Pastor Sam Andres of King’s Cross Church in Defiance not only enjoys leading his local church, but spreading the good news of Jesus Christ through mission trips to other parts of the world.
Andres has taken mission trips to Mexico, India and Basque Country in northern Spain, but a little more than a year ago, a unique opportunity was presented to Andres. Missionary Brian McKanna, who works for Training Leaders International of Minneapolis (an organization that helps train pastors all over the world), and someone the members of King’s Cross have been supporting, asked Andres to take a mission trip with him.
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, where they helped train a group of church leaders who were bringing Christianity to Mongolia and beyond.
“About five years ago, I received a call from a missionary (McKanna) who was from the area (Columbus Grove), and who was doing mission work in Turkey,” began Andres. “He told me he was going to work for Training Leaders International, an organization I had heard of, and that he was going to go around the world and train pastors and other church leaders how to study the Bible, so they could lead churches and train other pastors and church leaders.
“He told me that 85% of pastors around the world have no formal training, because it’s just not available,” continued Andres. “So our church started supporting him, because at that time, we had been praying about getting involved in international missions. Since that time, he’s been to our church and preached ... it’s been such a great relationship.”
McKanna asked Andres late last year if he would be interested in going with him to Mongolia, which, of course, caught his attention.
“Mongolia?” asked Andres. “Of course it sounded crazy, but I had watched some of the ‘Planet Earth’ documentaries about Mongolia on the History Channel, where I saw a story about the Mongolian Eagle Hunters. They train golden eagles to hunt, and I thought, ‘Wow, I would love to see that.’”
Andres left Detroit Oct. 10, flew to Chicago, to Seoul, South Korea, and to Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia. He returned to the U.S. on Oct. 18.
Some of what Andres learned about Mongolia includes:
• Mongolia, which is bordered by Russia and China, has a population of just more than 3,000,000 people.
• Roughly half of all people in Mongolia live in Ulaanbaatar.
• Ulaanbaatar is exactly 12 hours ahead of the eastern time zone of the United States (meaning Andres didn’t have to change his watch).
• Mongolia has the largest equestrian statue in the world (of Genghis Khan riding his horse).
• The national drink of Mongolia is fermented mare’s milk (which, according to Andres, doesn’t smell or taste very good).
• Mongolia is called “The Land of the Blue Sky.”
• With the exception of being under Communist rule from 1921-90, Mongolia has had the longest period of religious freedom in history.
• About 50% of Mongolians practice Buddhism, a large percentage practice Shamanism, and a much smaller percentage are Protestant, Catholic and Muslim.
“I arrived late on a Friday night, and spent that Saturday doing touristy things just to get adjusted,” said Andres, who had his photo taken holding a golden eagle while sitting on a horse. “That Saturday we knocked on the door of a yurt and offered the owner money so that I could taste fermented mare’s milk, which everyone in Mongolia loves, but I found to be an acquired taste. But, it was amazing to experience the culture.”
Although pleased to take in the sights and learn about Mongolian culture, Andres’ purpose was to help teach pastors and church leaders about the Bible.
“We were there by invitation from a Mongolian pastor named Sheika,” said Andres. “He organized (26) pastors and church leaders to come together, so that we could equip them (with help from an interpreter), to take the message of Jesus Christ, more clearly and more effectively to Mongolia, and other places in Asia. We weren’t there as this great American hope, we were there to come along side Mongolians and help them learn the message of Jesus Christ.
“These trainees ... man were they hungry to learn about the Bible,” added Andres. “The best thing about it, is that they’re going to go back to where they are from and train others, which Training Leaders International hopes will spark the beginning of training generations of pastors. Our job, was to humbly go there, equip the pastors and church leaders with the message, and let them take it to the people in a way that’s culturally appropriate to them.”
When asked what stood out to him during his time in Mongolia, Andres didn’t hesitate to answer.
“What struck me was the way one student prefaced a question by saying, ‘We’re in our first generation of Evangelical Christianity, and you have had many, many generations of Christianity in your country,’ before asking me a very difficult question,” Andres said. “It hit me, this is very new in Mongolia, that we have such a rich heritage of Christianity in the western world, and how grateful I was for that.
“I was also grateful for the opportunity from my church ... the people gave me the time and resources to take such an amazing trip,” added Andres. “The world is such a small place, and the truth is we’re living in a globalized society. In fact, there was a Hard Rock Cafe right across the street from our hotel, which to me was just amazing. But what’s more amazing, was the chance to share the message that God can save us all through his son, Jesus Christ.”
On the cover: Pastor Sam Andres of King’s Cross Church in Defiance, poses for a picture holding a golden eagle while sitting on a horse during a mission trip to Mongolia in October.