Missionaries to Mongolia
While a college student at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, California, Brian just happened to pick up a magazine by Wycliffe Bible Translators. When he began reading the Holy Spirit immediately fell on him. Brian was feeling as if God had poured His heart for the nations on him, and thought this is what people must have meant by a call to missions. Brian had no idea what “missions” was but he would spend the next five years discovering it. He quickly realized that missions had to with loving what God loved…people. Soon after this, the first thing that Brian did was change his major from natural resources management to English. Yet, it was not long before Brian began to think that the whole college thing was a distraction from what God was doing in his life. He believed leaving college would just make pursing this mission’s path much simpler. While Brian was in the process of leaving school, he felt God telling him to submit the final decision to his mother’s approval. Brian asked his mom to really pray about his decision, and she agreed. After a few days Brian’s mom stayed true to her word and prayed about Brian’s decision and called and told him that he should stay in school as she believed he was not finished at Cal Poly.
During Brian’s third year of college he joined a School of Discipleship through his church along with 35 other students. Brian got very close to the other students in the class and one student named Louise came to him several times to ask for a ride home. Yet, because Brian was a thrifty thinker he always found another person who lived closer to her to take her home. It was not until the end of the school year and into the summer that Brian received a postcard from Louise that made Brian believe that shed had some interest in him. That very next fall Brian found Louise at a concert and ran up behind her and said, “So when you going to marry me?” Louise then looked over her shoulder and said “So when are you going to ask?” Talk about a good icebreaker! Both were a bit shocked by the immediate responses, and decided to meet at a coffee shop. It was there at the coffee shop that they learned that each other was interested in missions work and agreed to pray about getting married. After praying all night about marrying Louise Brian was sure. He called Louise and took her to a Mexican restaurant for their first date. Brian immediately told her that he had heard from God and that they were to be married. While Louise was still unsure, she committed to keep praying. By the end of that week Louise shared the same conviction and they were married in June of 1984.
Navajo Gospel Mission
After college as Brian and Louise were searching for job opportunities that would use their English and Counseling degrees and they found a teaching position in a mission elementary school on a Navajo Indian Reservation. Brian’s interest in Mongolia began when he was working with the Navajo of Arizona. While working on the Navajo Reservation the Hogan’s fell in love with other missionaries in training. Rick and Laura Leatherwood while training to minister to the Navajo were also studying the culture and people of Mongolia. Rick was convinced that the Navajo were as close to the people of Mongolia as he could get. The cultural connection was explained by the fact that Navajo were the last to come over the land bridge from Mongolia to the American continent. The Leatherwood’s passionately believed they were called to Mongolia, but to date the country had been closed to all missionary activity. It was this relationship with the Leatherwood’s that first gave the Hogan’s vision and passion to work among unreached peoples and specifically the Mongolians. In 1988, the second year at the Navajo Reservation, the Hogan’s were students in the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement Course. When Brian was introduced to the course he was not very interested because he did not see the value in studying missions when they were already serving as missionaries. It was through this class a whole new world was opened for both Brian and Louise as they learned the theme of missions throughout the Bible, and in the history, culture, and strategy of those who had gone before them.
The Hogan’s began to consider leaving the established work among Navajos to advance the Kingdom in Mongolia among a people who had never received the Gospel. In the 13th century the Mongol tribes under Genghis Kahn conquered most of Asia. Up through the early 20th century Mongolia was a dark and superstitious country. It was isolated, desolate, full of banditry, demonology, illiteracy, and strange and repulsive customs as the people embraced the religion of Tibetan Buddhism. Beginning in 1921, for over seventy years the Russians forcibly swept away the superstitious cultural impediments that bound the people, and instituted education and medical innovations. When Communism collapsed in the Russian Empire, the way was cleared for the Gospel to advance throughout Mongolia. There was no church and no known indigenous believers any where in Mongolia. Through prayer, deliberation, and a series of miraculous interventions from God the Hogan family (now with three small daughters) found themselves living in Mongolia in the early 1990s.
Rick Leatherwood led one of the first short-term teams to enter this closed country as a group of Native Americans as tourists in 1990. Their visit got national press, and got them a second visit in 1991 where they publicly baptized 36 new Mongol believers. Brian and Louise were apart of a multi-ethic team in Erdenet, Mongolia from Sweden, Russia, and the United States. The first Mongolian believers in Erdenet were a group of 14 teenage girls. Yet, the Hogan’s knew that a ministry among teenage girls was not all that God had sent them to Mongolia for. They began to pray for a breakthrough among heads of households and that whole families coming to faith in Christ. Their breakthrough came when they discovered the word missionaries were using for God, had no indigenous cultural context. While the New Testament translator had tried to stay from confusing Christianity from Tibetan Buddhism by avoiding use of the Mongolian word for “god”, they discovered that the new made-up word they were using for God made no sense to the people. The older indigenous term was also used in the Mongolian Bible that had been translated in 1846 by the London Missionary Society.
Magnus and Maria from Sweden had moved to pioneer the work in the city of Erdenet in 1992, just as the Hogan’s arrived in Mongolia to begin language learning. The team’s approach to church planting was to gather new believers in small simple home fellowships. The groups would meet in their small apartments to share the Lord’s Supper, worship, baptize new believers in their bathtub, encourage one another, and interact with God’s Word. The focus of the gatherings was on teaching believers to know Jesus and obey His commands, and on transferring and modeling leadership for the emerging Mongolian leaders to learn how to lead. The Hogan’s moved from the capital to Erdenet at the church’s first birthday to join Magnus and Maria on site. When the believers continued to grow within small groups in their living rooms the leadership decided that it would be encouraging to periodically have big meetings called celebration meetings. They started having celebration meetings monthly and then weekly. Yet, after a couple of months they discovered that the house meetings were not sustainable when they also had weekly celebration meetings. It had become easier for new believers to come to a large meeting and not have to lead or be held accountable in small group. So they cancelled the celebration meetings to realign the fellowship.
It was 1994 on Christmas Eve that Brian and Louise lost their only son of less than two months old to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). While living in Mongolia had nothing to do with the death of their son, the Hogan’s began to feel very lonely and homesick for family to grieve with them. When Brian, in deep mourning, reluctantly arrived that evening at their church’s Christmas Party, God answered their prayer for family as the entire Mongolian church embraced him and they wept together. While Brian was trying to figure out how and where to bury Jed, he learned that Mongolians traditionally do not bury their dead. They would leave the remains out on the steppes for hungry animals to eat. The Hogan’s adopted many cultural practices of Mongolia but could not choose this for their son. The other obstacle was that the temperature in December was near -15 Fahrenheit making the ground as hard as rock. After much grief, frustration, and discussion the church leaders had found a piece of land outside of the city where Jed could be buried. After the burial Brian was struck by the fact that Jed was the first American born in Erdenet, Mongolia and as far as he knew the first American to die in Mongolia. Brian learned several years later that the way they grieved the death of their son had a huge impact on the Mongolian people. Mongolians believed that when someone dies, they are gone forever and that there was no life after death. The Mongolians had never seen hope in the midst of grief until witnessing it through the Hogan’s loss of their only son Jed. For many Mongolians this confirmed their faith in Jesus Christ.
Each part of walking with God was both taught and modeled by missionaries for the Mongolians. The missionary would first model while the new believers observed. Then the Mongolian believers would assist the missionary doing the same task. Finally over time the missionary would watch the new believer practice the task on their own. From the very beginning new believers were saturated with God’s heart for the nations. The work began to grow. Huge crowds came to hear about Jesus Christ. Within three and a half years the church in Erdenet was mature enough for the mission team (which had grown with the addition of a Russian family and single young men from Sweden and the USA) to pass the baton of leadership from the missionaries to local indigenous leadership. The Hogan family left Mongolia the same day leadership was passed to the Mongolian elders. By 1997, the re-launched Celebration meeting had grown to 750 people meeting in multiple services and in 57 home fellowship groups. The mother church has planted more than 13 churches through the country of Mongolia. The movement has also grown cross-culturally as they have planted a church among the Russian population. By 1998, the Mongol believers had grown to more than 10,000. Today Mongolia sends more missionaries into the world per Christian than any other country. It only takes 222 Christ following Mongolians to send 1 missionary.
Brian has a Master’s in Ministry from Hope International University (Fullerton, CA) specializing in World Christian Foundations. He is a sought after speaker, trainer and coach. Brian serves full time with Church Planting Coaches; a global ministry of Youth With A Mission. He coaches those involved in these movements on five continents, especially focusing on where the church isn’t. Brian and his wife Louise have four children: Melody, Molly, Alice, and Peter Magnus. They all make their home among the redwoods on California’s remote northern coast.
Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader, Distant Thunder: Mongols Follow the Khan of Khans, 2009.
Hogan, Brian, There’s a Sheep in my Bathtub, 2008.
Glory in Mongolia; by Rick Leatherwood