1979: Gairdner Trust Ministries
Researching Central Asia and Educating the Church in the West
People International was established in 1979 in the UK under the name “Gairdner Trust Ministries.” The organization was named after Temple Gairdner, a Scottish missionary who labored among the Muslims of Egypt in the early part of the twentieth century.
On one of the first trips into Central Asia, one of our UK workers met an Uzbek Christian who was desperate for scriptures in his own language. The following year when our worker returned to deliver the scriptures, he learned that the Uzbek Christian had been arrested and placed in a psychiatric hospital. We later heard that an overdose of drugs was administered to him and he died in the hospital.
The first years of the mission were devoted to spreading information about the needs of Central Asian Muslims to the church in the West. Muslim Awareness Seminars were held, prayer fellowships started, literature published, and inquiries about Central Asian Muslims were answered. Pioneer researchers were sent to the then little-known areas of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Xinjiang. Wherever our researchers went they found millions of Central Asian Muslims who desperately needed the Savior. They also found that churches in the West had little or no information about these people.
With this informational vacuum in mind, the mission began to publish more and more literature. People Group Profiles and research reports called Society of Central Asian News (SCANs) began to be published on a regular basis. Regular newsletters (Muslim Peoples News) started to be distributed. The more that was published, the more that was taught, and the more traveling that was done, the more the work grew. Soon others wanted to know how they could also get involved.
Specific people groups were adopted for research and ministry. They were generally those of either Turkic or Persian origin who were living geographically between Albania in the West and China in the East. These Central Asian peoples have a population of over 300 million, and live in one of the most unreached areas of the world today.
The mission continued to challenge churches in the West and to raise their awareness of these neglected people groups of Central Asia. Some growth in the mission occurred; prayer groups met regularly; workers came and helped out in the mission office; a six-week annual Islamic Course was started in England; and the publications continued to make thousands aware of the unreached Muslim peoples. To this point, most of the work was centered in the UK and Europe, although some efforts to raise awareness of the needs of these peoples were also being directed toward North America.
1987: Mission Renamed “People International”
In 1987 the mission’s name was changed to People International, and a new focus was added to the work. Not only was the mission committed to educating the Western church about Islam and Central Asian Muslims, but more efforts in evangelism and church planting began to take place.
With this new thrust, short-term teams were sent into “closed” areas of Central Asia, and where possible we started to place long-term teams.
Additionally, evangelistic work began among Central Asian Muslims residing in Western Europe and North America – particularly among those people coming from countries basically closed to Western missionaries. The work began to grow and the number of missionaries grew as well.
1991: Focusing the Work
Recruiting Missionaries for the Target Peoples
In 1991, People International again went through a period of sharpening its vision and focusing its church planting work. With all the political changes taking place in Central Asia, and with opportunities opening up for “tentmaker”-type missionaries to go and live and work in these countries, it was decided to prayerfully concentrate most of the mission’s efforts on placing long-term missionaries on the various fields throughout Central Asia and the Turkic world. The former emphases of educating the Western church about Islam and facilitating work among displaced Central Asian Muslims in the West were recognized to be draining the limited resources from this unprecedented opportunity for ministry to the millions of totally unreached Muslims. The target area was to be the broad area known as Central Asia—Turkey in the West to North-West China in the East, Tatarstan in the North to Northern Pakistan in the South.
People International is fully committed to recruiting long-term missionaries who move into the homelands of our target peoples, equipping, training, and enabling these missionaries for effective ministry, cultivating relationships among the Muslim peoples, and ultimately seeing the establishment of Christ’s church among these unreached Central Asian Muslims.
1998: Affirming the Vision
The “Four Statements”
By 1998, People International had National Offices in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Holland, Germany, and New Zealand as well as the International Office in the United Kingdom.
In that year, the International Council of People International voted to adopt the “Four Statements” which now define the aims and beliefs of the organization. They also agreed upon a number of Five-Year Goals and Objectives. Principal among these is the goal of seeing 400 long-term workers in teams fulfilling the vision of People International. As these missionaries are deployed, People International is committed to developing new teams in both new and existing locations, so as to be able to reach more and more Muslim peoples with the Gospel.