Former Children's Heart Project patients in Mongolia learn more about Jesus at special camps
Emily Arneson was the Children’s Heart Project manager in Mongolia for three years. She now works in the U.S. as the assistant director of the program.
Children who have congenital heart defects in Mongolia have few options for surgery. But more than 320 Mongolian children have received another chance at life through open-heart surgery or interventional cardiac catheterization with Children’s Heart Project. This is probably the second greatest gift they will ever receive and one that saves their lives.
Through the work of Children’s Heart Project, we pray the children come to know the saving power of Jesus Christ, the most important gift in all of history for all of mankind.
In early July, 68 former Children’s Heart Project patients attended Heart Camps in Mongolia. This one-week discipleship camp, which I call the third greatest gift, is a week of fun and games, making friends, and, most importantly, learning about Jesus and studying His Word. It’s a chance to play, make crafts, forget about responsibilities at home, and learn from the Bible.
Many Mongolian children have hard lives. One Heart Camp teacher is a young man who was orphaned at the dump as a young boy. He was left for nearly seven years to provide for himself by sorting trash. He is now a husband and father and has overcome so much. This is his fourth summer as a camp teacher.
Although we see happiness and joy at camp, he knows these kids face many challenging circumstances like he once did. It’s a tremendous joy for me to see the kids laughing, playing games, doing crafts, and making friends with other campers. All children should have the opportunity to play and have fun, but many in Mongolia don’t have the chance.
The most important part of Heart Camp is the discipleship. Our theme for Heart Camp this year is “One Heart, One Spirit,” and the emphasis is on meeting together as fellowships of believers, churches, and home groups. Many of these children are from remote areas and might be the only believers in their communities.
A Bible story is presented each day, and the lessons are reinforced in several ways throughout the day. The children learn Bible verses, see the story acted out, and answer questions to help them apply God’s Word to their hearts. We taught lessons by showing cartoon pictures on the screen while the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection was read from a children’s Bible.
Later that evening, the children lit candles and formed them into a heart. Then they sang songs of blessings, and the tears started flowing. Through these special moments, I realized the impact the camp has made. It’s not just about the fun they have had but also about learning about Jesus, studying His word, and growing in relationship with Him.
Effects on the Children
One young boy, Bolorerdene, had a sister who passed away after surgery. He looks forward to camp every year and shared that the resurrection story was his favorite. His family attends church regularly and has witnessed to many families whose children have heart defects.
Batkhand is our camp staff leader this summer. She had surgery with Children’s Heart Project in Indianapolis in 2006, and this is her fourth summer of camps. Batkhand attended the first year and served as a teacher the next two years. But this year, she led the camp teachers as staff coordinator. She enjoyed impacting all the children who attended. Camp has blessed her heart, and she said she has received so much love and happiness.
Miigaa is a young woman who attended for the first time last year. I interviewed her last year about her experience, and Miigaa shared how much she wanted to come back and be a helper. It was her dream. After having a heart defect and receiving an interventional catheterization to repair it, she decided to become a doctor and has completed one year of medical school.
Since learning more about God and committing her life to Jesus at last year’s camp, she has been attending church, praying, and has a deep desire to know God more. Her father has faced serious medical problems with kidney issues, and she has committed this to prayer. She has seen how God has spared his life and given him more time on earth. God has also answered her prayers to allow her to study in medical school. She asks for prayers for a good profession and her father’s health.
One evening, I was checking to make sure all the campers were in their gers for the evening and could not find a group of girls. As I checked another girl’s ger, I found about 12 campers sitting with their teachers with their Bibles out. I was thankful to see all the girls together, so I allowed them to stay up as late as they wanted. It’s in those deep moments where hearts open up and friendships are made.
At the end of camp, I went around at breakfast and asked the children about their favorite moments. They shared that they enjoyed the food, activities, skits, games, and seeing their friends. One boy shouted that he liked learning about Jesus. After camp last year, his father took him to church a few times, and he said he would like to continue going.
These are just some of the many stories about Mongolia’s Heart Camps in 2014. Jesus is at work in the hearts of these young children. Please pray they take the lessons home to share and that they grow in their faith. We pray we have helped to bring the little children to Him.