Llewellyn Juby served as the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) director for Mongolia for nine years. He shares the following experiences from his years of living and working with the people of that region.—Editors.
From Prison to Freedom
Imprisoned in 1987 with a one-and-a-half-year sentence for a minor offence, Gambat joined a prison gang in order to survive his incarceration. He became implicated in a prison gang fight, and his sentence was extended to 19 years. Recently, however, he finally walked out of that facility—a free man entering a new world he no longer recognized.
When Gambat was first incarcerated in 1987, Mongolia was a Soviet state; when he left prison, it was a republic. About 80 vehicles could be seen driving around Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar, at any one time in 1987; today more than 100,000 routinely crowd the roadways. The new buildings, billboards, and a myriad of buses leave him amazed and bewildered.
Gambat was in need of practical assistance after his many years in prison. A local nongovernment organization (NGO) kindly rented a small room in a basement for him and paid for a two-month building-construction course to teach him a skill that would help him find employment. The NGO workers then suggested he contact ADRA for his clothing needs. He came to our office, and we let him choose what he needed out of our storage containers. We also took time to talk with him about his experience.
Gambat’s story was heartrending. He told us of his many years in prison and the death of prison mates who gave up or became too weak to continue the struggle. He described others who developed permanent health problems after only two years of prison diet; he survived 19. He disclosed how those who died had been wrapped in old cement bags so other prisoners could keep the clothing for themselves.
He also shared his fear of meeting former prison friends and giving in to the temptation of drinking alcohol. It became obvious that Gambat desperately wanted to leave behind his bad habits and make a new life for himself.
I watched Gambat take off his old, soiled beret and throw it onto the ground. He then put on a new warm woolen hat I had given him. A big, happy smile spread across his face—he was rid of another symbol of his incarceration. He loved the warm coat and gloves we gave to him. With new shirts, trousers, socks, and long underwear, he now can face the cold Mongolian temperatures.
Gambat walked away with a spring in his step, carrying a bundle of clothes and dressed like a free man.
“If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight. I will always show you where to go” (Isa. 58:9, 10, Message).*
Fighting for Her Child’s Life
It seemed impossible for the young, single, unemployed mother to come up with the $850 needed to pay for a brain shunt for her 1-year-old son. She had appealed for help to several organizations and businesses without success before coming to ADRA. I longed to provide her with the full amount needed, but with so many people asking us for assistance, we have to limit the funds we can provide to no more than $100 per person. We put together a list for the young mother of other possible donors, however, describing the medical challenge the child faced. Using plastic liners to protect each page, I organized a folder of information that outlined all the facts regarding her case. Included was a letter from the subdistrict governor, the doctor’s diagnosis of hydrocephalus, a picture of the boy, and the precious donation list. The first name on the list was ADRA. Next to it was the ADRA stamp and the amount we gave her—$100. We hoped this sign of authenticity would encourage others to give as well.
After two weeks of tirelessly visiting numerous organizations, she had collected only $375. She faithfully kept a list of all the organizations she had visited and the reasons why most of them had not provided any financial help.
We then shared her story with our staff, and they responded with wonderful generosity. In one afternoon we raised an additional $266. Then the unexpected happened. She was given an opportunity to appear on a television program to share her challenge. One viewer greatly sympathized with her plight and offered to purchase the shunt for her, allowing her to use the rest of the money she had collected to pay for the operation, the hospitalization, the postoperative follow-ups with doctors, and even some food.
Our prayers had been answered. The Lord had provided her with more than enough money to supply her needs.
“Jesus was blunt: ‘No chance at all if you think you can pull it off by yourself. Every chance in the world if you let God do it’” (Mark 10:27, Message).
Spectacles of Joy
We had waited for five months for them to arrive. Finally, the precious box containing 52 pairs of eyeglasses arrived by post from Australia. A group of Australian optometrists had volunteered their time and had come to Mongolia one summer, visiting 22 schools in a two-week period and testing the eyes of more than 4,000 children and adults. Although they brought with them suitcases full of eyeglasses, they were not able to provide the eyeglasses of the correct prescription for everyone, so they had sent more.
I had the privilege of distributing them to the 16 students who were anxiously awaiting them. Excitement was evident in their happy faces. Some had worried that “the Australians living so far away would not remember their promise,” and now they rejoiced that the promise had not been forgotten.
What feeling can compare with that warm glow that comes with the opportunity to help someone in need?
“You’ll not likely go wrong here if you keep remembering that our Master said, ‘You’re far happier giving than getting’” (Acts 20:35, Message).
*Texts credited to Message are from The Message. Copyright 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.
Llewellyn Juby was ADRA’s regional director for Mongolia when he wrote this article. Currently, he is ADRA’s regional director for Sudan.