The Girl in the Red Sweater

November 1, 2013 • Mongolia
Amaraa Children's Heart Project

Through God’s provision, a young girl in Mongolia received heart surgery through Children’s Heart Project. Since then, she has been part of a Christian awakening around her home. Three people who work with Children’s Heart Project have taken turns sharing her story.

By Cindy Bonsall, a physician assistant and the director of Children’s Heart Project who visited Mongolia in 2005 to help a boy receive heart surgery

Here is the true “God story” of how we found Amartuvshin (Amaraa) and what happened.

In the fall of 2005, I went to Durgunn, Mongolia, with a video crew from Samaritan’s Purse. We were planning to do a new video for Children’s Heart Project and chose a child named Bilguun as one of the children to be featured on the video. Children’s Heart Project had never been to Durguun, and we knew that Bilguun’s parents were nomadic herdsmen who came into Durguun for the winter.

Amaraa Children's Heart Project

When Cindy first saw Amaraa, she had no idea how sick the little girl was.

When we arrived in Durguun, it was spiritually dark. You could feel the darkness. There was a large land on the hill with a Buddhist temple. It was barren. Bilguun’s family told us no one went to the temple because the lady there requested “alms” that were a lot of money.

Saraa, our Children’s Heart Project coordinator at the time said, “Do you realize salvation in Jesus Christ is free?” The seed was planted.

As we walked through the village, everyone knew we were coming for “the sick boy,” as they called him. A group of children surrounded me and followed me as I walked through town. One little girl in a red sweater stood out to me.

At first, I didn’t realize that God was trying to get my attention and that I was in a Holy Moment. She continued to stand out in my mind all afternoon as she followed me around, even though there were many children crowding me and surrounding me.

As we walked a little further, someone from the village said, “Did you know she also has a heart defect?” All of a sudden I stopped, realizing God was speaking and had been trying to get my attention. I knelt down and listened to her chest with my ear. (I had not brought a stethoscope since I hadn’t planned to see other patients.)

Amaraa Children's Heart Project

Because of Children’s Heart Project, Amaraa is alive and sharing God’s love with others.

Her murmur was so loud I could hear it with my ear on her chest. I scooped her up in my arms and said, “Saraa, we have to bring her back with us to UB.” That very week, a doctor from America was bringing the first surgical mending team to do surgeries in Ulaanbaatar, the capital city in Mongolia.

We found out our flight in Khovd was completely booked. However, I knew that we could not leave without her. Because we were so remote, the likelihood of her family getting to Ulaanbaatar was almost impossible, and I had the sense (from the Lord) that her window to be operated on was small.

Saraa continued to check with the airlines, but there were no tickets. After spending a couple days with Bilguun and his family and Amartuvshin and her family, we in faith brought her and her mom with us to the airport. Two seats opened up at the last minute.

When we got to another province for a fuel stop, another child in that airport walked up to us after seeing our Children’s Heart Project shirts. She recognized our shirts. She said, “I have a heart defect, and I am going to UB to see the doctors coming from America. Can you help me?”

So by the time we got to Ulaanbaatar, I had two more children with me along with the video crew.

Amaraa Children's Heart Project

It’s been eight years since Amaraa had surgery in Ulaanbaatar. Since then, her entire life has changed.

When we got to Ulaanbaatar, we went straight to the hospital where the doctor was holding a screening. There were literally hundreds of children lining the hall. I picked up little Amartuvshin and brought her to the doctor. I told him the story, and he echoed her.

She had a very large PDA and was almost inoperable. Her window of operability was very, very small, and we would not have had time to bring her to the USA. Yet her defect was simple enough to fix that the visiting team was able to operate on her that week as well as the other girl that had shown up at the airport.

By Enkhtuya D., the Children’s Heart Project Ministry Coordinator and Camp Director in Mongolia

Before Amaraa’s surgery, Children’s Heart Project staff, doctors, and nurses all prayed for her with her family and explained to the family about the operation procedure and their faith in God.

The most important thing that caused Amaraa to believe in Jesus besides God’s saving grace was that these people, Children’s Heart Project staff, doctors, and nurses, treated her as if they were her family. She still treasures this memory of them. She remembers that day, not only because of her surgery, but also because on that day she accepted the Lord as her Savior and the Lord of her life.

By Cindy Bonsall

Amartuvshin’s mom went back to Durguun and testified. She said many people say they are going to help, but the Christians said they would and immediately took action. She testified throughout the village. Then three months later, Bilguun traveled to Minnesota for surgery, and his mom accepted Christ.

Amaraa Children's Heart Project

These young girls, who are also former Children’s Heart Project patients, are now learning about Amaraa’s faith at Heart Camp.

Previously, Bilguun’s home had been spiritually dark to the point that it was almost hard to visit. But through these two surgeries, seven of Bilguun’s uncles and Amartuvshin’s parents accepted Christ. Our staff went back for follow up with a pastor from Khovd, and more and more people accepted Christ.

As we marveled and also agonized over the new church forming and what to do about it, the Holy Spirit already had it covered! A young couple from the Khovd pastor’s church had been praying about being missionaries in their own country and had been called to go somewhere for five years. They agreed to go to Durguun and set up the church in Bilguun’s yard.

They are still there in 2013! There is a children’s church, and our Amartuvshin, our girl in the red sweater, is a leader amongst the children.

By the Children’s Heart Project Discipleship Coordinator

Amaraa’s deep passion to learn more about Christ and share Him with others has given her the desire to pour into her small church and see its faith grow stronger.

We recently learned that she took it upon herself to visit the families of all the children who attend her new Sunday school class. She took them all Christian literature and shared the Gospel with the families. This is the first Sunday school opportunity for the children of the town. Amaraa’s passion is changing lives.

By Enkhtuya D.

Amaraa Children's Heart Project

Amaraa (front) is sharing her faith with younger girls at Heart Camp and the children that attend her home church.

Since 2011, Amaraa has attended Heart Camp, a place for former Children’s Heart Project patients to come together and fellowship for a week, and she has learned many new things about God. Since that time, she has had a burning desire to teach other children about God.

She was happy for the opportunity to be involved as a teacher in Heart Camp this summer. She was enthusiastic to teach children, and in the meantime, she learned many things at the camp from other Sunday school teachers and from the Children’s Heart Project Discipleship Coordinator.

By the Children’s Heart Project Discipleship Coordinator

I first met Amaraa in the province of Khovd in 2011. At the time, she was young in her faith. She grew significantly as the Heart Camp staff walked the children through “The Greatest Journey” lessons put out by Operation Christmas Child. Amaraa was thrilled to receive her shoebox, and she soaked in every lesson taught at that very first Heart Camp.

I did not meet Amaraa again until this summer. I was amazed by her growth in her faith. Amaraa had a choice. She could have joined the older girls group and simply soaked in the lessons all week. However, Amaraa decided that she wanted to help teach. This desire was genuine, and the thought excited her. Amaraa joined Zula, the counselor over the youngest girls, and took on the challenge of mentoring them throughout the week.

I have sought to teach the staff the importance of every moment at camp—not only the lesson times but also the loud and crazy times along with the quiet moments. Every second can be used to model and share truth and to disciple.

Amaraa Children's Heart Project

Christians make up around 2 percent of the population of Mongolia. Amaraa hopes to make a big impact for God’s Kingdom in her home.

Jesus’ disciples followed Him through His everyday life. Learning happens in the small moments. Often it is when you least expect it that a child will come to truly grasp a truth.

Amaraa’s love for the Lord was evident as she cared for her girls during meal times, rest times, game times, and lesson times. She put her girls first as she sought to help them understand the God who loved them and made them. Amaraa gave her all to the youngest girls and sought to take what she had learned home to her church.

By Enkhtuya D.

Amaraa wants to be a pharmacist, and she prays that her dream will come true.

She feels greatly indebted to everyone involved in her heart operation, and she said that more than this, she is thankful for God’s love in her life. She wants to be someone who can help others.