Central Asia (Reach Beyond/MNN) — Central Asia is composed of five countries that gained independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. About 66 million people live in the region which is dominated by Islam. Only about 0.4% of the population are Christian.
After serving in the Latin America Region of Reach Beyond (formerly HCJB Global) for several years, a couple has been ministering in Central Asia since 2012. They are working in partnership with another agency, researching practical ways to launch healthcare efforts.
In both 2013 and 2014, they helped with medical caravans in a remote valley of the region. During the most recent clinic last fall, team members saw 700 patients in seven workdays, providing physical checkups, sharing the gospel with residents who have little access to healthcare or churches, and checking on a clean water project that the team completed the previous year. As with other places where this couple has served, they’ve found that God’s people are already there–a place where the dangers are great facing those who choose to become believers.
The couple shares this report from a Christian conference in Central Asia:
Standing to his feet, one colleague declared that in the country where he works and ministers, someone of their group is martyred each year. He was referring only to those expatriates who were killed; many nationals in this Central Asian country also die for their faith in Christ. While we in the West talk of giving our hearts and our lives to Christ, such talk is not cheap where believers have shed their own blood.
At the same conference, a pastor spoke of his time in jail under false charges. He related that in his trial, it was pointed out that one of those testifying was actually in jail at the time when he supposedly saw the pastor commit a crime. The judge convicted the pastor anyway.
Another church leader told the conference he had been told by state police, “We know who you are. Any day now we will rid this country of all of you.”
It’s one thing when a man chooses to commend his life into the hands of God. But what of his family? One pastor got up to speak of his daughter who came home one day from school crying. “Why are you crying?” he asked.
The girl answered that they had taken her picture at school and put her name on a list because she was a child of Christian parents. The girl’s classmates laughed at her and the teacher called her Jesus. There was not a dry eye in the audience as this man told of his life as a believer in this Central Asian country.
One evening my heart was broken for these lands as pastors answered the question I had asked in my broken Russian about the condition of healthcare in their country. “How can I help to bring the life that Jesus promises in a land where death is so prevalent?” Their eyes revealed to me that it is not so easy for them to confide in a stranger. The risks, after all, are great in their countries and trust is a rare commodity.
Pray for this couple and others who are working among the people of Central Asia. Pray that believers will not waver in their faith despite persecution, and that they will hold tight to God who is holding on to them.