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Descendants singing group promotes evangelism in Mongolia

Performing in English, Korean, Japanese and Mongolian, group reaches diverse region

Descendants singing group promotes evangelism in Mongolia

Members of the Mongolian music group Descendants pose in front of their rented van, which broke down 10 times during a recent 750-mile trip to a singing gig. The Adventist vocalists regularly perform at church-run evangelism meetings in the region. [photo courtesy Mongolia Mission Field]

A singing group in Mongolia is supporting evangelism as the Seventh-day Adventist Church grows in the country, having only been established there for less than 20 years.

The seven-member group, called Descendants, offers concerts and classes during five-day public evangelism meetings in areas recently entered by Adventist missionaries. The group is sponsored by private donations due to the limited finances of the denomination's Mongolia Mission Field, which is home to 1,600 members.

"Young Mongolians like it. There aren't a whole lot of options for live music," said Paul Kotanko, director for the Adventist Church's operations in Mongolia.

Though the Descendants are new to the church in Mongolia this year, the concept isn't new in the region -- the singing group is modeled after The Golden Angels, an evangelism-supporting music group sponsored by the denomination's Northern-Asia Pacific region, headquartered in Ilsan, Goyang, South Korea.

The church in Mongolia, a territory of that region, is growing fast. Church administrators are considering purchasing land for a youth training center and are now applying to the government to register a school, which would be the first Adventist operated school in the country.

Christianity is relatively new in Mongolia. The end of socialist rule in 1990 opened the country to practice religion -- about half are Buddhist and more than a quarter are atheist. Shamanism beliefs are also widespread. Adventist missionaries first came to Mongolia in 1992.

Though the Adventist Church is growing in the country, there are only 22 established congregations. The Descendants group may eventually exhaust resources and evangelism meetings at which to perform.

Still, the group has aided church growth, leaders say, and has also contributed to the church's health and cultural outreach. During weeklong evangelism meetings, health classes are led by one of the group's members who is a medical student. Similarly, children's classes are led by the former children's director for the Mongolia Mission Field.

On stage, the group performs a mix of locally composed songs, Japanese songs and religious songs. They sing in English, Korean, Japanese and Mongolian.

"It's a bit of a novelty here to hear a group sing in another language," Kotanko said. "Visitors are impressed."

Many Mongolians used to speak Korean because of the country's proximity to North Korea, Kotanko said.

The group performs close to home in the capital of Ulaanbaatar, or will drive for two days for a gig. Last month, their rental van broke down 10 times on the 750-mile trip to the town of Gobi Altai. "But it made for unity and remembrance of our mission trip," said the group's director, Kang HaShik.

More than 400 people attended that concert, Kang said.