Two generations of children receive gift-filled shoeboxes in a remote region of Mongolia.
Baljinnyam’s address might as well be “the ends of the earth.” To reach the valley where his two gers are located, you must drive more than nine hours west of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, to the province center of Bayankhongor. Since this is the province where Baljinnyam lives, you might think you’ve arrived, but the true journey has just begun.
Next, you must follow a washboard gravel road stretching out of town along a stream until it gives way to faint tire tracks that continue through rugged terrain. After two hours along this jarring path, you’ll come to the valley where Baljinnyam grazes his 500 sheep and goats, 120 yaks and cows, and 25 horses.
In this idyllic spot in the shadow of Horse Saddle Mountain, you’ll even find a solar receptor perched near one of his gers to power his refrigerator and cell phone. But more important than getting electricity in this remote place, Baljinnyam and his family have experienced the transforming power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ—the result of an Operation Christmas Child outreach.
The Good Shepherd Sends a Gift
Upon the arrival of a group of guests, Baljinnyam kills a goat and proceeds to gut it and skin it, before preparing the meat for lunch. His four-year-old daughter, Amina, begins to cry as the life flows out of one of her furry friends. Growing up in the countryside, she’s seen sheep killed before, but never a goat. But this, too, prepares her heart for an important message later that day.
After the meat begins to cook in one of the gers, an Operation Christmas Child volunteer named Tzogzolmaa gathers the family together in the other ger for a special presentation. She begins reading aloud The Greatest Gift, a colorful booklet that shares Gospel stories. As Tzogzolmaa turned through the pages, Amina sat listening attentively, delighted to point out the sheep she noticed in some of the illustrations.
“I am a Good Shepherd,” read Tzogzolmaa from John 10, “I know my sheep, and my sheep know me. The Good Shepherd gives his life for the sheep.”
Using images familiar to the herding family, she went on to explain that like a shepherd who cares for his flock, Jesus gave His life to save us. When Amina heard this, the image of the slaughtered goat was not far from her mind.
Tzogzolmaa then had a surprise for her young friend.
“Jesus sent you a gift,” she said as she handed the 4-year-old a red-and-green Operation Christmas Child shoebox. Amina was immediately intrigued by the paper and colored pencils inside as well as the comb, toothbrush, washcloth, and jump rope. Her two favorite items, though, were a blue and green sundress and a ruler with the words “Jesus love you” written on it. With a fresh smile, she immediately put the dress on over her other clothes and for a long time afterward, she enjoyed sharpening the pencils from her box as well as learning to jump rope.
A Father’s Journey
“Seeing my daughter receive a shoebox gift was really touching,” said Baljinnyam. Millions of grateful parents around the world echo his sentiment after tens of thousands of Operation Christmas Child outreach events are held annually. This gift-filled shoebox was especially meaningful to him since he had received one himself in 2008 after hearing the Gospel from Tzogzolmaa.
As a 13-year-old herder, Baljinnyam’s favorite item in his box was a toy horse. Similar to his daughter’s experience that day, The Greatest Gift booklet also captured his heart those 14 years ago.
“When I read the booklet, everything written there was true, so I decided to believe in Jesus,” Baljinnyam said.
His father, Erdenebat, saw the transformation in his son and also became a believer a year later. Afterward, when Baljinnyam would take care of their sheep, Erdenebat sent him off with a Bible and told him to read it.
“So while I was outside in the countryside, I read the Bible,” Baljinnyam said. “When I came back to my home, my father always said, ‘What have you read? Please tell me.’”
As he read the Bible, Baljinnyam came to understand many things, including that “there are certain things that I can do, and certain things I cannot do.
“When I go out and ride my horse, I see the wonderful nature and I’m so amazed that God created everything—the land, mountains, rivers that He created so wonderfully,” said Baljinnyam. “Reading the Bible, I understood that God is made of Spirit—not made of dirt, not made of sand, not made of this worldly stuff.“
Now, 14 years later, he continues to share what he learns from the Bible—only now it’s with his wife and daughter. Together, they seek to do what it says.
Erdenebat sees his son growing in the Lord. “He doesn’t worry about anything. He’s full of peace,” he said. Grateful for this spiritual fruit, the father’s hopes for his son are simple: “I wish that Baljinnyam will be near to God and live a straight line for Him.”
Baljinnyam desires to be faithful, yet he faces challenges that are unique compared to believers in many parts of the world. Since his home is so remote, Christian fellowship and church attendance are rare highlights. However, he still pursues the Lord Jesus Christ.
In this remote spot in the Mongolian countryside, generations now have been blessed by Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts. Both grandparents and parents rejoice that young Amina too has received a tangible expression of God’s love in a gift-filled shoebox—just like her father Baljinnyam 14 years prior.
“Amina was very happy to receive a gift and hear the Gospel,” said her grandmother Ganbileg.
Baljinnyam added, “I hope she grows up reading the Bible just like me.”
To encourage this, Tzogzolmaa will make the long journey to Baljinnyam’s gers regularly over the coming months to lead Amina through the 12 lessons of The Greatest Journey, Samaritan’s Purse follow-up discipleship program. This course teaches shoebox recipients around the globe how to follow Jesus Christ and share Him with others.
Please pray that Amina and her mother will come to trust in Christ and that the family will represent Him well in the countryside of Mongolia.
It’s not too late to send a shoebox gift to the ends of the earth! Learn how to pack a shoebox and bring it to one of nearly 300 drop-off locations open through Nov. 20. Or, you can always Pack a Shoebox Online.