The Spiritual Need in Central Asia
Central Asia commonly refers to a group of countries situated in the crossroads of Europe and Asia, including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. This region has a combined population of about 73 million people, and though cities have grown more developed and industrialized, there are still many people groups living in rural areas and practicing the nomadic traditions of their ancestry.
Not only are more people groups in this region inaccessible geographically, but by far, these are majority Muslim countries that remain extremely unreached with the gospel. In fact, it is estimated that 98% of Central Asians have no knowledge of the Bible’s teachings. Statistics from The Traveling Team estimate that there is only one Christian missionary for every 405,500 Muslim people in the world.
Formerly part of the Soviet Union, after its collapse, these Central Asian countries became more accessible and open to Christian workers for a time. But as they tried to develop functional democracies, some have retained communist-style governments and openness to Christianity has remained restricted. Christian believers and missionaries face opposition and even persecution in a region where Islam is traditionally and culturally ingrained.
ABWE in Central Asia
For the Central Asian believer, the challenges for coming to faith in Christ can include abandonment by friends and family, loss of employment, and other more extreme forms of persecution. Without a solid faith community, of which there are so few in existence, many can’t overcome the societal and familial pressure that comes with such a decision, and may even return to Islam after professing faith. Relatedly, building these faith communities is best done in partnership with local believers, as church planting is much more effective and fruitful within a trusted cultural context.
Through partnership with Universitatea Divitia Gratiae (University of Divine Grace, UDG) in Chișinău, Moldova, ABWE has a critical opportunity to ignite church-planting efforts among the unreached, Islamic peoples of Central Asia. Muslim-background believers (MBB’s) travel from Central Asian nations to study biblical theology, culture, and church planting at UDG. Many of these MBB’s return to their lands of origin to bring the gospel to unreached people groups that North American missionaries could not normally access. UDG has a critical need for theological educators serving short-term, mid-term, or long-term who have a heart for disciple making and catalyzing pioneering missionary movements from Moldova into less accessible countries.
Sharing the gospel with Central Asian Muslims and spurring them to spiritual maturity requires great commitment to relationship building, education of gospel truths, encouragement to live by the Spirit, and disciple making. ABWE is seeking teammates willing to come alongside Central Asian believers to act as pastoral trainers, church multiplication coaches, and even as business mentors serving as a witness in the workplace. Our commitment to serving Christ in this part of the world means that we are committed to the indigeneity of the Central Asian church from beginning to end.
Is God leading you to share the gospel with the unreached people groups of Central Asia?