A Mongolian teenager found his ultimate purpose in Jesus’ cleansing blood despite battling a heart defect that eventually claimed his life
In a dry, cold district of Ulannbaatar, Mongolia, a young woman named Tuul gave birth to a sick baby boy. The doctors told her that little Uugna had a heart defect.
Two years later, Tuul found out that her boy would die if he didn’t have surgery before adulthood. She tried to stay hopeful, but it appeared that Uugna would not receive the operation in time. The level of cardiac care he needed wasn’t currently available in Mongolia.
Uugna started school and played like other children, but Tuul was afraid for her little boy. It wasn’t until after many years of waiting, when Uugna was 16, that Tuul found a real ray of hope.
Uugna attended a medical screening and met a doctor working with the Children’s Heart Project, the Samaritan’s Purse ministry that arranges life-saving cardiac operations for children living in countries that lack the required medical expertise and equipment.
Uugna was referred for surgery in the United States. After almost two years of preparation, he and Tuul flew to San Antonio, Texas, right after his 18th birthday.
“When they came to our ger and told me the good news, inside my soul cried,” Uugna said. “That day, I knew that God was real, and I was so excited about that.”
A New Heart
Tuul, Uugna, and a translator stayed with a Christian family while in San Antonio. Uugna, whose real dad died in a car accident in 1992, felt an immediate connection with his host father, Ken. Their bond was deep, and Ken was a great mentor. They spent many hours each night playing and listening to praise and worship music.
“When I saw the two of them together, they looked like a son and a father,” Tuul said. “Fathers do what the children want to do, like Ken let my son ride a bicycle and took him to the movies.”
One night before Uugna’s surgery, Ken and his wife hosted a Bible study. As the two Mongolians learned more about God’s plan of salvation, their hearts were touched. They repented of their sins and put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Uugna had attended church before traveling to Texas, but he had never accepted Christ. His mother was a Buddhist, but she realized that it was the Lord who was watching over her son.
When the day of Uugna’s operation finally arrived, Tuul couldn’t help feeling worried, but she was comforted by the presence of God and the prayers of His people. Uugna made it through surgery successfully, and he and Tuul were baptized before returning home.
“Now I am healed, so I will serve God,” he said. “If I wasn’t healed, I would still serve God.”
Spreading the Good News
Uugna kept his word when he returned to Mongolia. He began sharing the Gospel with people who didn’t know Christ.
Last summer our staff began a program called Heart Camps, which were designed to bring former Children’s Heart Project patients and families together for a week of fellowship and learning more about the love of Christ.
Uugna became a leader and a mentor. Along with five other older participants, he helped introduce younger children to the Lord.
Uugna soaked up the truths taught at the camp and had a powerful impact on his group. He confessed that he had been struggling with depression, but his trust in God was strong throughout the struggle. Even the older boys were greatly affected by his faith.
“God used Uugna at camp in incalculable ways,” said Emily Arneson, the Children’s Heart Project program manager in Mongolia.
Uugna enjoyed school and wanted to become a chef, but God had other plans. The young man wasn’t able to start school in the fall because of a hospitalization. Instead, he spent the time sharing the Gospel with children being screened for heart defects, along with their parents.
“I believe this boosted Uugna’s confidence as a soldier for Christ,” Arneson said.
One Journey Ends, Another Begins
In January, Uugna came down with pneumonia and was hospitalized for 10 days. After his discharge, he returned home to his mother in the countryside. But he became sick again with symptoms of heart failure and was readmitted to the hospital.
Samaritan’s Purse staff in Mongolia visited him every day. During one weekend visit, Uugna sang praise and worship music that he had learned from Ken. The staff sang along as they sat with him in his hospital room. They held hands and prayed.
In the early morning hours of Tuesday, February 14, Uugna went to be in the everlasting arms of Jesus.
“He won his battle because he trusted Jesus, and he is joyfully praising the Lord forever with a perfect body and no pain, illness, or sadness,” Arneson said. “The Children’s Heart Project was his family and comforted him in countless ways from the time he was accepted for surgery until he joined our Savior in heaven today.”
Uugna’s life serves as a powerful testimony to the transforming power of Christ. The young man trusted in Jesus’ cleansing blood for forgiveness, and in spite of his circumstances, he shone the light of God wherever he went.
“God gave us the blessing of knowing Uugna, and we give Him praise for the time we were able to spend with him,” Arneson said. “The Lord wrote Uugna’s name in the Book of Life. This is so hard, but God has taken His son Uugna home, and we await with anticipation the day we get to run into His arms.”