Monday, July 1, 2013

May 2013 Central Asia Mission Trip: Reflections

by Oleg Turlac

As I reflect upon Vitali’s and mine trip to Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan in May 2013, I cannot help but think of the most profound experience that we went through while visiting these two predominantly Muslim Central Asia countries. It is the fellowship with persecuted Christians.

There is nothing more impressive in these two countries than God’s children that remain faithful to Jesus Christ in spite of very challenging circumstances.

In both countries, evangelism and mission work are prohibited. Church activities are strictly limited. Bible possession and publishing of Christian literature is punishable. Christian worship cannot be held anywhere but in registered, state-designated locations. No church that has under 100 members is recognized by the state, which makes most Evangelical congregations illegal.

Hours spent in fellowship, prayer and reflection over the Scriptures in home churches in Tashkent and Gulistan were the most precious spiritual moments, which both of us had in our lives. Some of them took place late in the evening to avoid interference from the police. It was so amazing to read Bible passages about persecution of New Testament Christians while actually being in the midst of persecuted believers.

It brought much joy to me to realize the fact that God used me to train so many missionaries for Central Asia while teaching at the Bible college in Moldova in 2000-2010. On this trip, just like before, I was able to see their ministry firsthand and thank God for making it possible for me to be a part of his great work.

I believe that it was God who providentially made it possible for me to study at the Baptist seminary in Moscow, Georgetown College in Kentucky and Samford University in Alabama so that I could receive education and experience needed for training many pastors and missionaries for the former Soviet Union. Each of you, who helped along the way to guide me, help financially and encourage, is a part of this great work of building the Kingdom of God.

Now, as they serve Christ in tough circumstances of persecution in the “Stans”, I made a commitment to do everything possible to keep in touch, pray, visit and support them spiritually and financially.
While being in the midst of Christians that pay dearly for believing in Christ, I realized two things. First, that persecuted Church in Central Asia is in need of support. If Christians are to continue to be a living testimony of God in Central Asia, (1) they need prayer and support from Christians in the West, where churches enjoy freedom. Indeed, there is much we, Christians in the West could do. We can provide Bibles and Christian resources to replenish the supply of literature that is constantly being confiscated by police in believers’ homes. We can provide e-books and tablet computers that can hold electronic Bible and dozens of Christian books in different languages. We can support the mission work, training sessions, church planting and discipleship all over Central Asia financially and help meet needs of missionaries and their families.

(2) Another way we can help is  promote awareness about persecution of Christians in Central Asia among Christians in North America. Believers from Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and other “Stans” want their story to be known to Christians and government in the West. We can spread news in our  families, churches and Sunday school classes, so that stories of oppression of believers for the name of Jesus would be known.

I believe that it is our responsibility to help our persecuted brothers and sisters in Central Asia. As the Church triumphant here in the West, we have many opportunities to serve our persecuted friends all over the world.

Please, help us further God’s work in Central Asia by supporting missionaries there, remembering that it was our Savior and Lord that gave us the charge of going and preaching the gospel of the Kingdom in most distant lands (Mat. 28:19-20)

Many thanks to those of you that prayers for us on May 5-18, 2013 and made our mission journey a reality by donating to the work in Central Asia. Our vision is to keep coming back to this region in the months and years to come to strengthen churches and empower missionaries to do God’s work. Let us partner together in this effort!

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