Moving back and forth between two countries every few years is uncommon for most people, but for career missionaries, it’s a way of life.
Jeremy and Renee Bergevin and their five children — Maggie, 12, Lydia, 10, Johanna, 8, Clara, 6, and Josiah, 2 — will return to Mongolia in two weeks to continue their work with the Christian and Missionary Alliance.
The family spent a one-year U.S. missionary term in Ohio, and recently visited Ellensburg for two weeks, where Jeremy’s mother Susan Malinosky lives. Jeremy spent five years in Ellensburg before his mission work began.
“It’s really hard to have family here and gone — for four years the first time — but I’m proud of the work they’re doing,” Susan Malinosky said about her son’s family.
Jeremy Bergevin started doing short-term mission trips when he was 24 years old. He traveled to Mexico, Central America and South America, and met his wife, Renee, on one of his return flights home.
“Coming back from one of those short-term mission trips, I sat down on a plane next to a little lady who was coming back from a short-term mission trip too, and we got to talking and I liked what I saw and heard,” Jeremy said. “We started to write letters, and less than two years later (in 2000) we were married.”
The family first went to Mongolia for missionary work with the Christian and Missionary Alliance in 2005.
“I think we were both excited about Asia, and Mongolia was kind of like the last frontier in Asia,” Renee said. “It was a chance to be somewhere where the Gospel hadn’t been much yet.”
When the family left, Maggie was 3, Lydia was 2 and Johanna was a month old. Their daughter Clara was born in Ulan Bator, the capital of Mongolia, but the Bergevins returned to the U.S. for the birth of their son Josiah.
The family typically does three to four years in Mongolia and then one year in the U.S. with the Christian and Missionary Alliance.
In Mongolia, Jeremy is the director of the Christian and Missionary Alliance’s project center, where people can access English language help, health projects, financial counseling and family counseling.
Renee is hoping to teach at a Christian leadership training center upon her return, to work on leadership coaching and Bible teachings.
Both said the work is rewarding.
“For me, there are so many opportunities every day because there are so many needs there,” Renee said. “Whether it’s just encouraging someone or spending time with them.”
Jeremy started a food-for-work program in 2011, where people could work on projects like rebuilding homes. On one of those projects he met a man who was an alcoholic and didn’t know anything about religion.
“You could tell he drank his whole life and was stuck,” Jeremy said. “He was a really likable guy. I felt God telling me this guy was going to find life. At the end of the summer I got to see him respond and come clean off alcohol. It was amazing to see the lights come on.”
Life in Mongolia
Growing up in two countries gives the Bergevin children an opportunity to learn two languages and experience different cultures.
The Bergevins all speak Mongolian. During their first two years in the country, Jeremy and Renee spent their time going to language classes every day. The kids were able to pick the language up faster than their parents.
“When we first came (to Mongolia) they sent us to a school right outside of where we lived,” Maggie said. “We would come home and know a bunch of words, and would know more than (our parents) because we were younger, and learned faster.”
The kids enjoy living in both Ohio — when they’re in the U.S. — and in Mongolia.
“We like each the same,” Maggie, said. “When we’re over there we miss being over here, and when we come here we miss being over in Mongolia. ... We have a lot of friends over there.”
Playtime activities for the kids are similar in both places, with a lot of time spent outdoors.
“They have parks and they have play areas, and you can go swimming in the river,” Maggie said.
“Sometimes we sled on the roads because they’re really icy,” Clara added.
Winters are extremely cold in Mongolia, with temperatures dipping down to negative 50 degrees at times.
The kids are allowed to run errands to the local grocery stores without their parents due to the safety and trust that exists in Mongolia.
“It’s a more traditional society so there can be ways and times in which we actually feel safer there than here,” Jeremy said. “There’s a high degree of trust and tradition. ... When you live in an apartment town you can send your 4- to 6-year old kid to the store for eggs.”
The Bergevins will return to Mongolia for a three-year term. They are known as career missionaries, meaning they will continue doing mission work as long as they feel there is a calling.