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The Fruit of Unfailing Love

There are two words that hang in a frame on the wall in the Baerg’s kitchen in northern Mongolia: Unfailing Love. During the past year, throughout a prolonged separation due to COVID, Robert and Marlene have held on to those words like a lifeline. 

In late February 2020, Marlene traveled to Canada, expecting Robert to join her a couple of weeks later. “In that short window,” she said, “the world changed.”

Due to the global pandemic, Robert was stuck at home in Mongolia, unable to leave, while Marlene was stuck in Canada, unable to return home. Initially, the couple thought their separation might be extended by a few weeks due to the travel restrictions. But weeks quickly turned into months. 

Robert was not only without his wife in Mongolia, but he was without his two closest co-workers, Saikhnaa, the Baerg’s adopted daughter, and her husband, Travis. They were on a visit to the US, and also dealing with restrictions. 

Marlene was with their other children and grandchildren in Canada. According to her, it was a “huge gift” to be with them. Yet she also missed her husband.

However, both Robert and Marlene took the time apart to draw nearer to God. For Marlene, it meant slowing down in her daily life and listening more closely to Jesus. “There were so many small ways,” she said, “that God deepened my knowledge of his love.”

For Robert, 2020 had begun with the death of his mother. His time alone allowed him to reflect on the depth of his mother’s relationship with Jesus. “My Mom made a habit of always coming to Jesus in all situations,” Robert recalled. 

Through this period of reflection, Robert was himself drawn into a deeper friendship with God. He also had more time to invest in the Trees of Life Center, the agricultural and community development project that the Baergs oversee. Realizing that he couldn’t possibly do all of the work himself, Robert focused on training two new workers on the tree farm. Although he was unsure about entrusting into their hands some of the more intricate work of grafting trees, Robert was amazed at how well the workers responded to the new responsibility, and how it elevated their engagement with the work. It was another clear sign of positive change in the midst of a difficult year.

Of the lengthy unplanned separation, Robert said, “I see now how God was breaking into our routines and inviting us to slow down, to get more in tune with him.” 

In December 2020, Robert and Marlene were reunited after almost ten months of being apart. After all restrictions were navigated and quarantines were observed, the couple was finally together again. Despite the time apart, the couple felt like they had more common ground in God than they ever had before. 

“I see God everywhere in this past year,” said Robert. “He was with us, and around us, and I see him calling us forward into the wonder of this new world before us.”

“I am truly thankful for the unfailing love of God in our marriage,” said Marlene. “That covenant of love sustained us through this long year of separation.”

“For I have always been mindful of your unfailing love and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness”   (Psalm 26:3).

Robert and Marlene Baerg live and serve in northern Mongolia where they oversee the Trees of Life Center. This ministry provides both discipleship and vocational training in permaculture for people in their area. The Baergs seek to build holistic, Gospel-centered communities through agricultural development and the practice of radical hospitality.

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