The following are summaries of each of the primary chapters in Tend My Sheep. We trust that you will gain a sense for the scope and spirit of the book through these summaries; and even if you are unable to purchase the book, we pray that you will be blessed by these few words and the ministry which they describe.
1. Spying Out the Land
Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites.
Numbers 13:2, NIV
In Chapter 1, Dr. Mitchum describes his initial impressions as he travels half way around the world with six other veterinarians from Christian Veterinary Missions to evaluate the potential for a veterinary mission presence in Mongolia. We then learn of the leap of faith which Gerald and Frances made in accepting God’s calling to leave their comfortable lives to become missionaries in a place that few Westerners have ever seen. Finally, we explore with Dr. Mitchum his decision to become a veterinarian and his impressions as he travels, teaches, and works during and following his years spent attending several universities.
2. You Mean Me, God?
“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”
Judges 6:15, NIV
Chapter 2 teaches us that missionaries are not special people, selected by God for their unique talents or abilities. The truth is, missionaries need God’s help more than most people, and they are in constant prayer seeking His guidance, strength, and Grace. Dr. Mitchum shares through Scripture and from his early experiences in Mongolia what it was like to ‘give it all up to God’, how he and Frances overcame any reservations they may have had by being faithful to God’s calling, and how they embraced their mission as proof that God’s timing is always perfect.
3. Touch Down
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5–6, NIV
Despite the absence of greeters upon their arrival in Mongolia, the challenges presented by their tiny apartment, the meager selection at the local grocery, and the many other cultural adjustments required of their new mission, Dr. Mitchum reveals in Chapter 3 that he and Frances remained faithful to what God was leading them to do. As Dr. Mitchum and Frances began teaching positions at the Mongolian Veterinary School, they were led to begin a Christian outreach ministry, from which the native professional veterinary organization V.E.T. Net was born. Chapter 3 is filled with wonderful stories of Mongolians coming to Christ.
4. Listen to the Animals
They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Bezer, who loved the wages of wickedness. But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey – an animal without speech―who spoke with a human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.
2 Peter 2:15–16, NIV
Animals are the lifeblood of the Mongolian herder population and ultimately provide the purpose for the Christian Veterinarian Missions ministry to Mongolia. Chapter 4 begins with several wonderful Scripture messages and personal accounts relating to animals. In his wonderfully simple, conversational style, Dr. Mitchum shares memories of events in his life and reflects on what the Bible teaches about man’s sinfulness, forgiveness, and fellowship. Dr. Mitchum ends with several wonderful stories about being a veterinarian in the rugged countryside of Mongolia. This Chapter is full of scripture messages and life’s valuable lessons.
5. Solid Granite
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.
Matthew 7:24–25, NIV
Chapter 5 begins with the wonderful re-telling of the time Dr. Gerald and Francis Mitchum were trapped in a sandstorm in the Gobi Desert and continues with several other stories that offer scriptural insights into the challenges and uncertainties of daily living. Like many other Chapters in the book, the touching stories told are of real lives affected in sometimes unequal measure by joy and tragedy and of the saving graces of those who offer their love and support. Clearly, the real story being written in Mongolia is one of Christian witness, charity, and commitment.
6. Traveling a New Road
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Psalm 51:7, NIV
How much do you know about sheep? In Chapter 6 you will learn much about these wonderful creatures and the many ways in which they are so important to the lives of the Mongolian herdsmen. You will also be introduced to several more of the many Mongolians who have influenced the lives of Dr. Gerald and Frances Mitchum and be awed by various adventures which could only be experienced in a country where a destination is virtually any place you choose to drive, regardless whether a road exists. Unfortunately, we also learn from one adventure that despite the best of intentions and the faithful following of God’s calling, not everyone can be saved.
7. The Field Manual
As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
Isaiah 55:10–11, NIV
More than once in his book Dr. Mitchum uses the simple act of fishing to illustrate how the right tools, methods, state of mind, or expression of faith can affect the outcome – whether the goal is to capture fish or men. Chapter 7 reminds us that in all things we must trust God and follow the teachings of His Son, Jesus Christ. We also learn from several wonderful stories about training stallions, milking mares, and hibernating marmots – all used to teach us about discipleship and the nurturing of Christian faith. Dr. Mitchum’s shared experiences are meant to teach us about what it means to be grateful for the little things, to find happiness in what we can share, and to fan the flames of faith wherever a fire can be started.
8. Molding a Team
What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.”
1 Corinthians 5:12–13, NIV
Oftentimes, we find the things that we hate the most are the things that are most valuable to us. As Dr. Mitchum points out in Chapter 8, the ancient Russian vans upon which the mission depends for just about everything fit into that category. Pieced together with spare parts and maintained with mechanical magic and frequent prayer, these vehicles are not unlike many Christian organizations in the Western world. As Christians, we are taught that we are all of one body. So even though – just like the rusty old vans – we may find our bodies bent, broken, and failing at times, we are taught to work together for the Glory of God. V.E.T. Net is the body of Christ in Mongolia.
9. The Gold Mine – Shuttle Vets
We continued our voyage from Tyre and landed at Ptolemais, where we greeted the brothers and stayed with them for a day. Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Phillip the evangelist.
Acts 21:7–8, NIV
In Chapter 9 Dr. Mitchum introduces the ‘Shuttle Vets’ – the long and short term veterinarians who travel to Mongolia (and other countries around the world) to provide supplemental expertise to the full time missionaries of the Christian Veterinary Mission (CVM). Founded in 1979, CVM has come to rely on the constant flow of the ‘Shuttle Vets’ as a means of remedying the shortage of qualified veterinarians and support personnel in developing countries. ‘Shuttle Vets’ are all volunteers, and Chapter 9 is filled with the stories of these faithful missionaries. Just as we saw with the Good Samaritan of the Bible, God continues to provide the right people in support of the Mongolian veterinary mission.
10. Fulfilled Dream
All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.
1 Samuel 17:47, NIV
In Chapter 10 Dr. Mitchum recounts that the process of witnessing to Mongolian herdsmen through their animals turned out to be a brilliant strategy, since the local veterinarian might be the only consistent source of outside contact for a herdsman. With V.E.T. Net a reality and the regular infusion of talent assured via the ‘Shuttle Vet’ program, all that was needed was a master plan for expansion. Through development and refinement of a Continuing Education Extension program, Dr. Mitchum and his teams were able to improve remote veterinary practices, establish specialized programs, secure gifted financing, and outreach with the Gospel of Jesus Christ far into the remote regions of Mongolia. Chapter 10 is the story of this remarkable network of indigenous talent, and how the people touched by God were put in place to make it happen.
People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
Luke 18:15-17, NIV
Most of us cannot imagine the conditions in which native Mongolian children live in their remote countryside villages. Chapter 11 begins with Frances recording her feelings about a small village school building: Freezing temperatures, outhouses with no doors, 8 children sleeping in a single room with minimal bedding, bathing only once every two weeks, 8-year-olds who cannot write their own name. No TV, telephone, blackboard, or school supplies. In the face of these realities and others like them facing the V.E.T. Net team, a new program was born. Through Claim-a-County-for-Christ, organizations in other countries partner with V.E.T. Net to support the needs (mostly teachers) of remote counties in Mongolia. Chapter 11 is the story of this program and of the people of faith who make it work.
12. Watering-with-the-Word (WWW)
He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
Matthew 17:20, NIV
The planting of churches in remote villages became an important part of the mission of V.E.T. Net as its ministry expanded to ever-more-remote regions of Mongolia. Finding Biblical ‘Paul’ and ‘Timothy’ figures among the Mongolians to shepherd and teach new believers remains a critical part of the process; but V.E.T. Net, along with the Claim-a-County-for-Christ program and an ever-present Lord of mercy, has successfully recruited necessary pastors and missionaries for the ongoing task. Beginning in 2008, an annual Shepherd’s Conference, hosted by V.E.T. Net, brings together leadership from each of the groups across the country to share in study, prayer, fellowship, and worship. Chapter 12 is the story of God at work as He continues to provide for the building of the Christian faith in Mongolia.
Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.
1 Timothy 6:18, NIV
In Chapter 13 we are reminded that becoming a Christian requires only a childlike faith and that service to the underprivileged is the simplest, purest expression of Christ’s love. Elaborate pretense is neither required nor desired. The newest program supported by V.E.T. Net – the Gift-of-Love program – is based on this principle. It is accomplished by assisting those most in need by providing food, medicine, and veterinary care through a somewhat complex set of relationships between the needy, the herders, the veterinarians, and V.E.T. Net. Chapter 13 explains this God-sent, innovative program and offers wonderful stories of those who have been affected by it. And as Dr. Mitchum reports, one of the unexpected-yet-significant side-effects of this program has been the elevation of the status of Christianity within the affected communities. Praise the Lord.
14. A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them – bringing swift destruction on themselves.
2 Peter 2:1, NIV
The title of Chapter 14 derives from the devastation which wolf packs regularly inflict on hapless sheep herds in the wilds of Mongolia. The same is true of ill-meaning influencers who bring false teachings to the newly-minted Christians witnessed to by V.E.T. Net. And just as the native Mongolian Bankhar dogs have become virtually extinct through inbreeding with the pets of Western visitors, so to the influx of erroneous Biblical teachings has threatened the sanctity of the Christian spirit of new believers. In Chapter 14 Dr. Mitchum tells stories of his experiences “fighting the good fight” to overcome false teachings, pagan religions, fear, and suspicion while spreading God’s Word to some of the most unreachable places on earth.
15. God’s Absolute Provision
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38–39, NIV
Oftentimes you will feel within the pages of this book the real passion with which Dr. Gerald and Frances Mitchum have witnessed to the ‘lost souls’ of Mongolia. As Dr. Mitchum states in Chapter 15 ‘There are risks in working here, but not following God is the greatest of them all.’ Despite periodic threats of lawsuits, violence, and extradition, V.E.T. Net has flourished under God’s absolute provision, overcoming circumstances which often work to undermine the good work being done. In the case of V.E.T. Net, these circumstances have often appeared in the form of organizations intent on de-stabilizing funding for the ministry. Through the Glory of God, the ministry continues.
16. The End
Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.
1 Thessalonians 5: 1–2, NIV
As Dr. Mitchum brings his story to a close, he reminds us all that change is a natural part of our world. Climate change is just the latest example. The only constant is the Grace of our Lord and Savior. In the harsh land of the Mongolian herdsmen, the Good News of the Gospel is being preached for the first time to hungry hearts by dedicated men and women who believe deeply in this constant and have felt the calling of the Holy Spirit to ‘give it all up to God’. They have left their comfortable and care-free lives because they – like two-thousand years of missionaries before them – have felt called to reach the remotest, most rugged regions of the world to share the Good News. And so the mission continues.