CENTRAL ASIA — Noor, a Muslim-background believer in Central Asia, has been praying with a heart like Simeon’s for many years.
“You know that story in the Bible when Simeon sees Jesus and says that he can now die in peace?” Noor asked. “I want God to let me see a church in my heart language before I die. That would be my Simeon moment,” he said.
Noor is now beginning to see the work he has been hoping for among his own people.
Through a new website and Facebook page, Noor’s people now have an opportunity to see and hear God’s Word in their own language. Thousands of visitors have accessed the sites, and a recent offer for a free Bible yielded more than 70 requests. Noor has been able to make contact with seekers, is meeting weekly with individuals, and has begun a weekly worship service in the local heart language.
“The time has come,” said Jerry,* a Christian worker in Central Asia who has been burdened for years to begin a work among Noor’s people group.
The political climate in this part of the world has made contact with them a sensitive issue. As a result, the majority-language believers had not attempted ministry in the minority language. But because of Jerry’s burden for the minority group, and some political changes in the country, he began cautiously learning their language a few years ago.
Jerry had an idea he hoped to bring to fruition in God’s timing. Correspondence courses, a method of Bible teaching in which the teachers and students communicated through mail, worked well decades ago in establishing the majority language church.
Jerry envisioned doing something similar to reach this smaller pocket of people in their heart language. He recalled hearing a story of one man who read the Bible in his heart language and expressed that he could not only understand it, but he could “feel” it. This man’s story inspired Jerry to make material available as soon as possible.
“Language and identity are closely related,” Jerry said. “When you address someone in their heart language, it gives them a sense of significance.”
In 2013 Jerry met Noor, and their shared vision forged a providential partnership. At the same time, the political situation improved and there was a new openness toward this people group. Jerry began to hear the language spoken in public, and there was more liberty to identify with the group.
At the church level, ministry in the minority language became a necessity as speakers of the language fled the ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) terrorist group and flooded this country. The national church, made up of first-generation Muslim-background believers, embraced the refugee ministry, and the results have been outstanding. Last year they raised more than $1 million in donations to help the refugees, gave out over 10,000 Bibles, and shared the Gospel with many in the minority language.
Jerry and Noor seized this opportunity to begin a modern-day version of the correspondence course ministry through the new website and Facebook page. They also hope to set up tables at book fairs and perform open-air dramas and concerts.
“We feel like we’re right on the verge of where we’ve been working to get for the past three years,” Jerry said. “Groundwork is being laid. Soil is being tilled. That’s a major victory. The fact that this is happening with knowledge and with consent and blessing of majority church leadership is a huge success.”
However, a new cycle of political tensions are threatening the work. As the situation deteriorates in the country politically, the work becomes more precarious. The government keeps close tabs on the evangelical church and scrutinizes its actions, making it wary of calling attention to itself.
“Where does this ministry go from here?” Jerry asked. “We’re moving on, trying to be wise, praying that the door stays open.”
Thankfully the minority group now has access to the Bible in their heart language and has a point of contact through Noor*.
— by Nicole Lee | BP
*Name changed for protection