at the center of her life, and we pray that she will continue to grow strong in her faith.  We also pray for all of our interns, for their growth as individuals, and for the contributions which they will continue to make to the wonderful program that is V.E.T. Net.  And of course we pray that many of Puujee’s contemporaries will find their way to Christ, just as she did.  Change is good!

Tibet

Not long ago, we had a morning devotion that was quite interesting. Enkhtuya, one of our kindergarten teachers who has been with V.E.T. Net approximately one year, shared her life-story with the V.E.T. Net team. Normally quiet and reserved, she surprised us all when she revealed that she had been on a mission trip to Tibet.

It is said that Tibet is more difficult to visit than North Korea, with the Chinese government strictly controlling all access to the country.  Foreigners often require as many as seven different visas.  However, Mongolians have no such restrictions. In fact, they don’t even need a visa. Tibetans are close to Mongolians because of a shared religious history — Tibetan Buddhism came to Mongolia approximately 450 years ago.

Enkhtuya revealed that, during her mission trip, she and her friends would knock on doors and ask permission to spend the night. They then had the opportunity to share the Gospel privately with the host family.  Sounds just like the way the Gospel was spread in the New Testament!

Isn’t this amazing? Just a few short years ago there were virtually no Christians in Mongolia.  Now Mongolia is a missionary-sending nation! In a very real sense, Mongolia is like the Switzerland of Asia: Friendly with all surrounding nations — including China, Russia, Japan, North Korea and South Korea. Mongolia is given favorable status in nearly every endeavor with those countries, while maintaining its positive relationship with the United States and other Western nations.

Each time we are privileged to share the Gospel and witness the wonderful gift of a life transformed, we know that God is at work, around us and within us.  Watch for our next post, in which we will share just such a story of change and transformation!

Life in Ulaanbaatar

Every day, my wife, Frances, and I walk home from the office and then climb the stairs to the 8th floor apartment where we live — not bad for a couple of septuagenarians!  The walk from the office takes about 45 minutes.  And get this . . . Frances has never even been in the elevator of our apartment building! She fears the electricity will go out and she will be left in a tiny box hanging from a cable.  Given where we live, I suppose that is not an unreasonable fear!

From September of one year into the first few months of the following year, we watch as the mercury crawls ever-farther down the glass tube on our thermometer. You might think that the cold would be unbearable, but the body has an amazing ability to adapt.  Although the winter chill is difficult to accept in the beginning, by the end of the year 20-30 degrees below zero starts to feel pretty normal. And did you know that Centigrade and Fahrenheit are the same at minus 40 degrees? At that temperature, the C and F indicators become irrelevant!

Several times each winter, Frances and I undergo what we jokingly call our unofficial osteoporosis testing on the streets of Ulaanbaatar. During much of the winter, the sidewalks are covered with ice.  Invariably — and with surprising regularity —  we end up flat on our backs.  The falls happen so fast, and it’s only after we pick ourselves up off the frozen walkway that we establish whether we have passed the annual testing!

To add to our winter woes, the air in the Mongolian capital city is among the worst in the world. Although the air outside the city is pristine, within the city limits the coal smoke is stifling. Some years ago, I developed bronchitis and hacked constantly. We seriously considered that we might not be unable to continue our mission in Mongolia. Fortunately, I was able to work out a solution: First, we purchased an air purifier for the apartment.  Second, we started wearing face masks and hooded jackets.  Although we would likely be arrested if we dressed like that in an American mini-mart, the simple face and head coverings cured me and allowed me to continue my work for the Lord in Mongolia.

“Is it really cold at 30 or 40 below?” you might ask.  Well, one day somebody dropped a whole carton of eggs on the sidewalk along the route we walk to work every day. The eggs froze instantly on contact, and we walked on sunny-side-ups for the rest of the winter.   Don’t try that at home!

Ger Life

You get up well before dawn to start the fire.  There is no running water, no indoor bathroom, no shower, and cooking is on top of the small coal stove in the center of the only room. A trip to the outdoor toilet is to be dreaded and is strictly avoided, except for the direst of emergencies.  There is no way the kids are leaving their warm covers to face the freezing temperatures until the fire is hot.

Life is definitely not easy in a Mongolian ger (tent).

It is a credit to the pride and work ethic of the Mongolian employees at V.E.T. Net that although many of them live in gers and therefore face difficult circumstances every day, they somehow arrive each day neat, well-groomed, and ready for work. The children immediately go off to the daycare center over the garage at V.E.T. Net headquarters, while mom and dad attend devotions before going to their respective jobs.

Now, it may sound strange that we routinely employ husbands and wives in the same organization (and in many cases in the same building).  But there is a reason we have multiple married couples at V.E.T. Net.

Picture this:  Two young singles come to work at V.E.T. Net because they need work or have heard of the wonderful things that V.E.T. Net is doing in Mongolia. They may already be Christians, or they may be interested in learning more about Christianity.  Regardless, before long the veterinarian falls in love with the teacher or accountant – or vice versa. Soon there are wedding bells, and before long the two singles are a working couple.

Some months or years later we find ourselves sitting at a table in the young couple’s first real apartment, attending an open house to share in their joy and excitement.  The apartment is warm and cozy, and two young children play quietly in the bedroom as the young couple smiles warmly.  Their lives are changing, and they have so much to be thankful for.

But there are many V.E.T. Net staff members who still live in substandard conditions.  So this past year V.E.T. Net started a new program to help young employees who have proven themselves capable of managing money and debt. Under this program, V.E.T. Net provides a grant of $3,000 to help with a down-payment on an apartment.  This is money that does not have to be re-paid! So far, five families have taken advantage of this new program, and four are already in their new apartments.  No more outdoor toilets!

God is always faithful to those who love him and do his work.

Sheep Drive

This past weekend I had the opportunity to stand in front of the congregations of three services at my home church in Pinehurst, North Carolina, and talk about V.E.T. Net.  Now, anyone who knows me is fully aware that I can talk about anything for just about as long as someone is willing to let me talk.  So when I was asked to tell the story of V.E.T. Net and why it means so much to me and to the people of Mongolia in 10 minutes or less, I knew I would be challenged.

My appearance on stage this weekend was actually the culmination of a month-long event at Christ Community Church called the Sheep Drive, during which children of the church were encouraged to bring their donations to Sunday school each week as a way of establishing a bond with the V.E.T. Net Gift-of-Love program.  This program is a God-inspired process by which rural veterinarians provide veterinary medicines to remote herders, who in turn provide sheep and goats to feed the poorest of the poor in Mongolia. V.E.T. Net oversees the process by purchasing the veterinary medicines and working with local organizations to identify those in need.

The V.E.T. Net story which I shared this weekend is one that only God could have orchestrated.  In the aftermath of the Soviet occupation in the early 1990’s, Christianity was given a foot-hold in a country long-dominated by Buddhism.  It was in this environment that V.E.T. Net was established to train veterinarians, provide internships to local university students, offer veterinary support to remote veterinarians and herders, and spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Supported by short and long-term veterinarian missionaries, V.E.T. Net has now been providing friendship, practical guidance, and the soul-saving love of Christ to the Mongolian people for over 24 years.

So this is what I talked about for about 10 minutes at three services this past weekend.  Plus I had the opportunity to sign copies of my book, Tend My Sheep, which is the story of V.E.T. Net and my 24 years of missionary work in Mongolia – a mission which I have joyfully shared with my wife, Frances.   Over the years, Christ Community Church has sent a number of its members to Mongolia to experience first-hand the wonders of this great country and of the V.E.T. Net mission which it supports.  It was wonderful to have the opportunity to speak with so many people who understand and support the mission of V.E.T. Net as it touches the lives of the Mongolian people and enriches their souls with the saving faith of Jesus Christ.

Oh, and during the month-long Sheep Drive, we raised over $15,000 for V.E.T. Net, including contributions from the congregation, online donations, and the personal treasures of our precious Sunday school children. At a cost of approximately $50 per sheep/goat, V.E.T. Net will be able to provide life-saving nourishment to over 300 of Mongolia’s poorest families. 

Praise God for his faithfulness!