First-time events are exciting, memorable, and faith-building. The first-ever Asian Youth Corps, held during the last week of July 2018 in stunning Cholpon-Ata, in the Issyk-Kul province in Kirghizia (also known as Kyrgyzstan, one of the former republics of the Soviet Union), was all of this and more!
Not to be confused with Hope Youth Corps, the Central Asian Youth Corps (pictured above) was the Central Asian churches' first ever teen and preteen camp. 43 preteens and teens (and a handful younger still) from the five Central Asian churches enjoyed days of spiritual teaching, fun and fellowship like they've never seen before in their lives. The Moscow church sent their best teen ministers, Sasha and Sveta Kotz and Volodya and Ksiusha Kolmakovi, to oversee the youth camp and to train local Central Asian teen leaders, who served as counselors during the week's activities.
(Photos above, L-R: Sveta and Sasha Kotz; a team of teens huddle before a game; Kotzes debrief local teen leaders)
A conference for small group leaders and anyone else who wished to attend ran simultaneously with the youth camp. Entitled, "Called," this disciples' conference was the largest gathering of Central Asian disciples in fifteen years. 63 adults attended, from Bishkek, Kirghizia, where the small church has only 7 members; from Dushanbe, Tajikistan, where there are 4 members (all of whom came); from Ashgabat, Turkmenistan (16 members); from Almaty, Kazakhstan (30 members); and Tashkent, Uzbekistan (32 members). Most all of the small group leaders from each church attended, thanks to generous Special Contributions from US disciples who give to Eurasian Missions.
Meaty Bible teaching was provided by Dr. John Oakes, Teacher and author from San Diego, California, who, as a recently retired chemistry professor, paid his own expenses to "drop in" to this remote location on his way back from teaching in Ulan Bator, Mongolia. Andy and Tammy Fleming (Kiev, Ukraine), Kolya and Lina Morozov and Sasha Bazashvili (Moscow), Dima Mungalov (Ashgabat), Sasha Tsoi (Tashkent) and Vlad Abdullayev (Almaty) were also on the teaching roster.
(Photos below: Left-- Lina Morozova of Moscow teaching the women; Center -- Sasha Tsoi of Tashkent preached an excellent multi-generational sermon on the final Sunday to all the adults, youth and children together; Right-- Vlad Abdullayev of Almaty teaching)
(Photos above: Left -- Dima Mangalov of Ashgabat; Center -- Sasha Bazashvili of Moscow with John Oakes and Tammy Fleming; Right -- Andy Fleming)
A couple from Novosibirsk, Russia, Rashid and Natasha Sadikovi, came to Issyk-Kul to participate in the conference. Rashid's 90-year-old mother lives 100 kilometers from the conference location. They arrived in Kirghizia filled with concern for Rashid's mom, Raisa (pictured below, right, with son Rashid) whose mental and physical health was rapidly failing. For more than twenty years they had prayed for her to come to faith. Earlier this year, Raisa had spent a month living with Rashid and Natasha in Novosibirsk. She attended church meetings, but when the time came to return home, she was still insisting she had never committed any kind of sin in her life. Feeling that this visit could possibly be their last opportunity, Natasha and Rashid gathered lots of advice and support from brothers and sisters at the conference, asked everyone to pray, and went off to spend a few days with Raisa, determined to make a last-ditch effort to share the entire gospel with her. God softened Raisa's heart and Rashid was able to baptize his mother just a couple of days later.
There are unique challenges facing the Central Asian churches -- they need your prayers. All five nations are primarily Muslim. The demographics of these countries have changed dramatically over the last 25 to 30 years since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Our churches are almost exclusively ethnically Russian and Russian-speaking and urgently need to begin to focus more on ministering to the nationals and in the local languages of these countries. Please pray for the Central Asian leadership, including small group leaders, to learn the local language of their nation; for nationals to come into the churches, and become strong disciples who can lead others to Christ.
Poverty is an issue. All the Central Asian churches understand the urgent need to become self-supporting. Converting just one well-off individual in each city could make that dream a reality. Please pray for nationals with stable employment to become Christians.
As the Russian political and cultural influence continues to weaken in these former Soviet republics, more and more young people and businesses appear who prefer to speak English in addition to, and sometimes rather than, Russian. This opens new possibilities for the US supporting churches to send teams of young Americans to these countries for a month of campaigning, One Year Challenges, or other ways of supporting and encouraging these remote churches. Please pray for teams of young people, for empty-nesters, for other motivated English-speakers and Russian-speakers to come to the cities of Central Asia for extended periods and help strengthen and encourage the disciples.
For an interesting and informative article on the Russian exodus out of Central Asia, see https://www.rbth.com/world/2014/08/25/russian_exodus_continues_from_central_asia_37791
Isolation and lack of political freedom is a concern here. Only one church in these five nations has a legal registration at the moment. Another of these churches may only assemble unofficially in groups of no more than 7 people at a time. In a third city, on one particular Sunday, officials from six different governmental agencies broke up the worship service, closed the hall, and interrogated everyone present. That church now meets only in small groups in members' homes and no foreigners may speak publicly at their services. Please pray for open borders and freedom for disciples to travel and worship openly.
Below left is the map of Kirghizia (Kyrgyzstan) and the location of our conference; on the right is lake Issyk-Kul, which means (ironically) "hot lake" in the Kyrgyz language -- it's actually pretty cold water, but it never freezes in winter. Lake Issyk-Kyl is the second-highest mountain lake in the world, after Lake Titicaca in South America, and is surrounded by the Tien Shan Mountains which border China. They are among the highest mountain ranges in the world, with peaks reaching 27,000 feet. The lake is the third cleanest in the world and among the deepest at 700+ meters. The lake is 70 kilometers across at its widest point and 600 kilometers around its perimeter. It is a beautiful, hidden jewel surrounded on all sides by snow-capped mountains.
( Photo above left is the opening of the conference, welcoming disciples from Uzbekistan; photo above right is the entire church in Dushanbe and the nation of Tajikistan.)
At the close of the conference, leaders from churches in Tashkent, Almaty and Dushanbe and their families traveled to Bishkek for three more days with Andy and Tammy Fleming for more training and to encourage the small church there. On Saturday, they spent the afternoon together with the church sharing their faith in and around one of the parks in the city. After two hours' evangelism, the group of eleven disciples had made friends with three young Kyrgyz men who came to a Bible talk on the street that same evening: Merzah, Odelet (whose name means "Righteous One" in Kyrgyz) and Babyr.
Visit www.evidenceforchristianity.org for Teacher John Oakes' own reflections on his time in Central Asia and for access to his Bible studies.
% of Population which is Ethnically Size of Country Population "Russian"(incl.Ukrainian, Belorussian) Church
Kazakhstan 18.4 million 30%_ 30
Uzbekistan 32.4 million 5% 30
Kirghizia 6 million 7% 7 _
Turkmenistan 5.85 million 4% 15 _
Tajikistan 9.1 million 1% 4_______