Praying earnestly for wisdom, I stood up for the next session, unsure of how I was going to start. Life in northern Mongolia is harsh, with rustic facilities (only outhouses, and no running water), and beatings the primary form of discipline. I had already spoken once, but I sensed these parents needed answers to some foundational questions, such as “What is the purpose of discipline?”
Lord, how am I going to share about this topic in a way that connects with these people?
Then the Holy Spirit brought an image to my mind.
The evening before, in another town, a woman had shared about her one-year-old grandson whose hands had been badly burned in the fire in the center of their ger (the circular portable house with walls of felt still used as a dwelling by half the population of Mongolia). Fire is essential to life in the ger, both for heating and cooking. Young children who have learned to crawl are tied with a cloth “rope” to a wall pole on one side of the ger to keep them from getting too close to the fire. The cloth is long enough that the child can roam freely, but will not reach the center. As the image formed, I instantly knew how I could explain biblical principles of discipline to these people.
“When we discipline a child, our purpose is to protect them from danger. We set boundaries to prevent them from getting into trouble, just as tying a young child to a wall pole protects them from the fire.”
Their bright eyes and affirming nods told me I was connecting. Then I asked, “When a child gets to be four or five or six years old, do you keep them tied to the pole?”
“No, of course not!” they replied.
“That’s because when we set boundaries, a child learns to be responsible for his actions. Then we can give him more freedom, and trust that he will obey the lessons he has already learned.”
Pray that as first-generation Mongolian Christians learn biblical parenting principles, they will faithfully apply them and teach others, who will teach others, who will teach others . . .