Letting God’s Light Shine in Central Asia!
Central Asia is a region of varied landscapes, including high passes, mountain peaks and vast deserts. During a recent trip, and observing the breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains, Psalm 121 was read followed by the team singing ‘How Great Thou Art’. While standing in the splendour of God’s creation a brother prayed for God’s power to move across the nations. Our partners are acutely aware of the barriers that are created by cultural sensitivities, Islamic domination, and the wide-ranging suspicion of Christians that is prevalent among Muslim people.
It is a huge challenge to overcome these barriers. Our partners are convinced that letting their light shine before men through practical Christianity is the Biblical approach to breaking through such opposition. This practical approach was evident while visiting several Hope Centres and observing the impact they have made on the communities around.
Travelling over the mountains and barren deserts of Tajikistan, we finally reached the small town where Pastor Serghey was murdered in his church. While this was a huge shock to the evangelical believers, the current pastor explained how an openness developed. As newspapers published articles about the murder, the public became aware of the church’s existence and an interest grew in the message it proclaims. Soon people were converted, the church became established, and a mission vision developed. With this came a deep desire to reach a neighbouring godless community entangled in many social ills.
A short journey of 15km brought us to this small community where God has begun to work. A few years ago believers started to feed hungry street children from the boot of a car. Through this practical Christian ministry, people could see their good works. Attitudes began to change, an openness ensued and the Gospel seeds were sown. After prayerful consideration it was decided to erect a Hope Centre.
Soon, believers got involved in the refurbishment of an old building and built a new extension to offer more space for activities. Children come several times each week for good nutritious meals, a supervised homework club,
and most importantly, Bible lessons.
At the beginning of this ministry people did not want their children going to the Hope Centre. They considered it a radical religious centre where believers would brainwash their children. However, as God’s people let their light shine, that attitude changed.
The Director reported that now parents are very happy for their children to attend. They now consider the Hope Centre a ‘good place’ due to their children’s improved education. While Hope Centres offer much-needed practical provision for poor families and children, the ultimate result is to see communities of people worshipping the true and living God.
This is not always easy, especially when working in a suspicious Muslim society. Sergey, a deacon in the neighbouring church, pointed out that the best way to overcome the distrust is through children’s ministry.
God is using this means to break through to parents. Already there are plans in place to commence a Bible study group in one of the believer’s homes. This will be another step closer to opening a church! Step by step the work is being established!
Arriving by foot in Uzbekistan was intriguing as we worked our way through numerous border checks. With a greater openness available now for ministry, the Mission with our partners decided to fund 4 Hope Centres which will help develop the local church. Already the centre in Uchkuduk is completed, and opened at the end of September, while work continues in Gulistan, Nukus and Shimbai. Through the activities of these 4 centres, it is envisaged that over two years, numbers of attendees will double in some cases.
While the Hope Centres cater for children and youth, SGA’s Widows’ project provides for another group of people that God commends to us. Through the local evangelical churches, aid is distributed and love expressed to those who are often forgotten in society. Our visit with a widow taught us the truth of Paul the Apostle’s words, ‘for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content’.
Irina’s husband, who became an alcoholic and emigrated to Russia, died 8 years ago from alcohol poisoning. After spending many years alone, Irina felt drawn to an evangelical church where she was converted 4 years ago. While she is grateful to God for His mercy and grace, she described her life experience as ‘hard’.
Her accommodation is very basic and cramped. Her one-room apartment in which she has lived for over 30 years is part of an accommodation block that offers space for over 500 people. She does not have a private bathroom and the communal one was not working. Yet, when asked for prayer requests she responded by saying,
‘I am truly blessed, God has blessed me’. With the Apostle Paul she has learned to
be content with the little she has in life.
Her riches are in Christ!
As God commands us to remember and provide for the widow and fatherless, so SGA has both at the heart of its compassion response. Thank you, that through your support, it is possible to make a difference in the lives of many vulnerable people this winter!