In a remote province in Mongolia about 140 miles from the capital city, a young mother and father work tirelessly day in and day out tending to their sheep, goats, cows, and horses. As nomadic herders, they move with the changing seasons and make their home in different areas throughout the mountainous countryside.
Yet, no matter how much Adiyaa and his wife Myadagaa worked to provide for their three children, and no matter how deeply they loved them, they found themselves helpless to do anything to save their youngest daughter’s life.
Ulzii, now 4 years old, was born with a hole in her heart and would not live long without surgery. Her parents’ anguish escalated when they learned that the procedure could not be performed anywhere in Mongolia.
Circumstances took a radical turn for the better, however, when the family connected with Samaritan’s Purse. Ulzii’s story of how God used our Children’s Heart Project to bring her lifesaving surgery is just one of many that Samaritan’s Purse President Franklin Graham heard during his recent visit to Mongolia.
During the past 21 years, Children’s Heart Project has brought lifesaving heart surgery to more than 1,280 children from countries that do not have the medical facilities or expertise to perform such complex procedures. Samaritan’s Purse transports the sick child along with a parent or guardian to North America—where they stay with a Christian host family—and then undergo an operation donated by a local hospital.
“Over 400 children from right here in Mongolia have received lifesaving surgery. We couldn’t do it without the support of many people and their prayers and gifts that make this happen,” Graham said. “We’ve seen children and their parents come to faith in Jesus Christ. We’ve seen churches planted, all because of a simple act of love—caring for these children and bringing them to where they can be treated.”
When Graham visited Ulzii’s home, her parents and extended family enjoyed providing him a taste of their unique lifestyle. They invited Graham into their ger—a traditional nomadic home that’s round, portable, and easy to assemble—for milk tea and dumplings. Children in the village participated in a horse race, and then the family demonstrated how they milk the goats.
They also thanked Graham and Samaritan’s Purse for making Ulzii’s surgery possible.
“I knew there was no hope in Mongolia for my daughter—I thought it would be impossible for my daughter to be healed,” Adiyaa said. “I express my deepest gratitude for giving the gift of life to many kids. I would tell you again and again how much I am grateful for what you have done.”
During his visit, Graham also shared the Gospel and prayed with the family.
“These people are so generous and loving. They have very little but share everything they have,” he said. “We are so grateful this daughter is well—we give God the glory. We look forward to watching her grow up.”
A Second Chance
When Myadagaa heard the devastating news about Ulzii’s health she knew it was unlikely that she would see her precious daughter grow up—and that nearly broke the tender, loving mother’s heart.
“My heart is for my children,” she said “I wished that I had the sickness when I saw my daughter suffering with the problem in her heart.”
Ulzii cried a lot as a baby, had difficulty gaining weight, and was often sick. Her parents knew something wasn’t right and took her to a hospital in Ulaanbaatar, the capital city.
The hospital referred the family to Samaritan’s Purse, and when Ulzii was about 1.5 years old, we helped her receive the surgery that would save her life. Samaritan’s Purse provided transportation for Ulzii, her mother, and an interpreter to Grand Cayman and coordinated with a partner hospital and surgeons who donated their services.
We also arranged a host family for Ulzii and Myadagaa that cared for them while they were thousands of miles away from home.
New Life in Christ
Myadagaa couldn’t believe the difference in Ulzii after surgery. “My daughter is growing well and making friends and going to kindergarten,” she said. “She became a joyful girl.”
Ulzii wasn’t the only one who experienced dramatic life change in Grand Cayman. As Myadagga interacted with our staff she learned about God and the Bible.
“I made a decision to receive Jesus as my Savior on the day my daughter had surgery,” Myadagaa explained. “I had never heard the Gospel prior to joining Children’s Heart Project.”
Although Myadagaa does not know any other Christians in her remote province, she is committed to drawing near to her Savior.
“I read the Bible every day in order to grow in my relationship with God. As I read, God speaks to me,” she said. “I feel peace and that God is always with me.”
Celebrating God’s Faithfulness
Graham also attended a special dinner and program in Mongolia with Children’s Heart Project beneficiaries and their families. The children entertained with traditional Mongolian songs and dances, and Graham brought words of encouragement.
He shared from the Bible about how Jesus and His disciples were once caught in the middle of a terrible storm. Jesus’ disciples feared for their lives until Jesus rebuked the wind and waves.
“When you saw your child sick, you were going through a storm in life. Maybe some of you felt you were running out of hope,” Graham said to the children’s parents.
“When we go through storms in life, if we have invited Jesus into our hearts, we do not have to worry because He’s with us and we never have to fear.”
Graham also heard a testimony from Bat-Ulzii, the discipleship pastor at a church in Ulaanbaatar. Bat-Ulzii received heart surgery through Children’s Heart Project in 2006 in San Antonio, Texas, when he was 13 years old.
Bat-Ulzii came from a Buddhist family, and he heard the Gospel for the first time ever through the work of Samaritan’s Purse.
“I opened my heart and accepted God as my Savior. I used to think that I only needed heart surgery, but I realized there is a big hole in our souls that needs to be filled. God is the one who fills the hole,” he said.
Bat-Ulzii is now married and has two children. His life is fully committed to sharing the Gospel and to glorifying Jesus.
“To me, living is Christ, and dying is gain.”