On Oct. 1-4, 2019, Ivan Rusyn, President of Ukrainian Evangelical Theological Seminary, and Fedir Raychynets, Head of the Department of Theology and Director of the M.Th. in Transformative Leadership Program, spoke at an annual conference in Kyrgyzstan attended by 65 participants from Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan.
The conference is a part of the seminary’s ministry in Central Asia which dates back to 2005, when members of the faculty started becoming involved in numerous events there, including this annual conference.
The conference is unique as the attending pastors and church leaders include students of the Central Asia Bible Institute founded by UETS in Kyrgyzstan in 2016 (20 conference attendees were students this year) as well UETS graduates who play an important role in its organization and promotion.
Denominational diversity adds to the uniqueness of the conference as it is regularly attended by representatives of various denominations such as Baptist, Pentecostal, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian and even Catholic.
The ministry of UETS in Central Asia is aimed at strengthening national churches by training indigenous leaders who are serving God in an unfriendly Muslim environment. It goes without saying that local Christians, who are mostly converts from Islam, are much more effective in proclaiming the Gospel locally compared to outsiders, especially in view of the fact that the Kyrgyz government is rather cautious of foreign religious groups.
Moreover, this is quite possibly the last tangible chance to equip indigenous leaders and missionaries in Kyrgyzstan, not to mention Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, as the country is being increasingly Islamized. With many ethnic Russians leaving, the percentage of the Russian-speaking population in Kyrgyzstan is decreasing. This means that in the future it is going to be much more difficult for foreigners, including Russian-speaking Ukrainians, to offer Christian education to locals.
The conference is held in Kyrgyzstan because local churches have more freedom in terms of practicing their faith publicly, though they are scrutinized for public evangelism. In contrast, churches have less freedom to practice their faith in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, where all public proselytization is completely prohibited. Local followers of Jesus cannot have more than one Bible at their homes, they are not allowed to bring any Christian books or printed materials into their country, their pastors are regularly arrested or fined, and Evangelical churches are viewed as sects or cults.
UETS faculty are privileged to Serve the Church and Transform Society through holistic ministry to the evangelical Christians in Central Asia.