When we do a ministry tour, I always bring in a guest speaker. For the most recent Alberta Ministry Tour my guest, John R. is leading ministry in Central Asia and he shared about a visit he made to a young evangelical church in Kazakhstan and ministry to refugees in Europe and Syria.
I promised I would make a recording of John’s talk available. We recorded John’s talk in Lethbridge and you can listen to his entire half hour talk below via Soundcloud (just click the orange triangle to listen). For those who would rather read, I have posted the story John shared of visiting a young evangelical church movement in Kazakhstan. Enjoy!
We have now moved to Vienna, Austria and work with TWR Europe and CAMENA regional office…CAMENA stands for Central Asia, Middle East and North Africa. That’s what we in TWR call that part of the world. I’m responsible for those countries in the CAMENA region…It’s a big area and I’m very new to it so I’m just kind of getting used to this area of ministry. The countries of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan –Those are all those -Stan countries that were part of the old Soviet Union…
In this part of the world Islam is very dominant. It permeates all of life. If you talk to any Muslim on the street and ask ‘What is Islam?’ they’ll say it’s a way of life. It’s the first thing they hear as a baby. The first words they hear in their ears are the Adhaan by an Islamic leader and the last words they hear if they die a peaceful life will be the Adhaan as a Muslim. It’s a complete way of life. Muslims in this area – if they’re Kazakh they consider themselves Muslim. If they are Uzbek they consider themselves Muslim. If they become a Christian they are no longer Uzbek. They blend the two and there’s no separation of the two.
The Young Church
The [evangelical] church in this part of the world is very young…In some of these countries it’s illegal and impossible to hand out literature or hand out media devices because they are trying to clamp down on radical forms of Islam spreading and so they limit what we can do as the [evangelical] church as well. In order to stamp out any forms of radicalism they try and squash that by making it impossible to hand out new content.
In Central Asia, radio is the only way to reach these people. It’s still a very viable way of reaching out to the populations of Central Asia with the Gospel, but there are new ways of doing it through mobile apps, on people’s cell phones…
While I was in Kazakhstan I went with a young family and found out what it was like for them when they do church in Kazakhstan.
I had the opportunity to walk with this young gentleman. He’s the director of our Kazakh ministry and we were walking in the dark of night. We walked through a few dark alleyways and out into an open area where crossed an open gutter and into an area where there were high apartment buildings built by the Soviet Union. Run down, paint peeling off the walls, chipped concrete all over the place — buildings that had not been maintained very well, but I could hear laughter.
We went up to this door and someone opened it and invited us in. We walked up six flights of stairs. We got up to the sixth floor and knocked on a door. We walked into this large room full of young children just running around screaming and having a great time. As we walked through the house into this other small room, there before us was an amazing feast of food. The people had come from all over that neighbourhood, those who were believers, for fellowship.
They meet twice a week for that kind of fellowship they so desire to be together, to hear from one another what God is doing in the lives of their families. So we took off our shoes and sat down on the rug. There, for about two hours, I just heard testimony after testimony after testimony and they were all in a foreign language. I don’t know what they were saying, but they were talking about the things God was doing through TWR’s radio programs. Things they had heard through the programs that week. They sat there, a pastor among them, and they asked him questions about what they had heard in the programs and they would get into a lively discussion. This happened for about two hours.
After two hours it quieted down and we began to pray. Then they slowly began to break into prayer one by one. Finally the pastor closed in prayer and then we spent the next two hours eating the food we had sat in front of for two hours. They held off on that food for two hours just to hear what God is doing through the radio programs and what God is doing in their lives as a result of what they’re hearing. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.
I am so excited for what God is doing in this young [evangelical] church [movement] in Kazakhstan. It is very young. The traditional church that was allowed to be there during the times of the Soviet Union is still there and its entrenched, but the church of young believers only began in the early 90s so it’s a very young church. You’ll rarely find a believer who has been a Christian for more than 15 years. That’s rare in Central Asia. It was with great joy to be able to hear the testimonies of these people and see what God is doing through these programs in these young lives.
Many people wrote last week to tell me to keep telling more stories like D & S’s. Thank you! Have you, or someone you know, been impacted by the ministry of TWR? We are looking for people who listened to TWR before moving to Canada. Email ralary(at)twrcanada.org or call 1.888.519.672.6510 (ask for Lisa) and tell us your story!