I just came back from a vision trip to another country in this region for a week with some others from my team. When I was around 6-7 years old, I remember reading a book on praying for the nations, and the page on this nation stuck out to me and has always been in the back of my mind since then. Now I got the chance to go and visit it! Due to the ever-changing visa situation here, we were looking to see if it might be a good option if visas are not able to be renewed here.
I have to say, the main highlight (other than the amazing food and cool fusion of European-Persian-Futuristic architecture) was being able to sit down and talk to believers engaged in making disciples. Their passion for the Lord and others was so humbling and encouraging! They are known as the land of the fire people and I saw this in the heart of the believers there.
My other highlight is the hilarious differences between languages, you’ll see why I was laughing every day there (examples below).
The believers we met, despite their challenges, are so passionate about their faith and sharing it with others!
We got to sit down and talk with young people engaged in social media ministry reaching out to seekers and meeting to give them Bibles and disciple them—they can’t keep up with the amount of people who want to get a Bible and talk to someone! They have so many new believers who need discipleship that they physically cannot keep up and are calling for more workers to be sent to help. It reminded me of the miraculous catch in Luke 5:5-6 where there were so many fish that the boats started sinking and they needed help from those around.
We talked to a lady engaged in children’s ministry and discipling teenagers to reach out to kids.
We met with a pastor and his wife who have a heart for Central Asia and training local workers to bring the good news into surrounding very tough regions.
These people are quite often coming to faith in family groups which is quite different from what we see back home. There are lots of young people being raised up and encouraged to be a light in their circles. One church of around 200 ppl was 80% young people! They are such a community that at the end of service a guy proposed to his girlfriend in front of the congregation!
The language here is 85% similar to the one I’m studying, so it was cool being able to spend hours talking with locals using their attempt at speaking and my attempt at piecing together old words that are still used in this language.
However, there are so many common words between the two languages that are used with very different meanings which resulted in me laughing almost every day while I was there…
Eg: the word for “child” is the word for “servant/butler”… so a sign for an arcade basically says “slave entertainment center” 😂
The word for “stop” is the word for “to endure or persevere” so the pedestrian sign tells us to “endure” until the light turns green 😂
The word for “man/guy” is the word for “person”—so I went to a restaurant with my friend and told the waiter as I would, back home “we are two persons.” He looked at us blankly and was like… uhuh…. *nods* (basically in the language here I said, we are two men)…😂
Jokes aside, it was a really good environment to push my language learning—often me, and my friend were the only ones who spoke Turkish and could talk to the locals, which meant getting put in more situations to translate or engage more. I became bolder and asked some young guys out for coffee to hear more of their stories even though they spoke no English (something I’m still not completely comfortable in doing). I came back with more boldness to engage my local friends here.
What’s God Been Saying?
I was so touched by the purity of heart of the believers we met there. One thing that stood out and resonated with me was when I asked a local leader how discipleship can happen with such fast growth—how do they ensure new believers grow in maturity of faith and relationship with Jesus and not just get involved and burn out in ministry?
Their answer? “We don’t just have a weekly Bible study with them, we live our lives with them—we expose our weaknesses to them and show them how believers deal with their weaknesses and hardships. We want to impart our lives into them and so we eat together, shop together, do ministry together, spend our morning quiet times together after having them over at our house, and build relationships with their families as we visit them.”
Coming back home, I have been so encouraged in how I relate to the people I’m connected with—how can I encourage them through my life and become more involved in their lives as well? Like they said, this way might take a lot more time and appear slower in the short term, but I’m convinced that in the long term, these disciples will be incredibly strong leaders for the future.
I’m starting to identify some younger believers back here who I can spend more time investing into and encouraging them in their faith.
- Pray for believers and the church:
- There is so much need for discipleship and follow-up, pray for workers and for strength for locals involved on the ground already working in this area
- Unfortunately, there is deep-seated division in the church, and this was the number one prayer request a local gave when I asked how we can pray for the church—unity!
- Pray for the unreached to find Jesus—there are around 10,000 believers in the country of 10 million (0.1%)—although this is way higher than where I am (10,000 believers in a country of 85 million (.01%), this is crazy low
- Pray for me as I am back home for the people I’m following up with—my list is getting long! As my language skill slowly improves the opportunities also grow!
I deeply appreciate your prayers and encouragement,