Interview with a UETS student of theology from Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia (no name is used in order to protect the student’s identity).
How did you come to know Jesus Christ as Savior for the first time?
I grew up in the city of Talas, Kyrgyzstan. Recruited to the Soviet Army, I was assigned to a unit in Afghanistan, where I witnessed much cruelty and bloodshed. When I came back home, I was a sick young man suffering from headaches and depression. My temper also underwent drastic changes.
In 1991 I got married. According to the tradition established in our geographical area the youngest or the oldest child stayed to live with his or her parents. Though I was the middle child, the parents asked us to live with them and look after them when they would get old.
When my wife gave birth to our first child, she left home for six months. When our second child was born, she fled again, but that time she did it for nine months. She could not stand my temper… I used to beat her unmercifully and hang out with my friends for several days. Also, I was a thief. That is what my life looked like before I turned to Christ.
In the fall of 1995, my wife and I decided to go Bishkek to make some money. We thought we would work there in a market and come back before work in the spring fields started. It was there where I heard about Jesus Christ for the first time. Though we were nominal Muslims, we did not want to have anything to do with that ‘strange’ religion.
However, on November 4, 1995, my life underwent some drastic changes. It was Sunday, a day-off, when I was at home alone (my wife had left to visit her parents). I was drinking tea and listening to radio. All of a sudden, I was seized with fear. Having felt immediate God’s presence, I fell on my knees and cried for half an hour. That is how I accepted Christ as my personal Savior and the Lord. My heart was filled with incredible peace and joy. My wife had wanted to convert to Christianity before, but I used to forbid her. When she came back she was really surprised to hear me persuading her to do that as soon as possible.
What were the main challenges that that you faced immediately after your conversion?
We endured serious hardships immediately after our conversion. When my wife and I came to know God, my parents renounced me. They said that I “had died to them.” In their eyes we became traitors of the Muslim faith and ‘contagious’ societal outcasts. If I am not mistaken, it took five or even six years for our relatives to resume communication with us.
Having lived in the capital of Bishkek for three years, we moved to the city of Kara-Balta to plant a new church there. As soon as we arrived in that new place, our Muslim neighbors attacked us with threats. They said they would burn us.
The husband of a woman who was attending our gatherings tried to kill me twice. As it turned out, on the first occasion he wanted to do that with a small axe; on the second occasion he was carrying a knife. In both situations something prevented him from killing me. I did not even know that I was being hunted. Later that guy, who was a former militiaman, came to know Jesus as his personal Savior, told me everything and asked for forgiveness.
In connection with our evangelistic efforts, such as preaching and distributing Christian newspapers, I was taken to the local law-enforcement body several times. They were trying to put an end to our ‘propaganda for Christianity’ by forcing us to move to another place. At that time, we received many threats. However, God was faithful to keep us safe.
When we started constructing our church building, neighbors started objecting and complaining. Some of them used even to steal our tools. Today, the church premises are complete, and those same neighbors attend our services. The local authorities have gotten used to us too. Of course, there are still people who confront us, but we overcome all these difficulties with the Lord’s help.
What primary ministry are you currently involved in?
Currently, I am involved in pastoral ministry. I serve at the church in the city of Kara-Balta which has around 100 people. Apart from this, we have affiliated churches in five villages. Also, I regularly go on mission trips to different parts of Kyrgyzstan to hold two to three day seminars at our partner churches. In this way, we raise up new leaders.
How does your ministry impact others for God’s Kingdom?
We partner with authorities and charity organizations in different spheres. We clean up public territories, help elderly people, disabled children, etc. As the church consists primarily of former Muslims, we focus on explaining the grace and mercy that was unknown to them before.
Also, since we don’t consider a traditional Kyrgyz wedding to be a real marriage (brides are still stolen in many areas of the country), we arrange Christian weddings for couples at our church, when husbands and wives, who may have been married for many years, can exchange vows before the Lord. For example, at the last of these unique services, we ‘remarried’ ten couples.
How has your training equipped you for more effective ministry?
First, my studying at the seminary helps me grow spiritually. Today, I perceive the Scriptures differently, look at them from a different angle. That is why I am very grateful to all the faculty who come to Bishkek to teach us. Second, the knowledge I have gained at the seminary has equipped me to conduct seminars on the rights of the believer and his role in Muslim society. We go to different churches in Kyrgyzstan and share with Christians important information about constitutional rights that they have. I believe this is only the beginning. Lord willing, we’ll keep on studying and He will open new doors for us.
Could you share any specific prayer requests related to your ministry?
For Christians in Central Asia, for Kyrgyzstan in particular, to keep the faith, to fearlessly confront persecutions and spread the Gospel amid hardships.