Advent Reflections from the Field

kt-2010-dec-3-bazaar-img_6288Somehow, in reading the Christmas story of a poor family traveling around on a donkey, looking for a place to stay at night, collides in my mind with rather ratty looking folks in front of the bazaar asking for anything we would give them.

Winter is not an especially nice time to be poor. Being outside is cold, and being inside is boring, if you don’t have electricity.  If you don’t have enough money to buy coal, or stock up on wood, you then spend the summer making [fuel cakes]. Manure is usually free, so if you cake it and dry it, it becomes fuel.  Those cakes smoke a lot when you burn them, but they will heat a small room up.  Keeping life contained to a small, warm room saves a lot of money.  But it wears on you.  And your walls get black from the smoke.

Our project work is focused on helping people take a step out of poverty—helping families start greenhouse businesses, sewing businesses, fruit drying businesses, even skin tanning.  We are working on our year-end report now, but it will have amounted to hundreds of businesses started, and we have to go through and figure out how many have been prophetable.  Err.. profitable.  Sorry.  I was thinking about the prophet.  That’s the next story:

I changed money yesterday at the bazaar – I went between the two cash machines in the city and hoped to find one with dollars in it.  Then I took our dollars to a guy changing in front of the bazaar, and got [the local currency].  I always ask for small bills (about $10), because none of the sellers in the bazaar have change for bigger money.  How would they?

After the transaction, I said I would pray a blessing on the guy changing money in the name of the poorest prophet. His face lit up – he knew immediately who I meant.  All the prophets in Islam have some different special thing about them, and the Son of Man who had no place to put his head, is well known as the poorest.

Last week, a neighbor lady on our street asked if we had been burning coal yet.  She was hoping for our coal dust to mix with her [fuel cakes].  We didn’t really have much, but if we had, honestly we would have given it with gritted teeth.  We have helped her many times, and shared the gospel openly with her, and given her the Word of God.  Yet we hear from others how she gossips about us, and in fact even bragged that she helped turn one woman who decided to follow Jesus back to Islam.  It is hard for us personally, and in fact she has a difficult personality.  She is divorced twice.

I am reading Generous Justice right now by Tim Keller, a pastor in Manhattan.  I like him just because he decided to pastor where nobody believes in Jesus anymore.  Well, almost nobody.  Feels like a Muslim country. He talks about God’s calling to care for the poor.  He writes how being righteous and just in God’s eyes means caring for others:  the fatherless; the widow.  He also talks about helping those in our eyes who don’t “deserve” it, because as we see it, they have made “bad” decisions.  And his point is that we didn’t deserve the gift of Christ.

So I guess that is why we who are moving through Advent, contemplating by candlelight just what kind of gift we have been given while being completely undeserving, might also consider the just and righteous thing to do in serving others.

As a young lady magnificently exclaimed in wonder:

…He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful… (Luke 1:52-54)

 

Bishkek International Church

The International Church of Bishkek was established and registered in 2001.

Their purpose is to ‘seek together to learn what it means to be wholehearted followers of Jesus’. They are an English-speaking International Church in the Protestant, evangelical stream of churches. They are a community of approximately 250 to 300 people who come from 15 to 20 different countries including Kyrgyzstan itself. They are diverse community of students, business people, diplomatic representatives, development workers and assorted other professions.

Simply the Story

Central Asia is a story telling culture. In recent years many of our staff have begun to use “storying” as a method of sharing the good news of Jesus. The format we have adopted is taught through the organization called Simply the Story (STS). Built on the foundation of “storying,” STS added the dynamic of training storytellers to dig deeply into a Bible story and to discover spiritual truths for themselves.

Recently a STS training event was held in one our regions. The following is a first hand account of what happened:
“Sixty-five of us from eight different passport countries and arriving from 13 different cities/nations had no delayed or missed connections (on the way in).  Together with foreigners, the 34 locals of three different nationalities participated in this very intense and practical exposure to this old/new method of inductive Bible study orally.  It was so exciting to see the ‘lightbulbs clicking on’ as these dear brothers and sisters, both local and foreign, learned to dig deeply into the Word together through the use of Storying and some simple questions…

Electronic Bible Work

If you use a smart phone or tablet you likely have downloaded a Bible app at some point. Have you ever wondered how these apps are created? Currently there are numerous translations of the Bible in Central Asian languages. However the challenge is that many of these bibles are either prohibited from being distributed as hard copies or are unknown to the local people.  So how can we connect the people of Central Asia with these much needed translations? One way is to arrange for apps to be created that can be downloaded onto smart phones and tablets. However someone needs to do the work of creating the apps and making them available. That work IS being done by people in our organization. But they need help. If you know someone with the technical background of computer programming we may be able to benefit from their skills!
Link to website: http://ibt.org.ru/english/index_en.htm

Museums!

The ministry of People International focuses on the region of greater Central Asia. Our staff focus on a variety of ministries and work depending on the visa platform. One of our staff recently began to help the local people of a remote region of southern Russia establish and maintain local museums. Here is a highlight from the field describing this unique strategy:

“We believe God has unlocked a key strategy for long-term access and ministry into the region’s 1,000 villages, where over half of the (Muslim) population still lives, and where there are no known churches. The strategy is simple: museums. Dozens of villages already have their own little museum. These museums are often in a state of neglect and disrepair, even though they remain a source of deep pride for the villagers. In June of 2013, through an indirect conversation with a seasoned brother working in another neighbouring country, the Lord suddenly landed this idea on our minds: museums! We want to come along side these village museums and help renovate and enhance them and put them on the map. We also want to help other villages create their first ever museum. This kind of work will allow us to access nearly any of the region’s village, and also provide a foundation for long-term connections and relationships and follow up.”

Forgiveness

“Recently there was a tragic event in Turkey – a young girl was raped and murdered. After this came out to the public, the whole country began to protest. Women wore black to remember her, men wore mini skirts to stand up for women’s rights. There was an instant shift in the atmosphere. My language teacher gave me a project to ask 100 different people: “Do you think that the man who killed this girl can be forgiven by God?” So far I’ve only asked 10 people, mostly because it leads to more questions. But every time I ask , I can see the shock on their faces: “Of course he cannot be forgiven…” . As the conversation continues, I can see that some of the people start to think about the aspect of God as being a forgiving God, especially if I share with them the characteristics of God that Christians believe in. Something is happening in this country – hearts are changing, and it’s very exciting.
– A PI worker in Turkey

“The Words in this Book are True”

The following is an account told by one of our workers, of his colleague’s testimony of how the first known believer living in the homeland of one of the ethnic groups of [the region] came to faith.

“I met a friend(W) at a police check post. He invited me in and I stayed for three days. His car broke down and, after numerous attempts to fix it, I suggested we pray. Amazingly the car started! W was in shock, wondering if God had really just answered my prayer. I gave him a copy of the Bible in his language. Although I had to move out of his region shortly thereafter, we have kept in touch. For the next two years he read the Bible on and off. During the past two months, his study has become intense. One day he proclaimed, “The words in this book are true. I read it many times but it took the Most High to open my eyes”. A few days later he was reading Hebrews 1 and phoned to tell me, “This book is actually teaching that Jesus is God”. I kept answering his questions via Skype and by phone until one day, two or three weeks ago, he finally accepted Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior! Now I am discipling this new believer.”