World Vision began working in Mongolia shortly after the USSR collapsed in 1991. For the first time in decades, the historic homeland of Genghis Khan was open to the gospel. Since then tens of thousands of people have come to Christ. They, in turn, are eagerly sharing their newfound faith with others.
Recently I read an inspiring story about a small diner in Murun, Mongolia. The neighborhood café was established six years ago by a small group of Christians intent on spreading the Good News through friendly conversation and excellent food.
Here is what Uelun Tuvshinjargal, a World Vision communications staff member in Mongolia, wrote after visiting this special “God space” on the streets of Murun.
When I first saw Shalom Bakery’s cement storefront, it reminded me of the early ‘60s when my grandparents lived in such buildings. Mongolia was a satellite country of the Soviet Union then. Despite the grim exterior, I am pleasantly surprised upon entering the café. The dining room is dimly lit with Christmas lights, adding ambience to the room. The tables are cozily spread apart, and the food smells mouth-watering. The plates of sizzling meat delivered to the tables could stimulate anyone’s appetite, and the friendly staff behind the counter makes you feel welcome.
Sharing the Good News
“Our staff has become like a family,” says chef Bayanmunkh, one of the founders of Shalom. “Six years ago, my friends encouraged me to start attending church. At the time, I did not have a job and I was very grumpy and would take out my anger on my friends and family.”
Everything changed when Bayanmunkh agreed to go. “Attending church changed me,” she says. “I became more relaxed and more peaceful. At the church, I met my co-workers. We all attended church and prayed. After a while, we became good friends and we realized we wanted to open a place where we could read Scriptures and spread God’s Good News! We named it ‘Shalom’ because that is the Hebrew word for peace and completeness.”
The church gave Bayanmunkh new friends and a new business — and new recipes. “My pastor taught me how to bake my first apple pie,” she says. “It was an amazing thing! Then I taught myself how to decorate cakes. I also love experimenting with the recipes. I have learned many new recipes from trainings organized by World Vision. I also watch cooking shows and read cooking books,” admits the chef, her eyes full of sparks, energy and optimism.
Since the café opened its doors, staff hand out food every month to street children and people with disabilities in the community.
“We would not have been able to do this kind of charity to the community if it was not for World Vision. We would not have gotten the first loans to rent this place or to buy the kitchen utensils and ovens,” says Bayanmunkh.
Faith and support provide motivation
But when light is present, shadows are never far away. Bayanmunkh recalls that the bakery staff had many ups and downs in the early days.
“At first we would work long shifts and could not make any earnings,” she says. “We thought we would not be able to pay the rent and would not be able to buy the ingredients. However, we motivated one another. We never lost hope. Our faith was a great push for us to continue with our goal. And the diner started getting more and more popular.”
Bayanmunkh’s health problems have been a challenge, too. She gets muscle pain and migraines, but “whenever I start baking pastries, I forget about my sickness,” she says.
“There were times where I wanted to give up,” Bayanmunkh admits. “But luckily I had an entire crew of friends to support me and help me through my mistakes. Due to faith and support from coworkers, I was able to get back up and get motivated.”
Vision for the future
The staff at Shalom hope to open another branch soon. And in time they hope to earn enough money to buy their own delivery truck. Most of all, they want to keep spreading the Good News and doing good deeds in the community for the years to come with exquisite tasting and healthy desserts and pastries.
Amen to that! —Marilee