“We’ve always known that God was calling us somewhere where the unreached are,” said OM workers Christy* and Eric*.

First, they spent two years at seminary in the USA, preparing for the next step. Then came a vision trip to Turkey, and, as an afterthought, a short visit to a long-time friend leading an OM team in Central Asia.

Those four days in Central Asia changed their lives. “God really started growing our heart for Central Asia and for the Central Asian people,” Christy said. “We’re not go-it-alone pioneers, and the team in Central Asia was strong, and our friend was leading it, and it really seemed like a place we could work.”

Several years after settling into their host country with their children, the couple continues to see God’s confirmation. “Every time you get another visa that seemed impossible to get. Every time it seems absolutely impossible that we would have enough money… this is confirmation,” Christy explained.

As a whole, Central Asia is predominantly Muslim. However, many people practice Islam nominally, if at all, simply equating their religion with their nationality as a result of Soviet-era policies. Thus, “To be Kyrgyz is to be Muslim. To be Tajik is to be Muslim,” explained Dr. John Heathershaw of Exeter University, England, in a roundtable discussion hosted by RadioFreeEurope/Radio Liberty.** The same is true across the region, OM workers acknowledged.

“It’s an unreached people, but there is an established local church, and it’s quite strategic for reaching the rest of the area,” Eric explained. “We’re living there among the unreached.”

Professional opportunities

Professionally, the couple has found places to plug in and use their skills. “God keeps surprising me with the opportunities He gives,” Christy said. “I didn’t expect to use occupational therapy in Central Asia.”

Christy stopped formal work when her daughter was born, but in Central Asia, “the opportunity to be engaged with OT again has been incredible,” she said. “We don’t go out looking for people with disabilities, but God brings people—someone who heard about this foreigner.”

The line of her work opens doors into homes, for her and other believers. “What’s been so neat is that every now and again, I am the excuse for my local friend to be able to go and visit his neighbour, someone he’s been trying to build a relationship with,” she shared. “Sometimes I’m not the one sharing the gospel, but …I’m the reason that a friend or a colleague or someone that knows me can go and share. One family came to Christ through that.”

The father of that family had been part of a building project Christy and Eric’s expat friends had commissioned. Another Central Asian family, who were believers, was connected to both. When the local believers found out the other family had a child with cerebral palsy, they asked Christy to come visit.

Christy accompanied her friend to the family’s one-room house. While she worked with the child, the friend chatted with the parents. “I can’t pay you,” the mother told Christy, “but every time you come, I’d like to make you a meal.”

From Christy’s perspective as an occupational therapist, “that was brilliant.” Eating together allowed her to monitor the child’s posture and technique. Meanwhile, her other friend was sharing the gospel with the family.

“First the father came to Christ, and then the whole family,” Christy shared. She celebrated the family’s newfound faith and continued to champion their child, who eventually enrolled in a mainstream school, “which is amazing,” she added.

Dana*, another believing friend from the host country, occasionally accompanies Christy to therapy sessions to translate. “Sometimes they’re asking me why Christy is doing it, why she’s helping. We can’t [say] openly ‘because we’re believers and we love Jesus.’ … I’m saying, ‘Oh because she has such a big heart and she wants to help,’” Dana explained.

Even in a short time, Dana has seen the impact of Christy’s service. “God can use this. Stories from Christy’s family and the stories from her life, they can help the parents,” she emphasised.

“Most of the time I want to tell them that they don’t have to feel sad about [their child’s disability]; they don’t have to blame themselves,” Dana added. “In our culture, if something happens to your child, this is the mom’s fault.”

Christy uses visits to actively refute that mind-set, “just encouraging the mum that this child is loved and it’s not a mistake.”

‘Shalom’ statements

“We don’t get an opportunity to sit down and tell the whole gospel all at once,” Christy said. Rather, the couple practice wide sowing, making little ‘Shalom’ statements that bring God into conversations. Sometimes the statements lead to friendships; sometimes they spark deeper conversations about God.

Through such introductions, Eric has been able to share with a taxi driver about who God is and His love for people. “If God has a son, and He walked through the earth, He really knows what we’re going through, and He really loves us,” he told the man.

Another time he caught a ride with a young Muslim man who, like Eric, enjoyed playing football. They became friends and, eventually, Christy met the man’s girlfriend, an atheist. One day, the four of them were driving somewhere together. Christy noticed a little bucket hanging from the bottom of the car in front of them—a superstition locals practised to carry their luck with them. “It’s the first time we’ve seen the bucket,” Christy told the other couple.

“Are you superstitious?” the girlfriend asked.

“No, we’re not. We believe in a God who cares for us and loves us, and we believe nothing can happen to us that He doesn’t allow.”

The conversation didn’t continue then, but another evening, the young man visited Christy and Eric’s home. Knowing his interest in graphic design, Eric showed the young man a high-quality comic book about the story of Jesus that had been translated into the local language. “It was the first comic book he’d ever seen in [his language]. The pictures were so well done, he was really able to appreciate it as an artist,” Eric noted. “We were able to explain the gospel.”

“It’s those kind of relationships and opportunities that are so exciting, and it’s nothing we could have planned,” Christy said.

“There’s nothing we do that God couldn’t do another way,” Eric continued. “Our impact is as broken sinners… God is already there. God is already working in people’s lives.”

“It’s actually such a privilege to see what He’s doing in Central Asia and maybe to be part of it,” Christy concluded.

Praise God for the work He is doing among unreached people in Central Asia. Pray that workers would boldly take opportunities to speak about God and trust in His faithfulness and perfect timing.

*Name changed for security

Nicole James is a world traveller and writer for OM International. She’s passionate about partnering with believers to communicate the ways God is working across the globe.

** www.rferl.org/a/central-asia-islam/26707668.html

Share this Resource

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email
Share on print

Leave a Reply

You might also like:

Capacity Building Catalyst (M) Central Asia    Go & Live    As soon as possibleOur organization is in an exciting transition period of building capacity and releasing greater responsibility into the hands of national staff. The person in this position will be responsible for assessing the needs of our staff and facilitating the planning and provision of the necessary development.
Full Details
Teacher of English (M) Central Asia    Go & Live    As soon as possiblePreparing and teaching spoken and written English to national staff who need to upgrade their English skills for their job.
Full Details
Occupational Therapist/Physiotherapist Central Asia    Go & Live    As soon as possibleTo help and treat patients with physical problems caused by accident, illness, or aging and to be a light for the Kingdom of God as you do so.
Full Details
Homeless Ministry Assistant Central Asia    Go & Live    As soon as possibleAs an assistant in this ministry you would come alongside other believers in feeding the poor and engaging in other tasks at a local homeless shelter. Your purpose would be to visit and encourage these souls in the darkest time of their lives.
Full Details
Korean Language and Culture Instructor Central Asia    Go & Live    As soon as possibleAs an Instructor at the Centre for Korean Language and Culture you will join efforts with other team members to build relationships with people from various schools, colleges, universities, and companies. It will be your job to make and implement lesson plans that will help your students to effectively learn the Korean language. You will be involved in organizing cultural learning experiences to teach about Korean culture.
Full Details
B4T Developer Central Asia    Go & Live    As soon as possibleAre you an experienced business owner or manager? Would you like to use your business skills, experience and contacts to build entrepreneurs?  Join us as a B4T Developer. You will work to grow Kingdom Businesses in some of the most needy parts of the world. Select entrepreneurs, train them in business skills, bring in investors; it is a tough job and not for the faint hearted. Our vision is to see Kingdom Business fulfill its vital role in the Great Commission.
Full Details
English Teacher and Teacher Trainer Central Asia    Go & Live    As soon as possibleDo you have a heart for teaching English? Do you want to use this skill to have eternal impact on the lives of Central Asians? We are looking for English teachers who are able and motivated to teach our mostly young students at various levels. Get involved, be part of our international team and make a difference in the lives of the people in our area!
Full Details
Physio Therapist / Occupational Therapist Central Asia    Go & Live    As soon as possibleChildren at risk… of what or from whom you may ask? Many of them are at risk of being abandoned to a cold institution away from their home, friends and family! Our main goal is to see children living in healthy families where they can reach their potential in all areas: social, physical mental and spiritual. This is done through therapy, training, and providing the needed resources.

We need Your help! Are you a physical or occupational therapist? Willing to work in rural settings?  Read on!

Full Details
Teachers Central Asia    Go & Live    As soon as possibleTake that teaching diploma and invest in the lives of ‘missionary kids’ along the Silk Road.  Whether you’re a recent graduate or come with a lifetime of experience, whatever discipline you teach, MKs aged 5-18 are waiting for you!  You’ll play a vital role in the growth of the church as you release parents for ministry. We’re looking for teachers who are learners too, as you step out of your comfort zone and experience life in a unique culture.
Full Details
Anti-trafficking Intervention and Awareness Officers Central Asia    Go & Live    As soon as possibleIf you have a heart for women under sexual exploitation this is a fun and varied opportunity to get involved in the fight against human trafficking in Central Asia. You could be working to support and meet the immediate needs of those under exploitation or to spread awareness of human trafficking and God's heart to end it.
Full Details
Business Development Advisor (M) Central Asia    Go & Live    As soon as possibleAdvising existing projects on developing various sizes of business relating to women's empowerment and literature production. Training project staff in areas of business development, marketing and sales management. Facilitating development of a project into a sustainable business
Full Details
Church Planter Central Asia    Go & Live    As soon as possibleAs a member of this church planting team you will have the opportunity to join our teammates in ushering people into the family of God.  It will be your job to attend meetings, meet with seekers and new Believers one-on-one, encourage the local pastors, and to take part in expanding this already growing ministry.
Full Details