The breakup of the Soviet Union flung the doors open to the lands of 50 million Muslims. Workers flooded into Soviet Central Asia in the nineties, eager to engage those who had been isolated so long from the Good News.
Their initiative was rewarded. By the early 2000s, thousands of Central Asian Muslims had become followers of Jesus in an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. One Kazakh pastor remembered, “In those days, we’d get together Saturday evening to pray and prepare Bible studies. The next day, anywhere from three to 20 Muslims would repent from their sins and become saved. This happened every week – month after month! We just thought it was normal.” Dreams, healings and miracles occurred regularly.
In other Central Asian countries, China included, the breakthroughs among Muslims were just as real, even if the numbers were less dramatic than in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
But leaner times followed. Persecution, materialism, and disillusionment thinned the ranks by as much as 50% in some countries. Though all of the major Central Asian Muslim people groups – Uighurs, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and Turkmen – experienced breakthroughs, on average less that one half of one percent of the populations are Christ followers.
With the mass exodus of foreign workers, local leaders have been challenged to take initiative and ownership of God’s work in Central Asia. Growth has been slow and incremental, but encouraging. Additionally, fledgling initiatives have sprung up to take the Good News to Muslims further afield with remarkable early success.
- Boldness for Central Asian believers to share their faith. New religious laws and persecution have caused many to succumb to fear.
- Encouragement and spiritual vitality for Christian leaders, personally, in their families and in their communities
- Holy Spirit inspired faith and creativity for followers of Jesus to see their financial needs met. Most of the early work was driven by foreign funds that have since dried up.
- Divine blessing on the mission initiatives coming out of China and Soviet Central Asia. These sending efforts have the potential to advance the Gospel in the remaining task in unprecedented ways.