Central Asia came into focus with the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, but the history of the people of the region goes back more than 3,000 years. Its claim to fame to this day remains the Silk Road where cultures, races, and religions intersected along this historic trade route. With a total population of 283 million, the countries of Central Asia include Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
Christianity predated Islam in Central Asia. Nestorian Christian missionaries traveled the Silk Road to carry the Good News to these lands. But then the Islamic and Mongol conquerors came, bringing a violent and profound change to the culture and religious beliefs of the people. Today, most Central Asians are high-identity Muslims, but actual practice ranges from the very devout to the secular.
Over the last 20 years, many changes have occurred in the region. The break-up of the Soviet Union brought existing leaders to power, and each country began to open to outside economic and social influences. Christian workers from around the world found ways to enter these newly open lands. Today, there are at least 40,000 evangelical believers from Muslim backgrounds in Central Asia. Growth in the local church has slowed in the last few years however, due to persecution, government restrictions, materialism, and reduced zeal to witness.
Major societal issues include widespread unemployment, migration, infrastructure degradation, Western cultural influence, and drug trafficking, yet all of these issues provide opportunity for the local believers to impact their society in positive ways.
The opening of the Central Asia region is the newest for Partners International and our involvement there is currently in its early stages. Our long-term goal is to identify partners from among the evangelical churches and ministries in the region, helping to build up the Christian community and assist them in outreach. Our current projects emphasize church planting, leadership training, crisis response, small business initiatives, and community health and development training.
Our work in Central Asia is led by our Central Asia Area Director (name withheld for security reasons) who has 14 years of experience in the region. For many years, she has equipped local leaders in leadership and economic and community development skills. Her role as Area Director is to identify opportunities for Partners to serve the indigenous Church and to provide pastoral care and strategic planning consulting to our partners.
Area Ministry Center, Central Asia
Evaluating which ministries we should help takes considerable time and expertise. It requires a deep understanding of the local context and culture, a sense of where God is at work, who the emerging, visionary indigenous leaders are, and in what ways our investment would bring the most impact. Our Area Ministry Centers are made up of small but experienced teams that serve each of the nine regions of the world where we work. Our Central Asia Area Director spends time with local church leaders to identify needs and opportunities and to learn how we can best help them. She works on organizational development issues so that our partners can grow in their capacity to fulfill their God-given vision. Because of her work, we can be confident that Partners has exceptional partners pursuing effective strategies. Though she raises a significant amount of her own personal support, some funds are needed to cover office costs and travel expenses. Funding Need: $109,800.
Our goal at Partners International is to help our ministry partners develop into successful, sustainable organizations that are transforming their communities for Christ in the hard places of the world. We think of our partnerships in three phases—Discover, where we find and assist the next generation of promising mission leaders. Grow, where we work together to strengthen their structure, leadership and overall impact. And finally Launch, where the ministry has the network and systems to cover their own support and training needs, and even help others who aren’t so far along the way. We call partners in the first phase New Initiatives. We currently have two New Initiatives already identified in the Central Asia region:
Christian Youth Camp, Central Asia
With a burden for the youth of Central Asia, this ministry builds relationships with youth (ages 9-17) through camps and discipleship. Leadership development of older youth is a core part of this ministry as they recruit youth from local churches to be counselors at the camps. After the camp, the counselors continue to meet in small groups with the kids. Of the unbelieving youth, 60 percent who attend these camps put their faith in Jesus.
In Central Asia, women often do not understand the complexities of their own bodies and issues of pregnancy. Local doctors often give bad advice resulting in additional problems for mothers and their babies. They are in need of health training, but also an understanding of their value as God’s creation. Addressing the great need for health education, the life of women from puberty to menopause is examined through a 30-hour Women’s Cycle of Life seminar. This seminar has been positively received and implemented in Central Asia since 2002. Trainers take these lessons back to their communities where stories from the lessons “Great Women of God” are received positively in very conservative communities. The vision is to see local churches and organizations use this seminar in their own communities and also, to develop their own congregation in health awareness and positive family relationships. Partners would like to provide this training to 30 women who will multiply the training to others.
Central Asia Leaders Gatherings, Central Asia