Friday, May 24, 2013

Uzbekistan: A Different Universe

By Vitali Turlac

One thing that everyone should be aware of when going to Central Asia, is that you are not likely to come home the same as you left. It is such a different, unfathomable and difficult world out there, which is almost surreal. This gap is as huge as the distance between East and West.

Whenever I come back to Moldova after mission trips to Central Asia, it takes me two to three weeks to get back to my senses. One question that is always on my mind after I return from the "Stan" countries is,  "How can one tolerate so much oppression?" It often seems to me that life is likely to loose its meaning under such a strict control by oriental dictators that want possession of people's thoughts, words, choices, movements, values and, most of all, their faith.

Yet, this is a reality in the country of Uzbekistan that my brother Oleg and I just visited. People there don't seem to be in control of their own lives. Choices are made for them, and many have no way of achieving their dreams and hopes. This is terrifying because want makes us human is a free will that God has given to us.

Meeting Uzbek Christians was an inspiration to me. In a country where no ethnic Uzbek can legally exercise Christian faith, it was a tremendous joy to find few faithful followers of Christ. They are to me models of unbreakable love for God, which they show in spite of persecutions.

Uzbek Christians are willing to suffer for Christ in spite of the fact that they are likely to be imprisoned, severely beaten and even murdered. They are treated as infidels and traitors among their own people. Can you imagine not being able to have your own personal Bible? If a person has one, he is at risk of being jailed. Do you imagine not being able to worship, even secretly, because at any time Uzbek secret police can break in, beat you up, arrest you, harass and rape your wife and daughter? None of the hospitals would take you in because you are believer in Jesus Christ.

How would you feel if you could trust no one even among your congregation, because so-called “brother in Christ” may turn out to be an agent of the Secret Service who is ready to report on you?
This is a harsh reality that Uzbek Christians face daily. Getting to know such people, listening to their stories, sharing with them in their trials and witnessing physical wounds as a consequence of persecutions can change your whole perspective on what it is like to be a true follower of Christ.

My dear friends, when you freely gather for worship, when you open your Bible while sitting in a comfortable pew in your church on Sunday morning, when you pray in the restaurant before lunch, please remember your brothers and sisters in Uzbekistan that are persecuted just because they love the One who loved them first.

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Central Asia Missions Report is Available

Central Asia Missions Report (May 5-18, 2013) is now available from our ministry. It offers reflections on the Turlacs' travels to the two "Stan" countries in the region and on the state of the persecuted church there. Photos are also available upon request. This report cannot be published on the web because of its sensitive nature. To request the report, please e-mail us at: oturlac@gmail.com and we will gladly share it with you.

Kazakh Protestant Leaders Arrested

A Protestant pastor in Kazakhstan's capital Astana, Bakhytzhan Kashkumbayev, was arrested on criminal charges of harming health on 17 May 2013, according to Forum 18 News Service. [forum18.org] On 19 May he was ordered to be held for two months' pre-trial detention on unclear charges, apparently including praying and singing. Baptist leader Aleksei Asetov was jailed for three days in early May, for refusing to pay a fine equivalent to a year and a half's average local wages

Oleg and Vitali are Back from Central Asia Mission

We are finally home (Oleg - in Canada and Vitali - in Moldova) after our mission travels to Central Asia (May 5-18, 2013). We had a joyous, fruitful and very challenging  trip, of which we will begin to tell you in the days to come.

The trip was filled with fellowship with persecuted Christians and times when we shared from the word with Christ's followers that were in need of encouragement and help in the midst of very challenging circumstances. The church in Central Asia is a persecuted church, and during our trip we saw that first hand.

Our electronic communication during the trip was minimal due to security reasons as well as unavailability of adequate Internet service in rural areas in both countries.

It was a humbling experience -- to participate in daily lives and worship of our brothers and sisters in the "Stan" countries and to do what we could to listen to their stories, encourage them, and, where possible, offer help.

Many thanks for your prayers during the trip and for financial sacrifices that made this mission effort possible. Thank you for remembering our families in your prayers. Natasha, Roman and Victoria (Canada) are doing well as are Olga and Melissa (Moldova).